Clyde B. Northrup

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Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 6, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on April 20, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

20 April 2018

 

Welcome back to another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration. Today, Thal continues to describe what they seek, in spite of Woli’s objections and Rola’s hero worship. . . .

 

Chapter 6, Part 2

 

“Keep moving, Woli,” Rola said. “I trust them, and so should you!”

Woli glared at his sister, but started forward to catch up to her. Thal followed, not speaking again until they had caught up to Rola.

“Just because we don’t know what the object looks like,” the white maghi went on, “doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find it.”

Woli snorted again and shook his head. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time!”

“Woli!” Rola snapped, turning to look back at her twin brother. “Now you’re just being rude!

Woli stopped and stood motionless looking at his sister. “What’re you going to do?” he asked, his voice as cold as the air around them. “Tell mother,” he added, and then mumbled, “like always.”

“If she doesn’t, we will!” Thal quipped.

“And if we don’t keep moving,” Klaybear put in, “we will not find anything before the whole world is ice!”

These words started both of them moving again, Woli still mumbling to himself.

“How does one find something without knowing what it looks like?” Thal asked Woli.

“One doesn’t,” Woli replied to himself.

“By following its tracks,” Rola said, “as we have been trained,” she added, also to herself.

“How do we know it leaves tracks?” Woli shot back sarcastically.

“We don’t,” Thal put in to avert the argument brewing between the twins, “but those who placed the device leave tracks.”

Woli laughed. “Tracks? On this ice?” he spat. “Only if we arrive within minutes after they have left!”

“True, very true,” Thal agreed, causing Woli to glance sideways at the white maghi, “but a device powered by teka will leave tracks of what kind?”

“Teka tracks,” Rola answered, smiling brightly over her shoulder as she continued to wind her way among the rough, broken surface of the ice flow.

“Teka doesn’t leave tracks!” Woli snapped.

“Not in the sense that you are thinking, Woli,” Thal said, “although what we are looking for is still operating, so we should be able to see from a great distance.”

Woli snorted. “You people are crazy!” he laughed. “We can’t see teka!”

“Stop being rude, Woli!” Rola exclaimed.

Thal smiled. “Normally, that is true,” he agreed, “but there is a way for us to see what is not usually visible to our eyes.”

“An orthek?” Rola asked, her attention now on Thal rather than her twin.

“Precisely, Rola,” Thal agreed, “an orthek that allows us to see teka in operation,” he added, pausing and touching his own eyes. “Skou-maghinam,” he sang in his tenor voice, and then shading his eyes as he turned in a circle, scanning the distant horizon. After turning in a complete circle, he frowned and lowered his hand.

“Anything?” Klaybear asked.

Thal shook his head. “At least, not within the limits of my normal range of vision,” he said. “However, I can further enhance my vision,” he went on, and then touched his eyes again and sang. “Okworno,” and then, “steighud-me,” lifting the tip of his glittering rod and floating straight up. He raised his hand to shield his eyes, turning again in a circle to scan the horizon. “Yes, there,” he said as he turned, pointing, “and there; also there, there, and there.” He turned again, moving back and forth. “The closest appears to be in that direction,” he added, pointing to the northeast and floating to the ground, canceling his levitation orthek.

“How far?” Rola asked. “Can you keep it in sight?” she went on. “I ask because the terrain in that direction is broken, and it will be difficult to travel that way,” she went on sheepishly.

Woli snorted, which sounded more like a short laugh. “I have the direction,” he said, “and I will not lose it.” He turned and began stalking away.

Rola watched him, frowning.

"I cannot tell how far, exactly,” Thal admitted, “but it appears to be far, maybe three to four leagues, maybe more.”

“Over this terrain?” Woli complained, stopping and turning to look back at the others. “That could take several days!”

“Then we had better get moving,” Klaybear noted. “Night comes early, and with it, even colder temperatures.”

Woli now led the way, winding back and forth across the ice, with the others in tow, and going on this way for the rest of the day. As the light began to fade, he stopped, taking off his pack and tossing it to the ground.

“Are we any closer?” he asked the white maghi when the others joined him, and Klaybear noted the sarcasm in his voice.

Thal eyed him for several moments before singing and lifting himself high into the air. He descended slowly, canceling the ortheks and frowning at the others. “It still looks to be three or four leagues distant,” he noted clinically.

Woli snorted. “At this rate, we will never reach it, whatever it is!” he exclaimed, sinking onto the ground and opening his pack. Without a word from the others, he began to unload the shelter and quickly set it up. The others imitated his actions, Klaybear beginning to unload and set up a second shelter for him and Thal.

“I cannot argue with your reasoning, Woli,” Thal admitted, “as our progress today indicates.” He began to pace, rubbing his chin in a characteristic gesture as he walked, the ice crunching loudly beneath his feet. Finally, after both shelters were up and Woli was preparing to enter his, Thal stopped and spoke. “We shall have to try flying tomorrow.”

Klaybear dragged his and Thal’s pack into their shelter; Woli shuddered, and shook his head.

“Not that again!” he groaned.

“You’d rather spend another day, another week,” Rola began, “scrambling over the ice?” she finished, glaring at her twin.

Woli made an indelicate sound and crawled inside his shelter without another word; Rola shrugged once, looking back at Thal, and then followed her brother inside. Klaybear exchanged a look with Thal before crawling into their shelter, followed closely by the white maghi, who grinned, looking like a deranged scarecrow.

 

Next time Master Thalamar will dream of his dead wife, discovering that he is needed elsewhere. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends. Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 6, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on April 17, 2018 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

17 April 2018


Welcome readers to another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration. Today we begin the sixth chapter, returning to Klaybear and the twins, as they begin their journey into the frozen north. . . .


Chapter 6, Part 1

“It’s so quiet,” Klaybear noted looking around, his eyes drawn to the wall of ice that covered most of Krystal Lake. “Too quiet; this village used to bustle with activity, at least during the day.” He shook his head then raised one arm to shade his eyes and look up at the ice wall; it cracked and groaned ominously, and he could almost hear it moving inexorably forward.

“This could be a challenge,” Thal noted, standing beside Klaybear and also looking up at the cliff.

Rola stood beside them, casting a glance back at her twin, Woli, who had dropped his pack and sat down the moment he stepped out of the strange, shimmering archway.

“And I agree,” Thal went on, “it’s strangely quiet with all the people gone.”

“Quiet?” Woli snorted. “If you think the sounds of cracking and grinding ice are quiet.”

