Here’s a free glimpse at the book M.A. Lee is currently working on, The Key for Spies.  This is the rough draft of the first chapter.

Chapter 1 ~ 

1813 April 20

Simon Pargeter crouched in the shade of a young pine as he waited to meet the partisans.

He had already waited a day longer than anticipated.  Major Hugo Stively had assured Simon that he would be met, and he’d given the name of the leader of the partisans in this area near Vittoria.

Esperanza.  Some kind of noble.” Stively had said.  “Name means hope in Spanish.  They need hope, poor sods, with the French army tightening its grip.”

Even though they were only in mid-April, the heat of late afternoon shimmered on the bare rocks.  A coronella basked on a razor-edged slab of granite.  A fawn-colored crested bird with black and white markings hooted at Simon.  When it realized he was not going to move, it flew under a scrubby bush and scratched about.

With a clear sky and the warm day, he should have been basking on his own rock.  He threw a pebble across the track and watched it bounce.  He hadn’t picked the site for this meeting.  That was Stively, swearing this ridge on the flank of the mountains was a common meeting point.

The black-barred brown snake slithered off its rock into the shadows.

And Simon heard a low rumbling that could only be horses running.

The thunder increased, steady, stronger, and then horses rushed onto the height, following the track from the valley below.

Simon tossed away his last pebble and stepped to the center of the track.  He waited, hands hanging at his sides, palms out.  His pistol remained tucked in his belt.  He didn’t pick up the Baker rifle leaning on his pack.  His horse waited beneath a holm oak, idly switching its tail even with other horses approaching.

They rode hard, right toward him.  He stood his ground, and the first of the thundering horses streamed past, their riders expertly controlling them.  The other riders drew up before him.  Without looking, he knew they had encircled him.

The men had covered their mouths and chins with cloth, patterned or striped or plain.  A couple tossed remarks and caused laughter.

One man threw his reins forward then slung his leg over and slid down.  His wiry leanness made Simon think of a knife fighter, dismounted.  He shouldered forward.  Standing with crossed arms, he faced Simon.  One eyebrow lifted.

Simon knew better than to push.  He had waited over a day;  he could wait longer.  The ringing horses shifted restlessly, tossing their heads, backing, surging forward before reined back.  Good horseflesh.  Not for the first time he wished he were in Spain buying horses, not spying for His Majesty.

The dust stirred up by the riders slowly drifted down and settled over him, over the horses and their riders, back onto the dry ground and rocks and scrubby growth.

The wiry man glanced over his shoulder then looked back at Simon, who gave a little tilt of his head, acknowledgment of their game of patience.  He used his peripheral vision to watch the other men, his hearing to listen for anything coming from behind him.  How long would this test last?

¿Usted es Señor Pargeter?”

Ah, the wiry man had broken first.  Simon nodded.  “Si.  ¿Usted es Don Esperanza?”

The circle of riders laughed.  Simon glanced around, wondering how his question had failed the test.

Don Esperanza, Está muerto.”

Dead.  A dead contact didn’t bode well for his mission, but he kept his growing uneasiness hidden.  He didn’t smile;  he didn’t frown.  He just watched.  He had doubted the name was a family name, merely an alias for this leader of partisans.  The riders would know their leader’s identity, just as they now knew his.  He wasn’t even certain that he wanted to know the family name of the leader of this group.

The wiry man once more looked behind him.

A horse came forward from the back of the group.  Like so many of the others, this rider wore a wide-brimmed hat and a heavy scarf.  He’d belted a bulky jacket too large around his waist.  As slim as the first man, but in that over-sized jacket he looked more like a youth aping his elders than the leader of partisans who fought fiercely against the French soldiers occupying their country.  Simon could tell little more.

