Clyde B. Northrup

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Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 9, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on June 19, 2018 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

19 June 2018


Welcome to all! In today’s installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, the conversation continues, although switching to the mental, except the Rola reveals to their captors their silent conversation. . . .


Chapter 9, Part 2

Rola felt her cheeks flush. “I am no queen,” she said, trying to ignore the heat burning her face, “and likely never will be.” She saw as she finished that the tall leader was eyeing her, his head cocked to one side, and she wondered if her master was correct, that they understood more of her words than they claimed. “That still doesn’t tell me what to do,” she added, speaking out of the side of her mouth, trying to keep her voice soft.

“Do?” Klaybear replied, his voice filled with surprise, his eyebrows rising. Nothing for now, she heard his voice in her mind, which startled her, although she had been taught that such things were possible.

But . . . , she tried to think back, but his voice again filled her mind.

They are obviously here to check on this device, his voice began, and we are here to find out how it works, who is behind it, and why they are doing it. If we allow them to take us, we will gain answers to our questions, his voice finished.

Rola looked at Master Klaybear and saw his eyes on the leader of their captors; this person had growled something at Master Klaybear, who smiled widely but said nothing.

What was that? Rola thought.

He suspects our mental communication, he answered, and told me to stop.

The leader growled again, raising the butt of his spear to strike Master Klaybear, who continued to smile up at him.

He can see it on your face, Klaybear’s voice spoke to her, so stop.

Involuntarily, Rola raised one gloved hand to cover her mouth, as if she were trying to stop herself from speaking; she saw the leader glaring at her as he prepared to strike.

“I’m sorry!” Rola blurted. “Please don’t hurt him!” she implored, hoping that her face would convey what her words could not.

The leader glared at her, his spear held up and ready to strike, before finally lowering his spear. He growled something at Klaybear, then turned and spoke harshly to the others. Only one remained to guard her and Klaybear while the others went about setting up a camp around the device. As they were distracted from her by their work, she believed it safe to speak to Master Klaybear, and turned toward him, opening her mouth, and snapping it closed again when he shook his head.

Don’t look at me, Rola, his voice came again into her mind, it tells them that we are communicating; look at your hands, or the device as if you were examining it, and keep your face neutral.

Carefully, she looked at the device, her eyes running over each detail as her mind worked. What about my brother? she thought, noticing again the huge size of the sapphires that covered the golden globe.

I have already contacted him, his voice spoke in her mind, and told him to stay out of sight, but follow us.

Good, she thought, he can rescue us after they settle down for the night.

What sounded like laughter filled her mind. Why would we want him to do that? his voice asked.

Rola considered this response, which was not what she expected. Well . . . , she began in her mind, drawing out the word, we are prisoners, and so must be rescued.

The laughter echoed again in her head. We are not prisoners, he voice replied, and she heard amusement. I can free us at any time, but there is no reason to, not when we have an opportunity to learn what their purpose is in freezing the world.

Rola pondered this thought for a time as her eyes traveled around her to the many persons setting up tents and beginning to cook over blue fires that burned in stone pots over which were hung other pots, filled and tended by some of these wethem. The scent of cooking filled her nostrils, and still she considered what Master Klaybear had said. He suggested they allow themselves to be taken by these people in order to find out more about the strange device, which was strange to her. Wouldn’t it be better if they were free to move around, taking the leader of this group prisoner for questioning; she didn’t understand how they would learn the answers to her questions as captives. However, she admired Master Klaybear and his fellows, knew they were the caretakers of the world, and knew they had hundreds of years worth of experience. She glanced sideways at him without giving any indication that she was interested in him, and saw that he sat still on the ground, looking at the device. She wondered how he could sit in that position, with his hands and arms tied tightly behind him, and she wondered again at the reason why she remained unbound. This thought recalled her embarrassment, and she felt her cheeks heating again, casting her eyes down as if someone caught her in the act. She shifted her position so that she sat cross-legged on the snowy ground, feeling the cold beginning to seep through her clothes; she tried to ignore the chill as she sat, focusing instead on the device and allowing its regular pulsing to put her mind into a meditative state. She wondered again about her twin and allowed her questing mind to seek him out; she found him at once, and could tell that he was hiding in view of their camp. She could feel his agitation, which caused a smile to stretch her mouth, knowing his frustration at waiting.


Next time, we find out what Woli has been doing, and how Klaybear’s command to him rankles. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 9, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on June 16, 2018 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

15 June 2018

 

Welcome to all! In today’s installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, we begin Chapter 9, returning to the frozen north and the fortunes of Rola, Woli, and Master Klaybear, as Rola tries to learn what happened to their master when he tried to touch the strange device, humming with elemental ice power. . . .


Chapter 9, Part 1

Rola scrambled quickly across the frozen ground, the cold penetrating her gloves and pants, making her hands and knees sting. She stopped beside Master Klaybear, wondering what had happened to him, or what he had been doing, when something invisible slammed into him, knocking him backward onto the ground where he now lay unconscious. She jerked off one of her heavy gloves to slip her fingers inside Master Klaybear’s hood to place her cold fingers against his warm neck; she felt his strong pulse, removed her fingers, and slipped her glove back on. A concussion split the silence, and she heard this sudden sound coming from all around her; she looked up and saw figures clad in furs surrounding her, pointing heavy spears at her and Master Klaybear.

A voice growled words at her, gesturing with his spear at the device they had discovered, but she could understand nothing that he said.

“I don’t understand you,” she noted, looking up at the tall male who had spoken to her. She could see his bright blue eyes and the hints of golden hair and beard peeking out from beneath his hood. “What language do you speak?” she asked, more to say something then for actual information.

The leader of this group exchanged glances with those who followed him, and then spoke again, his words still incomprehensible, but their meaning was obvious. Two of those with him roughly grabbed Master Klaybear and dragged him to his feet.

