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Indipendent Publishing

I have several friends who are indi publishing their work. I am trying to comprise a list of their sites to help boost the signal.



http://www.starcatcherpub.com/

http://jjwestendarp.blogspot.com/


This is a list I will be updating regularly.

And here is a freebe

Return to Redlin. This is the bit from the site:

Ginger returned to Redlin after her failed marriage and buried herself in a calm life, working for the Senior Center during the day and as a clerk at the Gas and More at night. But when the high school bad boy, Derrick Weston, returns after ten years to attend his grandfather's funeral, things take off in ways she didn't expect.

Old rivalries and new robberies put the two in close contact -- whether they want it or not.


I read this story and couldn't stop till the end, which was satisfactory (everything was wrapped up very nicely, good solid plot) and saddened me. I wanted more of these characters. The characters are well written, I have this urge to ask Zette what happened next. :P Anyways, if you want a lighthearted romance which will leave you smiling I highly recommend this novella.

Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 30

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Anil, runner of Delebeg, crept in the shadows of the buildings near the bay. He frowned as he watched the fancy dressed nobles rushing by, their business a mystery to him. He patted the message tube gently and waited. When the sun began to set, and the upper class were replaced by the lowly workers returning to their homes, that was when it was safe to leave his little corner.

Lorn was a city of ideas. A city of sins, some whispered. He pulled a strip of travel meat from his other pouch, munching on it. Time dragged and when the sun finally started to set, Anil’s legs were numb. He shook it off, creeping from the shadows.

For those who paid attention, at the base of the buildings, blue glyphs gave a faint glow. Anil glanced around and ducked his head down towards his chest, hunching his back. He’d look like a homeless beggar to anyone watching. The glyphs were irregular, one here, one four buildings down, the next one, two, there was no pattern to how they were spaced and there were hundreds, possibly thousands in this part of Nekar. Inside each glyph was a series of dots. Each one was different. He was looking for a certain pattern set in front of a house he’d been to once before. He scowled, glancing up and down the rapidly emptying street, unsure of which house it was. It was this neighborhood. He was certain of it.

The sun had sunk below the horizon by the time he found it, and he stole a glance up at the building, nodding to himself. The tallest, most extravagant building this side of Lorn. The Bavanan Embassy, known for it’s flamboyant master, Lord Xeresel. He swallowed, and followed the building around to the back entry. The marks on the door, the strange swaying script of the Bavanan, would move if he looked at it for too long. It hurt his eyes.

He wiped his hands on his breeches before knocking. After a moment a tall, fair skinned woman with golden curls framing her overlarge blue-green eyes, opened the door sending a sweet scent in his directing. Her strangely slanted eyes narrowed when she saw him and she stepped back, out of the doorway. She bowed her head, motioning him inside with a fluid sweep of her arm. He swallowed and stepped inside, feeling like a bumbling fool, unable to look away from the Bavanan woman. Her ears were delicate, with a high point, and several gold loops lined them, from tip to earlobe. She tipped her head to one side, a pale yellow curl falling over her face.

“This way.” Her voice, heavily accented, was like music.

He followed her, trying to shake off the glamour, the magic that saturated the place. He’d forget her, he was sure, the moment he left the building. The magic would make sure of that. She led him to a large circular room and then left with a silent bow. A round table dominated the room that was lined with bookshelves. Anil realized he was breathing heavily and closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down. In Delebeg, the books were reserved for the palace. Not exactly outlawed, but there were whispers that Lord Chiron was going to refuse all but his household, the right to own books and scrolls. Once calm he opened his eyes and stepped back in surprise.

“Well met, Anil. Welcome again, to my home.” Lord Xeresel, the ambassador from Bavanan was leaning against the table. Anil bowed and pulled the message tube out. Lord Xeresel frowned and held up his hand. “Come with me to a far more private room. There are many little mice about.”

“Here? In the embassy?” Anil asked, breathless. Lord Xeresel inclined his head. Like the woman who opened the door, Lord Xeresel was pale skinned, his long white gold hair was tied back at the nape of his neck, his eyes a pale blue. He was tall, wiry, and like the woman, wore gold hoops in his pointed ears. Anil followed him out the door and down a confusing maze of corridors, somehow ending up in a small, windowless room with two low chairs and a small oblong table in between them. As Anil sat, a man entered carrying a tray set with several cups, a plate of sweet breads and a steaming pot.

Anil frowned. Human, not Bavanan. His dark hair was long, hung loose, almost to the waist, and his skin was nicely tanned. He was dressed in simple breeches and white tunic that was gathered at the wrists. He nodded towards Anil as he set the tray down. Anil studied him as he turned to the Ambassador. There was a look of absolute adoration on the young man’s face before it smoothed away.

“Do you need anything else, my lord?” His voice low, but deep. Lord Xeresel smiled warmly at him.

“Prepare a room for our esteemed guest. I will call if I need anything else, Aziz.”

Aziz bowed low, turned and left, shutting the door behind him.

“You must be famished, Anil.” Lord Xeresel spread his hands out, indicating the tray.

“Thank you my lord.” Anil pulled out the feather and handed it to Xeresel. He watched as the Ambassador slowly spun the feather between his long fingers, expression thoughtful.

“You have heard the bad news, I take it?”

“The execution of the Prince? Aye.” Anil hesitated, meeting the Bavanan’s eyes.

“It will only be the beginning. You can tell the gracious lady that.” He set the feather to one side, resting his elbow on the arm of his chair. “It would be best, Anil, if you return to Delebeg and stay out of Nekar proper.”

“My Lord?” Anil hesitated in the process of taking a bite of a sweet bread.

“A storm is brewing, over all of Nekar. The further you are from the Oracle, the safer you will be.” He lifted a sweet bread, studying it as closely as he’d studied the feather. “Safeguard Lady Veino.”

Anil swallowed hastily. “Do you think she is in danger?”

The Ambassador gave a barely perceptible shrug. “I think it would be wise to take every precaution.” He flashed a smile at Anil. “Now, you have traveled far to reach Lorn, and seen much. Please, tell me about the trip.”

~*~

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Chapter 29                                Table of Contents

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Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Happy Early Ostara to those who celebrate it! (Or Mabon[I think] if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere)

So there are some things I’m having to change. Plans schedules and whatnot. First of all, because of some things one of my kids is going through, I’ve had to prioritize him and his needs over everything else. Now that he’s where he’s getting the help he needs, I’m able to readjust my schedule and reorganize my plan for 2015.

Elemental Truth.

I sat down a few days ago and did a full read through of E1, from the front to back. And I discovered something sorta distressing about the back end, which I’m working on right now. It is nowhere near where I thought it was completion wise. There are several things I need to rewrite/fix to make it a rounded tale. So where does that put the serial? I thought I’d get it done and have it up for sale by the first. And tbh if I didn’t have other things going on in my life, I would have. But it wouldn’t have been what I want it to be. It wouldn’t have done justice to the story I’m trying to tell. It wouldn’t have been the best I can do with it. I don’t want that. My readers don’t deserve a half assed attempt. I went with self-pubbing so I could control my schedule. I need to remind myself of this.

I’m going to cut the serial postings to once a week. I know, I know, it’s been sporadic as it is, and for that I apologize. Reducing my stress level is a big thing for me right now. So I think I’ll be posting chapters around Tuesday or Wednesday.

When it is done, it will be offered up for sale on the usual sites and I’m planning on going through Createspace to do a print version also.

Blog

It has suffered from neglect. I admit that. I’m working on putting together some more posts to get back on a schedule. I would love any suggestions for topics.

Other Projects & this year’s writing/pubbing plan.

I decided that this year is the year of the series. What that means, to put it simply, is that my focus is going to be on getting my series written and up for sale. The Avaria series, the Elemental series to start with. I have a lot planned. It’s time to get them done.

Flash Friday. I haven’t done that in so long, and I want to get back to doing that too. ATM it would be sporadic though, E1 is my main focus with the Zander tales on it’s heels ready to be finished. I’m not sure I can spread my attention that far.

ATM I don’t have dates down for when stuff will be out. I am going to be trying to guesstimate that this week, and put up the announcement or somesuch next week.

Real Life

To give you a rundown, and I feel I owe explanations to my readers. My 14 year old got caught up in a very bad situation last summer. What followed was lots of court stuff, him being in juvie, and then at home monitoring, and trying to get to the bottom of what seems like a 180 degree change in attitude. Currently he is in a special inpatient program which is helping him address his issues (drug & alcohol and mental illness such as depression & PTSD) and we are doing our best to cope with the fact that the kid we knew is not who he is now. It’s a tough thing to accept but we are doing our best.

Thoughts, prayers, candles lit, Buddha’s belly being rubbed are all appreciated. I worry that his bright star will be forever dimmed by this. Then again I am a worry wort, so I may be over-stressing.

Hug your families. Hug your friends. Let people you care about KNOW that you care about them. You never know what might happen tomorrow. Don’t put it off.

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 28

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“In times of desperation, our abilities can do amazing things.” Water Master Euka lifted his hands. A large bubble of water lifted slowly out of the river, the sunlight shining through it, casting rainbows on the grass. “From what you’ve told me, every time you’ve used your powers on your travel, it was in response to danger.”

Xin nodded. He was a thin, small man with a roughly cut bowl of thick black hair. He motioned her over. “Like your mother, you haven’t been able to practice, to experiment, have you? She’d barely learned how to lift water from the river.”

“I only practiced in hiding. And late at night.” She said.

She too would hide at night and in storms to play. She was a fast learner though.” Water Master Euka chuckled. “And a bit of a trickster.”

“I have only faint memories of my mother.” Xin said slowly. It was strange hearing someone talk about her mother. And in a favorable light no less.

“There is a lifetime of catching up to do. There is no rush though, Xin. No rush at all. She regretted her inability to retrieve you.” He patted her arm and then made a sweeping motion with his hand. The water blob dropped back into the river and the water in the river rose in a huge crest, hovering before crashing back down into its bank and settling.

“I want you to practice, get used to the feel of the water, you’ve had to hide it to survive. Now to survive you must master it, control it.” Another blob of water lifted and shaped into a plate shape and froze. “Practice with the different aspects of water, you do know what those are, right?”

“Liquid, solid, steam.”

The little man sniffed and nodded, the ice melted and then dissolved into a small cloud. “I want you to practice that.” It became a big blob of water again and splashed back into the river. “Now.”

Xin nodded and lifted a blob of water. This was more than just playing. She focused on the water willing it to freeze. A shell appeared on the outer layer, slowly. She frowned trying to focus harder, the blob stayed half frozen. A blob of slush.

“Not bad.”

“It won’t freeze.” She said. “I’ve frozen things before.”

“How often have you tried to do this particular exercise?”

She frowned.

“Exactly. There is no desperation, no danger. This is all focus and conscious effort.” She felt him wrest the ice blob out of her grip and tossed it into the river. “You have to build up the skill and the stamina to use your gifts fully.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“It is a lot to remember. It is a lot of change. Walk with me.” The old man led her along the walkway beside the river. “Your mother has no affinity for healing, do you?”

“I’ve never tried.”

He sighed. “One can always hope, we’ll test you later, though with the traveling you’ve done, I would think you would have unlocked that ability.” He pointed towards the Spirit Elemental dome. “Each element has areas of specialty. Water is usually ice, steam, or healing. Earth used to have crystal shapers and metal manipulators, if the legends are true. Proficiency is rare these days. Kera,”

“The Seeress?”

He spat to the side. “She is no Seeress, she is a charlatan, a trickster. A manipulator. She killed the strongest of us. Wiped out a generation of healers, crystal shapers, metal workers. The elementals will never fully recover. Did you know the Air Dancers had floaters? Before I met Aitelle, I thought all of them had been wiped out. The greatest of the Fire Elementals, the Fire Lords, used to have the ability to do what is called a Holy Flame.” Water Master Euka turned to her. “Legends tell of spectacular deeds done by the Holy Flame.”

“What is it, exactly?”

“No one knows. There hasn’t been a Fire lord who can do it in, well if legends are correct, since before the Seer War.” He chuckled. “There are those who whisper that Nesh is powerful enough to use it, but I’ve never seen it personally.”

Xin shook her head. “We were told the elementals were all extinct. My own grandfather tried to stone me.”

The Water Master patted her arm. “You are safe now. Come, let’s go over to the training field. Nesh teaches the young fire elementals. It is an interesting process, if a bit dangerous.”

“Dangerous?”

“Fire, Xin. If you aren’t careful, you’ll get your eyebrows singed off.”

 

They found Lord Nesh crouched in the training field, surrounded by a group of children whispering and laughing. Nesh’s hands were outstretched and in his hand was a man-shaped flame walking across his palms. The children giggled and laughed as the little flame danced and then did cartwheels across his hands. The Water Master nodded in his direction, speaking in a low voice.

“The last true Fire Lord. His family has been in power in Sandau since before the war of the Seers. He’s far more powerful than his sire, or his grandsire for that matter. Some whisper he is like the great Fire Lords of old.”

Xin watched the Fire Lord, silently comparing him to Tier and shook herself. There was no comparison and it was stupid. Tier was never coming back. She had to move on. Lord Nesh stepped back nodding at the children who lined up in front of him, hands out. Some were able to conjure up little fire-men of their own, some were having trouble getting much more than flaring sparks.

“He’s been teaching the young ones since he mastered his own abilities.” The Water Master murmured.

“He seems good with children.” Xin observed.

“Aye.”

Lord Nesh noticed them, eyebrows arching, he said something to the children and then headed over.

“I see your eyebrows have grown back.” The Water Healer called, chuckling.

“Thanks to you.” Lord Nesh grinned and glanced at Xin. “Training children to use fire can be dangerous at times.”

“I can imagine.” Xin watched the little ones struggling to keep the little flames in their hands from going out. “Aren’t they a bit young?”

“That’s why they must be trained.” Lord Nesh nodded towards a little girl closest to them, no more than six possibly seven years old. “She’ll be a master if she can get the basics down. But fire is dangerous. We must keep control at all times, lest it gets away from us.”

“I can see how that could be a problem.”

“It is a serious matter.” Lord Nesh looked down at her. “And how are you settling in?”

Xin looked away and shrugged. “It’s busier here than Dhaul.”

“It is. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”

Before she could respond a man called for him from the crest of the low hill overlooking the river. Nesh waved once and glanced towards Euka and Xin.

“Excuse me, Euka, can you make sure they don’t singe each other?” He didn’t wait, turning and making his way at a half run to meet the messenger.

Xin watched him as he spoke with the messenger and the two disappeared over the hill. Euka had made his way over to the children speaking gently. The flames went out and they bowed, turned and filed away.

 

“We found this in the house you were assigned to when you first arrived.” The young man set the small bag on the table. Xin felt her mouth go dry, barely acknowledging Aitelle coming over. It was Tier’s bag, the smaller one. She opened it with nerveless fingers, frowning as she pulled out some of his papers.

“Why would he have left this?” She asked no one in particular. The papers were notes, some in Nekarian, some in other language, all in a similar script. At the bottom was the book and the small box he’d found in Dhaul. Xin held the box, staring at the top of it. Important enough to take with him only to leave it behind?

“Xin, what is it?” Aitelle’s voice broke through her daze.

“These are important papers.” She lifted the book, “He called this a treasure of the royal family.” She looked at Aitelle. “Why would he leave it behind?”

Aitelle took the book, carefully flipping through the pages. “I don’t know, it doesn’t seem to be all that important, does it?”

Xin put the papers back, carefully replacing everything.

“He didn’t want her to get her hands on it.” Geb whispered.

Xin stared at Geb, heart pounding in her ears. “Of course.” She closed the bag, glanced at Aitelle. “Please, don’t mention this.”

“Xin, what is it?”

“I’m not sure.” She took the bag up to her room, setting at the foot of her bed, then went to the window staring towards the horizon. Fear for him, for what she’d do to him brought tears to her eyes.

~*~

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Chapter 27                                   Table of Contents

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 27

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 28 of 28 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Estate of the Hassof Family

 

 

Rale felt as though he were swimming through a murky pool of water, trying to reach the surface, and failing miserably. He heard a whisper, the sounds of metal clinking and the loud creak of rusty hinges. His head was too heavy to turn, his eyes felt sealed shut. He couldn’t control his body. Fear raged inside him. Someone was there, was it her? He hoped it wasn’t, prayed she wouldn’t notice him. If he was quiet enough, maybe she’d go away. His mind was raw and sore. A wound gouged into his thoughts.

“Rale?” The voice echoed from a long dark passage. Female. Not her! Something cool, smelling like mint, was pressed against his forehead. A gentle palm pressed against his cheek. He smelled the perfume, light and floral. Her name swam up from the depths of his mind; Aryanda. His elder sister. He struggled to open his eyes, to say something. He heard a low groan and realized it was from him.

“There isn’t much time, Arya, hurry up.” A male voice, clipped and cultured, spoke. It was oddly familiar, though the name of the man elluded him.

“Rale, you have to get up.” Arya whispered. How could she sound so musical when she was whispering?

“Arya?” was that his voice? That cracked sound?

“It’s me. Open your eyes, we don’t have much time.” This time she shook him and pain shot through his body, from his back to his head. He groaned opened his eyes, staring up at her. Dark hair framing dark, concerned eyes.

“Where are we?” The words didn’t sound right. He tried again. “What happened?” He pushed himself up, glad for her help. He cringed when her hand touched his stinging back.

“Home. For now at least. She had me collect you.” Arya “She is expecting to come get you to finish her inquiries.”

Rale stared at her, memories rushing back. He’d hit the floor before Tier had. Rale swallowed. “Where’s Tier?”

Arya looked down, her voice a bare whisper. “She had him executed four days ago.” She looked back up, tears on her cheeks. “There are whispers purging the entire noble line. We have to get you out.”

“Out? We?” He blinked looking past her. Leaning against the wall near the door, arms crossed in front of him was a pale man in dark clothing.

“Xeresel has arranged for you to return to Sandau.” Arya handed him a tunic. He blinked realizing he wore only his underthings. Xeresel? Ambassador Xeresel? He stared at man, ignoring Arya’s attempts to get him out of the cot.

“What is a Bavanan sorcerer doing involving himself in Nekarian politics?” He demanded. Starting to get to his feet. A wave of dizzy swept over him and he plopped back to the cot.

“Saving your ass at the moment. Or trying to. Get dressed, Lord Rale. You are running on borrowed time.”

Rale numbly took his pants, pulling them on, and leaned against Arya as he fumbled with the belt. Lord Xeresel was said to be a powerful sorcerer related to the Queen of Bavanan herself. It was also rumored that he was a spy. Rale swallowed, staring at the man, wondering how much of the rumor might actually be true. He blinked, noticing a pale blue line of pulsing light running along the lines around the room. Next to Xeresel, on the wall, the light formed a circular pattern. Magic Glyph. He’d only heard of those in stories. Rale stared up at the man.

“Why?”

Xeresel gave a faint smile, leaning forward. “Because Arya asked so nicely. Hurry up my lord, we are running out of time.”

Rale took the boots Arya handed him and struggled to get them on his feet as she spoke.

“After we leave, go down to the stables. In the last stall is your horse, all ready to go. In the saddlebags are travel papers and money and a message for the Lady Launi.” Arya gave him a tight hug. “If I can, I’ll send messages through Moya in Tyrsleth.”

Rale got to his feet, fighting his churning stomach. “Arya, you are putting yourselves at risk, you can’t stay also,”

“I can’t leave. Not yet.” She gave a forced smile. “Too much going on.”

“Trust me, Rale, we have done far more than this to garner the Seeress’s wrath.” Xeresel said looking down at his fingernails.

Rale looked back and forth between them. “Like what?”

“There’s no time, Rale.” Arya embraced him quickly. “Someday, we’ll talk and I’ll explain.” She went to the door, resting hand on the doorknob.

“Good luck, my lord.” Xeresel extended a hand towards Rale.

Rale took the man’s hand, trying not to wince when Xeresel squeezed. The Bavanan man stepped back as the light receded, crawling back along the wall towards the round glyph which Xeresel covered with his palm. When he followed Arya out the door, the glyph vanished. Rale glanced at his hand and almost yelled, biting his lip at the last minute. Pulsing on his palm was a blue glyph. He touched it with his finger but he felt nothing but his skin.

“The spell will last long enough to get you out of Nekar unrecognized, but you must hurry. She can see right through it.” Xeresel’s voice was somber.

Rale looked up and felt chills working up his spine. Xeresel was no where to be seen. Neither was Arya. He stumbled to the door glancing at the two huddled forms beside it. Guards, sleeping, at least he hoped they were sleeping. He took a deep breath, and half ran, half stumbled down the hall like a drunken man. Sandau, Lady Launi, Xin, and Geb, the only things going through his mind. And the knowledge that he would have to tell Xin that Tier was dead. He swallowed. He couldn’t think about that now. He had to get out of Nekar.

~*~

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Chapter 26                                   Table of Contents

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 25

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 1 of 28 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

The air was cool and held a hint of autumn. Mist blanketed the valley and from the center of it rose the Oracle. He gritted his teeth and nodded a silent greeting to Rale. They stood before the closed gates, staring up at the insignia. The only sound was the haunting melody that was so familiar.

“Where are the priests?” Rale asked. He was unshaven and had a pallor to his skin that made him look ill.

“I don’t know.” Tier glanced up at the wall. No movement, nothing. He stepped over, raising his hand to knock on the gate when it swung silently inward.

In the center of the courtyard stood a small robed figure, not much taller than the Seeress. Thin hands reached up, pushing the hood of the robe back revealing a very pale, blue eyed woman with a crown of white gold hair. Her robes once fine silks that might have been blue, were tattered and worn, moving about her in a wind he couldn’t feel. Tier swallowed, desperately wishing for a drink.

“Prince Tier.” The woman tipped her head to one side. Tier felt a brush against his mind, like butterfly wings, and pushed back at it. Her eyebrows arched and an odd smile crossed her lips before she peered at Rale. “Lord Rale. You are both late.”

“Where are the Priests?” Rale’s voice had a high pitched edge to it. She chuckled, the sound did nothing to ease Tier’s discomfort.

“The Festival of Hope draws them south to the coast this time of year.” Her voice was so low that Tier had to strain just to hear her.

“And you are?” Rale was frowning at her.

“Kit.” Tier answered for her, chills running up his spine as her remembered the old stories whispered in taverns and round campfires. The mind-breaker. The Voice of the Seeress. Rale went paler and swayed on his feet. She inclined her head slowly not looking away from Tier.

“That is what they call me, yes.” She made a slow circle around them, her hands pressed together in front of her. “You were sent for Elementals.”

“We were unable to bring them with us.” Tier said as she stepped in front of him and looked up at him. Her eyes were familiar, but he couldn’t remember from when.

“She will not be pleased.” Kit said after a moment. She shook her head and motioned towards the corridor leading to the Seeress’s room. “It is time.”

“I did as she asked.” Tier crossed his arms. She turned back to look up at him, her expression impossible to read.

“Yes, you did. Hopefully, for your sakes, she’ll remember her part.” She looked at Rale for a long moment before motioning them again to go down the corridor. Rale sighed and went, Tier stayed rooted, staring at the her.

“She waits for you, your highness.” The soft voice was hypnotic.

“Will she honor her part?”

Kit looked up at him and again he felt the butterfly wings brushing his mind. He pushed back, scowling and she smiled.

“I can’t answer that, your highness. She is not in a good mood.” Her voice never rose, yet it chilled him further. She knew what he could do. He nodded and followed Rale into the silent Oracle.

Each step echoed against the walls and the pressure he’d felt since returning to Nekar grew stronger. When they reached the inner sanctum, Tier could barely see. Pain shot through his head as the Seeress entered the room. His eyes locked on her, struck again by how young she looked. This creature was over a thousand years old? Two thousand? She stared at him, her blank eyes boring into his. He felt the pressure increase and could almost feel her fingers clawing at his mind.

He shuddered, unable to stop himself. He was certain she was trying to get into his mind.

“You failed.” Her voice, harsh and brittle compared to Kit’s soft tones, crawled over his skin. Her movements were less fluid than before, far more agitated.

“You said if we couldn’t bring them back,” Rale began. The Seeress turned her head and Rale gripped the sides of his head with a hoarse cry. Tier took a half step towards his cousin and then glared at the Seeress.

“We were hindered by another like you.” Tier said, somehow his shakes faded as she looked back at him, eyes wide. His fear faded, anger beginning to boil. This little creature had held Nekar in the palm of her hand for centuries. Even now his father was acting not on his own but in response to her. The pressure he’d felt since arriving back home was the Seeress, he was certain of it.

“There are no others like me.” She whispered. Tier was aware of the tattered robed Kit kneeling beside Rale.

“She called herself Launi.” Tier continued. Kit looked towards him but his kept his gaze on the Seeress. Kera, he reminded himself, her name was Kera. “She seemed to feel you were not entirely truthful with me when you asked me to look for elementals.”

“Did she?”

On the ground Rale groaned.

“Father informed me that you told him I was looking for a General’s daughter. That is not what you asked us to do.”

“Are you questioning me?” Her voice cold. On the ground Rale groaned.

“Yes I am.” He gripped his sword belt, his palms sweaty. He was a dead man already, he could see it on her face, he might as well give her a piece of his mind. “I was sent away from my duties under false pretenses. I have a war I am fighting, my men need me there. Not traipsing around the world looking for elementals who are not as extinct as we have been led to believe they were. How many other lies have you told our people?” Pressure upon pressure on his skull dropped him gasping to his knees. He glared up at her. She knelt, her fingernail scraping his cheek.

“You presume much, your highness.” She whispered hoarsely.

“Do I?” He narrowed his eyes. “Grandmother?”

For a brief moment the pressure stopped, he heard a gasp, the white faded from her eyes revealing a pale blue, like the woman from the mural. The pressure and the white returned and his cheek felt hot along where her fingernail had traced. Pain, white hot shot through his cheek.

“You have outlived your usefulness, your highness. Open your mind to me and I might see fit to spare your life.”

“And let you control my every movement? No thank you.” He whispered. Pain blazed again, but this time on his back. He jerked forward arching his back blindly attempting to ease the pain. The Seeress cupped his face in her hands, her fingernails biting into his skin.

“Let. Me. In.”

Tier closed his eyes, feeling the claws in his head. “No.” Anger welled up, flaring around him and for a moment, when he opened his eyes and met hers, he saw. A thousand years of lies, experiences, births, deaths, the building of an empire and behind it all were the shadowed images of people he didn’t recognize.

Time rolled beneath him, the war of the Seers, a conflict which had stretched for thousands of years had come to a head. It had been they, the spirit elementals, the sisters, not the elementals, that nearly tore their world apart. Darkness clouded his vision and he felt himself falling.

“Traitor.” Her voice echoed in his mind even as the darkness crowded around him. “Take him to the desert.”

 

 

Water dripped in the distance. Kit stared at the place the two men had lain, her mind whirring. Unexpected. Very unexpected. Kera paced behind her, hands clenched at her sides.

“How could he have found out?” Kera rasped. “It’s impossible, no one could have figured it out!”

Kit didn’t answer. She kept her secrets tightly behind a public wall of nonsensical thoughts. Kera had long grown weary trying to batter through it, the centuries had left the Seeress a touch lazy.

“Kit!”

Kit looked at her, pulling her robes tightly around her. “What?”

“Go with the army to Sandau. I want Launi brought here in chains.”

Kit inclined her head and watched Kera make her way back into the private area. Behind her heavy footfalls and the jingling of armor announced the arrival of the Oracle Guards. They went out of their way to avoid Kera if they could. Kit listened to them shuffling uncomfortably.

“My lady?” The Captain’s voice was hesitant.

“I’ve told you not to call me that, Captain.” Kit met the man’s eyes. He swallowed and inclined his head.

“Forgive me. The prisoner is ready to be taken to the desert, we’re having trouble locating some shackles though. We may have to send to the capital for some.”

“Use rope.” Kit, moved past him.

“But, Kit, rope…”

“He won’t be waking up again, Captain.” She pulled her hood over her head and met his eyes. “I made sure of that. All you need is to keep him propped up on the pole. Right?”

The Captain stared at her for a long time before nodding. “Of course. What do you want us to do with their horses?”

“I’ll take care of the prince’s horse. Send Lord Rale’s back to his family with him.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good day, Captain.” Kit turned, making her way back to the courtyard.

The two travel weary horses stood patiently, waiting for their masters. She stepped up to the large warhorse, rubbing his nose. “You’ll do very well, won’t you?”

~*~

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Chapter 24                                      Table of Contents                   Chapter 26

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Plans and things

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Some things;

The year of the Series.

Elemental Truth

I’m going to be posting the rest of the chapters of E1 as they are ready, at least one a day until they’re all up.

Once it’s done, I’ll be offering it at the usual outlets, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords. I’ll also be preparing it to go to print through Createspace, hopefully no later than March 1st.

Book 2, Elemental Flame is outlined and ready to be written. Once I get the Avaria series out of the way. Or some of it.

Avaria Series

Bastard Prince, The Sarukai Lord, and The Dragon Gates are all slated to be finished this year. This series has lingered for too long.

I’m also going to be trying to get back on a posting schedule and the flash friday stuff.

 

Personally, life is still racing and I’m trying to figure out a balance. Thank you for sticking with me.

 

NPhoenix.

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 23

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 24 of 24 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“And you were unable to glean anything at all from Sandau?” General Dyrnos asked with a scowl.

“No.” Tier sat in the War Hall in the Imperial Palace. At the table sat his father and others in the Nekarian High Command. All eyes were on him. His head pounded as though the room was full of holiday drummers. It started shortly before arriving at the Palace, and wasn’t letting up. “Lord Nesh escorted Rale and I out within a day of our arrival.”

General Dyrnos sighed and shook his head. “Typical.”

“And your mission for the Seeress? Was it successful?” The Emperor asked. The silence was heavy. Tier could see the concern written on the faces of the men and women he’d trained with and mentored under for years. Even his headache faded momentarily, as if awaiting his reply. His gut twisted.

“Both a success and a failure, sir. I was forced to leave behind those I was sent to find.” He said slowly.

“But you found the Water Master’s daughter though?” Lord Faruq asked, leaning forward.

Tier studied the man for a long time, heart pounding in his ears. “I was not told I was seeking anyone’s daughter.” He pulled out the little black scroll the Seeress had given him on his departure and unrolled it, skimming over the contents before handing it to the Lord. “Those were my orders.”

The Lord frowned, reading it, and handed it to the woman sitting beside him. It was passed around in silence before returned to Tier who dropped it on the table top in front of him.

“That raises questions,” The man began.

