Victoria A. Jeffrey's authorly doings. . .

Friday, December 27, 2013

Rise of the Red King, Sample Chapters (Chapter Three)

Hello folks! Another sample chapter. This is chapter three of Rise of the Red King. If you find errors just remember, it is still in editing phase.

Chapter Three

Supper was amiable but slightly subdued and especially late this night. Anet was visiting the citadel with her sisters. There were new faces here. Such as Yusanna, a feisty girl that reminded Anet of herself when she was younger. And Like little Lia, who in her talents for visions reminded Anet of herself. Lia, who at first was very withdrawn and cried most of the time for weeks seemed to finally be getting along quite well with the other sisters. Irtal, one of the shepherdesses of the citadel, and a candle-maker, had taken Lia under her wing. And when she wasn't with irtal, Anet often heard from Instructress Helga or Instructress Iddina that she and Yusanna would get up to mischief.
A meal of sliced lamb in spiced gravy over potatoes and an onion chutney and quass was delicious, as usual. Sister Madeah never lost her touch in the kitchen. Anet motioned for Irtal to hand her the bread plate and she took another oblong round of flatbread and poured a bit of olive oil upon it.
"I wonder what the king will say after all is said and done." Said Instructress Helga.
"I have no idea what to expect."
"It is good to have you be among us again, Anet. You are sorely missed." Helga actually permitted herself a slight smile.
"Are you sure? I was a bit of an imp."
"And we have plenty more imps running about the place but none so curious about the outside world like you." Helga smiled broadly now, her fine lines broke into a wave of happiness, a true rarity. Anet was delighted to see it. Though still dour Instructress Helga seemed happier and the word was that she was a little softer on the students these days.
In truth, the prophet Ilim, who now lived among the scions, had a new task, having to do with the city of Jhis. This was the most momentous and dangerous of his and her spiritual journeys. He had specifically asked for her to accompany him on this journey. He'd received a letter from the king and even showed it to her. written even in copper and gold ink and dripping with cryptic courtesy. behind the words were iron teeth. They both knew that. It had even come in an Egian made tinmak messenger. A golden dragonfly. Mother Berenice had first discerned the danger in the beautiful little thing but it did not miss Anet or Ilim either. It's delicate faceted glass and web wings were stained with the barest hint of subtle poison. Yet, they consulted Saujiah on it and he bade them go for they would give a sign that the end of Jhis had come.
"Let him think he has set his trap." Said the messenger. "He will see a vision of the demise of his house and judgment against him instead." So they prepared for the journey. In the morning they would be leaving.
"I have not yet seen or heard of the king we all await." Said Irtal quietly.
"He remains hidden for now but I know, and Ilim knows of his coming. He knows who he is. That is all I can say until the time comes and you know that sign."
"Very soon indeed." Said Instructress Helga. "Are you sure you will not need the warrior scions to accompany you both to the city?"
"No, no. We trust in Saujiah's word on this. But please make sure to send a group of sisters to Beth-Ayin. Afterward, Ilim will visit the faithful, as many as he can see. He will especially want to visit Beth-Ayin as the brothers and sisters there have not seen him in an age."
"I worry for him. His health is no longer the best."
"I know but he insists he must go to see them." They ate and talked in broken, muted conversation, at times light, at times somber. The youngest ones were all in bed. This was a last meal to send Anet off. She was grateful for the peacefulness and small company as she meditated on what lay ahead. Her dreams of running in the desert, of seeing the great city Assenna had come back sporadically. And also the disturbing dream of the dead queen. There were now other dreams, dark ones. She would have to do battle with this one, whoever it was trying to reach her. (Erol!) She ate the rest of her meal in silence, listening to the goings-on and gossip flying through the citadel and town. She wondered what Kaisha her old friend was up to.
. . .

