Victoria A. Jeffrey's authorly doings. . .

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sample Chapters: Cryptic Tongues - Chapter Two!

Here is the second chapter of Cryptic Tongues! REMEMBER: as with all sample chapters posted here, these are not in final edited form. Mistakes are inevitable at this stage. What you are reading here is close to but not the final form of the manuscript. Alright folks, chapter one of Cryptic Tongues. Enjoy and happy reading!

Chapter Two

The Month of Pin, 1700 A. T. V.
He carefully opened the black resin boxes and examined the precious objects closely. All three that he'd ordered were there. Exquisite in detail, painstakingly beautiful etching of arcane spells. And deadly. It was exciting to finally have these precious things, banned for so many years, in his possession. The scorpions were made of lacquered shell and copper. It had taken three years since their commission and they were made by some of the finest craftsmen in Egium. He closed each of the boxes carefully.
"Superb in every detail. The queen will be well pleased with the gift." Said Bakku. "But I must test them to see if they work. Bring me one of the creatures there." He said to a manservant standing nearby.
"Of course, sire." Said the envoy-alchemists. A rat was handed to him from a basket. He took one of the gleaming mechanical scorpions out of its box and with a candle flame he lit its metal wicker on its side so that it became red hot. He hung the rat by its tail in front of it, dangling the squirming creature. It screeched and tried to bite his hand. He slapped its head. Suddenly and without warning the scorpion's tail lashed out and impaled the rat. Bakku jumped in fear and surprised at its speed. The animal shuddered as the scorpion continued to stab until it impaled its tail deep into the rat's brain. The rat convulsed for a few moments more, blood trickling from its mouth and then eventually it became still. He was satisfied. They would be even more effective when those long, forceful stingers were filled with poison, of which the queen kept a large collection.
"Are you well pleased, sire?" Asked the envoy. He and his companion were envoys of the Black Guild and in the employ of a powerful alchemist named Erol, who it was said could create terrible things and that he had the secret knowledge of the gods. All alchemical arts were banned from Hybron but Bakku had ways of getting around this. So did others. The queen had welcomed the idea of alchemists and their works in the land, secretly, so long as they could serve her purposes and she had specifically invited a man who it was rumored had a connection with the Black Guild in Egi.
The envoy-alchemists before him were dressed in their characteristic black garb. They did not wear their cone-shaped hats or their metal symbols for fear of arrest or attack while in the land.
"I am well pleased. I have your fee and tell your master that I may have need of his services again one day. These are not only effective but quite beautiful. Impressive." The envoys both smiled slyly.
"A thing worth doing is always worth doing well, sire. Our master would do no less. We are happy to relay your message, sire." They bowed as he handed them the fee, three hundred silver ingots in three plain wooden carrying cases. He took away the flame and the scorpion died down. He then placed the scorpion carefully back in its box and poured himself a tall goblet of scorpion wine after the men left. If the queen's astrologers, spies and huntsmen could not do what could be done to find the boy, perhaps these could flush him out.
. . .

