Tuesday Snippet: Unlicensed Sorceress – Chapter Six

unlicensed sorceress 2017Koenigstadt
Hilda Brant
Hilda woke up with a jerk. She was lying on a soft couch in a parlor. It took her a minute to realize she was in the house. Michael was sitting next to her, watching her breath. He was drinking a cup of peppermint tea and the smell relaxed her.

Her last memory had been when Morcant probed her mind. The buildup of energy had warned her that he was going to do much more than probe her memories. It was a bolt of energy that would have seared her mind and turned her into an idiot. How many other new mages had been stripped of their mental powers by the senior mage.

Her blood boiled. She wanted to blast and kill something—anything. She sat up abruptly and stared into the dancing flames in the fireplace. Sassy jumped out of the flames and into her arms.

“Hilda, Hilda” she hissed. Sassy had grown twice her size. Hilda cuddled the fire element in her arms and felt her anger diminish. The fire element fed on her emotions. She felt her anger slowly cool as Sassy fed from them. If Sassy wasn’t here helping her get her anger under control, she could have flamed this house and half of the university.

When she finally stopped seeing red and her emotions were enough that she could control them, Sassy shrank to a small size. She purred and cuddled until Hilda could see this couch, this room, and Michael.

Michael watched her warily. His undine, a water element, was wrapped around his neck in a defensive movement.

“I’m not going to kill you.” Hilda could smell a faint smell of ash in the air. The undine tucked her head in Michael’s neck and stayed there. Hilda felt embarrassed at her lack of control.

“How are you feeling?” Michael paced in front of the small fireplace. Then without listening to her answer, he said, “Rooso is here.”

He was trying not to rub his arm. He used to do that when he was upset. “He brought you here.” His voice rose a little, “and they added more guards to this house. What did you do?”

“They know what I am,” she said. “I wasn’t more than a couple minutes in senior mage’s presence when he tried to burn my mind out.”

“Not good, sis,” he said. “They have more resources than we do. Plus we are in the middle of their stronghold.”

“I’m well aware—” Hilda wanted to shout at him. Instead she lowered her tone so that the guards couldn’t hear her.

Michael interrupted her. “I don’t think you are. This house—” he hissed. Then he waved his arms at the walls and ceiling, “was built to hold wizards. You strike at anything in here and it will rebound on you.”

Hilda gave him a look. She should have known this was a trap. It was built to hold rogue mages. She wanted to curse. She slumped on the couch with Sassy cuddled against her chest. She should have known. It was what she would have done if a stranger had come into her territory. She had gotten soft. There was a reason she had turned away from war and toward civilian life. For a moment she longed for the nice quiet days of ale deliveries and bouncing drunks out of the inn.

“I can’t talk here,” Michael continued, “But I still have friends at the university. You stay here and don’t get into trouble.” There was a quiet menace in his voice.

She admired the glare coming from him. His little nervous habit had disappeared as he took charge of the situation. She smiled. “Okay, we’ll do it your way.”

He looked at her suspiciously. As an older sister, she wasn’t used to giving in to him. Still he took it at face value and left her there with Sassy.

So what was her next move? She needed to find Rooso. It was strange that he was here and without her sister, Mistress Mary Rose. The last time she saw the two of them together, they had been all over each other. Now she couldn’t get that image out of her mind.

Of course she could contact her sister. However, it would take two weeks to get a letter to Mistress Mary, then another two weeks to get a letter back. Then Michael would have to read the letter to her. It would be easier to beat a confession out of Rooso instead.

Before she realized she had made a decision, she was in her room, pulling off her dress, and climbing into her leathers. She added a few knives around her body. Then she climbed out the window and skulked until she was sure she had lost her guards.

It wasn’t hard to find Rooso. Hilda found him in a small student pub outside the university gates. His red hair flamed like a becon as she went straight to his table and sat down. He smelled like he had down enough ale to kill a dragon.

Out the door she could see two guards that had been guarding the gardens. She gave them a respectful nod of the head. Once again they had been on step ahead of her. They must have some sort of magical tracking device on her.

She wanted to slap Rooso when she realized he was flirting with the serving wench. He was her sister’s and not this floozy. Oh yea, no doubt, his flaming red hair, his sky blue eyes, and his grin attracted the fairer sex like bees too honey. They must also be responding to his assurance that he could handle any violence that came his way.

When he moved, it hit something visceral in the female breast. Hilda had worked with a lot of men like him.

Hilda pounded her hand on the table. The serving wench glared. She still left Hilda with Rooso to get her a mug of ale. When she looked at Rooso, he flinched. Then his normal smooth facial expression slid into place. She leaned into him close enough to see the red bristles on his face.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said.

Rooso turned into a teenage boy for a moment. He mumbled, and then sucked down his ale. He slid from the table. She caught him by his arm.

“You aren’t going just yet,” she said with a smile. She put a little of Sassy’s strength into her arm. Since he couldn’t pull away from her, he stepped into her space.

“Feeling a little lonely?” he asked. There was a murmur in his voice that made the female in Hilda think of rooms and beds with satin sheets. It slid over her skin.