“Something struck him, knocking him out,” she noted, as another of the guards gestured with his spear at her, but he did not touch her. She almost thought it was out of fear, but why he would fear her she did not know. She stood up and moved ahead of her guard.

The leader exchanged more words with those holding Master Klaybear, words that sounded angry, and she realized that the words he spoke sounded like the language used by tekson to cast ortheks, and this thought puzzled her.

One of the guards holding Master Klaybear reached out to take his staff, which still rested between his back and pack. As soon as this guard’s hand touched the staff, white light exploded from the hand-shaped head of the staff, and the guard was thrown backward and away from her master; the guard still holding Master Klaybear released him and jumped back, the master’s limp body falling to the ground. The others all gasped, for when the guard hit the ground, his body shattered into a hundred fragments skittering across the snow. Several slow moments passed before the leader spoke again; another guard moved up beside Klaybear’s body, along with the first, and the two of them rolled Klaybear onto his face, taking care not to touch the staff and tying his arms behind him with leather thongs. They lifted him, and dragged him toward the device; Rola was forced to follow, herded by the others, although none of them came closer to her than the length of their spears, as if they were afraid to touch her. Looking back, she saw the leader stoop and pick up one of the fragments of his fellow, which he dropped quickly before following the others.

Rola glanced carefully around as she was led toward the device, wondering where her twin brother was, and if he had noticed their capture. She saw nothing, which was a good sign, and turned her attention to the device. She saw that it looked like a large, golden globe, mounted on a rod of the same metal, this rod apparently driven into the icy ground; gemstones were embedded in the surface of the globe, the largest of these blue, glowing sapphires, larger than any gemstone she had ever seen, the gemstones pulsing regularly. Not knowing what to think of the device, she cast her eyes around her, noticing that all the guards surrounding them had metal spikes protruding from the fur covering their necks; she looked closer, and saw a spike on either side of each neck, the hood looking as if it had been designed to accommodate these spikes. As she wondered about these iron spikes, she heard a groan and saw Master Klaybear begin to move, his legs and feet flailing as he tried to stand. The guards holding him stopped and dropped him, and she watched him struggle to stand. Their leader growled something at her master, which she did not comprehend, and Master Klaybear looked up at him, surprised, answering him in the same, incomprehensible tongue.

“What are you saying?” she hissed to Klaybear as she came to a stop beside him. The leader noticed her and barked a command; two of the guards pushed her away with the hafts of their spears.

Master Klaybear looked sideways at her, and then said something to the leader. He turned toward her. “He wants to know why we are here,” Klaybear told her, “and why we have meddled with their device.”

“What did you tell him?” Rola asked.

Klaybear grinned crookedly. “I told him we were curious to know why the weather had turned so cold, so we came to investigate,” he answered, “and that we did not do anything to their device.”

“Is this device what is cooling the land?” she asked, but before he could answer, the leader growled something at Klaybear, who turned and replied.

“Be careful what you say, Rola,” Klaybear spoke aside to her. “Although he claims to have no understanding of our language, I suspect otherwise. This device is one of many,” he added, answering her question.

“What do we do now?” Rola asked, unable to control her concern.

“You are in no danger from them,” Klaybear said, “they will do nothing to harm you.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“They seem to think you are some kind of queen,” he replied, “at least, that is how they refer to you.”


Next time, we continue with this conversation, although because they have been captured, they switch to a mental conversation, which their captors recognize. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 6

Posted by gwermon on June 13, 2018 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

12 June 2018

 

Welcome back! In today’s installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, our heroes discover that they are not alone in the sewers, but these new inhabitants are anything but friendly. . . .

 

Chapter 8, Part 6


Telor nodded once, and then turned into the left passage; the others followed. After only a few yards, Telor stopped, listening. He could hear a strange hissing sound, punctuated by cracks and pops, and growing louder. Telor listened harder and thought the hissing sound almost sounded like the sound of a grindstone being used to sharpen some iron tool, but it sounded less metallic, more like stone against stone. He looked back at the others.

“What is that?” Telor asked, keeping his voice low.

Blakstar and Kovaine both shook their heads.

“It sounds like stone being ground against stone,” Telor said, “but there is that strange cracking and popping sound.”

Blakstar turned to look back toward the intersection. “I hear it behind us, too.”

“Trapped!” Telor exclaimed, looking around for another way out.

Blakstar snorted and held up his flaming sword. “I don’t think it will be a problem,” he noted, a grin widening his mouth, and Telor thought it made him look mad.

“So what do we do?” Telor asked.

“Keep moving forward,” Blakstar replied, “and find a way up and out of these tunnels.”

“You want me to move toward that sound?” Telor asked, putting as much disbelief into his words as he could, for he thought withdrawing would be safer.

The kortexi nodded, gesturing with his flaming sword.

Telor shook his head and moved forward again, although all his nerves screamed that he should be going the other way. The sound grew louder and closer, the cracking and popping now painful to his sensitive ears. He stopped and looked back.

“I think you should go first,” Telor noted, trying to cover the quaver in his voice with a polite cough.

Blakstar shrugged. “If you insist,” he said, moving up and taking Telor’s place at the front of their small line; Telor put himself between the kortexi and his lady. He noticed that she now held a short sword, the blade surrounded by a cold, blue light.

“I didn’t know you had weapons, lady,” Telor noted, eyeing the sword she held and seeing flakes of what looked like snow falling from the blue flaming blade. “And such a fine weapon,” he added, not hiding his greed.

“It was carried by your ancestor, Mistress Elanor,” Kovaine replied. “She gave it to me before she died for safekeeping. Whatever happened to Headmaster Telvor’s blades?” she asked him.

Telor shrugged. “I don’t know where they are,” he admitted, “probably in a museum in Wokem.”

“That is unfortunate,” she said, raising her voice for the sound was becoming loud, echoing down the stone passage and reverberating off the walls, “for I suspect you will need it.”