The men drew to one side for this new rider, who walked the horse beyond the circle.  Then the rider jumped down.  Dust puffed under leather boots, but Simon wasn’t looking at boots.  He saw long legs, a well-shaped derriere, and clearly defined hips before the woman jerked down the bulky jacket.  A woman.  Not a youth, but a long-legged woman who barely reached his shoulder.  The wide-brimmed hat hid her hair, and she kept her scarf up, covering most of her face.  He could barely see her dark eyes, but he saw enough to catch their sparkling sherry color.

She tossed her mount’s reins to the wiry man who had dismounted earlier.  He caught the reins, but he rattled off a question that Simon didn’t catch.  The inflection sounded like a strong dialect, likely Basque.  The only word he caught clearly was Doñabella.  She tossed back a short “no” and came on.  The man grimaced.  Without taking his eyes off Simon, he returned a hand to the knife sheathed at his belt, a clear warning not to do anything against this woman.

Simon bowed.  He reckoned formality was his wisest course.  His first question needed to determine if this woman had stepped into the dead man’s role.  His second needed to determine if she would honor the agreement Simon’s predecessor had had with Don Esperanza.  “Señora, buenas tardes.  ¿Señora Esperanza?” he queried.

Esperanza, no.  I regret—.”  She paused then said, “My apologies, Señor Pargeter.  We were not aware of this planned meeting until Manuel informed me this morning.”

She spoke English very well, with only a trace of an accent and no pronunciation or grammatical errors.  Whoever had tutored her had been precise.  But while she was obviously educated, most Spanish women of the upper class would be closely guarded.  This woman rode with partisans.  Even sheltered English ladies were more independent than ladies of the Spanish grandee.

Yet Simon’s focus was his mission, not the intriguing puzzle of Doñabella.  “May I inquire what led to the death of Don Esperanza?”

“The French.”  She seemed to think no more answer was needed.

“You are in charge of these men, Doñabella?”

Her beautiful eyes widened a little.  “Is any one person in charge of partisans?  When Don Esperanza was taken from us, I took his place.  I believe that is the best answer to your question.”

The wiry man spoke, three or four sentences, still in that dialect Simon didn’t know, but he had the feeling the man knew just enough English to dispute the woman’s denial of leadership.  And his comments had several other men adding their voices to this.  Doñabella half-turned as she looked around at the riders.  She said something.  No one responded.  She added more.  Several gave a determined response of “si” or “¡dale!”

She reached to pull her scarf down then thought better of it.  She spoke, using the same dialect as the man.  From her tone, Simon guessed that she thanked the men for their support.  He also guessed that their support had surprised her.

He waited until she finished then asked, “How long as Don Esperanza been gone?”

She turned back to him.  “Five months.  We mourn him still.”

“Major Stively assured me of the support of the don and his militia.”

“Ah, si.  That is the point muy importante.”  She paused, considering.  When she spoke, her perturbation was revealed in the slips of her language.  “I speak English with you for these men, they do not know that the don died because someone betrayed him to the French.  They do not know we have a French spy.  The spy does not know we are aware of his betrayal.  He does not know that we are looking for him.  And we will find him.”

The wiry man spat on the ground at her words.

Señor Pargeter, you will not wish to risk association with us when we may have a French spy among us.”

“You’ve not found the traitor?”

She didn’t answer, which was answer on its own.

“The traitor can’t concern me, Señora.  I have a mission to complete.  This is not a choice, DonabellaDon Esperanza vowed to assist my mission.  He gave his word.  ‘Te doy mi palabra,’ he said.  ‘Palabra de honor.  En el honor de mi familia y de  Esperanza.’  I need you to uphold his word, Donabella.  My mission depends upon it.”

Several horses shifted, backing or stepping forward, revealing their riders’ emotions at the words Simon quoted.  Knowing how strongly the Spanish held their honor, he’d chosen them deliberately, grateful that Stively had shared his detailed notes of his meeting with the Navarre don.

Without the help from locals, Simon couldn’t make his map in time to help Wellesley plan his assault through northern Spain.  His journal, tucked against his skin, was filled with detailed drawings and notes about rivers, fords and bridges, hills and forests.  He noted the housing available in villages, food and forage possibilities, and large bivouac areas.

