Tuesday Snippet – Unlicensed Sorceress – Chapter One

unlicensed sorceress 2017

Chapter One

Koenigstadt
Hilda Brant

The tall men with squared shoulders in red and blue uniforms garnished in gold with swords hanging at right side of their hips were meant to intimidate the most dangerous political prisoners. They may look like toy soldiers, but every one of these men had been hand-picked. They were hard men.

The gray stone chiseled walls rose up around Hilda. She looked into the hard eyes of the leader with head held high as she stepped into the formation. Six men dressed in the king’s colors may have looked like an honor guard, but they weren’t. They were there to escort her to a dwelling that housed political prisoners. At least it wasn’t a cell.

She had been a part of this guard a few times when rogue wizards had been escorted to the university for rehabilitation. It was a euphemism for having their magic stripped from them. Some of the wizards had not survived the process.

Men and women in the gray robes that signified the Mage University gathered at the end of the corridor to watch them pass. A slight shiver ran down Hilda’s back and she could feel a vague unease coming from her gut, telling her that the onlookers wanted to do her harm.

She didn’t look or acknowledge them in any way. The guard formation marched through them. Hilda kept her face still and didn’t show her unease. She had been a mercenary, despised by the soldiers who guarded her now.

No one spit at her and the group was strangely quiet. All she could hear was her breathing and the hard rhythm of marching feet.

Sassy, her boisterous fire elemental, had been hiding in Hilda’s shirt. The little elemental stirred at the feelings of malevolence pouring over them. She slowly settled around Hilda’s waist. At least Sassy hadn’t popped her head through the neck opening. That would have been a disaster in front of so many mages.

They didn’t need to know that she had a familiar.

The corridor opened into a larger courtyard. The cobblestones glistened. Hilda’s head stayed high even when the rising sun hit her in the face. She could feel her body give out just a little. There was a glitch in her right hip as she kept pace with the guard.

Where were the others? Her brother, Michael, even with a limp would know this city. He had been a mage in training at this same university. His fire magic had been burned out when he had stood against a dragon-possessed mage. Still his body and his magic had healed enough that now he had a familiar, an undine water elemental. It was mostly healing magic, which was normally found in female mages.

She was more worried about the dragon and his blacksmith. If Davi was found out, then the mages would drain him and then use his body parts for magical experiments. She wished that the two young ones had just stayed with the dragons. It would have been much safer for everyone.

In the courtyard near the stone-gray walls, men and women were training with wooden swords. Hilda could smell the sour sweat coming from them.

After the war the colonel had been honored by the King and given the job to whip the king’s guard into shape. Even the mages looked physically fit. They were doing more than training in the magical arts.

She wasn’t sure if the changes were good or bad.

The colonel had smiled and shook her hand. Hilda couldn’t quite put a finger on why her stomach was twisting. She breathed evenly. The muscles in her shoulders tensed slightly. He had believed her, hadn’t he?

It was a relief when they marched to the door of a two-story white-washed garden house set in the middle of a formal garden garnished with lilacs and carefully trimmed bushes.

The leader of the guard produced a key from his waistband, put the ornate key into the lock, and opened it.

The rest of the guard surrounded the house and began a slow patrol. So she was right. They were prisoners.

Hilda followed the guard inside. The twisting in her stomach settled when she saw Michael sitting on a soft plush chair in a small parlor.

He stood up and leaned heavily on his cane. Hilda’s eyes widened a little. Michael’s dark hair had been recently combed. He had changed into a gray robe that showed his status as a University trained mage.

“I thought your leg…” She paused when Michael shook his head slightly, causing her to stop her voicing her thoughts. She changed the subject. “Where are the others?”

Michael glanced at the guard who was still standing next to her and who was probably told to listen to their conversations.

“The others will be back soon. The king’s interrogator wanted to question them.”

Hilda’s stomach twisted a little. If the interrogator was a mage, then it was all over for Davi.

Michael must have felt her anxiety because he said, “They’ll be back soon.”

“I think I’m tired,” she said. “Where are the bedrooms?”

Michael pointed to small spiral staircase just a few feet away from the parlor door. They guard stayed in the parlor as she climbed the stairs. The hitch in her hip grew worse and she sighed as she reached the top of the stairs.

There was a hallway with four doors on each side. She walked to the very end of the hallway. Sassy would have warned her if there was anyone there. She grasped the metal handle in her hand and opened the bedroom door quickly.

The room was dimly lit. A soft bed with a canopy was the centerpiece of this bedroom.

Someone, probably Michael, had anticipated that she would pick this room because her bags were sitting on the cold floor near a small wooden chair next to a small table.

A bowl of water and a hand mirror were set on the table. Hilda put both hands in the water and splashed her face. She took a deep breath and then took a small drink of water from a glass next to a pitcher. Sassy crawled up to see what she was doing, and then sniffed the water.