“Great!” Telor snapped sarcastically, moving after Blakstar, who had passed out of sight.

They caught up quickly, finding that the kortexi had stopped and was eyeing the strange figure coming toward them.

“It reminds me of the stone creatures that attacked us in Shigmar’s Tomb,” he noted over his shoulder, “but these seem more fluid; they were more like boulders pile onto each other.”

Telor looked past Blakstar’s legs and saw something that could have haunted his nightmares as a boy, and he realized why the tracks looked so strange. The creature coming toward them had a pair of short, stout legs, but there were no feet that he could see; it was more like fat legs ending in stumps that scraped across the stone floor. The body was like a lump of reddish-brown clay that constantly smoldered, changing its shape as it moved, swinging arms that were short and stumpy, more like clubs than arms. The creature’s head was a smaller lump on its body, with two holes that glowed orange, two holes that must have been eyes, and the entire figure steamed; even in the darkness of the sewer tunnel, Telor could see a heat haze surrounding and moving with the figure, like the entire creature was on fire without flames. A trail of black, sooty smoke rose from it, clouding the passageway behind it.

Telor heard a strange sound coming from his own mouth, realizing that he had begun moaning. He turned and bolted back the way he had come, ignoring the shouts from his companions to stop. Only when he lifted his eyes from the ground, just before he reached the intersection, did he see a second and third of these strange creatures, hissing and stalking toward him, reaching out with their stumpy, club-like arms to grab him.


We will begin a new chapter next time, rejoining Rola and Klaybear as they are captured by a race of people heretofore unknown. Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 5

Posted by gwermon on June 8, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

8 June 2018


Welcome! In today’s installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, our heroes move through the sewers of Oinosto, capital of the nefali island, seeking anyone who can give them information on what has happened to all the people. . . .


Chapter 8, Part 5


Telor looked around, and saw the stone walls and floor of the sewer, covered with now dry slime. Deeper into the passage, he saw patches of loose stones littering the floor of the walkway and the dry channel.

“I wonder how far we will get,” Telor spoke to himself.

“What do you mean, Telor?” Kovaine asked, and Telor saw that the ball of light now hovered above her head, and followed her as she moved.

Telor pointed to the rubble lying here and there. “I suspect that some part of the passage deeper in has fallen, and that is what has stopped the flow of water.”

“Volcanic eruptions are often accompanied by earthquakes,” Kovaine noted, “more so on this island, so you are probably right.”

“I only hope we can find a way up and into the city before the passage is blocked,” Telor said, moving deeper into the passage.

Kovaine followed closely behind the awemi, with Blakstar as rear guard, although from the lack of sounds, Telor thought the city above might be abandoned, which meant he could easily recoup his losses on this trip by picking it clean. He smiled to himself, believing it would be easy to lose the other two in the streets above to fill his bags with treasure.

They soon came to side tunnels, going to their right and left, both as dry as the main passageway. Telor paused and looked back, asking the question with his eyes.

“I think we should stay on the main branch until we are closer to the center of the city,” Blakstar replied, “before we start moving sideways, or up.”

Telor nodded once and continued to follow the main branch. Over the next fifteen minutes, they passed several more side tunnels, all of them as dry and silent as the main passage. Telor paused after they reached the fifth pair of side tunnels and frowned. What he saw in the dust on the walkway puzzled him.

“I’m no seklesi,” Telor noted, “but I can tell that something has been through these side tunnels recently, but what it is, I do not know; I’ve never seen tracks like these, if that’s what they are.” He shook his head. “I have a bad feeling about it.”

Kovaine and Blakstar moved closer, shedding more light on the floor.

“I see what you mean, Telor,” Blakstar agreed after several silent moments spent contemplating the signs on the stone floor. “I, too, have never seen tracks like these; they look like serpents, and there are some large serpents on this island, but serpents are solitary, and it looks like a pair traveled through here, side by side, which never happens.”

“We will have to ask our brothers,” Kovaine said, “when we speak to them tonight. Until then, I think we should keep moving, now with greater care,” she finished, smiling warmly at Telor.

Telor hated that smile of hers, for it made him want to agree with anything she said. He nodded stupidly and turned to follow the path deeper under Oinosto. The next two branches had more of the strange tracks, a few more with each new side tunnel, and Telor stopped at the third and bent to touch the floor.

“This is stranger,” he noted from where he squatted, “this stone looks like it was smooth by heat; it almost looks burned.”

Kovaine and Blakstar squatted on either side of the awemi. “There is a burned spot, here,” Blakstar pointed into the left-hand tunnel.

Telor moved to the spot and saw what the kortexi meant by burned, running his fingers carefully over the darkened spot.

“Look at this,” Kovaine pointed at the ceiling.

Telor stood and turned and found that Kovaine was standing pointing up; the ball of light over her head moved up and closer to the ceiling.

“That looks like soot coating the stones,” she went on, “which would suggest something on fire, but the nefalem were proficient tekson, so they would have used lights like mine to illuminate these passages. What does it mean?”

“With the strange tracks,” Blakstar shook his head, “I don’t know, but it cannot be good, or friendly,” he added after a slight pause, drawing his sword with a steely hiss and a flash of golden flames.

Taking note of this action, Telor drew his short sword and dagger. “Should we move sideways now, or continue straight?” he asked the others.

Telor watched as Blakstar and Kovaine stared at each other, and he wondered if they were having some kind of mental exchange. He waited. Finally, Blakstar shrugged.

“I think we should look for a way to climb up,” Kovaine noted. “We won’t find any answers down here.”

Telor looked down the left branch, and then the right. “Any indication of the direction we should take?” he asked.

“What do you think, Telor?” Kovaine countered.

Telor frowned glancing again down the passages. “We haven’t passed any ladders going up in this main branch,” he said, considering his words, “so I think we should try a side passage.”

