The Sign of Faust – Cover Reveal

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

My wonderful cover designer Nathan sent me the cover file for my book that should be out this spring, hopefully in time for Renaissance Press’s 5th anniversary.

Without further ado, here is the cover for The Sign of Faust:

The Sign of Faust will be available at Amazon and Renaissance Press.

 

My hope is that by the end of the series, all the books together with make a rainbow.

Éric

Renaissance Press is Turning 5

Hello,

I’ve known about Renaissance Press for five years. I met them at Can-Con in 2013 when they only had a handful of books.

I pitched my first novel to them. They liked it, but it needed some serious re-writes that they weren’t able to take care of, so they told me to re-submit. In the end we got A Study in Aether, and its sequel is coming out this year.

If you like my books or any of the other fantastic novels from Renaissance Press, why don’t you let them know and you could win $40 worth of awesome stuff.

With luck my next novel, The Sign of Faust will be ready and launched at the 5 year celebration.

To Renaissance: Thank you for believing in my stories.

Éric

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson– Book Review

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

With a book this large and this filled with… well stuff… I needed a formal way to organize my thoughts. (For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

This will be a spoiler free review.

Characters

I liked

With over 800 pages, this book delivers a staggering amount of characters. Every time I started to get annoyed with a character, the point of view switched.

The characters themselves were fantastically fleshed out. They always felt like they had complex histories and stories. They also felt like a part of their world and invested.

I also have a soft spot of introspective characters that don’t get all angsty.

The character arcs were both beautifully plotted and unpredictable.

I didn’t like

I was really annoyed that the majority of my favourite characters were not in this book. I was really getting to like some of the mains from the first book.

Some of the characters suffer from what I’m calling fantasy race syndrome, in which they are something because their race is that thing.

There’s a lack of diverse women. The women in this book are either there as sensible love interests, broken women, leaders, or background characters.

I really wanted to fall in love with these characters. I knew some would die and I really wanted that feeling of falling in love with a character and didn’t get it.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author manages to be both poetic and excruciatingly brief. It’s a style that favours character depth and quick pacing. Every once in a while the author would add a great turn of phrase or a flowery description, but it never turns purple.

All epic fantasy authors have an obsession that shows in their work. Erikson loves history and archeology and it shows in his prose and world.

I didn’t like

There were more than a few times that the author’s love of history and archelogy showed me glimpses of other stories and I wished I was reading that instead.

There are long, walking scenes where the history interested me more than what was going on.

This book’s voice is extremely white, western, academic, and male. It shows the author’s culture and thought process in every description of noble savages and crazed wild men.

For writing style, I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I liked the focus on the small punctuated by the grand. The story sticks to characters and not grand concepts. The wars and battles are described in gory detail and not in romantic troop movements.

The world is beautifully crafted and gives a sense of so much history and so many other stories to be told.

I also appreciated that unlike a lot of other epic fantasy, the main stories of this book were wrapped up at the end.

I didn’t like

The gore and horror was a little much for me. I understand that it was needed for the story and for the set up but I’m not a huge fan of babies on pikes and raped bodies. (Aside… why would crazed killers only rape the women?)

If it wasn’t for the author’s wonderful language and compelling style I wouldn’t have read past the 300 page mark.

I give the story 2 out of 5.

Fun

I liked

The magic, history, and engineers were fantastic. The games of gods and ascendants fascinating. Some of the characters were absolutely awesome. The use of language and world building alone are worth the read.

I didn’t like

I’m not a war person. I don’t like the movies, books, or history; it’s not my thing. This book made me uncomfortable at multiple times and not in “out of your comfort zone” way.

I give it 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This book is fantastic when it hits all the right notes but when it’s off, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the history and cultures of that ancient world instead of paying attention to the book.

Like the first in the series it has a huge adaptation period where you’ll WTF all over the place.

Overall I think there’s a lot to love in this book and series but it has some awkward issues and it’s certainly not my style.

If you’d like a shorter and, in my opinion, more balanced writer try S. M. Carrière.