They set off before dawn the next morning. Ilim was in a grumpy mood. Anet was glad for the camels instead of mules or donkeys. Even so, Ilim had something to gripe about. The camels, were, in his opinion too wide and fat. He was muttering about the current laziness and wretchedness of the people of the land, in particular the youth. And how so many had grown so fat and lazy that they now needed to breed "malformed animals" to bear their ever-growing backsides. The camels took these insults patiently stride. Anet had to admit she'd found these unusually large camels rather strange as well but thought nothing more of it as she had other things on her mind. Like what they could expect, what sort of welcome they would receive in Jhis. Frankly she was tired of hearing about the forsaken place and did not want to go. Her skin crawled just thinking about it. Someone powerful there, someone apart of the court was trying to reach her and they had ill intentions toward her. Though she had figured out that Taliat did not have any gift of reaching her through dreams, the way the dream had made her feel left her in no doubt that the queen, her own kin would have thought nothing of slaying her. In fact, she had tried to kill her, not knowing Anet was a relative. If Queen Taliat had known, it would have made no difference. And yet, another in Jhis, close to the king she surmised, was trying to harm her in dream. The only thing keeping this person out of her head and from doing true damage was Airend-Ur and for that she was forever thankful. Anet was so focused on this person was trying to infect her mind that she barely heard Ilim who was now fussing at her. His voice slowly faded in seemingly out of nowhere, finally rustling her out of her thoughts.
"Anet! Do you not hear me? Something is wrong! Can you not feel it?" She looked around quickly, now on alert. Ilim had his own perceptive powers. Finally Anet felt it, like a force moving just under the sand. Even their animals were becoming nervous. Anet put her hand on her sword tied beneath an old sash around her hips, ready to spring from the camel at a moment's notice. Her breathing became still. She scanned the area. Nothing but sun and sand and pink-orange sky. They were both silent. Ilim then glanced at her with alarm. She heard it, like a sigh beneath the sands and then they were upon them! Two figures shot up like fire bugs out of a dune about fifty paces before them. Anet immediately lept off her camel, her eyes trained upon them. They were difficult to see, disappearing in the air like moving glass pieces. Ilim detached his staff from his side and swung it in front of him, ready to do battle. One of the figures landed beside her and within the same moment she was upon it, feeling the low whirring energy coming from it ride over her in long pulses of power. She lifted her wide bronze blade, her body both rigid and ready to bend. she felt herself being filled with fired sparks of energy. At first they looked like men but as the figure came down upon her she could see that it was mechanical, a skeleton of human bone and iron dressed in leather armor. Anet swing her sword in a powerful arc nearly cleaving the skull from the bone man's spine. Pieces of metal flew off into the air. It lifted a foot to kick her. Blades shot out from its big toe bones. Anet lifted her robe and it billowed in a wide arc. She swung it over her body and whirled away, quick as a sand snake. The boneman's toe blades sliced through her robe, just missing her torso. She raised her sword arm and struck the creature full on with the blade making a hairline crack in the skull and then she came in again, bashing the boneman in the side of its head, cracking the skull. It fell, dislodging completely from the body and tumbled on the sand but the body itself continued to fight. However, it was now slowed. Sweating, she deftly avoided the boneman as it swung round clumsily with its thin sword to strike her. She bashed and hacked away deftly at it, breaking through bones and shearing off bits of metal but she was tiring. Seeing what looked like fire and light and tubes within it in, a fit of fearlessness she reached into the ribcage and grabbed a hand full of tubes and wires, They burned her hands and she cried out, pulling the mass out with all her might. The skeletal figure shook and jerked, went still for a moment and then went crashing into the sand. She dashed towards Ilim who was now standing uphill on a sand dune, blocking each strike of the other boneman. Anet crept up behind only for the second boneman to whilr from Ilim to her and it went striking her down. She clashed swords with it but it was strong, stronger than the other one and it forced her nearly to the ground. Ilim swung his staff hitting it on the head.
"Ilim, father, its chest! It is the weakest part!" Ilim immediately attacked the ribcage witht he point of his staff, breaking two rib bones. The figure swung its sword down upon him and he scuttled back. Anet leaped up and hit it in the chest, driving with all her strength and broke another rib bone. They both rained down blows upon it but bone man did not go down, returning nearly blow for blow. They would soon tire while seemingly this thing could go on forever. Ilim snatched off his head mantle and threw it over its head. This slowed it somewhat and Anet in a moment went for the chest, tearing out the copper wires and tubing and pulled it out. It finally fell. They both stood staring in amazement. Ilim turned to her finally.
'What in the world were those things? I have never seen such things before?"
"It would seem someone has taken the concept of tinkering machines to a new plateau."
'Those. . . were tinkering machines?"
"That is the only thing I can think of. I have never seen them either. I did once see a man who had a mechanical heart."
"Juhi!" Cried Ilim.
"Yes. But he was a real man." She said. His face darkened into a black scowl.
"I think those were once men, Anet. It must be the work of Black Alchemy."
"Another import from Egi we do not need." She said.