“I know there was a main entrance,” Blakstar put in, “near the center of the city, but whether or not we can reach it . . . ,” he shrugged and did not finish his thought.

“So we try a side passage,” Kovaine noted, “and look for a way to climb up into the city.”

“Does it matter which way?” Telor asked.

“Not really, Telor,” Kovaine replied.


Next time as our heroes continue through the sewers, they discover new and strange inhabitants, hostile to anyone who enters the city. Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 4

Posted by gwermon on June 6, 2018 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

5 June 2018


This time, from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, Sir Blakstar demonstrates his power, much to the chagrin of Telor, forcing the awemi to rethink what he believes about his companions. . . .


Chapter 8, Part 4

 

Blakstar shrugged, and returned her smile before turning back to look up at the cliff, and the opening that led into the sewers of Oinosto.

Telor looked from one to the other and realized that his mouth was hanging open; he snapped it shut before shaking his head and speaking. “I would think you were trying to trick me,” he said, “but I can see you are both serious.”

“Deadly serious,” Blakstar noted without turning.

“But you’re not maghem,” Telor whined, “so how can you be talking about flying or levitation? Do you actually think you can lift us that high in the sky? And what about our equipment and supplies, or did you plan to lift the entire ship, hold it there, and allow us to unload all? Some of us must be crazy! I know I am, for going on this fool’s errand!”

Both turned to look at the awemi while he spoke, and both continued to stare at him for several long moments, causing him to dance from foot to foot. Blakstar turned his attention back to the cliff face.

“He could,” Kovaine noted in a quiet voice.

Telor frowned, still angry. “Could what?” he asked.

“Lift the entire ship up to that opening and hold it there,” she replied.

Blakstar glanced back. “Easily,” he agreed.

Telor’s eyes widened. “Easily?” he squeaked.

“Wanna see me do it?” Blakstar asked, a grin playing at the corners of his mouth.

Telor shook his head but said nothing; he saw the grin widen on the kortexi’s face.

“What I wonder,” Kovaine began, “is why there is no water flowing from that opening? If that is the sewer outlet for the city, shouldn’t there be water flowing out of it?”

Telor looked from the Lady Kovaine up to the opening, now closer as they sailed toward the cliff, and frowned. “I did not notice,” he admitted, “until you pointed it out; sewer systems are usually based on flowing water, like a river diverted to flow beneath the city and carry the waste away.”

“Exactly,” Kovaine agreed, “and the fact that no water is flowing does not bode well for the inhabitants of Oinosto.”

Blakstar snorted. “You’ve been corrupted by Thal,” he noted, grinning, “talking instead of acting. The only way we will know is by going up and looking, so let’s drop anchor, furl the sails, and fly up there.”

Kovaine laughed, her musical voice echoing off the cliffs and filling the harbor with sound. “My dear, Thal’s thinking and talking have saved our lives on many occasions! It never hurts to pause before leaping in with both feet.”

“Forewarned is forearmed,” Telor noted, “at least, that’s what my grandfather always said.”

“He was wise, Telor,” Kovaine agreed.

Blakstar shrugged. “Always do what your wife tells you,” he said, smiling at Kovaine. “Is there something else we should discuss before I leap in with both feet?”

“I’m not sure about this,” Telor said, thinking about trusting his life to the kortexi; he did not believe Blakstar could fly.

“Nothing I can think of, at this point,” Kovaine answered, ignoring Telor’s protest.

“Well then, Telor,” Blakstar said, grinning, “let’s furl the sails.”

A quarter of an hour passed before they were ready to leave the ship; all three strapped on their packs, and Blakstar took out his sword, which flashed with brilliant flames, holding it horizontal in front of him, beginning to sing the word.

“Awikweklo,” the kortexi’s low voice broke the silence, and he lifted a foot off the deck, hovering in place.

Telor swallowed hard, thinking that he might have been hasty in his judgment, or that this couple was crazier than he first thought, believing they could fly.

“Step up, young Telor,” Blakstar said over his shoulder, “and stand in front of me.”

“Step on what?” Telor hissed, wondering what madness the kortexi now spouted.

“The orthek is a flying disc, Telor,” Kovaine said gently, trying to reassure him, “which is controlled by the rod, or sword, of the wielder; it is literally a disc of air that supports the tekson and moves him, or her, through the air.”

“If it frightens you, Telor,” Blakstar said, “you can stand on my feet.”

“I’m not frightened!” Telor snapped. “I just don’t . . . didn’t,” he corrected himself, “believe you could actually do it.” He clenched his teeth and moved next to Blakstar, and, after taking a deep breath, set his small, bare foot on the empty space between the kortexi’s boots. His face lit up when he felt the solid, although invisible, disc. He stepped up and turned so his back was against Blakstar’s legs, the light of the flaming sword filling his eyes. The invisible disc dipped slightly, Telor looking down and seeing Kovaine’s boots behind his feet.

“Here we go,” Blakstar said, and Telor noticed he was still humming the word, over and over again. Blakstar raised the tip of his sword, and Telor felt that swooping sensation as they flew up from the ship. The awemi smiled to himself, in spite of his anger at being here, as he saw the ship shrink beneath them; he looked up and saw they were already approaching the opening in the wall. They flew slowly inside, the kortexi moving his sword’s point carefully, slowing them down and bringing them to a stop inside, hovering just above the flat, narrow walkway that must have been above the level of the water, although he now saw only stagnant puddles here and there where the water should have been. He stepped off and onto the stone floor.

“Neki,” Blakstar sang, his boots sinking suddenly onto the floor.

“You see, my dear,” Kovaine noted brightly, “you fly well.”

Blakstar shrugged, but smiled back at her. “We’ll need some light, dearest,” he said, looking around. “At least it doesn’t smell too bad,” he added, wrinkling his nose.

Kovaine held up her hand, palm up, and sang. “Magluku,” she intoned in her musical, sultry voice, and a globe of light grew over the palm of her hand, brightening and chasing the shadows away.