The air was cool but it would be another hot day later on. As usual the sky was blindingly clear. Not even the usual thin, wispy clouds that floated so high in the sky appeared this day. A maid servant took away the tray with the jeweled ewer and her silver goblet of the daily elixir. She savored the taste. The sweetness of the drink gone, the bitterness now settled in at the roof of her mouth. Thus it would be like this for the transformation. She now ate only from silver plates or drank from silver goblets for the metal of silver had healing properties. She desired purification at all times even in the smallest things. Silver was the element of purification. She sighed and lay back against the balcony, stroking Vala. Vala purred softly. The queen's hair, nearly to her knees now, was being combed, oiled and braided. If only she could have the precious balsam oil to scent it. The most precious of oils. Oil of the First One, it was said. She wanted it for its healing and calming properties but it was exceedingly rare and hard to come by, even for the privileged.
The queen was lounging on her bedroom balcony, a massive space with a sprawling garden now built into it. The trees planted in urns gave her shade from the sun. In front of the palace across the way, sat the temple to Nimnet, which was nearly finished. When that was complete her duty to the gods would be finished and she would be richly rewarded for all her hard work. It had been stressful but the prize more than worth all the blood in the world. And much blood had been spilled and more yet would be before the end of it. The edict she sent out before her years ago after the king died, the edict to every temple, office and every public space, that she and Khalit were to be acknowledged as divine on earth and an offering was to be made of incense or an oath given, especially in Jhis. Kahlit had died and in the minds of the people had joined the gods but she would do something different. The image to her that he wanted made had been diverted to Nimnet's temple. It helped root out anyone who might pose a problem to her plans later; execution for anyone who did not acknowledge the divine couple. She had embarked on something never done before and it was serious business. Divine business.
Yadua, finished with oiling a thick section of hair until it shined like onyx, began to braid it down. In the distance from where they were was The Forest. The executed, impaled on high stakes for their crimes; stealing, murder and other petty crimes and the worst offense of all: refusing to acknowledge her divinity - or soon to be complete divine essence, in any case. It included anyone who mentioned their belief of any prophecy of the Aishanna-La. The stench of the corpses and the blood, excrement and viscera that it produced had long been one that had receded into the background of the other scents of Jhis and became woven into the tapestry of its essence but on hotter days it was brought forward before all other smells. The fragrant imported lemon and orange trees of the palace gardens and the giant orchids and irises and other imported flowers on her balcony garden usually masked it.
"Please finish up, Yadua. I do not have all day. Or I will have another of your fingers cut off." She said, irritated. Yadua bowed and deftly quickened her braiding pace, pinning the front braids together with the jeweled pins and then affixed her silver diadem with the sapphire gems. She gathered up the combs and the other accessories on a tray and then bowed low. The queen waved her away and sat down on her divan as Yadua left. Another servant cleared her throat.
"Your Greatness, the huntsman is here."
"Bring him to me."
"The queen will see you now." She heard the woman say, farther inside the bedroom. She heard his soft footfalls approaching. She sighed in exasperation. Why did things happen so slowly? When her father was alive if something needed to be done it seemed it was done instantly. Vala continued to purr and did not stir but Taliat knew the cat was attentive to everything. But this was not work for a palace pet. The man dropped to one knee and bowed before her. She was impatient.
"And what have you found?"
"I sent men to Rhuctium on information I have, to find boys of fifteen years who have your likeness. Surely though, this is difficult work Your Greatness. This could be any boy in the land and there is no proof the boy may be your relation."
"My priestess has given me incontrovertible proof of the boy's looks. He looks like myself I am told. He is my very image and he has eyes like mine and my father's."
"It may very well be that we will have to haul in half the boys in the kingdom to the palace."
"You will, if it comes to that. This prophecy of Ilim's assures me that the boy is alive and well."
"You really do believe him?" The man questioned.
"If only to crush it because it competes with another prophecy, one that is blessed by the gods of Hybron and Egi: "The serpent is rising". Prophecies compete just like men do in a ring. Which will get the mastery? It is up to me to choose which one will prevail. So, you heard rumors near Rhuctium? What of Rhuctium?"
"The men I sent there said they may have found one who fits the high-priestess's description exactly. The description as you say, she saw in her visions. Last I heard from them, they were moving in to take him and bring him here. Then a few days ago I got a letter by falcon from one of your sources there saying they had found dead Hatchet Men in the city and gave a description of the bodies. Those men were working for me, whom I sent to bring back the boy they'd found. They had been killed in what looked like a street brawl." The queen frowned.
"These were Hatchet Men, you say?'" She asked. The huntsman nodded.
"I wonder who but seasoned warriors could kill a Hatchet Man, much less a group of them. In any case, this discovery leads me to believe that the boy may very well be in Rhuctium."
"I suspect this as well."
"Good. Pull your resources towards that city for a more concentrated search."
"Your Greatness, if I may. The boy is of the age to attend one of the great schools down there. Perhaps sending your honored guest that just arrived from Egium there would be a good idea. Perhaps he may turn something up if my men do not." He countered. The queen's eyes lit up with cold, bright flame.
"Ah! What an excellent idea! I will have you speak with him on the matter of the boy. Inform him that I shall send him on to Rhuctium at once!" He bowed again.
"Oh, and huntsman, my dreams and the visions of the high-priestess have the face of Ilim the false prophet, along with this boy. The false prophet is connected with this treasonous outrage against me. While in Rhuctium, search for him as well."
"We have not heard word about him for a few years."
"I know and that is well. It would be even more well if you found him and brought him here. I have not forgotten him. He is a man with great powers. In my last hours as I am now I will need such a man. His powers, anyway. Increase the reward for the boy. Any man who can find him will be paid the boy's weight in silver."
"Certainly, Your Greatness."
"I do realize these things take time and I am patient huntsman, but do not tarry too much. The great day of the sun god has passed. It is late spring. My ascension is nearing." He bowed again and left quickly. She saw another manservant coming.
"The royal barge is ready." He said. She turned to Setimet.
"Take care of my serpent. It seems he grows larger every month."
"Is it time for him to feed again, Your Greatness?" She asked eagerly. The queen laughed lightly.
"It is. If any of the new serving girls displeases you Setimet, feed her to him. You have my blessing." Setimet's eyes brightened. She picked up the cat left the room.
Things were moving along. More slowly than she liked, but moving. Her spies were nearly everywhere. Even within the Ainash's Hatchet Men she had infiltrated them. Her chosen serving women followed her in a train behind as she left her personal apartments and descended the steps. She was on her way the tomb of kings to do two very controversial things which had forced her to imprison a few people for daring to dispute her. She was dedicating a school in Egium for noblewomen, the first college if its kind for teaching religious training and intellectual pursuits. That had been difficult enough, but she'd push it through even with the sly machinations and sneaky obstructions against it from her uncle. Secondly, she would dig up Khalit's bones. Many thought it sacrilege, those who did not worship as Egians did. However, he had been deified and now she needed them. She would need all the holy things she could find. Those outside of the palace thought it evil and did not understand. They did not understand that prophecy drove her to do this, impelled her, like their own prophecies drove them to believe this or that. But only one web of prophecies could be allowed to survive.