"As we get closer to Jhis things might get even more interesting. And I am getting too old." He said. He took her burned hand into his.
"Child. I am sorry I have been dragging you into this for so long."
"Do not worry over it, father. I have some salves and solutions to clean and mend it. It is not too severe." It looked worse than it was. Their animals had run away and they had to walk a league before they caught up to them. After mounting their camels again they were both quiet for most of the journey. The rise and fall of sand dunes and the scuttling of scorpions was the only excitement they met up with afterward but they remained on high alert all the way into the city, wondering how far and how black Jhis had become and who had sent the mechanical men and the poisoned wing after them into the desert.
"It is someone of the king's court. But not the king. I have heard it through the voices of the sands that the king keeps company with a powerful alchemist." Ilim said one night. They were a day's journey from Jhis now. Anet wrapped her torn robe close around her, shivering against the cool night air.
"The king's sword they say is a black sword of flame and smoke. Fearsome thing. They say it is the star sword of Ishuye."
"People say so many things. It is why I have lived off and on among the tribes. Too much noise, kingly propaganda and weavings of lies in cities. It pollutes the mind. You cannot see or hear anything else but their lies."
"There is something you must know, Anet. I once said to you that I would tell you about your family." She snapped to attention then.
"I know it has been so long and I should have told you before. Both of us were so busy that I could not." He was quiet for a moment and then he looked at her again. "Your father was a minor nobleman of the Aishanna-La. His name was Omri-Kuyin na Kuyin, of the family of Kuyin. A respectable, upper-class family in Jhis. They were also faithful worshipers at the temple. Good people. Your mother was Egian nobility."
"Egian." Anet said quietly.
"Yes. You have perceived this because of your dream?"
"I was not sure at first but I have come to know it."
"Well, now you know."
"She was related to the former queen."
"Yes. You are descended from the House of Kuyin and of the House of Seht, Anet. They were sisters. Lady Eilannat had three daughters. Anetarieth was your mother's name. She was the eldest by ten years. Taliat was the youngest. There was another daughter, younger than your mother and older than Taliat, Eilat. She died young. Anyway, your mother defied convention at the risk of death and married someone that did not have her family's approval. The Seht family, like many Strabian people, disdain anyone who is not Strabian like themselves, even if they are from noble blood. The fact that he was Aishanna-La made the insult worse as they did not and do not like this religion. It is the very opposite of their own rites and beliefs. She ran away and when her father's men came to claim her back and punish her the only thing that stopped them was a bride price seven times bigger than any nobleman would normally pay for his bride. That and most likely the protection of God Himself. Your father paid it and prayed fervently over the matter and that saved her life. So they started out with very little but soon he was blessed after a few years and they grew in wealth and influence and then they had you. Your mother was a courageous woman and your father always supported her. She had made a name for herself as a kind and generous woman and often worked to help the poor in the city. She made clothes and fed many people and was a faithful woman. She converted to her husband's faith soon after marrying him. But she was always at odds with the Golden Temple priesthood. Women were not allowed into the temple and she would go inside anyway as she was well versed in what the holy book said and what it did not say and they could not lie to her on this matter. So they resorted to trying to shame her which did not work either. Nor did it work on your father as he once even denounced a priest for catching him coming out of a brothel. One day she had come in for prayers and they dragged her out and had her publicly whipped. Enraged over this, your father withdrew his support from the temple and many others who saw what happened withdrew from the temple as well in protest. This angered and created fear in the Ainash priesthood. You see they were gaining in influence over the Aishanna-La community Anet. It is my belief and the belief of others that one night they hired thugs to burn down your parent's home. To put an end to this growing challenge to their authority. An old friend of mine, Eliaz happened to be visiting their home when it happened. The fire happened so fast that there was little time to escape. You were only a small babe at the time. Eliaz grabbed you but could not get to your parents for the raging fire and he fled from the house. Your parents burned to death in that fire. Eliaz happened to grab a few valuable things in your room for safekeeping. They were in a safe box. A deed and a seal and a ring, your mother's ring from her mother given to her. The priest Zarhaz was given them for safe-keeping. Whether these things will be useful to you I do not know, but there it is. Your name, in full, is Anetaliat na Seht-Kuyin, as your mother kept her last name."
"She kept her last name?"
"She did. Unheard of but she never did anything just because others did it. She had her own mind. As you do. And your father was ever loyal to her, as you are loyal to me and to God. You have all the good qualities they had, Anet. And you are not common. Not that there is anything wrong with the common man or woman, but you have more than one great destiny laid out before you, child." Anet was stunned at this news. She asked for more but Ilim had told her all he knew.
"That is all I know."
"Now I can know truly where I came from and where I am going." She said softly.
"Yes. It is all in the name." They were both quiet after the revelation.

