Monthly Archives: May 2015
Posted by Will
I am honestly quite proud of the author interviews we’ve done on this site, because they’re much more like conversations, the Q and the A are just formalities when things get really good. I’m very pleased indeed to welcome back Karin Gastreich this week, whose cycle of works in the world of High Maga is in audio as well as print. Karin and I had a marvelous chat about audiobooks the last time she was here. If that was a cozy tea-party, this one might be more of a mud-pie fight because the subject is a theme that figures highly in the novel, Women in War.
As an ancient history teacher by trade, the demographics of any preindustrial society with women in the battle lines always troubled me. I drooled over Red Sonja in the comics as much as the next barely-pubescent male, though of course part of the point was that she was, ahm, exceptional. But as much as I like to rant about the whole ten-women-one-man versus the reverse thing, Karin was quick to point out that war sometimes leaves no escape whether soldier or civilian. Think about the consequences of war in your world’s history– sure, it’s all on the line NOW, but how has it been in the past? And were women a part of it? Lend us a minute, I found Karin’s answers most interesting and I think you will too.
Q: You’ve written before about the effect of war on women, along with all those caught in the war-zone. Is the world of High Maga one where civilians are commonly threatened? Is no one safe, no place respected? Or have your current crop of villains just stepped it up a notch, and broken with previous customs in this war?
A: We live under a modern myth that with sufficient technology, civilians can be spared during warfare, but I’d say the bulk of the evidence suggests otherwise. Civilians are always at risk in a war zone, and this was especially true in medieval times. High Maga is firmly grounded in a medieval-style world, so yes, no one is safe when war breaks out. For the most part, it doesn’t matter how noble or villainous the current rulers are.
Q: I agree, there’s always risk to civilians in war, especially after defeat in ancient times. I find more exceptions in history than you did! But no question you have strong female characters on both sides of right here. Are they fighters, though? Are there strictures against women taking up big edged weapons and getting close enough to cause trouble? Or is soldiering an equal-opportunity field in your world?
A: Oddly enough, of the novels in this trilogy High Maga is the one most steeped in war, and yet no women adept at weaponry appear. This is in part an artifact of history and circumstance. I do have women fighters in the first book, Eolyn, and they will return for the third book, Daughter of Aithne.
Women and weaponry have a complicated history in Eolyn’s world. Mainstream society is fairly misogynistic, and there are strong cultural barriers to women taking up the sword. The subculture of the magas, however, is different. Before Eolyn was born, there was a centuries-long tradition of maga warriors. Like their male counterparts, the mage warriors, these women considered themselves spiritual descendants of Caradoc, a legendary figure who was the first to use magic on the battlefield.
Now, not all magas are swordswomen, and many magas – including Eolyn’s tutor Ghemena – are firmly opposed to the use of magic in war. Still, throughout history, the maga warriors have played an important part in the military might of Moisehén. They were well respected and feared by many, and they served the kingdom faithfully.
Q: Right, so we seem to be looking at battle-mages; a man or woman can be on the battlefield if they wield spells, and such a soldier might also use weapons. But otherwise, women are pressured not to fight, is that right?
A: That’s correct, but again, this wasn’t always the case. A generation or so before Eolyn was born, the maga warriors were still a strong force in Moisehén. Then they rose up in rebellion against Kedehen, their King. They objected to Kedehen assuming the crown because as a prince he had studied magic, defying a centuries-old prohibition against members of the royal family learning the craft.
Incensed by Kedehen’s decision to claim the throne, the magas rebelled. Kedehen, as you can imagine, chose to defend his inheritance. A brutal civil war followed, and Kedehen emerged victorious. Concerned about future uprisings, he promptly forbade all women from practicing magic or taking up weaponry. The kingdom was purged of women practitioners. During this period Eolyn’s own mother, who was a maga warrior, was burned at the stake.
For reasons developed in my first novel, Kedehen’s son Akmael eventually lifts the prohibition on women practicing magic. However, the new Mage King upholds the laws against women learning weaponry, as a matter of public safety.
I suppose I should point out that the use of magic in battle kind of changes the playing field. You might consider it akin to the advent of firearms in modern warfare, which some would argue has made the military much more accessible to women. Victory no longer depends on being able to physically hack your opponent apart. The maga warriors are physically adept at fighting, but what gives them the edge against some of their brawnier opponents are all those magic tricks, such as being able to sear your opponent with flame, shapeshift into a tiger, cast curses that enhance fear, and so forth.