 

Next time, our heroes begin to journey through the sewers, seeking anyone who can tell them what happened to all the nefali. Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on June 1, 2018 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

1 June 2018

 

Welcome to the first day of June, with another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration. Our heroes have reached the nefali homeland; the Lady Kovaine gives Telor some information about this place and its people. . . .


Chapter 8, Part 3

 

Telor looked forward, toward the island, wreathed in smoke, toward which they sailed. “You’ve been here before?” he asked, and when she nodded, he went on. “What’s it like?”

“It was a land both beautiful and terrible,” Kovaine began, “inhabited by the purem and ponkolum who converted to the One before Gar’s demise. Later, many more purem were allowed to join them, along with a large contingent of ghelem, all becoming worshipers of the One. The island is split down the middle, east to west, by a huge crack in the surface of the earth, out of which flows molten rock, pushing the north and south halves further north and south, expanding the island. The ground shakes constantly, and is covered by rich, tropical growth. The cliffs of the central rift are named the Klifatro, and the central rift, the Glufater, out of which molten rock continues to bubble. The cliffs are rich with gems, and, as you know, the source of most of the gems on the market since then. The northern half of the island is rich with farmlands, cultivated by the nefalem, and is the home of all the population. The southern half is a wild rainforest that they name, Sukaito, filled with monstrous creatures the nefalem hunt for sport, and the reason we want to sail north, for there is only a single port that allows any to debark on the island,” she finished.

“How do you think this continent has been affected by the receding water?” Telor asked, more interested because of the gem mines mentioned.

Kovaine frowned. “We do not know,” she admitted, “nor do we know what changes have been wrought by the last, catastrophic eruption. Because my lord cannot go there directly, we fear the land has altered significantly, but this does not answer your question.”

“Not really,” Telor agreed, “except that you don’t know.”

“I would guess,” she went on, “that as the oceans recede, we will see more of the land beneath the waves revealed.”

“That seems sensible,” Telor said.

Kovaine nodded. “Yes, and it may make our approach to Oinosto difficult,” she added.

“Why?” Telor asked.

“The port resides between to spits of land surrounding a cove,” Kovaine answered, “the walls of which are little more than cliffs. Since we know the waters have receded in the north, it’s a good bet that the nefali port is high above the waterline. And that is one reason why we needed you, for you ability to scale walls and cliffs.” She smiled at him, a warm smile that made him feel less angry toward her.

They sailed west four more days after reaching the near shore of the island, watching the high, black cliffs slide by, and seeing that the water mark was high up on the face of the black cliff. Telor frowned as he saw the sheer distance he would need to climb to reach the top, and his concern did not lesson as they rounded the eastern spur of land and entered the sheltered harbor of Oinosto.

“This won’t be easy,” Telor noted, lowering his spyglass to look at Blakstar, who still gazed at the cliffs ahead. The floating docks of the port now hung by their anchoring cables, high above the current waterline. Telor’s eyes watered as another cloud of smoke swirled around their ship, the smoke heavy with the scent of burning, and Telor was sure he scented burned flesh within the woody smoke. “I’m not sure we have enough rope to make the climb, let alone the route to take,” he added, shaking his head.

“I doubt it is beyond your ability, Telor,” Kovaine noted; she was again at the tiller, guiding their ship into the harbor.

Blakstar frowned as he lowered his spyglass and slipped it into a pocket. “Keep looking, Telor,” he said. “I’m certain you will find us a way.” He untied several ropes and began shortening their sail, slowing them down.

Telor looked again through his glass, studying the cliffs on either side and ahead of their ship, looking for a place that he could ascend, and fasten ropes so his comrades could also climb up. He looked to where the docks hung on their cables, and saw that there were ladders descending to where the docks must have been. He thought he could climb up from the docks, and attach a rope to the ladder, but he could not see how he could reach the level of the docks in the first place, for the walls were smooth and slick, no cracks or crevices visible. He scanned other areas around the harbor, and after several minutes of fruitless searching, he lowered his spyglass, shaking his head.

“I cannot see any place I can ascend,” he told them. “The walls are smooth and slick, and without crevice or crack. We might be able to ascend from the docks to the ladders, but how we would get to that height I cannot see.”

“What about the sewer outlet?” Kovaine suggested. “Is it visible?”

“I can see it,” Telor pointed, then raised his spyglass to his eye to examine the cliff beneath the black opening in the wall, “but, like the other walls, there is neither crack nor crevice; I would need to become a bird to reach that level,” he quipped as he lowered his spyglass.

“Not a bird, Telor,” Blakstar noted, grinning sheepishly, “but I think I can lift us up to that opening.”

Telor snorted. “I know you’re strong, kortexi,” he said, “but no one is that strong, nor do we have any rope that would bear all that weight!”

“It might be better to fly, my dear,” Kovaine noted, and Telor was surprised by the confidence in her voice. “Lifting us up to that level will still leave us some distance from the opening.”

“It depends on how close we get to the cliff,” Blakstar said, “and I am better at lifting than flying.”

“You do yourself a disservice, my dear,” Kovaine smiled, “since I know you are proficient at both.”

 

Next time, Telor learns that his legendary kortexi companion is more powerful than he has ever imagined! Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on May 30, 2018 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

29 May 2018


We greet all our readers as we share another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration. This time, our journey across the ocean continues as Telor confronts the reality of his companions. . . .


Chapter 8, Part 2


An hour passed while he brooded, the sun setting, but the wind from the northeast did not alter, continuing to move at a steady pace, which pushed their ship forward to their destination. His thoughts were broken when he heard the soft sounds of the Lady Kovaine ascending the ladder to watch with him. In the dimness, which was to her darkness, he could see that she carried something.

“I brought you some bread with a little butter and honey,” Kovaine spoke in her softest voice, coming to stand beside him. “Let me take over for a while, and give you a chance to stretch.”