Final score is 60%

 

Night of the Sisters

This story takes place five years after the events in Parasomnia

The snow glittered in the moonlight as they travelled through the dark forests of New Albion. No matter how often they travelled this route, Michael still looked uncomfortable.

Putting her hand on his, even through heavy gloves she felt him tremble, Ashley said, “Sweetie. It’s okay.”

“I know, it’s just… I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this forest.”

And why would he, she thought. It wasn’t his world and he had bad memories of trolls in these forests. Even though they were in a carriage and not walking this time.

“Next year you’ll be too busy to worry about it.” She squeezed his hand and patted her belly, or where her belly would be under all the winter gear. She felt like a yurt; she was so big it was hard for her to walk too far or even stand.

He smiled and they both started talking about preparations for the baby.

As the forest started to thin, small cottages and farms peppered the landscape. People stood on the edge of the road and waved at them. For the first time in five years, the rulers of the six kingdoms of New Albion would be all together.

It was the Festival of Yule and that night was the Night of the Sisters. A night where the three Sisters who controlled the fates of everyone in the realms were reborn. It was celebrated by speeches, prayers to the Goddess, a small play, and a huge bonfire. During the bonfire they feasted and sang traditional songs until the sun rose.

Through the towns they went until they could see the great walls of New Apia. The last time they’d been here, the walls had been crumbling and the ivory fortress was cracked and disused.

“Kiri has done miracles for this place.” Ashley was amazed at how pristine it looked and how healthy the people were.

The gates to both the city and the castle were open, the guards looked more ceremonial than defensive in their finery.

Kiri was waiting for them when they arrived. She looked regal under multiple layers.

“Feels like being back in Northern Ontario, eh?” she asked and Ashley threw herself at her friend for a hug. “Hello Michael.”

“Are we the first to arrive?”

“Nope, Tara got here this afternoon. I think she ditched her retinue somewhere at the border.”

A tall woman in full armour walked out of the castle and responded with, “It’s not my fault they couldn’t keep up. I don’t need royal—” Tara was cut off by Ashley’s hug.

The four of them were the youngest of the monarchs and Ashley knew that Tara wasn’t looking forward to seeing her older brother who ruled her home kingdom.

Although the guards looked ornamental and they all joked about not needing them, they were essential. The Six Kingdoms were in political turmoil. The former High King had died shortly after his heir and despite multiple Moots, they had yet to unanimously choose a new high King or Queen.

Tara was declared regent of the former High King’s kingdom, Ansonrock, but the Moot had refused to declare her Queen.

Of the other two Kingdoms, both their monarchs had died during the Worldquake; one had gone through a bloody civil war and declared themselves a republic and the other had gone through eight monarchs in four years.

They had, per tradition, to wait for the other rulers before going into the warmth of the Castle. They had, thoughtfully, arranged a chair for Ashley. At thirty six weeks pregnant she wasn’t going to try and tough it out.  The next to arrive was King Matthew of New Zion.

“Sister,” he said spitting out the word as if it had a bad taste.

“King Matthew,” Tara replied tersely. The fact that he called her sister instead of brother was a good sign that he’d learned his lesson. His country was big on everyone being the same and Tara had been cast out when she came out as transgender.

The next two came and stood in line waiting. After a little while, Ashley leaned over to Tara and asked, “Who are we waiting for?” Tara shrugged.

In a flash of bright light and the sound of a TARDIS, four figures appeared. The cryer who’d been announcing everyone bellowed, “Myrdin of Earth and Aether.” He was a tall man with a long white beard and hair. He was dressed in an old robe, and despite looking ancient, he stood tall. His brown skin had long ago turned a little grey.

Before Ashley had a chance to say anything other than a squeak of happiness with the entrance, the cryer continued, “The Three Sisters.”

The crowd and the monarchs gasped in surprise. The three Sisters had never been to New Albion before. They had stayed in Everdome, another Realm or what Ashley liked to call alternate universe, for as long as anyone could remember.

