Brechalon – My Own Review

Brechalon (New Cover)I’ve been reading Senta and the Steel Dragon and have been doing a bit of editing and revising of the same as I go along.  I’ve had a change of opinion about some of these books.  I had the image of what I was thinking as I wrote them as my main view.  Now that I have a bit of time between writing and reading, I think I have a bit more perspective on them.  Here is a quick review of my own book.

When I wrote Brechalon, I was not overly happy with it.  It was designed to be a bit of extra to go along with The Voyage of the Minotaur.  Now I see it more favorably.  There isn’t a lot of plot in this book– no great events or adventures.  But there is a great deal of back story.  There is also a lot of set up for The Voyage of the Minotaur, so much so, that I really wouldn’t recommend reading it without reading Brechalon first.

The book follows the characters of Senta, Iolanthe, Terrence, Zurfina, Zeah, Yuah, and Augie, as they go about their lives.  Angie is arguably in the most adventuresome story, as he is in Birmisia, dealing with dinosaurs and lizzies.  Senta is still a kid.  Iolanthe is plotting and planning.  Yeah is pining for Terrence.  Zeah is being Zeah.  In all of their cases, the book is mostly characterization.  The characters with real plot are Terrence as he descends into drug abuse, and Zurfina who attempts to get out of prison.

I enjoyed this book, but then, why wouldn’t I?  I wrote it.  If you don’t trust me, check it out on your own.  It’s available free wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Magic Battles: Brechalon

Brechalon (New Cover)Zurfina had her ticket on the B511 out of Brech to Flander on the southern coast, where she had already arranged to meet a boat that would take her to a ship bound for Mirsanna. There was no way that she could stay in Brechalon any longer. The government had refused to accept her independence. They would have her join the military or they would see her destroyed. They had already sent a dozen wizards and two sorcerers against her. But Zurfina was the greatest practitioner of sorcery in the Kingdom and was more than a match for any wizard.

A man in a brown suit stepped out from behind a pillar. To the other people in the station, he seemed nothing out of the ordinary, but to Zurfina he glowed bright yellow and was surrounded by a sparkling halo. She didn’t wait for him to cast a spell. She pointed her hand toward him and spat out an incantation.

“Intior uuthanum err.”

Immediately the man doubled over, wracked with uncontrollable cackling laughter. But before Zurfina could smile appreciatively, she was thrown from her feet as the world around her exploded in flames. She had been hit in the back by a fireball, and only the fact that she had previously shielded herself prevented her from becoming a human candle, as four or five innocent bystanders around her now did. Rolling to her feet and turning around, she found that she faced not one, but four wizards. The one who had evidently cast the fireball was preparing another spell, while the other three were casting their own. Her shield protected her from the lightning bolt, and the attempt to charm her, but one of the four magic missiles hit her, burning her shoulder as though it had been dipped in lava.

“Uuthanum uastus corakathum paj—Prestus Uuthanum.” Zurfina ducked into a side alcove as one of the wizards turned to stone and her own shield was replenished. Several more magical bolts struck the stone wall across from her, creating small burnt holes. Peering quickly around the corner, she saw the four wizards just where she left them, the three trying to use their petrified comrade as cover. Looking in the other direction, she saw that the wizard cursed with laughter had recovered and he had been joined by two more.

Seven wizards—well, six. That was a lot of magical firepower. But then Zurfina looked across the station platform. Directly opposite her was the open door of a train; not the B511, but a train bound for somewhere else. If she could reach it, she could get away. She glanced quickly around the corner again. The smell of burnt bodies mixed with thick black smoke in the air, but though there was plenty of the former, there was not enough of the latter for Zurfina’s taste.

“Uuthanum,” she said, and a thick fog began to fill the station platform.

“Maiius uuthanum nejor paj.” The three wizards to her right suddenly faced a dog the size of a draft horse, snarling and foaming at the mouth, and they felt their spells were better aimed at it than any blond sorceress.

Turning to her left, Zurfina cast another spell. “Uuthanum uastus carakathum nit.”

The cement that formed the other end of the platform turned to mud. The petrified wizard, deprived of his secure foundation toppled over onto one of his comrades, crushing him, while the other two struggled to pull themselves from the muck. Zurfina shot out of the alcove and ran toward the train. She had almost made it, when Wizard Bassington stepped into the open doorway in front of her.