“Which are irrelevant.” The Emperor cut him off. He pinned Tier with a sharp look. “I know your time in Sandau was limited. From what you saw, how well do you think they’d fare in a siege?”

Tier frowned. “The longer you wait, the stronger they’ll be. They are expecting us to move. Right now, the city walls are more decorative than functional, from what I saw. But they’re being buffered.”

The Emperor nodded and leaned forward. “Next winter I want Sandau to be ours.”

Tier leaned back in his chair, the headache was close to blinding. The others were nodding though watching him.

“Shortly after you left on your mission, Jaktor fell. And two days ago, Lord Chiron sent word that the fort finally fell. That gives us two clear paths towards Sandau and the northern lands. I want you at the head of that army.” The Emperor leaned forward. “I want you march out as soon as the passes clear in the spring.”

“I live to serve.” Tier murmured, rubbing his temples.

The meeting continued, discussion of the recent victories and future plans, but he participated less. With each passing moment it felt like claws were scratching at his mind. When the meeting ended he stayed sitting, letting the others leave before he stood.

“Chiron wrote a fairly nasty letter regarding your passing through.” The Emperor said gravely, standing.

“Did he?” Tier forced his eyes to focus on his father, his heart drumming loud in his ears.

“He indicated that he felt you switched sides.”

Tier blinked. “What?”

“He said you threatened to rip his arms off. Over the woman he claimed was the water master’s daughter.”

Tier exhaled in a hiss. “I didn’t threaten to take his arms off. I told him if he touched her I wouldn’t restrain myself.”

The Emperor chuckled. “You scared the shit out of him.”

“Good. He threatened her well-being and publicly insulted her, repeatedly.” Tier stood. “Be assured, my loyalty is to Nekar, and has always been so.”

“And the woman?” The Emperor raised a hand. “I have never known you to threaten violence over a woman.”

“She saved my life, father.” Tier said slowly. “If for no other reason I owed her.”

“Perhaps when you take Sandau she will still be there.” the Emperor said softly. “Bring her back…”

Tier shrugging. “She’s an Elemental. There are far more elementals in the world than we’ve been led to believe.”

The Emperor’s eyes went wide and he nodded. “I see. It is most unfortunate. Maen seems to have no interest in taking a wife,”

“Father,”

“Your mother wants grandchildren before she dies.” The Emperor grinned at him.

Tier snorted, rubbing his forehead. “Before I forget, I wanted to warn you Chiron is running Delebeg into the ground.”

“Howso?”

“He’s managed to keep the water limited to the royal grounds, doling it out to the rest of the city in limited amounts.”

“Interesting.”

“I believe there is trouble, possibly civil unrest brewing in Delebeg.” Tier leaned against the back of the chair he’d been sitting in. “I know you are focused on taking Sandau, but perhaps you should wait.”

“Tier,”

“The problem in Delebeg is a storm-cloud brewing. When it lets loose,”

“We cannot give the northerners a chance to build up their defenses.” The Emperor held up his hand. “We will address the Delebeg situation, but right now those passes are our ticket to the plains. We,”

“We who?”

“What?”

“You said we, you and whom else?” Tier studied his father. The man who had towered over him as a child, frightening him, seemed diminished. Age was showing, and realizing it, he was startled. His father, old?

“The Seeress has outlined her plans for the future. She wants,” the Emperor chuckled. “I want Sandau as a province.”

“It would strain our manpower over time. The Sandau are not to be taken lightly.”

“No. Of course not. But they don’t have what we do. We have the Gods on our side. The Seeress,”

“Who rules Nekar, father?”

The Emperor froze, his face stern. “Tier, I rule. I am the Emperor, do you doubt my power?”

“No!” Tier swallowed. “If the Seeress doesn’t rule, then why does she have such influence on what decisions you make?”

“Tier.” His father’s voice was heavy. “To ask such questions is unwise.”

“Why? You’re the Emperor.” Tier refused to back down.

“Without the Seeress our family wouldn’t be in power. Our people would nothing but nomads wandering the deserts. We, as a people, owe her. If she asks me for the moon, I will do everything in my power to give it to her.”

Tier nodded, gripping the back of the chair. “It has been a long trip. I still have to report to the Seeress.” He spoke carefully.

“Welcome home son.” To his surprise the Emperor embraced him. “Tonight is the Festival of Hope. Maen and Hannah are both here, stay. Join us. Your mother would be very pleased to see you. Tomorrow you can go and report to the Seeress, but for tonight, stay. It has been a long time since you were in these halls.”

“I will.” Tier forced a smile. Despite being home, where he knew he belonged, he felt empty. He missed Xin.

 

His old rooms were pristine, large, decorated as befit his station. They were hollow. It had been years since he’d been in the Palace for an extended period of time. He preferred his estates, far simpler, out of the way. It would be a while before he’d be able to get back. He’d come in earlier, to clean up before meeting with his father, and left his travel things beside the large bed. Now he stood, trying to think around the pain. He did a quick check of his weapons, untouched as were his bags. He sank on one of the chairs at the desk staring at the hard leather covering. What was she doing now? Learning no doubt. Launi said she’d assign teachers to ensure she could improve their gifts. Gifts, not a curse. When had he stopped thinking of them as elementals? He couldn’t remember. She was just Xin, who had faced far more in her life, who had risked far more than he had.

“Is she beautiful?” the soft voice broke through his thoughts. He half turned towards the door, unable to keep from smiling. His younger sister leaned against the door jam. Hannah smiled at him, her dark eyes sparkling from some inner joke.

“What?” Her question barely registered past his headache. It had been almost two years since he’d seen her. She was less the gangly child and more a young woman.

“The woman you threatened Chiron over. It’s all over the palace. Is she beautiful?” She stepped into the room, her long skirts rustling loudly with each step.

Tier half turned away lifting one of the bags. For a brief moment he could almost see Xin, her large soft blue eyes twinkling. “She is, exquisite.”

“Why didn’t you bring her back, then?” Hannah asked coming up beside him. She leaned against his shoulder.

Tier sighed. “Wouldn’t have worked, Hannah. She’s not exactly an ally.” he met his sister’s eyes. She frowned.

“Oh.” She sighed. “Still, you should have anyways. I would like to meet a woman who had my brother threatening to tear a man’s arms off!” She grinned up at him.

“That was an exaggeration. Aren’t you supposed to be in Arhein?” He needed to change the subject.

“I wanted to come back here for festival. And father is planning to find me a husband.” She leaned against him. “I was hoping you’d be home soon.”

“I see.”

“Will you then be around for a while?” She stepped back as he stood. Tier smiled down at her.

“I’ll be here for the festivities tonight.”

“Oh good, there’s supposed to be some sort of unveiling.”

“Unveiling?” Tier frowned.

“One of father’s new pet projects. Finding a way to cross the mountains by air instead of on foot.” Hannah shrugged. “They’re supposed to be showing off the new air-carriage at the height of the festival.”

“Father didn’t say anything about that. Is that why Maen is here?”

“Possibly. No fighting with him, please. I’ve seen the two of you in the same room.” She batted her eyes at him.

“I’ll try to keep my mouth shut.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.” He gave her a quick hug. “I have an awful headache though, squirt. I need to nap this off before tonight. I’ll see you at the festival.”

She smiled, going back to the door. “I’ll hunt you down if you don’t show.”

He chuckled and nodded. “I’ll be there.” She turned to leave then whirled back around, her skirts twisting about her legs, hands clasped tightly in front of her.

“Do you miss her?”

Tier gritted his teeth. “Go on squirt. My head is about to burst.”

She sighed and left, closing the door behind her gently. He stared at it for a long time before making his way to the bed. Once in it, he closed his eyes, hoping sleep would take away the pain, but sleep was a long way off. He could see Xin in his mind’s eye, as she had been in the kitchen in Sandau. Those overlarge eyes, soft hair that felt like silk in his hands. He hoped, prayed to whatever god might be listening that when they marched on Sandau she would be gone.

~*~

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Quick update.

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Ok, so last year was not the easiest year I’ve ever had. This year is going to be better. I refuse to believe otherwise. So here are a few things I’ve got on the plate.

2015 Writing/pubbing lineup

Elemental Truth;

I am not going to dwell on it. I’m working on it daily. I’ll post chapters as they’re ready. I’m hoping that by the end of this month it will be ready to be pubbed. I’m also going to be releasing it in print, though I’m not sure when it will be ready.

The Bastard Prince, The Sarukai Lord, The Dragon Gates & Crossroads

I love this story. and I hate it. Which makes me sad to say. Once I’m done with the E1 edit/publishing, I’m diving into the Zandercrack and it’s going to be published. This year. Even if it kills me XD.

Those projects could easily swamp me this year. But here are other things I’d like to try to check off the list;

The Fallen. Two maybe three scenes and it’s DONE. >.<
Zombiestuff  –  I have more storires set in this world I want to tell.
Crown of Bones – Fantasy Adventure series, with female protags.
Space Opera
PHFR (prehistoric-fantasy romance)

 

There are other things but right now I have to focus on E1 & Zander. Those have been sitting for way too long. It’s the year to dare to be bad I have to. My sanity depends on it.

I’m also hoping to take one of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops (you can find them over here) because I want to improve in many areas. Anyways, there’s more on my mind, but I’ve been catwaxing all day. Time to finish the typo sweep and post the next chapter of E1.

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 22

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 23 of 23 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“Traveling with the Imperial prince must have been interesting.” The Seeress of Sandau, a slim woman Lord Nesh addressed as Lady Launi, sat on a delicate looking chair at a dainty table. Like the furniture, she looked as though a strong wind would blow her away. Her face, ageless, was serene, her long fingers laced together in her lap. Behind her, leaning against the wall beside the door, stood Lord Nesh. He was tall, broad shouldered, and surrounded by an aura of power. As tanned as his people and, Xin quietly admitted to herself, he was very attractive. She swallowed a surge of guilt and tried to focus on Lady Launi’s words and avoid looking directly at either Lady Launi or the Lord Nesh. The murals gave her chills which left her studying the tabletop. Lady Launi’s soft voice broke through her thoughts. “He acted honorably?”

“If you are asking if he raped me, no. Nor did he or Rale ever threaten to. Next question.” Xin stared hard at the pale eyed creature. She wasn’t sure where Lady Launi was looking and it added to her unease.

Lady Launi bowed her head, lips twitching. “Prince Tier’s reputation,”

“I’m well aware of his reputation, my lady.” Xin swallowed. She was going to get herself in trouble.

“Of course. You would be.” Lady Launi smiled.

“What is to become of Geb and I?”

“Earth Master Iro and Water Master Euka have agreed to take you on to train you.” Lord Nesh said. Xin looked up at him in surprise. “Water Master Euka also trained Corrin, when she arrived here.”

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. “Corrin?” Vague memories beat at her. She shoved them away. Now was not the time to dwell on the past, hazy and indistinct as it was.

“Your mother I believe.” Lady Launi touched her arm. “Lady Xin,”

“I am no lady.” Xin muttered. Lady Launi shook her head.

“You are a water elemental. You’ve already managed great feats with your gifts. You have earned the title, Lady. Now, your mother is not in Sandau at the moment. She has a small house which stands open most of the year,”

“No.” Xin swallowed and shook her head. “That wouldn’t be right, not without her knowing I’m here.”

Lady Launi nodded and opened her mouth as though to say something when a knock at the door made them jump. Lord Nesh reached over and turned the knob. A slim woman with wild curly red hair stepped into the room. She nodded at Lord Nesh and smiled warmly at Xin.

“Aitelle, you are interrupting.” Lady Launi said. Aitelle flinched.

“I know. I apologize.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “The whole city is afire with rumors about General Corrin’s daughter.”

“I’m certain it is. The resemblance is quite striking.” Lord Nesh said. “There will be many curious eyes watching them.”

“I’d rather be back in the desert.” Geb scowled.

“Me too.” Xin murmured.

“I live in an old stable near the river. There are lots of spare rooms. Right behind it is a stream. You’d be able to practice your skills without drawing a crowd. And beyond the stream are the training grounds.” Aitelle looked at Geb. “You’d be able to work on your skills. It’s out of the way, not prone to lots of foot traffic and people usually try to avoid it.” Aitelle glanced at Xin. “As long as you don’t mind sand dragon musk, you are more than welcome.”

“Sand dragon?” Xin stared. Did the woman keep a dragon?

“Aitelle is from the canyons to the West, near where you and your traveling companions were. Her people were slaughtered by the Nekarians.” Nesh said grimly. “She acquired a baby sand dragon before coming to Sandau.”

“I rescued Ryuu from the soldiers and he chose to follow me.” Aitelle corrected him and then spread her hands out. People don’t bother us. It would be a place for you to get comfortable here.”

Xin glanced at Geb whose eyes were wide, watching the red haired woman. He looked at Xin.

“I think it’s a good idea.” His voice was barely audible.

Xin nodded. “I do too.”

“Shall we consider it as decided then?” Lord Nesh asked.

Launi inclined her head.

“With all due respect then, Ladies, I have meetings to attend.” He gave a slight bow and left. Lady Launi sighed.

“I’ll be needed at those meetings also.” She tipped her head to one side. “Aitelle,”

“I’ll give them a tour of the place.” The woman grinned.

 

“The city has stood for close to two thousand years, they say.” Aitelle said as they made their way along a side road towards the outskirts of town. “And they say even before it was a city there has always been a settlement here.”

“Why?” Geb asked. Aitelle pointed at the river.

“The river. It connects Sandau to the coasts. Here we are.” Aitelle pointed towards the two storied building. A rough path lead to the wide wooden door. In front, fenced off, was a large stable-yard with a shed leaning against the building.

“The plateau behind the stable is the training grounds. You can’t see the stream from here, but trust me, it’s there.” Aitelle motioned them to follow her as she simply floated a hand span off the ground to the porch. She waited beside the door.

Geb pointed. “Xin look, in the shadow, do you see that?”

That was a large something, coiled tightly in a mound, the tip of its tail twitching. Xin’s mouth went dry and the thing uncoiled its head. The sand dragon, far smaller than the ones they’d encountered in the canyon, shook its head, the frills making a rusting sound. Its eyes narrowed as it spotted them but it simply laid its head back atop its coils.

“He won’t hurt you or attack. Unless you step past the fence.” Aitelle advised.

“I’ll keep that in mind. What happens once we’re trained?” Xin asked.

“Training never stops. We always strive to improve and get stronger. Once you’re advanced enough, then you’ll be free to go wherever you want. Well, you could leave right now, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Aitelle shrugged.

“Why?”

“Nekar and her mindset is like a plague. And being Corrin’s daughter, it might not be a good idea for you to travel abroad.”

“I see.” Xin stared up the road they’d walked down. The curious onlookers had halted at the top of the hill. She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at them.

“At least no one here will try to stone you if you use your gifts.” Aitelle said.

“Or chase us out of town.” Geb leaned against the fence and looked up at Aitelle. Again, Xin got the sense of far greater age than the boy had years. “When will the Masters be here?”

“Probably in the morning.” Aitelle opened the door. “Come inside and I’ll show you around. Consider this place home for as long as you need.”

Xin swallowed and nodded. “Thank you.”

 

Lady Launi stared at the mural, at her nemesis. She felt within the room, and herself, the coils of uncertainty and doubt stirring. Long ago, Kera, the Seeress of Nekar, had been a near unstoppable force. Launi was still in training in the far north when the war broke out. How could she hope to stand up against the mad creature now? Kera might be south of the mountains that blocked Nekar from the rest of the world, but Launi wondered how long she was going to stay down south.

“She has stayed in Nekar for a thousand years, my lady. We always knew she would creep back north.” Lord Nesh said. Launi glanced at him. Waiting patiently behind him, stood the elemental masters and several commanders in charge of Nesh’s forces. She looked back at the mural as Nesh continued. “At least the Lady Nekita isn’t part of this any more.”

“Very true. I couldn’t have stood against them both.” She stared hard at the mural. The youthful faces. “Yet ’tis not her I worry about.” Nesh made a sound.

“He’s a Nekarian butcher, my lady.” Nesh’s voice was bitter. “He wouldn’t think twice anout grinding this city underfoot.”

“The man encountered was a far different man than the rumors would have us believe him to be.” She looked up at Nesh. “And he is the first male Spirit Elemental I’ve encountered in my lifetime, perhaps the first since the Founding. Untrained he blocked me. What might he do, were he trained properly? And we have sent him back to her, to be slaughtered. What secrets are hiding beneath the veil Kera has cast over that land? Is he the only one? Or are there others, hiding their abilities to stay alive.”

“I’ve reports of periodic religious purges. Perhaps that is what is behind them.” Earth Master Iro suggested.

“You sure she’ll kill him?” Someone else asked. “If he is powerful, as you suspect, what are the chances she will train him as her pupil instead?”

“Slight. She couldn’t even accept Nekita’s presence, her own twin.” Launi turned, looking over the assembled. “I doubt she would accept the help of a male elemental.”

“But the possibility is there?” Lady Iro said. The slim Earth Shaper sipped from the tea cup and tipped her head to one side. “That would make things interesting.”

“Interesting is an understatement, Lady Iro.” Lord Nesh said dryly.

“I should have found a way to convince him to stay.” Launi murmured.

“Too little information too late, my lady.” Lord Nesh said. “He will not abandon his people. If he is as honorable as Corrin’s daughter claims…”

“It’s sad how deluded Nekar is.” Lady Iro said wistfully.

“Sad, yes. And dangerous.” Lord Nesh said. “A deluded man with a sword can still kill.”

“Through the minds of those two men she’ll learn I’m here. And when she realizes it, I fear she will make her move north. The war will accelerate.”

“The second Seeress War?” Someone asked. Launi shook her head.

“The first one never ended. Only paused briefly.” Launi eyed each of them. “Prepare the elementals. Someone needs to get word to Corrin and let her know she is needed back here.”

“Last I heard, she was going to be meeting up with her lover on The Prancing Dragon.” One of Lord Nesh’s advisors said.”It runs cargo up and down the eastern coast.”

“We’ll send message to Tyrsleth.” The Water Master said. “She’ll be happy to hear about Xin. She was heartbroken about leaving her behind.”

“Say nothing of Xin.” Launi said quickly. “The young woman has reservations, and concerns.  I will honor those.”

“Yes my lady.”

Launi turned to the Earth Shaper. “Lady Iro, find the old passages under the city. Make sure they’re sound. Prepare them.”

“Prepare them for what?” Iro whispered. Her dark eyes wide.

“War.”

The silence stretched and Launi turned back to the mural, resuming her study Kera’s smooth, child-like face. She felt the others hesitate and leave, all but one. She smiled. He would stay. He always did. She glanced at Nesh, eyebrow arched.

“How soon do you think Nekar will march?”

She studied him for a long time. “Soon, Nesh.” She turned back to the mural, staring hard at the Seeress Kera. “Too soon.”

~*~

I’m on a mission to finish the edit and get this thing up for sale before the end of the first week of 2015. It’s months late and for that I apologize. 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 21

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

The house was a small building near the river. The pull of the water tugged at Xin as she stepped into the sparsely decorated main room. An archway led to a small kitchen and stairs set against one wall led up to what she assumed a loft or bedroom. It reminded her of the house she grew up in.

“Is there a reason we’re being detained?” Rale’s voice broke through the sudden nostalgia. Xin glanced at him. His jaw was clenched, eyes locked on the Lord of Sandau. Lord Nesh’s eyebrow arched.

“You are Nekarian. Need there be any other reason?”

Xin swallowed as Lord Nesh’s gaze landed on her. His eyes narrowed.

“An elemental traveling with a Nekarian butcher,” he clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Makes one wonder.”

“It was my choice to travel with them, my lord. Their manners have been impeccable.” Xin said. She bit off an insulting remark. It wouldn’t have helped anything.

“Indeed.”

“He saved my life.” Geb said. Lord Nesh looked at the boy, his lip twitching. For a moment Xin thought the Lord would smile.

“For what purpose, I wonder. Nekarians are not known for kindness to Elementals.”

“It’s none of your business, Lord Nesh.” Rale said. He stepped between Xin and Nesh. The guards shifted, hands going to their swords, though they didn’t draw. Nesh held a hand to one side and the guards slowly relaxed. “Our reasons for traveling together are our own.”

Nesh’s eyes narrowed. “As are my reasons for detaining you. Stay in the house, leaving might be detrimental to your health.” He turned and left. The guards exchanged dubious glances and followed him. Xin looked at the closed door, her heart hammering in her chest.

“Now what?” Geb asked.

“We wait for Tier.” Rale glanced at them and went to the stairs. “That’s all we can do.”

Tier was quiet when he returned. Outside the guards that had accompanied him were speaking quietly with the guards at the door. Xin swallowed as he glanced at her, then locked eyes with Rale. He jerked his head towards the kitchen and the two men stepped into the other room leaving Geb and Xin staring at each other. She could hear the men talking, their voices were low but urgent.

“Xin?” Geb touched her arm. “What’s happening?”

Xin shook her head. “Let’s go find out.”

Neither man looked her way when she entered. Rale pointed to an empty chair at the coarse table near a window. Xin sat, unable to look away from Tier.

“We’re being escorted back to Nekar.” Tier said. He met her eyes. “Without you or Geb.”

Xin looked back and forth between them, her mind frozen. She’d never planned to go to Nekar, but being left this way. She forced herself to breathe. They’d be returning without Elementals. “Your mission. If you go back without us,”

“The decision is out of my hands.” Tier hesitated and looked away. “The Seeress will understand.”

Xin doubted that. “What will happen to us?” she whispered.

“The Seeress here is arranging for you both to be trained in your elements. She believes returning to Nekar would put your life in danger.” His jaw clenched. “I believe she’s right.”

Xin stared at the whirls in the tabletop.

“There are other Elementals here?” Geb’s voice was loud in the quiet room.

“From what she said, there are masters in every element.” Tier said.

“The Seeress isn’t going to like it.” Rale’s voice shook.

“She doesn’t have to like it. Our hands are tied.”

Rale nodded. “We leave in the morning then?”

Tier nodded. “Get some rest Rale. We’ll be riding hard to get back to Nekar.” He left them sitting, stunned.

Xin stared at Rale. “What is he not saying, Rale?”

Rale shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t seen him like this.” he looked at her and swallowed. “This is better. You will be safer than in Nekar.”

“I know.” Xin stood glancing around the small kitchen. Fear was raging in her head. Not for her, but for Tier and Rale.

“Xin,” Rale began.

“He’s right, Rale.” She looked at him. “You’d better get some rest.”

His things were piled on a narrow cot in one of the rooms upstairs. Tier knelt beside it, trying to clear his mind. Heavy footfalls announced Rale’s arrival. His cousin was swearing with each step. Tier gritted his teeth. He couldn’t let Rale know what he knew.

“Any particular reason we’re being tossed out of the country?”

“We’re Nekarians.” Tier shrugged and upended his travel packs. He needed to repack and there were some things he couldn’t risk taking with him.

“And?”

“Sandau is on the verge of war with Nekar.” Tier shrugged. “We’re lucky they’re not going to hold us captive. Or for ransom.”

Rale hissed. “Don’t say that. Don’t want to give them any ideas!”

Tier snorted and stared over the pile on the cot. His papers, travel notes, the cloth wrapped book, and the box from Dhaul. All of it important. His gut twisted. If he took it with him…

“Tier, I don’t trust these Sandau people. Or their Seeress. Did you see the way Nesh was looking at Xin?” Rale asked in a rush.

Tier studied him. “Xin can hold her own against an arrogant backwater Lord. As of this afternoon,” he swallowed looking back at the stuff. “I’m no longer responsible for her well being.”

“And what about Geb?” Rale asked after a moment.

“Launi is arranging for them both to be trained by masters in their element. They’ll be safer here than anywhere I would take them.”

“Launi?” Rale stared at him. “On a first name basis with their seeress?”

“If anything she’s far more approachable than the Seeress of Nekar.”

I don’t like it.” Rale murmured.

“Go check the stores in the kitchen. See if there’s any food we can take with us. We’ll ride hard to get home.”

The silence stretched. “You’re trying to get rid of me.” Rale accused.

Tier said nothing.

“You’re keeping secrets, Tier.”

He just looked at Rale until his cousin turned and stomped down the stairs swearing under his breath.

Tier leaned against the cot. My secrets will be the death of me.

He lifted the book, staring at his family’s crest before opening it and flipping back to the last entry. The symbol sitting beside his grandmother’s name. The symbol of the Seeress; the eye with coiling ends crossed through what looked like scratch marks. His stomach roiled and he flipped back through the book with trembling hands. The symbol was there, every four or five generations. He fought bile rising in his throat. She was his grandmother. He closed the book, staring at it.

“Great gods.” He whispered. The stronger a blood bond, the more control a Spirit Elemental has over those close to her. He rubbed his forehead.

Seeress Kera controlled the throne.

He stuffed the book, the box and almost all of his traveling papers into the smaller pack and stared at it. If it fell into her hands, it could get him and others killed. He pushed the bag beneath the cot, pushing it as far as he could and straightened. To protect Rale, to keep Xin safe and maybe even slide out of her scrutiny he had to keep quiet. Perhaps Launi or her minions would find it. If they did they could… Could what? Destroy her?

He swallowed. He was thinking like a traitor. She’d led their people to the great success. Without her, Nekar wouldn’t exist and their people would be nothing but nomadic barbarians. He laid back on the cot, staring up at the rafters.

 

Tier was kneeling by the wall where the packs were. Xin hesitated at the top of the stairs. She wanted a moment with him, before he left. Just a few months of traveling with this man had changed her, and now he was leaving her behind. No, she was staying where things would be safer for her. She tightened her robe and forced herself to go down the stairs. He turned and stood eyebrows arching.

“Kind of late, what are you doing up?” There was an edge to his voice. Xin forced a grin.

“I could ask you the same thing.” She stepped over motioning the bags. “Leaving in the middle of the night?”

“The guards are soft.” he said with a shrug. He turned towards the kitchen, an empty bag in hand. “I think it might do them some good to have a change in plans.”

Xin chuckled and followed him. He lit the lamp from an ember in the stove and set it on the small table. The glow gave the kitchen a warm, homey feeling, or was it him standing there? Xin swallowed, forcing back regrets.

“You’re mean.” She leaned against the door jamb watching him pack things into the bag. He glanced her way, the crooked smile directed at her made her stomach knot.

“I know. But those guards, if they know how to ride a horse I’ll be surprised.”

Xin chuckled, but her smile faded quickly. She swallowed several times as he continued raiding the pantry.

“Will you ever return?” She had to know, He looked at her, and gave a barely perceptible shrug.

“When I return it will be as a conqueror.” His voice was low. “Whatever you can learn from these people, do so, then get far from Sandau.”

“How soon?”

“Couple years maybe?” He looked a touch sad. “If Chiron’s forces are successful, they’ll given Nekar an opening to Sandau.”

“Oh. You think Chiron’s forces will win?”

“Eventually.” Tier shook his head, looking down in the bag in such a way that his hair, longish and tousled obscured his expression. Xin frowned.

“She is not known for understanding or kindness.” she whispered. He nodded.

“True. At this point though it is out of my hands. Launi won’t allow me to take you or Geb with me. The Seeress will fume, but I’ve done what she’s asked.” He tied off the bag and set it down beside him. Xin nodded, staring at the bag, at his feet, the floor, anywhere but his face. She feared she would cry if she did.

“It’s not fair.” She said forcing herself to meet his eyes, heart pounding. He nodded. Xin felt the prickles in her eyes, the tightness in her throat.

“Life never is.” he said.

She shook her head. “That doesn’t help.”

He held out his hand and Xin took it, letting him draw her closer. His hands, rough and strong yet gentle as he folded his arms around her pressing his lips against the top of her head. “It never would have worked, we both know that.”

“I know.” She pressed her forehead against his chest feeling his strength, fear for him and what might happen raging. She wanted to beg him to stay with her. He lifted her chin, with a finger, forcing her to look up at him.

“You are far safer here, Xin, more than you realize.” His thumb brushed her lower lip and she could feel his hand pressing against her back, warm through her robe and nightgown.

“I know.” she pressed her palms against his chest.

He kissed her and every thought vanished in a sudden heat. She closed her eyes, savoring the taste of him the feel of his arm around her When the kiss broke they stood for several heartbeats in silence, forehead to forehead. Words were useless and thinking hurt. Xin stepped back, reluctant to leave his embrace but terrified of what might happen if she stayed.

“I should go back to bed.” she whispered.

“Might be a good idea.” his voice was hoarse, his breathing harsh and his eyes so intense she feared she would burn up in his gaze. “Before we get into trouble.”

“Be careful Tier.”

She half ran back up the stairs to her room, her body on fire and bittersweet tears filling her eyes. She heard the footfalls outside on the landing and heard Tier and Rale talking in low voices in Nekarian. She heard the front door open, the murmur of the guards protesting the middle of the night leaving and the closing door echoed in her ears.

~*~

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 20

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 21 of 21 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

 

The walls of Sandau were under construction. Xin stared in silent awe at the complex scaffolding. The wide road leading to the main gates was filled with wagons and other traffic on foot. On the other side of the road, she saw the wide river. On either bank and in the center of the river were stone towers and, she guessed, watchers keeping an eye on the river traffic. River barges were moving up and down the river taking their wares north to Tyrsleth or south towards the southern cities of Jaktor and Begara. Xin shook her head. It was far bigger a city than she’d thought.

“Looks like they’re bringing in the harvest.” Rale said in an odd tone. Xin studied him. The lord appeared a bit pale, almost ill.

“With all the people, we should be able to get in and out easily.” Tier said. He sounded doubtful.

“Where exactly are we going?” Xin asked. “We’re here, at Sandau. Now what?” She looked back and forth between them and swallowed. “You didn’t plan for this, did you?”

Tier looked thoughtful. “We find a inn, and see if we can locate either an air elemental or a fire elemental.” He met her eyes. “We’ll go from there.”

“We have to keep our heads down.” Geb said.

Tier shot Rale a dark look. “Yes. We must. Which means you keep quiet.” There was a hint of power to his voice that sent shivers up Xin’s spine. Rale swallowed and nodded.

 

They dismounted and joined the crowd moving into the city. Xin cringed as the guards watched her go by, but they made no move to stop them. Tier made a couple inquiries about lodging and they were directed to a small inn, near the river. Xin’s stomach churned. Several people halted, staring as they passed.

“Tier,” Xin touched his arm. He nodded but didn’t look at her.

“I see. Stay close to Geb.”

The inn was a small building in need of repair. A sign directed them around the back of the building to the stable yard and barn. And standing in the stableyard were several grim looking guards. Patrons of the inn were watching from the windows and doorways.

