Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 4 Excerpt

When we were not two hundred yards down the road, I let Hysteria drop to a trot, for in truth I did not expect anyone to follow us into the night, daring wild animals, bandits, or hobgoblins regardless of how fine a piesmith Mistress Gaston was reported to be. A few hundred yards beyond that, my horse dropped of her own accord to a walk and I expect she was beginning to feel a bit mopey because of the slap the orphan had dealt her. At that moment I was less interested in her mental condition than my own physical one though, because I was holding a cast pie pan in each hand and they were both heavy and still quite warm.

“Here.” I turned in the saddle and handed one pie to the orphan. “We can eat while we ride. If we wait until we find a campsite, the pies will be cold.”

“Do you have a fork?” the boy asked.

I mused that this seemed an unlikely request from any boy, most of whom I have found uninterested in tableware on the best occasion, and especially from an orphan whom one might have supposed to have been forced by necessity to dig into all manner of food scraps with his hands. However it was not a question to which I needed reply in the negative, for I always carry my fork in the inner left breast pocket of my coat, which I call my fork pocket. I gave the orphan my fork and pulled my knife from my boot to use on the remaining pie.

“This is a very nice fork,” said the orphan.

“Of course it is,” said I. “That fork came from the table of the Queen of Aerithraine herself.”

“You stole this fork from a Queen?”

“Impudent whelp!” cried I. “That fine fork was a gift from the queen, with whom I once had the pleasure of spending a fortnight.”

“What kind of queen gives a man a fork?”

“A kind and gracious one.”

That apparently satisfied the boy’s curiosity for the moment and for the next few minutes we concentrated upon the pies. I am not one to mourn a lost pie and that is well, for the pie that was lost to me on that night, as I have previously mentioned, was a pie for the ages. A fine pie. A beautiful pie. A wonderful pie. This new pie was almost as good though. It was a crabapple pie, which was a common pie to come upon in winter in those parts, which is to say Brest, as cooks used the crabapples they had put up the previous fall. This pie was an uncommonly good pie, with nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves and butter. I had more than a few bites by the time the boy spoke again.

“What kind of pie is that?”

“Crabapple,” I replied. “What pie do you have?”

“It is a meat pie.”

“A meat pie,” I mused, as I thought back upon how long it had been since I had eaten any other meat than venison. I had eaten a sausage a week before, but it had been a fortnight and half again since I had eaten mutton stew with potatoes and black bread in Hammlintown. That had been a fine stew and the serving wench who brought it to me had been nice and plump with the top two buttons of her blouse undone and she had smiled quite fetchingly when she had set down the tray. Stew is a wonderful food and even when it is not served by a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone. It always seems to give me the same feeling when I eat it that a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone gives me when I see her.

“What are you doing now?” asked the orphan.

“Pondering stew,” said I.

“Well stop it. Rather ponder this instead. You eat half of your crabapple pie and I will eat half of my meat pie. Then we can trade and eat the other halves of each others pies.”

“All right,” I agreed. “But this will mean that I have to eat my dessert first and my supper after.”

“Just pretend that the meat pie is your dessert and the crabapple pie is your supper.”

“A crabapple pie could be a fine supper. In fact I have been to countries where the most common part of a supper is crabapple pie.”

“Fine then.”

“But a meat pie is in no country a dessert.”

“Then trade me now.”

“How much have you eaten?” I asked.

“About a fourth. How much have you eaten?”

“About a fifth.”

“Then eat another twentieth,” said he. “Then we will trade pies and each eat two thirds of what remains and then trade them back. At that point, we will each eat what remains of the pie we originally started with. That way you can think of the first portion of the crabapple pie as an appetizer, the portion you eat of the meat pie as your supper, and the final portion of the crabapple pie as your dessert.”

“You are a fine mathematician for an orphan,” said I. “But it suits me. Will it not bother you that your appetizer and your dessert are of meat pie and your supper is of crabapple pie?”

“I have decided that I will make this sacrifice,” said he. “Since it was you that provided the meal.”

