Posted in Series, writing

The Dark Armor

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 24

Sleep had overcome Bently as soon as his head touched the pillow. The bed was simple, but to the exhausted soldier, the warmth and softness was something he thought he had almost forgotten.

Somewhere in his dreams, a shrill call like that of a bird had begun to echo back and forth, sometimes near, sometimes far. “To attention, Mr. Bently.” Someone yanked him by his shoulder, pulling him to a half-conscious state.

“What’s the issue?” He sat up groggily. The darkness of the night was still upon the exterior windows, and the bird call continued. Chin stared down at him as he played with his long sleeves and messy dark hair.

“Up, up, I said. Something strange is afoot.”

“What’s that awful whining sound?” Bently muttered as he found his footing on the hard floor.

“It exists as a warning signal between the guard.” The mage announced. Bently perked up. “I suggest you put on that suit of armor.” Chin said one last warning before pushing his way out the door.

Bently quickly assembled the parts of the armor that had been buried in his collection of things pushed into the corner of the cramped room. Putting on the suit armor had become such a practiced action for him, even in the dim light the pieces came to rest upon his body almost effortlessly. It was lighter than regular armor too. First the boots, leggings and tassets that guarded his legs, then the both sides of the chest-plate that went over his head and buckled simply with two straps at his right shoulder. The helmet slid on last even with the clumsy gauntlets on his hands. With in a minute, he had his sword in hand, still bound, as he exited the room.

The morning light had begun to creep between the leaves and branches of the tall trees. Chin stood outside the hall, his breath exiting his lungs in big clouds, much like when he would nurse his pipe. The mage held his eyes tightly shut as he honed his senses towards the exterior world.

Bently marched up next to him, his armor making low clinking sounds. One more of the shrill bird-like calls echoed out and died within the walls of the city. Bently played with the bands of armor around his arms, adjusting them to fit more comfortably. Chin quickly placed his hand upon the metal plate, grasping it in between his thumb and fingers. “I sense something.” He muttered. “Another energy like that of your own.”

Bently swallowed hard. He scanned the dark streets intently as his eyes adjusted to the low light. “Scar, maybe Kensley could be here?”

The mage dropped his hand to his side and shook his head. “Edrian was planning for them to move soon. There’s no way either of them would be all the way out here.”

“Then-” Bently uttered, before being interrupted.

“The warning calls have stopped.”

Bently made sure the sword was still secure in the binding in his hand before he took off in a jog down the road. Continue reading “The Dark Armor”

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Posted in Updates, writing

This Week: Mother of Mars

If you’re a more recent Greaser, you may want to catch up before the third book in my series ‘Mars: Whispers of a Planet’ comes out.  Luckily, you can get my first book for free right now on kindle:

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(Click the image to go to Amazon.)
Posted in Series, writing

Tuleforian Walls

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 23

Kensley guided the horse slowly over the soft ground of the ridge. Several feet below, the rhythmic pounding of the formation marched them forward. The mountain pass was sparse, just above the tree line. The ground was soft with soggy earth and covered in a thin layer of freshly budding grass, as if no fighting had ever taken place. Bits of frost and snow still lingered in the shadows of large boulders dotting the rocky slopes.

In the distance, Kensley could see the thick forests of the Tuleforian province start to catch the morning sunlight as it began to creep over the peak of the mountain range. Boughlin prodded at the sides of his horse’s flank with his heels, causing it to slow and allow Kensley to catch up.

“I pray you aren’t too hot in that suit of armor.” Boughlin nodded at Kensley as he moved to the side. Out of the limited peripheral vision, Kensley could see the morning light reflecting off the plates of armor hanging off his body.

“The enchantments provide my body shelter from many conditions.” Kensley remarked.