“Rooso,” her voice chided him. “Why are you here?”

“It’s a long story,” he said in his normal voice. She had caught him and he knew it. “I can’t tell you here.” He looked around the bar. It was filling up with university students and guards. “You also brought your own guards and spies.”

Hilda grinned. It was a smile with all teeth and no humor. “Want to have some fun?”

Rooso closed his eyes, and then sighed. She knew immediately that Rooso had gotten her meaning. She wanted a fight and it could be with him or it could be with the rest of the bar. She saw the slight tick under his eye when he made his decision.

He turned around and hit one of the guards who had been following her, right in the mouth. “What are you doing with my woman?” He yelled at the top of his lungs.

It was enough of a spark to start bedlam. Tables and chairs were upended. Hilda got a few punches in and her blood screamed for more. After a few minutes, Rooso grabbed her arm and pulled her through the kitchen and out the back door. She could hear the curses, screams and crashes in the alley.

She hadn’t had this much fun in years. In the alley, she leaned the wall. A stitch in her side left her breathless. To her surprise she was laughing. Damn. She hadn’t had this much fun in years.

***

Now for a  little promotion

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2

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In the kingdom of Corsindor, the prince is lost, the king is dead, and the queen is holding the reins of government against disloyal nobles. They want a puppet to consolidate their power over the land. The queen has only one ally, who is not human.

There are rumors that the borders have been closed. Plus the long-lost prince, who knows nothing of ruling, is returning. Corsindor is being attacked from within and without by nightstalkers.

Shira, a foundling, trained by the Ahrah, Corsindor’s neighbors, is sent find out the conditions in Corsindor. Warrior and child of another world – her job is to confront the demons and reduce the chaos in the world. Will she survive?

Will she be tempted to take it all?

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Tuesday Snippet – Unlicensed Sorceress – Chapter Four

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Chapter Four

Koenigstadt
Hilda Brant

It had been a long time since Hilda had slept in a soft bed. She stretched and her knee locked. She rolled out of bed and stamped her leg on the floor, swearing under her breath. Sassy lying quietly in the dying coals of the gray stone fireplace grinned at her. Michael knocked on the door and whispered, “Are you up?”

“Damn it,” said Hilda. “I hate getting old.” Her knee clicked as it loosened up enough for her to walk on it.

She opened the door. Michael leaned against the door jamb with a small smile on his face. “Breakfast is ready,” he said. He turned away.

She slammed the door. To hell if it made noise. She felt grouchy.

Her breeches had been laundered and left on a wooden chair. A white shirt that buttoned up the front sat next to them. Instead of dressing in her traveling clothes, she looked in the carved oak wardrobe. She admired the workmanship that had gone into carving the flowers and hummingbirds in the wood. She had no clue how the craftsman had made the inlets.

When she touched the wardrobe, it felt smooth to the touch. Inside this work of art was a stylish gown that cinched from the back. Next to it was a dark blue cloak. It had been handcrafted for a noblewoman or maybe a mage. She was tempted to see if it fit.

She looked at the bottom of the wardrobe and found a simple shift that she could pull over her head easily. There were no tiny buttons to button or any of the elaborate embroidery of the first dress. It swung around her body and legs and she sighed in pleasure. Even though it was a simple dress it felt silky.

Her stomach started to grumble as she smelled breakfast cooking. She slipped on a pair of slippers and used her nose to find the bacon and eggs. The smell led her down the stairs and into a room across from the parlor.

She saw Michael, Davi, and Kayla eating the eggs. The talk was light and Michael looked relaxed. The cook put eggs and bacon on plate and handed it to Hilda. She sat down and ate like she hadn’t eaten in a long time. There were hotcakes on the table, mounds of butter, and even maple syrup. The hotcakes tasted rich and buttery.

Finally she patted her stomach and sighed. Before she could settle into the parlor with the others, a young man walked purposely through the front door and took her arm.

“Don’t yell,” he said quietly. “You must come with me.”

He took her arm and she could feel compulsion magic course through him. She could fight it, but she was curious why he thought he needed to use that type of magic on her.

So he was lucky that she didn’t hurt him right there. She glanced back and saw Sassy glinting as if she was going to make the leap to land on Hilda. She shook her head no, and Sassy stayed hidden in the fire.

Hilda had a gut feeling that she didn’t want the young mage to know that she had an elemental.

He led her through the gardens with brown leaves on the pathway. He wore a cloak against the morning chill, but she was still in a shift. She shivered through the gardens until he led her to a stone building close to the ground. Fir trees and bushes hid the building. The building could meld into the landscape and you had to get closer to see it.

Hilda wondered why something would look so small and innocuous. With all of the bushes, an enemy could hide and attack. It didn’t look like it was well-protected. There were no guards patrolling the garden and no guards on the front door of the stone building.

But she was not just a retired mercenary. So she looked with her inner senses. For a moment she could feel and smell magical traps. They were so dangerous that the traps would kill anyone who didn’t the proper safe word or gesture. She shuddered. If she had really ambushed this building, she would be either captured or dead within minutes. She wanted to swear. “Fuck’n mages.”

