Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed adventurer and story-teller is back, this time to put on a play about a sorceress. When the sorceress, subject of his play arrives with fire in her eyes, Eaglethorpe must pretend to be his good friend Ellwood. Will he pull off this charade and survive? And what happens when the real Ellwood shows up? One can never tell, especially when Eaglethorpe tells the story.

 

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress – Free at Smashwords – #Fantasy #Comedy https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4511

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess

Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed adventurer and story-teller, friend to those in need of a friend and guardian to those in need of a guardian. He is a liar and braggart, not to be trusted, especially around pies. Who are we to believe? Buxton himself leads us through his world as he comes to the aid of… a poor orphan? An elven princess? Who can guess with Eaglethorpe himself telling the tale?

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Free at Smashwords – #Fantasy #Comedy – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/2133

 

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 3 Excerpt

The Voyage of the MinotaurIt hadn’t always been so difficult to be a Zaeri. At times, in history, ancient history yes, it had been an advantage. Two thousand years ago, Zur had been a flowering ancient civilization, one of many, like Argrathia or Ballar or Donnata. Then a single dynasty of kings, culminating in Magnus the Great himself, had conquered the rest of the known world, and taken Zur civilization with them.   Then everyone was a Zaeri, or at least everyone looked like one. Zur architecture had become the dominant architecture. Zur dress had become the dominant dress. Zur custom had become the dominant custom. And yes, Zaeri, the Zur religion, with its belief in one god, had replaced the pagan religions of the civilizations that Magnus and his forebears had conquered. Even when Magnus’s empire had splintered into many successor kingdoms, the world had remained one where being a Zaeri meant that you were one of the elite.

Then a generation later, no, not even a generation after the restructuring of the empire, a Zaeri prophet named Kafira had begun teaching a strange variation of the religion in the land that had been, and would one day again be called, Xygia. Kafira had preached the importance of the afterlife, an adherence to a code of conduct that she said would lead one to this paradisiacal existence, and a general disregard for temporal affairs. The last of these three tenets of Kafira’s teaching had put her at odds with the Zaeri High Priests and the Xygian King, for supporting the priesthood and paying the King’s taxes were, for them, priorities. They taught her the error of her ways by giving her an ignoble death, crucifying her on the cross, thereby from Zeah’s point of view, turning her from the leader of an obscure sect into a martyr. She had then, again from Zeah’s point of view, been elevated by her followers from martyr to savior, as the events of her life and the miracles attributed to her, both before and after her death, formed the basis of a new religion. This religion spread quickly to engulf all that had been the Zur civilization. In the following millennia, the Kafirites had converted the remaining pagans to the creed of their holy Savior, thereby making it the only religion in the world of man—the only religion in the world of man, save those few ethnic Zur, like Zeah and his family, who held onto the ancient Zaeri belief.

“Yes,” he replied. “It is a Zaeri name.”

The Short Man nodded.

“How much is your withdrawal?”

“Twenty-five thousand marks.”

The Short Man raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. Several minutes later, Zeah had signed the appropriate forms and had left the bank, his pocket thick with fifty, five hundred mark banknotes—a small enough denomination to pay off Miss Dechantagne’s accounts, but large enough that it would be extremely difficult to make change should anyone try to do anything else other than pay off Miss Dechantagne’s accounts.

The head butler’s first stop was the shipping agent. Miss Dechantagne had been shipping a great many goods and supplies, as well as people, into the city in the past several weeks, and she would be shipping even more. The entire contents of the Dechantagne country estate, that portion which had not been sold, would be arriving in just a few days. The staff from the estate would arrive a few days later. Train tickets would also be needed for an entire company of soldiers as well.

Miss Dechantagne’s solicitor was the second stop. It would be he who would pay off the smaller bills—the telegraph office, the grocer, the baker, Café Carlo. The only individual store in which Zeah’s employer had garnered a debt large enough to warrant an individual visit by him was the dress shop. That would be his third stop. In fact, the bill here was larger than that of the shipping agent.

It was nearing sundown when Zeah made this third stop. Paying off Miss Dechantagne’s bill himself, rather than having the solicitor do so, was necessitated both by its amount and by his own need to purchase a gift for Yuah’s birthday. He carefully chose a white silk scarf with small yellow flowers around its finished seam for his daughter. He found a pair of white lace gloves that matched the scarf and purchased the pair as a gift for Yuah from the Dechantagnes. He knew the gloves would be the perfect gift in Miss Dechantagne’s eyes because they were just expensive enough to be beyond his own budget, so she wouldn’t feel miserly, which she considered beneath her. On the other hand, had they been any more expensive, she would have felt munificent with a servant, which she considered beneath her.