Q: You mean there’s no referee to call foul? Oh right, it’s war… so is Eolyn, your main heroine, going to be a woman warrior?
A: I can’t answer that question, Will. It’d be a spoiler!
I will say that Eolyn is ambivalent toward the idea of the maga warrior. She strongly believes all women should be free to practice magic, but her own experience and upbringing have given her a rather conflictive relationship with the sword. Magic, from her perspective, should not be used in warfare. Indeed, if it were up to Eolyn, everyone, mages and magas alike, would lay down their weapons and live in peace. Unfortunately, this is not the way of the world that Eolyn lives in. Whether or not she wields a sword, war will come for her. When it does, Eolyn must find a way to defend herself. Will her magic be enough? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Q: I can see that Rishona is a summoner, a mage of sorts. Is it just as common for her to cast spells or summon daemons as a man? Or is this a case of only women having the special ability?
A: In Eolyn’s world, you don’t need to be a woman to summon demons. All you need is willingness and determination to use your magic toward this end.
Q: But is she a warrior-mage? Is it typical to summon demons to do your fighting?
A: So, first I should point out that in this world “mage” and “maga” refer to a very specific tradition of magic with unique origins in the Kingdom of Moisehén. Rishona did not grow up in Moisehén and was never trained in this craft. She does have an unusual brand of magic based on her heritage. Her mother was a Syrnte princess, her father a prince of Moisehén. As a result, Rishona is spiritually linked to both traditions. This is important because in the world of High Maga, magic has a cultural context.
The mages and magas of Moisehén draw their power from the earth and practice a craft grounded in knowledge of the natural world. They have no faith in prophecy or fortune telling. The Syrnte draw their power from the air. They cannot shapeshift, but they do have the ability to perceive time differently. Prophecy is second nature to them. They can hear thoughts of other individuals, even see the world through their eyes. Unlike the nobility of Moisehén, Syrnte royalty has, for pretty much all of history, embraced magic and used it with impunity to serve their ambitions. Rishona’s uncle, Prince Mechnes, is a master at using Syrnte sight to control everyone around him.
Q: So not to put too fine a point on it, Rishona can, and I assume she does. But does what, exactly?
A: Rishona’s connection to past, present, and future is coupled with a heightened awareness of other worlds. She is able to “hear” the voices of the Underworld and make contact with the Naether Demons. She has some sympathy for the plight of the Naether Demons (as do I), and it’s not entirely evil on her part to want to bring them back. But in doing so, Rishona unleashes a dark magic that proves a little beyond her ability to control.
Oh! I almost forgot – Rishona does know how to wield a sword.
Q: Hah, small detail! Penalty box for you, now cough up the details, who let her get away with it.
A: She was trained by Mechnes, who took on the project when she was a little girl, more out of a sense of fatherly indulgence than from any real conviction that a woman can or should fight. Rishona acquired some skill and even respect in the training ring, but she’s never actually been in battle. Nor is Mechnes interested in having her fight; and since he makes all the tactical decisions, it is very unlikely Rishona will ever ride into battle. From Mechnes’s point of view, Rishona’s greatest value is in her ability to summon Naether Demons. This gives him a new and very formidable weapon against the Mage King. Oh, and Rishona has a claim to the throne of Moisehén as well, superior to Akmael’s by some accounts. This serves as a convenient excuse for Mechnes to embark upon the conquest in the first place.
Q: So he’ll be taking one potential woman warrior-mage with him, and the heroine awaits with her own decision to make. Fabulous! Thanks for the fascinating explanations, Karin, you really showed how something as crucial as the active participation of women in war has to be considered in light of history and culture. And magic of course! Fabulous talking with you as always. Here’s to the great success of High Maga, and hopefully a nice manhole cover to drop on Mechnes soon.
HIGH MAGA http://edition
Karin Rita Gastreich (author)
Darla Middlebrook (narrator)
Sisters in magic, Eolyn and Adiana seek to revive a craft once forbidden to women. When war strikes at the heart of the kingdom, their fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
In hopes of defending her people, Eolyn tries to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. Trapped by the invading army, Adiana is taken prisoner and placed at the mercy of the ruthless Prince Mechnes.
Even as their world is torn asunder, Eolyn and Adiana cling to a common dream. Courage and perseverance guide them toward a future where the Daughters of Aithne will flourish in a world set free from the violence of men.