A tall, darkly tanned man in rich red clothing stepped from behind the guards, studying them with a grim expression. Xin swallowed when she met his eyes. One of his eyebrows raised, though his gaze passed her.

“Prince Tier, if you and your, companions will accompany us.” his stared at Xin before looking back at Tier.

“Have we done something wrong?” Tier asked. There was an edge to his voice. The crowd watching started whispering. Xin touched his arm. Whatever power he might be hiding, didn’t need to be displayed. Not now. The man’s eyes narrowed and the guards closed in around them.

“Your reputation precedes you, your highness. The fall of Jaktor is unforgivable. This way.” He turned moving rapidly up the wide street.

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. Tier’s expression was blank as he followed the man. She nibbled her lower lip and glanced down at Geb. “Come on.”

“Are we in trouble?” Geb whispered, his hands shook.

Xin shook her head. “We aren’t.” She looked at Rale and Tier. “They might be.”

“Come on my lady, Lord Nesh doesn’t like waiting.” One of the guards said behind her. She turned to look at him. He was younger than she, barely into manhood. He flinched. “Please, my lady.” He motioned the way the others were going and she nodded.

 

They were led to a large square building with pillars lining the outside supporting a balcony. Above the entry were two seals side by side. One looked like a torch, the other was an odd collection of symbols Tier felt he should have known, but he couldn’t place. The man in red went up the wide marble steps and into the building without a glance behind him. Tier followed at a loss. Servants collected their horses, leading them around the building, and out of sight.

Tier’s gut churned. The proprietor of the inn, in that little village, must have sent word ahead of them. How else could the guards have gotten there so quickly?

They were led into large, sparsely decorated room with a circular table. The man in red turned, facing them. A glance dismissed the guards. Tier studied him. There was power, contained and kept under rigid control. This man was no minor lord, no flunky doing someone else’s bidding.

“I find it concerning that the youngest son of Emperor Talon is in my city.” The man said in a low voice.

“A personal trip, not official, Lord Nesh.” Tier gritted his teeth. The man kept looking at Xin and it was getting aggravating. And Nesh wasn’t the only one. He’d seen the people stopping, staring at her as they’d traveled through the city. She stepped closer to him, her hands tight fists at her sides. Geb was gripping her arm, his knuckles white.

“There is no such thing as unofficial in Nekar.” Lord Nesh said. “Why are you in Sandau?”

“None of your business.” Tier said.

They glared at each other. Lord Nesh’s jaw clenched and he took a deep breath, then let it out, eyes flickering past Tier. Tier felt a whisper of sound, saw out of the corner of his eye a flickering gray shape. As he turned to get a better look, a tall narrow panel swung open, revealing a hidden door and passage, and from it stepped a slender, short robed figure. Pale hands pushed the hood of the robe back, revealing a youthful pale face framed by soft, white-gold hair. Her colorless, pupilless eyes gave sent Tier’s heart racing.

A seeress? Tier swallowed,. The Seeress of Sandau, old, half remembered stories gave him her title, though he could remember nothing else. He barely heard Rale’s whispered curse over the pounding of his heart in his ears.

“Lord Nesh, escort the Elementals, and Lord Rale, to the waiting house near the river. I will speak with his Imperial Highness.” She moved through the room with an ethereal grace. Far smoother than the Seeress had.

Lord Nesh looked for a moment as if he were going to protest, but the seeress rested her hand on his arm. They stared at each other for a long, silent moment and Tier heard a whisper, almost like standing at the end of a hall and overhearing a distant conversation. There was no pressure, no tell-tale signs of the seeress using any sort of power. Lord Nesh inclined his head and motioned for the others to follow. They all looked at Tier first. Xin looked frightened, Rale ill and Geb confused. Tier nodded. They didn’t have much of a choice.

 

Tier locked eyes on this Seeress, his heart was pounding in his ears. He waited for it, the pressure in his head, the feeling of something moving in his mind. She smiled and motioned the hallway.

“It has been years since a Nekarian dared grace these lands. There are things we need to discuss.”

In silence she led him to a circular room adorned with murals of winged creatures, soldiers and several pale figures. In the center of the room sat a small table with two elegant chairs. Dainty tableware adorned it, the cups small and steaming with rich red liquid.

Tier stepped towards the murals, the feeling of an ice cold finger trailing up his spine sent chills through his body. The first mural was of two women, pale and beautiful. Youthful, timeless, the one in the foreground was her, the creature responsible for him being there. Tier frowned, looking at the second woman. They were identical. Except for the eyes. The second woman’s eyes were a pale blue.

“Who is this woman?” Tier asked before he could stop himself. He suspected he knew. The old stories of the founding of Nekar rushed to mind.

“Nekita. Once she served as Voice of the Spirit Elementals. Before she betrayed her own people.” The Seeress of Sandau sat at the table, watching him. “They were twins, though they served different orders. They tried to tear our world apart.” She motioned him over to the table. “At first Nekita resisted, but their blood ties made it difficult.”

“Why?” Tier asked.

“The stronger a blood bond, the more control a Spirit Elemental has over those close to her. Unable to resist for long, Nekita joined her sister. After their descent, the Spirit Elementals were forbidden to have children.”

“Ancient history.” Tier tore his eyes from the eye symbol to meet the Seeress of Sandau’s gaze. She tilted her head to one side.

“My name is Launi, I have been the Spirit Elemental representative for Sandau for a very long time. My order is from the Northwest, a place of ice unknown to Nekar.”

Tier studied her, taller than Xin, shorter than he, unlike the Nekarian Seeress there was something almost friendly about her. She felt approachable, though he could feel her presence heavily in the room.

“Why have you detained our company?” He asked, hooking thumbs in his sword belt. She motioned the empty chair.

“Sit, your highness. You have been on the road for a long time, haven’t you?”

“I am not one for tea parties, my lady.”

Her hand lowered slowly, resting on the table.

“You are far from home, your highness, and wary. Sit.” He felt the crack of power in the last word. His legs moved him, unwilling, to the table though his mind was screaming at him to stop. He gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to drop in the chair. He glared at the woman he could have easily broken in two. He felt a pressure against his mind and gritted his teeth, jerking his head to one side, as though trying to shake off a fly.

“Stay out of my mind.” It came out as a growl and he realized he’d drawn his sword. The pressure faded as rapidly as it had grown and they both stared at the point, which hovered near her throat.

Her eyes narrowed. “Not in over a thousand years,” she whispered, leaning forward. “Put the sword away your highness, and please join me. I fear you are in much danger from Kera. Far more than I realized.”

“Stay out of my head, and we’ll talk.” He sheathed his sword, eyes locked on her. Out of the corner of his eye a gray ghost flickered moving closer. He glanced its way.

“You see ghosts.” Her voice soft. A smile flickered across her lips. “You can feel when you are in the presence of an elemental, can’t you?”

He said nothing, his heart resuming its pounding.

“When an elemental uses their powers you feel the pulse of power, don’t you?”

“Just saying yes to one of those things is a death sentence in Nekar, milady.” he forced the words out.

“But we are not in Nekar, your highness and you’ve been traveling with two elementals.” She lifted her dainty looking cup. “Sit down, your highness, you are looking decidedly gray. If you were to fall over, you’d smash my table.”

“Rules are the rules.” Tier murmured. His head spun. How had she known?

“Why did you come to Sandau, your highness? I could simply take the information from your head. But that would be a battle neither of us is prepared to wage.”

Tier took a steadying breath. “I was ordered to locate one of each elementals and bring them before the Seeress.”

“Why?”

Tier frowned, trying to remember exactly what the Seeress had said. “To repair the world…”

“Repair the world?” Launi looked at him incredulously.

Tier said nothing. Now, away from the Seeress, seeing everything he’d seen, it sounded ludicrous.

“Why send you? She has an entire nation to order about. Why the imperial prince?”

“We don’t question her.” Tier said grimly. “That could be very unhealthy.”

Launi nodded. “Yes. Yes I suppose it would be. So you collected these two, the water elemental and the earth shaper?”

“They agreed to come with us.” He frowned. “For a time at least.”

“I see.” She sipped at her drink, frowning. Tier felt the hair on the back of his neck tingle. She was doing something, but the power was so subtle he wasn’t sure what. “There is a term for what you are, your highness. Spirit elemental.”

“No.”

Launi continued, setting her cup down. “That is why Kera sent you. You can feel other elementals. And she knew it.”

Had it come from any other source, Tier would have laughed. But her expression, the tone of her words… She believed it. Looking back…. He almost believed it.

“I am no elemental, my lady.” he said stiffly.

“When you return, she will take your mind apart. She will want to see where you have been, who you have been associating with. And when she is done with you she will kill you.” Launi rested a finger on the table.

“I am not so easily killed, my lady.”

“No, I’m sure you’re not.” Launi leaned back. “But Kera doesn’t like competition. She has tools, abilities at her disposal that you can’t possibly imagine. Any elementals, aside from herself and her select group of acolytes are killed.”

“What do you think, would have made her think…” he stopped. Memories of seeing bodies in a river. His parents told him it took the Seeress herself to calm him as a child. He stared at Launi.

“She chose you to undertake this quest for two reasons, you could feel the elementals and by doing so it would prove once and for all that you are, without a doubt, an elemental yourself. A potential rival.”

Tier took a deep breath. “Surely you aren’t pointing this out, out of the goodness of your heart.”

“You need to learn to master your abilities. If you return south,”

“I have business back home, my lady. My duty is to the Empire.” He gritted his teeth. “And the Seeress. I will not go back on my word.”

“Knowing she will try to kill you and you still return?” Launi asked softly.

“Seeress Kera does not rule Nekar, my lady. My father, the Emperor, does.” He rested a hand on the table. “I ask you again, why have you detained my group? We have no quarrel with you.”

Launi stared at him slowly shaking her head. “Our two nations stand on the brink of war, your highness. Your reputation is known even here. We cannot have you roaming around.”

“This is a private matter.”

“But you are still a powerful man, in control of a equally powerful army that could be used against us. Nesh believes you are a spy.”

“I couldn’t care less for what that man thinks.”

“I do, your highness.” She trailed her finger along the tabletop. “And among your group you have a woman who is a water user from Dhaul. I recognized her. She is the daughter of Water Master Corrin.”

“Water Master? General Corrin?” Tier’s heart sank. His conversation with Chiron flashed to mind. What exactly had he said to Chiron? He couldn’t remember but now, the look on Chiron’s face… He knew. Somehow he was certain his slime of a cousin knew who Xin was. How the hell had he missed that?

“Yes, General Corrin. We cannot allow you to leave Sandau in the company of the General’s daughter. Her life would not be worth much in Nekar. Nor the Earth shaper. They are a rare group, like the water elementals. Kera has almost succeeded in wiping them all out.”

Tier nodded, unable to think of anything to say.

“On the morrow, Nesh’s men will escort you and your cousin out of the city and back to Nekar.”

It would be best, he told himself, Xin would be protected here, so would Geb. Launi just took the choice out of his hands.

 

 

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Dec 16th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 19

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

 
Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

 

It was less a tunnel than a very narrow gorge that wound its way through a very tall plateau. Far above, light tricked between the cracks, lighting up their path. The horses didn’t like it. Tier and Rale resorted to carefully securing spare tunics over their heads and leading them. Geb smoothed the passage, and in places widened the way. They spoke little, and when they did their voices echoed.

They reached a wide cavern shortly before night fell, and found themselves standing at the base of a huge carved structure. Statues, similar to the ones in the canyon, lined the walls of the cavern. A tall opening was guarded by two carvings of sand dragons, somewhere in the distance the wind whistled through the gorge, echoing through the cavern and sending chills up Xin’s spine. She couldn’t take her eyes off the gaping doorway and jumped when a hand touched her shoulder.

Tier’s eyebrow arched and he motioned behind him. “Lets try to make camp, don’t worry about that doorway.”

She nodded and watched him make his way back over to the horses.

Dinner was a muted, quiet affair and they turned in shortly after. When she woke the next morning, the doorway to the structure was sealed by rock.

“Geb, did you do that?” Tier asked in a low voice.

“No.” Geb looked at him, eyes wide. “I didn’t feel anything.”

Tier nodded.

“Lets get going, this place is creepy.” Rale said, his voice hoarse.

 

They made their way through a narrower tunnel that stopped abruptly. Geb placed his hand on it, head bowed.

“These tunnels feel like they were closed off a long time ago.” He looked up and pointing towards the sliver of sky overhead. “Someone closed it. I think some further ahead collapsed over time.” He looked up at Tier. “I think whoever came through here was in a hurry.”

“I wonder what they were running from.” Xin murmured.

“Sand dragons?” Rale suggested.

“Nekarians?” Tier shrugged.

“No.” Geb looked back and forth. “I think these tunnels are older than Nekar.”

Xin’s heart pounded in her ears. “How can you tell?”

Geb opened his mouth and then closed it and shrugged. “I can’t explain.”

“Any clue as to how long this goes?” Tier asked.

Geb shrugged. “Half a day, maybe? I can’t tell. The tunnels ahead feel very strange.”

“Can you open them up?” Tier placed a hand on the stone, frowning. Xin wanted to ask him what, if anything, he felt, but she bit her lip. Rale was watching them both closely.

“I can. But it might take some time.” Geb sat and put both hands on the floor beside him. “They were masters who passed through here.”

The rock slowly melted apart, like wax near a flame. Darkness beckoned. Rale lit the torches without a word and handed one to Xin.

 

They went slowly through the tunnel, Geb paused periodically to reopen closed off passages or clear debris. Tier watched the youth closely. Though he looked frail and on the verge of starvation, his abilities were astounding, but he was still a boy. Barely a child who had gone through a difficult time. Tier feared the boy would push himself too far.

“There’s nothing beyond this wall.” Geb said, pressing a hand against the rock. “We’re almost out.”

“Let’s hope there are no sand dragons on the other side.” Rale said.

Tier touched the boy’s shoulder. “It’s probably daylight. It’ll be blinding.”

Geb nodded and bowed his head. The rock melted aside slowly, a pin point of light appeared, pouring into the tunnel. Tier squinted, his eyes tearing in the light. He stepped out of the tunnel once the opening was large enough, leading the horses. Sand met tough grass, stretching before him as far as the eye could see was green. Prairie.

“Shit.” Rale’s voice was low. “It’s Sandau, isn’t it?”

Tier hesitated and nodded. “Yep.”

Rale swore again.

“So which way?” Xin asked.

Tier glanced at her, gut twisting, and looked back over the grasses gently waving in a breeze he couldn’t feel. East was Sandau, west, the desert and the sand dragons. He motioned towards the distant line of green.

“We’ll make for the trees and see if we can’t find see a village or something.”

 

The light grew dim as they reached the forest. Distances were deceiving and Tier was tired. They all were, though no one said anything. Not even Rale. They took little time setting up a camp and getting things started for food. Geb was staring, face unreadable, all around them as they worked.

“Something wrong?” Tier asked after Rale and Xin left to go get some firewood.

“It’s all very green. Isn’t it?” The boy looked up at him, his eyes far older than his body.

“They say the further north you go, the colder it gets. There are some places that never thaw.”

“Thaw?” Geb frowned, peering towards the trees. “As in ice?”

“And snow.” Tier grinned at the boy’s awed face.

“The only snow I ever saw was on Lord Farook’s head!” Rale said, halting in front of them, arms full of sticks. His clothes were muddy and showing some travel wear. A far cry from the arrogant lord back in Dhaul. “I thought I saw some twinkling lights in the distance. Could be a town. Towns have inns and supplies.”

“See any sign of troops?” Tier asked.

“Troops?” Xin frowned at him.

“Lord Chiron was going to try to take the fort. I’d expect there to be troop movements from Sandau.”

 

It was barely day when they broke camp, making for a distant road Rale had spotted. They pushed through the grass sending birds flying. The road was a wide swath of dirt running north to south. It was pleasant, though a quiet journey. They reached a crossroads that with a weather worn signpost stuck in the middle. Xin frowned, the language one she’d never seen before. Tier swore, leaned forward and glanced at Rale.

“We’re in Sandau all right.”

Rale pulled his horse to a halt. “This is bad.”

“Rale,”

“What if the gods smiled on Chiron while we were in the canyons and he took the fort? That would put us at war with Sandau.”

“We can’t get back to Delebeg from here without going back through the canyons. If we get near the fort, we’d be on the wrong side of the mountains.” Tier leaned forward, staring towards the distant river. “We could try to skirt along the mountains to reach Jaktor.”

Rale nodded and looked at Xin. Her stomach flopped, his frown deepened before he looked back at Tier and shrugged. “We need an inn, I need a bed, a meal at a table and a bath. I’m not the only one.”

Tier nodded, though he didn’t look like he cared much for the idea. “According to that,” he pointed at the signpost. “There’s a town up this road. We’ll make for it. We have to keep our heads down.”

 

They rode on in silence, south on the road, once moving off to one side as a patrol on fast trotting horses passed. Their uniforms were red and black, orange flames embroidered on the backs of their black tunics. Xin frowned. Flames. Fire elementals? She glanced at Tier but he was just watching them as they disappeared in the distance.

The road angled east, and in the distance Xin could see a village and far beyond it, near the river, a collection of buildings.

“That would be Sandau.” Tier said in a low voice, he half turned and pointed towards the distant cliffs behind them. “The other side of those cliffs is Delebeg.”

“There’s smoke.” Geb said.

“The fort?” Xin asked.

Tier shrugged.

They reached the village as the sun was sinking in the west, casting brilliant oranges and pinks over the sky. There was a large building, an inn, a local told them, which served as a meeting hall and tavern. The proprietor met them in the stable yard. She was a slim, unsmiling woman who eyed them all with suspicion.

“The stables are around back.” She said, her voice very low. “I’ve only got one room to spare. Bathing hall is on the first floor.” She rattled off a price that made Xin wince. Tier nodded.

“Food?”

“I can have the servants bring it up for you.” She narrowed her eyes, looking back and forth between Tier and Rale. “You’re Nekarian.”

“On a personal vacation.” Rale said. “I’ve never been outside Nekar! So I thought I’d take a look see. My father thinks I’m a fool for it, but it’s a grand world, wouldn’t you say?”

The woman snorted. “If you say so.”

Rale turned to Geb. “Boy, take the horses to the stable!”

Geb glared and glanced at Xin before taking the reins and going in the direction the woman had pointed out.

“The room is up the stairs and all the way to the end of the hall.” The woman told Rale. Rale nodded, glanced at Tier.

“Pay the good woman, would you?” and flounced up the stairs.

“Insufferable.” The woman commented as Tier handed her the money.

“You have no idea.” He said, motioning Xin to go ahead of him. As they reached the top of the stairs Tier sighed. “I’m gonna kill him.”

“He’s going to get himself killed if he doesn’t watch it.” Xin leaned against the wall, looking up at him. “Do you think it’ll cause us trouble?”

“I don’t know. I’m not familiar with Sandau people. I keep telling him to tone it down. I don’t think he quite gets it.” Tier jerked his head towards the room. “Come on, lets make sure he’s not dirtying up the place.” He draped an arm over her shoulders. Xin smiled and leaned against him. She didn’t want to think about what would happen when they reached Nekar.

He dropped his arm and pushed the door open and chuckled. Rale had fallen face down on the nearest bed, legs and arms out like a puppet.

“MMmmmffmm.” Rale’s voice was muffled.

“What?” Tier crossed his arms and moved to one side as Geb entered the room, his eyes wide as he looked around.

Rale turned his head. “I said, I think I have reached paradise!”

“You’re getting the bedding dirty, Rale.” Xin pointed out. She went to her pack and glanced at the men. “I don’t know about you, I’m going to take a bath. And get clean before I throw myself on the bed!”

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues Dec 9th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Coming up for air

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

In short, we’ve been struggling as a family. My son has been fighting addiction and it has dragged our whole family & routine down the drain. I’m working to find a balance between family, writing and other endeavors. I’ve found a stress easement with some new pets (ball pythons) which have helped with the general out of it I’ve been fighting.

I am sorry. I failed getting E1 up and posted on time. I probably lost what readers I have. If any of you are still around, light a candle, rub buddah’s belly, pray, whatever that y son can get a handle on his issues and that I can help him.

I’m working on the next couple chapters. The edits needed are minor, just a few tweaks and it should be done. I’ll try to get them scheduled this week. Again, I’m sorry. Life derailed me horribly and sometimes you just have to refocus.

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 18

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

The horses bolted towards the round structures as the sand dragon coiled, snake-like, between them and the breach in the wall. Xin inched backward, feeling the wall of one of the buildings behind her. The dragon was moving forward, head swaying beck and forth. From its snout were long, thin rope-like whiskers that swayed hypnotically. Its eyes narrowed, lips curled back, revealing long sharp fangs.

“Xin, do you feel the water anywhere?” Geb asked, his voice low. She tore her eyes from the advancing beast and felt for it. She frowned, half turning and looking up at the building behind her. She pressed her hands against it and looked down at Geb.

“It’s here.”

The dragon gave a wheezing warble darting forward. Xin looked towards them in time to see Rale dive out of the way and Tier swinging his sword, lopping off one of the whiskers. The creature yowled, jerking back from the two men. The whisker flopped on the ground, reminding Xin of a fish out of water. Tier and Rale both backed up, towards Xin.

Geb tapped her hand and she looked at the boy and back up at the water cistern. She met Geb’s eyes and nodded, pressing her hand against the wall of the building. Geb made a motion with his hands, drawing the stone apart like a curtain, and Xin held the water, keeping it from pouring out. The dragon wasn’t close enough.

Tier reached them, sword still pointed at the dragon. “I don’t think we’ll be able to kill it.”

“Just get it distracted so we can slip away.” Rale said.

“Do you think it’ll follow us?” Geb asked.

Xin focused on the water, waiting as the dragon moved closer, still swaying back and forth, blood dripping from its whisker stump. Xin narrowed her eyes, watching the beast loom closer.

“There is a passage back behind the water tower.” Geb was saying.

“The horses?”

“They ducked down it.”

The dragon struck, mouth open, and Xin pushed the water out in a powerful stream, catching it in the mouth and knocking it backwards against the rock wall. They heard the loud crack as its head hit the huge stones and it fell, twitching in the mud as the water stream lessened.

Tier crept closer. “It’s still breathing.” He looked at Xin. “Just knocked out.”

“Uhm, Tier.” Rale pointed. “It wasn’t alone.”

Xin stared, trying to wrap her mind around it. From the breach slithered three more sand dragons, half the size of the one they’d knocked out.

“Oh this is not good.” Tier backed up rapidly. “Get down that passage back there. Geb! Are you sure the horses went down there?”

“Yes!” Geb grabbed Xin’s arm. “Come on!”

Xin blinked, the daze broken. She nodded and followed the rock shaper around more tumbled rocks and through a tall, narrow opening in the cliff wall. The crack ran all the way up the cliffs, letting sunlight trickle through, though it was dim. She turned just inside as Tier and Rale darted through, the beasts snarling and snapping behind them.

“Geb!” Rale yelled.

The boy was already in action, his hands on the rock, pulling it closed. The Sand dragons roared on the other side, their claws scrabbling at the rock that had been shaped between them and their prey.

Xin leaned back, trying to catch her breath.

“The horses are back here, packs intact.” Rale called. Geb disappeared around the corner and Xin looked up at Tier.

“Tier?”

“I think that was a mother, trying to feed her babies.” He said, his tone odd. Xin gripped his arm. He didn’t look injured, but she was worried by the look on his face. He looked down, glancing back the way Rale and Geb had gone before looking back at her, sliding his arm around her waist pulling her closer. “You all right?”

She nodded, leaning against him, she felt safer than she had in a long time, even with the sand dragons snarling at them on the other side of the rock. “I’m just shook up. You?”

“About the same.” He looked towards the rock and shook his head before meeting her gaze again. “I shouldn’t be, the way this journey has been going I should be used to the impossible.” He lifted his hand, hesitated and pushed a strand of hair from her face. Her skin tingled where his fingers brushed her cheek. She swallowed. He was an imperial prince! She was a nothing. But the way he was looking at her, she wondered if he was going to kiss her. She halfway hoped he would. She nodded, trying to focus on what they were saying not what she felt.

“It’s been pretty unbelievable.” She said, her heart pounded in her ears. They were very close, and the way he was looking at her warmed her to her core. He leaned forward, hesitated, brushed her lips with his, his arm tightening around her as she opened her mouth, and leaned into the kiss. His taste swirled around ehr, spicy, addictive. Hers. They parted slowly, Tier searching her face. Xin smiled hesitantly as he brushed her cheek with his fingertips.

“We’d better join them before they come looking for us.” He said hoarsely. She nodded, leaned forward and kissed him again. She wanted to find a little place to just curl up with him, to forget the mission, forget the trip, and just be.

“Thank you.” She said softly. She stepped away as footfalls approached. He chuckled.

“My pleasure.”

Rale and Geb came around the corner looking excited. Rale halted, excitement fading as he looked back and forth between them. An eyebrow arched and he cleared his throat.

“The passage goes further on, though it’s going to take some doing to get the horses through it.” Rale peered at Tier. “Everything okay?”

The sand dragons on the other side of the rock roared, shaking sand from above.

“Just fine.” Xin smiled at Rale and moved past the lord and the baffled looking rock shaper into the wider passage beyond. She felt Tier watching her, and forced her breathing to calm down. Her heart was still pounding in her ears, and she could still taste him, almost feel his arms around her.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct 23rd.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Boosting the signal

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

On oct 15, the daughter of a dear friend got a call no parent ever wants to receive. Her precious daughter had fallen down the stairs at her auntie’s house and was in emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen. Little Naomi passed away, and her mother, grandmother and the rest of their family and friends are in shock. I’ve known the family over ten years and *I* am having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

If you, dear readers, could share the link I’m going to post, to help their family cover the funeral costs and maybe light a candle/say a prayer for Courtney (Naomi’s mother). She was trying to get herself on her feet to take care of her darlings. My heart is breaking for her. And when you have, please, if you have children of your own, hug them close and let them know you love them. You never know what tomorrow may bring.

 

 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 17

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

Two towering statues guarded the entrance to the canyon. Their features were worn from time and weather, leaving their gender impossible to guess. At their feet, peeking from beneath the sand and rock, were cobblestones. Tier gazed into the canyon, the cobblestones lined the canyon floor. He glanced up, looking for the floating rocks he’d seen when on the roof of the ancient building. Nothing but blue sky with white clouds skittering by.

“It’s a road.” Xin said, bringing his thoughts back to the canyon.

“It looks like no one has been down this way in years.” Tier leaned forward in the saddle peering at the narrowing canyon. “We might have to dismount and lead the horses if it gets too narrow.”

“I don’t like the look of it.” Rale said. “It looks, evil.” From the canyon, on the wind, came a low howl sound. Tier glanced at Rale. Blood drained from his face and he slowly shook his head. “No.”

“Come on Rale, it’s not as bad as the Dhaul Fortress.” Xin said lightly.

“I’m not going through that.” Rale pointed. “Did you hear that? No. Absolutely not.”

“Don’t worry Rale, I’ll protect you.” Geb grinned at him. He pointed at the ground at the statue’s feet. “It just a road. We stay on the cobblestones, we’ll be fine. It’s straying off the path that will get us into trouble.”

Rale gave him a dirty look.

“One word Rale,” Tier said. “Seeress.”

“Shit.” Rale rubbed his face with his hand. “Fine, after you.”

Tier snorted and urged his horse between the two statues, into the canyon. The only other place they could go was south, back to Nekar and the Seeress, and he wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Not yet. He’d found two Elementals, and felt another one using power somewhere beyond this canyon.

Aside from the wind and their own passing, there was no sound. Though the canyon did narrow, they stayed mounted, and as the shadows lengthened Tier called a halt. Up ahead, in the distance, tucked beneath an overhang was what appeared to be some sort of cottage. He and Rale exchanged dubious glances and they carefully made their way toward it.

“It’s been empty a long time.” Xin dismounted and glanced at the men. “I say we stop here for the night. I don’t think we’ll make it to the city before nightfall.”

Rale groaned. “I’d go through the night. I want out of this,” the wind picked up, a long whistling howl that made the hairs on the back of Tier’s neck stand up. “Canyon.”

“I’m with Xin.” Geb slid off of Rale’s horse. “I’m tired and I’m not going through that at night.”

They all looked at Tier. He stared past them. The canyon curved in the distance. He frowned.

“Tier.” Xin’s voice dragged him out of his thoughts. He exhaled slowly.

“We’ll stay the night. Rale see if there’s a place to tie up the horses.”

Rale dismounted and stomped off, leading his horse to the other side of the building, grumbling under his breath.

The cottage was filled with nearly a foot of sand. There was nothing resembling furniture, though it probably rotted away long ago. Tier started a fire in a place that looked like it might have been a fire pit. Xin knelt beside him.

“If that was smoke we saw, wouldn’t we be smelling it by now?” She asked in a low voice. Tier looked at her and nodded. “So if it wasn’t smoke, what was it?”

Tier frowned, looking down at the dark ruddy sand. He scooped up a handful and let it fall between his fingers. “Dust storm maybe?”

“And,”

“Maybe air elemental?” He barely whispered, though Rale and Geb were in an animated discussion about something. Xin looked at the fire.

“So now what?”

“We keep going. Check out the city, though I’m guessing it’s empty.”

“If there was an air elemental, it must not be that empty.” Xin stood glancing at Geb and Rale.

Tier said nothing, looking back at the fire. Air or fire, the problem would be convincing whatever it was to join them.

 

 

“That’s a hell of a city.” Rale whispered. The canyon opened up to a valley divided by huge walls and beyond the walls, built upwards into the cliffs, were structures, though Tier couldn’t tell if they were homes or something else entirely.

“It reminds me of a bee hive.” Xin pointed. “The wall is breached over there.”

“Nekarians?” Geb asked. They all looked at Tier. He shrugged and turned his horse towards the breach.

Sand was piled along the bottom of the walls in huge drifts, some taller than he was. The walls themselves were made of huge oddly shaped blocks of stone. Unlike the walls he’d seen in Jacktor and Nekar, these were thicker, octagonal and fitted puzzle-like, resembling a honeycomb.

He dismounted, leading the horse towards the large tumbled stones, half covered in sand. Old scorch marks on the stones and the walls themselves hinted at a deadly battle.

“I wonder who they were.” Xin murmured.

“And who attacked.” Geb pointed. “There’s burn marks up there.”

“I wonder who won.” Tier looked up at the structures on the cliff-side. “Unbelievable.”

“Tier, is that, smoke?” Rale asked.

Tier looked in the direction Rale pointed and swore. “No.”