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The Dragon’s Choice – available for Pre-Order

The Dragon’s Choice will drop on December 29th, 2017.  You should see pre-order availability in your favorite ebook stores soon.

The dragons seemingly have returned to the world and are once again in vying for power. Bessemer the steel dragon is worshipped by the reptilian lizzies, while the evil Voindrazius tries to put together a pantheon that he will control. Zoantheria, the coral dragon, feels pulled in all directions. Wanted both by Bessemer and Voindrazius, she is called to a world she has never known, her mistress, the sorceress Senta Bly encouraging her to take up the mantle of goddess. Her heart, however, is pulling her in a different direction, toward the young viscount Augustus Dechantagne. Which will prove stronger– love or destiny? Both Senta and Augie have their own problems, hers with teaching her wayward eponymous daughter the ways of magic, and him dealing with the yoke of leadership and a headstrong mother. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the Dechantagne girls are taking Brech City by storm. Will one of them land a prince?

Pre-order for the Kindle at Amazon.

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger leaned over the ship’s railing and stared down into the dark blue water. He wasn’t the only one. Dozens of other passengers on the S.S. Waif des Vaterlands were lined up to watch as half a dozen giant turtles, each larger than a kitchen table swam along apparently oblivious to the steel vessel chugging past them. They were large, but not nearly as amazing as the writer had expected, having heard for years legends of the monsters to be found in Mallon.

After leaving his employment with Herr Fuhrmann, Wissinger had taken the train from Butzbach to Friedaport, where he had worked on the docks until he had enough accumulated wealth to book passage, steerage class, to Mallontah. This had taken him several months, but at last he had set sail. Now, he had been on the ship for forty-five days. His daily meals consisted of porridge in the morning, a piece dried tack for lunch, and for supper a soup made of beans and rancid pork. It was infinitely better that his diet in the ghetto had been.

“Herr Holdern?”

It took Wissinger a moment to remember that he was Herr Holdern.

“Yes?”

He turned to find a greasy looking little man standing behind him. He didn’t recall seeing him before, and after a month and a half at sea, that was remarkable in and of itself.

“Do I know you?”

“I do not think so, but I know some Holderns. Do you come from Boxstein?”

“No,” replied Wissinger.

“Do you have relatives there perhaps?”

“Not that I know of. You know how it is. People move all around and lose touch. You meet someone with the same last name and they may or may not be related. My people come from Bad Syke, but who knows?”

“What is it you did in Bad Syke?”

“Oh, I’m not from Bad Syke. I still have cousins living there, I think. I grew up in Wahlstedt.”

“And what did you do there then?”

“Teamster.”

“A teamster?” said the greasy fellow. “I took you for a scholar.”

“I doubt you get calluses like this reading books,” said Wissinger, holding up his palms. “Why, I try to stay as far away from schools and books as possible.”

“I see.”

“But it is pleasant to meet you, Mister…”

“Spinne. Adolf Spinne.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Herr Spinne. Maybe we can talk again before we make port.”

“Perhaps,” said Spinne with an oily smile.

Wissinger turned and made his way through the portal and down several sets of stairs to his berth. His was one of twenty-five bunks stacked five high in the relatively small cabin. Most of his roommates slept at night, so he tried to spend as much time as possible outside at night, instead taking in a long morning and afternoon nap. He climbed into his bed, second from the top and pulled the sleeping curtains closed around him. He could hear the sounds of a woman moaning in passion close by. She was in the same room, but in one of the other bunk stacks. This wasn’t all that unusual. People grabbed what comfort and satisfaction they could, and there were very few places to find any real privacy on a ship as crammed as this one.

“Sweet music isn’t it?” said a husky voice near his head.

Before he could respond, the curtain surrounding him was pulled aside to reveal Zurfina’s face, framed in a shock of blond hair. She climbed up into the bed on top of him. There was no room to lie side by side even had that been her intention. He was surprised though not unhappy to find that she was completely naked, and let out a deep sigh as she rubbed herself up and down his entire length.

“Missed me?”

“Yes indeed.”

She kissed him deeply, letting her tongue explore every part of his mouth.

