Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Wherein I escape and lay my retribution upon my captors.

I pulled the boy out through the hole that I had created and into the deep snow that had formed in a drift beside the shack.  He almost disappeared, as he couldn’t have been more than four foot ten.

“Grab the back of my belt,” said I.  “I will guide you.  The first thing we must do is find my noble steed.”

“The stable is on the other side of the inn, just beyond the cart path.”

“Very good.  Come along.  I am sure that the noise of our escape was heard and any moment I may have to fight off a dozen or so angry villagers with pitchforks and such.”

“Do you have a weapon?” asked the boy.

“I have a knife in my boot, but I would be loath to stick it into a person over such a thing as this.”

“They deserve it,” said the boy, now trailing along behind me as I negotiated my way around the buildings in the gloomy night.  “If my father was here, he’d lay waste to this town.”

“Quite the fierce cobbler was he?”

“Um… yes.  Before he died…leaving me an orphan.”

I trudged through the snow, around the large building that I now knew was the inn, and crossed the cart path, distinguishable from the rest of the landscape by two parallel ruts in which the snow was not quite as deep as everywhere else.  I perceived no danger from any direction and indeed could still hear the voices of men and women singing in the inn.  The stable, which I would have recognized even without the orphan’s help, was dark and silent.  The pleasant aroma of horse dung enveloped me as the slight breeze turned in my direction.  I crept up to the large double door and pulled one side open slightly.

“Hysteria,” I called in a whisper and was answered by a gentle knicker, which is to say the sound that horses make when they are neither angry nor excited nor otherwise engaged.

Inside the stable was pitch black, and I cast around for a lantern, but the lad needed no such artifice.

“I see your horse in the last stall,” said he.

“You have very good night vision, orphan,” said I.

The little ragamuffin guided me by the hand to the far stall and by the time we arrived there I could make out the more prominent shapes, including that of Hysteria, which is to say my horse, who tossed her head in greeting.

“Poor girl,” said I, running my hands over her.  “They didn’t even bother to unsaddle you or remove your bit and bridle.”

“All the better for us and our escape,” said the boy.

I led Hysteria out of the stall, through the dark of the stable, and into the lesser dark of the night.  It was in fact, quite a good night for traveling, at least as far as light was concerned.  The moon was reflected off the white snow, and though the ghostly illumination created monsters of the many gaunt and gnarled trees, they were easily negotiated through.  This put me in mind of a number of similar nights, when the moon was shining upon the snow.  It seems somehow unfair that I more than most find myself sneaking in or out of town on cold, dark nights.  I am not one to complain about my lot in life though.  Then at that moment, as if to remind me that the lot of others was worse than my own, the boy tugged at my sleeve.

“What are you doing?” said he.

“I am pondering life,” I replied.

“Can you ponder life once we’ve made our escape from this wretched town?”

“Quite so,” said I, placing my foot in the stirrup.  Once I was in the saddle, I reached down for my charge.  “Come along orphan.”

“In some circles it might be considered rude to keep calling me an orphan,” he opined.

“Your parents are dead and so you are an orphan,” said I, lifting him up to sit behind me.  “If I call you something else, your parents will still be dead.”

“Even so,” he agreed.  “Let us get out of here.”

“Not until we make this town pay for its injustice and our indignities,” said I.

I spurred Hysteria forward, though truth be told I did not spur her precisely because I do not wear spurs.  Spurs seem unnecessarily mean and pointed and Hysteria is possessed of something of a fragile ego.  If one speaks harshly too her, she is likely to go into a mope for weeks on end, and jabbing her haunches or belly with pointy metal objects could send her into a serious downward spiral of depression.  It would be a sad thing to see.  So I encouraged her forward.  I urged her forward.  I coaxed her forward.  I asked her to go forward and she went forward, which now that I think about it, is the direction that she is usually most likely to go.

I guided her through the snow, across the cart path, and around the corner of the inn to the spot where upon I had first been laid hold of.  I fully expected that the pie I had originally seen would, by now, be gone.  As cold as the weather was, the pie would have gone from hot to warm to cool to quite cold in the time that I had spent escaping from the shack and rescuing my valiant steed, which is to say Hysteria.  I was not wrong.  The pie was gone.  But Ho!  There were now two new pies sitting on the very same window ledge.

Sitting astride Hysteria as I was, the pies were now at a level between my shoulder and my waist, and I could easily look inside the window.  A fat woman with red cheeks and red hair and wearing a white apron was rolling out dough with a rolling pin.  She was too busy to notice me.  That was not the case with the stout fellow who at that moment entered from the common room beyond.  He caught sight of me and let out a yell that could have, and in fact did, summon everyone in the place.  The sounds of singing stopped as others rushed to see the source of his consternation.