If his journal fell into French hands, Simon would be shot as a spy.

And the French would know what Wellesley intended.  An attack through north Spain.  No more focus on controlling the south.  The general aimed for the French border, to cut off the Grande Armée corps stationed in Spain.  Barricade the border.  Wipe out the French presence at the British Army’s back.  Then turn into France and aim for Napoleon himself.

That couldn’t happen.  And his map-filled journal would help Wellesley succeed.

He had only to convince Señora Doñabella to give him the support that Don Esperanza had offered.

Señor Pargeter, do you not see?  It is impossible.  I will not risk us all.”

“Do you and your men not understand, Señora?”

He swept a gaze around the men who could see without turning.  They might not speak English, but they would hear his words and later they would talk over what they had heard.  If Simon couldn’t convince this woman, perhaps the men would ask enough questions that she would reconsider.  He had no doubt that, as he climbed trail after trail, looking for the passage through the mountains, he would encounter one or more of these men.  Stubborn persistence might wear Doñabella down.

“We English are committed to defeating Napoleon.  We will help you remove that French puppet Joseph, the one who styles himself José I, from the Spanish throne.  We will restore the rightful king Fernando.  We will help you drive the French from Spain.  We will not abandon you.  We intend to drive the French across the Pyrenees and all the way to Paris.”

“Fernando?  Rey Fernando?”  Folding her arms above the wide belt that cinched the bulky jacket around her, she lifted her voice to carry to the circle of men.  “El Rey Felón o el Deseado?”

The encircling miquelets shouted at her question, chosing The Desired over the criminal.  Doñabella knew how to manipulate her men.  She gave her men the bits of the argument that would keep them on her side.  Deposed King Fernando had two contradictory names, one from the French supporters, the other from the Spanish nationalists.  Napoleon had forced Fernando’s abdication so he could install his brother on Spain’s throne.  The upper class, especially near Madrid, witness to Fernando’s incompetence, supported King Joseph.  The common people, who knew only that bloodline sitting on the throne was not Spanish, did not want Joseph.

Napoleon’s plan might have succeeded;  the common people might have been quelled, if Joseph had inspired them or charmed them.  He’d tried.  He’d ended the Inquisition.  He’d implemented a few reforms.  But he’d quickly seemed as incompetent as Fernando.  Coupled with French blood trying to rule Spain, and whole areas of the country revolted, calling for their independence from Napoleon’s empire.

Surrounded by this local militia, Simon was no fool.  “El Deseado,” he said promptly, agreeing with the men.

A few of the men spoke, words he didn’t catch.  Simon watched Doñabella.  With half her face hidden by the scarf and the overshadowing wide brim of her hat concealing much of her eyes, he wasn’t certain if she even considered his argument.  A cloud, one of the tattered remnants from last night’s spring storm, crossed the sun.  For a brief moment they were all shadowed.  Then the cloud passed, the sun blazed down from the deep blue sky, and Doñabella acted as if the debate among the militia didn’t concern her.

The man holding the reins of her horse spoke.  She had ignored the other comments, but she turned to speak to him.  Simon wished he’d heard what that man said.

As the argument flagged, Simon added, “Wellesley took Salamanca and Madrid.”

She turned and flashed, “We have seen Wellesley take cities and then retreat when he could not hold them.  Burgos.  Valladolid.  Madrid.  Torquemada.”

He winced at that truth.  Her anger hinted as a rage associated with Wellesley’s retreat.  His rebuttal sounded weak even in his ears.  “Circumstances are different this time.”

“How?  How are they different?  We risk our lives—!”

“Just as we British risk our lives.  Shall I count off the men we’ve lost in battle?”

“Badajoz,” she retorted.

And angry murmurs from the militia supported Doñabella’s anger, turning the men who had wavered when he reminded them about the Frenchman on the Spanish throne.