When she finally reached the palace gate her chariot was waiting. The sun seemed blinding and overbearing even though it was still early morning and the air slightly cool. A maidservant covered her head with a thin silver veil and she climbed in, clutching her sacred flail and staff to her breast. How she wished for the night and its coolness. All eyes as always were on her and for these last few years it tired her, made her suspicious. She felt exposed and violated, outside and under the sun. She had not counted on her feelings and emotions over being exposed and seen by so many people when she became queen. She was raised in hidden rooms, luxuriant, hidden chambers, a daughter of secret rites. She worshiped goddesses of the night. It tired her and sometimes angered her. She would be glad of night again. And when she finally ascended, night would last forever. She would make it so.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Game of Thrones Inspired Song!

Check out this awesome song, inspired by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice. It is about the Night 's Watch. It's by The Lonely Mountain Band.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sample Chapters: Cryptic Tongues, Chapter One

I know I've promised sample chapters of Cryptic Tongues, so, here they are! Well, the first one anyway. I'm excited to bring you the second book of my Red World trilogy. JUST REMEMBER: as with all sample chapters posted here, these are not in final edited form. Mistakes are inevitable at this stage. What you are reading here is close to but not the final form of the manuscript. Alright folks, chapter one of Cryptic Tongues. Enjoy and happy reading!