Thal glanced back at Woli. “Obviously, we are not referring to the sounds of the ice, but the lack of people.” When Woli only returned his stern look, Thal turned back to look up at the ice wall. “The simplest way would be for us to fly up to the top of the cliff and some distance north,” he added, “as I don’t trust the edge of the cliff.” To the east, a section of the cliff face broke loose and slid down, crashing onto the ground below and flattening the pines still standing.

“You can fly?” Rola asked, awe in her voice.

Thal looked at her, eyebrow rising. “Of course,” he replied, “we are, after all, accomplished tekson.” He withdrew thought-giver from one of his coat’s large pockets, holding it horizontally, the large diamond top glittering brightly. “Awikweklo,” he sang in his strong tenor, and he lifted off the ground, hovering. “Step up, young Rola, and hold tight,” he added, turning and grinning at her. When she looked puzzled, he went on: “Put your feet on the disc between my feet and hold on to my pack.”

“All right,” she said dubiously, since she could not see the disc to which Thal referred, but she did as instructed, holding tightly to the white maghi’s pack.

Klaybear slid breath-giver from behind his head where it rested between pack and back, the eye-shaped emerald shining; he turned the staff horizontally, as Thal, and sang in his bass voice, “Awikweklo,” lifting off the ground and hovering. “Come on, Woli, unless you’d rather climb the cliff by hand?”

“I’d rather go back to Hovar,” Woli grumbled, getting slowly to his feet and strapping on his pack. He stepped up behind Klaybear, holding onto the green kailu’s pack.

At the same moment, both tekson raised the head of staff and rod, and both soared up and closer to the ice. Klaybear heard both twins draw sharp breaths as they passed the treetops and left the ground behind, and he could feel Woli pulling himself closer to Klaybear’s back.

“Don’t worry,” Klaybear said, “I have had lots of practice with this orthek.”

“I don’t like this!” Woli exclaimed.

“I think it’s wonderful!” Rola shouted, almost on top of her twin.

“You would!” Woli called back, clutching tighter to Klaybear’s pack and drawing a sharp breath as they soared over the top of the ice flow. A cracking, rumbling sound to their left caused both Klaybear and Woli to turn, seeing another huge section of the ice cliff break loose and tumble to the ground below, crushing the houses and trees still standing. “I really don’t like this!” Woli repeated, burying his face in the pack he clung to.

Rola whooped, holding onto Thal’s pack with only one hand, leaning back and to the side so that she could see where they flew. Thal continued north for over a mile, with Klaybear following, before landing gently on the ice. Rola leaped off before he landed, tripping and tumbling across the rough, frozen surface, laughing the while and making Thal grin.

Klaybear followed, landing beside Thal and smiling at Rola. As soon as he stopped moving and settled onto the ice, Woli slid from his back and slumped onto the ground, muttering to himself.

“Never again,” he mumbled. “Never, ever again!”

“Never say never,” Klaybear quoted a popular saying, smiling down on Woli.

“Leave me alone!” Woli snapped, not looking up.

“Relax, Woli,” Rola said, crunching across the ice to stand before her twin. “What is your problem?” she asked when he did not look up or acknowledge her.

Woli growled something then, and Klaybear recognized it as a form of twin, although one he did not understand.

“Really, Woli,” Rola began, “we have been given an assignment and a great honor; it is our obligation to fulfill it to the best of our ability,” she finished, her eyes fixed on her twin.

He looked at her for several moments before shrugging and getting to his feet. “Any idea where we are going, or what we are looking for?” Woli asked, his voice filled with his irritation.

Thal smiled at the young seklesi. “We are searching for devices that might be affecting the weather,” he replied.

“Devices, like what?” Woli asked.

“Rola, find us a way north,” Thal suggested, “while I try to answer your brother’s question.”

Rola nodded, orienting herself and beginning to pick her way across the broken, uneven surface of the ice flow, moving generally north. Klaybear indicated Thal and Woli should go ahead of him, so he could watch behind them.

“Anything that uses elemental ice,” Thal went on, picking up from where he left off, “to create the ice floes and keep them moving south.”

“What do these devices look like?” Woli asked.

Thal shrugged. “We don’t really know what they look like,” he admitted, “we assume they manipulate elemental ice, probably using large sapphires, so something that has sapphires on it.”

Woli stopped, staring open-mouthed at Thal, who did not immediately notice that the youth had stopped. When Thal did, he turned to look back at Woli.

“We’re looking for something, but you don’t know what it is?” Woli asked, disbelief wrinkling his young face. “That’s insane!” he snapped before Thal could respond. “You dragged me out of Hovar to look for something, but you don’t know what, something that may not exist!”


Next time Master Thalamar will continue his explanation, and Woli will continue to protest. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends. Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 5, Part 5

Posted by gwermon on April 13, 2018 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

13 April 2018

 

In this final installment from Chapter 5, from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen, we follow our heroes as they acquire a boat to convey them to the nefali homeland. . . .

 

Chapter 5, Part 5

Kovaine nodded to Blakstar, who dismounted and opened his saddlebags, removing several small bags of coarse ground flour, along with several packets of dried beef; the kortexi moved to and climbed the two steps onto Teni’s porch.

“Here you go, Master Teni,” Blakstar noted as he handed the supplies to the old awemi.

“I thank you,” Teni said, accepting the supplies, and then pushing open his front door with his back. “Good luck! I’m certain you’ll need it where you’re going!” he laughed, then shot a single glare at Telor before entering his home and closing the door.

“He doesn’t seem to like you, Telor,” Blakstar noted as he mounted his stallion; the horse pranced in a circle as the kortexi settled into his white and silver saddle. “I wonder why that would be?”

Telor snorted. “He thinks I cheated his daughter,” the awemi replied. “Can we get on with it?”

“Why are you in a hurry to leave?” Blakstar asked, eyeing Telor. “Are you afraid Master Teni will come out and reveal the truth? He already warned us against you.”

“I’m not surprised,” Telor said, “he was always a meddler.”

“Did you cheat his daughter?” Blakstar asked, now glaring at Telor.

“Of course not!” Telor snapped. “He believes the gems were worth more than I gave her for them.”

“And were they?” Blakstar asked.

“Of course they were worth more than I gave her!” Telor exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “How else could I make a profit on the transaction?”

“Ah, the justification of every merchant,” Blakstar noted sarcastically, “the need to make a profit.”