Hilda sat on the bed and it bounced just a little under her weight. She tugged and pulled off her boots. She stripped off her leathers next. Using a washcloth, she washed the dust from her arms and legs.

She finally felt clean enough until she could spend a some time soaking in a bath.

Exhaustion became her friend and she wanted to lie on the bed and sleep. She pulled a white nightgown over her head.

Someone thoughtfully left her some bread and cheese. The bread and cheese was hard, so she nibbled it. Her stomach settled.

She was so tired that she wanted to sink into the mattress and sleep for days. Instead she waited for Michael.

Not too much later she heard the clump, clump, clump as Michael navigated the stairs with his cane. He knocked on the door.

“Come in,” she said.

He leaned on the cane. “The interrogator isn’t a mage.”

Hilda nodded. It was a relief. As Michael stood there, Hilda saw the hard lines of his face and body. When had her little brother grown into this hard man?

He could take care of himself and her. Hilda sank into the mattress.

“Good night sister,” Michael said. She watched him clump out the door and down the stairs.

Sassy leaped to the fireplace next to the bed. She didn’t start a fire—not yet. Sassy curled up in the ashes. Hilda feel asleep watching Sassy.
Soon, only a slight harmonic snoring came from the room.

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Water leaks and other misadventures

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Public Doman – Pixabay

Yesterday morning, I found water all across my cabinets and under the sink. It was like a mini-flood came rushing through my apartment while I was sleeping. I usually start the dishwasher in the evening because I don’t use the water saver function. It takes a few washes and a lot of hot water to get the dishes clean enough for me.

Apparently the water backed up in the pipe that allows air in–it was this little problem that flooded my kitchen and made me get down on my hands and knees to clean up under the sink. Every box I had under the sink was soaked with water. Since most the stuff under the sink was cleaning supplies and were already things like plastic, I was able to rescue most of it. I did take out two sacks of wet boxes. Frankly that amount of work especially when I am going down on my knees and back on my feet, or even bending over, is exhausting.

Since I am also getting over a health misadventure, it was even doubly exhausting. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t allow black mold to grow in this apartment. So I did it anyway and paid the price.

I spent the rest of the day reading and cuddling the doggy. I was a reader before I tried my hand at writing. Before I even wrote short stories and novels, I used to write poety. I have a couple of poetry books on Amazon, if you are interested. I was even published in the Acumen, a poetry journal that has featured such poets as Seamus Heaney. I still keep my hand in occasionally. But, politics got into poetry long before it got into stories and novels. Nowadays you have to have a Master’s Degree or better in English literature or Creative Writing to even get published in some of the prestigious journals. Plus you have to be supported by the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) Arts) to make even a living at writing poetry. Since I do not want to starve in a garret for my art, I write it as a hobby only.

Even before poetry, I was a storyteller to my younger brothers and sisters. I would sit on the edge of the bed and tell “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” in many different voices.  Sometimes I would make up stories about adventures before my brothers fell asleep. Sometimes I would adapt the stories of Robert Lewis Stevenson. My storytelling sessions would end with lullabies. I wonder if that is why my brothers think of me fondly.

So as a taste of my newest book and my storytelling skills, I am posting a small excerpt from Dragon Boy:

dragonboy2016Delhaven castle
Draugr

The Draugr’s eyes popped open. The darkness covered him like a blanket. The mage had tasted good, so good. At the first bite, the mage’s magic had poured into him and he awoke. He was the spy-master, but he was not.

The light that had seeped through the cracks in the door was gone. He sniffed, looking for the leather, metal, and bright souls that meant the guards were near. He wanted to rip them to pieces and eat every juicy bit. They wouldn’t still this craving though. He needed to eat another mage, well-steeped in magic, to keep himself awake.

He sniffed. A small sparrow was nestled in a tree outside the courtyard door. He smelled the sour sweat of Lord Barton as he slept in his chamber in the floor above. Guards in leather, carrying swords at their hips, stood at the entrance to the Lord’s rooms. A slight stench of magic came from there. To the Draugr, the magic was too little to sate his hunger.

Then he caught the scent of the dragon boy. It was so delicious. He remembered smelling him in the place where he had caught and killed the mage. Then he was more interested in killing his maker.

Now he was free. The thought of eating a fully magical creature tugged at him. His stomach growled. He fought the hunger. As the spy-master, he knew of other mages hidden in the population. They spent their time on the docks. But the compulsion to follow the dragon became more intense. His body had other ideas.

His mind fought, but his hunger became more insistent. His will power wasn’t enough to override his body. He ran and crashed through the main door of the castle. He heard the running feet of the guards. But he was already gone, running through the sleeping city. As he passed the burning street-lamps, a wind blew out the wicks, leaving darkness behind him. His mind gibbered to his body that someone, especially with swords, could follow him by the sudden darkness. He ran faster.