She stopped right there in the open, unbalanced, unsure now whether to run left or right or back the way that she had come. She felt uncomfortably like an animal caught on the road in the headlamps of an oncoming steam carriage. Bassington didn’t move. He stared at her with his beady eyes. His eyes went wide though when Zurfina reached up to snatch something out of the air. Normal, non-magical people couldn’t see them, but he could—the glamours that orbited her head were spells cast earlier, awaiting the moment when she needed them.

She crushed the glamour and pointed her hand at the spot where Bassington stood, just as he dived away. The entryway where the wizard had been, and the passenger coaches on either side of him exploded, lifting much of the train up off the track as metal and wood shrapnel and human body parts flew in every direction. The flash knocked Zurfina herself back onto the cement and sent her sliding across the pavement and into the far wall. Before she could get up, she was hit with a dozen bolts of magical fire, some but not all of them deflected by her magic shield. It was a spell of weakening, followed by one of sleep though that finally dropped her head unconscious to the ground. The last thing she saw was Bassington’s hobnail boots walking toward her.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)Yuah stood in the courtyard, idly staring up at the eclipse, and totally unaware that she was being watched from a window on the third floor. Terrence watched her, appraising her in a way that he didn’t bother appraising other women. There was no doubt that she was beautiful. She wore no makeup, had her hair pulled back into a bun wrapped by a maid’s cap, and she wore a simple servant’s dress with minimal bustle and almost no color. And yet she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. There was no doubt about that. Iolanthe was thought to be a great beauty and with her flawless skin and those striking aquamarine eyes, she was something special. Yuah’s chocolate brown eyes had a tenderness and an innocence in them though that one would never find in his sister’s, and Yuah’s features were perfect. She could have been one of those women that the great sculptors of old used as a model. She was just the right height and she was well proportioned. So what if she was a bit skinny.

Yuah was almost perfect. But Terrence didn’t want an almost perfect woman. He had thrown away any chance at a wife and a family and a home. That was not going to be his future. His future was far away, in another time and another place, on a great field of purple flowers with a woman who was frighteningly perfect. He turned away from the window and climbed back into bed, pulling the box filled with small blue vials from beneath the pillow.

 

* * * * *

 

A large square of sunlight filled the center of the cell floor, and sprawled naked in the center of that square, was Zurfina. She lifted her head up just enough to look around and then she slammed it back against the stone floor. Then she lifted it up and slammed it back down again: once, twice, three times, till there was a bloody spot on the floor and a bloody contusion on her forehead. The walls of the cell had all returned to their original stone texture. Not even the arcane bloody scrawling remained.

Schwarztogrube really was proof against magic. She had summoned the most ancient magic in the universe, a feat only possible because of the eclipse, and had used it to release the dead demon-gods that waited beyond the edge of sanity. But even they had not been able to completely pierce the veil. All of that magic was still not enough. Without the power of the eclipse, it was not enough, and the eclipse had not lasted long enough. And it would be a long time before the next full eclipse over Schwarztogrube.

“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days!” Zurfina wailed. “Kafira’s bloody twat!”

She looked up at the ceiling as if she could see the sky beyond it and dared the Zaeri-Kafirite God and his crucified daughter to strike her dead. Could even his magic penetrate this magic-proof hell? Prove it!

 

* * * * *

 

“Is it over?” asked Senta.

“Yup.” Maro stood up from the pinhole camera that he had made to watch the eclipse, in actuality nothing but a small pasteboard box with a hole cut in the side. Shining in through the tiny hole, the image of the sun had been visible on the back side, and as the moon had moved across the sun, the small white orb in the box had been covered and then uncovered.

“That was pretty ace, wasn’t it?”

“I guess so,” said Senta. “I wish we could have watched the real thing.”

“You’d be blinded.”

“Yeah. I’m glad you were able to make it with only eight fingers.”

Maro nodded and looked at the three remaining fingers on his right hand.

“Maybe someday you’ll be really rich and you can pay a wizard to regrow your fingers for you,” offered Senta.

“Maybe I’ll get so used to having eight fingers I won’t want my other ones back. I bet pretty soon I’ll be able to do my eight times as good as you can do your tens.”

“What’s seven times eight?”

“Fifty six.”

“Is that right?”

“Yup.”

“Wow.” Senta looked impressed and she was. “What are we doing now?”

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m going to play Mirsannan cricket at the park. You can’t go because you’re a girl.”

“Then I’m going to the toy store and buy a doll.”

“You don’t have enough money to buy a doll.”