“That’s quite enough,” Kovaine put in, her voice soft but penetrating. “We have too far to travel to start arguing now!” She glared at each of them in turn, until each nodded. She turned her horse toward the harbor and moved west. Blakstar grinned to himself, following his wife, catching up to her when she stopped at the edge of the cliff to look down.

“We have a problem, dear,” Kovaine said, pointing down. “We cannot get any of our horses down that, not even Telor’s pony.”

Blakstar shrugged. “It’s not a big problem,” he said. “I can take them back to our sanctuary.”

Kovaine turned and shot him a look that told him, clearly, what she was thinking; he cringed.

“Sorry,” Blakstar said, “I thought that’s what you meant.”

She shook her head; Telor reined his pony to a stop on Kovaine’s right, as far from Blakstar as he could get. For a moment, the kortexi felt guilty for having consciously baited Telor: he should know better and Kovaine was right to remind him of his duty.

“If the volcano on the central continent has erupted,” Kovaine was saying, “and I think it has,” she went on, pointing to the southwest and a column of steam visible at the edge of sight, “we’ll need the supplies carried by our horses to sustain us, perhaps along with the clean air orthek,” she added thoughtfully, and Blakstar realized she was thinking out loud, and had been when she spoke before; he waited.

“What’s the problem?” Telor asked, looking up at Kovaine.

Blakstar snorted, and Kovaine frowned at him. “We cannot lead our horses down there, and we need the extra supplies the carry.”

“We wouldn’t be able to put them on a small ship,” Blakstar noted, “which is all I can manage on my own.”

“We could leave them here,” Telor suggested, “then come back to fetch supplies when we need them.”

“That’s what I suggested,” Blakstar said. “The problem is getting back to the nefali capital.”

“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Kovaine said, “since we have learned of the eruption, which altered the face of the land and prevented you from opening an archway.”

“I suppose,” Blakstar agreed, “but what if something else blocks our archways? We will be forced to borrow another ship and sail back.”

“You sound like Thalamar,” Kovaine noted, eyeing him.

Blakstar frowned, and a moment later understood; he laughed. “I guess I do,” he admitted. “We have to take the chance, since there is no other way.” He dismounted and removed his saddlebags from his mount. Kovaine dismounted and imitated his action. Telor looked at them both for several moments before sliding down and taking his own saddlebags off. Blakstar dropped his saddlebags in front of Telor. “Give your reins to Kovaine, and then carry the saddlebags down to the dock.”

“I’m not your slave!” Telor snapped. “Carry your own saddlebags!” He dropped his saddlebags on the ground next to the others and then turned his back on Blakstar.

“Don’t be childish, Telor,” Kovaine said, taking Telor’s reins and wrapping them around her own saddlehorn. In turn, she wrapped her own reins around Blakstar’s saddlehorn, and then picked up the reins to her husband’s mount.

Blakstar shook his head, drawing and igniting will-giver, opening an archway into their sanctuary. When it shimmered into view, Kovaine stepped through, leading the three horses through.

“Do you want any help, dear?” Blakstar asked through the archway.

“I think I can handle it,” her voice answered, then she and the horses disappeared from his view; he waited, holding the archway open. “You could go down and start looking for a small, single-masted ship that we can manage,” he suggested to Telor.

“I don’t know anything about ships!” Telor said.

Blakstar laughed. “Your ancestor was the one who first taught me about ships,” Blakstar noted calmly. “I doubt that your teaching does not include ships and sailing, unless you skipped that instruction?”

Telor glared at the kortexi, then grabbed his own saddlebag from the pile on the ground; he stalked away, toward the narrow, rocky trail that led down to the docks.

Blakstar frowned and shook his head. He waited for Kovaine to return through the archway, thinking how much he missed Tevvy, and how much his descendant needed to learn.


Next time, we switch back to Master Klaybear and the twins as they begin their journey north. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 5, Part 4

Posted by gwermon on April 11, 2018 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

10 April 2018


We return with another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, as we move back to Sir Blakstar, who meets the town’s only remaining inhabitant; he gives them some news, and a warning. . . .


Chapter 5, Part 4

“Now I wonder what you two could be doing here?” a voice hailed them, and Blakstar turned to see who had posed the question. An old awemi, whose face was wrinkled, although his blue eyes twinkled, his hair all gray, stood looking out of a door and watching them.

“Good day to you,” Blakstar nodded to the old awemi. “We seek passage to the nefali city, Oinosto,” he answered.

“Passage to Oinosto?” the old awemi repeated, and shook his head. “No ship has gone to or come from that port in years, not since we heard the thunder and saw smoke rising.”

“Smoke, from Oinosto?” Blakstar said, surprised. “You can see smoke coming from there?”

The awemi nodded once. “Dark gray smoke, almost black,” he said, “and ships reported the sea turned black from the falling ash. None dared approach, nor could, the smoke so thick it obscured sea, sky, and the land.”

“Where is everyone?” Kovaine asked.

The old awemi cocked an eyebrow at Kovaine. “You are a pretty one,” he smiled, “for a wetha. They all left, when the ships stopped coming, and the crops failed to produce.”

“Wait a moment,” Blakstar said, shooting a frown at Kovaine. “When did this thunder and smoke first happen?”

“Do you have a name as lovely as you are?” the old awemi asked Kovaine, seeming to ignore Blakstar’s question.

“I am named Kovaine,” she laughed, “and this handsome fellow is my husband, Sir Blakstar. How are you named, silver-tongue?”

The old awemi smiled. “My wife and mother called me Teni,” he said, “at least they used to, before both left.”

“They left you?” Kovaine prompted, and Blakstar hissed in frustration. Kovaine touched his arm while keeping her eyes on Teni.

“Yes,” Teni said sadly, “my mother when I was only a lad, and my sweet Priya not long after the thunder and smoke appeared.”

“You’re saying they died?” Kovaine suggested.

“So it would seem,” Teni answered and left his doorway to sit on a chair on his porch; it creaked as he sat and began rocking. He spoke no more for a time, his eyes distant. “Sad, so sad,” he whispered to himself later.

“Can you tell us when the smoke appeared?” Kovaine asked.

“What? Oh, yes, the smoke and thunder,” Teni replied, recalling himself. “A dozen or more years ago, when the sea was higher, much higher.”

“Why did you stay behind?” Kovaine asked.

“Why?” he repeated. “I didn’t see much point in leaving as I am old; further, one cannot run away from one’s problems, since all one does is carry them to a new place.”

“You are wise, Teni,” Kovaine complimented him.

“Did the people say where they were going?” Blakstar asked.