Ilim went inside the tent and went to sleep. Anet kept watch that night for a few hours longer before going to sleep. She watched the moons as they made their voyage across the sky. Even though the last regime was gone and the dark queens of the moons were defeated they were not dead and the moons here in Hybron seemed alien and distant. How far and different was her memory of them when she was a child so many years ago, first learning how to fend for herself when she looked up at the moons and thought of pleasant, wonderful things. Now they seemed cold, like blind snake eyes. Watching. Her mind sometimes wandered into the territory more and more of marriage and children. What it would be like to be in love and be in the arms of a husband. She closed her eyes and prayed fervently to keep her mind on what lay ahead. She, for the first time in years, was not sure what to expect or sure of her destiny. Some times it was pure joy and sometimes it was just too much. She had come to a fork in the path. We the little people, the ones who are ruled, by the seasons, by portents, by culture, by the gods or by the mighty men of fame and power. We are the beasts with all the burdens.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Short Fiction Anthology: Something For The Journey

I have submitted a story for a Fantasy/Sci-Fi short fiction anthology titled Something for The Journey. I submitted my short storyThe Candy Shop.
This anthology is an excellent collection of short stories aimed at commuters and travellers who have only a limited amount of time to read on the journey. This book is a Charity Anthology, with all proceeds (not just profits!) donated to children’s charity.

Suitable for all adult readers from 18 - 80. This book covers a large range of subjects, from alien visitors to a car crash with God, romance, humour and tragedy, and from unusual occurrences to every day situations. Stories were donated by a wide variety of authors, and should appeal to all tastes.

Authors: Dario Solera, Neil Bursnoll, T.L. Champion, Kathy Molyneaux, RJ Bennett, Peter Cawdron, Jamie Campbell, Sarah Dalton, Vincent Trigili, Cora Buhlert, Paul B. Kohler, Stephen Drivick, Stacy Claflin, Al Stevens, Sheila Guthrie, Dan Fiorella, Pru Moran, Paul Levinson, Melanie Nilles, James Griffiths, Seun Odukoya, V. A. Jeffrey, Frank Zubek and Stella Wilkinson. 
It is now on sale for only $2.99. Go here to the Amazon link for purchse and remember, all purchses go toward the Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal, which is a children's hospital charity. More details can be found here if you need them:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sample Chapters (Chapter Two of Rise of the Red King)

Here is the second chapter to the last book in the Red World trilogy. It is a rough draft so remember that. Happy Reading!

Chapter Two

He hoped he'd manage to be faster than their flocks of stone-tipped poisoned arrows. He was the fleetest runner in nearly all of Dyrland and this was why he was chosen to scout. He did not think they were close but one never knew. They had become more stealthy over the years. The ice and snow began coming down in earnest now, pelting through the dense foliage of everblacks, lady reds and evergreens like tiny, sharp teeth. In the far distance he finally heard it, the soul-chilling scream of the Ohdrufrid. He'd put a great distance between himself and his pursuers but it still sent fright running through him like an icy river current. He rounded a tree, one with a small hollow hidden behind thick snow-covered kingberry bushes. It was one of the many hiding places he had noted and examined long ago while scouting through the woods. The forest was densest near the town, before the strong wood and iron walls and the gate making it easy for anyone to ambush men going into the town in the evening. And there were creatures that did the bidding of the Ohdrufrid, watching the towns and villages of the vast forests for hapless victims when their masters hunted for human flesh. He dove deftly into the hollow and listened silently now, like a doe, hiding under the protective underbrush of the kingberry bush. He heard nothing now but the persistent pattering of snow and his own heart flailing away. He held his breath, difficult because of the distance he'd run. It called again. This time it was more a short wail. But not the wail of sorrow. It was more a call of note, as if something was found. What, he could not guess. Perhaps they saw him approaching the desecrated village? Perhaps they caught his scent as he fled from the rituals he had spied in their caves? They were calling up the most ancient of dark gods now. He started on his way again, though the pain in his legs made them shriek in protest. He quickened his pace toward the town gate. The Great Thane would not like the news he had to bring. The Thane already had many worries upon his brow. Yet, any news might help in the coming war.