“Uh-huh. For pretend.”

“Yeah, alright.”

“You know when you said my mom didn’t want me?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t understand it.”

“What?”

“Well, look at me. I’m just cute.”

 

* * * * *

 

“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days,” Zurfina told herself. “I’ll be old. Well, I’ll be older.”

The sorceress was already far older than she appeared. Thanks to magic used long ago, her body was much younger than it should have been. But it was aging now. Here in this place where magic had no hold, it was aging. In eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days, she would most surely begin to look old—not as old as her true age, but old. Too old. She would have no youth, just as now she had no magic. She couldn’t wait eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days. She had to get out. But she couldn’t use magic. What could she use? What did she have?

She had her youth… for now. She had her beauty… for now. She had this body, this body that men wanted… for now. She had to use what she had.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Two

Brechalon (New Cover)“So can you see the eclipse?”

“Sure. It’s ace,” said Saba, standing in the courtyard. Then he turned and saw who was speaking and flinched.

“Would you like to take a look, Miss?” he asked, offering Iolanthe the magic glass pane.

Taking the almost opaque square, she held it up to her eye and pointed her face toward the sky.

“Interesting. It looks like a halo.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it does look like a halo, um… Miss.”

“It doesn’t feel like a halo, though, does it?”

“Miss?”

“Look at it again,” she said, handing back the magic glass. “This time, tell me what you feel.”

The boy looked again and suddenly shuddered. When he looked back at her, his face was accusing. She had made him aware of something he hadn’t noticed before. There was something evil about the eclipse, and though he had looked forward to the event since he had first heard about it from his mother, now all he wanted was the return of the sun in its full glory.

 

* * * * *

 

The thing on the other side of the membrane between two worlds tested it once again, and a moment later it burst through. It was long, thick tentacle, necrotic grey and covered with suction cups. It searched along the stone floor of the cell, tentatively at first. Then it touched the sorceress sitting naked and chanting and suddenly it shook and thrashed throughout the chamber.

“No!” shouted Nils Chapman and he jumped in front of Zurfina. The tentacle found him and wrapped around his waist.

“No!” he cried again, and then it yanked him so violently that the snapping of his neck was clearly audible, as it pulled him beyond the shimmering veil.

Suddenly the room was filled with a hundred tentacles, touching every inch of the cell, caressing the woman like a demonic lover. She slowly rose to her feet, the tips of the alien appendages touching every inch of her skin.

“Uuathanum eetarri blechtore maiius uusteros vadia jonai corakathum nit.”

A black fog poured into the cell from all four walls. It filled up the tiny chamber and sprayed through the openings in the door, creeping down the corridors of the prison and into every room and every cell, every nook and every alcove.

 

* * * * *

 

“How is it?”

“It was ace,” replied Saba. “Now I just want the sun to come back.”

“Don’t be like that.” Yuah stepped down the stairs from the back door and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Let me take a look.”

Saba held the square of magic glass up and Yuah pressed her eye to it, leaning back to find the sun. “There. The sun’s starting to move out from behind the moon. In a few minutes everything will be just like it was before.”

“Good.”

“You shouldn’t let Miss D ruin your fun. She’s a right bitch, you know.”

“No, she’s not.”

“She is.”

“Well, it’s not her fault.”

“What do you mean?” asked Yuah.

“Nothing. Here. Do you want this?” Saba pushed the magic glass into her hands and started up the stairs into the house.

 

* * * * *

 

Zurfina smiled as the dead grey tentacles caressed her.

“Now I will leave and now I will lay my vengeance on this stony prison and this little kingdom and this world.” She raised her arms and began her final incantation. “Uuthanum…”

At that moment a thin streak of light entered from the small window high up on the wall. It was so tiny that it might have gone totally unnoticed, had it not stuck the first and largest of the grey arms moving around the cell. But the tiny sliver of sunlight burned through the tentacle like a hot ember through a slice of bread. The great tentacle jerked and thrashed about the room and the other appendages did too, one of them striking the woman and throwing her halfway across the floor. More sunlight entered through the window and all of the unearthly, unholy members were yanked back through the portals that shimmered where the walls of the cell had once been.

“No! No, I’m not finished!” screamed Zurfina.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part One

Brechalon (New Cover)“What do you have there?” asked Zeah.

“It’s magic glass,” replied Saba, holding up a small square of very dark but very shiny material.

“This conversation sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Did you trade your magic beans to get this magic glass?”