“War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst.” –Publishers Weekly
Amazon (audio book): http://www.amazon.com/High-Maga/dp/B00QMQLA3W/
About the Author:
KARIN RITA GASTREICH writes tales of ordinary women and the extraordinary paths they choose. Inspired by a lifetime of exploring lush forests and breathtaking landscapes, Karin’s stories blend elements of epic fantasy, historical fiction, and romance. The worlds she creates are a strange amalgamation of medieval Europe and colonial Central America, with misty forests, vast savannas, and steamy jungles. They are populated by brave heroines, noble heroes, and twisted villains. From ancient woodlands to uncharted seas, readers will experience gripping battle scenes, heart wrenching loss, hard-won triumphs, and the ultimate magic of love. Karin’s fantasy novels Eolyn and High Maga are available from Hadley Rille Books. Her short stories have appeared in Zahir, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and World Jumping. She runs an on-line discussion forum about women in genre fiction at Heroines of Fantasy. Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at krgastreich.com.
Author web links:
Karin’s web site: http://krgastreich.com
Heroines of Fantasy: http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com
About the Narrator:
Darla’s voice is a versatile instrument used with skill. It is a voice filled with intelligence and warmth. Her sound can range from mature to youthful female, and she can also produce convincing male timbres. Narrative is presented in a conversational, down to earth, matter-of-fact manner and also displays a broad emotional range across a large repertoire of characters (female, male, young, old and “creature”). All of that while still conveying a sense of wonder when telling the story.
With experience of 34+ years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, more than 20 years as a stage & film actor and over 20 years as a trained singer with knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the voice and speech, Darla Middlebrook brings a wealth of experience to bear to develop character voices (male, female, mature, extremely elderly, creepy, bright exotic, etc) with an impressive emotional range.
Currently, Darla is one of many voice actors who narrate podcasts for AIRS-LA (an audio internet service for individuals with visual challenges) in addition to narrating audio books.
Narrator Web Links:
Don’t Miss a Chance at Great Loot from the High Maga Series!
Posted by Debbie Mumford
I’d like to introduce you to Dani Erickson, a normal teenage girl with a not-so-normal heritage. I’ll be posting Dani’s initial story, DEMON DAZE, in six installments to be posted on Mondays of every other week until the story is complete. I hope you enjoy meeting Dani and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
A SHIVER OF ANTICIPATION raced along my spine as Allie and I ducked inside the fortune-teller’s tent. My parents didn’t approve of psychic nonsense, but they’d allowed me to come to the carnival with Allie’s family as a pre-birthday treat. The even bigger treat? Not a single one of my older brothers was tailing me. If the Erickson boys were at the carnival, they were enjoying their own night out, not watching over their baby sister.
Turning fourteen had its advantages!
The inside of the tent lived up to all my expectations. A thick Turkish rug covered the brittle, brown August grass and swags of colorful silk festooned the sidewalls and ceiling, ropes of twinkling LED lights camouflaged within the folds. A small table draped in blood-red velvet sat in the center of the small enclosure. A single intricately carved high-backed chair occupied the far side, while two folding chairs waited for us.
Allie glanced at me as if seeking reassurance. The corners of her lips curved in a timid smile and her eyes widened. “Are you sure we want to do this?”
I grabbed her hand and pulled her to the folding chairs. “This was your idea, remember? We’re here. We’re not backing out.” I plopped onto a chair and waited. Allie lit on the very edge of hers, muscles tensed for flight.
A figure disengaged from the draping silk and approached the carved chair.
“I am Madame Simone. Welcome to my den of enlightenment. This place is hallowed, serving as a threshold to the great beyond.”
The olive-skinned woman was swathed from head to toe in a rainbow of silk. Small golden discs dangled from her headdress, gracing her forehead and calling attention to dark, liquid eyes. She studied my best friend for a moment and then turned her attention to me.
“You have come at an auspicious moment,” she said, and lowered herself gracefully into the high-backed chair. Leaning forward, she placed long-fingered hands upon the velvet tablecloth. “Tell me what you seek.”
Allie uttered a nervous squeak and huddled back in her chair, moving as far from the fortune-teller as possible without jumping and running.
I glanced at Allie and then faced the psychic. “Aren’t you supposed to tell us what we need to know?” I don’t like people intimidating my friends.
“What you need to know,” the woman murmured, holding my gaze and refusing to allow my escape. “Are you sure you’re ready for that? Wouldn’t you rather I told you silly tidbits about boys and kisses and who to dance with at homecoming?”