Idwil, heavy with child already, sat to rest her sore feet upon the velvet pillow. The baby, little Millidred, played quietly on a soft pallet of furs near the fire.
"Tella, hand me the quilt please." She said to the serving woman.
"Yes, madam." The hall that the Thane Uwain had built would have to be prepared and decked with the best tribal hangings, candles and winter greenery and wreaths. The other thanes and elder men of counsel, her husband being the Chief Thane of the king, would be meeting again. Uwain, the chieftain and Great Thane of Eostur was preoccupied these last months. The town was on high alert even though they had won an important victory against the Ohdrufrid over a year ago. She was concerned as to why this did not satisfy Uwain. He worried constantly, his face was set into a permanent scowl. The boar was turning and roasting on the spit at the kitchen fire. A large horn of good honey mead sat on the long table by his chair. Even these things did not seem to make him happy anymore. She remembered when the hall of her lord was filled with his deep laughter and the laughter of the other thanes and valiant men of the land; singing, talk, the barking hounds and laughing wives and children and the giving of good gifts. She sighed heavily and went back to weaving her quilt. She was weaving into the quilt the sigil of their house, the kingsberry flower. It was nearly sacred to the people of southern Dyrland and she had many uses for it. And for the kingberries as well. She heard his heavy footsteps coming up the outside stair. A blast of cold air blew in along with a bit of fresh snow. Lord Uwain shook his furs and set his sword and its sheath aside in his favorite chair made of boar tusks, leather and polished everblack wood. He nodded to her.
"My lady."
"My loving lord."
"Da!" Said little Millidred and reached her plump, rosy hands up toward her father. At last, the Great Thane smiled broadly, if briefly. He took her up with one hand and hugged her and she squealed with delight. He rubbed Millicent's golden red hair, taken after her own long, golden red tresses.
"Arnulf, play some soft music for us." Said Idwil. Arnulf, a young musician from northern Dyrland who was orphaned some years ago, played upon his old wooden harp a soft and lilting lullaby. She had lit special candles of myrrh in their wax as her husband liked the scent and they were difficult to come by in the Great Valley Lands. Candles were alight throughout the main hall which gave a gently festive air to the normally gloomy great house.
"The king, I expect, will call for council again soon." Her eyes studied his face carefully, hearing the scorn in his voice.
"Another Great Council? So we are officially at war with the Ohdrufrid, then?"
"With the Ohdrufrid, the Wodrufrid and every evil work and dark creature they have conjured up against the tribes of Men."
"By the gods! We issued them a resounding defeat by the Black River. I thought it would be years before we heard from them again, if ever." She said.
"Normally you would be right. But there is something else at work here. They continue to worship the gods of the underworld, ones our people escaped from long ago and I suspect they are getting unnatural help from them. The very air of these times is evil, Idwil. It reminds me of the last days of the rule of King Khalit and his first queen. He had these evil counselors all around him, one in particular who urged the case for him to acquire another queen. Finally, needing money for a nearly bankrupt treasury and needing an important military alliance against his enemies, he was finally persuaded. The fact that he had no issue from the first queen only helped that fatal decision further along. He brought within his court and to his bosom snakes who worshiped at the altars of demons. Signs and portents, dark and frightening were everywhere when this one, this new queen was got with child. The atmosphere of the entire court changed. It was like always having to have eyes at the back of your head, lest a serpent strike you from behind." Idwil was listening with all earnestness now. Rarely these days did Uwain divulge what was on his mind unless he was greatly disturbed. 
"I was under the impression that most royal courts were like that."
"They are, but this one even more so. I tell you Idwil, the dark gods everywhere are powerful in the world. They are rising and becoming more active. I had to flee and I barely escaped with my life after we learned of Khalit's death. I owe Ruz and his brother Omun a life debt and now that Omun has helped our sword-smiths forge these new swords that can cut through anything our entire town owes him. Yet even so, fighting against gods is a different matter. The giants are up to something. I can feel it."
"Perhaps I can weave some trick-"
"No! Not that I do not trust in your skills but leave this be. It could get you killed." He came to her and tenderly touched her swollen belly. She put her own hand over his.
"You and our children are too precious. Do not attract the attention of the gods of the giants lest you invoke their everlasting wrath. The sun is waning in power as winter comes but the gods of the giants are rising in strength." Idwil felt pained.
"As you say, my lord." Still, she had the blood of her foremothers, the wise women of the woods in her and they never sat by idly when their families were in danger. She would come up with some defense to help her husband and her people.
"Where did he ever learn this secret?" She asked. These new men he had brought with him from the deep South Lands had always intrigued her.
"He said that when he was a youth he spoke with a very old man. This man was from the land called Hidush."