The three women, one bald with metallic gold skin, one with snow white hair and skin, and the last with dark red hair and onyx coloured skin, raised their hands and spoke in eerie unison, “May the Goddess’s blessing drive out the dark and the cold. May your days grow long and warm. May your crops be plentiful and your loves without end.” It was the traditional Night of the Sisters blessing and was normally only performed by priests or the children who play the Sisters in the play.

After the blessing everyone walked into the castle for drinks and mingling. The main ballroom was open for everyone to speak with anyone. It was a tradition that Kiri had instituted for all major holidays. It allowed for people who would be too shy or didn’t think their problems big enough for a formal audience to speak with the Queen or other high level officials.

Myrdin, or as he’d been introduced to her before, Merlin, was standing on his own with a glass of nog. Most people seemed to avoid him. Ashley walked over to him and said, “Why do people always seem to avoid you?”

“I’m weird.” He shrugged as if that answered her question and continued with, “Hello Ashley, it’s nice to see you again. Or is this the first time for you?”

“We met last year.” She’d been told then that he was a little strange and had a tendency to live life out of order with the rest of the realms. “Although it’s been much longer for you hasn’t it?”

“A century to your year. Nothing much.”

She laughed and that made him smile. “Nice work with the TARDIS sound effects.”

“Thank you. I thought no one would notice and it’s nice and dramatic.”

“What’s going on? Why are the Sisters here?” She asked and felt a sharp pain. She mentally started counting to see if it was a full contraction.

“Do you really want me to tell you? You’ll find out soon enough.”

“So, spoilers?”

“Yep. Now why don’t you ask me the question you’re really worried about?” His eyes were kind with more than a hint of mischievousness.

“Is my baby going to be okay?” she said it quickly and fought back tears.

He pulled her into a hug and said, “Your delivery will go fine and the resulting offspring will be perfectly healthy.”

She squeezed him tightly and said, “Thank you!”

“Don’t mention it. I was a parent once too.” His voice was filled with sadness.

As midnight approached, they moved to the castle square where the bonfire was built and awaiting the midnight hour to be lit. There was food and drink and a lot of happy kids. A man dressed as Woden led the children in a wild hunt. There were chocolates hidden around the castle and as he charged the children had to find them and get back into the hunt in order to keep them.

In a few years, Ashley thought, her little one would join them and that made her feel warmer than the fire would have.

“Joyous Yule my beautiful wife.” Michael held a simple brown paper wrapped package.

“Thank you,” she said opening the package, feeling four years old again. Inside there was a book, brightly coloured with a hydra on the front, the title read Parasomnia and was written by S. M. Awdur and K. Price. Katherine Price was a friend who’d chosen earth over New Albion.

“It’s a graphic novel about what happened to us. Kitty wrote it with a famous author. Merlin promised to bring it back with him after we saw him last year.”

“It’s wonderful. Thank you.” Her contractions were starting to get closer together, but she still wasn’t sure it was labour. This had happened before and it had been fake labour. She still had four weeks to go.

If Michael was going to say something, it was cut off by the Sisters. Their voice was like a soft brook had met a Greek chorus and the two were trying to imitate each other.

They each stood around the large bonfire and said, “We have seen Realms be born and Realms die, but every ten thousand years we need to renew ourselves. Our physical bodies die and are reborn. What we are continues but what we were dies. Tonight we die and leave our blessing against the darkness. Tomorrow we are reborn. May your hearts always be warmed by the fires of love and hope.”

With that speech they burst into flames, lighting the bonfire. The crowd was stunned and after a few moments burst into applause.

“That was dramatic,” Michael said.

“Yeah,” Ashley said, and couldn’t help but grunt from the pain of another contraction.

“How far apart are they?” Michael said going into nurse mode.

“The baby is coming,” Ashley replied and groaned again. That’s when the Sisters’s words came back to her. “They said tomorrow they’ll be reborn… MERLIN!”

As if he’d expected her, he appeared. With a furrowed brow and twinkling eyes, Merlin said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help as much as I can. With all three—”

“THREE!?”