Teni frowned and looked at Blakstar before answering. “South, they went south, believing they would find warmer lands where the crops would grow. I told them they were fools to leave.”

“Did they go by ship or land?” Blakstar asked.

“Some one, some the other, all fools,” Teni said.

“Did they leave any ships behind?” Blakstar asked.

“Some few,” Teni replied, and waved his hand west, “I see them when I go down to fish, over there.”

“Is there a small one that would carry three across to Oinosto? A small one I could easily manage by myself?”

Teni shrugged. “I suppose there might be,” he said, “but why do you want to go there?”

“To find out what happened to the nefalem,” Blakstar answered, “and see if what happened to them has anything to do with the increasing ice and cold.”

“Commendable,” Teni nodded, “but I doubt you will find anything helpful.”

“Why do you say that?” Blakstar asked.

“Because whatever happened was huge,” Teni answered. “I’d be surprised if any of the land around Oinosto survived.”

“Have you been there?” Kovaine asked.

“Once, long ago,” Teni said, “when I got caught in a sudden summer storm and was blown nearly to the island. Had to stay for weeks to make repairs. The people were helpful, but they frightened me, with their great height and their burning eyes.” He shivered.

“Do you mind if we borrow a ship?” Blakstar asked.

Teni looked at him and chuckled. “Why should I care what you take? The others abandoned their craft, so as far as I am concerned, they are free for the taking.” His eyes shot down the street to the east; Blakstar glanced and saw Telor riding slowly toward them, that insufferable grin painted on his round face.

“Does he belong to you?” Teni asked.

“He came with us,” Blakstar replied, and then added, “with great reluctance.”

“Be wary of him,” Teni replied, his voice lowered. “That one cannot be trusted.”

Telor pulled his pony to a stop beside Kovaine, nodding once to Teni. “Master Teni,” he said, “I didn’t know you still lived.”

Teni returned Telor’s grin, showing his teeth. “How is your father?” he asked.

“He was well when he forced me into following these two,” Telor said, nodding to Kovaine and Blakstar.

“A little suffering is good for you, Telor,” Teni replied, “and your father knows what is best for you.”

Telor snorted but said nothing more, painting his face with the same grin.

Teni frowned. “Good luck to you,” he said, standing up.

“Is there anything you need?” Kovaine asked.

“I wouldn’t say no to a few staples, like flour, and a change from fish would be nice.”

“We can spare you some flour,” Kovaine replied, “but I’m afraid the beef is dried, and a little tough.”

“That’s better than what I have now,” Teni said.


Next time, we will conclude this chapter as our heroes find a boat that will take them to the nefali homeland. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 5, Part 3

Posted by gwermon on April 6, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

6 April 2018


In today’s installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, we follow Telor as he runs off to check on his agent in this town, finding that she had gone. . . .


Chapter 5, Part 3

“Stupid kortexi!” Telor mumbled to himself when he was sure he was out of hearing of Blakstar and Kovaine. He kicked his pony into a slow gallop, winding past the empty stalls of a side street that should have been full of people at this hour of the day. This fact troubled him, and he feared something terrible had happened to his agent. He turned two more corners and came to the other side of Fika’s central square, opposite from where he had been; he could see Blakstar and Kovaine passing through the square and turning west toward the harbor. He sawed the reins and dragged his pony to a staggering stop before a smaller, nondescript shop, sliding down and pausing long enough to wrap his reins around one of the porch’s uprights. No sounds came from inside the small shop–an ominous sign. He pushed open the door and went into a crouch, fearing something terrible had happened.

“Pama?” he called into the shop. “Where are you?” He waited, one hand holding the door handle now over his head, the other holding a dagger ready to fling, but the shop remained silent and empty. He stood slowly, his awemi eyes taking in everything. He stood beside a small wooden counter that prevented anyone from entering deeper into the shop. The counter was cleared of any of the implements that should have been there: the record book, scales for weighing, magnifying lens for close examination of the gemstones brought in for sale. He flipped open the left side of the counter, and moved slowly behind it, his nose sniffing for telltale signs of death or blood spilled, but the air was only musty, as if the shop had been closed for a while. The desk and chair behind the counter were clear of any clutter, and Telor sat in the chair to go through the desk’s drawers, seeking anything left behind, anything that would indicate what had become of his agent, Pama, an awema he had known since entering his father’s academy. Finding nothing in the drawers, he reached beneath the desk to find a concealed lever that opened a narrow space above the center drawer. His probing finger found what he sought, a slip of parchment.

The chickens have flown the coop for sunnier climes; will make contact at next opportunity; only a single old rooster stayed behind.

“Karsun!” Telor cursed, crumpling the paper and tossing it to the ground. He stood up and looked around the room, his eyes running over the floor until he found what he sought. Moving deeper into the empty shop, he stooped and ran his fingers slowly over the floorboards, seeking patterns delicately etched into the wood, and then placing his fingers on all seven spots at the same time. An audible click followed and Telor stood, moving to the back wall of the shop’s main room, where a section about a foot square had opened; he slid the panel aside and cursed again, for the hidden wall box was empty. Angrily he turned away and stalked out of the shop, grabbing his reins and preparing to mount his pony. He paused, thinking about the treasure he carried. A sudden fear rose up inside, a fear that made him stop. He untied his bulging saddle bags and, with difficulty, lugged them back into the shop. At the back of the shop he emptied all but a few of the gems and coins into the empty wall box, filling about one fifth of the space; it was better than nothing, and he feared that was what he would earn from this trip forced upon him by his father. This way, at least, he would gain something for his fruitless efforts. He closed the box, sliding the panel back into place and pushing it closed with another click. Carefully, he wiped the wall, and then removed his footsteps from the dusty floor. His eye fell on the scrap of parchment he had tossed on the floor; he stooped and recovered it, returning it to the secret compartment in the desk and replacing the drawers. He left the shop feeling proud of himself for his cleverness, mounting and riding his pony toward the harbor.


Next time, we move back to Sir Blakstar and his lady as they meet the only inhabitant of this now deserted awemi port. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 5, Part 2

Posted by gwermon on April 3, 2018 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

3 April 2018


We return with another installment from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, as Kovaine answers Telor’s questions, but the answer is one that he cannot believe, let alone, accept. . . .


Chapter 5, Part 2

 

“They did have both their cloaks,” Kovaine answered, and then went on, “I was not among the living at that moment in time.”

Blakstar heard Telor make a choking sound and smiled to himself; what had happened all those years ago frightened most people, and was still miraculous to the kortexi.