“As you wish,” Telor shrugged, passing the rope to her and taking the plate with bread after locking the tiller and standing. He moved out of her way to stand with his back to the rail. He could smell the bread and honey, and his anger toward the kortexi nearly caused him to toss plate and bread overboard. He smelled the bread again, and lifted it to his mouth, taking a large bite that tasted delicious.

“Why do you stay with him?” Telor asked, after chewing and swallowing. “You could do so much more on your own.” Kovaine looked at him then, and he felt her eyes piercing him, as if she could see through him. “That’s an odd question, even for you, Telor,” she noted, her eyes continuing to bore through him.

Telor shifted from foot to foot, trying to avoid her gaze. “I don’t know,” he replied, trying to sound casual, “I guess because of the way you serve him.”

“This service is performed by all who are joined to each other,” she said, one eyebrow rising slowly, “and my husband performs such service for me, although in other ways,” she added then paused a moment. “Are you certain you have never seen such behavior before, like between your parents, or other close relatives who are married?”

Telor shook his head.

“And you’ve never seen other married people behave as we do?” she asked.

“Not like you,” he replied, “not like you are his slave.”

Her eyes flashed dangerously, and Telor knew he had gone too far. “You know nothing about being a slave,” Kovaine replied in a low but penetrating voice, “and you really don’t know to whom you speak and accuse of slavery.”

Her tone caused his anger to blossom anew, anger at her and the kortexi for dragging him on this fool’s errand, and anger at her for implying that he was stupid. “How do you know I have no knowledge of these things!” he hissed. “You know nothing of me!”

Kovaine shook her head. “Your response reveals much about your character,” she replied, her voice calm, and its calmness irritated him further, “a child’s reaction to correction from any adult, an indication of your lack of maturity, which is another reason your father wanted you to go with us, to help you grow up!”

For a time, Telor could not speak, he was so angered by her words, holding his tongue in an effort to show her she was wrong; he tried to smile but grimaced, for the feelings he tried to hold back. “How dare you!” the words finally burst from him. “You accuse . . . you know nothing . . . how dare you!” he stuttered, his anger overcoming him. Her response made him go cold: she laughed.

“I’ve seen generation after generation of young people,” she laughed, “just like you, who, in a moment of anger, claim we, their seniors, could know nothing about them or how they feel and suffer! And I’ve seen generation after generation finally grow up, and beg those same seniors for forgiveness for their horrible, childish behavior!” She laughed harder now.

Anger flared anew, and again, Telor tried to control it, to keep his mouth shut; he tried taking another bite of the bread and honey in an attempt to keep his mouth full and occupied, preventing him from lashing out, although he wanted to rail at her. She has lived for centuries, and has seen more than you can possibly understand, said a voice in his mind, a familiar, feminine voice that he thought of as his mother. The word, centuries, caught in his mind, and disbelief replaced anger. He did not believe the stories his father told him, or what these two pretenders shared with him; none could be true, for none lived for centuries. Even the oldest ever recorded of his own race had only reach a century and a half, and most of his race only passed the century mark. The wethi race, of which these two were members, was worse, with few even approaching one hundred years. These inner conflicts must have showed on his face.

“You don’t believe us, do you, Telor?” Kovaine spoke in a soft, gentle voice that interrupted his train of thought.

“No one lives centuries!” he spat before he could stop himself, glaring at her.

She smiled back at him, a beatific smile that made him squirm. “You are correct, Telor, no one usually lives that long,” she spoke in the same gentle voice, “except for us, and the Healer.”

“Then how can I believe anything you tell me?” he shot back, gesticulating with his free hand and arm. “First you tell me none live that long, and then you tell me you have seen centuries and many generations pass without touching you! You cannot have it both ways!”

Kovaine laughed then, a musical sound that penetrated him to his core. “Every rule has a single exception, and we are the exception to that rule,” she noted as she laughed, adjusting the sail and tiller as the wind shifted more to the north; she frowned. “We need to angle to the north to reach the bay of Oinosto; if the wind moves much further north, that will become more difficult.”

Telor turned and sampled the wind, holding up his free hand; he took another bite of bread, chewed, and swallowed, before he turned back to Kovaine. He felt a slight irritation that she had so effectively diverted his anger and disbelief. “I think it will be okay,” he said. “The wind has not shifted much farther north during any other night.”

“Let’s hope so,” Kovaine said, “although we do not know how much the recent eruption has altered the weather around this continent.”


Next time, we will reach the nefali island, with Kovaine giving Telor some information about the island and its people. Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 8, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on May 25, 2018 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

25 May 2018

 

Welcome back! We begin a new chapter from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, returning to Telor, Blakstar, and Kovaine as they sail across the sea toward the nefali homeland. . . .

 

Chapter 8, Part 1

Telor groaned as he shook himself awake and sat up; the rocking of the small boat irritated him, and made it difficult to sleep. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, stretching as he slipped out of his hammock and onto the deck. He had to admit that the kortexi had chosen this vessel well. The ship was large enough for them to be comfortable, but small enough that one person could manage it while the other two slept, as long as the wind didn’t alter too much. They had been sailing west for five days, the column of steam getting larger and closer, the outline of the nefali homeland now visible in the distance, although most of it was obscured by clouds. He moved aft out of the sleeping quarters and into the small galley, where he found the Lady Kovaine preparing an evening meal; Telor had slept throughout the day, having stood watch during the previous night. He smelled the normal fare, meat and bread, and shook his head. For all that the kortexi ate, Telor thought they should have long since run out of food, and yet he ate more than triple of the others combined.

“Good day, Telor,” Kovaine remarked pleasantly in her musical voice, smiling at Telor. “Did you sleep well?” she asked, politely.