This story is part of the Renaissance holiday blog roll! Find out what it’s all about here! 

Battlemage Taika – Part 5 Conclusion

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

“Captain MacDonell stand down,” the other man yelled, obviously used to having his orders obeyed. He pulled out his sword.

“No. I’ve done terrible things for the Empire but not anymore. General Lanthier, we were friends once. Don’t do this.” The handsome man brandished his sword.

The rest of the guards seemed to symbolically move to one side or the other. All the ones in armour followed the General and all the ones in the comfortable looking uniforms followed the Captain.

“You’re a fool Mac, these animals don’t deserve your pity. You know I’m a better fighter than you are, you’ll die for nothing.”

The handsome man turned and looked directly at her and winked. He shouldn’t be able to see through her illusion but somehow he did. “I won’t die here.” He pulled a strange curved cylinder from a holster in his hip and something shot out of it, knocking the other man down.

Taika took her opportunity and dropped the invisibility. “Go and protect the children,” she ordered four legion. “The rest of you. Let’s help this man out.”

Two of the armoured men dragged the General into the gate. The remaining and some of the unarmoured soldiers attacked Taika and her group. With the help of the turncoats, the ensuing battle was over quickly. When they’d caught their breaths the handsome man called Mac said, “Thank you and I’m sorry for all this.”

“A blessing on you and your family,” Taika said as she bowed at the man.

“Thanks. I guess.” He turned to the surviving soldiers. “Alright. Let’s get the hell out of here before these people close the gate.”

“I’m going with you,” Aleenia said. The man only responded by nodding. They grouped together and at the last moment before walking into the gate they turned and waved.

“Good luck,” whispered Taika before she shouted, “Ok Julien, get those people and yourself to the outskirts.” She pointed at the children and Legion.

The group huddled up and Julien motioned to her. When she was close enough he asked, “You sure you remember how to shut this thing down?”

“Of course I do-” she didn’t get a chance to reply before he teleported her and the others away from the gate.

Still connected with the communication spell she said, “Damnit Julien. I’m teleporting back.”

“No you’re not. You’re twenty three years old and one of the brightest battlemages I’ve ever met. I’m a hundred years older than you. If anyone is going to foolishly martyr themselves, it’s me.”

“But I’m in command…” she said lamely. She and the others were now inside the battlemage headquarters. Stepping outside into the training field where she’d spent so much time with Julien and the others she forced back the tears. The sun was setting on the giant wall in front of her.

“Yes, you are and that’s where you’ll stay. I’ve shut the gate down and I’m activating the volcano. On my mark.” The quiet seemed to stretch forever and Taika wanted to say something but couldn’t think of the words. What felt like years but was only seconds ended with Julien saying, “Now!”

“Thank you!” she said as she activated her side of the shield. The entirety of the inside of the wall started to glow a peaceful blue.

The shield held in the ash and magma but force shook the entire continent; no one was immune to the devastation. When everything was done there was a giant dome of volcanic stone where there was once a wall.

Taika had to spend time in the hospital; even with the excess of ambient magical energy in the capital, she almost killed herself keeping the shield up. When she heard that the remaining battlemages had not only saved the army and Panos warband, but helped evacuate the rest of the Panos and nomads from inside the wall, she was extra proud of her people.

She was lying in a hospital bed, trying to decide the best way to escape when her brother, the King, walked in. “You saved a lot of people.”

“Julien saved them. I just helped. We also lost a lot.” She wasn’t sure if she should add your majesty but decided not to.

“The other nations are agreeing to a new treaty. We’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“But the gate-”

The king cut her off, “Is still under there. Our magical scholars say there’s no way to destroy it.”

“Then I need to get out of here and start re-building the battlemages.” She started to get up and fell back into bed.

“There’s time for that, sister. Right now you need to rest. In a weeks’ time you can go back to re-building the battlemages. General Taika.” He turned to leave. “When you get better I need you to help Addison create wards and a rotating battlemage guard unit for the catacombs.”