“Not among the living?” Telor hissed, his voice rife with disbelief. “Were you not born yet?” he asked, and there was a quaver in his voice that made Blakstar’s smile widen: the young, materialistic awemi was about to come face to face with a truth too large for his tiny mind.

“Hardly,” Kovaine replied, “since I was born to a kara about sixteen years before the Great Year.”

“If you weren’t visible . . . and you had been born,” Telor stammered, “where were you?”

“Damoneku,” Kovaine said.

There was a pause before Telor spoke again, and Blakstar could almost see Telor flipping through the maps in his head, trying to locate a place or land by that name.

“Where is it?” Telor said. “I’ve never heard of such a place.”

“There has been quite the debate over the actual location of Damoneku,” Kovaine went on as if she were lecturing; Blakstar had to clench his teeth together to keep from laughing out loud. He wished Klaybear or Thal were here, so they could see their influence on his wife. “There are many who believe that it resides deep underground, but this is not possible, since the underground was the place to which Gar and his associates were banished. Others claim that it is on another world, similar to ours, but without the light of our sun. This is unlikely, since those who have been there reported no stars visible in the sky, which means it could not be on another world.”

“Another world?” Telor said, his voice rising in pitch.

“Keep up!” Blakstar called over his shoulder, guessing from the sounds that the awemi had stopped. The narrow track circled around another out thrust of the mountains to the east, the rock face cut away the width of the road. Blakstar noticed a pile of bones in the ditch to his left, among them several wethi skulls; he frowned, wondering why those people had been left unburied. The pony started forward again, trotting to catch up.

Kovaine laughed her musical laugh. “As I said, I don’t think that is possible,” she noted.

“Then where is it?” Telor asked.

“We think it is right here, all around us,” Kovaine answered, “but in its own dimensional space.”

Another pause followed; Blakstar heard only the hooves of the horses on the road.

“W-what is it?” Telor stammered.

“Damoneku is the land of the dead,” Kovaine answered. “I was dead when the final battle and the resurrection of Elos, son of the One, occurred.”

“That’s not possible!” Telor exclaimed, his voice with an edge of panic to it, but when he spoke again, the timbre had changed from near panic to sly. “Hold on a minute,” the awemi went on, “you’re playing games with me, telling me wild stories to confuse me. I don’t believe a word of it!” he finished, now sounding smug.

“Suit yourself,” Kovaine said, moving up to ride beside Blakstar.

The kortexi turned in his saddle to look at Telor and saw the smugness written all over his face. “Every word she told you is the truth,” he noted simply, “whether or not you accept it is your affair.” He turned back to face forward, shooting his wife a smile; she responded in kind, reaching out her hand and holding it there, waiting for him to reach for her. He did, clasping her gloved hand briefly.

“There were bones back there, unburied,” he told her.

She nodded. “I saw them,” she replied. “Likely, they are some who died along the way south. I am surprised we haven’t seen any other refugees moving south.”

“We haven’t been on the road that long,” he said.

“How far is it to Fika?” Telor asked.

“About two miles,” Blakstar replied.

They rode along in silence, Blakstar again thinking about the many who died all those years ago, as they rounded another out thrust and cut in the mountains, another view of the lost city far below. The water churned, as if stirred by some gigantic hand; it looked uncharacteristically dark, as if the churning had thrown up muddy sediment from the sea floor. He saw more signs of the passage of many refugees along this road, mostly discarded, broken objects, like shoes or cooking pots, along with furniture tossed whole onto the road’s side, someone finally realizing that lessening the load was more important than the treasured object. He saw and passed a worn leather satchel that glittered in the morning light.

“Leave it,” Blakstar noted in a loud voice when he heard the pony turn aside and stop.

“Not likely!” Telor called back. “I have to make a profit on this dubious venture, and here it sits for the taking!”

Blakstar pulled his horse to a stop and turned; Kovaine mirrored his action. “You plan on lugging all that extra weight for the entire trip?” he asked.

“I’ll sell what I can when we reach Fika,” Telor replied, grabbing the satchel and stuffing it into his saddle bags, “and I have an agent there who can send the rest home.”

Blakstar shook his head and turned his mount back down the road.

They cantered into Fika thirty minutes later, following the now wider road into the center of the town. Strangely, although it was mid-morning, no one was out on the streets as they should have been on any normal day. Blakstar rode past side streets as deserted as the street they were on, and this troubled him.

“Where is everyone?” he spoke aloud. “There ought to be people out and working at this hour, but we have seen no one.”

Telor spurred his pony faster, turning down one of the side streets.

“Where are you going?” Blakstar called after him.

“To check on my agent,” Telor answered. “I’ll meet you later at the harbor.”

Blakstar turned his horse to follow the awemi, but Kovaine stopped him.

“He’ll be fine, dear,” she noted. “Let’s go and see about a ship.”


Next time, we will follow Telor as he runs off to check on his interests, managed by an agent who lives in this town, but he finds that she has flown the coop. . . . Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 5, Part 1

Posted by gwermon on March 31, 2018 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

30 March 2018


We wish all a Happy Easter, and exhort all to remember that it is not about chocolate, bunnies, and eggs, although fun, but to celebrate the Savior of all! Welcome back as we begin a new chapter from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration! We switch back to Sir Blakstar, Lady Kovaine, and Master Telor, Tevvy and Elanor’s reluctant descendant. Sir Blakstar attempts to open an archway to the nefali homeland, but something prevents him. . . .

 

Chapter 5, Part 1

“Something’s wrong,” Blakstar said, one hand gripping a golden-flaming will-giver, his mind focused on his destination, but the gray shimmering inside the archway remained opaque.

“What is it, dear?” Kovaine asked, holding the reins of both their horses; the steeds fidgeted nervously, catching the change in mood.

“Great!” Telor noted sarcastically. “We’re well on our way to no place!”

Blakstar ignored the awemi’s outburst. “The archway will not open,” he replied. “Something prevents it.”

Kovaine frowned and hushed Telor, who was about to make another rude comment. “We know something is wrong with the nefalem,” she said, “but why should that prevent us from going there?”

Blakstar laughed wryly and lifted his sword; the archway winked out. “I’m not the one for answering why questions,” he answered.

“Try a different location,” Kovaine suggest.

Blakstar nodded once, then began opening a second archway; as before, the gray shimmering within the arch remained opaque. He lifted his sword, closing the gray archway, and rested the blade on his shoulder, considering another place he had been in the nefali homeland. He tried again, but the archway refused to open. He tried a fourth and fifth time with similar results. “I guess we will have to do it the old way,” he noted, looking at his spouse and smiling.