I straightened my shoulders, but didn’t look away. Her sarcastic tone bugged me. Allie and I might be young, but we were paying for this woman’s time.
“Look, just do your thing, okay? We paid for a reading, so read.”
Madame Simone’s smile could’ve frozen Boulder Reservoir. “As you wish.” She inclined her head, breaking our eye-lock, and turned to Allie, “Your hand, my dear.”
Allie placed her right hand in Madame Simone’s left and shuddered slightly when the woman traced the lines in Allie’s palm with a perfectly manicured nail.
“I see a long life if you sever your relationship with dangerous friends,” the psychic said, spearing me with a pointed glance. “You will dance on the stage to the acclaim of millions. Beware the company of demons.”
Allie snatched her hand back the moment Madame Simone released it and cradled it to her chest.
The fortune-teller cocked an eyebrow at me and held out her hand.
Time slowed. My heart thumped wildly, but the air had thickened, making it hard to breathe. Something moved just beyond my peripheral vision, and a desperate desire to flee seized my soul.
And then the moment passed and everything snapped back to normal. I sat in a stuffy little tent with too many silk drapes and a middle-aged woman who looked at me expectantly.
“Sure. Whatever.” I placed my hand in hers…and a jolt like electricity convinced me I’d made a huge mistake. My hand jerked reflexively, but she held on tight and smiled an enigmatic little grin.
“As I suspected,” she murmured, drawing her index finger along my palm and studying the lines like they spelled minuscule words. “You are the seventh … the child of a seventh … and you stand at the cusp.”
She closed her eyes and held my hand open between both of hers. A sharp intake of breath and her eyes widened and sought mine. Fear glazed her eyes.
“Tomorrow a great burden will descend upon you. Have a care lest it crush you…and all who care for you.”
With that happy thought she released my hand, sprang from her chair and melted back into the shadows.
“That’s it?” I yelled after her. “Whatever happened to you’re going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger?”
Anger mixed with a heavy helping of fear and roiled in my stomach. I wanted to hit someone. Instead, I grabbed Allie’s hand and the two of us sprinted from the tent.
“What a load of …”
“Hush, Dani,” Allie said, glancing over her shoulder. “Let’s go find my folks.”
I huffed, but allowed my pretty little ballerina of a buddy to drag me into the throng of people wandering the midway. Alejandra Chavez had been my best friend since preschool. She was everything I’d ever wanted to be; everything my whole family still hoped I’d become. Dainty, graceful, feminine to the core, Allie was a lady, in all the best senses of the word. She played the piano with finesse and danced like a rose petal on a summer breeze. Of course, grace came more easily to her five-feet-two-inch frame than it did to my towering five-feet-ten-inches. At least, that’s how I consoled myself. Whatever my talents were, I’d yet to discover them. I just kind of bobbed along in Allie’s wake, never quite measuring up to her shining example.
She pulled to a stop when we spotted her parents tossing rings over bottles at a nearby booth. “Okay. Listen, we don’t want to upset Mom and Dad, so let’s pretend we never went in that psycho’s tent.”
I inhaled lungfuls of crisp night air, doing my best to calm my breathing and make my sprinting heart slow to a peaceful crawl. Alarmed parents would only ensure a quick trip home. Besides, there were still plenty of rides and games to explore that didn’t involve weird middle-aged women wrapped in silk.
“Gotcha.” I nodded. “Everything is peachy. We’re having a grand time.”
Allie stared at me, a small frown creasing her flawless brow. “Are you alright, Dani? She didn’t scare you, did she?”
“Of course not,” I scoffed, wishing my stomach agreed. “Tomorrow’s my birthday. What kind of great burden hits someone on her fourteenth birthday? I mean, it’s not like I’m turning sixteen and Dad’s gonna give me a car I could crash. Get real.”
Allie smiled a knowing little smile, one that said she saw right through my bravado. She patted my arm and said, “I knew you’d be okay with it. Let’s see if we can help Dad win that stuffed tiger for Mom.”
I grinned and we joined Mr. and Mrs. Chavez, but I had to force myself not to turn around and study the crowd. Someone was watching us. I could feel their focus … and my skin tingled in response.
Thanks for reading! Part 2 will be posted on 6/1/15.
Posted by Cat-Gerlach
I’m hijacking this week. Originally, Peter meant to post something about his progress, his kidneys, and the rest of the universe, but I thought you might be interested that Will Hahn’s final volume of Judgement’s Tale, Clash of Wills, is now available for sale as an eBook. The print book will follow soon, and the second print book bundle (containing volume 3&4) will come out by the end of the month.