“Sandstorm!” Geb darted through the breach. “There’s a building here, big enough for the horses.”

They scrambled inside as howling wind carrying a wall of sand advanced. It was cramped and stuffy and when the wind and sand reached them, it filled with choking air and dust. They huddled, for how long Tier wasn’t sure. When it finally passed, the shadows had lengthened and the air had an odd, ruddy color to it.

“That’s what we saw.” Tier rubbed his forehead. He was about to suggest heading back towards the canyon when he felt it again, a flutter of power against his mind. This time it was further away. He leaned back against the wall trying not to swear aloud.

 

“It’s no wonder it was abandoned.” Rale said. They’d stayed the night in the long, low building and were exploring, cautiously, the ruins between the wall and the buildings. “No food, no water,”

“There is water.” Xin corrected him. “I feel it, in this direction.” She motioned towards two tall circular buildings.

“Aside from that, I don’t know how a place this big would support any kind of,” Rale hesitated, looking up in the sky. “Population.”

“Floating rocks maybe?” Tier suggested.

“Shouldn’t we see them? From here?” Xin asked.

“One would think.” Rale snorted. “Hey Geb, no wandering off!”

Tier followed Xin towards the round buildings, looking for any wisps or ghosts of the city’s former occupants. Nothing. He glanced back towards the city wall. There must have been a vicious battle. The death toll must have been staggering.

“Tier, look at what Geb found.” Rale’s voice had an odd hollow tone to it. Tier sighed. Rale and Geb hurried over to him, Geb held a strange cloth covered something in his trembling hands. Rale’s face was pale. “This fabric,” He handed the package to Tier. “It looks familiar.”

It was heavy, square and the gray fabric was wrapped several times around it. He carefully unwrapped it, pausing when he reached a hem complete with a knotted tassel. The tassel reminded him of the priest robes at the Oracle.

“Priest robe, perhaps?”

“Why would a priest of Nekar come out this way to hide something?” Geb asked.

Tier looked at Rale who shrugged, and continued unwrapping. When he reached the item it was wrapping, his breath caught. The cloth fluttered to the ground, unnoticed.

“A book?” Geb asked.

“Not just a book.” Rale’s voice sounded strangled. Tier couldn’t tear his eyes away from the dark brown leather cover. Set in the center, in gold filigree, was a large eye; curling up on one end, down on the other and sliced across by three slash marks. The symbol had dominated his childhood, was embroidered on every Nekarian flag that flew.

“I don’t believe it.” Tier swallowed and crouched. He felt a bit light headed as he carefully opened the book.

“I’ll be damned.” Rale whispered. “What is this doing out here?”

Tier shook his head, carefully turning the gold edged pages.

“Ok, we’re in the dark over here.” Xin knelt beside him, touching his arm. “What is it?”

“It’s a national treasure.” Rale answered before Tier could form words. “The genealogy of the Imperial household.”

“It was stolen before I was born, I’ve only heard tales of it.” Tier murmured.

Rale took the book and glanced at Tier. He flipped back to the first two pages, running his finger over the precise script. “The first Emperor, and his wife. The further you go, the closer to now the book gets. It lists every major union to the Imperial House, every child born, every death.” He flipped back to the last page with writing. “Looks like it stops right after your parents got married.” He looked at Tier.

“That fits.” Tier took the book back, leafing through the pages casually. “Father went to enter Maen’s birth in it and discovered it was missing.” He frowned as he turned the pages. Every now and then he caught sight if the Seeress’s symbol besides names. He returned to the first page, then slowly flipped towards his parents’ entry. Every Empress had symbols of their households drawn beside the name. But every four or five generations was her symbol. He closed the book and glanced down at the cloth mind racing.

“It’s been around since the beginning of the Empire?” Geb asked incredulously.

“For a book over a thousand years old, it’s in very good shape.” Xin said.

“They say the Seeress used her powers to keep it as though it was new.” Tier said.

“Or it gets replaced every few generations, to make it look like it is preserved.” Xin crossed her arms. “I wouldn’t put it past them.”

“This is a priest robe then.” Rale lifted it up. “Who would have done this?”

“I don’t know.” Tier hesitated.

A loud rattling and clacking sound bounced off the city walls and the cliffs, a shadow fell over them, swaying back and forth. Tier stood, aware the horses bolting back towards the round buildings. The caster of the shadow towered above them, it’s head larger than the horses and framed by a large red frill. The sharp snout opened revealing huge, thin sharp teeth. It hissed and Tier stepped back slowly, hand on the hilt of his sword.

“What is that?” Rale choked out.

The frills shook, accompanied by another long rattling sound. The tongue snaked out, forked at the end.

“That’s a sand dragon.” Geb whispered.

“A what?” Rale drew his own sword, standing beside Tier.

“A sand dragon. They’re supposed to be myth!” Geb grabbed Tier’s arm. “We have to get out of here, I think it might be hungry!”

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct 16th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 16

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

“There are chains on top of this building.” Tier stared up through the opening in the ceiling of the ancient building. Pale clouds skittered across a pale blue sky and marring it were huge metal links. He couldn’t see what they were connected to, the ceiling blocked his view.

“They’re huge.” Rale whispered. Tier nodded.

“What at they doing there?” Geb asked.

“Why didn’t we see them at the crossroads?” Tier mused aloud. He saw Rale shrug in the corner of his eye. “How would we get up there to get a better look?”

“Why would you want a closer look?” Rale asked incredulous. He gestured up towards the ceiling. “Can you fly?”

Tier snorted and glanced over at Geb. The young man was poking at the vines covering the far wall. “I want to see what they are.” He gave a half grin. “I’m curious.”

“There’s an old stairway behind these vines.” Geb called. He moved some of the vines revealing an archway and a dark, shadowed passage.

Tier glanced towards the blanket covering Xin’s small ‘room’. She hadn’t stirred since the day before. He considered checking on her, but decided against it. Letting her rest seemed a better idea. He turned his attention back to the gaping hole and Geb’s stairs. They were set deep in the rock, and he felt the skin on the back of his neck tingle the closer he got to them. Tier looked down at Geb.

“How safe are these?”

Geb placed his hand on the bottom step and closed his eyes, Tier felt a solid ‘pulse’ of the boy’s powers. “They’re solid.” Geb opened his eyes, grinning. “A shaper made them a long time ago.”

Tier nodded, and cautiously placed his foot on the first step.

“Those are far too steep for me. They look more like a ladder. You fall and you’ll break your neck.” Rale grumped. “I’ll wait down here.”

Tier nodded and carefully ascended the steps, Geb at his heels. The stairs curved to his right, ascending towards the top of the cliff. Around the first bend it was nearly pitch black. He felt his way up the steps around the next bend and realized he could see. Dim, though with each step it got brighter. Then he was stepping out onto a flat area. He stared, trying to grasp what he was seeing. A plateau. Not the roof of a building.

On either side of the doorway stretched huge chains, tethering a wide slab of floating rock to the plateau. Tier resisted the urge to rub his eyes. How did the ancients do it? He shook his head. Sky City Hyrfett.

“Look at how high it goes.” Geb whispered.

“Stay by the stairs. Just to be safe.” Tier instructed.

“How did they do it?” Geb asked.

Tier shrugged, touching the chain. The metal that made up the links, were as big around as his arms. The links were as tall as he was. Slung between them on some sort of cable were steps. He swallowed, glancing down at the skyhole and swore. The steps to the top of the building he could handle. This?

“Are you going to climb them?” Geb peered with wide eyes.

“Hell no.” He motioned the stairs. “Go back down, I’ll be right behind you.”

Geb nodded, carefully making his way back down the stairs.

Tier was about to follow when he felt the flutter use of power. He halted, turning slowly, scanning the horizon, looking for the source of the power. It came again, brushing against his mind. In the distance he saw a smudge of dark gray clouds. Smoke? He looked up at the slab of rock that floated in the air. If he were on that thing, he’d get a better view of the smoke. He felt the fluttering power again and gritted his teeth. He had to find out where it was coming from. He tested the bottom step. The step itself wiggled a bit, but the chains didn’t budge. He stared up at the floating rock.

“I’m insane.” He murmured. The power fluttered again against his mind. He took a deep breath. Step by precarious step, he ascended the sky stairs to reach what he hoped was a sort of stable ground. He snorted. Stable? Floating in the air? This trip was making him crazy. He reached the slab of rock and placed his foot on the dark reddish brown rock. It didn’t budge, didn’t move. He peered around. What looked like rock underneath was covered in tall grasses on top. He stepped toward the middle of it. A breeze rippled the grasses, bending them wave-like.

He stared around, slow, his mind refusing to accept what his eyes saw. In the distance, dotting the air above the canyons, were other floating rocks, also held by the immense chains anchoring them to the ground.

“How was this made?” Xin’s voice broke his thoughts. He turned, in time to see her step onto the rock, her eyes wide as she peered around. He motioned her over.

“I can’t tell exactly where the edge of the rock is.” He said quickly. The last thing he wanted was for a fall. “Thought you were sleeping.” He said as she stopped beside him. She looked up at him and grinned.

“I woke up to Rale swearing at you. He said you lost your mind.” Xin turned slowly. “This is unbelievable. What do you think they were put here for?”

“Fields of grain, perhaps. For the floating city.” Tier frowned. The fluttering against his mind was back. He looked north, peering at the gray cloud. “What does that look like to you?”

“Smoke.” Xin said, touching his arm. “Though I’ve never seen smoke acting like that.”

“I felt,” he hesitated. “Power use.”

“Fire elemental perhaps?”

Xin gasped. “Did you see that?”

Tier nodded. The smoke had cleared, just for a brief moment, and he saw a city against a low mountain. He took half a step, trying to see through the clouds swirling back over the city. Xin gripped his arm.

“That is a really long drop.” She said when he glanced down at her in surprise. She looked a bit flustered, releasing his arm and crossing hers.

“I’ll be care.” He looked back towards the cloud. “If that was smoke, the city could be on fire.”

“Do you think a fire elemental might have done it?” Xin asked. A strong breeze kicked up. She leaned closer, staring towards the smoke. “How would we get over there?”

Tier looked down towards the canyons. “That looks like it might be a road right to the city.” He pointed at a canyon that curved toward it. “We could make for that city, see if we can find who was using power.”

“And hope they’re friendly?”

Tier snorted and glanced at her. “You were.”

“Geb wasn’t.” She pointed out.

“He was protecting himself.” Tier touched her arm and pointed to the distant tree. “Is that what I think it is?”

“A tree?” She grinned. “This is amazing. It’s so peaceful.”

“It is.” Tier stepped around her, moving closer to the chains. “It’s very high up though.”

Xin laughed. “Are you going to have a problem getting down?”

“Of course not!” He motioned her ahead of him. “Lets go tell them what we saw. We’ll head out in the morning.”

“You’re insane.” Rale scowled.

“I survived.” Tier pulled out the map, staring down at it. “This is the crossroads.” He frowned.

“That city isn’t on the map.” Xin said.

“We’ll work our way north.” Tier glanced at Geb. “Any idea what that city is.”

The boy shrugged. “I’m just an ignorant tribesman.”

Xin lightly swatted his shoulder. “Geb, you are a font of lore we’ve never heard. I wouldn’t call that ignorant.”

Tier was in the process of tucking the map back into his travel packs when Rale touched his shoulder, jerking his head to one side.

Tier followed, frowning.

“Is this a wise move, cousin? I’ve never heard of much exploration in this area.”

“Is any of this wise?” Tier crossed his arms and glanced back at Xin.

“We turn her and Geb over to the Seeress, and she’s going to kill them both.” Rale hissed.

Tier looked at him. “We don’t know that for sure.”

“Tier, I’ve seen the looks between the two of you,”

“Rale,” Tier began.

“I’d have to be blind to not see it. Are you willing to risk her life on the chance that the Seeress won’t kill them?” Rale shook his head.

“What’s your interest?” Tier crossed his arms.

Rale looked toward Xin and Geb, and then back at Tier. “All my life I’ve been taught elementals are monsters. But those two are anything but monstrous. And I’m certain they’re not the only elementals left, not like we’ve been led to believe. The Seeress did gave us an out.”

Tier frowned. “Rale, if we tried anything, aside from what she’s expressly ordered, she’ll know. She’ll read our minds.”

“And she’d kill us.” Rale’s shoulders sagged. “What do we do?”

“For now? We go north.” Tier looked back at Xin. “From there,” he shrugged. “We’ll see.”

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, Oct th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial & A.J. Devial’s Distant Sun

Thanks for reading. :)

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An Update

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

So this past summer we went through a lot of crap. The two biggest things were issues with one of my kids and the housing. This past week I spent most my time dealing with court stuff to get my son home (runaway, got in trouble with law stuff thanks to a few really BAD kids). He came home last night and we’ve been figuring out handling things (very complicated) such as school, dr appointments and things like that.

 

This has taken precedence over my writing and the serial. I do apologize, and I felt you, my readers, deserved a better explanation than ‘I’ve been busy.’

I am working on getting this back on schedule. Please be patient.

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I’m still alive

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Hello!

We have moved, and are getting settled, and I should be on track here in a couple days. Sorry about this delay. Hope you are all having a good September so far.

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Announcement

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

OK, so the house we’re in has a ceiling caving in, multiple bathroom leaks and a landlord who is unwilling to fix it. While I’ve gone to court to try to force him to fix it, that has done nothing to help the situation (but given us LOTS of headaches) and we’re just DONE.

IMG_1278 the master bathroom started losing tiles about a month after we moved in.

IMG_1284Due to leaks from the UPSTAIRS bathroom, my ONE cupboard is falling off the wall.

IMG_1286My upstairs bathroom’s access panel which the landlord refuses to send a contractor to fix. We now have a leak (again) from this same pipe and everytime the kids take a shower I end up with 2 inches of water on my kitchen floor.

IMG_1290This is the kitchen ceiling. That panel fell down Summer 2013. They STILL haven’t fixed it

IMG_1281The other part of my kitchen ceiling. Mind you, my oldest is 6’5, that ceiling brushes his hair when he walks under it. And it has sagged even further since this picture was taken one month ago.

 

SO.  We just landed another house. We’re packing our things, and getting ready to move this next weekend. I’ve got to gather kid stuffs for transfering schools etc etc…

I’m trying to nail down the next couple chapters of the serial so I can schedule them before the move. I don’t know how long I’ll be internet silent, though I’ll be on twitter.

I apologize for the hiccups with the serial. This summer has been one of the most challenging I’ve had.

NPhoenix.

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No chapter today

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

My son is in the hospital, awaiting surgery to remove his appendix. Barring any other emergencies, the next chapter should go live thursday.

 

NPhoenix

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 14

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 14

Twisted pillars of metal stuck out of a mound of huge boulders. At its base, shadowed by debris, was a collection of blackened and burned buildings, surrounded by a broken wooden fence. The old gate lay on the ground, half covered by dust and dirt. An old and tattered Nekarian flag fluttered in the mild breeze, hanging from a leaning pole stabbed into a pile of blackened bones just inside the gate.

Tier pulled his horse to a stop, staring at the bones.

“It looks like Chiron forgot a few details.” He murmured. He looked at Xin. She was shaking her head. “He said nothing about this.”

“They flattened the village, didn’t they?” Xin asked softly.

Tier looked away, unable to meet her eyes, and dismounted. He needed to take a closer look. He went cautiously around the bones, not wanting to disturb them. He didn’t see any wisps, but he felt them, watching. Waiting.

“Tier, why would Chiron do this?” Rale’s voice was loud in the eerie silence.

“Why does Chiron do anything?” He glanced back. Rale and Xin were leading the horses through the gate, following Tier’s path. Tier saw a movement in the rocks beyond them. The boy was still following them. He chuckled and turned back to the village, carefully moving through the single street.

At the far end of the street was the local small temple. A shrine to the gods, and the only building untouched by fire. A parchment was nailed to the door. The sound of gravel beneath his feet was loud in his ears. He hesitated, when he reached it, glancing around. No wisps. No ghosts. He shook off his unease and straightened out the faded and partially rolling parchment. He frowned, scanning over the old edict.

“What does it say?” Xin asked at his elbow. He glanced down at her, she was facing the street.

“Just a decree that the Seeress ordered this village closed.” He stumbled over the last word and looked around at the burned out huts and finally at the distant pile of bones. “I don’t understand it. The canyon folk are poor, though their work in the mines made many a merchant rich.”

“Perhaps there was an uprising.” Rale suggested.

Tier shrugged. “I don’t recall hearing anything. According to Chiron they were descendants of the Air elementals. That rubble is what’s left of Hyrfett.”

“That’s why.” Xin said looking up at him. “She wanted to get rid of anyone who might be an air elemental.”

“And then send him to go locate one?” Rale asked. “Doesn’t make sense.”

Tier moved down the steps of the small temple and made his way towards the pile of bones. He felt a whisper of power being used. He turned scanning the buildings. It wasn’t the earth boy when he’d used his ability, it felt solid. This barely brushed against his mind. He felt it again, further away, then it faded.

“Tier?” Xin touched his arm. “What is it?”

He shook his head. “Thought I,” he stopped. In the doorway of one of the burned out huts stood the pale outline of a child. Tier swallowed. The outline got thicker, the form more solid. It was a little girl, watching him. Her ghostly hair moving in the wind. “Thought I heard something.”

Xin narrowed her eyes and glanced towards the house. “Do you,”

“No.” he said curtly and strode back towards the horses. He needed to get out of this place. The longer they were there, the greater chance for him to see the souls of those massacred. Neither Rale nor Xin argued with him about heading towards the crossroads further south.

“You can travel openly with us and get a share of our provisions or creep behind us like a wild animal taking our scraps. It’s your choice.” He called to the boy hiding in the ruins. There was no reply, no sound and Tier shrugged, pulling himself up on his horse.

He led them back south towards the distant crossroads and away from the little ghost girl who still watched him from the door of the house.

 

 

The crossroads was a dry dusty square with old iron cages hanging from a set of large, man-made wooden frames. There were remains of people still in the cages and Xin would have preferred to keep going but Tier called a halt, voice sharp. Rale said a few choice words in Nekarian as he dismounted and for a moment Xin’s breath caught. Tier glared at him but said nothing.

Xin went about helping them set up camp listening as they snapped back and forth. Rale finally snarled something and went towards the cages, muttering under his breath. Xin took a deep breath and went over to Tier who was glaring after his cousin.

“You are being a total ass, you know that?” She said.

He looked at her. “I am, am I?”

“You’ve been short with him,” she jerked her head towards Rale. “Since we left the burned out village.” he snorted and turned to leave but she grabbed his arm. “Oh no, don’t go walking away. You saw something, what?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Tier,”

“It has no bearing with right now.”

She shook her head. “You are an awful liar.”

He ran his hand through his hair not meeting her eyes. “There was a ghost child just watching us. Those people were poor, there was no uprising, they were murdered in their sleep.”

Xin let her hand drop. “It wasn’t your doing, Tier, it’s not your fault.”

His lips pressed together. “No, but it was men like me who did it. I don’t think any of them questioned it. Not a single one.” He met her gaze before turning and walking away.

Xin watched him for a moment, then went to the small simple fire and sat, staring at the flames.

 

Tier stirred the fire, glancing over at his companions. Rale was facing away from the fire and snoring. Xin was facing the fire, sleeping. He stood, glancing out at the darkness that was pressed against the firelight. He didn’t see any spirits, for once, but he did see the huddled shape just beyond the ring of firelight. He lifted the water skin shaking it lightly, the water sloshed loud in the still silence.

“You must be thirsty.” He said softly, not wanting to wake the others.

No sound though he was certain the boy was listening.

“We won’t hurt you. I’d like to talk to you.” Movement, the child crept closer.

“Why?” the voice was rough, cracked.

Tier set the water down and moved closer to the fire where he sat, legs crossed staring at the shadows beyond the wall of darkness.

“I have never met an Earth Elemental before.” Tier admitted. “I was told there were none.”

The boy crept into the light, picking up the water skin with trembling hands. He drank quickly, throat moving with each swallow. Water dribbled from the corner of his mouth. When he lowered it Tier got a good look at the boy’s face. Swollen, dark bruises under his skin. One eye was swollen shut and his nose looked broken and he was studying Tier as much as Tier was studying him.

“We have to hide.” The boy said, dropping to a crouch.

“How’d they discover you?”

“Rocks falling.” The boy looked down, trailing his fingers in the dirt. “Don’t wanna talk about it.” He glanced to Tier’s right then back. “Where are you going?”

“Not sure.” Tier admitted. “Trying to decide. I’m supposed to find an Air Elemental and a Fire Elemental.”

“The Air Elementals fled to Sandau.”

Tier blinked several times. “What?”

“Legends. Nekar marched against Hyrfett and those who survived, fled to Sandau. At least that’s what the elders said, when the priests weren’t around. They say the Fire Lords of Sandau protected them.”

Tier stared, dumbfounded. “So outside of Nekar, this is common knowledge?” he wasn’t directing the question at the boy, but Geb nodded.

“The elders believe the power to move the rocks comes from evil spirits.” Geb leaned forward. “They believe it will destroy the world if it is used, that it will release the ancient demons from slumber.”

“The spirits have nothing to do with those powers.” Tier said, his mind running in circles. What the hell was he going to do?

“It’s like breathing.” The boy held out his hand and a group of small pebbles floated up, a solid rumble of power rippled across Tier’s mind as the pebbles spun in a slow circle.

“Amazing.”

The pebbles dropped with a clatter and the boy looked at him startled. “Just pebbles…”

“And I have to actually reach down and pick them up.” He did so, scooping a small handful of little rocks.

The boy shrugged glancing away. Tier followed his gaze and smiled. Xin.

“She can do amazing things with water.” The boy said, voice hushed. He looked at Tier guiltily. “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“She harbors no ill will against you.” Tier said.

Geb nodded, yawning. Tier stood and went to his pack. He turned towards the boy, handing him his cloak.

“Go lay down, get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

The boy looked at the cloak then back up at Tier. “Thank you.”

Tier shrugged settling on his sleeping roll. It was a long time before he was able to get to sleep.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Aug 19th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

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Sunday Serenity ~ August

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This has been a really not good few months. So I’m struggling to stay positive. Have a peaceful day!

 

outside

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Elemental Truth Chapter 12

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

To Xin’s relief, Lord Chiron was absent from the courtyard when they gathered in the cool pre-dawn. Lady Vieno stood serenely at the base of the steps. Her eyes sad, though she smiled at Xin.

“There are rumors from the south, that there are tribal people gathering near the canyons.” She said, turning to Tier. He nodded, tightening the girth of one of the horse’s saddles.

“Any idea why?” Rale asked.

“There were whispers about an Earth Elemental.” Vieno shook her head. “I don’t believe it though. More likely there is some tribal skirmish.”

“Elementals are extinct, right?” Rale grinned at her.

“Perhaps.” Vieno’s smile faded. “When I was a child I saw an Earth Elemental lift a wall of rock between her and some attackers.”

“What happened to her?” Tier asked.

“She was executed.” Vieno said shortly. She handed him several water skins. “Stay on the main roads, avoid the tribal people. They have gotten very aggressive in recent years.”

“Anything else?”

“Just visit more often.” Vieno gave a low bow and smiled again at Xin before turning and making her way up the wide steps.

They filed out of the courtyard in silence, walking through the dingy city streets towards the tall gates. Once they left the city, making their way along the well-worn dusty path Rale called a halt.

He eyed Tier. “You’re planning on going to the old town, aren’t you?”

“Do you want to go back to the Seeress and tell her that we heard a rumor of an Earth Elemental but didn’t look into it?”

The silence stretched. Rale stared off towards the distant cliffs and swore under his breath.

“I didn’t think so.” Tier turned his horse back around and led them down another narrower path. Xin and Rale exchanged dubious looks but followed. Scrub-brush and priest-trees dotted the sandy landscape, the branches of the priest trees reached up towards the clear blue sky, a plea perhaps for water? She felt no moisture, no call of water. They picked their way along the old path, making their way cautiously through old gullys and a dried up river bed.

Distance was tricky. What looked like it should have only taken a few hours at most to reach the mountains, by nightfall the mountains loomed in the distance, and Tier called a halt.

“We should reach it by midday tomorrow.” He dismounted.

“How does anyone survive in this place?” Xin asked, following his lead. They talked as they prepared the small camp; a small clearing with some deadwood around the edges.

“How? Hells with how, why? What’s here?” Rale indicated the dried scraggly brush. “The only water controlled by Chiron, or whoever sits as Governor. Can’t grow food, why would anyone bother?”

“Gold.” Tier pointed towards the mountains. “There’s gold and other rare minerals in the mountains. It costs to keep the Empire running. Delebeg has some of the richest mines in the world.”

Xin shook her head. “The pursuit of gold, what a waste. Personally I’d like a nice dip in a stream.”

“The river used to wind all the way to the northwest canyons.” Tier said. “When I was here as a youth, we went up to the dried out lake. I remember Vieno talking about how the lake dried up during the war of the Elementals.”

“I heard her say that once the whole Delebeg region was a forest too. Ages ago.” Rale looked at Xin. “In the center of the city is a huge tree stump, as big as a house.”

“Old legends say that when the tree sprouts again, Delebeg will be freed of the empire.” Tier snorted. “One hears all sorts of odd things when one is creeping through hidden passages.”

“I thought those passageways were just rumor!” Rale whistled. “Wish I’d known that before we left.”

“I’m sure you do. I found them after arriving here.” Tier grinned. “I was a bit troublesome when I got here, I was trying to find a ways out of the palace.”

“Why were you sent up here?” Xin asked.

“Maen and I wouldn’t stop fighting, and father got tired of having to separate us.” Tier rubbed the bridge of his nose, sheepishly. “It got a little bit violent.”

“I heard there was some sort of knife fight.” Rale commented.

“There was that too.” Tier shrugged. “I told you, we never got along.”

 

It took her a long time to finally fall asleep, the heat of the day had turned to a bone chilling night. She dreamed of a river winding through the Delebeg valley. It was not the dry and dead desert, instead it was a lush forest. In the center of the valley towered a tree, taller than any she’d seen before. There was a loud, steady pounding, like a heartbeat. And with each strike the land changed. From green to brown, and the tree whithered.

She half sat up, blinking blearily towards the fire. The pounding didn’t cease with her waking. She heard it, in the distance.

“What is that?” She startled herself asking it aloud.

“They’re a long ways away, Xin.” Tier said. He stood on the edge of the circle of firelight, facing the dark. The firelight glinted off his sword. “You might as well go back to sleep.”

She could hear yelling in the distance, almost yipping like wild dogs. “I don’t know that I can with that. Do you know what they are saying?

“No.” He looked her way, the shadows hiding his features, giving him a far older look. “They resist most interaction with the Empire, except for the Seeress and her priests.”

“So they adhere to her laws.” She frowned.

“Usually.” He looked back into the dark. “There hasn’t been an uprising in recent years, that I’ve heard about, though Chiron complained about them.”

“I don’t like Chiron. He’s greasy.” Xin admitted.

Tier chuckled. “He is.” The drums pounded on. “Try to get back to sleep.”

 

The village was a collection of mud huts, divided by the road that led to the cliffs. Blocking the road, garbed in an assortment of rags and leather, were villagers in a circle around something huddled on the ground. The villagers parted, allowing them to pass, though they glared at them. Xin swallowed, eyes locked on the small figure on the ground. A child. They’d encircled a child.

A thin, wiry man carrying a spear decorated with bones and feathers, stepped between Tier and the child. He pointed the spear at Tier, rattling something off in in a language she couldn’t understand. She looked sharply at Tier who pointed at the man then towards the scrub brush.

The man shook his spear, feathers and bones rattling loudly, yelling.

“Tier this isn’t a good situation.” Rale hissed.

“He’s a child, Rale.” Tier pointed at the huddled form. “We can’t let them kill him, elemental or not.”

The child pushed up, crouching low, dark eyes staring at them. He flung his arm up. Solid rock shot up from the ground, leaving a crater, and flew through the air towards the assembled. The crowd scattered, screaming. Xin’s horse jerked and she hit the ground, the air in her lungs whooshing out. She gasped rolling to one side as the boy ran down the old street towards the narrow opening in the cliffs that led to the canyons.

The tribal people were yelling around her and Xin was hauled to her feet.

“You hurt?” Tier’s voice was loud against her ear.

“I’m fine. He ducked into the canyons.” She looked around, Rale had her horse and Tier’s and was still mounted. Tier had drawn his sword and jerked his head towards her horse.

“Get ready to ride.”

She nodded, shaking as she pulled herself back up on her horse. Tier backed up slowly.

“Your interference has cost us dearly.” The old man hobbled towards them. Tier towered over the man, pointing his sword at him.

“From this point on this is an Imperial matter.” Tier’s voice was low but the man in front blinked several times, his body weaving back and forth. “The road is Imperial territory and you and your people are trespassing. Be gone.” The last two words were accompanied by a rolling power, a low whisper that skittered across Xin’s senses. It wasn’t directed at her, rather the group watching them, but it made her tremble. Imperials weren’t supposed to have that kind of power. The tribesmen’s eyes glazed and they turned and stumbled out into the brush.

Xin’s horse sidestepped uneasily and she glanced at Rale who was slowly shaking his head, eyes wide.

“How the hell?” Rale stared at Tier.

“Let’s go.” Tier said curtly, remounting. He turned his horse and took off at a rolling canter, following the child’s path. Xin and Rale exchanged stunned looks.

“How did he do that?” She whispered.

“I have no idea.”

~*~

 

The next chapter will be posted Tues, Aug 5th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

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Elemental Truth Cover

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

So a dear friend, J.A. Marlow, does some really awesomesauce covers. Since my life has recently exploded in my face, she was kind enough to whip up a cover for Elemental Truth.

Elemental Truth Cover

**squees**

**cough**

SO, fellow writers, if you need a cover, her rates and other examples of her artwork are over here. I highly recommend her.

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 11

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 Chapter 11

“She said you’re on a mission for the Seeress.” Vieno said, her voice low. Tier glanced towards her then back to his bags.

“I am.” He closed his travel bag, meeting her eyes. “There wasn’t an option to turn her down.”

“Why you?” Vieno clasped her hands together, shaking her head. “No, what goes on in the mind of the Seeress is known only to her. What has she sent you for?”

“Vieno,”

“Tier.”

Tier glanced around the room. It looked secure, but Chiron’s home was riddled with old passages and hidden niches. There could be any number of listeners. He held out his hands, Vieno nodded, moving over to the wall, pressing her palm against the stucco.

“There are old secrets, some that should never be overheard.” Vieno met his eyes. Light flared up under her palm, streaking out on either side, bathing the room in a soft red glow. She looked up at him, her lip twitching.