“It won’t be the first time,” she replied.

“What’s the old way?” Telor asked.

“By ship, of course,” Blakstar replied.

Telor laughed, but it sounded forced. “Ship? What ship?” he said. “How do you propose we find a ship, when the sea has receded making it impassable?”

Blakstar glared at Telor, causing him to shrink back. “We will go to the awemi port of Fika and see what we can find,” Blakstar replied. “We should be able to find a ship there to ferry us across.”

“That could take months!” Telor protested. “You said we would only be gone for a few weeks, at most!”

“We were wrong, thief,” Blakstar snapped, drawing another archway that shimmered and opened into a grove of trees. Kovaine touched his arm and then led her own horse into the opening; Blakstar’s mount followed, its reins wrapped around the saddlehorn of Kovaine’s mount. The kortexi turned his head to look at Telor. “Do you need an invitation?” he asked. “Or would you rather ride the entire distance?”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Telor snapped. crossing his arms over his chest and refusing to move.

“Fine,” Blakstar said, “then we will send you back to your father tied in a sack, as he suggested.

“And we will keep all the treasure for ourselves,” Kovaine’s voice spoke through the archway.

“Treasure?” Telor mumbled to himself. “What treasure? I’ve heard nothing but words.”

“Then it’s time for action,” Kovaine said.

Blakstar shook his head and stepped through the arch, grabbing and dragging Telor after him. The awemi pulled his pony along behind him, the mount more willing to go than its master.

Blakstar lifted his sword, sheathed it, and looked around. “The road into Fika should be over there,” he said, pointing downhill to the west. He mounted his stallion and moved at a walk, winding in and out of the birch trunks down the slope, past the clumps of bushes spotting the ground. He heard Kovaine mount and follow him and hoped Telor would do the same. The ground beneath the trees inclined steeply toward the sea, and his mount picked its way carefully down the slope, winding forward and backward as they descended. The horse plunged down the final slope on the north side of a cut, dislodging gravel and dirt, and coming to a stop on a dirt road, carved into the side of the mountains. The scent of salt and dead fish assailed them from far below, and Blakstar walked his horse to the cliff’s edge where stones had been piled and whitewashed to mark it for those traveling in the dark. Looking down, he saw that the shoreline had not changed much, this cliff having been formed during the earthquakes that ended the Great Year, when he and his fellows had faced and defeated Gar. What was now visible nearly a mile below were the exposed ruins of the original awemi port of Fawika, lost when the mountains fractured, and the land slid into the ocean. He shook his head sadly, thinking of the thousands of lives lost that day, and not just in the battle or the earthquakes that followed, but the many who died of disease and hunger thereafter. Kovaine pulled her mount beside his, followed by Telor.

“You appear troubled, my dear,” Kovaine noted in her soft, musical voice.

Blakstar shook himself. “Just thinking about the past,” he said.

“What is that?” the awemi asked, pointing down the cliff to the ruins exposed.

“All that is left of Fawika,” Blakstar noted sadly, “the original awemi port.”

“I am glad I missed all of that,” Kovaine spoke quietly.

“Missed it?” Telor said. “I thought you people claimed to have lived through it.”

“They did,” Kovaine said, but did not explain further.

Telor’s brow wrinkled. “What do you mean, they did?” he asked. “I thought you were one of them.”

“I am,” she answered, “I just wasn’t with them at the time of the final battle, at least not visibly.”

“Let’s go,” Blakstar inserted, turning and moving his horse at a canter down the narrow track carved into the face of the cliff. He heard the sounds of hooves following, heard Telor speak again.

“How could you be with them but not seen?” Telor asked. “I thought my ancestors were wearing their special cloaks; are you suggesting you had one of them?”


Next time, Telor will continue to press Lady Kovaine about where she was during the Great Year, getting an answer that he refuses to accept! They will continue south, looking for a way to cross the shrinking ocean. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 4, Part 6

Posted by gwermon on March 27, 2018 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

27 March 2018


Today, as we finish the fourth chapter, from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, Gelfi suggests that there will be more murders as Baki discovers that he is missing something his father gave him. . . .

 

Chapter 4, Part 6

Baki and Gelfi reached the room they shared, Gelfi opening the door and allowing his roommate to enter first before following him in; he closed the door behind himself, and turned to face Baki.

“Someone must really hate you, my friend,” Gelfi noted, shaking his head.

Baki stopped in the process of removing his sword belt. “Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Whoever it is has gone to a lot of trouble to make you look guilty,” Gelfi replied, “and when will it all stop? How many more masters will die before whoever it is, is satisfied?”

Baki shrugged. “Why me?” he asked.

“Exactly!” Gelfi snapped. “Why you?” He removed his own belt and dropped it onto the chest at the end of his bed, and then sat down. “Master Maki was a good choice, since all know of your relationship with his daughter, but Master Wogar and Master Koro? Everyone knows these two have supported you all along. If, for some insane reason, you decided to kill a master; my guess of your first choice would be Master Belmo, since he has always hated you,” he finished, smiling up at Baki, who still stood in the act of removing his belt.

Baki finished taking of his belt, but then held it in both hands, thinking. “No, you are right,” he agreed after a long pause. “If I were going to kill one of them, it would be Belmo, and yet, he seems to be above it all . . . so far.”

“You think there will be more murders?” Gelfi asked.

Baki shrugged, holding up his belt as if he were weighing it. “If someone wanted to cripple the order, killing all the masters would be a good place to start,” he noted, slowly and carefully.

“But why?” Gelfi asked. “We’ve had peace for several centuries, why now? And, who?”

Baki shrugged again, still holding his belt and sword; he looked down and saw that his dagger was missing, the sheath that held it empty. He groaned. “I’ve lost my dagger!” he complained.

“The one your father gave you before coming here?” Gelfi asked, sitting up straighter and looking at the belt in Baki’s hands.

“It was there this morning, I’m sure of it,” Baki said, not answering Gelfi’s question.

“I concur,” Gelfi agreed, “for I noticed that you walked out to the stable with one hand on it, as you sometimes do when feeling stressed.” He smiled. “Perhaps you lost it in the stable?” he suggested.