About the Book:
As the heavenly portents align, a mystic portal to the Hopeward opens again, letting a few goodly souls enter the prison where a comrade was marooned and evil beyond measure has laid a trap. For the heroes, it is not enough to uncover danger—wit and skill can carry them to its presence, but resolve and sacrifice are needed to defeat it. If it can be defeated. The challenge is often to choose one wrong over another, to accept the consequences when only the one prize most dear can be saved.
Treaman and his adventuring party discover just how quickly fame and fortune evaporate, once back in the clutches of the Percentalion; three miserable refugees of that chaos-cursed land will die unless the star-gazing preacher Alaetar can beat back the monsters at their heels.
And Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, faces an undead thane of ancient times; he must decide whether the only friends he has ever found will live, or if the Lands will again suffer the curse of Despair when facing the… [i]Clash of Wills[/i]
You can get it on Amazon. Other retailers will follow.
Posted by Sue
This is the last episode of A Singular Inheritance. Previous episodes are in the three preceeding posts on this site.
A Singular Inheritance
by Sue Santore
“It’s me,” Brina called to them, holding her hands in the air. “Brina.”
To her dismay, the guards grabbed her roughly and hauled her onto the walkway so abruptly she stumbled. Conall thrust his massive body between her and the nearest guard and lifted his lips in a dangerous snarl. The guard dropped her arms and backed away, holding his spear in a protective stance toward Conall.
Before he could plunge his spear into Conall, Brina said, “Would you slay Lord Kemble’s favorite hunter?”
The man hesitated and the watch leader came running out onto the walkway and barked a brief command at the guards. They sullenly backed away and gestured to Brina to proceed before them.
She took a few deep breaths to quiet her pounding heart, raised her head high, and walked regally up the log walkway into the crannog, ignoring the spears of the guards. She would not be intimidated by these guards. She would not be intimidated by the high druid. She was needed here. Why? She still did not know. She still could not FutureSee as well as Shylah. Conall refused to walk onto the causeway until the guards followed Brina. He trailed along behind them, his soft growls letting them know that he was watching them.
As Brina approached her family dwelling, Lord Kemble, came out and stood before the door, his arms folded across his chest, a stern frown on his face. As she came near, she could see her mother standing in the shadows behind her father. Then the high druid came rushing out of his dwelling and swiftly approached them.
Before her father could open his mouth to scold her, the faint beating of drums echoed down the road from the west. Lord Kemble’s attention turned from Brina and he shouted instructions to his men. More guards came running and men spilled out of doorways, holding spears and other weapons. The drum beats grew louder and chanting voices floated over the water. The armed men lined up along the protective log walls, at the ready. As the voices grew nearer, the drums rolled once, twice, then a rhythm beat out.
As he listened to the drum message, Lord Kemble shouted, “My son. My son returns.” With long strides, he started for the walkway. Brina raced after him with Conall at her heels. That was Gavin’s personal drum message. Gavin was home! Her father’s first son, his favorite son, and her favorite brother.
In the excitement of the returning heir, Brina’s scolding and punishment were temporarily forgotten. Lord Kemble called for a celebration and feasting to begin that very night. He drew his son into his arms and took him back to the family dwelling, while Gavin’s men scattered to visit their own families. Conall thumped down outside the doorway of their dwelling and refused to be led off to be penned with the other dogs.
Inside their family quarters, Gavin’s eyes met Brina’s and he gave her a sweet smile. She could see he had changed. He had lost his restless, searching energy and had a calmness about him that soothed. Even Mother was glad to see Gavin returned to them and she gave rapid orders to the servants and slaves to prepare a special meal for their evening repast.
Forgotten for now, Brina moved to her small sleeping compartment only to meet her older sister, Bretta, coming from the compartment.
“You!” Bretta twitched her garments aside to keep them from brushing against Brina. “Why have you returned? You will not take my place!” She snarled the words at Brina.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Brina replied. “You know I couldn’t take your place in our parent’s eyes.”
“I’m talking about the high druid. You were a fool to run from him and stay away. Now he wants me.”
“You’re going to be his apprentice?” Brina sucked in her breath. Even though Bretta hated her, she couldn’t wish that fate on her older sister.
“No, fool, I’m going to be his wife.” Bretta tossed her head and smoothed down the cloth over her hips. “I’ll be the most respected woman in the clan, higher than even Mother.”