“How did you do that?” He asked. She shook her head.

“It would take too long to explain. What has the Seeress asked you to do?”

“She ordered me to locate elementals.”

“What?”

“And bring them back to her to help mend the world.” Tier ran a hand through his hair.

“Mend the world?”

“That’s what she said.” Tier felt his stomach twist. Now, miles away from the seeress it felt a very thin explanation. Vieno paced slowly not meeting his eyes.

“She wiped out the elementals, generations ago.” She said. “There’s another reason she wants you to bring them to her. It’s impossible, there are no more.”

“That’s what I thought.” Tier said slowly. Vieno halted and looked at him. Her eyes widened as it struck her. She nodded.

“I see.” Vieno pressed her fingers together in front of her.

“I can’t figure out what I’m missing.” He admitted.

“She sent you to Dhaul?” Vieno scowled.

“Aye. But gave us no indication as to where we needed to go next. We figured that the earth shapers were originally from this area, so we came here. Not sure where to go from here though.”

“It’s futile, Tier. There have not been reports of Earth Shapers since I was a child. And as far as I know there are no more air weavers.” Vieno’s eyes narrowed. “The fire wielders were all in the Sandau and plains region, as far as I know there are none.”

“There were rumors in Jacktor that the Lord of Sandau is a fire lord.”

Vieno waved her hand, shaking her head. “No, we would have heard such news here. There’s something she didn’t tell you.”

“I worry that this isn’t,” he hesitated. “The honorable path.”

“You question her?” Vieno asked softly.

Tier swallowed. “Not exactly.”

“One can be loyal to Nekar, but not to her, you know.” She said it softly. Tier stared at her, the words echoing in his head.

“She is Nekar.” He murmured.

“I don’t believe that. And neither do you.”

“Just saying that can get me killed, Vieno.”

“Serving her, will get you killed.” She touched his hand.

“Perhaps. I doubt that she’d call on the Imperial household just to kill me off though.” Tier pointed out.

Vieno inclined her head. “This is true.” She pressed her hand against the wall again and the color faded. “Sleep well, dear one.”

She was gone before he could say goodnight.

 

Vieno hurried through the old city, stepping gingerly over sprawled drunks and piles of rubbish, her mind whirring. She barely glanced at the archway she ducked beneath, though she paused, looking around once before sliding behind the ragged cloth that hung over the doorway. Two men inside stood, startled and hastily bowed.

“Lady Vieno, we weren’t expecting,”

“Do you have a runner available?” She asked. She didn’t have much time, her absence couldn’t be noticed.

“Yes my lady, but,”

“I need you to send this to Lorn.” She held out a small black feather. Both men frowned.

“A feather?”

“The recipient will know its meaning.” She pierced the men with a cold look. “Can your runner leave now?”

“Of course I can!” A slender man stepped into the room from the hall, bowing deeply. He took the feather from her staring at it with narrow eyes before looking at her. “It cracks?”

“Slightly. You have a name?”

“Anil, my lady. At your service.” He bowed again. Vieno smiled. Yes, this one would do nicely. “This must be delivered to,” He held out his hand.

“Ambassador Xeresel.” Vieno clasped her hands in front of her. “It is vital you get this to him, as quickly as possible.”

He tucked the feather into a bag which he hung on his belt.

“When you return, report to me directly at the palace.”

“Yes my lady.” He gave his fellows a salute, bowed again to Vieno, and ducked out the door.

Vieno nodded, glancing at the two startled men. “You didn’t see me.” “Of course not, my lady.” They sat, backs to the doorway.

She slipped from the room, glancing around. Anil was nowhere to be seen. She took a deep breath and began to make her way back to the palace.

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, July 31st.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth Chapter 10

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 10

“I behaved poorly, your highness, I beg your forgiveness.” Lord Chiron said.

“You were drunk.” Tier shrugged, not looking up from the stack of maps he was going through. He had little patience for the man. “It happens.”

“I trust your traveling companion is not too upset?”

Tier lifted an old, worn parchment. “If your wife hadn’t dropped her food on you, Xin would’ve.” He glanced up at Chiron, smiling. “You deserved it cousin.”

“Indeed.” Chiron gritted out. Tier ignored his glare, shuffling through the collection of maps and scrolls. “I’m not entirely sure I understand what you are looking for. You’ve never been an academic type.”

Tier leaned back, drumming his fingers on the table. “The Seeress,” He hesitated. Chiron didn’t need the details. “Asked me to look into something for her, however she was vague on some of the details. Sandau was our next planned stop, but if your military advisers were correct,”

“They are.” Chiron snapped. “The Emperor is aware of the situation and told us to take the fort anyways!”

“Then Sandau is out of the question.” Tier ignored Chiron’s grumbling. “I saw a map in the south, showing cities I’ve never seen before.”

“There were northern territories, once we traded with them, if history is to be believed. There has not been trade or any kind of communication with those territories in generations.” Chiron pulled a map from the stack of parchments Tier hadn’t gotten to. “Look,” he set the map in front of Tier. “Some say they were elemental run cities. Others say they were fortresses of the great dragons. I think they’re naught but ruin.”

Tier peered at the map, beyond the canyons to the north, several large marks, the names faded and worn.

“Absolutely infuriating. What we need is a good assassin to take out that damned Corrin and the others that are keeping our forces from taking the fort.” Chiron was pacing.

“I don’t know that a commander from a backwater country like Sandau would be, in father’s eyes, worth sending an assassin.” Tier pointed out.

“That’s what you said yesterday.” Chiron paused by the window looking out. “I hardly think Sandau a backwater country, and I think that the Emperor should rethink our position. It is a dangerous nation, waiting for a moment of weakness. Delebeg is not the strongest territory of the Empire. If Sandau decided to move in our direction,” he held out his hands.

“Then the might of the Empire would be brought down on their asses.” Tier shrugged it off. He’d sat in Chiron’s war meeting, his suggestions, based off of his own experiences were ignored.

“On three separate occasions I was ordered to take the damn fort. Each time Corrin managed a minor miracle and we find ourselves slinking back, tail tucked between our legs.” Chiron sipped at a glass of the purple wine he favored. “I received several letters, from the Emperor and one from the Seeress herself, telling me to take the damned fort.” He glared at Tier. “Each time that bitch out-thinks Delebeg’s finest.”

Tier bit the inside of his lip, restraining himself. He wanted to get out of Delebeg, out of the heat and the acid atmosphere, away from his damnable cousin.

“I gave my advice, yesterday. It’s not my problem.” He tapped the map, tired of talk of the fort. We’ll go through the canyons and make for one of those old cities.” He murmured, gut twisting. “What city is this?”

“The locals called it Hyrfett.” Chiron went back to the arched window, staring down at the gardens through the white lattice work. “Once Delebeg was the capital of the Earth Elementals. Air Weavers, or floaters, had a city suspended above the canyon.”

“I’ve never heard of it.” Tier regarded Chiron in surprise. He’d never thought that Chiron would have been well versed in any kind of folklore.

“Neither had I till we chased a band of ruffians into the canyons in the early days of my being sentenced here. We found a village at the base of a massive rubble pile. The villagers said the last stand of the Air Weavers was made there. Said the Nekarian army took out the rock supports with false fire in the middle of the night and collapsed the whole damn thing.” He sipped from his wineglass and shook his head. “I think taking a look at that rubble is worth it.”

“I’m not really one for architecture.” Tier stood and joined Chiron by the window, glancing down at the private gardens below. He tensed, following Chiron’s gaze. Xin sat beside one of the fountains, elbow on the marble staring at the water looking bored. She was surrounded by the other ladies of the household, with Vieno hovering nearby. She wore a dress similar to the one at dinner, though this was a pale blue. Her hair hung loose, the light shining off it gave a hint of blue. She straightened and stood, responding to something Vieno said.

“She is exquisite, cousin. I dare say she held the dining hall captivated last night.” Chiron’s voice was admiring. Tier forced a smile, unable to tear his eyes from her as she edged away from the other women. “Dhaulain I am guessing?”

“Yes.” Tier went to the liquor board, pouring a small glass of brandy. He didn’t drink often, too easy to drink too much, but he had to do something. He rejoined Chiron at the window.

“Whose bed does she grace?” Chiron asked archly. “Yours? Or Rale’s?”

“Neither.” Tier gritted his teeth, setting the brandy down on the windowsill untouched. “Why do you ask, you’re married.”

“That hasn’t stopped me before.” Chiron sipped again from his wineglass. “She should be taught the respect of her betters, you know.”

Tier took a deep breath fighting the urge to shove Chiron’s wineglass down his throat, or up his ass. “The only one to be teaching her that lesson would be me.” He forced his voice to be cold, as an Imperial should be.

Chiron looked at him startled, a mocking smile flickered at his lips. “Can I consider this a claim, cousin?”

“Consider it whatever you want to, Lord Chiron. I will not restrain myself from taking off your hand if you touch her.” Tier stepped forward, shamelessly using his heavier frame to crowd Chiron, forcing the other man to step back.

Chiron’s eyes widened, jaw clenched. “Fancy you finding interest in a slip of a peasant slut.” he spat the last and Tier struggled with a sudden surge of rage. He forced himself to take a deep breath.

“You have presumed much, in this short time, and have tried my patience.” Tier gritted out. “Even in the Imperial War College in Lorn, the complaints of the women of your household have been heard. We’re guests, passing through on a mission that is none of your business. If you want to pursue something, pursue reconciliation with your wife. It might make your bedroom life better. You go near Xin, I won’t stop myself. Got it?”

Blood drained from Chiron’s face and he swallowed several times. “Yes, your highness.” he finally croaked out.

Tier studied him before turning back to the table and its stack of letters and things. “We’ll dine in my quarters this eve, to save you the hassle.” Tier locked eyes on his cousin. “Is that acceptable?”

“Of course, your Highness.” Chiron spoke through gritted teeth. “Whatever you desire.”

Tier tucked the map into his vest and left. He needed to move, get some fresh, non-dry air. And to get space between him and that sniveling worm.

 

The women of Chiron’s household had long decided she was not interesting. Their talk, consisting of court and household gossip and clothing styles, bored Xin to the core. She considered flicking some water at them, but there were too many eyes and she couldn’t risk exposure. Instead she half listened to their talk, watching the ripples in the water and the small flying insects that came to drink. She looked up when they fell silent and smiled. Tier barely acknowledged them, nodding at Vieno.

“We need to talk.” He motioned the walking path that wound through the garden. Xin was relieved to see him. He was a rock in a sea of uncertainty.

“Problems?” She peered up at him.

“Not exactly.”

She nodded tensing slightly when he rested his hand on her lower back guiding her past whispering women and down the tree lined walkway. The heat from his palm, his arm brushing her side and shoulder made her heart pound. It annoyed her to have such reactions to him. Rale didn’t send her heart pounding, nor did he grace her dreams at night. Tier was an imperial prince, for all she knew he was married or betrothed to some fine noblewoman. She had to keep that in mind. But it was hard to remember when the slightest touch sent her thoughts into a tailspin.

“Something wrong?” She asked, glancing up at him. She could see the tension in his face, feel it through his touch. Once they got a distance from the fountain he stepped away, pacing in the small clearing. Fear filled her. “Did my outburst cause you trouble?”

“No.” He said quickly, staring at her. “Not at all.” His dark eyes intense, several times he looked as if her were about to speak before he sighed rubbing the bridge of his nose. Xin bit her cheek to keep from smiling, he looked almost flustered. “We’ll be leaving in the morning. I gave Chiron orders to allow our to dine in my quarters. Less formal, fewer eyes.”

“Fewer food fights?” Xin asked, snickering. He chuckled. “Will we be heading to Sandau then?”

“We’ll discuss it at dinner.” He sank onto the bench. “There are to many mice here.”

Xin blinked and nodded, of course, spies. “Things aren’t what they seem here, are they?”

“Nothing is. No matter where you go.” He shrugged. “I want to get back to south.”

Xin swallowed. “Homesick?”

A shudder ran through him and he shook his head. “Not exactly. I left mid siege and have been on the road. I have no idea how that’s going, no word from the south has reached Chiron either.”

“Duty. Of course.” She looked away. “The women here were talking about the trouble Chiron’s in.”

“He wanted no assistance, nor did his people want to hear my suggestions.” There was a touch of annoyance, injured pride perhaps?

“Tough to get a no, eh?” She asked without thinking. His eyebrows shot up but he gave a rueful grin.

“Not used to hearing it.”

“Of course not. Who says no to the Imperial prince?” Xin stepped back when he stood, though he just seemed amused.

“I really hate my titles.”

“You wear them very well though, Tier. Even if you pretend you don’t.”

“I will have to remember not to try to mince words with you, woman. You have a mean tongue.” He said. “Come on. There is enough gossip in this pit of vipers, I’d rather not add to it.”

“Great.”

“The women giving you trouble?” Tier asked. Xin shrugged.

“No. I’m not highborn enough for them. Not to mention all they talk about is clothes and who is sleeping with whom.” she fluttered her hand. “I got my fill of that from Matau.”

“Which is why I tend to avoid court.” He pointed towards the complex of buildings. “There’s a library to hide in over this way, if you want to get away.”

“A library? You read for leisure?” She asked archly. He shook his head.

“On occasion.” he laughed. “More often I’ll sleep. It’s very peaceful, even the most tiresome old windbags shut up in the library.”

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, July 29th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth Chapter 9 pt 2

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 9 pt2 of 12 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

With Vieno’s warnings in mind, and her head feeling like her scalp was going to rip off, Xin followed the matronly woman to the waiting chamber. Though she’d felt almost dazzled by the dress Vieno had draped on her, the other women’s gowns, edged in gold and silver, made hers look far simpler. Vieno smiled at her, turned and left. The other women eyed her, like a cat would eye a mouse.

They were all taller than she was, darker complicated and heavily adorned with beads and things in their hair and dangling from their earlobes. They took her in, whispering amongst themselves and then dismissed her as a loud gong echoed. There were several low tables, men sitting on cushions on the marble floor and a crescent shaped table up on a dais. Lord Chiron sat at the center, to his left was a space that, as she hesitated, was filled by one of the elegant women. To his right sat Tier and Rale, a space between them. When they saw her they exchanged a look she couldn’t read before Tier motioned her to join them. To the space beside him. In front of all those people who watched her every move.

She made her way quickly, praying she wouldn’t trip on the skirts or the cushions that were lining either side of the tables. When she reached the dais she was shaking and she sank to the cushion between the men, locking her eyes on the plate before her.

“You all right?” Tier asked in a low voice. She glanced up at him trying not to see the people watching her. Both he and Rale had changed into more appropriate dinner wear, tunic and robes similar in style to the Delebeg people. It was odd seeing Tier without armor or weapons. Clothing change or not, he looked like a soldier in finery, which was oddly comforting.

“There are a lot of people here.” She whispered. Tier nodded and rested his hand on her knee, leaning over towards her.

“Pretend they aren’t there. You’ll be fine.” His voice was the barest whisper.

“Easy for you to say.” She glanced up at him when he squeezed her knee in a manner she guessed meant to be reassuring.

“They’re too worried with my title to see the people around them.” he squeezed her knee again and then removed his hand. Xin bit her lip looking back down at her plate feeling slightly bereft. She rubbed her forehead, what was she thinking?

“Just ignore them.” Rale murmured at her other side. “They’re too worried about impressing Tier at the moment.”

“I know, but it’s kind of hard to ignore them.” Xin did a quick glance around the room her stomach did a flop. Chiron watched her, his expression cold, emotionless. His eyes revealed nothing, Xin fought the urge to shiver and run, instead forcing a courteous smile.

“Is everything acceptable?” he hesitated. “My lady?” He said the last slowly, as if in doubt his gaze flickering past her. An attempted insult, she was certain of it. His expression gave nothing away but she could feel the tension in both Tier and Rale.

“Yes, my lord.” She forced her own smile, blinking several times vapidly. He wanted to play games? She’d played games with Matau aplenty. “It is unexpected to find such revelry so far from the Empire.” She smiled again, this time pleased to see the tension in his shoulders.

“Delebeg is the Empire, my lady.” he replied through gritted teeth.

“On the outskirts of, I suppose.” she said sweetly. Tier’s hand was back on her knee, gentle warning pressure. “It is a beautiful dining hall.” she hesitated before adding “My Lord.” Tier’s fingers dug into her knee almost painfully. Rale jabbed her in the side.

“Be nice.” Rale hissed at her.

Lord Chiron smiled coldly at her then looked towards the back of the room, clapping twice, loudly. Servants filed in, scantily clad men and women with trays of all sorts of food. Meats, roasts, fruits, jugs of liquids with fine goblets adorned huge silver trays, and with them wafted the rich smells that made her mouth water.

Though she felt a bit braver for crossing subtle insults with Chiron, as the noise in the room grew Xin longed for the little cove in Dhaul, for her small attic. Even the fortress chambers, anything but this hall with all its noise and so many people. Everyone from her village could have fit in this room. Rale handed her a small glass of water.

“Whatever you do don’t drink the wine.” he whispered.

“Why?” Xin glanced up and down the table, neither Rale nor Tier had any of it though Chiron’s clear glass was full of the pale purple liquid.

“The wine’s strong and I don’t trust Chiron.” Rale tapped the plate with his knife. “That red stuff is spicy, it burns. The meat should be pretty good, but anything that is red, steer clear of.”

Xin looked at him and nodded. “Anything else I should know?” she whispered.

“Chiron hates Tier. I think the feeling might be mutual.” Rale ate a bit, motioning her to do the same. Tier and Chiron were talking about some military issue. “Chiron will try to goad you or I into being rude. If we slip he can complain to the Emperor, which might give Tier some trouble.”

Xin nodded. She stared at the food her stomach doing flops. “There’s too many people here.”

“This is nothing.” Rale touched her hand. “The hall of the Imperial Palace is twice this size, so is the hall in Lorn. This,” he gestured to the hall. “Is small.”

Chiron slammed his hand down, startling everyone. Tier looked at him.

“A bit extreme, don’t you think?” Tier’s voice was bland.

“Whose hall is this, your highness?”

“T’was merely a suggestion, at the insistence of your general, Chiron. Nothing more. Nothing personal.” Tier sipped his water and made a motion with his free hand. “You’ve brought back some old traditions, I’ve only read about. Why?”

Chiron lifted his wine glass and sneered. “There are certain things we’ve let go of since the campaigns to expand began. Did you know,” he paused downing his wine. Xin glanced at Rale who was slowly shaking his head. “That in the days of our Great Grandfather women wouldn’t dine in the same room as the leaders?”

“Indeed.” Tier’s hand rested again on Xin’s knee. She considered batting it off, but restrained herself.

“Women are unclean, they say.” Chiron looked directly at Xin. “In the days of our glorious ancestors women wouldn’t even live in the same house as the men.”

“I’m sure the Seeress would find that truly enlightening, seeing as she is, after all, a woman.” Xin said sweetly, batting at Tier’s hand. The mention of the Seeress had an instant effect on both men. The blood drained from Chiron’s face, even Tier glared at her.

“The Seeress changed those traditions, and for reason.” Tier said. Xin batted at his hand again glaring. The gong sounded again.

“That’s the cue for the unclean women to leave.” A woman’s voice broke the strained silence. Chiron’s woman stood, tipping the plate of food in her hand over Chiron’s head, and let the platter fall to the ground with a loud, echoing clatter. “Perhaps you should ask the Seeress for clarification on this, tradition.” She snarled. She stormed down from the dais as Chiron spluttered. Tier released Xin’s knee, but gripped her arm as she prepared to stand.

“Go straight to the rooms they assigned you. We’ll talk once this mess is cleared up.” The cold tone in his voice sent chills up her spine. She nodded and he released her. “And keep quiet. Please?”

She took a deep breath. “Only because you said please.” She murmured. As she stood she caught the hint of amusement in Tier’s eyes and Rale had both hands covering his face, his shoulders shaking. As she left she felt almost lighthearted. Almost. She felt the weight of Chiron’s dark glare at her back as she left, and she wished Tier could have gone with her.

 

“You’re lucky we’re guests.” Tier said as he entered.

Xin half turned in the chair, heart pounding. How did the man, large as he was move so quietly? Vieno chuckled behind her.

“She’s got fire. I don’t think there was a person in there who disagreed with her. Many of the nobles, men and women alike are getting tired of Chiron’s ways.” Vieno said. The woman was removing the string of pearls and undoing the twisting braids in Xin’s hair.

“Chiron’s fuming. Serves the bastard right.” Tier set a tray down on the low table and made his way over. Xin looked back at the mirror watching his reflection. He grinned. “I think Rale cracked a rib laughing.”

“Chiron’s woman has created many public scandals.” Vieno set the pearls to one side, smiling at Xin in the mirror. “She embarrasses him constantly.”

“He’s an embarrassment to the Empire. That’s why he’s in Delebeg.”

Vieno paused. “True. Delebeg suffers for it though.”

Xin looked down in her lap, at her hands. “I’m sorry he was, aggravating me.”

“No need to apologize.” Tier said with a chuckle.

Xin glanced up at the mirror as he sat in one of the low chairs.

“Bastard deserved it.” He said.

“Tier.” Vieno admonished.

“Vieno, he was goading her, if she hadn’t snapped Rale would have or I. She can get away with it, we can’t.”

“Still.” Vieno finished and ran a comb through Xin’s hair. “He’s still your blood.”

“Vieno,”

“He and Maen are alike. And they know how to get under your skin.”

“Maen was never this aggravating.” Tier snorted.

“I’m sure he would find that interesting.” Vieno stepped back. “You finish your meal, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Thank you Vieno.” Xin said quickly running her hands through her hair. Her head still felt tight and achy from having her hair twisted so tightly.

“Won’t you stay?” Tier asked smoothly. “There’s enough for all, including Rale if he decides to stop ogling Fatira.”

“No, I ate already.” She gave him a slight bow. “Goodnight children.”

“Children?” Tier asked archly.

“When I look at you, Tier, I still see the twelve year old boy trying to wield a battle axe larger than he was!” Vieno patted his shoulder as she passed by.

“That ended badly.” He snorted again. “And that boy grew up a long time ago.”

“You’re still alone though.” Vieno gave him a long look before curtsying and leaving.

“She cares a lot for you.” Xin observed. Tier looked at her nodding.

“She’s an amazing woman.” Tier motioned her over. “You can’t eat halfway across the room, Xin.”

Xin stood, made her way to the low chair across from where Tier sat and seated herself looking at Tier for a moment her stomach doing wild flops.

“I’m sorry Tier.”

He leaned forward shaking his head as he pulled the cover off the tray. “And I said not to apologize.”

“But,”

“Chiron is drunk.” He lifted a plate and handed it to her. “He started drinking around the same time we arrived and, according to his servants, hasn’t stopped.”

Xin took the plate and sat back, crossing her legs under her. “Because of you being here?”

“More than likely. Chiron and I don’t care for each other.” He leaned back with a chuckle. “Like my brother, Chiron seeks recognition for deeds others have done.”

“And you don’t?” Xin asked after quickly swallowing a piece of meat.

“I have my reputation.” He shrugged. “It is enough to know my advice and experience is sought after, even if I am, officially, on vacation.”

They ate in comfortable silence, far more peaceful than the dining hall, though Tier did comment several times about Rale’s absence. Long after Tier left, Xin sat staring at the seat he’d occupied.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, July 24th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth Chapter 9 pt 1

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 9 pt 1

The city of Delebeg dominated the desert valley, the towering walls of the city a ruddy red matching the local rock. It straddled a dry riverbed that was dotted with old, long unused docks. The road leading to the tall gates was wide and lined with tall stones. The guards at the gate straightened and nodded in Tier’s direction as they passed through.

Within the walls, the buildings were the same mud brick as the walls, and the dry dusty air made Xin feel like she was about to sneeze. Xin trailed behind the men. People stopped, staring as they went by. Many of them were dressed in loose robes that billowed in the lightest breeze.

In the center of the city, glowing white beneath the unforgiving sun, was a palace. The closer they got to it, the more Xin noticed greenery. She frowned, glancing back. The people were following them from a distance. Xin swallowed, and urged her horse to move faster, closer to Rale and Tier. These people were unnerving.

The road changed as they neared the palace. From brick to carefully laid cobblestones, and those following them stopped at the line where it changed. Neither men seemed to notice. Xin forced her attention on the arched gate. Beyond the gate was a courtyard and on the far end was a set of steps leading up to double doors. At the top of the steps stood a man. Tall, thin and gaunt, his eyes glittered as they neared. Tier raised his hand in greeting and dismounted.

“No fanfare, no announcements nor chalets, just riding up the road. Gods of the great high one, you haven’t changed a bit.” The man’s voice was deep and though he was smiling, it failed to reach his eyes. Xin’s stomach twisted. There was something off about this man, but she wasn’t sure what.

“Hello Lord Chiron, I don’t suppose we could impose on your hospitality?” Tier asked, meeting him half way down the steps. “We’ve been on the old road for a while, and could use a rest.”

“My household would be honored to have you here, your highness.” Chiron said, bowing. “Lord Rale? Is that you under all that dust?”

“It is.” Rale slid off his horse and limped over to Xin’s horse. “It’s a hell of a trek down the mountain.”

“It is.” Chiron laughed. “Why did you take the old road.”

“Scenery!”

Xin dismounted stepping back as several youths with shaved heads arrived, bowed to them and took the reins from their hands, guiding the horses towards a side archway. Xin watched bemused. She couldn’t tell if they were male or female and their simple clothes didn’t give any hints When she looked back towards the men, Lord Chiron was staring at her, his heavy brows pulled together. His false smile faded.

“I do not recognize you, my lady.” Chiron’s voice was odd. Xin glanced over at Tier, unsure of what to say.

“This is Xin.” Tier motioned her over, resting a hand on her shoulder, he squeezed gently. “A road companion headed for Sandau.”

Xin gave what she hoped was a proper curtsy. The way Chiron was staring at her made her wonder if she’d sprouted horns and hadn’t noticed.

“Still picking up strays along the way, eh?” Chiron looked back at Tier and sneered. He motioned them to follow him up the stairs. “You haven’t changed at all.”

“I believe you said that already.” Rale muttered as he touched Xin’s shoulder. “Come on, this will be unpleasant. Chiron hogs the water for the palace grounds so we might as well take advantage of it.”

“Is that why the people were following us?”

“Chiron isn’t exactly liked. The people here are always short on water.” Rale glanced behind him. “That’s how Chiron keeps them docile.”

“Awful.”

“It is. He is.”

“It is going to be a long few days.” Xin murmured.

“Yep.” Rale grimaced and allowed her to go ahead of him into the palace.

They followed Chiron through large open halls and corridors, a maze that Xin feared she’d get lost in if left behind. The forest and finding her way in the mountains were easy. The mere idea of trying to manage these passages by herself made her gut twist. They were nearing another set of doors when Xin felt the heavy pull of water.

She hesitated, glancing around. When the doors opened from without, the moisture hit her. Chiron had led them to an inner courtyard that flaunted his ownership of the water. It was dominated by a large fountain and pool, and around the base was a pond with water lilies. Along the edge of the courtyard, in huge buckets, were fruit laden trees. The moisture tugged at her, calling to her. She wanted to dive into the fountain, to rid herself of the dust and dry air.

She hesitated at the entry, glancing at Tier. He was listening to whatever Chiron was saying.

“We have a situation to the northeast. I must meet with my officials.” Chiron was saying.

He clapped twice and two young women with dark skin and draped in loose, light yellow wraps, hurried over. Behind them, her steps slow and deliberate, her hands clasped in front of her, was an older woman. Her skin not quite as dark, and her wraps though similar style, were a rich orange with embroidery along the edges. One of the robes was pulled halfway over her head, covering her hair from view. She halted and bowed at Chiron.

“You called, my lord?”

“Take care of my guests.” HE turned towards Tier. “Is there anything else, your highness?”

“No. Thank you. We will see you at dinner then.” Tier said, his tone had a touch of steel that Xin hadn’t heard before. She glanced at Rale whose eyebrows arched in surprise though he said nothing.

Lord Chiron spun around and hurried off, his robes swishing as he went. Xin breathed a sigh of relief. The man had an oily aura about him that she didn’t care for. She turned her attention to the women.

The two younger women half knelt, heads lowered. The older woman smiled at them, holding out her hands. Tier bowed, much to Xin’s surprise, and stepped forward, catching the woman in a tight embrace.

“You have been away for far too long, Tier.” she spoke slowly, her accent heavy.

“They usually have me on the other side of the nation.” Tier said turning towards Xin and Rale. “Vieno, these are my traveling companions, you remember Rale?”

“It has been years.” Rale said bowing also.

“Silly boys, you don’t bow to me, my lords.” She looked at Xin. “And who is this lady who travels with you?”

“This is Xin, from the Dhaul region.” Tier hesitated. “She’s traveling with us till we reach Sandau.”

“I’m no lady.” Xin said quickly. Vieno’s eyebrows arched and she smiled before turning towards Rale.

“Fatira will take you to your quarters to clean up and rest. Dinner is at sunset.”

One of the younger women stood, curtsied, and strode off towards a side door in the courtyard. After a moment’s hesitation, Rale followed. As the door closed behind him, a youth burst through running towards them, sliding to a stop, his eyes wide.

“Your highness,” he bowed, gasping for breath. “Lord Chiron request your presence in the meeting hall.” He looked up. “The officials insisted.”

“Chiron is always impatient.” Vieno said.

Tier turned towards Xin, eying her for a long moment. “Vieno,”

“Go on, highness, before Chiron loses his temper. I’ll make sure Lady Xin is comfortable.” Vieno gave a bow and then a shooing motion.

Xin watched him walk away with the servant and turned to face Vieno.

“You look very tired, young woman. Come with me.” Vieno smiled warmly, turned and walked back the way she’d come. Xin took a deep breath and followed the elegant woman.

 

“He does not usually travel with others.” Vieno was saying as she made a final adjustment to the dress she’d insisted Xin wear.

“So I have gathered.” Xin shifted, uncomfortable. The dress was a set of loose pieces of fabric, secured by just a few stitches here and there. They flowed around her with each step, yet were so light weight she felt as though she wore nothing. Secured at her shoulders, the dress left her arms bare, gathered at her waist the skirts covered her legs to her ankles which Vieno had insisted be decorated with thin golden chains.

“He is an awful lair.” Vieno said directly. “You were not planning to go to Sandau.”

“He is an awful liar.” Xin agreed laughing. “But yes, I have family in Sandau.” She resisted the urge to twirl in the dress and met Vieno’s gaze. The older woman’s eyes narrowed.