"Where is that? You speak of so many places I have never heard of, Uwain."
"I have been to many places and heard of more. The Hidushian told of a way that their blacksmiths had discovered a new metal called stel, or steel. He explained the process to him and Omun, having a great ability to remember things, kept it in his mind always and through trial and error he applied these principles to his own sword-making. Yet he told no one of his new knowledge and discoveries. In fact, Omun found a way to make the steel of the Hidushians even stronger." There was an urgent knocking at the doors. One of the servants answered it.
"My lord! It is I, Moraven!" The young man was flushed and breathing very hard.
"Come in and sit! Get him something to drink!" Uwain commanded. A cup of mead was set before him as he came and stood by the fire.
"Sit, lad. Tell me, what have you seen and found?" Moraven took a few moments to catch his breath. His face was flushed deep red. The music stopped. he finally sat down on the rugs by the fire. The baby looked up at him curiously. Idwil caught her up into her arms.
"My lord and lady! My lord, you were right to suspect some evil craft among the giants. I spied them in one of their sacred places, Mount Blacry. They are calling up the dark gods! The villages of Stafa and Wyllahen were destroyed! The people I saw in the cave! I think they came from those villages, my lord!"
"What happened to the people in those caves?" Asked Idwil. A look of dread fell upon her face. Moraven shuttered.
"Do you even need to ask, my lady?"
"Mercy!" Cried the serving woman.
"You were right! You were right to warn the king of their activity. I saw things too great and terrible in those caves but we will need more than the men we have to defeat them. The king himself must join in the war."
"We must all join together or face annihilation!" Said Idwil.
"And why does he wait and tarry as we in the south are picked off and killed?" Said Uwain. "His own people!" Said Uwain.
"I have something. I found it in the ruins of Wyllahen." The boy took out a bronze medallion, dirtied and battered and put it on the table before them. Uwain took it up and looked it over. Then he looked at Moraven in consternation.
"This is the sigil piece of chieftain Ogwain. I knew him to be a great ally of this town and of the people here. They have killed a great warrior."
"May his soul find rest." Said Idwil. Her delicate features looked drawn now.
"He will find no rest after their cruel and disgusting rites!" Uwain said in rising anger. He closed his eyes briefly and the color faded from his face.
"You have done well, Moraven. Stay here for the night and the servants will see to your room and bed. Meanwhile, I have information the king needs. If he wants it." He said in disgust and walked out of the hall and toward the main bedchamber. Idwil kept her fingers busy weaving and threading the silken threads for the quilt. not only did the kingsberry bring good fortune to her house nad her family line all thrugh the generations but weaving helped her to think, to pick through confusing thoughts until she came down to the bottom of a matter. She could feel the evil growing all around her out there in the wild woods just as her husband did. And it disturbed her that the king would not come to the aid of the people in the south. Perhaps he was weaker than everyone thought. Perhaps he had not the men to spare. Perhaps the Brytlanders were stirring against him again. Perhaps.
Perhaps she would need to seek out that ancient font of wisdom and Sight, the one many in the towns and villages quietly respected. Old Hildwylla. Her great-grandmother.
Moraven took a generous drink of mead and sighed in relief. Then he looked around the near empty hall, the feverishness of the flight now subsiding, sadness began to overtake him.
After writing a letter to the king Uwain went to his granary and had the letter sent by one of the blue-black night falcons. The king would have to act now. They were moving farther north, attacking the towns and villages in a winding route ever nearer to the royal seat. There was no other choice. They could not afford to sit and do nothing or the giants would retake these territories and subjugate everyone under the old, cruel gods of long ago. A terrible fate no man wanted to see except the most wicked. His long time guests who were now nearly part of the family slept in a one room hut built for them attached to the granary. A small fire was burning in the brazier in this room and a small lantern burned, lit from bear fat. They needed a weapon that could not be beaten. More than one, if possible.
"Omun, hurry and produce those much talked about singing swords of yours. We will need them in the coming days if we are to defeat the enemy. There are times I wish we had the secret fire you used to speak about, the elements of it and how to make it. Perhaps we could burn them out." The man stirred from his covers in the dark.
"Not so, my lord. It is made of bitumen, among other things, but that is all I know. That secret fire has such strange elements that even I do not understand the making of it. You do not want to see it, unless it is to see the forests of your homeland burn forever."
 . . .
The smithy was packed full of blacksmiths and sword-smiths as Omun, his Alharan accent growing softer over time, again was at work instructing them in creating superior swords. He had been working closely with a particularly ambitious and sharp sword-smith named Hlothar Ulfberht. Hlothar was from the north of Dyrland, from the people called the Brytlanders.