Chapter One

The month of Sin, 1700 A.T. V.
Rapheth's eyes shined with wicked mischief. He put a finger to his lips to silence their furious whisperings. They were trying to decide which way to travel to get to the tavern unseen. He, Ephron and Shukala, his two best friends, were prowling about in the bowels of the upper city, Rhuctium. They were in the unnamed city, which stretched out in a string of ramshackle, loose communities from Jhis to Rhuctium, underground. It was a mysterious underworld that held everything of the fascination and forbidden wonders that young men craved. They went regardless of their parents' fears, regardless of Ilim's and Zigal's dour warnings.
He heard the familiar gurgle of the wide stream below and the whispers of small rivulets of water streaming down filthy stone walls. It stank of rotting garbage but they had learned to ignore this long ago. To them the tavern was a kind of hidden secret from their respectable families and it was worth every unmentionable smell crowding their noses. They were now deep underground, nearing Marashiah-Degar's infamous tavern where they'd shown their faces more than a few times for drink, water-pipes and a bit of bawdy storytelling and harmless trouble. Harech, one of the regular patrons - so regular he was nearly part of the furniture of the place - had challenged Rapheth on a wager that he could not steal his red cap from his head.
"Shukala, come! I need you to do something for me," he whispered. Shukala and Ephron followed behind, ready for mischief.
"Go down beneath the tavern to the center grate. I will bet Harech will be sitting in his same spot right over it."
"Harech. Always predictable." Said Shukala.
"I know it. Get his attention while you are there. Maybe some trick. I know you can think of something. Then Ephron and I will grab his cap!"
"He will owe us a pithos of beer for this!" Said Ephron. Shukala laughed. Rapheth put his finger to his lips once more.
"Quiet now or we will owe him!" Shukala bounded down the path and across the narrow rock ravine, nimbly avoiding the sewage stream below and made his way carefully down the small cave opening that led to the grate in the tavern floor.
The tavern was a two-story building situated in a small cliff-face, made both of the rock surrounding it and of heavy wooden beams and floors. There were grates here and there in the floors to throw out unwanted things like sewage, garbage and visceral matter from the kitchen. Belligerent patrons who had too much to drink and too much fight in them had the misfortune of being thrown out through these grates too, right into the sewers below. The grate in the main floor led to a wide cave beneath where goods, legal and illegal, were stored for the owner's use and was sometimes used as a gateway to other hiding places. The three youths were seasoned troublemakers and good in a fight. The seedy unnamed city did not bother them in the least. All three had daggers at the ready in case but rarely did they need to use them. This night was the Day of Glorious Fires, the celebration of Hec who rose brightest and highest in the sky this week. For many people who observed it, it was a time for visiting family and feasting during the day and revelry at night and people wore masks every night. Rapheth and Ephron pulled over their masks to disguise themselves and entered within the crowds going in the door. Far off a wild whistling call came. A loosely gathered parade was winding its way through the street. Inside they could hear the bawdy singing and playing of a band of Rurrian musicians. Such foreigners would never have been allowed to perform in any official public place or noble house in Jhis. Hybronians thought their culture, next to Egian high culture, was superior to all others. Rhuctium was a more tolerant city.
"A fine night indeed!" Said Marashiah, the tavern owner. She watched over the crowds milling in, sitting on her elaborately carved wooden Fundian throne-stool like a queen of the underworld, The throne-stool, always reserved for South Land royalty, displayed her uncanny ability to acquire precious objects. She was a heavy-set woman with very long, dry gray hair and a few black streaks running through. She wore it in a large double-knot style, pinned to the back with a coral head pin that she wore proudly. And she had a short beard. Upon noticing Rapheth and Ephron, her eyes rarely missed anything, she grinned widely, showing large, strong and very yellowed teeth. She took a deep draw from her water pipe. The tobacco she used was very strong. She blew it to the side in a serpentine stream of smoke, looking supremely satisfied with herself.
"I know the look of two fine and handsome young men if ever I saw it!" She said and winked. Ephron chuckled. Rapheth pointed over to the large central table where Harech sat singing along, off key and loudly, his monkey mask affixed haphazardly on his head. The place was crowded and thick with smoke. So noxious was the scent of smoke fumes, body odor, greasy food and sewage that gentler people would have long fainted, dead away. The young men sauntered over to the table and as soon as they stepped up the man turned around, his mouth wide and his eyes shining in drunken pleasure.
"Why, it's you two foxes! And where is your friend? The black one?" Then he laughed and pointed to his cap. "Think to get my cap, do you?" He laughed, his mouth still wide open. Rapheth took off his sand lion mask and bowed mockingly to the man.
"Dear Harech, we did not come to rob you of your most alluring red cap. Would not dream of it! For it is a most beauteous cap. A most wonderful cap!"