Telor snorted. “How can one sleep when this floating tub is constantly rocking!” he exclaimed, shaking his head and going to the cabinet where he had stashed his own rations. He found and removed one of his ration bars, made from grain and seeds, sweetened with honey and baked. He unwrapped it and bit off a corner, beginning to chew. “How can you eat all that?” he asked, waving his hand and ration bar toward the food Kovaine was beginning to move to the table.

“We each have different nutritional needs,” Kovaine replied, still smiling. “My husband is a large, muscular wethi who expends lots of energy; this fare helps remain strong and healthy.”

Telor took another bite and chewed before speaking again. “I don’t see how you could have brought so much food with you,” he noted. “You’d need several pack animals to carry all that he eats.”

Kovaine paused and looked at Telor, and the awemi felt as if she were looking inside him, making him squirm. “Why does this question trouble you?” she asked. “I have been taking care of him for hundreds of years, and you think I would not have taken that into account?”

Telor gaped, almost dropping his ration bar. He caught it just before it slipped from his fingers. “I don’t know,” he said finally, “and I don’t care.”

“Then why did you ask?” Kovaine countered.

Telor shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said again, “just making conversation.”

“That’s not what I would call conversation,” Kovaine went on, returning to what she had been doing, “more like simple baiting, but you know by now I do not respond to such criticism. If your distant grandmother were here, I know she would stretch you across her knees and smack some manners into you,” she added, beginning to slice a loaf of bread. “Now go up and take over, and tell my husband his meal is ready.”

“Fine!” Telor snapped. “Anything to get away from the smell of his meal!” He climbed the ladder up onto the deck, holding his ration bar in his mouth while he climbed. He saw Sir Blakstar holding the tiller and one of the lines to adjust the sail on the ship’s single mast. Telor also noticed that the kortexi looked a little gray, his eyes creased as he looked toward their destination.

“We should arrive by the morning, Telor,” Blakstar said, his voice low.

“Your meal is ready,” Telor said, moving back to take Blakstar’s place.

Telor saw Blakstar’s eyes light up. “I thought I could smell something,” he said, grinning and locking the tiller. He passed the rope he held to Telor, who sat down by the tiller and continued to eat his ration bar with his free hand.

“Watch it when the sun sets,” Blakstar added, moving forward to the ladder, “the winds get a little wild.”

“I know what to do, kortexi!” Telor snapped, unlocking the tiller and placing his elbow over it, so he could continue to eat while still guiding the ship.

Blakstar shook his head but said nothing more, climbing down and out of Telor’s view. The awemi looked forward as he chewed, seeing that the huge island they sailed toward now filled most of his forward view. The shape of the island was still obscured by clouds, and now that the sun had begun setting, he could see flashes of orange light illuminating the clouds from beneath, followed, after a long time, by rumbling sounds. Telor frowned, thinking that this whole project was a bust, start to finish. He could have been back in Rykel, making a profit, rather than sailing toward what was sure to be a disaster. For a moment, he considered turning the ship around, but that would require a second person on deck as he could not reset the sails alone.


Next time, as we continue on our way to the nefali homeland, Telor confronts the impossible reality that his companions have lived for centuries, something he believes impossible. Until then get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 7, Part 6

Posted by gwermon on May 23, 2018 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

22 May 2018


Good day to all! In today’s post from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen, the examination continues, finding more of the strange scratches; as this chapter concludes, Kesa decides that it is time to speak to the suspect. . . .

 

Chapter 7, Part 6

Kesa followed, looking closely at her side of the head and face. “Look at the nose,” she noted after several silent moment, “and here on either cheek; it looks like the skin is raw, as if it had been rubbed hard.”

“As if something had been held over the nose and mouth,” Thal added, “and onto the cheeks on either side.”

“A wide strap of leather,” Kesa said, excited, “that was held tightly in place, which means the murderer must have been holding it in place with both hands, leaning forward heavily to keep the victim from struggling free.”

“And he tried to free himself, grabbing at the hands and arms of his assailant,” Thal went on, leaning forward and miming holding something over the face with both hands.

Kesa lifted the right hand and arm, moving it onto Thalamar’s arm. “It could have been something on the murderer’s hand, or forearm, like something hard and sharp attached to his sleeve.” She released the arm and looked at Thal, frowning. “If it were on the sleeve, why only on one sleeve? That seems . . . odd,” she finished after a short pause.

Thal nodded. “Likely something on his hand,” he suggested, “maybe something attached to the leather strap.”

“This is an odd configuration for something on the strap,” Kesa noted, lifting the hand again.

Master Thalamar frowned, tapping his chin with one finger. “Better make copies of both these scratches,” he said, “just in case we find more such scratches.”

Kesa nodded and removed her pack, taking out ink and parchment, and, with Thal’s help, she made exact copies of the scratches. They re-activated the stasis fields and moved to the third corpse.

“This must be the accident victim,” Kesa noted as they began to examine the corpse of Master Koro. “There are multiple abrasions and bruises; he must have been moving fast when he fell.”

“Yes,” Thal nodded, his fingers checking the corpse’s neck, “and I don’t think he felt any of them; it feels like his neck was broken, which probably killed him.”

“I don’t see any scratches like the others we have seen,” Kesa added, dropping the cloth back onto the body.”

“And its not likely you will, Kesa,” Thal said, “since this death was an indirect effect of something else, the failure of his cinch strap.” He spoke the word and purple light again pulsed around the corpse. Both maghem moved around to the final corpse, that of the Wesento.

“Since his throat was cut,” Kesa said, pointing to the obvious wound across this corpse’s neck, “we should examine his neck closely.”

Thal picked up the dagger used for this murder, sitting beside the body. “Here is the instrument, although do not forget that he was hit from behind first,” he said.

“Someone cleaned the blade,” Kesa said, “so that dagger will not help us much.”

“Never make such an assumption, Kesa,” Thal told her. “There might be something missed by the cleaning.”