“Let this be a lesson to you not to waylay innocent travelers!” I shouted, scooping up the pies, one in each hand.  I urged Hysteria onward, but no doubt feeling the warm air exiting the window, she was loath to move.  The orphan fixed that by slapping her on the backside, her fragile ego notwithstanding.  She jumped and shot around to the front of the inn just as the gang of toughs from inside came out the front door.  They were just in time to watch us race off into the darkness with two warm and steamy pies.

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Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Wherein I become the sole guardian and protector of an orphan.

“I am not a pie thief,” said I, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the limited light of the little room.  “If anything, I am a procurer of pies to be paid for at a later time, which is to say an eater of pies on account.”

“I don’t judge you,” said the little voice from the dark corner.  “After all, am I not incarcerated for the same crime?  It may well have been the same pie that I attempted to steal earlier in the evening that you tried to…”

“Check for doneness,” I interrupted.

“Steal.”

“Taste test.”

“Steal.”

“Borrow.”

“Steal.”

“For someone who doesn’t judge, you seem quite judgmental to me,” I opined.  “And if self control did escape me for a moment, could I be blamed?  Here am I, a cold and weary traveler from a far land, cold to the bone and hungry.  And there sits a pie, and not just any pie, but a pie for the ages, sitting as if waiting especially for me, on the window ledge.”

“Mistress Gaston is an excellent piesmith.”

“I shall have to take your word for that,” said I, starting to make out the form of a child.  “And what is it they call you, lad?”

“I am called Galfrid.”

“Come out of the corner and let me have a look at you.”

“Promise me that you won’t hurt me,” said he.

“All the country knows the name of Eaglethorpe Buxton and it knows that he is not one to harm children or ladies, nor old people or the infirm.  Rather he is a friend to those who are in need of a friend and a protector to those who are in need of a protector and a guardian to those who are in need of a guardian.”

“So long as it is not a pie that needs guarding,” said he.

“Pies are something altogether unique.  Pies are special, which is to say they are wonderful, but not rare.  No, indeed they are common, but that does not make them worthless.  Quite the contrary.  Life is quite like a pie, at least in-so-much-as a life lived well is like a pie—warm and delicious on the inside with a protective crust on the outside.  There are places in the world where pies are worshiped.”

“No.”

“No what?”

“There is no place in the world where pies are worshipped.”

“That is not worshipped, but revered as one might revere the saints.”

“No.”

“Far to the east of here, in the city of Bertold, in the land of Holland, they revere pies.”

“No.  There is no city of Bertold in Holland and nowhere east of here do they revere pies.”

“You are a saucy child,” said I.  “And if they do not revere pies east of here, then I should not like to travel in that direction.”

“So are you implying that you are this Englethorpe Boxcar and that I therefore have nothing to fear from you?”

“Eaglethorpe, with an A instead of an N, and Buxton, with an X and a ton, and yes, I am he and you have nothing to fear.  Though to be sure there are plenty who would claim the name of Eaglethorpe Buxton, with and E not an N and an X and a ton, because greatness will ever have its imitators.”

“So you might well be an imposter,” said he.

“You may rest assured that I am not,” said I.

“But if you were an imposter, would you not insist that you were not an imposter?”

“You may be sure that I would.”

“Then how can I trust that you are the real Englethorpe Boxcar?”

“Just look at me!” I exclaimed, throwing my arms out and giving him a good look.

“Swear that you will not harm me,” said he.  “And furthermore, swear that you will be my protector and guardian until I can return to my home?”

“How far away do you live?”

“Not far.”

“I swear to be your protector and guardian until you reach your home, though it be on the far side of creation,” said I.  “Now come closer and let me get the measure of you.”

The lad crept forward until he stepped into a beam of moonlight shining through a space between the boards of the shack wall.  He was a slight little ragamuffin, with a build that suggested he had not eaten in some time.  He had a dirty face and wool cap pulled down to his eyes.  His clothes were dirty and torn, but I immediately noticed that his shoes while dirty, seemed too fine for a ragamuffin such as this.  I asked upon them.

“You see, Sir Boxcar, my parents were, um… cobblers… but they died, leaving me a destitute and lonely orphan child.  These shoes were the only things they left me.”

“May they rest in peace,” said I, whipping off my cap, which is only proper courtesy to offer, even if one is only offering it to an orphan.  “But on to the situation at hand.  I see that you are a sturdy boy, despite your condition.  Why did you not bust out of this shack?  It looks as though it would take no more than a couple of kicks.”

The lad stared at me with his mouth open, obviously chagrined that he had not thought of this means of escape himself.  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I am a sturdy… boy…. but I think you will find the shack is better built than it looks.  It is hammered together with iron nails.”