“I could have never worn such a thing.” Boughlin boasted. “I want to feel the sweat and dirt on my body as I find myself in combat. I want to feel the spray of a man’s blood as I chop into their fleshy parts.” Continue reading “Tuleforian Walls”

Posted in Series, Updates

Something Spacey this way Comes

Coming this Summer, the third and final installment of my Scifi-Drama:

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Almost a year after the Mars Fever had been cured, the Altum Crater Station had finally returned to a proper routine. Cecil quickly finds himself stuck between working random tasks and fending off boredom. When a new ship from Earth arrives bringing with it more workers as well as a group of civilians to live there, Cecil discovers that he must take the role of watching over them. His suspicions of his own inadequacy hold him back while these new arrivals continue to look up to him as some sort of infallible system of support.

Meanwhile, out in space between the Earth and Mars, a ship sent by a separate country looms closer, offering no inclination that they wish contact.

Pre-order here!

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, Mother of Mars will be free all next week, the 18th-22nd, and Above A Whisper will be free the 25th-29th.

Posted in Series, writing

Eye to Eye

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 22

Bently had removed the suit of armor and hid it under the woven blanket that had been provided to him in his room. He could feel the familiar sense of lethargy in his body as the magical forces ebbed from his limbs. Downstairs, he could see the woman- the one who had addressed herself as the Arcanus- pacing about the head of the long stone table at the end of the room.

The spry man named Shiloh sat at one side of the table, with the mage at the opposite. Chin sat back in the chair, quietly smoking his pipe while Shiloh stared daggers at him.
Both Charlstine and Shiloh stared at Bently as he descended the last few steps down towards the ground floor. “Mr. Bently of Xiandol, please have a seat.” The Arcanus offered, a hint of insistence in her voice.

Bently quickly took up one of the wooden seats beside Chin, glancing at the mage tentatively. “Tell me, when you put on that suit of armor, what do you feel?” Charlstine called out. She placed her hands on the hard stone of the table, peering across the surface at Bently.

“Power.” The soldier remarked.

“That power…” Charlstine pursed her lips. “Is the same that runs through our veins. Is that right, Mr. Chin?”

The mage hesitated, taking one last deep inhale from his pipe. “It is similar.”

“Lady Arcanus!” Shiloh spoke up, slapping his palms on the cold, hard stone surface of the table top. “I must tell you of these men, those who wear this armor of magical power.”

Charlstine propped herself up and began to pace once again. “You know I wish not to hear it, Mr. Shiloh.” Her voice held a tinge of distaste. “You should have known to leave behind your urges for violence once you came through the gates of this city.”

Shiloh slumped back in the chair and avoided looking in Bently’s direction.

“As a Tuleforian, I’m sure you can recount the brief history of bloodshed we’ve had to endure here,  suffered by these people of Arkyan.” Charlstine posed, her gaze pointed to the back of Shiloh’s neck. Continue reading “Eye to Eye”

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The Raising

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 21

Kensley marched up the stairs perched along the crag up to Edrian’s hut. He pushed aside the fur covering across the door and peered into the dim tent. Inside, Edrian crouched at the side of the smoldering embers of the fire pit. The General pushed around the black and white powdery cinders with a long stick, hoping to quell the heavy smoke escaping from it.

Kensley cleared his throat.  “You called for me, Sir?”

Edrian tossed the branch into the middle of the pit. He stood up and extracted the well-used handkerchief from it’s place tucked into his belt, wiping his shiny forehead with it.

“Yes, yes. I apologize for calling you out so late.” He grumbled in a low voice. “It’s simply that I’ve made up my mind, and I wish to hear your thoughts.”

“Anything, sir.” Kensley nodded and stepped inside. Respectfully, he planted his feet in place, and his arms crossed behind his back.

The general examined the stern stance and waved him down. “At ease, Mr. Kensley.”
The lieutenant took a deep breath and slumped his shoulders.

“Good, good.” Edrian continued. “Are you familiar with that pass to the south of here?”

“Yes, sir.” Kensley nodded. “We used it to return from our attack on Tulefore; Bently, Scarborough and myself.”

“I figured so. Just over five years ago, Tulefore passed its forces through there for the first of their attacks on this land.”