When Zeah stepped outside, it was already dark. The lamplighters were running slightly behind in their duties. Two of them were making their way up the street, one on either side, lighting the gas streetlights with their long-handled wicks. The trolleys were already shutting down for the night, so Zeah had to walk several blocks until he found a cab still on duty. This particular one was a shabby old carriage, with an unhappy and probably flea-bitten horse, not long for the glue factory, if his speed was any indication. The head butler gave orders to be taken to the docks, and sat back to ponder the fact that in the servant quarters at home at that exact moment, Yuah and the others would be finishing their evening meal and would be looking forward to one of Mrs. Colbshallow’s carefully crafted cakes.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The Voyage of the MinotaurIolanthe stood up and Father Kerrdon led her out of the room, down the spiral staircase, and back into the crossing between the two transepts of the church. She stopped and looked to see if the little girl in the brown linen dress and brown wool sweater was still kneeling in prayer, but the child was nowhere to be seen. Once again, she looked up at the great marble statue of the savior.

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” said the priest. “I’ve always thought it was the most beautiful recreation of the savior I’ve ever seen. One can see the pain, the hope, and even the forgiveness in that face.

“Still,” he continued. “I would be willing to wager that all of the likenesses carved in marble by Pallaton the Elder are beautiful. I have not seen them all of course, but he is reputed to be the greatest artist of his period.”

“Perhaps,” said Iolanthe, continuing on through the nave. “But I have always suspected that the savior was quite simply a very beautiful woman.”

Outside the double doors of the church, Iolanthe paused to let her eyes adjust to the brightness, hyperventilated once more, and then made her way quickly down the steps, around the corner, and back to her carriage. She noted that the steam coming from the release was much less than it had been, and with a sigh, opened the coal bin and retrieved the small shovel that was lying upon the supply of extra coal. Using the shovel to lift the firebox latch, so that she wouldn’t burn her gloves, she shoveled a dozen scoops of coal from the bin to the flame. She then used the shovel to close the firebox door, tossed the shovel back into the coal bin, and closed the coal bin door. She flipped the steam cock to the engaged position and climbed aboard the carriage. Looking at her blackened gloves with disgust, she peeled them off and tossed them unceremoniously under the carriage seat. Then opening the glove compartment, she pulled out replacements from among several pairs of gloves, a small stack of handkerchiefs and two loose shotgun shells.

Iolanthe released the brake and pressed down with her foot on the forward accelerator. The carriage slowly rolled forward. The steam built up, and soon the vehicle had returned to its former vigor. She tried to drive around the block of the Great Church of the Holy Savior, and get back onto the main road to return to the Old City, but the roads in this area did not seem to follow the normal grid pattern. And there seemed to be nowhere to turn around. After half an hour of trying to negotiate the unfathomable maze, she found herself at a dead end. She pulled the brake lever and sat trying to figure out at which turn she should have made a left, and how to get back to that point.

Suddenly a figure approached the left side of her carriage. It was a dirty man, wearing dirty clothes, with a dirty bald head, and a big dirty nose. He stepped in close to her and ran his eyes down the length of her form. Another similarly dressed man stepped up behind him.

“Well, this is nice, ain’t it?” said the second man. “We can have us a little fun.”

“Yeah, fun” said the first man, pulling a long, thin knife from his belt.

“Careful though,” said the second man. “She might have a little pistol in her handbag.”

“Does you have a little pistol in your handbag, dearie?” the first man asked. He casually waved the knife in his right hand, as he pawed at her ankle with his left. Then he stopped when he heard the sound of two hammers being cocked, and looked up into the twin twelve gauge barrels.

“I don’t carry a handbag,” said Iolanthe, pulling the shotgun to her shoulder. She pulled the first trigger, disintegrating the head of the first man, and sending a fountain of viscous remains over everything within twenty feet. The second man had no time to react before the second barrel was fired at him. He was far enough away however, that though he was killed, people who had known him would still be able to identify his body.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 1 Excerpt

The Voyage of the MinotaurThe soldier to the left, the one with the crimson brocade piping on his uniform, had a thick shock of light brown hair, and long sideburns. He had a slightly sleepy look on his face, half closed eyelids obscuring his light blue eyes. He leaned back in his chair, with one leg stretched out and the other crossed over it.

“I’m telling you, sister dear, we’ve made the right decision,” he said. “Birmisia is the promised land. There are riches there, just waiting for someone to go out and pick them up. No one is there yet. Mallontah is thriving, but it’s thousands of miles away. We’ll have to build our own infrastructure.”

“What do you know about infrastructure, Augie?” said the woman.

“I know you need it.”

The soldier to the right, the one with no crimson brocade piping on his uniform, was older, his darker brown hair showing the first bits of grey at the temples. He, like the woman, sat rigidly in his seat, though Senta doubted that in his case this was necessitated by a tightly laced and rigid corset. His features spoke of his family connection as well as the other soldier’s words had.   His dark blue eyes looked kind—kind but sad.

“So we aren’t considering Cartonia?” he asked.

“Cartonia was never a serious consideration,” the woman replied. “It was simply obfuscation.”

“Well, you had better be sure,” he said.

“I am sure. I’ve used every ounce of influence the family has, to set this up.”

“I’m sure too,” said the younger soldier. He and the woman both looked at their older brother.

“All right,” he said.