“What happened?”

“The invaders sent a small force and managed to steal Father, Mother, and two other Crystals.” His mouth was tight and he was obviously angry. “I spoke to a seer with the Panos and he said that the crystals are no longer here but through the gate.”

“If the gate isn’t destroyed I can go after them.” She knew she couldn’t. They didn’t know how to target the gate. It could go to any other world attached to the great tree.

“We’ll get them back. I’ll make sure if it.” There was a darkness in the king’s words, but she was too tired to ask him anything further.


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The enemy just kept coming. Wave after wave of oddly armoured soldiers carrying crossbows that fired some sort of magical energy. Taika had never seen anything like them but she didn’t have time to analyse their armour or weapons.

The soldiers, unlike her own, were disciplined and efficient. They worked in formation and cut down the legion.

“Their armour is absorbing any spells we cast!” Yelled Julien.

“They’re coming through the gate. We need to shut that down!” shouted Pat.

The one advantage they had was the spells that let them give commands directly with voice while the enemy relied on horns and runners. It wasn’t enough of an advantage. They were down to two thousand in the legion, less than half, and only one hundred of the five hundred battlemages when Taika started to consider retreat through teleportation.

“Knight Commander,” one of the knights from the legion yelled, “The Panos are breaking through behind us.” She had never heard that the Panos were capable of fighting on this scale.

“Put the communication spell on their leader and move your men to the front, we need to get to the gate.”

A woman’s voice, speaking perfect common, replied, “I couldn’t agree more. I am Aleenia, temporary War Alpha of the Western packs. I bring you two hundred hunters and twelve Shamans. I need to get through that gate.”

“Welcome! Move your people to the eastern front, they seem to be weakening on that side.”

“No. They are preparing an ambush there. I’m a seer and I say we move forward.”

Seers were unheard of in the Maneean mages but the Panos seemed to have one or two in each pack. Most couldn’t tell what time they were currently in, or who they were talking to. It was shocking to have one not only be coherent but leading a war party.

“You heard the War Alpha!” Taika yelled at her commanders.

The battle did turn and they started pushing the enemy back but they just kept coming out of the gate and Taika’s forces were starting to tire and dwindle.

“We need to shut that gate down,” Pat yelled again.

“He’s right, but I need to get through it first,” Aleenia replied.

“Ok, we’re fighting like battlemages and Hunters. I think we need to start fighting like spies. Julien and I are going to take Aleenia and ten soldiers under an invisibility spell and shut down that gate.”

As they prepared for the stealth offensive, their army tightened their formation and moved as if they were preparing to either retreat or regroup.

Adeleine recognized the War Alpha immediately, she walked with confidence and radiated power. “Aleenia War Alpha, I presume?” There was something else in the way she held herself, an impatience that was more than battle anxiety.

“Please, Aleenia is fine.”

“Who’s on the other side of the gate?” Taika was being blunt to the point of rudeness but she needed to know that the other woman understood this was a one way trip.

“My betrothed tried to stop all this and failed, but he managed to get the alarm out.” She gestured around.

Nodding, Taika went back to preparing the invisibility spell. When she was almost done, Julien walked towards her and said, “What are we going to do with them when we shut down the gate?”

“When the gate shuts down, Pat has orders to teleport everyone out. I’ll activate the volcano.”

“But that’ll destroy everything and everyone inside the wall, millions will die.”

“Not if we can create a big enough shield to contain the army and the blast.”

Julien’s eyes grew wide and he looked like he was going to argue, instead he stood straighter and said, “We need someone on both sides to create a powerful enough shield…”

“No. It’s my plan and I’m going to be the one inside. That’s an order.”

There was no more argument, they formed a tight line, and she cast the invisibility spell. They spent the next hour dancing around the enemy troops trying not to be noticed. The spell hid them but didn’t make them intangible.

As they finally reached the gate, it was guarded. They’d expected the guards but something else was going on here. Half the guards wore comfortable looking uniforms. She assumed they were battlemages but she hadn’t seen any one the field. The others wore the regular armour.

