Princess of Amathar – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharThe shrine took my breath away. Not because it was big, though it was that. Not because it was carefully inlaid with precious stones and highly polished gold and silver, though it was. It quite knocked the breath from my lungs because the symbol on the great shrine was an A. I don’t mean it was an Amatharian A. It was an honest to god, Greco-Roman, American English, Times font type A!

“That’s an A!” I shouted.

The entire population of the hall turned and looked at us.

“That’s an A.” I said.

“Show some respect, knight,” growled Vena Remontar. “Keep your voice down.”

“That’s an A,” I whispered.

“You are correct, knight.” A voice came from behind us.

We turned to see an older Amatharian man dressed in the brown robes of the templars, and wearing a large silver medallion with the letter A on it. Vena Remontar bowed low, and I followed suit.

“I am Kurar Ka Remiant Oldon Domintus,” said the man, identifying himself as an overlord.

“I am the High Templar.”

“It is an honor to meet you, I’m sure,” I said. “That is an A?”

“Yes, you are quite correct. That is an A.”

“Well. How did it get here?”

“Before we answer any of your questions,” the Overlord said. “you have a great many things to do for us.”

Oldon Domintus turned and led the two of us across the great hall to a doorway opposite that through which we had come. Beyond the chamber was a great long corridor. This hallway was lined with pictures painted in the bright colors: pictures of Amatharian knights engaged in battles, pictures of templars performing rituals in the great plaza, pictures of great buildings being constructed in Amathar. The High Templar maintained the image of a man showing friends around his home.

“Has Vena Remontar told you about our temple?”

“I’m afraid she has not yet had time.”

“This temple was built three hundred generations ago. Construction was begun under the direction of Amath himself. He envisioned a monument to his people where they could look for guidance. It was built here beside the Garden of Souls, so that those feeling the draw of their souls, could reflect.

“You felt no need to reflect before entering the garden?” he asked me.

“I’ve always been a pretty spontaneous fellow,” I replied.

“So it seems,”

A Plague of Wizards -Final Proofreading

A Plague of WizardsI’m doing the final proofreading for A Plague of Wizards.  The primary editing was done some time ago and then I set it aside to finish the last few chapters of Kanana: The Jungle Girl.  Now, it seems like I’m reading it again for the first time really.  I’m finding little nuggets that I had forgotten that I put in.

As soon as the final proofreading and formatting is done, it will be available for preorders.  Watch this space for more details.  It shouldn’t be more than a few days.  Remember the release date it October 28.

As soon as the preorders are active, I’ll start posting some excerpts and bits of related information here as well.

Princess of Amathar – The World of Ecos

Princess of AmatharThe story of “Princess of Amathar” takes place in the world of Ecos.  Notice I said takes place “in”, not “on”, for Ecos is a Dyson Sphere. There is a lot of information on Dyson’s Spheres on the web and quite a bit relates to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I however set Princess of Amathar in a Dyson Sphere long before that episode was shown, having read about it in a role-playing magazine (for the Traveller RPG).

Ecos is a giant hollow ball, about 180 milliion miles in diameter, with its sun in the center. The people walk around on the inside of this great sphere. Though the Ecosian sun is slightly smaller than ours, you can’t tell because it is slightly closer to the surface of Ecos than ours is to Earth. This vast shell provides a surface area that is billions (with a B) of times larger than the surface area of any normal planet.

Ecos was created ages ago by a race of beings known as the Elder Gods. They also populated Ecos with dozens, perhaps hundreds of alien races, who then developed their own civilizations and societies. No one knows what happened to the Elder Gods, but the many races of Ecos continue to thrive.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Princess of Amathar“Alexander Ashton! Alexander Ashton! You don’t understand!” she cried. “You don’t know! Once you cross into the Garden, you cannot come out again! To come out without your knighthood, is the greatest disgrace!”

I waved to acknowledge her. I could see a kind of fear in her face, even at this distance. I have often jumped into something without thinking, and I resigned myself to the fact that this was probably just such an occasion, though it didn’t quite seem fair that I should bear all of the burden, drawn as I was without my consent. I was compelled beyond my ability to refuse. I saw that Vena Remontar stepped over to speak with the group of templars, no doubt to plead that I was only an ignorant savage. I didn’t watch to see the outcome, but turned and made my way into the wilderness.

I had walked a mile or more, when I turned to look back. The gate was no longer visible, lying beyond a small hill that I had crossed without really thinking about it. In fact, I could no longer see the city in any direction, though I knew that it lay all around me. I didn’t know how large the Garden of Souls was, but there was a small mountain rising up ahead of me, so I headed toward it. I know it must have been a number of miles, but it seemed that I crossed the distance and climbed over the mountain, in no time at all.

When I reached the summit I looked down into a small valley surrounding a blue pool. It was not the most beautiful valley that I had ever seen, but is seemed a nice place to await my soul. I was unsure as to just what I was really waiting for. I knew that the Amatharians met their souls here, but just what was a soul? I could only think of the soul as a mystical force, as in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, but I knew that the Amatharian soul was different. For one thing, not everyone had one. For another, I knew there was some physical manifestation. There was a force of some kind which made the remiant’s sword glow and cut through anything. I had seen it myself.