Brina could only stare at her sister in disbelief, nausea building in her. “No!” She burst out, “You mustn’t do that!”
“I knew you’d be jealous. He wants me now,” Bretta said proudly. “You lost your chance when you ran away.”
“Are you moonstruck? I wouldn’t marry the high druid if he were the last man on this crannog.” Brina could not believe her sister could be so blind to the aura that surrounded the druid.
“More fool, you.” Bretta lifted her chin and brushed by Brina.
Brina was filled with fear for her sister and regret that she would never listen to her reasons not to marry the high druid. Not only did his presence make her skin crawl, but there were rumors about the high druid and women who disappeared in the night. But surely, if the high druid was going through the bride ceremony, Bretta should be safe enough, as safe as she could be living with the evil entity that dwelled within this druid. Brina shuddered and entered the sleeping compartment
It was filled with Bretta’s personal things. Where could she rest while staying with her family? Would she be able to sleep with Bretta’s hateful presence next to her? She sat on the sleeping furs and drew her knees up to her chin. Resting her cheek on her knees, she closed her eyes and breathed slowly, calming herself. She remembered the unusual calmness emanating from Gavin. She reached out with a thread of thought and sought Gavin’s presence. She found him with her father. Gavin was telling of his adventures. She touched Gavin’s aura. So peaceful, so contented. Where had he found this?
She must have dozed off, with her early morning rising and long walk tiring her body to exhaustion. She was awakened by Bretta rudely shaking her. “Time to eat.”
Brina shook the sleep from her head and rose swiftly to her feet. Without speaking, the sisters walked to the main room and took their places on the mats around the low table to partake in the family meal hastily prepared by their servants. Torches burned in their holders around the room to push away the coming of night. Brina shivered inside as she saw the high druid sitting opposite from her father. Bretta sat next to him, preening and full of her own importance. Brina felt his foul magic probing at her, trying to penetrate her mind, but her shield was firmly in place. Then she began to listen to Gavin’s conversation with their father.
It was all Colum Cille this and Colum Cille that. Brina was delighted to hear more stories about this new druid. Shylah’s stories were limited and all old ones. Gavin had met the new holy man who followed the one God. He had followed with him for many weeks and had many stories to tell. A commoner’s only cow was dying. Colum Cille restored it to health with one touch. A monster beneath the waters of a lake was taking villagers until Colum Cille banished it with his words, “Think not to go further, nor touch the man. Quick! Go back!” and invoked the name of his God. One of his followers was weeping over the death of his child when Colum Cille commanded the child to rise and he came back to life. Gavin even reported he, with his own eyes, had seen Colum Cille walk across a lake without sinking below the water.
Brina found it really hard to believe one man could do all those magical things, but she was fascinated by Gavin’s stories. Obviously, he believed them even as some around the table scoffed. She ignored the unbelieving comments and enjoyed listening to her brother talk, until she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced toward the high druid. The depth of hate in his eyes against her brother shocked Brina, but as she thought on it, she realized that this new type of druid Gavin was reporting about was a major threat to the high druid. She had seen their druid do some powerful magic, but never had he raised one from the dead or walked on water. When the high druid began to speak, she grew fearful for her brother.
The druid faced the end of the table. “Lord Kemble, I see your son has been contaminated by his association with this man who worships one God. We know our gods are many, and they have been good enough for us for all our lives and the lives of our fathers and their fathers.” Then he turned to Gavin, “This man is false and worships a false god. He has tricked you into believing he can do these magics. No one can bring the dead back to life.”
“Colum Cille can and he did,” Gavin said firmly. “I believe his God is real.”
“No!” The druid shoved back his uneaten bowl of food. “You are mistaken. You must leave this man behind you and forget him. I will perform a cleansing ceremony to purify you from these thoughts. It will be held tomorrow.” He turned back to Lord Kemble. “You must delay the celebration and feasting until after your son is purified. If he cannot be purified, he must be put to death. Otherwise the gods will be angry with us at his blasphemy.”
A cold dread settled into Brina at the words of the druid and she looked quickly to her father. What would his answer be? Would he allow his beloved elder son to be put to death? Why did she even wonder at his answer? She knew he deferred to the druid in all religious matters.
A heavy frown creased the brow of Lord Kemble. “Is there no other way?”
“If he is too besmirched to be purified, then the law is clear. He must be put to death,” The Druid stated again.