A handsome man who wore no armour and carried a sword was yelling at another man. Taika directed a full stop and quickly cast a translation spell. The yelling man stopped and looked at them before going back to yelling, “Is this what the glorious Empire is about? Torturing children?” He gestured at a small enclosure, there were four Panos youths, no more than five. They were tied to stakes with steal wire.

Read Conclusion


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

“That’s it?” Taika looked at the six old men and shook her head, “There’s supposed to be hundreds of you.”

“Tales for children and peasants. There hasn’t been a new battlemage in… What is it now, Frank?” Julien asked.

“Twenty-three years,” the oldest said.

“What happens if we hear from the towers?” Taika had grown up with stories of the battlemages protecting their world from the demons that came from the portals inside the wall.

“We tell the nice indigenous children not to play with the towers have a nice lunch with the village elders and come home.” Julien smiled and looked at her like he pitied her. “There hasn’t been an incursion in over a hundred years. Since we’ve declared peace with our neighbours, we’ve been glorified illusionists for parades.”

* * *

“There are only six of them!” she bellowed at Adrix not caring that his wife and small council were in the room. He smirked and she yelled, “You knew?”

Giving her a laugh that was too much like her father’s for it to be natural, he said, “Yes. Over the past three decades, father has cut their budget and prevented recruitment.”

“Why do the official papers say eight hundred?”

Rachel, Queen consort, replied almost bashfully, “That’s my fault. I didn’t want the other kingdoms realizing how under prepared we are to deal with magical attacks.”

It made sense and that made Taika all the more angry. “So I have six battlemages and no money to recruit more? You realize the youngest is seventy?”

“Sister. The wall accords have been broken. We can ignore our oath and let the rest of the world burn or we can ensure it stays safe. I refuse to be the king that forsakes our world. You’ll have your budget.”

Recruitment was harder than she expected. Everyone wanted to be a battlemage but most didn’t have the magical ability or the discipline. Instead of battle plans and training regiments, she and the other battlemages spent their days sifting through the recruits. By the end of the six months they had accepted three hundred, none of which were even close to the old standards of the battlemages. A fact that Julien reminded her of daily.

After a bad day of training, just under a year since she’d been appointed Knight Commander, she sat in a meeting with the six senior, in every sense, battlemages.

“How are they doing?” Each of them had been given a specialty to train. Each battle specialty needed a particular style and the six of them covered the five main specialties; Attack, Defence, Physical Enhancement, Healing, and Counter-Magic.

“They rely too much on the ambient energy of the ancestor crystals. When we’re out in the wilds there won’t be as much and they’ll find themselves unable to cast.” Julien followed his statement with a tisking sound.

“Then teach them.” She lifted her hand to stop his witty retort. They were insubordinate, rude, and questioned everything she said, but they only did it in private. They were exactly what she’d want as commanders. “I want each of you to pick the best ten of your classes and start giving them extra training. I want a fighting force by the end of the month. I want two groups of Defence mages. Until we can train a full battalion, we’ll be working with the fourth knight’s legion.”

“Those ninnies wouldn’t know a demon from a Panos.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you outrank them, then, and that they can follow orders.” Their faces fell as she said it. battlemages were taken from every class while knights were always nobles. To have the battlemages outrank knights was unheard of. “You six are now honorary lords and commanders. You’ll each have five hundred men under your command while in the field. You’ll also have a knight commander to advise you.”

After a month of preparations, the fourth legion and their battlemage commanders were ready for battle, or so they thought.

The Panos towers lit up and the legion prepared. They were slow to teleport and when they transported to the towers they were already surrounded by an enemy in strange armour, who was much better prepared for battle.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 2

Part 1

Taika was knighted and everyone in the Maneean military was relieved to see her go. Despite being a capable knight she was too smart and stubborn for her own good. If she’d been a regular recruit they would have given her a frontier outpost to command.