“I will believe you, if you insist.” She said finally. “Come, sit, your hair needs fixing.”

Xin slowly reached up, clasping both hands over her bun.

“I won’t cut it, girl. Pull out the hair stick and let’s see it.” Vieno moved the chair closer.

Xin swallowed and did so. Her hair fell out of the bun and Vieno nodded. “You take good care of it. Good. Now sit.”

“Lady Vieno, this dress, the anklets, it’s all much too fine for me.”

“You are a guest, and you travel with an Imperial Prince. You need to look the part. Besides, I saw the way he looked at you, I know you aren’t blind, you saw it too.”

“He is an Imperial Prince. I am nothing.” Xin said as she sat. “It wouldn’t be,” she floundered her cheeks heating up.

“He does not think you are nothing.” Vieno began to carefully comb through Xin’s hair. “Things could happen.” She chuckled. “He is not a bad looking man.”

“No, he’s not.” Xin agreed, annoyed when the woman chuckled. “Still, what would be the point? When we get to Sandau we will go our separate ways.” She couldn’t think about returning to Nekar. Despite what he said, she couldn’t trust Seeress.

“He is a lonely man.” Vieno said and set the comb to one side and began to do something with Xin’s hair that involved pulling, lifting and twisting. “He came to Delebeg as a young boy, left a man and in all that time he was alone. Even now, second in command of the Imperial Army in the East, he is alone. Few friends,”

“What about Rale?” Xin asked.

“They are cousins and happen to get along.” Vieno did something and Xin cringed, pain shooting through her scalp. “Sorry. Tier does his duty and that’s it. You are good for him.”

“That’s all he lives for, he said as much.” Xin said softly.

“You have given him something else to think of besides duty.” Vieno stepped back and nodded with a smile. “Look in the mirror girl.”

Xin hesitated and stepped in front of the body length piece of metal and stared. The woman standing in the mirror couldn’t be her, could it? She smoothed the skirt over her front and blinked when the reflection did the same. Vieno had twisted her hair into a myriad of braids that looped and draped, working in a string of pearls which stood out against her dark hair.

“Would it be so awful to be with him? Even for a short period of time?” Vieno asked gently.

Xin couldn’t answer. She stared at the mirror, not really seeing her reflection. Tier had been in her thoughts, invading her sleep. It was stupid. What if the Seeress decided to have her put to death? He would be the one to do it.

“He does his duty. He serves the Empire, the Seeress,”

“He is on a mission for the Seeress.” Xin looked at the older woman. Vieno frowned.

“I did not know that.” She shook her head. “That is a death sentence.”

“So I’ve heard.” Xin looked down. “It wouldn’t,” she couldn’t continue.

“This is not good.” Vieno tightened something on the dress. “It is a death sentence to be asked to do her work. Especially outside the Empire.”

“Surely some have survived, I would think if anyone could, he would!”

“Indeed.” But Vieno was still frowning. “What has she asked him to do? No, I’ll ask him myself.”

“If it’s a death sentence, and everyone is afraid of her, why,”

“Do we still follow her?” Vieno took a deep breath. “Because the alternative is much worse.”

“Is it?” Xin shook her head.

“Hush.” Vieno lowered her voice. “There are some things one doesn’t discuss, she can find things out at a great distance, and there are many mice within the palace walls.”

Xin turned meeting the woman’s dark eyes. They studied each other.

“Be careful what you say, and to whom. Dhaul is relaxed, less a part of the empire than a tributary. Words, the wrong ones, in front of the wrong person, can get you killed.

“I’ll try to keep that in mind.” Xin murmured.

“There are some things you should be aware of, customs you must adhere to.” Vieno said. “All eyes will be on you.”

“Oh lovely.”

~*~

The rest of chapter 9 will be posted Tues, July 22th. Sorry y’all, it was just way too long. 

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 8

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

They left in the predawn light, following the trail back down to the crossroads. When they reached it, Xin stared at the path that wound it’s way back down to the village she’d grown up in. She couldn’t go back. Ever. Her stomach twisted. She turned, looking up at Tier.

“I’ll accompany you, for now.” She sighed.

Tier inclined his head. Rale extended his hand. “Ride behind me. Save your feet.”

Xin snorted but stepped over. “I’ve never ridden a horse before.”

“We’ll go slow.” Rale assured her as she clumsily got up behind him. She gripped his belt, hoping her shaking wouldn’t be obvious.

“The next town, we’ll see about getting you a horse.” Rale craned his neck, looking at her over his shoulder.

Xin nodded, belatedly realizing he couldn’t see her. “All right.”

 

They followed the twisting road, farther than Xin had been. Passing between steep cliffs and down into a narrow, eerily silent valley. Trees with ruddy red trunks towered over them and mist clung to the ground. The men were tense and Xin watched Tier closely. Several times he looked off into the forest, brows pulled together, staring at something. Rale said nothing about it, Xin hesitated to ask. They reached a wide, shallow stream, and Tier pulled his horse to a halt.

“Let’s stop here, water the horses and eat.” He said, his voice low.

“It feels heavy here.” Rale said. His horse stopped, ears flickering back and forth. Xin slid off, and limped back from the horse. Her legs trembled.

She made her way towards the stream, picking her way around several boulders trying to walk out the odd feel to her legs. The water whispered to her, dancing along her mind. She crouched, glancing back at the men. They were looking at a parchment, talking in low voices. She sighed and dipped her fingers in the water.

It was cold, soothing. She closed her eyes listening. The road followed along side the stream for quite a distance, almost to the lake, she knew that from the map, and could feel it in her mind. She frowned. She heard, no she felt percussions rippling through the water. She straightened, staring upstream. The sound of horses moving through the water was carried on the current. She swallowed. Bandits.

“Bandits, upriver.” She called to the men. “Four maybe five. I think there might be more in the forest.”

Tier was on his feet, sword drawn before she finished. Rale drew his slender sword and they both moved toward the stream bank. Xin crept towards the large boulders beside the stream, the sounds of splashing reaching her. Around the bend, their armor ragged and mismatched, came bandits that appeared to have had far better days. Their horses appeared underfed and scraggly. Tier lowered his sword. They halted, exchanging startled looks, their horses sidestepping, ears flat on their heads.

“Your money and the woman and you may pass.” One of the men called.

“Or you’ll do what?” Tier scoffed. “Bat at us with those toy blades?”

The bandits hissed back and forth, and Xin stared at the water around the horses hooves.

“We’ll kill you.”

“You can try, won’t get very far.” Rale called. Xin shot him a startled look, he didn’t look the type. Tier chuckled and shook his head.

“You won’t succeed. Go back where you came from, you won’t get anything from us.”

“Noblemen from Nekar, all alone, in the middle of nowhere.” One of the men with finer clothing than the others leaned forward. “Put your toy swords away and hand over your money. We might even share the woman….Oww.”

Xin directed a large chunk of half frozen ice at the man, hitting him in the chest and knocking him off the A blob of ice shot from the water slamming into the man’s chest. He fell back and hit the iced over stream, his horse spooked, darting from the stream, circles of ice around his hooves. The other horses followed their fellow, dashing onto the shore, leaving their startled riders behind in the stream.

The panicked horses tangled with bandits trying to run out from the forest in an ambush. Xin turned her attention back to the bandits who had been dumped by their terrified mounts. She focused, freezing the surface of the water around them and muttered one of Matau’s favorite oaths. The man she’d hit with the ice got to his feet, just out of range of her ice. She stepped forward and focused on the water around his legs, freezing it as fast as she could. He yowled, struggling to yank his legs free.

Xin tossed a few ice balls at the other men trying to keep them from the fray onshore. The leader yowled in frustration. The others were working themselves loose. Xin couldn’t keep the water frozen. Her head was pounding and she could feel sweat beading on her face. She’d never used her ability like this, though she’d heard stories and tried small ice balls late at night when no one was looking.

With a yell the bandits broke and fled back into the forest. Xin sank to the ground shaking, her head heavy. The leader was dragging himself out of the water, his legs encased in ice chunks. He yelled something she didn’t catch and half ran, half limped into the safety of the forest.

Xin forced herself to her feet. They might be just out of sight, watching and regrouping. She made her way back over to the men. Several of the bodies lay on the ground, blood seeping around them. Xin gritted her teeth, her stomach doing a dangerous flop. Tier touched her shoulder.

“You okay?”

Xin blinked and looked up at him, nodding mutely.

“We’ll get going here in a moment.” He grimaced, rubbing his thumb. It looked odd.

“You hurt?”

He shrugged. “I’ll live.”

“Dislocated your thumb again?” Rale shook his head. “The healers in Lorn could have fixed that.”

Tier scowled at him. “Let those crazies cut my hand open. No.”

“One of the horses got tangled in the underbrush.” Rale pointed.

“Payment for the inconvenience.” Tier looked at Xin. Looks like you have a horse now, my lady.”

Xin snorted, looking at the ragged beast. “Let’s hope it lives.”

“It,” Tier half bent, looking under the beast’s belly. “She, will probably live longer in our care than with those incompetent fools.”

 

Rale helped Xin get to know her new mount while Tier wrapped his hand, securing his thumb with a rarely used brace, swearing under his breath. The bandit’s sword hit his at just the right angle. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. It probably wouldn’t be the last. Once it was secure he gathered the weapons that looked usable and watched Rale going over some basic riding skills. The poor woman was pale.

“You think you can ride solo, or do you want to give it some time?” Tier asked.

“I’ll be fine. Thank you.” Her voice didn’t sound like she’d be fine at all but he wasn’t about to push her. His head was ringing from the power she’d been using. It troubled him. He shouldn’t be able to feel it, should he? She shook the thought off, it led to other, dangerous questions. Questions he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers to.

They rode on, going slow at first, then a bit faster as they neared the foothills of the mountains separating Dhaul from the desert province of Delebeg. They reached the bottom of the pass and found a small abandoned town. The thatch roofs had fallen into rickety shells of houses whose owners abandoned them. They found what might have once been an inn, and a stable yard able to secure the horses. They left early to reach the peak of the pass.

The passage up the pass was narrow and clogged with rocks and at the peak Rale and Xin both suggested they rest before going back down the other way. A stone hut provided them with shelter, and a view of the valley stretching out below.

Tier took the first shift, though they hadn’t seen any more bandits, they were out there, resentful and angry. He didn’t want to give them any chance to do anything. He’d settled against the outside wall when Xin approached him. She looked as if she were about to say something but instead she sighed, moving as though to go back inside.

“Something on your mind?” He asked. She half turned, looking up at him.

“How much further to Delebeg?”

He peered into the dark valley below. “Do you see those lights in the distance?”

She was quiet. He wished the moon was out so he could get a better glimpse of her face. Her hair was brushing his face, and arm and he was tempted catch it and braid it or something. He gripped his sword belt instead. It was safer.

“That’s Delebeg?” She sounded forlorn. Tier inwardly sighed. He wasn’t sure what to do, how he might help her feel better.

“It’s about four days, possibly five depending on how the horses do.”

“It’s dry down there. I can feel it.” she shuffled her feet.

“What’s it like?” He asked. He should send her back to bed, but he didn’t want her to leave just yet.

“What? Water using?”

“Yeah.” He hesitated. He almost mentioned being able to feel when she used her powers, but the words stuck in his throat. Now wasn’t the time.

“It’s an irresistible pull.” She said after a long silence. “It’s a whisper in the back of my mind that never quite goes away. If I’m not careful I could end up going under.” She shuddered.

“Going under?”

“Getting lost in the call of the water. There were stories Matau told me about, stories of water users who were unable to resist the call of the water. They either disappeared or drowned.”

Tier wasn’t sure what to say.

“I think if there wasn’t such a harsh punishment for just being what we are, it wouldn’t have consumed them.” Her voice was almost inaudible.

“The law,” Tier began but she interrupted.

“What if the law is wrong?” She asked softly. “Have you ever considered that? Not all laws are right, just because they’re laws.” She touched his arm, a feather touch that sent shock waves through him. “It means that the people in power want it done that way.”

He considered that.

“Good night, Tier.” She went silently and he couldn’t think of anything to say to bring her back.

He stared out into the darkness considering what she had said, and what she hadn’t. He’d never worried about it, never even thought about it. The law was the law. But that law dictated that he should put her to death. The law determined she was not a person, just an evil being.

The Seeress had ordered him to seek out the elementals. Would she also order him to kill them? And if she did, could he really do it? He’d never questioned his orders. Never doubted that the Seeress knew what was right for Nekar, for their people.

And yet she gave him chills, nightmares, and there were times he could almost feel her near him. Her fingernail dragging slowly down his chest, her voice whispering in his head. It left an oily, grimy feel that he hadn’t been able to wash away. If she suspected he was doubting her, doubting the laws he’d enforced his entire adult life, his life wouldn’t be worth living. She’d make sure of it. The question Xin asked earlier hung in his mind, nagging at him. If he was ordered to, could he kill her? For the first time in his life, he didn’t know the answer. Confused, troubled he stayed long past when he was supposed to wake Rale. When he finally went inside he was no closer to an answer.

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, July 15th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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An apology

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Real life pounced me pretty hard last week, and this week is no better. However, next Tuesday the Serial will be back on schedule. I hope I didn’t lose you, and I deeply apologize for my silence regarding it.

N. Phoenix

 

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 7

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 7

Xin watched from her bedroll as the prince returned to his, a small wooden box in his hands. He pulled out several small old looking scrolls and skimmed over their contents before pulling out a thin chain with a strange amulet on it. He stared at it with that deep frown, his thumb brushing over its face before tucking it into his belt pouch.

“Where did you find those?” Xin asked. He didn’t look her way, though his eyebrow quirked. He unrolled another scroll.

“Upstairs, hidden under a stone.” He shook his head.

“Did a ghost show you where it was?” Xin asked, half teasing. She hesitated. He paled and glanced at her, his dark eyes unreadable. She swallowed, heart hammering in her ears and scanned the large hall. “Are there any floating around right now?”

“No.” He looked back down at the pile of scrolls, brows pulling together, and lifted a small black scroll. “Interesting.” He murmured, unrolling it.

“What is it?” Xin scooted over to get a better look. It was, she told herself, to avoid waking up Rale.

“This is a summons scroll.” Tier said, frowning as he scanned over the contents. “It’s a request to go to meet with the Seeress.”

“Don’t the Nekarians worship her?” Xin asked.

“Some do.” He rolled the scroll tightly and set it in the bottom of the box before returning the other scrolls atop it. “They say she has guided and protected Nekar for a thousand years.”

“Killing any who oppose her.” Xin snorted.

“No.” Tier shook his head. “Her visions have guided our people, sometimes sacrifices must be made.”

“It seems tyrannical to me. What happens if her orders are ignored? Perhaps peace would break out?”

“The Empire could be diminished.” He closed the box, tucking it into his travel pack. He rummaging through the bag, frowning. “She gives orders for the betterment of the Empire. We are just tools.”

“Do you really believe that?” Xin asked. He looked at her, surprised.

“Of course.”

Xin frowned. “If it wasn’t your duty to locate and return living elementals to her, would you kill me?” Xin asked in a low voice. Tier stilled, eyes darting back to his travel sack.

“I would do my duty.” He said slowly. “But if she hadn’t ordered me here, I would not have needed a guide, nor been in this part of the world.” He lifted an unlit torch, stood and went to the torch in the wall, lighting the new one off the old.

“Is that all there is?” Xin swallowed, scrambling to her feet.

“Hmm?” He strode across the room, lifting the torch above his head. Xin followed at a distance. She didn’t want to wake up Rale.

“Duty, is that all there is to you?”

“Mostly.” He glanced down at her then pointed to the mural and set the fresh torch in the empty holder beside the mural. He stepped back, staring up at the wall.

“Mostly?” Xin shook her head. “I would’ve expected to hear tales of court gossip and exploits of the nobility.”

He looked at her and laughed “From Rale, from my brother or sister, yes you’d get an earful. I avoid it personally.”

“Why?”

“Court is a den of backbiting vipers. I don’t have the temperament for it.” He glanced her way. “As you pointed out, I’m a bad liar.” He tipped his head to one side and muttered an oath under his breath, going back to his travel packs. He returned with a folded and travel worn parchment. He lifted it up, eyes flickering back and forth between parchment and mural.

Xin looked at the mural, she’d always loved it. It was of woman holding her multicolored skirts in each hand in what may have been a curtsy. Her face was lost in the shadows and the plaster where her feet were had long ago crumbled. The skirt, though, was brightly colored, dotted with jewels, whispering of another time. Xin glanced at the parchment Tier was holding up and gasped, involuntarily stepping closer.

“You see it too?”

“It’s a map.” She looked up at him. “The mural’s a map!”

“It is, roughly. It’s missing some cities.” He pointed. “Lorn, Hagish, and the capital, and nothing is named. But look up there, those could be cities, they’re not on my map though. How old do you think this is?”

“I’m not sure. Matau had nothing to say about it.” Xin shrugged.

“Probably wasn’t exciting enough.” He said dryly.

Xin nodded, frowning. The colors on the skirt nibbled at her, reminding her of an old rhyme she’d been told long ago. She rubbed her forehead, trying to remember the words.

“Tier, that there,” she pointed to the parchment then to the equivalent on the mural. “That is Dhaul, right?”

“Yes.”

“It’s in blue, see? Delebeg is in brown…”

“So?”

“There was a song we used to sing as children, each elemental had a color assigned to them.” Xin said softly. “Earth was brown, air was white, water blue, fire,”

“Red.” He blinked looking at the map in his hands.

“It shows what regions the elementals occupied.” Xin looked up at him. “Might give you an idea of where you’re going to go next.”

Tier looked at her. “And where will you go?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.” She stared towards the mural. “I haven’t given it much thought yet.”

“Come with us.”

Xin swallowed, unable to meet his eyes. “And eventually meet the Seeress?” She forced herself to look at him. “Who is responsible, ultimately, for my mother being run out, for me being in exile?”

He looked away and shook his head. “I don’t know what to say.” He looked back at her. “My mission, my life depends on me being able to locate elementals, and take them back to her. I can’t change the rules.”

She looked up towards the mural. “What does she want with us?”

“She claimed it was to heal damage from the Elemental War.”

“Claimed?” She frowned. “You doubt it?”

He scowled. “Questioning her can be fatal.”

“I have to think about it.”

“We’d have to go to Delebeg,” Rale’s voice made her jump. “It’s a straight shot from here.”

“I hate the desert.” Tier said folding the parchment and moving back towards their bedrolls.

“Chiron is governor of Delebeg isn’t he?” Rale’s asked.

“He was last I heard. I don’t hear much from that area though. I know he had some sort of uprising near his northern borders.”

“And after Delebeg?”

“Depends on if we locate an Earth Elemental. There are a couple small towns north of Delebeg we can check. After that, I don’t know.”

Xin barely heard Rale’s reply, she studied the mural. There were other colors edging the skirt and then there was the odd blot in the south/bottom part of the dress. Nekar, home of the Seeress. Xin shuddered glancing towards the fire. The men were deep in conversation, discussing other possible places to go, neither seemed to notice her.

She drifted towards the entry, glanced back at the fire one last time before ducking into the now soggy courtyard. She felt the call of the water and struggled to resist it. Everything that had happened, the flash flood, the rocks, crashed down on her. She forced herself to breathe. She wasn’t going to cry, she wouldn’t let herself cry. What was the point?

Matau tried to kill her. She shouldn’t have been surprised, he was one of the first to run her mother out, but Xin was still having a hard time believing it. He would have killed her if Tier hadn’t stepped in the way. She owed him her life. That didn’t sit well with her.

Was that any better a fate than being stoned? It was Tier’s duty to find people like her and turn them over to the Seeress. And if he didn’t… Xin sighed. The seeress was not known for being understanding.

Tier intrigued her. He was the Seeress’s chosen seeker, like the stories whispered in the dunurch late at night. He would do her bidding, and according to the old ones, eventually die in her service.

None survived for long, the old men had said, few could stand being in the Seeress’s presence for long. Fewer still able to walk away from a mission unscathed. She leaned back against a large block that faced the front gates, and stared up at the stars peeking from the clouds. What in the world was she going to do? She pulled her legs up on the rock, wrapping her arms around her legs and propping her chin on her knees. She felt the tears, the sobs, the reality of her awful situation and pressed her forehead against her knees crying.

The storm of tears passed, and she shivered in the chill air. She needed to get back to her bedroll, get some sleep and try to decide in the morning where she was going to go. Something was draped over her shoulders, she looked up blinking in surprise. Tier was standing just an arm’s length away.

“It’s kind of cold out here.” He said adjusting the blanket he’d draped over her shoulders. “Are you alright?”

She shrugged staring up at the moon. “He tried to kill me. He would have too if you and Rale hadn’t…” She gripped the blanket tightening it around her shoulders.

She could almost feel how awkward he must be feeling. She pressed her forehead against her knees again fighting sobs. She felt his hand resting on her shoulder, attempted comfort from a man who would kill her in a heartbeat?

“Rale is asleep again.” He said, the tone of his voice had an odd timbre to it. “Come back inside where it is warmer.” he was gently rubbing her back, the soothing caress was making her drowsy.

“If I go with you, after all this is over, where will I go?” she whispered. She looked at him, barely a shadowy outline in the darkness.

“We’ll figure that out later. Right now you ought to get to sleep.”

“You too.” She said sharply, but she slid off the rock gripping the blanket.

“Possibly.” he said. He followed her back inside and Xin wondered what he saw that she didn’t. When she turned to ask she found herself spun back around to face the fire, his hands steel on her shoulders. “You don’t want to know what I see, Xin.”

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, July 3rd.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 6

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 6

The great Fortress of Dhaul loomed overhead, intimidating and dreary, casting a shadow and a chill over the road coiling towards its gate. Ancient towers spiraled up, their tips hidden in ever present dark and ominous clouds. Like the cracked, carved stones lining the road, they were silent sentinels of another time. An eerie testament of a long gone era.

“Matau told me that it was shaped out of the cliff, not carved nor built.” Xin said, her voice hushed. She nodded towards the fortress. “It was a trade, you see, the water users ended a drought in a northern kingdom, so in return the rock shapers came south and created the fortress for them. The entire summit is a palace.”

“I wonder why Nekar let the fortress fall into ruin. Especially after going to the trouble of aquiring it.” Rale murmured. Tier shrugged.

“General Dyrnos, or one of the history teachers in Lorn could tell you. I never paid that much attention.” Tier pointed at the moss covered stone pillars lining either side of the road, like soldiers ready to march into battle. “Would you want to have those things staring at you every day?”

Rale shook his head. “I don’t like to think our people would be superstitious enough to let that sort of thing bother them.” He patted one of the stones. “They’re just stone, after all.”

Tier shrugged. Every now and then, beneath the underbrush and twining around the pillars, he’d catch sight of wisps, clinging to the broken stones. Things watching them. Perhaps there was a connection between the ghosts and the stones? Part of him wanted to linger and inspect them, another part of him wanted to run as fast as he could.

“What are those stones, anyways?” Rale asked Xin, pointing to a nearby pillar. An ugly face was carved into its surface. “I’ve never seen anything like them before.”

“Matau called them Standing Stones, and said they were here before people came to Dhaul. No one knows what the language is, or who or what put them there. Come on, it’s getting late. I’d rather not be on the road at night.”

“Why not? Worries about ghosts?” Rale asked her.

“There are things that move around in the forest.” She motioned towards the trees. “Some say ghosts, or demons. I’ve never seen anything, but I’ve heard things.” She shuddered. “I prefer not to travel here at night.”

“What do you think, Tier? Think we’ll see anything?” Rale asked.

Tier tried to ignore his cousin’s jabbering.

“Tier sees ghosts.” Rale said. Tier glared at him. It wasn’t something to laugh or joke about. In the wrong company it could get him killed. He never talked about it and wished Rale wouldn’t. “When we were children he swore he saw bodies in the river near the Seeress’s Oracle.”

“Overactive imagination.” Tier said quickly. Xin was looking at him with a frown. “I was a child.”

“So,” she drawled. “You don’t see ghosts?”

“No.” He turned from her.

“The ghosts here are real, not imaginary. They get restless when people come up here.”

“Any idea why?” Rale asked.

Xin was quiet before answering. “The Nekarian army slaughtered everyone inside the palace, once the wall was breached. No one was spared. Elemental, non-elemental. Young, old, male female. It didn’t matter. Everyone died.”

Tier nodded. “That is what happens in war.”

“Their souls are still here.” She turned and continued up the path. “We’d better hurry before it starts raining again.”

Neither of the horses wanted to go anywhere near the front gates that towered over the trees. It took Rale and Tier quite some time to get them on the wide yard in front of the fortress. Xin perched herself on a rock, her knees drawn up under her. When they finally convinced the beasts that it wouldn’t hurt them the light was dimming in the sky. Tier couldn’t see any way to open the gates. He turned to Xin.

“How do we get in?” He asked. Before she could answer, Rale was pushing the reins in Tier’s hand, half stumbling toward the gate.

“Are you seeing this?” He turned, eyes wide. “It’s huge!”

“You, prince, are a horrible liar.” Xin said in a low voice. Tier blinked, looking down at her.

“Why do you say that?” He asked warily. She flashed a grin at him.

“Your eyes. The way you look in the forest, and at the Standing stones… you see the spirits here, don’t you?”

He gritted his teeth, saying nothing. She laughed.

“There are lots of ghosts here. Lots of things here. I don’t envy you.”

“How do we get inside?” He repeated the question. She eyed him, her eyes twinkling. She was laughing at him, he was certain of it.

She pointed towards the wall. “Along that wall is the breach that the Nekarian army used to take the castle.”

“Lets go then.”

Rale hurried over, taking the reins back, rambling about the fortress. The breach appeared to have some minor repair work, but it was never completed. It was wide, high, and both horses were convinced that there was an ogre on the other side, just waiting to eat them. Tier glanced over at Xin.

“Lead the way?”

She stepped through the breach, Rale on her heels. Tier swore under his breath, trying to get the horses through. Once on the other side, they calmed down, though their eyes were wide and their ears pricked forward. They would bolt the minuet he let his guard down.

He barely got a glimpse around, before Xin was directing him to an old stableyard. Once secured inside the horses calmed down and Tier rejoined Xin and Rale near a gaping doorway. The wind picked up as they stepped inside.

The room, an ancient hall, whispered of time. In the torchlight, Tier could make out broken swords, straw, and leaves blown in, littering the floor. The room was empty except for the large fireplace that dominated it. Tier made his way over, frowning at the remnants of a fire. It wasn’t very old. He glanced over at Xin.

“I thought you said people avoided this area.”

“They do.” She moved over and frowned, crouching by the fireplace. “Odd.”

“When you led the other lords up here,” Tier began.

“They wouldn’t come inside.” Xin said. She stood, setting her torch in a stone holder on one side of the fireplace. “Then they insisted on taking the road towards Delebeg.” she stared at the char. “It may have been bandits.”

“I thought you said bandits wouldn’t,” A loud crash drowned out the rest of Rale’s statement. He stared towards the back of the hall. “What was that?”

Tier stood, taking a visual survey of the lower room. Shapes were forming, hazy and indistinct, some were detailed most just the vague outlines of what they used to be. But all of them had the dark shadows for eyes.

“Tier, did you hear that?”

A rumble of thunder shook the palace. Tier almost jumped when he felt the touch to his arm. He looked down at Xin who was staring towards the way they’d come in, her hand rested on his arm. Warmth wiggled through him and he smothered it. Couldn’t read too much into it.

“Wind probably knocked something down my lord.” Xin said, looking sharply at Rale. She sounded as if she were trying to be cheerful. “Over by the entry is fire wood, why don’t you grab it so we can get a fire started.”

Rale nodded and Tier swallowed when his cousin turned and walked through several ghosts to get to the firewood.

“What do you see?” Xin whispered looking up at him.

“Be glad you don’t know.” Tier replied.

It didn’t take long to get the fire going. Xin enlisted Rale as her helper, ordering him to get things and cut up vegetables much to Tier’s amusement. It was, he thought, good for Rale to be away from the comforts of home. Maybe he might do more for himself.

“Why do I have to go get the water?” Rale asked belligerently. Xin looked up at him and his shoulders sagged. Tier was glad that he was not the only one affected by those large, innocent looking eyes. Xin was dangerous and knew it.

“My lord, have you ever cooked a meal before in your life?”

“No.”

“Then you go get the water.”

“You’re mean to him.” Tier said as his cousin stalked off. Xin glanced his way then back down to the makeshift cooking preparation area.

“I don’t have patience for a spoiled royal.” She didn’t meet his eyes. When Rale got back she was far less sharp with him, showing him how to add things to the small flat pot.

They ate in silence, setting up sleeping rolls on the floor near the fire. The storm raged outside. The thunder boomed, lightning lit up the room, shone through windows high up. With each flash he saw the pale figures, standing, staring. He swallowed. One in particular, a noblewoman or an ancient queen, got closer with each flash. He was certain the ancient spirit wasn’t moving. The ghost’s eyes glowed a bright silver, locked on him. He forced himself to lay back, to close his eyes and listen to the sounds of Rale and Xin talking in low voices.

You are not what you seem to be. The voice, hollow and wispy echoed inside his skull. His eyes shot open and saw the ghost floating above his feet. An unearthly wind blew her hair. Her face one minute was narrow, gaunt, with a timeless beauty to her, the next nothing more than a skull. These halls are not for you, Nekarian.

“Hey Tier, where do we go from here?” Rale asked from his sleeping bedroll.

“Hmm?” Tier blinked several times looking over at him. The ghost drifted between them.

“You were insistent on coming here, to Dhaul, now where to?”

“I’m not sure.” Tier shrugged, meeting the gaze of the ghost. “Seeress specified here but gave no suggestions about where we should go after here.”

The haunt stared at him, lips pursed. For a moment, in the flickering lightning he thought a twitch of a smile tugged at her ghostly lips. Then she was gone.
He stared towards the back wall, letting the icy tingles fade away. In the lightning strikes he realized there was a painting on the wall above the old dais. He half sat up frowning, waiting for the next lighting to strike.

“What is it?” Rale asked.

“There’s something painted on that wall.”

“It’s a mural.” Xin said. He looked over at her. She sat cross-legged, her hair down and over one shoulder. “In the light, when there aren’t storms you can get a better view.” She braided her hair quickly and then sat staring at the fireplace. Rale harrumphed and rolled over.

“Gotta sleep.” he muttered.

Tier laid back down half closing his eyes. They were in an unknown place, possibly dangerous. He would doze, but not be fully asleep. Years of training, habit and experience wouldn’t let him. Either way, when he dozed he dreamed; odd, disturbing dreams of both the Seeress and Xin.