Kensley nodded slowly. “I cannot remember the event more clearly. My squadron was one of the first on the battlefield.” Continue reading “The Raising”

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The Neutral Zone

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 20

Shiloh looked out over the edge of the balcony of the building down at the flowing river. The bed he had slept in the night previous was uncomfortably soft, and the breakfast rich and overfilling. Down below on the street running beside the central hall, two women passed by nonchalantly, glancing up at the soldier before giggling amongst each other. Shiloh quickly retreated to the chamber, his ears red.

The guard quickly walked through the simple room and out to the inner veranda and down the rickety wooden stairs. The central hall was an open space, containing a massive table carved out of stone, surrounded by chairs and cushions of random shapes and sizes. Above, the lieu of a roof and ceiling, the space peered up at the canopies of the trees covering the area. A smoldering pyre at the center of the table spat gray smoke up and out into the sky.

Shiloh spied one of the servants wandering across the veranda opposite him. “Have you seen the Arcanus?” He shouted out to her.

The woman, sporting a long reddish robe, shook her head. “The Lady is busy.” She called out. “No doubt welcoming other emissaries for the trial.”

Continue reading “The Neutral Zone”

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Reinforcements

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 19\

Kiaren had set up at the gate of the encampment at the first sign of the arriving troops. The afternoon sun glinted off the metal weapons and armor carried by the horse-mounted soldiers. The Commander’s eyes focused on the leader of the pack, who steadily guided the group towards the gate.

The man peered down at Kiaren as he guided his horse under the gate structure. “About time.” The Commander prodded at the man whose identity was still hidden under the dull metal helmet. He quickly dismounted the horse and leaned in close to Kiaren, nearly meeting face to face.

“Is that how you talk to those who have come to your aid?” The man grumbled, sliding off his helmet.

Kiaren’s eyes went wide and she recoiled one footstep. “Silvus!” She stammered.
The man, only slightly taller than Kiaren, held out his hand as if expecting to shake. The Commander swatted away his hand and quickly turned around.

Slivus quickly faced his troops and waved for them to enter into the settlement through the gate. Before Kiaren could look back towards him, he grabbed at her arm and pulled her to the side, out of the way of the path. “You’re blocking the way.”

“Release me.” Kiaren snarled and pulled away. She paced towards the wall and silently leaned back against the thick timber, sulking. Continue reading “Reinforcements”

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Into the Forest

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 18

During the night, the snowfall had been replaced slowly by a cold rain. Chin’s horse made the last few slippery steps through the slush at the edge of the forest. Bently carefully followed after. His neck strained against the back of the helmet as he attempted to size up the massive trees. He quickly slipped the helm off his head and balanced it between his legs with one hand on the reins. The cold air tingled at his nose and ears.

“Feeling warmer?” Chin called back to him.

“It feels nice to be out of this armor once in a while. It’s more stifling…” Bently postured. “More so than regular armor, perhaps.”

“Your imagination.” The mage declared.

Bently pursed his dry lips and swallowed the minuscule amount of saliva at the edges of his mouth. “I have a suspicion, Mr. Chin.”

“Is it so important?”

“When you examined Scar’s sword, the one that had become rusted by some… strange power. You said you would look into it.”

“You ask too many questions.” Chin huffed and yanked on the reins of the horse.

“You must have an idea of what this meeting of the order is about then?” Bently called out, to no reply.

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The Arcanus

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 17

The sound of the horseshoes hitting the wooden deck of a bridge was enough to snap Shiloh out of the his daze, continuously staring out into the distance. He quickly shot a glance behind him to confirm Zethurus still atop the horse. The guard quickly turned his gaze downward to the man-made structure underneath him.

The bridge was wide enough to carry at least a wagon with a horse alongside. It was in a short arch over the river running below. The water flowed quickly with an icy gleam. The road on ahead twisted in meandering curves around the thick trunks of the trees. Any sign of snow had disappeared, but the cold wind continued to blow, sending shivers up Shiloh’s spine. In the distance, he could make out a few small buildings perched at the bases of several trees.

“Get to attention, Mage.” He yelled back.