Baki frowned, and replaced his sword belt. “Maybe,” he said. “I better go and check.” He turned and opened the door, heading back for the practice field and the stable. As he crossed the field, retracing his steps, he kept his eyes on the ground, hoping that he might find it. He reached the stable and went inside, beginning a thorough search of the floor, the stalls where the horses were now munching on hay contentedly. He probed the straw scattered on the floor with a hay fork, then checked the pile of straw and horse dung, waiting to be removed. Finding nothing, he walked across the field toward the start of the list, where he had been standing before Master Koro began his fateful charge. He returned to the stable and searched again, turning the pile of straw and dung upside-down, but he did not find his dagger. He searched a third time, spending over an hour in the stable in his fruitless search. His stomach rumbled; frustrated, he re-crossed the field and entered the citadel, intent on going to the dining hall for an early supper. He grabbed some food and drink, going to sit at an empty table and beginning to eat. He felt sick at having lost his dagger, a gift from his father; it served little use when sparring or fighting, but it was the last thing given him by his family before entering the kortexi order and beginning his training. Each time he touched the dagger he remembered his father’s words on giving it to him, that he should work hard, do his best, and return home successful, having become a kortexi, which had been his dream from childhood. Now it was all in doubt, and he had lost the precious gift of his father.

Baki looked up, his reflections interrupted by a noise coming from outside the dining hall. A moment later, several of the younger initiates burst in, shouting.

“The Wesento is dead! The Wesento is dead!”

The few others in the hall began to speak among themselves, taking up the cry and making it hiss around the dining hall: the Wesento is dead!

Baki went suddenly cold, remembering Gelfi’s words of a short time before, asking when whoever was responsible for these crimes would be satisfied. Now there was only one master left, and the ice inside turned to fear. Baki looked around the room and saw all the faces turned toward him, faces that were angry, or white with fear. He lost his appetite and stood to leave. For the second time, the doors to the dining hall flew open, and Baki saw Master Belmo, flanked by a pair of kortexi trainers, stride into the hall, followed by a multitude of initiates and teachers.

Master Belmo raised an arm and pointed to where Baki stood, frozen in the act of rising. “Arrest that initiate!” he exclaimed, and the two flanking Belmo moved toward Baki.

Baki stood frozen as the two teachers moved toward him, their swords out and held pointed at him; he did not move, too stunned by the declaration of Master Soki’s death and Belmo’s sudden appearance. His eyes scanned those behind Belmo, who were pushing into the hall, for any friendly faces, but there were none: all glared at him, their eyes accusing. Baki nearly collapsed when he saw, among those entering the hall, the face of the last person he expected to see there, eyes red and puffy, with the same accusation written on her once beloved face, Nela.

“He murdered my father!” Nela sobbed, and Baki saw that she was supported by Gelfi, whose face was troubled as his eyes found his roommate.

Baki stood limp, in shock from all that was happening, and the two teachers grabbed his arms and bound them behind his back, half-dragging him toward Belmo and the waiting, accusing crowd.


Next time, as we begin the fifth chapter, we shift back to Sir Blakstar, his wife, and Telor, who are trying to find out what has happened to the nefalem. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 4, Part 5

Posted by gwermon on March 23, 2018 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

23 March 2018


In today’s post from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, the remaining masters continue to discuss the accident, and Belmo continues to suspect Baki. . . .


Chapter 4, Part 5


“I forget nothing you tell me, Belmo,” Soki replied. “What have you to say for yourself, initiate?” he asked, turning from Belmo back to Baki.

“I saddled his horse with great care, master,” Baki replied, feeling all eyes upon him, many of them hostile, “and Master Koro, himself, checked my work before mounting, complimenting us on our careful actions.”

“Yes, before he mounted,” Belmo mocked, “and what did you do after he mounted? Loosen the strap?” he accused, pointing his lance at Baki’s chest.

“I did no such thing, Master Belmo!” Baki answered, feeling his face warming in response to the accusations and anger from all around.

“It was an accident, Belmo,” Soki reiterated. “Stand down!” he added, standing and facing Belmo. “This tournament is over,” he declared looking around. “Everyone back to your regular duties.”

The crowd dispersed, the initiates moving away the quickest. Baki and Jakadi turned and went back toward the stable, where Gelfi and Forsi waited, both looking aghast. Beside him, Jakadi stumbled, and Baki reached out a hand to steady him.

“Are you all right?” Baki asked as Jakadi pulled away from him.

“I’m fine,” Jakadi hissed in his strange accent.

“You sure you didn’t catch whatever Kamo got?” Baki asked. “You look pale.”

“I always look pale, compared to all of you,” Jakadi replied, straightening and striding toward the stable.

Baki caught up quickly. “You were on that side, Jakadi,” he noted, “holding his stirrup. Did you notice anything wrong with the strap?”

Jakadi shook his head. “It was fine, as far as I could see,” he replied, turning away from the stables. “Maybe I should go rest, just in case,” he added, beginning to jog toward the citadel entrance.

“He’s got the right idea,” Gelfi agreed, coming toward Baki with Forsi beside him, “take advantage of our free afternoon.”

“Not me,” Forsi said, “I’ve got duty on the walls.”

“Go on,” Gelfi told him, “we will take care of the horses.”

Forsi nodded and waved, trotting off after Jakadi. Gelfi and Baki went into the stable, beginning to unsaddle the four horses waiting there, working in silence. When they had both unsaddled one horse each, another of the advanced initiates came in, leading the red stallion, the offending saddle resting on its back. Grali glared at Baki, handing the reins to him.

“Here is Master Koro’s stallion,” Grali noted, his voice dry and accusing. Grali was one of the tallest of their group, and the thinnest, with a mop of wild, dark curly hair covering his head. His gray eyes glittered maliciously. “What do you think to accomplish by killing all our masters?” he asked.

“I haven’t killed anyone!” Baki snapped, having had his fill of the sidelong looks and rude comments.

One of Grali’s eyebrows shot up. “Right,” he said, not believing a word Baki said. He turned and strode from the stable.

Baki growled. “Are we not kortexem?” he shouted. “Did we not take the same oath? By my oath, I swear to you I had nothing to do with the deaths of any master!”

Grali looked back over his shoulder but said nothing, his eyes saying it all.

Baki watched him go, overcome by impotence, the events out of his control, as if someone had it in for him.

“Are you absolutely certain about the saddle?” Gelfi asked, and Baki turned to glare at his roommate.

“Of course I’m sure!” he snapped, dragging the red stallion toward his stall, and pulling off the saddle with his other hand. He flipped it onto its rack, picking up and examining the offending strap. He saw nothing that would help his case, for the strap was still whole and strong. Someone had to have loosened it after he and Koro checked it, and the only person on that side was Jakadi, but Baki couldn’t imagine that he would have loosened the strap.