His hatred seethed beneath the surface of his words and spell binding was underlaying his focus on Lord Kemble. Brina could feel the slimy tangles of his dark magic threading through the room, touching the family members around the table and branching out to the servants. Was this how he kept control of their village and directed all their lives when he wished something to come to pass? He had always repulsed her, but she had never been able to feel the workings of his dark magic before her month of working to hone her own power. The foul tangles slipped off of her shield and hovered before Gavin. In a split second she extended her shield to cover him and the foulness that filled the room could not touch Gavin.
Gavin gave a steady look to his father, then to the druid. “I am not contaminated by Colum Cille. I will not consent to your ceremony.” He started to stand up.
“So be it.” The druid made a quick motion with his hand and Gavin fell back down on the floor, unmoving. Brina cried out, “Gavin!” Before she could move the druid made another motion and his guards at the door came forward. They picked up the motionless Gavin and, under the direction of the druid, carried him out of the door. The druid followed.
Brina jumped to her feet and cried at her father. “How could you let the druid take Gavin! He has done no wrong!”
“How would you be able to judge after what you’ve done?” Bretta said. Her eyes were slitted and her mouth contorted. She snarled at Brina. “The druid always knows best. We must not anger the gods.”
“I have done nothing wrong,” Brina protested. “The druid is not always right. He is a bad man!”
Gasps came from around the room.
“That will be enough!” Lord Kemble rose to his feet and towered over Brina. “You have much to answer for, running away and refusing to return with the high druid and his men. Now you even question his authority. You will return to your sleeping quarters and stay there until I send for you.”
Brina stepped back. “No, my lord, I won’t.”
“Ungrateful child,” muttered her mother as she placed her arm around Bretta’s shoulders. “At least I have one daughter who pleases me.”
The remark stabbed Brina’s heart, even though she knew she had never pleased her mother, no matter how hard she had tried, and she never would.
She turned, walked out of her family dwelling, and paced after the druid’s men who were carrying Gavin. Night had fallen and the torches set along the path only lit up a few feet on either side of them. The tramping feet of her father’s guards followed her. She turned toward them and muttered a freezing charm. They stopped in their tracks, eyes wide with fear. Then Brina followed her brother’s limp body as the druid had him carried into his own dwelling.
She stopped just outside the dwelling and a chill went up her spine. The open doorway reeked of dark magic. Was she strong enough to face down the druid? What would the guards do if she did? She had to try to save her brother. Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her shield tightly around herself and entered the druid’s dwelling. She stopped just inside the door and searched the room for Gavin. He was lying very still on a high altar under the collection of shrunken heads of the druid’s enemies. The druid bent over him.
As she stood quietly in the doorway, the druid felt her presence and swiftly turned from Gavin’s body. She felt his glee and hoped she had not stepped into a trap she could not escape from. He dismissed the guards and waited until they left the room before speaking. “Ah. My little reluctant bride. You return to me.”
“I will never be your bride.” Brina spoke in a low passionate voice. “Never!”
“Oh, too bad. You wish to save your brother?” A smile full of malice broke over his face. “Then you must become my bride.”
“You have my sister. Why do you need two brides?” Brina fought hard to keep her voice from shaking.
He made a motion of dismissal. “Britta is a warm body, but you, my sweet thing, are much more. I have sensed your power for long while, but now I can taste the power flooding through you.” He licked his lips and stalked closer to Brina. She trembled at his nearness. “If I lay with you, I can take that power and it will be mine. Mine to use.”
Even as she trembled, Brina strengthened her shield and reached with her mind down, down, far under the water to touch the earth. She drew strength and fed the glowing flames of power that warmed her magic.
“You will never have my power.”
“Then your brother must die.”
“I think not.” Brina said as she pulled the clean earth power into herself until she could hold no more. She was ready when the druid attacked. He threw the same spell at her with which he had felled Gavin, with even more force. Her shield held firm and the hard-flung spell rebounded back at the druid. He gasped and dropped to the floor. His eyes glittered at her with anger, but he stayed motionless as Brina grabbed some woven grass rope and tied his hands and feet. She stuffed a cloth into his mouth, then she rushed to Gavin, and plunged her earth power into the spell holding him. With a shudder, Gavin broke free of the binding and sat up. His face was white and he moved slowly.
“Quickly, Brother,” Brina urged him. “He will recover soon. We must get you away from here.”
She thrust her arms under Gavin’s shoulders and pulled him to his feet. Gavin swayed, then he straightened and gave her his sweet smile. “Thank you, my sister.” Slowly they moved forward to the door of the dwelling. “I need a drum. I cannot leave my men here to the druid’s revenge.”