"And a most splendid color of red. Why would we even think of separating a good man from his red cap?" Chimed Ephron, taking off his bull mask and sitting down.
"Eh?" Said Harech, both amused and slightly confused. He scratched his balding head under the cap.
"Harech. We have come to play another round of Hounds and Jackals. We will see who wins this time." Said Rapheth.
"Come to lose again? Are you sure, my little lordlings? Come then, since you both are bottomless pits. And where is your other friend, I say?"
"I am afraid you broke him in the last game, my friend!" Said Rapheth.
"Yes. He had to ask his father to pay his debts and his father refused to advance him any more coin."
"Did he now? I am sorry I cleaned the poor boy out. Now, what are the terms?" Asked Harech. Drunk though he was, Harech was still sharp in a game when ladre was involved. Rapheth pretended to think of what terms to offer when a thick curl of blue smoke streamed in from the grate under the table. Shukala! The smoke enveloped Harech and covered the table with a thin mist. The smoke turned into figures of lithe, dancing women. Some of the crowd turned to look and gawk in delighted surprise.
"Ai! What evil magic is this? Mara! Ah, get it off!" Shouted Harech in a panic.
"Since when do you want to escape naked dancing women?" Asked Ephron. Quick as a fox Rapheth whipped his arm across the table while Harech was busy slapping away dancing smoke figures, and reached for the cap, snatching it off Harech's head.
"Aha! You all see it the cap! I have it! Harech owes everyone beer!" Rapheth jumped onto the table waving the cap wildly while the crowd roared with laughter. Harech protested in dismay.
"See now, Harech! We will have some imported honey beer from Jura and the good Egian barley beer too. Mara, do not water it down. We want the good beer!" Ephron shouted. Mara laughed.
"You lost this time, Harech." She teased.
"Cheaters! Cheaters! They used magic against me!"
"Magic? Are you sure it was not too much strong drink playing tricks on you? Tonight is a night full of magic and mayhem Friendly mayhem. I say we have won the bet. Come now, Harech. Will you go back on your wager?" Teased Rapheth. His eyes danced with a merry fire in them.
"And since when do you not cheat? Come, do as you promised." Chided Mara gently. Harech sat down, his face crumpled in a frown. He nodded and the crowd roared in laughter again. Harech could afford it. For a layabout who drank and gambled all night and slept all day he had amassed quite a fortune for a small undertown man.
A group of men sat watching the spectacle in a far corner. One of them smoking a water pipe. He pulled the pipe from his lips and let out a plume of smoke. The man watched the scene shrewdly, his eyes never leaving Rapheth.
Shukala, looking quite self-satisfied, strode through the crowded tavern and sat beside Rapheth.
"I see we will be kept in good drink for the rest of the night. What is he paying for? The good stuff or the mealy beer in the vat?"
"The best. Nothing less." Said Ephron, giving Harech a pointed look. Shukala, however amused he was and however carefree his friends were, was always half alert to surroundings and to people. The men in the corner on the other side of the room did not escape his notice. It was dark where they sat and all he could make out from their table were columns and rings of smoke buffeted around shadowed figures. He felt suddenly as if their center table laid them naked and bare before all while others sat safely hidden in corners to take in the spectacle, of which Rapheth and Ephron were nearly always at the center. As one of the tavern men made his way to their table with a tray of goblets and a fired-clay amphora of barley beer, Shukala tapped Rapheth's shoulder.
"Eh? Oh, Good trick Shukala! You must show it to me one day. I knew you would not let us down."
"Yes. Of course not. But listen," he lowered his voice, "there are men, there in the corner behind you. You cannot see them but I saw them as I came in. They are watching us. I do not like the looks of them. I think that I have seen them before around here. No! Do not look now." He warned, grabbing his arm as Rapheth turned to look behind him. Rapheth stopped mid-turn and calmly picked up a goblet of beer and took a drink. Ephron leaned in.
"What is it?"
"The men there in the back. I do not trust them." Said Shukala.
"They watch us, Shukala thinks. Do not look or they will know we know they are watching us."
"Huh! I will look if I may. Who will stop me? If they want to stare perhaps we should give them reason to!" Said Ephron defiantly. He swept his gaze brazenly to the back corner. The men averted their gazes quickly. Ephron snorted with disdain.
"What do you think?" He asked them.
"I do not know what to think of them." Said Rapheth, fingering one of his game pieces.
"I think they are Hatchet Men." Countered Shukala quietly.
"Puh! Good-for-nothings." Scoffed Ephron. Rapheth grinned, feeling bold.
"In any case, I will not let them stop me from having a good time, whoever they are. We have had our battles. We hold our own. Do not worry, Shukala. I fear my father far more than those dogs!" Said Rapheth and he finished his beer and went back to his game of hounds and jackals, calling for anyone listening to come and play.
They played for hours until the beer was done, only two vessels of beer in all and three games of H and Js - Harech being a cheapskate and they being forgiving and merely looking for merriment. Rapheth stretched his arms and legs and yawned loudly like a young waking lion.