Senta didn’t hear any more of the conversation. She had moved far enough along, as she cleaned the wrought iron railing, that the conversations of other patrons, though to her mind far less interesting, obscured that of the woman and her two soldier brothers. There was also the noise of the street. So the eight year old girl continued scrubbing, now with nothing as exciting as the far away lands of Cartonia and Birmisia to occupy her. Soon enough she was finished cleaning the railing, and returned once again to the janitorial closet in the back of the building, where she exchanged her bucket of soot-filled water and scrub brush, for a clean cloth and a small jar of polish.

Her last job of the day was to polish the brass dragon at the entrance to Café Carlo. It was about three feet long, including its serpentine tail, and about four feet wide, its wings outstretched. It sat on a stone plinth, so that it could just about look Senta in the face. She didn’t know for sure, but it always seemed to her that the brass dragon was very old. She was sure that it had been sitting here in this very same spot long before Café Carlo was here. It might have even been here before the plaza. Maybe before the great city was even here. Senta polished the entire body, head, tail, and wings of the dragon, taking great care to get the creamy abstergent worked into every nook and cranny. Taking care of the dragon was by far her favorite part of her job. When she was done, she returned the supplies to the janitorial closet and went back around to the front to wait for Carlo. She was careful to stand in a corner, out of the way of any patrons, and clear of the path of the waitresses.

She had to wait several minutes for Carlo to notice her. He was busy delivering sandwiches to the two soldiers who sat with the woman in the white pinstriped dress. Not cucumber sandwiches on white bread. Their sandwiches were thick slices of dark bread, piled high with slab after slab of ham. This was no surprise to Senta. Soldiers were always hungry. She had seen them eating many times: the officers here at Café Carlo, and the common soldiers purchasing food from vendors near the park, or at the beanery in her own neighborhood. At last, Carlo noticed her and held out his hand to her, dropping her fourteen copper pfennigs for the week into her callused palm. They were small coins, with the profile of the King on the obverse side, and the front of a stately building, Senta didn’t know which building, on the reverse side. She stuffed the coins, a few fairly bright, but most well worn, into her pocket.

“See Gyula,” said Carlo.

A surprised Senta nodded and scurried back to the kitchen. This was an unexpected boon. Gyula was the junior of the two line cooks, which meant that he was the lowest ranked of the four people who prepared the food in the café. An order to see him was an indication that she was being rewarded with foodstuffs of some kind. When she entered the kitchen, Gyula looked up from his chopping and smiled. He was a young man, in his mid twenties, with a friendly round face, blond hair, and laughing eyes. He was chopping a very large pile of onions, and the fact that he had only his left hand to do it, seemed to hinder him not at all. When Gyula was a child, about the same age as Senta was now, he had worked in a textile mill, where his job was to stick his tiny arm into the gaps in the great machines and remove wads of textiles that had gummed up the works. In his case, as in many others, the restarting machine proved quicker than his reflexes, and snipped off his arm just below the elbow.

“Hey Senta!” said Gyula, setting down his knife and wiping his left hand on his white apron.

“Carlo sent me back.”

“Excellent,” said Gyula.

He became a one-handed whirlwind, as he carved several pieces of dark bread from a big loaf, and piled an inch of sliced ham, slathered with dark, brown mustard between them. He wrapped the great sandwich, which Senta happily noted was even bigger than those the soldiers had received, in wax paper. He likewise wrapped a monstrous dill pickle, and placed both in the center of a large, clean, red, plaid cloth; folding in the four corners, and tying them in a bow, to make a bindle. Gyula handed the package to Senta, smiling. When he had the opportunity, the young line cook favored Senta with great, heaping bounties of food, but he dared not do it without Carlo’s permission. It wouldn’t be easy for a one-armed man to find a job this good, and no one in his right mind, however kind-hearted and happy-go-lucky he was, would endanger it for a child he didn’t really even know.

“Thank you, Gyula,” said Senta, and grabbing the red, plaid bundle, scurried out the door and down the sidewalk.

Brechalon

BrechalonSenta and the Steel Dragon Book 0: Brechalon is the novella-length preview to The Voyage of the Minotaur, The Dark and Forbidding Land, The Drache Girl, and the other books which make up the Senta and the Steel Dragon series. Set two years before the events in The Voyage of the Minotaur, Brechalon tells the story of the Kingdom of Greater Brechalon in a world that is not quite like our own Victorian Age. The Dechantagne siblings; Iolanthe, Augie, and Terrence plan an expedition to a distant land, hoping the colony they build will restore their family to the position of wealth and power it once had. Meanwhile the powerful sorceress Zurfina rots in an anti-magic prison, guilty of not serving the interests of the kingdom, and the orphan girl Senta Bly lives her life without the knowledge that she will one day grow up to be the sorceress’s apprentice. Senta and the Steel Dragon is a tale of adventure in a world of rifles and steam power, where magic and dragons have not been forgotten.

Brechalon is available free at iBooks or B&N, or download it free from Smashwords by following this link.