“Don’t be silly Mr. Korlann. I didn’t have any magic beans and this cost me 75P.”

“Good heavens. Why would you pay 75 pfennigs for that?”

“For the eclipse.”

“Eclipse?”

“Sure. There’s an eclipse today. Almost a full one. If we were in the channel it would be full. It would get dark in the middle of the day.”

“Oh yes, yes. It was in the paper. I imagine it will be spectacular enough right here in Brech City. But what is the glass for?”

“Haven’t you ever heard that you shouldn’t stare at an eclipse because you’ll go blind?”

“Of course.”

“I can’t tell you how much that has worried me since I found that out,” said Saba. “I’m always afraid that I might accidentally look at the sun and it would be just my luck that there was an eclipse going on right then and I would go blind.”

“Well, first off, there’s nothing special about an eclipse that is worse on your eyes. Stare at the sun anytime, eclipse or no, and you risk damage to your…”

“Anyway,” the boy interrupted. “I got this glass so I can watch the eclipse. You can stare at it all day through this and not get blinded. Can’t see a bloody thing through it now though.” He tried to look at the head butler through the small pane held to his right eye.

“Let’s hope it really works,” said Zeah skeptically. “I trust you bought it from a reputable dealer.”

“Sure. I got it at the potion shop on Avenue Phoenix. They’re selling loads of them. If it doesn’t work, they’ll be hip deep in angry blind people.”

 

* * * * *

 

“It’s almost time now, Pet,” said Zurfina looking at the sun, through the tiny window high up on the wall.

Nils Chapman was crawling on his knees next to her. Shaking and twitching uncontrollably, he no longer had the ability to stand on his own. This didn’t bother him because he no longer had the ability to think on his own either. He crawled along on all fours drooling like a dog to the center of the cell.

Zurfina peeled off the filthy rags that had been her only clothing since she had been brought to this hellhole one thousand nine hundred eighty-four days before. She tossed them aside and sat down cross-legged in the center of the cell. Chapman pressed against her, but she pushed him away. Closing her eyes, she began to chant.

“Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum.” She repeated the word over and over again. Twenty times. A hundred times. Slowly the room became darker and darker. She continued to chant. The eclipse was at his height.

Chapman screamed. Zurfina opened her eyes and smiled. The four walls were walls no more. They were shining, rippling, silvery surfaces like the surface of frighteningly cold and deep water. Sounds could be heard from the other side—freakish, awful piping noises that tugged at one’s sanity. Then the surface directly in front of her bubbled and churned, touched by something on the other side of that boundary between the cell and the abyss beyond.

“Yes!” Zurfina screamed. Then she began reciting a new set of words. “Uuathanum eetarri. Uuthanum eetarri. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum maiius.”

First Work vs. Prequel

Brechalon (New Cover)I struggle with whether to tell people to read Breachalon (Book 0 in Senta and the Steel Dragon) before or after reading books 1-5.  Brechalon is an actual prequel.  It is book 0 in the series, but I didn’t write it until I had already written books 1, 3, and 5.  Therefore I had to think very carefully about what I wanted to reveal.  Some of the plot points from book 0 are surprises that happen later in the series.  Other elements have more impact if the reader has read the rest of the series before reading book 0.

An example of the former is Zurfina in prison.  In the rest of the books, we don’t hear about Zurfina being imprisoned until book 5 nearing the end of the original series.  It explains a great deal about her character, but not revealing it until book 5 made it a huge revelation.  By revealing it in book 0, it detracts from that a bit, even though I like the story line with her in prison in Brechalon.

An example of the latter is Zurfina’s nickname for Senta.  Beginning in book 1 and right through the entire series, Zurfina seldom if ever refers to Senta by her name.  Instead, she calls her “Pet.”  It seems on the surface a sweet nickname for your child and it stands in the face of some of Zurfina’s careless actions as far as child-rearing goes.  You can say, well, you know she loves Senta.  She calls her Pet.  Then in book 0, you find Zurfina calling Chapman the same name– this a man she has no feelings for and actually plans to destroy and maybe use as a sacrifice.  It kind of has a chilling effect when you then hear her giving this eight-year-old child the same nickname.

Brechalon – Chapter Seven Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)“I make a hundred and fifty feet,” said Lieutenant Arthur McTeague, without taking his eyes from the binoculars.

“Decrease elevation two degrees,” called Lieutenant Augie Dechantagne.