The battlemages paraded in all the major parades and occasionally did demonstrations of combat for foreign dignitaries. They hadn’t seen combat since her grandfather’s time. There were fewer and fewer mages capable of casting anything beyond basic spells away from the power of the ancestors.

Before meeting the mages, she’d been given all the official papers about the battlemages. The papers said there was a full regiment of eight hundred. That was less than one percent of what they’d had in the last great war. Before they’d built the wall to keep out the demons.

She’d been given command a month before the coronation and her brother had asked that she appoint an honour guard of ten battlemages to protect him. She was thinking about that while she traveled to the official battlemage barracks. It was the only building in the capital that was against the wall.

Unfortunately, like the wall, it was old and crumbling. The wall was still a priority but the barracks were not and it showed. Walking into the crumbling building, she was challenged by a young soldier, maybe sixteen, “Stop. Who goes there?”

“Taika of Maneea, Knight Commander of the battlemages.”

To the boy’s credit, he didn’t flinch, simply replying, “You may pass.”

“What’s your name Private?”

“Alex, Sir.”

“Continue the good work Alex.” The boy’s chest puffed out and he seemed to be paying better attention. Her words and their reaction gave her the reassurance that she could do this.

Walking into the command office she found it empty. They must have been running drills, she thought. She checked the practice yards and found them not only empty but barren.

She found the banquet hall in the same state and most of the first two floors. She was going to give up and use a locater spell when she heard voices coming from the officer’s mess.

“You should have seen her Frank. They don’t make women like that anymore,” an old man was telling his tale to a group of five other old men. Each had a full glass of beer in front of them and several empty ones.

She stood at the door shocked and what she was seeing. None of them were in uniform, they were drunk and it wasn’t even eight in the morning. She let the old man finish his story and then said, “Is this what a battlemage does in the morning?”

The old man who was telling the story, swung around and threw a line of pure force at her. It was weak but well crafted; she deflected it easily, converting he energy to harmless wind.

“Hmm that normally works. Okay boys, let’s teach this pup some respect.” The six of them stood up and she could feel magical energy coalescing around them.

Raising her shields, she said, “Gentlemen, this is not the welcome I expected as your new knight commander.”

The entire group burst into laughter. The man who’d been telling the lewd story, between guffaws, said, “New is right. What are you, twelve? And what moron appointed a knight commander to us. We haven’t needed one of those in sixty years.”

“I’m twenty-two, and the moron who appointed me was the king. May his soul find rest.”

“A dying man’s wish for his what? Niece? Mistress?”

“Daughter.”

They all nodded sagely. The oldest of them squinted at her and said, “You’re the youngest one aren’t you. The troublemaker.”

One of the others said, “That’s why she’s been assigned to us.”

Since they seemed to have released their offensive magic, she dropped her shields and nodded, “Yes. That’s me. Now that we’ve decided not to try and kill each other I’d like to address the entire group.”

“Go ahead. We’re all here,” the storyteller said. “My name is Julien and here are your mighty troops. Impressive shield by the way.”

These six old men were all that was left of the mighty battlemages.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 1

“No Adrix, you’re wrong!” Taika turned her head away to not let her older brother see her cry.

“I’m sorry Tai, he’s dying.” Adrix had the height and rust coloured beard of their father, but had yet to gain the girth of the king.

Running towards the royal chambers, still in her practice armour, she fought back the tears that would have most of the other knights in training laughing at her. Sir Vastra was fond of telling her that knights don’t cry. As if the older woman could ever dredge up tears from her cold crystalized heart.

The castle guard didn’t stop her running through the halls. Her amber hair, bright pink eyes, matched with her improbable height, marked her as one of the thirteen Maneean royal heirs.

The royal surgeon stopped her at the door of her father’s rooms. “He only has a few minutes left. He’s asked to see you.”

A wave of indecision rolled over her. She wanted to remember him as the vibrant happy man he’d always been and part of her thought if she didn’t go in he couldn’t die. After a breath she decided she was being silly and walked into his rooms.