When he woke, his heart was pounding loudly in his ears and he felt as if something had made a loud sound. He stared towards the doorway, listening to the rain pouring down outside. It took time before his body had unclenched enough for him to roll over to his other side. Xin was facing him, her eyelashes dark against her pale cheek. Tier bit back a curse and sat up staring into the darkness. The ghosts were gone, except for the queen hovering near the stairs.

He glanced back down at Xin and then to Rale, neither one had moved. He stood and carefully took the torch from its holder and crept over to the regal looking ghost. She smiled, half beauty half skull, turned and drifted up the stairs. He took one last glance towards Xin and Rale before following her up the old wide steps. She led him through the upper levels of the palace, down long ago forgotten passages finally ending up in what was once a wine cellar. She stopped over a black patch on the floor, staring at him.

What is it you seek here? Her voice echoed hollowly in his mind. He felt the presence of other spirits gathering in the room. Many, far more than he could actually see. The air grew chilled and he had to grit his teeth to keep them from chattering.

“Information.” He gritted out. A murmur went through the room, a ghostly whisper tinged with mockery. They didn’t believe him.

Liar. You seek other Elementals.
“Why ask me if you knew already?”

No elementals, besides your water girl, have come here in years. Perhaps they’re all dead.

“Perhaps they are just hiding. Where did the other old fortresses stand? Dhaul is the last I know of.”

The specter became harder even for him to see. Then she was gone. Tier swore under his breath. All the other spirits departed with a howl.

“Just like a ghost. Afraid.” The air in the room went chilly but the Queen did not reappear. Tier stared at the blackened spot on the floor. He looked around the room. Empty except for bits of blackened char and rocks.

There was a great battle here. The queen’s voice echoed in his mind again. For a moment he could hear the sounds of swords clashing, men yelling, the groans and screams of the dying and the relentless and endless clang of two great swords. Briefly he saw the two, fighting over the blackened flagstone.

No one remembers who they were, only that they hated each other, they fought each other and they killed each other right here.

Tier squinted and knelt beside the blackened stone, running his hand over the scorched block. There was a crack. He debated and pulled his belt knife out using it to slide between the flagstones and carefully pry it up. There was a large cache beneath the flagstone with a single small wooden chest. Tire lifted it, and felt a tingling, a release of an ancient ward.

The chest was simple, a basic latch with no lock kept it closed. Dark stains covered the lid and Tier was certain it was blood that had leaked down through the cracks. He replaced the flagstone and stood, finding himself face to face with the queen.

These are the only records left of that time. The queen moved through him and led him back up to the corridor at the top of the stairs. Be careful with them.

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thurs, June 26th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Want more to read? Check out J.A. Marlow’s Summer Crash serial!

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 5

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Disclaimer; Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Chapter 5

 

Thunder shook the small cabin, jolting Tier from an uneasy dream. He pushed himself up, glancing around the one room. The fire had burned down, leaving long shadows. He could make out the forms of Rale and the old man, and from the sound of it, neither were aware that there was a storm outside. Xin’s sleeping mat was empty. Thunder rumbled again and he got to his feet taking another glance around before ducking out the door, onto the porch. Xin was leaning against one of the posts, and glanced at him as he shut the door.

“The horses are still there,” she said motioning towards the shelter. “They don’t look too pleased.”

“They’re out of the rain, at least.” Tier said. Lightning flashed, and he could make out the shapes of the horses under the shelter.

“True.”

“The road’s on the other side of the stream, isn’t it?”

“Yes. The water runs off quickly, though. We’ll be alright.” She leaned on the railing. “This cabin has been here for a long time and has weathered many a nasty storm.”

“How often do you come up here?” Another flash of lightning illuminated the area and his skin prickled, hair was standing on end as icy fingers clawed up his spine. In the light of the flickering lightning, gathered on the edge of the clearing were the ghosts. Substantial, mostly formed. They were just staring at him with dark hollows for eyes. He ran an impatient hand through his hair, trying to look anywhere but at them, aware of Xin’s close scrutiny.

“When I can get away. It’s far more pleasant on the mountain than down in the village.” She turned towards him. “The next stretch is rough going, you might want to get back to sleep, your highness.”

He nodded looking back towards the stream. As the lightning flickered, he could see the stream, brim full of rushing water, and the insubstantial shapes drifting closer. He forced himself to breathe slowly.

“Shouldn’t you? Seeing as you are the guide?”

She laughed. “I could walk this trail with my eyes closed, your highness.”

“Drop the highness, please. It wears on the ears. I’m just Tier.” He leaned on the railing, staring towards the shapes. They’d rarely been this clear, it worried him. Was he going insane? Or did the Seeress do something to his head? He glanced at Xin. She’d tipped her head to one side.

“The other nobles we brought up here, reminded us all the time that they were ‘Lord’ whatever it was.” She looked towards the stream. “As if they’d break if they weren’t reminded that they were nobility.”

“Titles are an empty comfort.” Tier shrugged. “I’m not my title.”

She nodded slowly. “Goodnight, Tier.” She turned and went back inside.

He was about to follow her but hesitated, staring out at the wispy spirits drifting closer and wavering in the wind.

 

When he finally did get back to his mat it took some time to get back to sleep and his dreams were dark and confusing, fading away rapidly when he woke. Outside birds sang, the horses nickered, and the old man complained bitterly about his sore joints. Tier stared up at the rafters, listening. Xin snapped at the old man, though he couldn’t make out what she said, Matau snarled something back which was followed by a clattering of dishes.

“I wish that old man would lose his voice.” Rale groaned from his bedroll. Tier glanced over at him.

“Just another day, maybe two.” Tier pushed himself up, head feeling stuffed full of straw.

“How do we find out if she’s an elemental?” Rale asked in a low voice. “The old man…”

Tier shrugged. “I have no idea.” He was at a loss. How was he supposed to convince the young woman to leave everything and everyone she knew? He didn’t want to think about what might happen to her once he delivered her and any other elementals he might find, to the Seeress. Pressure against his mind, Xin was doing it again. He scrambled from beneath his blanket but the pressure stopped before he managed to get to the door. He needed to catch her using her powers. It was the only way he could think of to broach the subject.

With a sigh he resigned himself to pack things up. It took little time to repack the night gear and grab the saddles. Rale followed him, tousled and looking blearily around.

“Gods, the sun isn’t even properly up.” he groaned. Running a hand through his hair.

“Bad night?” Tier asked as he made his way over to the horses. Rale followed, hesitantly taking one of the saddles from Tier. Tier watched his cousin fumble with the saddle blanket, pleased. At least he was trying to help instead of complaining. Perhaps there was hope for the nobleman after all.

“Dreams. We were back in the Oracle and the Seeress clawing through my head.” Rale grunted as he lifted the saddle to the horse’s back. “Every time I tried to sleep, it was the same thing. I can still feel it.” He pulled on the girth strap and stepped back with a satisfied grin. The grin turned to a frown as the saddle slid around the barrel of the horse, hanging upside-down. The horse grunted, swinging his head to look at Rale. Tier swallowed a chuckle, patting his cousin’s shoulder.

“Good, for a first try.” Tier moved over to the horse, showing Rale how to fix it.

Laughter from the cooking fire startled him. Tier glanced at Xin, who crouched by the fire, grinning at them.

“Do you realize how backwards that is?” She asked standing up with two plates in hand. “The prince teaching someone how to saddle a horse.” She handed Rale one of the plates.

“Hey, I’ve never done this before, I’ve always had…” Rale halted, blinking several times. Staring at the plate she handed him. “Eggs? Where’d you get eggs?”

Xin handed Tier the other plate. “Bird nest, kind of lucky, I thought all the birds had already hatched their eggs.”

Rale looked down at the eggs, prodding them with one finger. “These were going to hatch?”

“If I hadn’t gotten to them? Yes, most likely.” She smiled at him. “Enjoy.”

Tier hastily made his way to the porch, snickering at the horrified look on Rale’s face.

“He would be helpless if he were out here by himself.” Xin commented as she went back to the fire. Tier watched her. Water user, cook, guide, smartass. For a brief moment he wondered what she would look like in finery befitting a Lady of the court and squashed that thought. With her large blue-gray eyes, pale complexion, and dark hair, he had no doubts she would catch the attention of most of the nobles. Just the idea made him uneasy. He ate his food silently, forcing himself to look at anything, anywhere but their guide and her grandfather who scowled at him from his seat across the fire.

“Knowing that a little bird was going to hatch from this…” Rale said as he came over perching himself on one side.

“Rale, eat it, and be glad it isn’t boot leather.” Tier advised.

 

The road twisted around old washouts, downed trees, and boulders that had been carried from higher up the mountain by flash floods. Matau and Xin led them up to a steep gully gashed into the mountain. The road ran along the side of it.

“Come on.” Matau growled limping down the bank and into the gully itself. He half turned scowling at them. “What are you waiting for?”

Tier glanced towards Xin. She was rooted on the bank, looking up the gully.

“Matau, let’s go to the bridge up further. It’d be safer.” She pointed at the dark clouds higher up the mountain. “I don’t like the look of those clouds.”

“It would take longer, Xin. I’m tired, that road is rockier than this stream bed. Come on.” Matau was almost to the middle of the gully. Rale stepped into it. Tier glanced back at Xin.

“He’s right. It is faster.” She looked up the gully. “I hate it when he’s right. Come on.”

“You don’t look like you believe he’s right.” Tier said. She looked at him, nibbling her lower lip.

“Just be cautious.” She shrugged and picked her way down the bank into the gully. Tier glanced towards the clouds and followed.

They’d almost reached the point Matau said they’d need to climb to get back to the road when he heard a low rumble. Xin swore.

“Get out of the stream, now!” She stood in the center of the gully, staring up the stream. Tier was aware of the others scrambling up the bank. Water rushing downstream made the ground rumble beneath his feet. Tier grabbed the young woman’s arm intending to haul her up the river bank, but she batted his hand away.

“It won’t hurt me.” She mumbled, barely audible over the roar of the water. Tier stared at the water, mind numb. Xin lifted a hand, palm facing the wall of water. “Stop.”

The water paused, rippling. Tier blinked several times, aware of Rale yelling from the bank.

“Go around.” Tier barely heard her say it, but the water lurched to their right, pouring around them, taking the rocks, trees and other debris with it. Tier backed towards the bank, tugging at Xin’s arm. She stepped backward, hand still out, not looking away from the water.

“You’re a water elemental!” Rale said in a hushed voice when they joined him and Matau on the road.

Xin lowered her hand, her face pale as she looked at the old man.

“You…” Matau’s voice wavered. “You’re just like your mother.”

Tier rested his hand on the Xin’s shoulder. He didn’t need her running off now, they’d never be able to find her, she knew the area too well.

“Are you going to dispense justice then?” Matau, glared openly at Tier. “You should! She’s an elemental!”

“She’s your grandaughter!” Rale exclaimed, stepping towards the old man.

“That didn’t stop him when he went after my mother.” Xin looked up at Tier.

Matau swore. “You’re no kin of mine!” He threw the bag of coins to the ground at her feet.

“Matau,” Xin’s voice tugged at Tier.

“She just saved our lives, old man.” He snapped. Matau raised his walking stick, using it to point at Tier.

“The laws you enforce, that your people laid upon us, must be kept! How long before she does something to kill one of us? They’re inhuman, possessed!” He turned, waving his cane. “Get you gone, your highness, and take the demon with you. I have no granddaughter. I had no granddaughter!”

Tier dropped his hand.

“Are you going to kill me then?” She turned, looking at him. She crossed her arms.

“We actually,” Rale faltered, looking back and forth between them. “Uhm…”

“I need your help.” Tier said cautiously. She was glancing toward the trees, planning to make a run for it. He didn’t want to frighten her into running off. A crazy part of him wanted her to willingly go with them.

She frowned at him. “What kind of help?”

“I’ve been ordered by the Seeress to locate elementals.” The silence was broken only by the horses and the distant voice of the old man cursing them all.

“Why?”

“She didn’t say.” Tier glanced towards stream.

“You don’t question the Seeress. You do as she says.” Rale said quickly. “We’re supposed to find one of each, and bring them back to her.”

“And then what? What happens to them?” Xin looked back and forth between them.

“I don’t know.” Tier admitted. She looked away.

“If I go with you…”

“Just a traveling companion.” He watched her expression flicker from wary to angry, concerned, frightened. “I still need to get to the fortress.”

“Why?”

“Orders.” He said it before he thought, but he felt a twinge in his mind. Had his mind been tampered with? The Seeress was crawling around in his head back at the oracle. Had she left orders? He inwardly shuddered at the thought. Xin frowned at him. Tier didn’t flinch, didn’t look away. A loose strand of her hair had come loose from the bun, and fell across her face. It was distracting. He resisted the urge to push it behind her ear.

“I’ll go with you, as far as the fortress.” She said. She turned, pushing the offensive strand back behind her ear, and glanced back at him. “We keep following the road, gentlemen.”

Rale handed him the bag of coins Matau dropped. “That didn’t quite go as planned.”

Tier glanced at his cousin. “We had a plan?”

Rale scowled. “Figuratively speaking.” He led his horse past Tier.

Tier watched Xin for a moment, fascinated by the way she moved; the sunlight on her hair. He smothered a sigh. He was distracted. He couldn’t afford to be distracted. Not with the Seeress breathing down his neck, not with an impossible mission to complete. He took a few steps, still watching her, his horse butting his shoulder impatient to get moving.

“I’m an idiot.” he muttered under his breath.

 ~*~

 

The next chapter will be posted Tues, June 24th.

If you’re enjoying it, please comment **bats eyes**, share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks for reading. :)

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Sunday Serenity

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Happy Father’s Day!

To both those who are fathers and those who have been there for kids who have needed a positive male influence in their lives;

Thank you.

Fatherhood/Guidance-hood, isn’t just about biology.

There have been, throughout my life, men who have inspired and encouraged me, My dad, my grandfather, a couple youth leaders at various churches I attended, teachers, neighbors, guys who are just decent guys trying to do their best. Some of them have NO idea how positively they influenced my life, some of them do know, because I told them.

So go tell an inspiring dude (whether he’s a father or not), how inspiring they’ve been to you and have a great day!

This song reminds me of both my dad and my husband (who is an awesome father)!

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 4

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Elemental Truth

 

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.*

Chapter 4

The old fortress road snaked back and forth up the side of the mountain, doubling back on itself several times. It was overgrown with pines, conifers, and an assortment of underbrush Tier was unfamiliar with. The road leveled out for about a quarter of a league before coming to a large pillar with carvings in a language he’d never seen before. The road they were on continued, disappearing over a rise. A smaller road, little more than a game trail shot off from the main one, twisting up the steep rise.

“What do those markings mean?” Rale asked Xin. She glanced toward the pillar and shrugged.
“I have no idea.” She pointed towards the game trail. “We go that way.”

Rale groaned. The trees were so close together and the branches so low they’d have to dismount and lead their horses through.

“Why?” He asked. Tier shook his head.

Xin half turned. “You want to get to the fortress, correct?” She pointed. “It’s at the top of the mountain. This is the only road to it.”

“The other road…”

“Takes you to Delebeg, past the path of the bandits.” The old man said, his voice impatient. “Xin, Slow down.”

Tier choked back a chuckle when the woman increased her pace.

“What was that Matau? I can’t hear you.” She paused by a tree and leaned against it. She inclined her head as Tier got closer.

“Enjoying yourself?” he asked. She shrugged.

“When he starts complaining, you’ll want to put as much distance between your ears and his mouth as you can.” she said, glancing towards Rale and Matau.

“You might want to give them a hand. That horse isn’t going to cooperate.”

Tier sighed, looking back. The old man and Rale were unsuccessfully trying to move the horse past a tree leaning over the trail. The beast was having none of it, jerking his head and pulling back. Tier handed the reins of his horse to Xin and picked his way back down the trail, removing his cloak as he went. When he reached the horse, he gently slid it over the frightened beast’s eyes from behind. The horse stiffened, body trembling and Tier spoke to it, taking the reins from Rale and urging the beast forward. It took a hesitant step forward, then another. Once they were past the tree stump he removed the cloak and handed the reins back to Rale.

“Show off.” Rale grumbled. Tier barely cast a glance his way, climbing back up the path. Xin was staring, wide eyed at his horse who was nuzzling at her.

“Is it going to bite me?” she whispered hoarsely.

Tier took the reins and shook his head. “No. He’s just being friendly.” He took a couple steps up the trail, glancing down at her. Her eyes were still wide. “Are you coming?”

Her eyes narrowed, jaw clenched. She pushed from the tree, moving past him and his horse, shooting him a dark look. He waited till she passed him to smile.

She wasn’t joking about Matau’s complaining. Everything was subject to being bitched about. From the weather, to the village to Nekar, and even the Seeress, the man was both a drain on the ears and well of information. Though most of it was twenty years old and the subjects were long dead and buried. His voice echoed off the trees and rocks as they neared the sheer cliffs at the base of the mountain, the shadows growing long and the sky turning a pale orange.

Against the base of the cliff was a small cabin facing the narrow stream. Tall pines blocked out much of the sky on the sharp slope, far too thick to see through. Tier took over taking care of the horses as his guides prepared the dinner. Rale hovered by the food, as if unsure of what to do next. Tier paused in his ministrations of the horses to watch Xin hand Rale a deep pan and told him to get some water. The silence was telling.

Rale stared at her, glancing down at the pan in his hands and looked back up at her.

“What?” She rested her hands on her knees, crouched and balancing on the balls of her feet. “The stream is right over there, go fill that.”
“Me?” His voice spoke volumes.

Xin narrowed her eyes, shooting a look at Tier. “Is he kidding?”

Tier shook his head, pulling the saddle and sweat soaked saddle blanket from Rale’s mount. “You should have seen the look on his face the first night we had to sleep on the ground.”

She looked back at Rale. “You walk over to the stream, dip the pan in it then bring it back here, full of water.”

Rale turned stiffly, shooting some very ugly looks Tier’s way, and did so. Tier finished with Rale’s horse, moved on to his, only half listening to the endless complaining of the old man. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a pale mist, drifting between the trees just beyond the treeline. His horse and Rale’s stilled, nickering softly, ears flicking back and forth. Tier ignored it, focusing on his horse, a fine war-bred beast that had taken him through many a battle.

He couldn’t avoid seeing it when he returned to the cabin with the saddles. Up the path they were to take in the morning, tendrils of mist crept down, towards the clearing. He hesitated on the porch. On either side of the path were old stones, carved in a similar fashion to the crossroads pillar. The mist kept distance from the stones. Deeper in the forest, as the shadows grew even longer, he saw the silvery shapes forming, and more mist crept down the path. He forced himself to look towards the stream, to ignore the tendrils of mist creeping into the clearing.

“Tier can I have a word with you?” Rale asked, he looked a touch disgruntled.

“Having fun?”

Rale snorted. “Why do we need guides?” he hissed. “You’re more than capable of getting us to the Fortress.”

Tier glanced towards the fire where Matau crouched, setting the tri-legged spider over the crackling flames. Xin handed him things to put into the pot. Her braided hair hung over one shoulder the end just above the dirt and she fiddled with it absently, staring back the way they’d come.

“The Seeress wanted us to start our search here, for a reason.” Tier said slowly. He looked back at Rale. “I think she knew something.” Rale shook his head.

“You think she’s an elemental?”  He hissed. “You do, don’t you?”

Tier hesitated. “I think there’s a chance she is. You heard what the old man said, her mother was a water elemental.”

Rale nodded, glancing back at their guides. “How do we…” he trailed off and looked at Tier. “What do we do next?”

“I don’t know. Wait and see.” Tier shrugged and pushed into the cabin, setting the saddles on the floor just inside the door. “What else can we do?”

 

 

 ~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, June 17th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for reading.  :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

 

 

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 3

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.*

 

Chapter 3

The modest two level house sat atop a steep bluff overlooking the village to the south and the ocean to the east. A path along the side of the cliffs led to the beach below. In the back of the house was a small building and a grove of trees. Xin met them on the porch, nodding and pointing around back.

“The barn is back there, gentlemen.” She said meeting Tier’s gaze.

“Xin.” Matau’s voice was wearing on Tier’s ears. The man rattled on about people and scandals that meant nothing to him.

“This way.” Xin motioned them to follow, stepping from the porch without a glance back. She led them to the shed, which was surrounded by a fence in dire need of repair.

“Does he always talk that much?” Tier asked. Xin glanced up and him and grinned.

“Just think, your highness, three or four days of that.”

“Gods help us.” Tier muttered.

“Try living with it.” She snickered.

Tier led the horses into the small yard, making sure it was going to be secure enough. With the talk of bandits he wondered if there were any reports of raids. Behind him, Rale was attempting some small talk. Tier shook his head, his cousin had a lot to learn about traveling incognito.

“This place could use some work.” Rale commented.

“Matau’s too old to do the repairs, he won’t let me do it, and no one will come do them for us.” Xin shrugged. “So it falls apart.”

“Why won’t any anyone come up to help?” Rale asked. Xin stared at him. “Is it too far up the hill?”

Tier turned back to his horse, pulling the saddle and blanket from it’s back, and giving him a good scratch. The warhorse grunted, appearing to enjoy the attention. He listened for Xin’s response. The silence stretched, broken only by the nickering of the horses.

“None of your business.” Xin said.

Tier glanced around in time to see her walking back across the yard to the house. He frowned. It started sprinkling as they were coming up the hill, yet her clothes were dry. He stared. He wasn’t exactly soaked, but was a bit more moist than he liked. Xin’s clothes weren’t even wet. He rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“I was just trying to be friendly.” Rale said, interrupting his thoughts.

“After insulting her in the dunarch? Not a wise move, Rale.”

Rale opened his mouth then closed it. Tier shot him a dark look and pointed towards the other horse, still saddled. “It’s your turn to take care of your horse.”

They set their packs on shelves in the entry and stepped into the main room. It was cozy, a table set against a window, and a couple of wicker chairs. Against the back wall was a steep set of stairs going up to the upper level. Over near the stove were two simple narrow cots with coarse wool blankets folded neatly beside thin pillows. Matau took a seat at the table and motioned them over. Sitting in front of him was a large sand tray which he tapped. Tier smiled, he’d seen these in other out-laying regions of the empire, a tray about a finger deep that was used to draw out maps. Parchment, paper, those things were for the elite, the rich. Far too expensive for the commoners.

“This is the path up the mountain,” Matau used a gnarled finger to draw in the sand. “It gets steep and winds through trees and by cliffs.”

“And the bandits?” Rale was asking.

“Some say they live in caves near the Vourn road that takes you to Delebeg.” Matau said. “They avoid the Keep itself, but will attack anyone who looks like they’d be carrying anything of value.” He peered at Rale. “The keep is haunted, and they usually avoid it.”

“That’s what you said.” Rale looked doubtful.

“Aye, and it’s true! The spirits are not friendly, not happy.” Matau sniffed. “Most men disbelieve until they’re faced with the vengeful souls of the keep.”

“Some say the ghosts get hungry at night.” Xin added in a dramatic voice, passing by with a couple travel bags. She tossed them into the entryway and wiped her hands. “They say at night, you can hear the screams the murdered souls.”

“Murdered?” Tier asked.

“When Nekar took the Keep.” Matau pinned an unfriendly look at him. “Many innocents died that day.”

“Pshaw, superstition.” Rale snorted. “They probably just heard the wind in their sleep.”

“There are far too many accounts of the ghosts, my lord, for it to be just superstition.” Xin said with a sniff.

“I was taught that Dhaul was the seat of power for the Water Elementals back before the Elemental war.” Tier said. “That was generations ago.”

“True. But their legacy lives on, your highness. In the descendants of the survivors.” Matau stabbed a finger in the direction of the mountain. “They ruled from up there. They say that in the valley and along the coast, there were never floods nor droughts. Always enough rain, not too much, not too little. And they joined the other elementals in battling against the Seeress. That’s why the Nekarian Emperor attacked. The elementals were far too dangerous and conspiring against the Seeress. So they came and wiped out the elementals.” He sniffed. “They’re all gone now, no more elementals. Funny, last year a couple men came from Nekar asking about the fortress and the Elementals.” He peered at them, brows pulling together. “You aren’t looking for any, are you?”

“They’re extinct. You could look your whole life and not find any. Right?” Tier asked sitting back.

“Mostly.” The old man leaned forward, his voice dropping to a conspirators whisper. “But every few generations one will crop up. Oh we find them, eventually. They can never hide for long. When we do, we dispatch them.” He leaned back nodding.

“Dispatch?” Rale frowned. “Kill them, you mean.”

“Nekarian law.” Xin said softly. “No elementals are allowed to live. Surely you of all people are aware of this.”

Rale opened his mouth and closed it again. He looked baffled. Tier almost felt sorry for him.

“Rules are the rules. In fact,” Matau gave a bark of humorless laughter, pointing in Xin’s direction. “Her mother was one.”

Tier looked at her startled. She scowled but met his gaze. The rain hadn’t touched her. Could she be a water elemental?

“They chased her out of town with rocks.” She said blandly. “Swift justice, though they couldn’t catch her.”

“What happened to her?” Tier asked.

“She went into the sea and never came back out.” Matau sniffed again. “They say there are other elementals. That they crop up in the old regions their ancestors were from.”

“Interesting.” Tier tried to feign indifference. Xin was staring at him with narrowed eyes.

“So you are just going to look at the Keep?” She asked.

“Imperial business.” Rale said quickly. “No need to worry.”

“Imperials? On the road with no guards? I’m still finding that hard to understand” She said. “Isn’t it a bit dangerous for imperials, especially the royal household, to travel without a guard?”

“Have you ever heard of the Youskin Charge?” Rale asked, a touch of aggravation in his voice. He pointed at Tier. “He doesn’t need a guard.”

Xin’s eyebrows arched as she looked at him. “Impressive.”

“You don’t seem that impressed.” Rale said petulantly. Tier chuckled, he couldn’t help it.

“Rale,” Tier began.

“Should I be milord?” Xin leaned forward. “Aside from traveling like poor peasants…”

“Xin.” Matau barked.

“Yes Matau?” She asked sweetly, wide eyed. They locked gazes in what Tier guessed was a frequent contest.

Matau glared. “Are the provisions ready?”

“I think so.” She leaned against the counter and addressed them, looking at Tier as she spoke. “It’s a day and a half up the mountain to the Fortress, I could walk it in my sleep. But if you don’t know the way, you’ll never find it. The old roads have been overgrown, the new ones aren’t well traversed in this area, and the bandit issue is very real. They usually stay on the other side of the keep, but they have been known to come closer to the village. I hope you know how to use the swords you wield, you’re going to need them.”

Tier kicked Rale before he could jump on the comment. She was being serious.

“How do you manage?” He asked.

“They’ve never bothered me.” She shrugged.

“They’re still afraid of her mother.” Matau added. Xin rolled her eyes.

“At least they look the part of the seasoned travelers, unlike the last two. Well at least he does.” she nodded towards Tier. She looked at Rale. “He’d be dragon fodder…”

“Xin.” the warning tone from Matau. She flashed a smile at them. “I suggest you get some sleep gentlemen. It’s a steep walk. Goodnight Matau, gentlemen.” She turned and made her way towards the stairs.

Tier watched her and looked back at the sand tray, barely hearing Rale and Matau. When they finished Tier excused himself, to check on the horses and to think.

The rain had stopped, and the clouds thinned. Down the hill the village was quiet and dark. In the distance waves crashed onto an unseen beach. The rising moon cast dark shadows, giving the place an eerie, abandoned air.

Towering above him, a great dark shadow against the velvet sky, was the ancient Fortress of Dhaul, hereditary home of the Water Elementals. Except for the odd phenomena of no water on Xin, nothing he’d seen indicated the presence of any elementals in this region. Not in the other villages they’d passed through, not in this one. Why had the Seeress pointed him in this direction? He rubbed the bridge of his nose.

This was crazy. He’d been taught from childhood that there were no more elementals, he’d never given the rumors he’d heard a second thought. It wasn’t possible, everyone knew that. Yet the Seeress said there were hidden elementals. Hiding and waiting to strike. If there were, why hadn’t his tutors told him about it? They taught what the Seeress taught them. It didn’t make sense, none of it did. If he hadn’t given his word he’d walk away from it. But he had, and it was far different thinking back of the meeting with the Seeress than it was being there.

He was about to go back to the house when he heard a sound. A door opening, perhaps? A figure darted from behind the house and down the narrow pathway towards the bluff. He followed at a distance, silently. It was Xin, and she made her way down the path as one who had done so many times. He hesitated following her as she went towards the beach. A rendezvous perhaps? Secret lover? He shook his head. None of his business. He was about to go back to the house when he felt something, a pressure pressing against his head, a ripple through his mind. Similar to what he’d felt in the Seeress’s presence. He halted, trying to pin point where it came from.

He felt it again, coming from the direction of the beach. He crouched, edging toward the bluff, looking down at the beach. She had dropped the cloak, her long skirt and pale shirt glowing in the moonlight. She reached up and fiddled with her hair, which fell loose. Tier felt the sensation again and for a brief moment it looked like a wave surged upwards towards her, hesitated a heartbeat, then crashed against the sand. Tier scooted closer shaking his head.

“Impossible.” He startled himself saying it aloud. His heart pounded and he half expected her to turn around and see him, though he was certain he hadn’t been heard over the crashing waves. The water did it again. And again, each time accompanied by the pressure in his head. He didn’t know how, but he was certain Xin was controlling the water.

The realization crashed over him. She was a water elemental. His mind went numb. By law he should have her put to death. By the Seeress’s command he needed to convince her to go with him and Rale. He watched her as she lifted her arms over her head again, a large circular blob of water lifted and then floated through the air, matching the movements of her hands. He should be repulsed, put off, angered but instead he watched fascinated. He shook himself, crept back to the house.

He hesitated in the entry, gathering himself, trying to sort his thoughts. When he joined Rale at the table, his cousin frowned at him. Asking him where he’d been. Tier just shook his head, Matau’s unfriendly gaze on them. Their guide was a water elemental, and he had no idea how to convince her to accompany them.

 

~*~

The next chapter will be posted Thursday, June 12th.

If you’re enjoying it, please share, spread the word, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

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Elemental Truth – Chapter 2

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

 

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.*

Chapter 2

 

It took them three weeks traveling along the southern trading route to get to the coast of Lorn. Another three weeks of travel, following the winding north road, brought them to the village of Dhaul. Once guarded over by the Fortress of Dhaul, a center of commerce, it had dwindled to a modest fishing village nestled between the ocean and the towering Dhaulation Mountains. The steep foothills looked, from a distance, blanketed by a sea of soft greens.