A gleam of eyes glared at him from atop a wall. The Draugr stopped and grabbed a cat. It screamed as he ripped it open. He buried his face in its intestines and ate. The blood dripped down his face as his legs pumped and he almost flew. The dragon’s scent led him to Delhaven’s main gate.

The gate was locked and the gate guard dozed in the shack next to it. The Draugur opened the shack’s door and ripped off the guard’s head before the guard could scream. The Draugr munched on the head for a moment. The keys to the gate were on the dead guard’s belt. He took them, dropping the head beside the body. After eating a mage, non-magic folk didn’t have enough nourishment.

He took a deep sniff as he opened the gate. Yes, that way. He could smell the dragon and fire magic. Oh yes, he knew he was a Draugr and ate human flesh. He had enough of a mind to be repelled at the idea. Still, if he wanted to live he would have to eat. The dragon would last for a long time and its magic would bring him back to life. He’d be a walking monster with a mind. If the muscles in his face worked, he would have smiled.

The forest outside the gates welcomed him. He didn’t get tired and he could walk forever. The dragon would have to sleep sometime.

Deep in the forest, sniffing the trail of the dragon and fire mage, the Draugr felt the first sun rays. He looked around for a place to hide. There were no caves, no under hangs, just trees and more trees. He covered his hands and face in mud and rolled in leaves. He wrapped his ragged coat around him to keep out the sun, then he slid down under a tree with his back against the trunk. The leaves and branches would protect him or they wouldn’t.

He fell asleep as the world lightened. The one spot of skin on his ear lobe bubbled, burned, and blackened. He slept on.

So where is Surely?

dragonboy2016

“Slowly, but surely” was something my grandmother would say when we asked her when she was going to complete one of her projects. She liked to crochet and would make an afghan for each of her grandchildren when they graduated from high school.

One year she had three of us graduating in the same year. Later she said that she had cramps from all that crocheting. It was a relief that the next grandchild wouldn’t graduate in two years.

When she used that phrase, she usually meant that it would be between days and months before she had finished a project.

So in memory of my grandmother who died over a decade ago, I am using that phrase again. I am slowly, but surely editing and revamping Dragon Boy. The main structure story is strong, I just had a few problems with description and viewpoint. I had started with Hilda as the main character. She does have a major role, but the main character is actually Davi.

If you remember him, he was the dragon in human form who helped Michael reach Delhaven. Davi in this book finds his powers as a magical being. He finds the instability inherent in magical beings and he grows up.

Hilda does have a major role in his growth.

When I am finished with the edits, then it will be time for beta readers.

Yesterday while I was working on the edits, I finally saw the direction of the next book. The main character will be Hilda. Oh yes, and I have a title “Unlicensed Sorceress.”

For those of you who enjoyed “Hilda’s Inn,” I am planning on having “Dragon Boy” ready for beta readers at the end of the month. As soon as it gets out, I will be starting the next sequel.

Thank you all for the push to keep me writing.

The Quickening

At this time I am in the last quarter of Dark Moon Rising, the second EJ Hunter book. There were a lot of stops and starts for a couple of years on this book, however, all of a sudden this morning, while I was writing a thousand words, I started to see what was coming next.

The first draft will be done by next week. I have a third story in this series, but before I write it, I want to finish a small novella from the EJ Hunter world called Diamond Butterfly.

dragonboy2016 As for Dragon Boy, I have not started the second draft, which will pull the story together, discover the plot holes, and add descriptions.

I was lucky to find the image last week for the cover art. So here is the cover for Dragon Boy. The image was created “by Mel” and I am so fortunate that I can use it for my cover.

So this is the State of the Writer. Even with a cold and now I think it is extended because of allergies, I have continued writing. I want to have this story out this year.

My sincere gratitude to the excellent digital artists on the ‘net. Without them my covers would be a lot worse.

 

Free on Amazon

As a thanks to my friends who have been reading my books, I have two of my shorter works for free on Amazon today and tomorrow.

Land of Gehenna cover“Land of Gehenna” is about a colony doing their best to adapt to a very dangerous desert world. A young man, who is the last descendant of the colony ship, is selected to appease the spirits.

There is also a bonus story called “The White Snows of Russia.” The basis of this story is a old man I met while in Germany. He had been one of the soldiers who had been in Russia during the Nazi Germany’s Eastern Front. The damage he suffered was not only physical, but mental. He still didn’t remember his family or his name. Hidden in the Sierras cover

The second story free today is “Hidden in the Sierras,” which is technically a YA fantasy, coming-of-age. This was my first story about were-bears in the Sierras. A young girl finds her place in her tribe.

So these are the two that are free today. I hope you enjoy them.