“Ready!” called Corporal Worthy from the centermost 105mm howitzer.

“Fire!” There was a long pause and then a distant explosion.

“Oops. You’re long,” said McTeague. “I mean, longer.”

“Kafira damn it!” yelled Augie. “I said decrease elevation! Decrease!”

“Sorry sir! Ready sir!”

“Fire!”

“On target,” said McTeague, after the wait.

“Lay down a pattern of fire!” The five guns began rapidly firing, only to be immediately reloaded and fired again.

McTeague lowered his binoculars and pulled his earplugs from his pocket. Stuffing them into his ears, he walked over to stand next to Augie.

“Why are we shelling this village again?”

“I didn’t ask,” Augie replied.

“Do you suppose they’re going to counter-attack?”

“It’s not my job to worry about it. It’s theirs.” Augie pointed to the line of Royal Marines, their red coats and white pith helmets clearly visible halfway between the guns and the lizzie village that was rapidly becoming a flaming hell.

“Well, I suppose they needed to be taught a lesson. Put the fear of God and his Majesty into them.”

“This will certainly teach them something,” said Augie.

 

* * * * *

 

“It says here that the remaining robber will be moved to Herinnering Gaol as soon as he is ready to leave hospital,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, her face buried in the morning paper. “And Miss D is being considered for a Citizen’s Safety Award.”

“It’s considered safe to shoot two people now, is it?” It was Merriman, the main floor butler. “If I’d shot two men, I’d be in prison. She shoots two men and they give her a bloody medal.”

“Best not to think things like that,” said Zeah.

“Especially out loud,” added Yuah.

“It’s you, Yuah, that she usually wants to shoot,” said Barrymore, the upstairs butler, grinning.

“She can’t shoot me. She couldn’t live without me.”

“Don’t get cheeky,” said Zeah. “I had to hire four new ones this week.”

“Well, it’s not as if these men didn’t deserve to get shot,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “Imagine trying to rob someone in broad daylight. We need more police, that’s what we need.”

“I’m going to be a copper in a few years,” said Saba, walking in from the front hallway and sitting down.

“No you aren’t,” his mother informed him. “I would be forever worrying. It’s far too dangerous for any child of mine.”

Saba didn’t reply to his mother or point out that he was the only child of hers. He just scooped up large mounds of fried eggs, white pudding, and sausages. Mrs. Colbshallow went back to commenting on the news, particularly how information of the coming eclipse did not belong in the weather section. With Saba’s addition there were eleven people eating breakfast in the servant’s hall at that moment, a good portion of the staff having already eaten and started on their morning duties, and those few who had the overnight shift had mostly already gone to bed. Marna, one of the last of the latter group came in from the side hallway, looking like she could fall asleep on her feet at any moment.

“Yuah, Master Terrence wants to see you,” she said.

“I’m not interested.”

“I’m just the messenger.”

Yuah turned to look at Marna, and saw Terrence standing in the hallway several paces behind her.

“I’m not his valet.” With careful precision, she lifted her chin into the air and turned back to the table. “I’m the dressing maid.”

A minute later, under the guise of reaching for a scone, she cast a sideways look at the spot where he had been standing to find that he was now gone.

 

* * * * *

 

Karl Drury was a shadow of his former self—literally. As far as anyone knew, he still made his rounds through the fortress of Schwarztogrube, he still hurled insults at almost everyone, and he still stuffed his ugly face in the mess hall. If he beat some of the prisoners less than he used to or abused the boys less than he used to, who was going to complain about that? The only one who seemed bothered by Drury these days was Nils Chapman. He began to shake every time Drury entered the room and he refused to look at him. But Chapman knew what nobody else did. That was not really Karl Drury. The real Karl Drury was dead. He had dropped the sadistic guard’s body into the ocean himself. Of course Nils Chapman was a shadow of his former self too—figuratively. His eyes had gone dull and his skin was pale. He didn’t sleep anymore and he could hardly eat.

“One thousand nine hundred eighty-three days,” he muttered to himself over and over again, from his spot, curled up in a ball in the corner of the cell.

“Don’t worry, Pet.” Zurfina reached down and stroked his hair. “It’s almost over. This time tomorrow we’ll both be gone.”

Chapman grabbed hold of her leg and held it close as he kept his eyes pressed tightly shut. He couldn’t bear to see the walls, all four of which were covered in ghastly markings of smeared blood, and all four of which pulsed and throbbed sickeningly.