I turned and leveled a kick at the side wall through which crack I had but a moment before been peering.  One of the boards flew off, landing in the snow six or seven feet away and leaving an opening almost big enough for the boy to pass through.  I kicked a second board off the side of the structure and I was outside in a jiffy.  Turning around, I reached through to aid my companion’s escape.

“Come along, orphan,” said I.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter One

Chapter One: Wherein I do not steal a pie, but pay a price nonetheless.

There was a pie.  There was a pie cooling on the window ledge.  Steam was rising up into the frosty air, illuminated by the flickering candlelight coming from within the building.  Is there a more welcoming sight?  Is there a more welcoming sight for a traveler from a far land, trudging through the cold, dark forest on a cold, dark night, waist deep in snow, frozen to the bone, than the sight of a pie cooling on the window ledge with steam rising up into the frosty air?  You don’t have to wonder.  I can tell you.  There is no more welcoming sight than such a pie.  On this night there were sights and sounds and smells, all nearly as welcoming, and they were arrayed around this particular pie like the elements of a fine meal might be arrayed around a very nicely roasted chicken breast.  Candlelight flickering through the shutters casting shadows on the snow, smoke rising from the chimneys in a quaint small town, the smell of burning wood and the smell horses just overpowering the smell of pine, the sounds of men and women singing; all welcoming but not as welcoming as pie.  I was as happy to see that pie as I was to see the little town in which it cooled on the window ledge.

I should stop and introduce myself.  I am Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed world traveler and storyteller.  Of course you have heard of me, for my tales of the great heroes and their adventures have been repeated far and wide across the land.  Yes, I am sad to say that many of my stories have been told without the benefit of my name being attached to them.  This is unfortunate as my appellation, which is to say the name of Buxton and of Eaglethorpe would add a certain something to the verisimilitude of a story, which is to say the truthfulness or the believability of the story.  But such is the jealousy of other storytellers that they cannot bear to have my name overshadow theirs.  In truth I am probably better known in any case as an adventurer in my own right than as a teller of the adventures of others.  But in any case, there was a pie.

I had been traveling for days through the snowy forests of Brest, which of course one might associate with a nicely roasted breast of chicken, but that is not necessarily the case.  To be sure I have had one or two nicely roasted chickens during my travels in this dark, cold country, as I traveled from one little hamlet to the next.  I would say though that I’ve eaten far more mutton and beef stew than roasted chicken breast.  I suppose this has to do with the fact that eggs are dear, though I’ve seldom found an inn that didn’t offer a scrambled egg on porridge of morning.  In fact, in distant Aerithraine, where I was once privileged to spend a fortnight with the Queen, I have had some of the finest breast of chicken dinners that any man has ever enjoyed.  But notwithstanding this, there was a pie.

I had trudged through the snow for days, forced to lead my poor horse Hysteria who had taken lame with a stone, through drifts as high as my belt.  So I was cold and I was tired.  More than this though, I was hungry.  And above the smell of pine and frost and people and horses and smoke, there was the smell of that pie.  It smelled so very good.  It smelled of warmth and happiness and home and my dear old mother.  It was a pie for the ages.

I would not steal a pie.  I did not steal this pie.  Though I have been most unfairly accused of being a thief on one or two or sixteen occasions, I have never been convicted of such a heinous crime, except in Theen where the courts are most unfairly in control of the guilds, and in Breeria which is ruled by a tyrant, and one time in Aerithraine when the witnesses were all liars.  So as you can see, I am not one to steal a pie.  But being concerned that the pie might be getting too cold, I reached up to check the temperature.  It was at this moment that I was laid upon by at least two pairs of rough hands.

“This is a fine welcome for a stranger to your town,” said I.

They called me varlet and scoundrel and dastard and pie thief and tossed me bodily into the confines of a small shack just out behind the structure in which the pie had rested on the window ledge.  I looked around in the darkness.  It was not true darkness to be sure, because the shack was poorly put together, with wide gaps through which the cold and frosty air entered with impunity.  It struck me immediately that it would not be too hard work to bust out of this prison, but I waited and put my eye to one of the cracks to see if my attackers had left and to see if I could spot what they intended for Hysteria my valiant steed, which is to say my horse.

The two ruffians who had attacked me were making their way back to the front of the nearest building and just beyond them I could see one short fellow attempting to lead Hysteria away, though she tossed her head unhappily and pulled at the reigns.  I sighed, and could see the steam from my breath forming a little cloud just beyond the confines of the little shack.

“So,” said a small voice, and I turned to peer into the darkened corner of the shack.  “They have caught another pie thief.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Free

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 has revised and edited this manuscript for its tenth anniversary (two years early). Read and enjoy the ultimate edition of Eaglethorpe Buxton’s first adventure.

Download Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess free at Smashwords.