"I am ready for bed. Let us go." He patted his friends on the back and got up, grabbing his mask. He wrapped his robes about him hoping that Ilim was still out and about. There would be lots of study and reading tomorrow, and scribal duties. He was not supposed to be here. In fact, none of them were. It was dangerous for schismatics within the Aishanna-La to be about in any places but Hevan or Gamina unless they kept their mouths shut, or unless they supported the Golden Temple. Ilim and Zigal certainly did not and neither did anyone in their little community. Yet, sometimes he felt he needed to just have a little enjoyment. His thoughts of late took him to dark places and darker dreams. Dreams of engulfing fire. It was merriment like this with his friends that took his mind off of troubling thoughts. The mysterious pieces of information he gathered from his mother and the prophet Ilim seemed to piece together a picture that frightened him. These things he kept to himself. Not even to his friends did he talk of them.
He swept these small guilty feelings from his mind. It was only a little fun. Nothing wrong with that. Ephron and Shukala followed him out.
"Come back soon! I will have some special ladies to entertain you boys next time. There's a few who are curious about you. Handsome young men! I know your folk are straight on the arrow. Come to Mara next time and she will fix that for you. I know many women who would like to meet you."
"No doubt they would." Said Ephron. And therein lay the danger. Rapheth realized. What sort of women? Who are they? He had been brought up to mistrust people who were not like him. His whole life seemed shrouded in mystery and secrecy. But he did not mention any of this.
"Ah." He laughed weakly at Mara and turned and left. They made their way through the streets moving slowly upward toward the city above. He and his mother had lived here, once. Villages intermittently dispersed like sudden croppings of trees and bushes might populate a wilderness. Much of it looked like a long and complicated system of catacombs and caves where people simply squatted and made their dwellings; the poorest of the poor, people with dark pasts, criminals and others. The rambling underground city was built during the Age of Empires, an age now largely forgotten by the people above ground or below.
It was when they neared the last level before reaching above ground that they were aware that they were being followed. Rapheth gave silent signals to his friends and they quickly rounded a corner and ducked into a small cave, passing by a group of makeshift tents and holed out dwellings, through long columns of hangings and boxes until they did not see their pursuers. They laughed, after losing them and continued on, nearing the opening of an abandoned cistern. Around the corner once they got outside the four Hatchet Men met them. The youths came to a dead stop, backing into fighting stances. The men had tracked them through another way.
"What do you think, Ephron?" Asked Rapheth, not taking his eyes from them.
"I think there are only four and we are three. It will not be easy but we have seen these odds before." He said. Shukala grunted and they pulled out their knives. However the men whipped open their robes and where before they were invisible or seemed so, now there were long scabbards at their sides. These men carried army issued swords. Rapheth swallowed hard. In a flash Ephron took his dagger and hurled it at the face of one of their would-be attackers. The man was nearly pierced in the eye but ducked just in time to be sliced on the temple. He cursed in surprise at the mark. Rapheth and Shukala did the same but this time their daggers were reflected, though one of the daggers landed deep into the arm of one of the men. The youths took off as quickly as they could, their pursuers right behind them. If they separated it would be trouble and they did not know if there were more pursuers on the way. Shukala picked up a large, broken clay vessel and threw it, prompting the other two to do the same but this did not slow the Hatchet Men down. The only thing that saved the boys was their indefatigable speed and nimbleness. The men had a hard time catching up. They turned a corner and found themselves trapped in a dead end with no way to scale the building. The men after them were angry now.
"Take the one there in the middle," one of them said, nodding towards Rapheth, "we'll kill the other two." They moved in swiftly, broad, short iron swords at the ready, when just as swiftly another stranger appeared behind them with a bright, sword flashing like a torch in the late evening. He cut down one of the Hatchet Men before he had a chance to move, running him through. Then he was on to the second one, snatching up his braid from behind and slashing his throat. One of them bore down on him but the stranger moved away quick as a side-winder and grabbed up a large pot near a doorway and hurled it at him, bashing his face with it, breaking the pot to pieces. One escaped down the alley but the apparent leader of the group, the one now with the bleeding face and broken teeth stood his ground. He lunged at his opponent. The stranger moved nimbly and then did a thing that surprised the youths and the other man - he lept over the man, powerful and graceful like a desert ram and landed behind him. However, the Hatchet Man was quick and moved to turn and lunched again nearly taking the man's head. He ducked just in time and with his body, using it like a whip lashing toward the man with ferocious speed and the man was suddenly pinned to the ground, panting with the last moments of life left in him. With the stranger's sword in his belly he stared at his opened gut in shock and then he cried out in agony. The stranger bent over, took a knife from the man's belt, covered his mouth with his hand and cut his throat. He stood up and looked the youths over, then spoke as if to command them before they would try to escape. His face was covered. He lifted his face covering and faced them squarely. They merely stood, gaping.