The village itself clustered around the old trading route road which switched from paved road to wide dirt path, winding through the southwestern territories of Nekar. In the center of the village was the market. Central hub of activity. Locals spread their wares to sell, hoping to catch the attention of the rare passersby. Tier stopped by a wagon filled with assorted fruits and vegetables, and glanced around. Though the villagers were continuing their usual activities, they were all watching him and Rale closely. Tier sighed. They were supposed to look for elementals here?

“Is that the fortress?” Rale pointed towards the southern granite face that towered over the valley. Tier could make out towers brushing the underside of dark clouds. He turned to the merchant, but the man was already speaking.

“We’ll have rain before nightfall, gracious lords.” He lifted a fruit, offering it to Rale. “Fruit’s the first off the tree, the very best!”

“What is that?” Rale took the fruit.

“Starfruit, only grows in this region.” Tier said absently. “How much?”

“For you, gracious lord, ’tis free.” The man bowed.

“I can’t take your wares without proper payment, good sir.” Tier pulled a coin out. “It’s not fair to you.”

The man’s eyes widened at the sight of the coin. “I will take no payment, gracious lord, but a donation would not be refused.”

“A donation then.” Tier handed him the coin and motioned toward the mountains. “Is there a pathway up to the Keep?”

The merchant frowned, tucking the coin into an inner pouch of his coat. “There is, but the way is dangerous, and overgrown. The imperials stopped patrolling that section of the road. There is a guide, though, he takes in travelers and takes people up the road. He’s never lost anyone.”

“Where would we find him?” Tier glanced around, the curious stares of the nearby villagers was unnerving, they needed to get out of sight before things turned ugly.

“Well, there is a dunurch up the road.” The merchant pointed. “The guide can often be found there. He’s a surly gossip, though.”

“I’ll consider myself warned.” Tier inclined his head as the merchant bowed, and steered Rale back towards the horses.

“A what?” Rale hissed as they walked away.

“A dunurch, it’s something like a restaurant or eating hall.” Tier said, glancing around the seemingly busy road. They had no guards, nothing to hint that they were more than just travelers passing through. The villagers sensed they were different. Eyes followed their every move. Tier untied his horse and motioned Rale to follow.

“They’re nosy.” Rale said.

Tier nodded. “We’ll stop at the dunurch and figure out where to go from here.”

“Do you have any idea what we are looking for?”

Tier shook his head and was several steps in front of Rale before he realized his cousin had halted. He half turned.

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

“We’ll discuss it over dinner.” Tier glanced around. “We’re drawing a crowd out here.”

He ignored Rale’s grumbles behind him. His cousin didn’t grasp the necessity of keeping his head down. He was far too used to the perks of his station. Tier doubted he’d ever traveled without an entourage or guard, except for the trip to the Oracle. In the outlaying provinces of the Empire, unless there was a guard, it wasn’t wise to announce your affiliation with the Imperial household. Resentment still ran deep. Though it had been over four hundred years since the storming of the fortress and the acquisition of Dhaul into the Empire, these people could relate the battle account as though it happened yesterday.

The dunurch was unnamed, probably a meeting place everyone knew about. They tied up their horses and Tier led the way. It was a wide, circular building, round low tables with cushions spaced in a circular pattern. The Dunurch Keeper hurried over, a thin aging man who bowed low, staring at Tier for an uncomfortable moment before his eyes widened and blood drained from his face.

“Your…your highness…”

“Please, no titles. We just need a table and light.”

“This way, most gracious lords.” The man bowed and turned walking stiffly around tables.

The cushions were worn and stained. Tier glanced at Rale’s dubious expression and settled on his.

“They don’t bite Rale.” Tier said. Rale started to say something then shook his head and cringed as he lowered himself to the stained cushion.

“I should have told her no thanks.”

“Do you think she would have taken that answer?” Tier asked. The Dunurch Keeper set a tray with an elaborate silver teapot and several little silver cups.

“The meal is a tasis over grain and steamed vegetables, is this acceptable?” The man was actually wringing his hands together.

“Sounds great.” Rale made a dismissal gesture and leaned forward, squinting at the shiny table top. “It looks clean.”

“Rale.” Tier scowled as the Dunurch Keeper stiffly walked towards the kitchen.

“Tier this place is filthy.”

“Do you want to sleep in the rain?” Tier asked, pulling a map out of his vest.

“No.” Rale said after a long pause. “I don’t want to die of sickness from bad food though.”

Tier poured tea into a small cup and handed it to Rale. “Then be nice to the people who give you food, here. The Empire isn’t exactly trusted in the outer territories.”

“Hmm. What next?”

Tier poured himself some of the tea, sipping it and glancing around the dunurch. They were the only guests, aside from the young woman and an older man sitting in the far corner of the room, speaking low in the local in the local rough dialect. No threat. He unfolded the map and set the tea to one side.

“She sent us here for a reason,” He said, tapping the map.

“Why?” Rale leaned forward, voice hushed. “Our likelihood of returning home alive is not good, Tier. There are no…” He sat back as several plates were deposited in front of them. “There are no more…”

“There were rumors around Jaktor that there were pockets of elementals hiding north of the mountains.” Tier said. “I didn’t give them much thought, until meeting the Seeress.” He finished his tea, folded the map away and motioned to the plates of food. “This doesn’t look half bad.”

They ate quickly and spoke little. Regulars began filing in, lightning lit up the sky, and each time the door opened a rush of cool moist air accompanied the new guests. As the Dunurch Keeper cleared the table Tier watched the young woman and old man in the far corner; both looked uneasy as the tables around theirs filled up.

“Good sir,” Tier lifted his hand, catching the attention of the Dunurch Keeper. “we’re looking for guides up the mountain.” Tier said. The Dunurch Keeper gestured toward the pair in the corner.

“Matau and his granddaughter know the mountain paths to the Keep, and beyond, better than anyone else.” He said. “You’d be wanting lodging too?”

“There’s an inn?” Rale said. The man shook his head.

“Matau.” The Dunurch Keeper waved him over and turned back to them. “He’s a gossip and Xin is a bit strange. But they have taken many up the mountain to the fortress and back safely and they take in lodgers. They’re the only ones who will.”

Tier nodded, watching the pair make their way over. The old man leaned heavily on his cane while the young woman followed behind at a distance. Her blue-gray eyes flickered over Tier and Rale, not quite meeting his gaze, before looking towards the Dunurch Keeper. Her dark hair was pulled back in a bun with two carved wooden hair-sticks in it. Though not very tall, there was something very peculiar about the way she stood, hands gripping the hem of her too-large tunic. She glanced back up, meeting Tier’s gaze then looked away. Oddly shaped blue eyes and the pale skin, Tier was intrigued. She didn’t fit in.

“Tis too late to go up the mountain.” The old man said, his words slurred. He settled on a cushion with a grunt, jabbing at the cushion between him and Tier. “Xin, sit.” She sat, keeping her eyes lowered.

“Shall I bark too, Matau?” She asked, her voice low.

“Hush, girl. The road to the fortress is steep, and dangerous.”

“Howso?” Rale asked.

“Bandits, spirits, wild animals.” Matau shrugged.

“How long do you plan on staying up in the Fortress?” Xin asked.

“A day or two,” Tier shrugged. “Then on to Delebeg.”

The Xin and Matau exchanged a dubious look. “There are outlaws in the forests beyond the fortress. Since there are so few Imperial Patrols in this area, they gather in those mountain passes, robbing those passing through.”

“Tier…” Rale began. Their perspective guides gasped in unison.

“Prince Tier?” Xin asked, staring at him with wide eyes. Tier inclined his head, shooting a dark glare at Rale. He was going to have some strong words with his cousin. She shook her head. “What is an imperial Prince doing in the backwoods sticks of the empire? Without a guard?”

“None of your business, girl.” Rale snapped.

“Personal curiosity.” Tier said. They needed these two, to guide them up the mountain. He’d rather have a guide than fumble through unknown, possibly hostile territory.

Xin’s eyes narrowed. “If we’re going to be guiding both your lordships up the mountain, knowing who we’re dealing with is my business, my lord.” She leaned forward, pinning Rale with an unfriendly stare. “I’m not going to risk my neck if you two are going to put us in danger, I don’t care who you are. Your highness.”

“Xin.” Matau rested his hand on her shoulder, knuckles white. “Go make sure the cots are prepared for our esteemed guests.”

She looked at him, her expression hard. She stood, gave a stiff bow, and left.

“Forgive my granddaughter, she has a sharp tongue.” Matau sighed. “However, she’s right, your lordships. Is the danger worth the coin?”

“Our business will bring neither you nor your people danger, good sir. ‘Tis a personal interest in the fortress that brings us here.” Tier said smoothly.

“It’s a day and a half one way. There is a small cabin on the side of the mountain we stay in overnight. The weather is changeable.”

“Your price?” Rale asked.

Matau named an amount and Rale made a noise that Tier wasn’t sure if he was amused or annoyed. Tier nodded.

“Half now,” Tier set the money on the table. “Half on our arrival at the fortress.”

Matau’s eyes narrowed. He hit the table with a fist. “Done.”

 ~*~

The next chapter will be posted Tues, June 10th.

Thanks for reading. :)

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

There might be some formatting adjustments as I figure this out, please bear with me.
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Elemental Truth – Chapter 1

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Okay folks, here it is, Elemental Truth, first of the Elemental Wars stories. It is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.*

She was a beautiful devil, and she held us in the palm of her hand. ~ Emperor Tousan year 20

Chapter 1

Oracle of the Seeress of Nekar; year 1028 of the Empire of Nekar

Tier stared down the steep hill at the cluster of buildings in the valley below, not feeling the heat of the afternoon sun. He fingered the small black scroll, sighing. One didn’t ignore a summons from the Seeress, no matter who he was. He urged his horse on ignoring the chills creeping up his spine.

The Oracle of the Seeress was a complex of buildings, nestled in a narrow valley between snowcapped mountain ranges. Half the complex was dedicated to the local god, whose name escaped him. The other half was the home of the Seeress, last of the Spirit Elementals.

A cold breeze whipped up the path, passed through him. His horse sidestepped, nickering before inching forward. In the courtyard below, priests of the local god had spotted him and waved. He raised his hand in greeting and shook himself. Just a meeting with the Seeress.

The wind grew colder and he felt a heavy pressure building at his temples. It was almost enough to make him halt. With a near audible snap, the pressure was gone, and he again felt the wind, though now it was warm on his cold skin. His horse side-stepped and balked, ears flat on his skull.

“You’ve faced worse than this, old friend.” Tier murmured, patting the warhorse’s neck. “You don’t even have to speak to her, that’s my job.” The horse snorted, pranced in place. “Come on.”

Step by step, he coaxed the horse through the open gates, and once inside it shifted uneasily. The priests who’d been waving at him were nowhere to be seem. Tier frowned as he patted his horse’s neck, looking around. He was reluctant to dismount, taking in his surroundings. Three sides were a covered walkway. A tall, arching doorway gaped at him. It probably lead into the main Oracle. The south wall was a square doorway, with the doors wide open. A stable walkway, horses poked their heads out of their stalls looking in his direction. Beyond the walkway was a corral which he’d seen from up the pass.

The arching doors swung open and several priests came out; their long gray robes looked hot. The bottom hem was frayed and knotted with strands of colorful ribbon. The symbolism was lost on Tier. He was not a religious man. A strong, hot wind kicked up, and their robes billowed and snapped around them. Tier’s horse snorted, sidestepped again and rolled his eyes at the sound.

“Your Highness, we have been waiting for you.” A wrinkled, stooped priest, with a long gray beard, reached up to grip the warhorse’s bridle, rubbing its nose gently. His beard wagged above his toes which peeked out from beneath his robes.

“Where is the messenger we sent?” The priest peered up, squinting. Tier sighed.

“He was killed in a scuffle with bandits along the way.” Tier said, he pulled the small bag of humble belongings from his saddle-pack and handed it to the priest. “I buried him up near the Jaktor border.”

“I see.” The old priest tucked the bag into his robes, sighing. “We will hold a bonfire for him tonight. Thank you, your highness.”

Tier inclined his head. It was the least he could do for the half grown boy. “Do you know what the summons is about?” He asked, dismounting. A younger priest took the reigns and led his horse towards the stable area. The other priests milled about, expressions unreadable.

“I don’t know, your Highness. We obey, we do not question.” The Head Priest said apologetically.

“Figures.” Tier scowled, wiping at his travel dusted breeches. “Don’t tell the peons, eh?”

“Your Highness!” The High Priest scowled at him.

Tier shrugged. “Is there a place to clean up?”

“Tier!”

He turned, recognizing the voice, and grinned. A tall, lean man came through the gate, dropping the reins of his tired looking horse as a priest scrambled over to grab them. Rale Hassof, his younger cousin, strode towards him arms outstretched. He was one of the few noblemen Tier trusted. It had been close to three years since he’d seen him.

“What are you doing here?” Tier asked as they clasped arms. Rale pulled a black scroll from his pocket, wiggling it between his fingers.

“I got a summons. You get one, too? I thought you were up in Jaktor, trying to take the city. His excellency has kept you busy.”

“I was, but the messenger said it was important and it couldn’t wait. General Dyrnos is there, they don’t need me to hold the siege.”

“It is going well, then?”

“We should take the city by winter.”

The High Priest, hands clasped in front of him, cleared his throat, and gestured towards the doorway. “Gentlemen, the Seeress is waiting for you, if you will please follow me.”

Icy fingers clawed up his spine, and the pressure at his temples was back. It increased until it was a steady, throbbing pain in time with his pulse. On the edge of his awareness, he heard a low song, a familiar, haunting tune he couldn’t place. He halted, staring out of the arching gate at the fields beyond. Silver mist crept toward him, covering the ground and the closer it got the louder the song grew.

A ghost mist. Spirits of those who died violently. Tier gritted his teeth. He shouldn’t be able to see them, it was said that only those touched by the spirits were able to see them. He couldn’t look away. Shapes appeared in the mist, hovering several horse-lengths from him. Tiny tendrils of mist crept towards him, hesitant. Faces formed dark gaping eyes and mouths open in a silent scream. The song reached a deafening roar.

“Your highness?” The Priest’s voice cut through the song. Tier jumped, the mist vanished as if it never was. With it the song faded away.

“Are you coming?”

“Yes.” Tier nodded curtly. He took a final long look towards the fields outside the gate, rubbing his palms on his pants, before following the Priest.

 

They were led to a small, torch lit room filled with heady smoke. Blue cord wound around the stone support pillars. In the center of the room was a raised dais, draped with blue cloth. Tier’s gaze was drawn to the slim, pale form in the center of the dais. She was a woman-child, draped in thin gauze-like white strips of cloth. She lay on her back, arms and legs sprawled out, hands twitching. Her hair, thick silver curls, moved as though it had a mind of its own. The chills were back. This was the ages old Seeress?

“He is here, holy one.” The priest bowed low, turned and hurried back up the hallway.

She turned her head, looking towards him. Tier took a step backwards. Her eyes were white. No color, no pupil. A dead, emotionless gaze staring at him.

“I’ve been waiting for you.” She whispered. “I need your help, you must find the elementals.”

Tier couldn’t tear his eyes away from her, both repulsed and fascinated. The air stilled, the chamber silent. Somewhere Tier heard water dripped. The Seeress moved in exaggerated, fluid movements, somehow in time with the water. She stood, diminutive; the sheer fabric strips did nothing to hide her lush, young figure, nor her pasty-pale skin. Her movements were stiff, first fast, then slow, her hair and clothes floated around her as though she were underwater. Tier’s heart was pounding painfully in his chest, the hair on the back of his neck was on end.

“My lady, the Elementals nearly destroyed the world.” The priest said from the doorway, his voice admonishing her like a father would a daughter. She didn’t glance his way.

Tier shot a look at Rale. His cousin’s eyes were wide, his face pale.

“The world is out of balance and we need the elementals to fix it.” Her voice was soft, sultry, almost too low to hear. The Seeress turned her head towards them. “If they can’t be found, and brought here, there will be disaster.” She lifted one slender hand, pointing in Tier’s direction. “Find them. There isn’t much time.”

Tier heard a rush of air moving through the chamber, darkness closed in around him. His head throbbed; a chill crept up his back. He stood in a circle of light, unable to see the rest of the chamber.

“What?” His own voice startled him. He heard nothing else, not even the dripping water. He strained to listen. There, a whisper of movement, a rustling of fabric, soft breathing at his ear.

“The world was plunged into darkness, my prince.” The Seeress’ whispered. He cringed, his skin was trying to crawl away on its own. Her voice conjured up images of silk and satin, and his stomach churned dangerously. “Some of the Sprit Elementals survived. We warned the great kings what would happen, but they wouldn’t listen. It was the others, the shapers, who did the damage.”

“I thought the shaping elementals were all extinct.” He forced the words out.

“There are a few who survived. They’re hidden in the shadows, waiting to destroy what I have worked so hard to rebuild.”

“Why?”

“They want what I have.” Her voice went brittle. “Power. If you bring them here, they can be forced to fix what they’ve destroyed. And heal the damage to the land.” She sighed against his ear. “You’ve seen it yourself, during your travels.”

He felt cool hands on his forearm and tried not to flinch away. Her voice dropped and he could almost feel her thin form pressing against him.

“If we are to save our world, we must find them.”

Tier felt the darkness closing in on him, wrapping around him. A cloak of shadow, blocking everything but her voice.

“Do not forget, my prince. If you do, we all will suffer and perish.”

He felt as though he was falling. Images, confusing and violent, flashed through his mind. Her voice echoed in his ears.
“Another war is coming and if the elementals are not found, it will tear our world apart.”

He opened his eyes trying to remember when he’d closed them. The Seeress stood in front of him, expression as blank as her eyes. His head pounded.

“You will go and find one water user, one fire wielder, one air dancer and one rock shaper.” Her voice was cool. She circled him, he felt like a mouse and she was a great cat ready to pounce.

“That is impossible, with all due respect, Holy One, they’re extinct. All gone.” Rale protested.

“Where would I go to find them?” Tier asked. She trailed a finger across his back and as she circled back in front of him, across his chest stabbing at him with an overlong fingernail.

“You start south, near the Fortress of Dhaul.” She trailed her fingernail downwards. Tier clenched his fist, slapping her hand away wouldn’t be received well. One didn’t slap away the Seeress if one wanted to live to old age. She looked back at him and dropped her hand. “You will return them to me. Do I have your word on it, dear prince?”

He hesitated; so many things could go wrong. “What if I don’t find any? What if they refuse to come with me?”

“Do your best, if they refuse to join you, return to me. We’ll reconsider our options.” Her head tipped to one side. “Can you do that, your highness?”

He stiffened, the insult loud in his ears. “You have my word of honor.” He forced the words out. There was an odd ring to them, like the closing of a lid. The Seeress smiled and turned towards Rale.

“You go, account for everything you see.”

“What?” Rale blinked, looking back and forth between Tier and the Seeress.

“You are my witness. Can I hold you to that, Lord Rale?”

Tier felt his cheeks burning. He gritted his teeth and met Rale’s startled eyes over the top of her head and gave a sharp nod.

“You have my word.” Rale choked out. The Seeress inclined her head, turned, and walked with the slow, stop start motion, back to the dais.
The priest stepped between the Seeress and Tier, handing him a newly sealed black scroll, before bowing and leaving again up the passage. From the shadows came several pale, female attendants, helping the Seeress back onto the dais.

“What is this?” Tier held it up.

“Your orders.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “Just in case you forget what they are. Till we meet again, your highness.”

 

Seeress

 

 

Next chapter will be posted Thursday, June 5th.

(c) 2014 Necia Phoenix

*There might be some formatting adjustments as I figure this out, please bear with me.
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Thoughts on Death, Dying, and Grief

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

There are many lines of thinking when it comes to what happens after our bodies give up and what is us, our soul, drifts away into the who knows. The topic is a hot one, wars have been waged, many have been killed over whose idea of the afterlife is the ‘right’ one. But this really isn’t about what happens to us after WE go, rather the emotional distress on those who have to move on without us.

It is all right to cry and grieve. It’s normal. It really is.

Yesterday we lost a great. Author Jay Lake passed away after a long fight with cancer. You can read about his battle at his blog, follow the Cancer tag and settle in for some deep reading.

I had this whole long thing planned out and it just sorta piddled away. He inspired me and though I never got an opportunity to meet him; he taught me. He made me very aware of health issues and of not brushing off things.

I’ll miss reading his blog, I’ll miss seeing the pictures of him from Cons. I hadn’t been online much yesterday, at least not at social media sites,  and when I went to my fb early early this morning I saw my feed blowing up with pictures, RIP posts.

I hurt for his partner and his daughter and the rest of his family and network of dear friends, coworkers and colleagues. I’m sitting here weepy because I can just imagine how hard it must be for them to suddenly NOT have him there. And that’s the thing, I think, about dying. He’s out of pain, finally, the people who go, they’re gone, on to the next great adventure or whatever it is they believe, but for those who are left behind, they have to continue on and try to work around the sudden huge hole that appeared in their life. I don’t think, even though we knew it was coming, that one can ever really be prepared for someone passing on.

So R.I.P. Jay, and thank you for sharing your journey with the world.

jaylake

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It’s time

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

So I’ve been waffling on this for a while now, but I’m taking a jump here. Starting next Tuesday here and, possibly Wattpad, Elemental Truth will be posted as a serial. Two chapters a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays until it’s done. Once it’s wrapped up, I’ll do a final edit pass then it’ll be available as an ebook & a POD through either Createspace or Lulu (I’m still looking into the details on that). This is an experiment, I’m not sure if I’ll serialize the other Elemental books,we’ll see how things go. One step at a time, right?

 

Ok, off to do a final edit sweep and try not to dissolve into a pile of twitching nerves.

 

 

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Zander snip

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

So in an effort to beat back a case of melancholy I wrote this for Z1, enjoy;

 

“More patrols. You know, when the horn sounded I thought we’d be under siege. The Zarconis haven’t even peeked out of the forest yet!” Kerul complained.

Zander glanced towards the smoking ruin of the forest. There were places that still smoldered, the smell permeated everything. They moved along the road that led beside the river, watching the other side. The silence was heavy, like something was waiting.

Zander shivered, tightening his cloak and stumbled over something stuck in the ground. He swore under his breath, gripping the oblong stick and yanked hard.

A loud crackling sound filled the air and across the river something flickered, then faded. Zander ducked behind one of the scraggly bushes and stared. Flickering in and out of sight was what appeared to be zarconis, constructing a rough wooden bridge.

“What in the hell?” Kerul hissed.

“Where did they come from?” Nadja hissed in Zander’s ear. She took the oblong stick from Zander’s hand turning it this way and that. The zarconis and the bridge they were building flashed in and out of view. Hayner reached over and grabbed the stick from her hand.

“You found this?” He asked, looking down at Zander.

“Tripped over it. What is it?”

Hayner turned it one way. The bridge and zarconis appeared. The zarconis seemed unaware of being seen. Hayner turned it the other way and they vanished. They looked at each other.

“A shield stick?” Bastien asked.

“There’s another one on the other side of the river I’d bet.” Valen said, frowning.

“They don’t seem to realize we can see them.” Bastien grinned.

“We should send a report back,” Hayner began.

“Now wait one damn minuet.” Nadja said, gripping his hand. “How long would it take? A couple of days? Then the city would dispatch a team and it would take time. The bridge might be done by the time another better equipped team showed up.” She took the stick and wiggled it back and forth.

“Nadja, last time we did something without orders,” Hayner pointed to the smoldering east bank. “They say there could be patches that will burn for years!”

“What would it take to bring that thing down? A well placed charge or two? Boom and it’s gone.” Kerul said quickly. “There’s really no more forest to burn down.”

“On that side.” Bastien quipped.

“And it’ll send a signal back to the city that there’s something going on, and we could continue upriver to see if there are any other hidden surprises.”

Hayner rubbed his face. “I shouldn’t be agreeing to this.”

 

 

Have a good Wednesday.

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Some not so good news

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

I was just informed that because we didn’t get Connie’s payment in, her place was given away. **sigh** Now connie does have the People to People opportunity next year, but the STEM opportunity (for this summer at least) is not happening. Thank you all for your donations and assistance, your refunds will be applied here in the next few min.

Thanks anyways guys, I appreciate the thoughts and the help.

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Need a bit of help.

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

My daughter got this great opportunity to attend National Youth Leadership Forum: Explore STEM;

About NYLF Explore STEM

The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Explore STEM is a six-day Envision program that introduces high-achieving middle school students to innovative and rewarding academic experiences and careers in science, engineering, medicine and technology.

Cutting-edge STEM fields – based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are the fastest growing areas of study and STEM professionals are in high demand in the United States and throughout the world.

When you attend NYLF Explore STEM, you will discover your passions through hands-on experiences that will put you on the path to success in high school, in college and in life. You will learn how to apply your science and math skills to join the next generation of leading doctors, scientists, software developers and other analytically minded professionals.

We’re immensely proud of her and I’ve enrolled her in it. However, due to unforseen events, we’re still struggling to scrape the funds together and the deadline is fast approaching. We need about $1000 more to get her there.

Please, if you can help her out. this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you can’t give, could you please boost the signal? I don’t know what else to do.


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Another Dmitri Scene

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

So I haven’t been very creative lately, so last night I scribbled up some back history scenes with Dmitri, so here, have a dragon snip!

~*~

Lothos sat, in his human form, on the large throne, watching the goings on. His people. He sneered. They cast uneasy glimpses his way, aware that he was watching. The sound of the storm intensified and he frowned, leaning forward. Something had entered the long entry tunnel. Other dragons near the entry tunnel scooted away, a hush fell over the hall and those near the entry tunnel scooted away, creating a path to the dais.

Lothos felt the growl boiling up as the large gray dragon moved into the hall. He stood swallowing a sudden surge of fear. The gray shifted to a tall human in blue who stopped a few feet away, eyes locked with his. Scars, some Lothos had given him, some others had, crossed his cheeks. Lothos narrowed his eyes.

“You have a lot of nerve coming into my hall, Dmitri.” Lothos growled. Dmitri, his son, regarded him. Cool, expressionless. A mask that locked whatever the man was thinking, behind it. Once it had driven Lothos to the point of mindless rage, enough to try anything, everything he could think of, to try to break that exterior, to crack the mask. Now, as he studied his son, he felt a bit of pride, and a lot of fear. You can’t read a man with no expression, and a man you couldn’t read could kill you when you least expect it. He had no doubt that someday, Dmitri would try to kill him.

“We need to talk.” Dmitri’s voice was low, but the hush in the hall made it carry.

Lothos eyed him and glanced towards Otto. His second shrugged. Lothos motioned the office doors. He rarely used it, he hated planning. Dmitri turned and strode towards them, not looking at the silent dragons who scrambled to get out of his way. Did he have any idea how many of Lothos own people feared him? Lothos shook his head, nodded at Otto and followed his estranged son into the dusty office.
He hesitated before closing the doors, but did. Dmitri wouldn’t attack him, he was certain of that.

“You’ve muscled back into the lower packs. Impressive.” Lothos said, as soon as the doors closed. He turned and met Dmitri’s cold gaze. “Why you’re here, though…”

“You have a gap in your south east region.” Dmitri said, he moved towards the map, looking up at the sprawling lines. Lothos frowned.

“There’s little there.” He shrugged.

“There’s the Northern boundaries.” Dmitri turned to him, his eyes piercing. “There is nothing to stop the Dragonmaster’s people from moving north.”

Lothos rumbled looking up at the map. He nodded slowly. “Your flight is small, think you can handle it?”

Dmitri looked at him. Lothos swallowed, felt tingles moving up his spine. “We’d need a base of operation.” He said after a long silence. He pointed. “Give me the Keep. And your South Eastern borders will be secured.”

Lothos stared at him, sensing a power play, not sure what it was. “You want the Keep.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Dmitri smiled coldly but said nothing. Lothos narrowed his eyes.

“Kepplings took it over years ago.”

“I know.”

“You clear it, it’s yours.”

 

~*~

:D

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Fundraiser [edited to add donation button]

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

I don’t usually go over family stuffs here but this is important. My daughter got recommended by one of her teachers to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum; S.T.E.M. From the website;

The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Explore STEM is a six-day Envision program that introduces high-achieving middle school students to innovative and rewarding academic experiences and careers in science, engineering, medicine and technology.

She has attended several Science and Math geared day courses and this has just blown us away. I do have a bit of a dilemma, the cost involved. It’s not cheap.

I put together a fundraiser over here to put together the $$ to cover her tuition. If you could spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

 

Edited to add;

For those who would rather just donate straight to the cause and bypass buying anything here’s a donate button;



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Fundraiser

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

I don’t usually go over family stuffs here but this is important. My daughter got recommended by one of her teachers to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum; S.T.E.M. From the website;

The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Explore STEM is a six-day Envision program that introduces high-achieving middle school students to innovative and rewarding academic experiences and careers in science, engineering, medicine and technology.

She has attended several Science and Math geared day courses and this has just blown us away. I do have a bit of a dilemma, the cost involved. It’s not cheap.

I put together a fundraiser over here to put together the $$ to cover her tuition. If you could spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

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Planning

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

J.A. Marlow gave me this project planner back in Jan, but I kinda forgot all about it. Sat night I dusted it off and started planning out projects, setting dates and OCDing on what I want to get done this year. I may have overloaded myself :P but I have a clear cut idea of what I want to get done over the next…two years 0.0.

You read that right, two years.  Just take a look at my Series List and you’ll see I have more than enough planned stories to write XD (Yes J.A. Marlow, this is ALL YOUR FAULT!!!  **shakes fist**)  :P

The rest of this year needs to be an Avaria year, and next will be the dragons. I’ve also got smaller projects that I want to put out in between the larger ones. I need to get this ball rolling. I’ve pushed The Bastard Prince back to September at the latest. I have the project The Fallen staring patiently at me waiting for me to finish the edits and put it up for sale. The plan is to do that for this May.

I also have some digi art plans, and plans to do a really awesome computer build (think alienware, but homemade, it is going to fucking ROCK!) so there’s a lot to think about, aside from the family shtuff. I am still around, have just been drowning in life stuff.

Hope yall have a great Monday!

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Just an update

Originally published at Necia Phoenix. You can comment here or there.

Life kinda got topsyturvy lately and that has negatively affected my writing, blogging and social media.I am still learning how to plow through it all. I’ve pushed Zander’s release date back to June or July and have to sit down and rethink a lot of my writing goals. There have been a few life changes and I need to adjust when I plan on putting things out.

I’ll update with those changes when I finalize them.

N

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