Baki felt Gelfi come up beside him, and saw his roommate pick up and examine the strap.

“It looks perfect,” Gelfi noted, dropping the strap and looking at Baki. “The only other person, besides you and Master Koro, who was close enough was Jakadi, but I cannot see him as loosening the strap.”

“Nor can I,” Baki agreed, “but I cannot imagine what could have happened.”

“Me, neither,” Gelfi added, turning a going to unsaddle another mount.


Next time, as we conclude this chapter, Gelfi suggests that there will be more murders as Baki discovers that he is missing something his father gave him. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!

Arena of the Ice Queen, Chapter 4, Part 4

Posted by gwermon on March 20, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

20 March 2018 

In today’s post from the forthcoming Arena of the Ice Queen: Book 1 of The Restoration, Baki goes for breakfast and discovers that his fellows were right, the feelings of the other initiates have turned against him. . . .

 

Chapter 4, Part 4

Baki watched them go, shaking his head and finally turning the other way toward the dining hall. Although prepared for the looks he knew were coming, he still felt all the eyes glaring at him as he entered and moved to get some food. The line melted away at his approach, and he heard, as he slid his tray along the counter and received his meal, the sounds of many chairs scraping over the floor, dishes and trays rattling and clinking as a multitude scurried out of the dining hall. When he turned with his tray to find a seat, he was surprised to see the room empty, although there had been several dozen initiates eating when he entered. This hurt Baki, who, although not as popular as Jakadi, was at least respected and admired by the other, younger initiates; to have them all vacate the dining hall like rats from a sinking ship was disconcerting. He sat alone and ate his breakfast mechanically, not tasting any of the food he put in his mouth. He stayed at the table long after he had finished his meal, expecting a summons to Master Koro’s office, but such a summons never came. Finally, when he knew he could delay no longer, he took his empty tray and slid it through the small window in the wall where the younger initiates had wash duty. He left the dining hall and headed back to his room, thinking he should send another note to Nela, and apologize for missing their meeting. Gelfi stopped him on his way.

“Where are you going?” Gelfi asked, stopping his roommate, surprised that he had not looked up or seen him.

“Back to our room,” Baki replied, finally seeing Gelfi; he decided not to tell him that he planned to write and send another note.

Gelfi shook his head. “We’re due on the field,” he said, “to begin preparation for this afternoon’s mock tournament.”

Baki groaned. “I had forgotten that’s today!” he exclaimed, leaning against the wall and feeling suddenly tired.

“I’m not surprised,” Gelfi agreed, “since you have been under duress for the last several days, but there is still time for us to prepare.”

Baki nodded and straightened, and the two fellows moved to a side door that opened onto the practice field, where all such events were held. Gelfi led Baki to the stables, where the two advanced initiates began combing and saddling the horses to be used during today’s mock tournament. Baki took great care with each stallion and gelding, making sure all straps were tightened and secured, being extra cautious with Master Koro’s large, red stallion. By the time he finished, Jakadi and the other advanced students arrived, joining them in the preparations. Outside, Baki could hear the sounds of many feet and many voices as the initiates, masters, and locals filed into the stands. He knew that across the field, in the second set of stables, the other half of the advanced students made similar preparations, led by Master Belmo. Baki was glad he was not there with Belmo. Master Koro entered, and Baki, Gelfi, Jakadi, and the fourth student, Kamo’s roommate, whose name was Forsi, a sturdy youth with bright eyes and brown hair, quick to smile and to laugh, all stood at attention as Master Koro began a thorough inspection of their work.

“It looks good, boys,” Master Koro noted on finishing, giving them a rare compliment. “I will go first and face Master Belmo,” he went on, “and Forsi will follow; Gelfi, Baki, and Jakadi will follow in that order.”

Master Koro climbed onto his stallion, while Baki and Jakadi held it in place, Baki passing up his blunted lance as Jakadi held the stirrup on his side of the stallion so Master Koro could rest the butt of his lance beside his right foot. Gelfi and Forsi threw open the stable doors, and a rush of cheering crashed into the stable. Master Koro rode out and into the sound, one hand holding the lance upright, the other saluting the crowd. Across the field and at the other end, Master Belmo rode out, holding up his lance and saluting the crowd. Baki and Jakadi walked on either side of Master Koro’s stallion, leading him out to the starting point on this end of the field.

“Time to knock some sense into Master Belmo,” Koro quipped, closing his visor and spurring his stallion forward; his mount reared and pawed the air before leaping forward and charging down his side of the list. Baki and Jakadi both leaped back, watching closely as Master Koro charged toward Master Belmo, whose huge, white stallion was galloping along his side of the list. About halfway toward the center, Baki saw that Master Koro was slipping sideways, toward the center list, his lance-free hand scrabbling to grab and hold his mount’s mane. His saddle continued to slide sideways, and Baki saw that one of the girth straps had come loose. On the other end, Master Belmo saw Master Koro beginning to fall, and raised his lance, pulling his reins to the side to guide his white stallion out of the way. Baki watched helpless as Master Koro slipped from his mount, the saddle falling to be trampled by the red stallion, and the master hit the center list, striking one of the supporting poles with an audible crack. His limp body slid from the list and crumpled onto the ground; most of the people in the stands came rushing down onto the field, led by their Wesento, whose name was Soki, a tall, still strong kortexi with white hair and beard. Baki and Jakadi sprinted down the list, arriving at the fallen master at nearly the same moment as the Wesento, who squatted beside Koro, touching his neck. A frown wrinkled his hard face, and he glared up at the two initiates.

“Which one of you was responsible for Koro’s saddle?” Soki growled.

“I-I was, master,” Baki stuttered, “and I assure you, master, that it was secure.”

“It could not have been, initiate!” Soki snapped. “How else could this tragedy have occurred!”

“You again!” another voice growled, the voice of the last person Baki wanted to see, Master Belmo. “You’ve murdered another one of us!”

Wesento Soki looked up at Master Belmo, who still sat on his huge stallion, glaring down. “It was an accident, Belmo,” Soki declared.

“Too many accidents happen around this initiate!” Belmo growled. “Have you forgotten my report, and the suspicious deaths of thuro Maki and Master Wogar, and this initiate’s involvement? Now Master Koro dies in an apparent accident, this initiate responsible?”


Next time, the remaining masters continue to discuss the accident, and Belmo continues to suspect Baki. Until then, get our ebooks here and share them with your friends! Good reading!


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