Kesa nodded and bent close to the neck, carefully examining the cut across the throat, looking for anything unusual. She found the cut as she would expect, a slash across the throat that opened both vein and artery, leading to a quick demise, but no other marks or scratches. She lifted and turned the head to the side to examine the skull, and quickly found the spot where the Wesento had been hit from behind. “Do we know what hit him?” she asked, looking up.

“This dagger, I would guess,” Thal replied.

“Why?” she asked.

“Blood, hair, and a little skin on the pommel,” Thal answered. “Can you tell from the cut the direction the dagger was drawn across the throat?” he asked.

“Not from the cut,” she answered.

“I would guess right to left,” Thal said.

Kesa looked a question at Thal. “Why do you think so?” she asked.

“These kortexem are trained to use sword and dagger,” Thal replied, “and since most of them are right-handed . . . ,” he shrugged and did not finish.

“You’re assuming it was a kortexi,” Kesa noted.

Thal nodded. “No one else could get deep enough into their citadel to commit the murders of the Wogar and Soki,” he said, “and no one else would be permitted in their stables.”

Kesa considered for a moment. “That makes sense,” she agreed. “Is there anything else on the dagger?”

Thal frowned. “Something, but it may not be significant,” he said, passing the dagger to Kesa. “Run your finger over the back of the handle,” he added.

Kesa did, and felt a small scratch in the metal. “I feel it,” she said, “but I don’t know what it means.”

“Something hard scratched it there,” Thal said, “some tougher metal or stone, I would guess, but beyond that, I don’t know.”

Kesa returned the dagger to the corpse’s side, and Thal spoke the word to re-activate the stasis field.

“What now, Kesa?” Thal asked.

“I think we should speak to Baki,” Kesa answered. “I’d like to hear him tell his story; perhaps, hearing it from him, we can find something that will help us.”

“Perhaps,” Thal agreed, and they left the room, followed closely by their escort.


Next time we will begin a new chapter from this tale, returning to Telor, Sir Blakstar, and his lady as they sail toward the nefali island. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 7, Part 5

Posted by gwermon on May 18, 2018 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

18 May 2018


Greetings, fellow readers! In today’s post from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen, Kesa and Thal begin examining the bodies of the slain, trying to find evidence to exonerate young Baki. . . .

 

Chapter 7, Part 5

 

Deep within the citadel, they stopped before a wooden door bound with iron. One of the two escorts produced a ring of keys and unlocked the door, pushing it open but not entering. Thalamar led her into the room, one hand held outstretched.

“Magluku,” he sang, and a globe of light winked on, floating above his hand. With a gesture, the globe flew up and hovered, brightening and illuminating all corners of the small, stone room. Kesa saw four bodies on stone slabs, all four surrounded by pulsing, purple light–stasis fields. Each had the waxy pallor of the dead, all laid out in white linen robes that covered them from neck to ankle. She followed Thalamar as he moved to the left-most of the four bodies.

“This one must be thuro Maki,” he noted, pointing to marks around his neck and his bulging eyes.

Kesa moved closer, and then bent her head to look closely at the red line around the corpse’s neck. “They’ve removed the strangling cord,” she noted. “Do you suppose they kept it as evidence?”

“Hard to say, with kortexem,” Thalamar replied, canceling the stasis and lifting the robe to examine the rest of the body. The scent of death now filled Kesa’s nose, but she ignored it, pushing the head to one side so she could see more of the red line around Maki’s neck. She noticed something below the red line on the corpse’s left shoulder.

“What is that?” she asked, pointing.

Thalamar dropped the robe, and moved to see what Kesa pointed at. “No other marks on the body,” he noted clinically. “They look like scratches,” he said. “Let’s turn it over so we can see better.”

The two lifted the corpse and turned it onto its side. “We had best remember to turn it back down,” Thalamar noted, “the kortexem are superstitious.”

Kesa nodded and bent closer to examine the scratches. Three were close together and parallel, while the fourth was an eighth of an inch away from the others, and looked more like a puncture mark than a scratch.

“It looks like they happened at the time the body was strangled,” she noted, “for there is little sign of blood.”

“The body has been washed,” Thalamar said, “but I see what you mean, and I agree. What do you think they mean?” he asked.

“The attacker must have scratched the shoulder as he wrapped the cord around the neck,” she replied, miming with her hands. “I suppose it is possible that it was Master Maki himself who scratched his own shoulder, reaching over his shoulder in an attempt to grab his attacker, but the angle doesn’t seem right.”

“No,” Thal agreed. “It looks to me as if Master Maki tried to get his fingers under the cord, by the odd marks here,” he added, pointing to light bruising on the sides of Maki’s neck. “Check his hands,” he said, rolling the corpse back down.

Kesa moved to the other side of the body, examining its right hand while Thal checked the left. She moved her face close to the fingers. “It looks like there is some skin beneath his nails,” she noted.

“This one, too,” Thal agreed, “which indicates he was strangled from behind.” Thal lowered the hand, singing the word to re-activate the stasis field; it pulsed purple. He turned to the next corpse and canceled its stasis field.

Kesa moved around the first slab to the second, and they examined it as they had the first.

“There are no obvious marks on this corpse,” Thal said, “so this must be the Gatekeeper, Master Wogar, who was suffocated.”

“Look at this hand, master,” Kesa said, holding up the corpse’s right hand. “There are scratches the look similar to the others.” She pushed back the fingers and showed four scratches running almost vertically across the palm, three close together, the fourth an eighth inch away from the others, all parallel. The scratches started in the center of the palm, going onto the middle fingers before ending.

Master Thalamar moved around the slab to the other side, checking the left palm. “There are no scratches here,” he noted, looking at Kesa.

“Why only on the right palm?” Kesa asked, her brow wrinkling as she considered. “How was he suffocated?” she asked.

Thal shook his head. “They did not discover the means,” he replied, moving up the slab to examine the face and head more closely.

 

Next time, the examination continues as Kesa and Thalamar discover more of the strange scratches. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!


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