“Have you been true to me?” she asked as she kissed his neck and reached down to unfasten his pants.

“Yes,” he said, then sighed again as she freed him from his trousers. “Um, have you been true to me?”

She stopped and looked guiltily up at him, then shrugged.

“When you get to Birmisia, if you want, I’ll be true to you then,” she said, “for a while.”

“Oh, Lord help me, at this moment I really don’t care.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 3

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.

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Senta and Hero stepped through the great gate in the emergency wall just in time to see a fireball shoot across the square and crash into the second and third floors of Finkler’s Bakery. Patrons ran screaming from the ground floor as the upper floors took to flame.

“You stupid cow!” shouted Senta. “Why would you cast a fireball in the middle of town?”

“Oh my!” said Hero, when she saw who Senta was talking to.

Another Senta was standing in the square in front of them. This one was wearing a red dress. Hero thought she looked older than the Senta standing beside her, but then realized it was simply that she was a bit heavier.

“You stay out of this,” said the red-dressed Senta. “You take care of your business and I’ll take care of mine.”

“I don’t recall burning down the town as being part of anyone’s business,” replied leather-clad Senta.

She grabbed a glamour from the air next to her. It was one she had kept ever since Mayor Korlann’s house had burnt down. She pointed her hand and the air around the burning building was flooded with carbon dioxide, smothering the fire.

“I’m just sending a little message,” said the other Senta. “Look. Now you’ve let them get away.”

“Let who get away?”

“Graham and that girl he’s running around with.”

“He what now?” Senta looked at Hero, who shrugged. “Whatever’s going on, you have no business trying to kill Graham.”

“I’m not going to kill him. Only maim him a little bit.”

“Obviously the first thing I need to do is to get rid of you,” said Senta, waving her hands. “Teiius uuthanum.”

“Uuthanum,” said the other Senta, countering the spell. “You’ve got to be kidding. No copy is going to out-magic me. Uuthanum Teigor.”

“I thought she was the copy,” said Hero.

“Prestus uuthanum. She is the copy. Go stand out of the way. Ariana uuthanum sembor!”

A sticky mass of spider webs enveloped the red-dressed Senta. She struggled for a moment, falling to the ground. By the time she managed to dispel the webs, the leather-clad Senta had cast a charm spell on her. Stepping over, she looked down at the image of herself lying almost helpless on the ground.

“If you touch me, you’ll see,” said the prone sorceress, in a sing-song voice. “I’m the real Senta. You’ll just cease to exist.”

“Let’s see then,” said Senta, reaching down and touching a perfect copy of her own nose.

The red dress seemed to deflate as the Senta who had been wearing it dissolved and flowed up and into the hand of the standing sorceress.

“Nice,” said Senta, standing up. “A new dress. I was wondering how that was going to work out.”

“I should have known you were the source of the trouble,” said Saba Colbshallow.

He looked sternly at Senta from beneath his police helmet, his blue uniform, with the exception of the sergeant stripes, a match for those of the two constables that followed on his heels.

“I didn’t…” Senta started. “But she… Oh, bloody hell.”

“Come along with me to the station,” said Saba. “We’ll get all the details down in a report. But I can tell you right now that someone is going to be held responsible for the damage.”

The top floors of the bakery had been saved from the fire, but there was plenty of scorching on the outside walls and no one would be too surprised if some of the supports had to be replaced.

“Fine,” said Senta, and then turning to Hero. “See if Mrs. Bratihn can get this dress cleaned. Tell her I’ll come around for a fitting.”

Back on Track – This time it’s for real!

I mentioned the other day that my computer desk was lost (destroyed) during our re-carpeting adventure.  This wasn’t unexpected, as it had been a second hand desk and had been taken apart and put back together more than it was structurally capable of being.  Well, I got my new desk last night and quickly set it up.  Now I’m ready to get back to really doing some writing.  Here is a quick look at my new work space.  You will note the two external hard drives on the left.  I am obsessive about backing up.  These two drives alternate backing up my system every hour.  In addition, I back up my writing to an online location.