“I’m rather attentive, Mr. Shiloh. Nothing like the ropes rubbing my wrists raw to put me on edge.” Zethurus mumbled back drearily. “Not to mention how I’ve been thinking about the words I should say when the guard comes to pick me up and throw me in some cell to await my judgment.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re ready to repent for your wrongdoing.”

Zethurus scoffed back and leaned back against his reins limply.

The horse stumbled for a brief moment as it crossed from the bridge and onto the hard, dark dirt of the path. The ground was littered with long wavy green and brown leaves from the trees above. Shiloh stared back at the trunks, harboring thick layers of moss pointing them in the direction of their destination.

A loud flapping entered Shiloh’s left ear. He recoiled from the sound, pulling his horse to the side. He looked up just in time to see the gray and white owl fluttering back away from him. “Spooked ‘ya?” Zethurus snickered. “The Arkadian Owl. They’re native to this forest specifically. The magi consider them good luck, even having some of them tamed.”

Shiloh glanced up to see the bird quickly disappearing into the treetops in a flash of gray feathers. “Luck is nice, but I think you’re out of it if you think that any wishful thinking will help you.”

“I don’t see how Kiaren can think of you so highly, being such a sourpuss as you are.” Zethurus taunted.

Shiloh bit his lip and continued to look on ahead. The first thing to catch his eye were the paved stones embedded in the ground ahead. Next was the sound of the river, roaring more loudly than the previous. The guard blinked his eyes slowly to distract himself what seemed like an illusion, turning out to be the structures of a city among the trees.

The deep reddish brown of the buildings nearly seamlessly blended in with the surrounding trees. The structures seemed effortlessly intertwined with the natural features. Many were built in multiple tiers that decreased in size with each level, but allowed for them to hold several levels. The roofs were of the same reddish wood, divided up neatly into uniform looking shingles that draped just over the edges of the structures.

The main area of the city was surrounded by a low cobbled-stone wall that rose up to a level only slightly taller than a man. The road lead between two trees, forming a natural gateway that welcomed them to the dreamy looking city, illuminated by the dimming sunlight. Two guards in leather garb perked up as Shiloh and Zethurus approached.
Shiloh brought his horse to a stop and slid off the side before they had a chance to approach. “State your name, your business.”

“Shiloh.” He announced. With a tug at the rope in his hand, Zethurus’s horse trotted a few steps forward. The mage struggled to stay upright, avoiding eye contact with the gate guards.

“Good, from the Tuleforian mining camp.” The first guard nodded at him and looked up at the mage perched atop the horse. “We’ve been expecting you.”

“He didn’t give too much of a fight coming here.” Shiloh said, looking listlessly back at Zethurus.

The second guard held out his hand to grab the length of rope away, before pacing back to the horse. “C’mon, get down.” He ordered brashly.

The mage slid down lazily off the horse, trying to balance himself with limited use of his hands. The first guard’s eyes followed them as Zethurus was tugged off through the wide entrance, before turning back to Shiloh and waving his arm in the direction of the city.

“We’ll handle him for now. Head inside, you can stable the horses in the little place to the right, down this way.”

“And for me to stay the night?” Shiloh raised his eyebrows. Looking up, he could see the light filtering through the tree branches starting to slowly disappear.

The guard rubbed at the back of his neck and looked back at the city. “Forgive me, our preparations are lacking thus far. You may want to look around. Do not worry, our people are very generous.”

With a sigh, Shiloh scuffled his feet back against the stone pathway and grabbed the loose rein of the second horse. With the animals on either side of him, he dragged them past the gate and down to where the guard had pointed.

A few ill-smelling horses peered up at Shiloh as he guided his own mounts under the roofed enclosure. The dry hay crumpled under his feet while he searched for a free post to tie up the animals to. His tired feet dragged as he began to head out of the stable, when another individual stepped in his path.

Shiloh’s gaze scaled the folds of the long lapis robe before the green eyes met with his own. The woman had shoulder length reddish hair, and a stern smile that greeted him. “Welcome to Arkyan, traveler.”