The large bed that he’d always looked so comfortable in now made him look small and frail. He gestured for her to come closer and she kneeled at his bedside. “Father, I… she trailed off, unsure what she wanted to say other than “Don’t Die”.

“Little Dagger.” His voice was raspy and distant. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for you.” He was once again the lithe frame of his youth, but it was due to illness not training. “You’ve always been my favourite.”

Smiling despite her tears, she laughed, “You tell us all that.”

“Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Don’t go, Father.” She knew it was an unfair request but she didn’t care.

Taking her hand, he looked at her and said, “You have always been most like me and I’m sorry for that. The traits that served me well as king are not well suited to a life as the fourth daughter and thirteenth heir.”

“It’s okay, Father. I’ll make a good knight.”

“You hate taking orders.”

“If they weren’t so stupid, I’d follow them.” He patted her hand.

“Adrix will be a good King but he will need someone with your sharp tongue and mind to keep him grounded. I want you to finish your knight training and then take over command of the battlemages.”

She assumed he was starting to slip and just smiled and nodded.

Giving her the cutting glare that had him nicknamed Dagger he said, “I have not lost my mind. They might be few but they’re powerful and they’re necessary. You are the most powerful, magically, of the heirs and I fear they’ll be needed now that the other kingdoms have pulled out of the Wall Accords.”

“Are you expecting war?”

Nodding he replied, “I’m expecting far worse my daughter, far worse.” He took a deep breath and released it slowly. He closed his eyes and his entire body started to glow. She called for the surgeon who called in her siblings, all but Adrianna who had been married to the prince of the kingdom on the opposite side of the circular wall.

The twelve of them stood around his bed and chanted the death song as his body converted itself to crystal. When it had finished, most of them were crying.

Taking the crystal, Addison who was the Keeper of the Crystals and first born, said, “And so in his death our father gives his power to his people and will rest in the hall of crystals.” The magical power of all Maneean’s came from their ancestors. It made the capital one of the most powerful places on the planet.

When a king dies, the kingdom goes into mourning for a year. In that year nothing happens but essential events and festivals. On the one year anniversary of the King’s death, the heir is coronated. It’s the most dangerous time for an heir, historically those below them in succession would try to assassinate them. This year was different; Adrix was the only heir that had ever cared about ruling, and both Adeena and Addison had abdicated in favour of service to the Temple of Ancestors.

The year passed with no assassinations, no scandals; nothing but sombre events.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

NaNoWriMo (AKA Éric wants to torture himself)

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again. If you haven’t come across the term it stands for National Novel Writing Month. In short, during November a whole lot of writers and aspiring writers try to write 50,000 words in a brand new novel.

This will be my fifth attempt. A Study in Aether and The Sign of Faust were both started with NaNoWriMo. It’s a wonderful (if stressful) way to jump start a book.

What Am I Writing

I was listening to a particularly sad song by Ed Sheeran called Supermarket Flowers.

The song reminded me of an old book idea I had about taking a roadtrip with my Mom in an alternate universe where there were dinosaurs roaming around.

The original idea was an apocalypse story, but listening to this song I realized how much I miss talking with my Mom. It’s been 9 years since her death and this book will give me the chance, in an odd way, to spend one last roadtrip with her.

It will be one long conversation between me and my mom. A memoir, love letter, with dinosaurs.

When I wake up in the hospital where I was born, I find my Mother waiting for me. Instead of going home, she decides that we should go on a roadtrip. “Let’s get lost,” she says with a mischievous look.

Over the trip we’ll reminisce, laugh, and tell each other things we never had the chance.

But why are we on this trip? Why was I in the hospital? And why are we being followed by dinosaurs?

I can already tell that this will be the hardest book I’ve ever written, but I think I’m at the point in my life that I can write it properly.

I apologize in advance if I’m not overly active online or if I’m a little sad over the month of November.

Follow my progress on my NaNoWriMo page. Add me as a buddy if you’re also diving into the pool of imagination.

Later Days,

Éric