"Do not move. I was sent to see about you and watch over you. Especially you, boy." He nodded at Rapheth. Rapheth lifted a brow.
"A woman named Zigal sent me." Rapheth drew in a sharp breath.
"Why did she send you?"
"She thought you might meet trouble. Seems worried about you. I can see why. All three of you are reckless and stupid. You do not belong in the unnamed city. You are soft Rhuctiumites." Ephron sniffed and Rapheth frowned.
"I was raised in the unnamed city. What is it to you?"
"I already told you. Your mother sent me. You may have been raised there for a time but not your whole life, otherwise those men would never have been able to find you so easily. You are Aishanna-La. And of those schismatics, that are at odds with the Golden Temple. I can tell." Rapheth detected a slight sneer in the man's voice. "Good boys. Why do you come around these dark places? What fascination does it hold for you? You will be killed. Certain people are seeking your soul, boy and your friends will be killed right along with you. Your mother sent me to look for you. Come with me. Those men are not the only ones looking for you and as you saw, one of them got away."
"I can fight." Said Rapheth, suddenly feeling put out and humiliated.
"Of that I have no doubt otherwise you'd already be dead. It grows late. I know a way that we can avoid being seen by too many people. Where are your weapons?" He asked. The boys carried more than a single dagger and they showed him. He grunted in satisfaction and showed them the way out of the alley and through a small, narrow door just around the corner.
"So. . .who are you?" Asked Rapheth.
"A mercenary."
"Mercenary! Not very honorable." Said Ephron. The man ignored him. Shukala was silent.
"What is your name?" Asked Rapheth. The man looked about quickly and said in a low voice.
"Rhajit. I am from the desert."
"A tribesman then?"
"Yes. As we all are in one way or another."
"You acknowledge this fact?" Rhajit seemed surprised.
"Of course. All peoples come from the tribes. They are our first mothers and fathers." Said Rapheth.
"All things that are pure and righteous come from the desert." Said Ephron. Rhajit grunted in approval.
"Where did you learn how to fight like that? You jump so high in the air! Like an eagle!" Asked Shukala.
"I learned it from my life in the desert, long ago. Desert people are taller, stronger than city people. Out in the desert the air is pure and it fills the lungs with no contamination. The food is pure. Out there boys learn to jump like the ram and to fight like lions. If a man takes a deep enough breath, he may fly."
"I want to learn how to wield a sword like that! Can you teach us?" Asked Rapheth. The man turned and gazed at them, his eyes wide but inscrutable to Rapheth. It seemed that the corners turned upwards in a grin but his face was covered again.
"That I can do, if you so desire. A young man of your age, it is high time you learned how to use a proper weapon. Like a sword. One day you will wield one. Yes, I will teach you and your friends. But come now. It is a wild night and a dangerous one. Among the revelers there are murderous plots in the air and wild dogs prowling about and I do not mean the four-legged kind." He picked up his pace and took them by ways they did not recognize back to Rapheth's home, the little community in the northern quarter of Rhuctium with Rapheth and his two friends hurrying to keep up. Rapheth wondered what omen this was that his life was saved this night. Feeling guilty and foolish about the whole affair he promised himself he would make an offering of repentance at the temple. And he dearly hoped that Ilim would not find out that he had left his studies to go cavorting around with his friends. He would be ashamed if the prophet knew.

But to wield a sword like that! It would certainly punctuate his days with excitement in between the reading of the Holy writings and the Laws.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sample Chapters From Cryptic Tongues Are Coming!

The first draft is done! I am now in editing phase. I plan to put out the first chapter on the blog this week! I'm so excited! It seems like such a long time since I first stared writing this book. Actually I started working on it in February. It should be done by June 30th.

I made a concerted effort this time around to kick up the action in this book. I'm happy with how its turned out. The extras that this novel will include will be a glossary. There won't be any extensive notes in this book. I wanted to include the glossary in with the first book but that was impossible as I had too many appendixes to add in. So the glossary will be added at the end of this book. Any words you didn't understand in the first book or in this one will be explained there.

Most of all I'm having fun with it. Of course, right afterward I plan to publish another book of poetry. I have about five poems written already. Then later this summer I'll get started on the last book in this trilogy. Even so, I have been thinking on creating another series in this same world with a few of the same characters. A fantasy adventure series, or perhaps another trilogy that takes place perhaps in the land of Zapulia. We'll see. The possibilities are grand.

Also, look for the new book cover at the end of this month!