Friday Excerpt: Imperial Magic

The book is fighting me. Ewoud Gaalnar Rhonarida is a challenging character to write.

Why did he have to work the crane? Ewoud panted, legs aching. That’s why they’d brought apprentices. Probably because Maarsdam frowned on something Ewoud had done, and so was punishing him. “Stop!” Ewoud and the three other men slowed their steps, grabbing the beams of the crane wheel for balance as the enormous machine slowed and stopped. Bits of sunlight darted through a few gaps in the roof and walls, but the heavy wood muffled the sounds of unloading. Ewoud heard wood creak and took a tighter grip as men outside the crane grunted with effort, pushing the beam that turned the crane. The four inside reversed directions. Ewoud wiped sweat off his face and tried to pant more quietly. “Forward!” He started walking, driving the wheel with his feet. It was too bad they couldn’t use water power for the cranes like they did for mills.

Ewoud and the others staggered out of the crane some time later. The sun had moved and was within three hand-spans of the western horizon. “Over here,” Meester Hajo called. Tears of pain burned Ewoud’s eyes as he teetered over to the wagons. “Lucky you, you get to ride this afternoon. We’re leaving to get outside the walls by sundown. Get in.” Ewoud started to ask if he could have some water, then changed his mind and clambered into the wagon. Instead of great-haulers, something that looked like giant schaef but with heavier legs and stubby horns pulled the wagons. The beasts had short-clipped white hair, like the wild schaef of the wastes and mountains. Did they smell as bad wet as schaef did? Ewoud decided that he’d rather not find out. Continue reading

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Retail, Recovery, and Familiars

Lelia staggers back to work, and Morgana wears out an old joke…

Arthur was not pleased when Lelia dragged in on Saturday. “I trust you don’t plan on getting day-old poultry in the future.”

“No sir! I though I’d cooked it well enough and got it into the ‘fridge fast enough, but something was really off.” She set Tay’s carrier on the floor and he scrambled out, then dove behind something for cover. “It didn’t smell funny or look funny, but I’ll never do that again, I promise.”

“Good. Because I was running much too hard yesterday. The good news is the late-summer slump appears to be easing, although there’s still the school-start crash to get through.” Arthur pointed to the work area. “Go unload the latest delivery, please, while I finish totaling out from yesterday evening.”

Lelia still wasn’t feeling especially chipper, but she worked as hard as she dared. Supper last night and breakfast that morning seemed to be staying put, but her mind kept going back to the second-hand memories from the stone and making her brain queasy, if that made sense. No, it doesn’t make sense, Lelia snarled when she stopped to drink some cold water and refill the little fridge. But I don’t have words to describe how it feels. And I want it gone. She knew what would make it go away, and knew where to get the drugs and booze. No. She made herself stop, breathe deeply and slowly, and relaxed her shoulders, then her back. She set the water aside and stretched back and forth, then side to side, counting breaths  as she did. The craving faded, enough that she could ignore it. “Unpack. That’s your jo—Oh dear.” Continue reading

Vleer Park

This is part of a chapter that didn’t make the last Cat Among Dragons book. Joschka needed a vacation. Rada found one.

“Do you ever get tired of hunting?” Joschka inquired as they got out of the ground transport and walked towards the main entrance of a sprawling wooden and stone building. At least it looked like wood and stone, he thought. There were odd lumps and protrusions from the edge of the roof that teased his memory, as if he should know what they were. Something high tech but not communications related, and it was going to bother him until he remembered. But the main structure greatly resembled an antique Earth-style hunting lodge, despite the elaborate gardens and fountains surrounding the sprawling complex. Between the lodge and the landing area, and surrounding the landscaped grounds, open forest dominated the scene and the HalfDragon noted signposted trails into the verdure.

“Not really, because I don’t get to do that much of it. And I am a predator, remember?” Rada smiled up at her husband and squeezed his hand. “Besides, hunting is only one of the things to do here, and it’s very limited in terms of time and species. Unless things have changed drastically, there’s lake and stream fishing, hiking, bird watching, aircraft rental, a very nice spa and I mean very nice, something that I think was once vaguely related to golf, swimming, rock-climbing, boating, and programs on gardening, plant identification . . .” she stopped as Joschka shook his head, smiling. Continue reading

Mage Unsupervised

Tay. At home alone. With a smart phone. What could possibly go…

Tay blinked at her the next morning. “How do you feel?” she asked quietly. Doc Borchart had warned that he’d probably have a headache. When she had a headache, loud noises made her even grumpier.

“Like hell, but not as warm.” He blinked again and didn’t protest when she picked him up and carried him outside so he could “read the newspaper.” Since he hadn’t gotten sick during the night, Lelia sat in the kitchen and cuddled him while feeding him slices of banana and orange. He didn’t fuss about that, either. Instead he finished eating and just lay against her, false-purring, eyes half-closed.

“I’m sorry,” Lelia gulped around a lump in her throat, tears leaking. “I shouldn’t have challenged them, especially not after the woman tossed the first charm.”

“Hey, you’re a shadow mage, that’s what you do. You run to trouble. Always have, haven’t you?” Tay snuggled closer and she stroked his head, then scratched through the thick fur on his back. He hated tummy rubs—she’d learned that the hard way. The scratches on her arm had taken over two weeks to heal. Continue reading

Sunday Snippit – Vaguely Familiar

The obsidian necklace is acting up again. Morgana Lorraine and Smiley have not yet returned from their meeting, and Lelia’s still neck-deep in the joys of retail.

“Morgana and Smiley can’t get her fast enough,” Tay muttered the next day. “Can’t you move it to the back of the store or something.” He nodded toward the bag with the stone in it, then drank more Familiar-recovery mix. They were resting after casting a shield around the piece.

“Not until Arthur gets back. I don’t want to leave the place unattended, since Count Darkness is going to come by and get his books and incense.” She drank more water, then nibbled on a piece of chocolate. “That wasn’t a good sign, that the piece fought back, was it?” She didn’t think it was, but had she really felt intentional resistance or was it just her imagination?

“Short version, braaargh,” Tay covered his mouth with one paw. “‘Scuze me. Yes, I know better than to chug the lemon flavored kind,” he said, forestalling her quoting Doc Borchart, the thaumatovet. He shook a little before continuing. “The short version is no, it was not a good sign.” Continue reading

Justice and Spells

Our intrepid mages and warlocks and sorcerers deal with a stubborn fool…

“Nice thing about overalls,” Rodney said through bared teeth. “Lots of grip space.” Morgana winced and she didn’t even have gehoolies. The wiry, grey-haired man had stopped trying to sit up. Smiley lay on his chest, claws sunk into the bib of the man’s overalls and the cloth of his shirt, fangs an inch at most from his nose.

André loomed over the prone warlock as Justinian and Dr. Hodges put out literal and magical fires. Morgana drew power through Smiley and added to the shield Martin and Chester had tossed over the scene. They’d locked it to the grass and some mushrooms, plus two trees. Morgana was impressed. “You know the rules, sir. No offensive spells, no battle magics, no challenges.” André’s voice sounded distant and cold.

“That young fool pushed me! And I was right! Hesiod’s Theory is primary for group castings, and that’s the proof.” Arthur Maquarie pointed to the smoking remains of a young evergreen. “Since he refused to see reason, I had no choice but to throw a challenge to get his attention. And it worked.” Continue reading