Dragon Boy excerpt

I had an epiphany yesterday. I am happiest after I have been writing. While I am writing, I try to get in the “zone” another word for the ecstatic trance, I suspect, or the runner’s high. Afterwards, I am tired like I have expended an enormous amount of energy. So to prove I have been writing on the sequel to Hilda’s Inn, I have a treat– an excerpt of Dragon Boy. 

I apologize in advance for a first rough draft. Here is the scene I wrote today:

 

Dragon Boy

The White Road
Davi Dracson

It was full day. Once again Davi noticed that there were no sounds around the road, no mice and rabbits stirred in the grass, and no bugs scurried away from their feet as they tramped towards the road, breaking a path through the grass.

When Varia stood before the road, he noticed that the light and swirling had diminished. The road was shrinking away from the she-dragon. It sent feelings of I’m just a road, just a road. Nothing to see here.

To his normal sight, the cobblestone road was ordinary, except it was in the middle of nowhere. That in itself was a curious thing.
Varia bent over to touch the road, Davi’s thoughts wandered towards how graceful she looked, how regal, and he wanted to touch her.

“Dragonling, control your thoughts,” he heard in his head. He blushed a little, and concentrated on the road.

When he looked with his inner sight, centered in his forehead, he saw that the wraiths were hiding and clinging in the center of the stones. He saw her touch one stone and the occupant was flung into the air. A white light opened and the wraith raced towards the white tunnel as if its life depended on it.

At that moment a black net snared the wraith as it almost reached its escape.

Hilda threw a fireball at the net. The net turned crimson for a moment and then turned to ash. Like feathers the ash fell to the earth. The wraith sped away. For a moment Davi thought he felt gratitude coming from the wraith.

“That was exhausting,” Varia said to the both of them. “And it was only one wraith.” She sighed. Hilda looked tired from just the one fireball. She had already been caught on the road once.

“We need to find the source of the spell.” Davi looked at the two women. “This can’t go on… It can’t.” For a moment, Davi felt pity for the wraiths.

“You saw how much energy we expended for one wraith,” said Hilda. She looked at the road. It went on and on into the far horizon.

“The three of us do not have the energy to free every wraith here. Not in our lifetime.”

Hilda frowned, then said. “How has this magic been overlooked?”
There were no wards around the road. It was as if it wanted to be noticed. Still it had to have been here a long time to have eaten all the souls in the area. It must have run out of souls before it could come to a city. Davi shuddered at the thought of all the damage it could do in the kingdom. Nothing left except this road. It would feed until it filled the entire world.

Getting a boost from Nanowrimo

Thanks again for the reception of “Hilda’s Inn.” I am using nanowrimo to give me a boost for the second book in the series called “Dragon Boy.” We still have Michael, Madame Mary Rose, Hilda, Davi, Draugr, and a few new characters.

For those of you who really like the Inn, there will be a new one on the docks. Yes, it was a surprise to me too. Apparently Michael needs a job as he heals his mind and magic from the Grimoire attack.

As for the inner workings of this writer, I am a pantser. There are inherent risks to being one. For instance, I have to outline afterwards so I don’t lose the names of my characters. Second, the first draft is pretty much structure. I use the second draft to add color. And then another risk is that I sometimes lose the big “plot point.” I almost did that with Hilda’s Inn.

For those of you who enjoy other types of genres, I do write darker fantasy in my short story collections and also in “Perchance to Dream.”

I have branched out to sci-fi with a humor twist in Green Knight Terraforming Company and Percy Doyle’s Traveling Space Market. These are shorter stories. The traveling space market stories will be out in a few weeks.

So without further ado I’ll leave you with an excerpt of a Dragon Boy and the Draugr:

Delhaven, Lord Barton’s castle
Draugr

The Draugr’s eyes opened. The darkness covered him like a blanket. The mage had tasted good, so good. At the first bite, the mage’s magic poured into him and revitalized his mind. He was the spymaster, but he was not. The light that had seeped through the cracks in the door were gone. He sniffed, listening for guards, wanting to rip them to pieces and eat the juicy bits. What he really wanted was another mage, well-steeped in magic.

He sniffed, taking in all the information on the night air. Lord Barton was sleeping in his chamber. Men were standing guard at the entrance to the Lord’s room. There was a slight stench of magic coming from that room, but before he charged up the stairs to the lord’s bedchamber, something tugged from the center of his body.

He thought he was free when he had killed and eaten the mage. But the tug told him otherwise. He fought it by clawing his stomach. The tug became more insistent and instead of a light leash, it felt like a rope, dragging him out the door and through the silent city. As he passed the burning lamps, a wind blew the wick. He was well aware that someone could follow him by the darkening.

A gleam of eyes glared at him in the darkness. He pulled back on the tug, reached towards the wall, and grabbed the cat. The cat screamed as he ripped it open. He buried his face in its intestines and ate. The blood dripped down his face as he followed the tug. Soon he reached Delhaven’s main gate.