Brina glanced around the room and saw a small drum lying on a nearby table. She touched the drum. Detecting no apparent evil, she snatched it up and handed it to Gavin. He began to beat out a staccato rhythm which boomed across the water.
As they moved through the doorway, the guards of the druid stepped forward, their spears raised. “Back!” Brina spoke with command in her voice. The confused guards lowered their spears. “We are to leave now. The druid does not wish to be bothered until he calls you.”
As the echoes of the drum beat died away, shouts and running feet were heard all around the crannog. Gavin’s men were responding to his emergency distress signal. As Brina and Gavin made their way to the causeway, they were soon surrounded by his men. Lord Kemble still stood by the door to their family dwelling. He lifted his hand to stay his own men, motioning for them to allow the group to leave. As Brina and Gavin passed, she could see the pain in his face as his son walked away from him.
If only he stayed firm in his protection. If only the druid did not recover until they were out of spear throwing distance. If only they could reach the clearing with the sacred well before any possible pursuit overtook them.
It seemed a miracle, but they did make it safely out of the village and all the way to the Herb Woman’s clearing and the sacred well before the druid was able to free himself. There Gavin and his men left Brina. Gavin returned many times in the ensuing years. Sometimes he even brought the Colum Cille with him, and the protection on the clearing was strengthened each time Colum Cille visited.
Brina remained in the clearing, tending to the pilgrims who returned to visit the sacred well, as well as those who sought her out for herbs. She continued to fight the evil influence of the druid. Her ability to See into the future grew as her power developed. Years later, one vision came upon her as she sat beside the well, looking down into the clear water. It seemed as though she fell and fell, as down, down many years. She saw a young girl, dressed in strange clothes, holding the box of power that Shylah had given to herself, Brina, many years ago. She watched as the strange girl learned to use the powers in the box. She shuddered as she learned what the young girl had to face with her new-learned powers. Then she fell back into her own self and realized that her legacy from Shylah was only the beginning, that the fight against evil must continue. Brina pondered her vision. “I shall pass the box on to another generation, then it shall pass again and again.”
I hope you have enjoyed Brina’s story. Thank you for reading. To read the story of the young girl in Brina’s vision, see The Singular Gift on Amazon.
Posted by Will
Once I knew the story, I never dreamed I’d chronicle it.
Now I can hardly imagine doing anything else with my spare time (I know, a fantasy writer for sure if he thinks THAT exists). But now at the release of this fourth volume, the novel I originally envisioned in Judgement’s Tale will be before the readers. Rest? Heck no, that’s for the weary- I can’t wait for the engine to crank up again so I can move the world along.
Clash of Wills: It All Comes Together
It’s a little hard to discuss the book itself because so much has happened in the preceding volumes. Solemn Judgement has carefully studied a couple of problems in his newly-adopted home while staying at the Sages Guild of Conar. One involves a young knight who kneels at the foot of the Hopelord’s statue constantly, and the mortal danger Judgement stubbornly believes him to be in. His other puzzle involves a forbidden book, a mystic time-scrying mirror, the ancient sage it drove mad, and a threat to the entire Lands of Hope. Meanwhile, his tutor Natasha has sanctioned him from further study, her friend the actor Alendic spends his every moment teasing the youth, and the patient Elvish Sage Cedrith can only guess the depths of Judgement’s ambition or the danger he’s courting. In this story, they band together to rescue a comrade and face an ancient foe beyond their worst imaginings.
Meanwhile the Woodsman Treaman has begun to unlock the secrets of navigating the cursed Percentalion and befriended the young dragon Hallah. But his adventuring party falls into a worse escapade than ever before, a series of calamities which leaves them by turns wounded, naked, and finally imprisoned with priceless treasure in the face of a hellstorm of Chaos.
But is it Ever Really Over?
Yes, it’s all starting to heat up in the northern kingdoms of the Lands of Hope. The draft I wrote up several years ago, coming after nearly thirty years of observation and note-taking, Clash of Wills will be in front of you. And the tale is not done. I’m working hard on The Eye of Kog, in which we’ll see the final confrontation involving Judgement, Treaman, prince Gareth, the Chosen Wanderer Renan Altrindur, young Anteris the scribe and many more. Never fear, dear readers, I wouldn’t leave you hanging- for long! Look for more of this epic tale later this year.
And if you want to remain apprised of developments in my chronicling journey, sign up on my website and get a free e-book with two Tales of Hope.