Staying Motivated

Staying motivated to write every day is hard.  There are some things that give a real boost to motivation.  Getting a message from someone who likes what you’ve done is a huge motivator.  Book sales is also a motivator.

Lately book sales have been down.  I start to think, “Have all the people who are ever going to want to read one of my books bought theirs already?  Are the sales of my next Robot book going to be limited to the 11,000 who bought the last one?

It’s self-defeating, but sometimes it’s hard not to think that, especially when you have to find time in between work and rest to write.  Last month was the worst month for book sales in ten years.  On the other hand this past July was one of the best.

How can you help me stay motivated?  Reach out and say, “Hi.”  Tell me what you’ve read that you liked and what you would like me to write next.  If you’ve enjoyed one of my books, pass it on.  Tell someone else to get a copy, or loan them yours.  I would rather have a new reader than a new book sale.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my bellyaching and thanks to all of you for your support.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 20 Excerpt

Sliding down a three thousand foot long rope from a point in midair provides a rush that I am sure only a skydiver could appreciate. Add to that, the pleasant sensation of being shot at, and the net effect is a feeling that even the largest of roller coasters could not inspire. It was a feeling however, that several thousand Amatharian soldiers were able to share with me, for that number of men and women were sliding down the ropes from the cruiser to assault the mountain prison of the Zoasians.

As soon as my boots hit the ground, I gathered my company of one hundred warriors and swordsmen together, and gave the orders to move toward our target. We covered the ground toward our assigned entrance, all around us, the smell of smoke and the sounds of bombing in the distance. We encountered no resistance until we reached the installation’s entrance, which was a great iron door. Part of my team was a pair of demolitions soldiers, who carried all they needed to penetrate the site. With several quite tiny explosive charges, they cut a rectangular opening through the door, which allowed us all to enter.

As soon as we moved into the dark hallway beyond the portal, we were set upon by a group of twenty or so Zoasians whose duty it was to protect the hallway. Though they shot down two of my soldiers and delayed us slightly, we quickly overpowered them and continued on our way. The interior of the installation was a great dark maze of wide but low corridors, with small rooms and vestibules scattered here and there. The lighting was poor, probably owing to a destroyed generator nearby. Though we encountered numerous reptile-men, most save those we had initially encountered, were in no mood to fight, instead intent on escaping the invading force.

We seemed to have gone through so much of the supposed prison, without seeing a single prisoner of any sort, or indeed of any barred cell or room, that I was beginning to suspect that the Amatharian commanders had been misled as to the nature of the place, when suddenly we came upon a barred door. Once the demolitions team eliminated the obstacle as easily as they had done before, we found ourselves in a great room.

The room was of brobdingnagian proportions, as large as any warehouse which I have ever seen. It resembled a zoo more than a prison or a jailhouse, for rather than cells placed into the walls, the room was filled with cages, each about twenty feet square and separated from one another by eight or ten foot walkways criss-crossing between them. The prisoners of this zoo had no shred of privacy, for their every action was visible from all four sides by their fellow inmates, as well as anyone who happened to be walking by their cell.

The place was like a zoo in another respect as well. Every occupied cell, and it seemed that very few were unoccupied, was the unhappy home to one of a huge variety of creatures. I was able to spot a few which housed beings of the same type, but there seemed to be scores of different species represented.

“Are these all sentient species?” I asked the swordsman at my elbow.

“I’m unfamiliar with most of these beings,” she replied, “but of the ones I do know, they are all intelligent peoples.”

“Break up the company into squads,” I ordered. “I want all of these cages opened, and the prisoners set free.” The word “squad” is something of a loose translation on my part, just as is the word “company”, but they seem the closest I can come to the Amatharian terms. An Amatharian squad designates a group of eight or ten warriors led by a swordsman, and a company is nine or ten such squads led by a knight.

The prison was of such great size, that it seemed hours before even ten squads of Amatharian soldiers were able to open all the pens. Many of the alien prisoners made a hasty retreat, glad for the chance to escape their confinement. A few stayed in their cells, apparently unable to accept the fact that they were now free. Some, particularly those who had previous contact with Amatharians, and who knew the Amatharian language, chose to follow our company. Finally, among the prisoners were two Amatharians, a man and a woman, who were brought to me.

“What are your names, and how did you come to be prisoners of the Zoasians?” I asked them.

They looked at me inquiringly for a moment, obviously never having seen an Amatharian of my complexion before, and then described their ordeal. They had been part of a mapping expedition and had been captured by the snake-men. They were not part of the group we were attempting to rescue. The man introduced himself as Senjar Orsovan of the Earth Clan, and then introduced the woman, who seemed incapable of speech, as his sister Shenee Orsovan. The two of them were the sad specimens, obviously the victims of mistreatment by the Zoasians, and seemed even worse than they probably were because until now every Amatharian I had seen was in the keenest physical condition.