The young man smirked.

Whoever built these traps was more paranoid than her and more powerful. She didn’t say a word and hoped her face didn’t show her anxiety.

She sniffed, but she could only smell the dying autumn. There was no smell of burning ash or rotten eggs. So if her nose was right, she wouldn’t have to deal with a dragon or an undead. At least there was no corruption to the smells. She squared her shoulders and stilled her face. She built her mental shields just in case.

The door opened before the young man knocked. An older man with a huge smile that showed yellow and broken teeth, invited Hilda into a small room with two chairs and a desk. Then the young man left.

The older man pointed Hilda to a seat. He walked around the desk and slouched in his chair. The silence stretched as she waited for him to speak. The silence must have been too much because he looked down at a piece of paper and then looked up at her. Hilda would have given much to know what was written there. But she had never learned to read and had only learned basic math for running the inn.

She waited. She was not going to break the silence. She was not a young mage who would get nervous if some man looked at her long enough. She recognized this interrogation technique.

Finally the older man cleared his throat. She waited for him to speak.

“My name is Morcant,” he said.

Hilda nodded her head, politely.

“I will be discussing with you the unfortunate incident in the forest south of here. But first,” he handed me a piece of paper. “Sign here.”

“No,” Hilda said. “I will not sign something I cannot read.” She stopped her arms from folding against her chest. She didn’t want to look defensive. She gripped the chair arms firmly. Then said, “I want my brother to read this before I sign.”

Morcant’s eyes flickered back and forth. Hilda knew that the next words out of his mouth would be a lie. “It’s just saying that you are a mage.”

“But I am not,” she said. “I have not gone to the mage university and I have not practiced ritual magic. I am not a mage.”

“If you don’t sign this paper,” Morcant smiled. Hilda shudder. Dragons had a nicer smile than this man. Morcant continued. “Then I will send you to the dungeon for dangerous criminals.”

“I have done nothing wrong,” Hilda said, her eyebrow went up. “What are you trying to pull?” She leaned forward. Morcant leaned back just a little. He caught himself, scowled, and then he leaned toward her.

She felt his magical energies ramp up. She wished Sassy was with her because the two of them could overpower this wannabe. She sent a probe towards him on the off chance that she could read something in his mind. He blocked her and the smile wiped off his face.

He sent a probe back. She could barely push it away. She knew he was going to try again, so she reached for her knife. Damn. She was disarmed.

She reached across the desk and grabbed a silver pen. It had enough weight to be useful.
Morcant must have been able to get off a non-verbal spell because she felt heaviness come over her limbs. She fought it hard until she could move her fingers. Beads of sweat roll down Morcant’s face as Hilda tried to move her sluggish body and push the pen into his neck.”

“Enough!”

Hilda recognized that voice, but he shouldn’t be here. The magic in that voice broke the tie between Hilda and Morcant. They both collapsed. Hilda lay on the floor unable to move. As her eyelids sagged she saw two legs and feet. He picked her up and slung her across his shoulder.

As she slapped against his back from being carried out of the room, she saw a healer leaning over Morcant. His face was white and he was breathing shallowly.

“What the hell did you do to him?” said that familiar voice. “Hilda… Hilda.”

They were in the gardens and he had set her down. She looked up into the face of Rooso. She wanted to say “What are you doing here?” but her lips wouldn’t move.

He picked her up in his arms and  carried her like a baby back to the house.

Water leaks and other misadventures

faucet-1684902_1280

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.

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.

 

I’ve been writing, and thinking, and writing

and thinking–

It seems that when I am in the middle of a story, I forget to blog. Lately I have been reading a lot of Norse mythology and even reading books on shamanism, magic, and religion. Yesterday I was going to write a little bit on what I was doing with Dragon Boy, the “work in progress” right now. Then I got caught in the difference between ritual magic, using formulas and motions, and informal magic–magic of the will.

It seems that the more magic is infused in being such as a dragon, the less formal magic is needed to affect a desired result. Yes, the title of my story is not false advertising.

So I have human mages who have elemental companions, but who need ritual magic to close portals (in Hilda’s Inn), which means they don’t do magic on the fly. They need amulets and formulas– and some training.

I have elementals and dragons, beings infused with magic. They see the human magic as clumsy in ineffective most of the time. I suspect that the elementals like humans because when the formal and informal is merged, there may be a greater magic involved. Primal even. Except the mage must have potential, studious nature, and sane.

I suspect that it is insanity that makes a mage go down a darker path– the difference between using dark and light magic is none– it is how it is used and what intention. Intentions in my stories are key to the character and also to the magic.

So I have had a lot to consider. I haven’t forgotten the readers– at least not intentionally. I am trying to make this story as good as I can in this point in my life.

The WIP is well on its way to the completion of the first draft. Then I will need to look the story over and make sure that it doesn’t have any holes and lost threads. At the same time, I need to make sure that I see the world in the eyes of the character.

I know it sounds insane. I find that when I follow the character instead of forcing the character into a role, that I am surprised and pleased at the result. It works for me. I know that it doesn’t work for all writers.

I am writing, and thinking, and writing, and thinking–