“Can I help you?” Shiloh took a half step back.

“I sensed your arrival.” She nodded. He hands grasped one another on front of her waist while she peered of down towards the gate where Shiloh had entered. “Rather, your mage.”

“And you are?”

“Forgive me.” She announced, shoving her hands back behind her back. “Penelope Charlstine. I serve the order as Arcanus.”

Shiloh took another small step back and bowed his head towards the ground. “Arcanus, I had no idea…”

The woman draped her fingers across her lips and let escape a small laugh. “We do not bow to each other here, especially if one has no obligation to our kind.”

Shiloh shot back up and attempted to make eye contact with her once again. “I apologize, in particular for making you come down to meet me.”

“Nonsense.” She was quick to stop him. “I was on my evening walk. It was purely by chance that I’ve ran into you. Though, I think I caught word that our guest was not furnished with proper lodgings for the night. Please, follow me.”

The woman strolled out of the entranceway to the stable. The long robe made it seem as if she were floating across the hard paving stones beneath. Shiloh followed a few steps behind, looking around at the tall trees and matching buildings. “But you said you felt the present of our mage.”

“Those of magical blood have a sort of attunement to magical forces, including one another.” She answered quickly.

“And what do you sense of that wretch’s?”

Charlstine gave a quick shake of her had and peeked back at Shiloh. “I must not make up my mind before we meet at the tribunal. Such things cannot go said while we still wait for those of our kind to arrive. What do you think of our city here?” The subject quickly changed.

Shiloh bit his tongue and shuffled the thoughts in his brain in an attempt to respond. “It’s… beautiful, serene. In all my days living in Tulefore, I have never once come this way.”

“We chose this location because it is secluded, sheltered. It feels safe, does it not?”

“Indeed.” Shiloh nodded slowly before peering out towards the dense forest behind him.

“Any army attempting to invade would be hard pressed to remain organized within this dense forest.”

“Tell me, how does Tulefore fair?”

“In the war, you mean?” Shiloh increased his pace to attempt to catch up with the woman.

She tutted loudly and looked over at him. “I see it is nothing but battle you have on your mind. It has been a long time since I, as well as others here, have given any thought to the wars of…” She paused, causing her even stride to falter. “To war, period. It is simply my home of which I ask.”

“You are Tuleforian, then?” Shiloh perked up. “I apologize, I know not much of you or the order. Other than the guidelines of the treaty we are expected to follow.”

“It is a shame you are here under such circumstances.” The woman sighed and continued walking. The sound of the gushing river returned to Shiloh’s ears. The path of the water had curved back around, curling through the town and heading off towards the horizon. “The last I visited Tulefore city was almost five years now, when I traveled to meet with Manek to… request that he ratify the treaty that we now live by. I wish it could have been on different terms, myself, too. Unfortunately, these things must be done.”

“You must have traveled as well to Xiandolia to meet their king as well.”

“That is right.” Charlstine sighed. “King Halmalch was apprehensive about agreeing to the terms of the treaty, but I think seeing the Emperor’s Seal changed his mind. That, or he may have feared the turmoil that it might have caused in certain Xiandolans of magical blood. They, after all, lost just as many or more magi on the field of battle. Five years ago seems like such a short amount of time, yet so much has changed for us since then.”

“Five years ago…” Shiloh reminisced. “I was just going through officer’s training. I had yet to meet Milady, Kiaren, who now commands our forces on the front.”

The Arcanus slowly guided them around and deeper into the city, where the tallest and of the most vast of the buildings had been constructed. “What else do you remember of that time?” She asked.

Shiloh bit at his lip as he stared out blankly at the structures ahead. “I remember when the Emperor sent out orders to the guard at the time to round up any of those of mage blood who refused to comply with the treaty’s terms. T’was a unsettling time, from the tales I heard.”

“I find it unfortunate that certain members of our kind didn’t agree with our vision. What your King did was a necessary act, and I applaud him for going about it so efficiently.“ Charlestine nodded slowly. “Please, you seem tired. The central hall has spare chambers where you can rest your head.”