Brytlanders were originally from the land of Dach, just northwest of Dyrland and it was said certain families among them had ambitions toward kingship and empire. But for now these ancient enemies of Dyrland had receded as everyone greatly feared the tribes of giants who were rising up in the land.
Hlothar was one of the best sword-smiths in the region and he and Omun often spent much time together talking and learning from one another; from different perspectives and different sides of the world, they had a shared love of metallurgy, and all things Golden Alchemical. Northern Dyrlanders had long found a way to make steel swords. However Omun, through his knowledge of metallurgy as he'd practiced Golden Alchemy secretly for many years, found a way to greatly improve upon this primitive way.
"You see this here? By adding a blast of air to the process at this point. . where it takes your men days through this process, this shortens it and makes better, stronger steel."
"Stronger than iron. I never thought anything could ever be stronger than iron." Murmured a young apprentice. All of the apprentices were forced to climbed the eaves or stand outside the forge to watch through the wide doorway while the masters and journeymen had choice places in the forge.
"Steel, in an indirect way, is a kind of iron. You do not get steel without iron. So iron is still the strong, red foundation. There is also another thing I will show you later." Then he had others try the process. Ruz toiled quietly, helping to keep tings organized int he shops and presently he was cleaning the outside step. Omun had taught a few of the most skilled Dyrlander sword-smiths and they now took over to walk the others through this "sacred way" of sword-making. It was a wonderful experience, a freedom he never had before, to practice his discipline of alchemy in the open. Alchemy was not only welcomed here but admired and respected. In Hybron only iron swords could be made, as to try to create anything different and stronger required the use of metallurgy, a form of alchemy which was banned. A stupid and ignorant law he never understood. It was all alchemy! And giving and sharing knowledge was a joy to him that he could never practice openly back home. His expertise was knowledge of tinkering devices. Infernal devices, according to the Ainash hikras. He was free in one sense but there were other dangerous things in this new land of the Great Ridge, or the Great Valley Lands. When he saw that he was able to take a short rest he went outside to join his brother.
"I hear of things, brother. Dark things in the forests. I do not like these forests. There are trees here as black as bitumen and even some with foliage red as blood." He said.
"I know it. I have heard that some of these trees feed on blood of animals or men. That the giants feed them." Said Ruz. "Besides. I think of returning back home these days. I have no use here. I am an eunuch. And I cannot take a wife here. How would I have issue? And many see us as strange."
"I would imagine that is how Uwain felt among our people. Your idea is a good one. I too have been thinking long and hard on returning but we have no news of what is happening back home. I fear to return after the death of the king. Who knows what Hybron looks like now? Or Egi? It could be complete chaos." Said Omun.
"But I fear that chaos will erupt here. These people are getting ready for another war with those monstrous beings out in the wild."
"And I am helping them prepare for it, Ruz. These new swords I am making are the most powerful yet! They sing through the air!" He swung his sword arm as if carrying one. "And I am making them longer and lighter, yet stronger than any of the strongest iron swords. It is a miracle, Ruz. When I am finished instructing the sword-smiths and blacksmiths here, I will tell Uwain that we are ready to return to our homeland."
"Good, good. Hopefully it will not be too much longer. If only we had some news. I am looking forward to a new king rising to the throne. The Red King. Queen Diti always talked of this future king."
"Eh. I have heard much about it but seen little. A nice fable, I suppose. I just want to go home." Said Omun and he went across the doorstep and up the wide road to the Great House of the Thane to the little hut at the side of the granary, their home, and shut the door.
Ruz finished sweeping and put the broom aside. He peered up at the sullen, thick gray sky. Back home clouds only showed up to foretell omens, usually good. Sometimes not. Rarely were they seen in the open desert. However, here they were always there, obscuring the sky, the sun and the stars, as if suffocating it. And it was colder than anything he had ever experienced in his life. This land was always wet and rainy or snowing. He wondered why Uwain still worshiped the sun god in this land as the rain gods seemed to hold more power. One of Uwain's servants was coming, walking with a quick, rushed gait, looking at him with a worried and purposeful look.
"Is he here? My lord needs to speak with him. It is urgent." Ruz pointed to the hut beside the granary.
"He is there and he is not busy as of right now."
The attendant went to the granary and knocked. Omun came to the door.
"The chieftain would speak with you at once, Omun."
"What is it about?" He asked, searching for his cloak.
"The king has finally sent for him. It is about the Ohdrufrid and Wodrufrid. Evil is afoot and Lord Uwain feels your knowledge of devices is key. War is brewing." Omun cast an alarmed glance down toward Ruz as he pulled his cloak close about him and left behind the attendant, tramping in the snow to the small chieftain lodge near the town gate.