I sat down on the ground, below a small tree, beside the blue pool. Try as I might, I just couldn’t feel fearful about what I had done. Any sane person would, I suppose. I had stepped into a life or death situation without any thought at all. If I came out without a soul I would be disgraced and would be forced to leave the only friends that I knew in this world. If I didn’t come out at all, I would die where I sat. Still, I wasn’t sad or afraid or unhappy. I was fine. At least that’s how I remember it.

A slight breeze picked up, and blew low clouds in to block out the sun. I leaned on my right hand, and felt something smooth beneath my palm. Looking down to see what it was, I saw a partially buried skull grinning back at me. I slowly looked around, and for the first time noticed that the ground around the little pool was littered with bones, some with decomposing flesh still hanging upon them. Here were the remains of those who failed to find their souls. I suddenly felt my stomach sink and my loins tighten. Here was the fear that had failed to manifest itself up until this point. I should say two fears, for there were two distinct emotions, and I didn’t know which was causing me the most anxiety– the fear that I would die here, or the fear that I would prove unworthy and drag myself from the garden in disgrace.

These thoughts were still occupying my mind when I noticed a small flame directly in front of me. Something on the ground had caught fire. The fire was the size one would expect from a freshly filled cigarette lighter or five or six wood matches lit together, though I couldn’t quite tell what was on fire. Nothing seemed to be consumed by the blaze. Then the little fire hopped toward me, leaving nothing scorched in its wake, and stopped within arms reach. At the same time, I felt a tickling sensation on the surface of my scalp. I had the impression of thinking a thought, or smelling a smell, or reading a word which I could not quite identify.

“You are my soul,” I said, a feeling of awe coming over me.

The little flame burned and I continued to have the tickling sensation in my head, which continued until it became an itching and then an aching.

Princess of Amathar – Malagor

Princess of AmatharIn the very first version of “Princess of Amathar”, Alexander was transported to the world of Ecos, where he met a family of Amatharians living in a homestead far away from Amathar. In that version of the story, the daughter of the family was captured by Zoasians, and Alexander set off to rescue her.

When I revised the story, I had Alexander first come into contact with a creature called a Malagor, who took him in and became his companion. In the final version of the story, Alexander and Malagor stumble upon a battle between Amatharians and Zoasians and see the Amatharian Princess (hence the title) captured, and must rescue her.

Malagor resembles a sort of cross between a wolf and a baboon. He is furry, rather stoop-shouldered, and has a long dewclaw upon his thumb. Malagor is the name of the species (in Amatharian), and as Alexander can’t pronounce his name, he calls his companion Malagor. The Malagor lived in a pragmatic pack-like society, with inter-species trade the main source of the economy, at least until they were killed by the Zoasians.

Princess of Amathar – Alexander Ashton

Princess of AmatharI really wanted “Princess of Amathar” to have that same feel that I enjoyed while reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books as a boy. Consequently, my hero Alexander Ashton owes a lot to John Carter. He is brave to the point of foolishness. He is smart enough to quickly learn a slew of new languages, but not usually bright enough to clue in on what’s going on right in front of him. He was named Alexander right from the start, to evoke Alexander the Great’s wreckless personal heroism, if not his drunken fits of rage, but he didn’t have a last name until I was well into the manuscript. A young lady I worked with at the time, had the last name Ashton, which just seemed to fit so well.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharAs I said this, I swung down. I knew that were we really engaged in battle, her sword would have glowed with power, and sliced through the mundane metal of my own, but for now, the soul was asleep, and we were on equal terms. Actually, I had an advantage of superior strength. She blocked my swing, but was unprepared for the added power, and it knocked her from her feet. Without hesitation, she swung toward my knees. I jumped up, and the blade passed harmlessly below me. The young knight rolled to her feet.

I could see by the half smile on her lips that she was enjoying herself. With a flick of her left wrist so quick that I almost didn’t see it, she whipped her short sword from its sheath and grasped it like a dagger. I chopped down with my blade in an attempt to catch her off balance, but she wasn’t off balance. She blocked my blow with the shorter blade and began to attack with the longer. Then she attacked with both swords, forcing me to defend, and I am sure, hoping to wear me down. Unable to attack for the moment, I began to leap quickly to either side, and then to the back, forcing her to chase me. I knew that it was I who would be able to wear her down first, and after several dozen parries, I could see in her eyes that she was coming to the same realization.

Here was the advantage I needed. I rained a series of blows at her head, then swung with power at her side. Like she had before, Vena Remontar spun around with her back to me and swung her sword, tip down, outward to meet mine. I expected to have a quick shot at her exposed back and left side, but even as she blocked my attack, she had with her left hand, driven her short sword straight back under her arm, and into my stomach.

“Umph!” I grunted in surprise. I expected that I had been cut through, but the tip of her sword merely pricked my skin.

Vena Remontar wiped the tiny drop of blood from her sword tip onto her tabard, then sheathed her sword. With the drawing of first blood, the contest was over.

“I’m satisfied,” she said. “I thought that perhaps Norar Remontar was being overly generous. But you are quite skilled.”

“Still, you defeated me,” I said, still holding a hand over my wound.

“It could have gone either way.”