Monday, December 2, 2013

New Fantasy Author and Artist Kylie Leane!

There's a new young fantasy author and artist on the scene. Her name is Kylie Leane. She's written her first book in a fantasy series, The Chronicles of the Children. The first book is an amazing story called Key. She has also done much of the interior art work for her book. Kylie is an author from Australia and she is a guest this week on Pencil + Write to talk about the inspirations for her writing and love of storytelling: (Kylie's book in paperback is available for purchase on Amazon.comand also on the Middle-Earth Network shop)

Science Fiction most defiantly left its mark on me at an early age. When I was very young and we would go camping into the Australian outback I would dream of the stars; of riding the Milky Way Galaxy in an endless adventure.
I own this love of space to my father, who is currently sitting beside me as we travel back from visiting my grandparents in Port Augusta. Stories and the art of storytelling has truly been a part of my family for a number of generations. Maybe it is the land itself, this beautiful, though somewhat barren land I have grown up upon can feed an imagination with its wilderness from the stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtimes to the tales of my ancestors first exploring on horse and cart. It just…oozes a surreal sense of history.
Although my Poppa calls Lord of the Rings and Science Fiction ‘airy-fairy hogwash’, storytelling doesn’t have to be just books, the art of retelling an event in a family’s history is just as much a story, and telling tales around a camp fire, or around a dinner table during Christmas, such was the environment that I grew up within. So it did not matter to me that I could not write or spell, I could tell a story and I had imagination as a child and I wanted to share it!
I remember the day my father took me to the back shed, when we used to live in the old mining town of Whyalla, and he revealed to me his treasure trove of old Science Fiction books and Westerns inside a worn box. I must have been about seven at the time. I loved to play in my spaceship made of cardboard boxes, taking trips to the Moon, to Mars to fight alien invasions with my toys as my crew members. My heroic adventures would involve great battles, sometimes dragons, quite often a lot of mayhem and tearing around the backyard with a helmet covered in shiny foil. However, that moment my father opened that box my life became a whole lot bigger. Father started me on an amazing book, ‘The Chrysalids by John Wyndham’ and to this day there is no greater story than that story. In fact, I have the deepest desire to write the sequel – whatever did happen to Michael and Rachel? I must write that story!
From thereon I ate up E.E. Doc Smith, Arthur C. Clark and my beloved Asimov, Allen Dean Foster, Annie McCaffrey and countless others. To those great authors I owe so much. They are my heroes.
I may not have been able to write, but I could read and I could tell stories so I just needed to figure out how to write. It would be many years down the road until my family would finally be able to understand anything I did write. I believe it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I was finally writing intelligent sentences.
I taught myself due to the passion to tell the stories I wanted to tell—or I needed to tell.
A powerful drive indeed, a drive and a passion that I have needed more than I ever thought I would over the years that I have tried to tell the story of the characters in Chronicles of the Children, my current series – the first book ‘Key’ was finally, recently published. Over the ten years of gradually building the world in Chronicles of the Children, my health declined and we truly, really, do not know why, all we know is it is just…declining, I’m now just ‘chronically ill’ or in ‘chronic pain’ and it, well, it’s awful. I suppose is not supposed to be fabulous, but when you are a child, having epic adventures and fighting aliens you do not expect that at twenty-four years of age you will feel like your grandparents in physical prowess – but my stories have kept me going, they are the fuel to my fire, the reason why I continue to solider on to reach the stars I saw in my dreams.
Science Fiction may be fiction, but my stars are real in my stories.
My father said something this weekend, “What is the greater miracle, the miracle of healing – or the miracle that here you are, chronically ill and you refuse to stand down, you keep writing, you keep telling stories.”
So, as the rain begins to fall and I laugh with my father over the words written on the caravan ahead of us (a bit to controversial to repeat here) I truly hope that those who are considering their own stories find the opportunity to tell them in whatever format they can.
Imagination is a great healer, a great teacher and a wonderful friend, as I have found out over the years. Thus, I leave you as I stare into the rain stained horizon and the pink salt lakes, surrounded by the wheat fields to go and ponder a new story that I hope to share someday.
I would love to say thank you to Victoria for allowing me to be a guest on her site. I really appreciate her wonderful love of story-telling and her friendship. Thank you Victoria.

Twitter: AuthorKylie
Facebook: AuthorKylieLeane
 The Chronicles of the Children, Book One: Key is published by Grail Quest Books.