Simon fell back a step.  The siege of Badajoz, barely one year before, had turned into a riot when Wellesley’s army finally forced the French garrison to withdraw.  Badajoz, though, was an ugly victory;  Wellesley himself still called it costly:  three days of drunken rioting, 4,000 Spanish citizens massacred, and British officers trying to enforce order killed by their own men.

Simon had no defense for the bloody aftermath of that siege.  Badajoz blotted all his arguments.

“You’re right,” he admitted.  “I can give you no defense for that event.  No justification.  It represents the worst of war, the worst of men.  I can only tell you that we British are not here for our own gain;  we are here to help you.”

“Do not lie.  You British are here because you hate Napoleon.”

“And do you love Napoleon?  Do you know your Latin, Donabella?  Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei?”

“My friend, the enemy of my enemy,” she translated, the words slow, and behind Simon a man translated the Latin phrase for his fellows.  The murmurs this time restored his hope.  “El Director de las Almas.  You know your Pinamonti,” the señora continued.

He could have lied and increased the slight connection he’d managed.  He chose truth.  Lies never paid their cost.  “My source is Franz Hoeger.  Die Siben Brodt.”

Ay, si.  For you have a German on the English throne.  You English invited a German to take your throne.”

“We chose a German from a bloodline with an English connection.  We can debate history if you wish.  If we have time.”  He glanced around him, at the men, along the track he’d ridden up.  When she rolled her eyes, Simon knew she had caught his meaning that they delayed unnecessarily.  He came back to his strongest argument.  “Did the people of Spain have a choice in Joseph Bonaparte becoming their king?”

She unfolded her arms.  “You make good arguments and bad ones, but we cannot help you, Simon Pargeter.  My regrets.  I have told you the reason.”  She turned toward her horse.

“One last argument.  Please.”

Doñabella paused.  She looked over her shoulder.  “Speak.”

“Marshal Soult has returned to France.  King Joseph dismissed him.”

Even with the shadow cast by the wide-brimmed hat, he saw her eyebrows lift.  “And the reason you believe this is your trump card?”

“Marshal Jourdan replaced him?”

“Jourdan?  The Jourdan of Talavera?”  She turned to face him, and Simon’s hopes lifted from the dust.  “This is yet more proof that Joseph is a fool.  Yet still it is not incentive to risk my men.  They have wives, children, bebés.  Chuy will show you the track to Miranda de Ebro.  We will send word for them to expect you.”

“Doñabella?”

“No,” she cut him short and strode over to the man holding her horse’s reins.

That man was Chuy, Simon reckoned, for he looked displeased by her offer.

A gunshot cracked.

Simon ducked then sprang for his Baker rifle.

The riders shouted.  Letting their horses have their heads, they rode out in a thunder of hooves, chased by more gunshots.  The dust of their going swirled up and hid Simon.  His horse, tethered, shied away when he ran for him.  The dry branch broke.  With a snort and a buck, his mount joined the others racing away.

He stood for the barest second.  Then, aware of the dust sweeping away, he snatched up his pack and sprinted for the boulders jutting out of the ground, hoping the flying bullets peppering the air didn’t have him spotted as a target.

 

Icy mountains hold danger and death.

The wizard Alstera continues her quest to restore access to her bound powers.  A nightmare of foul sorcery gives her an opportunity.  She tracks the evil to a snow-smothered village deep in the mountains.

A vengeful woman wielded spells based in sorcery.  To fulfill her revenge, she re-animated a corpse, turning the dead man into a death-walker.

When Alstera and her friend Raul arrive, the suspicious villagers don’t trust them.  Too many have died mysteriously, victims to a monster that don’t dare name.

Alstera is shocked when she discovers the sorcery  re-animated a corpse.  Walking Death drinks blood to retain a semblance of life.

But to fight the death-walker, she must once more rely on primitive and forbidden blood-magic.

With her powers bound, she had to use blood-magic in Vaermonde (Dream a Deadly Dream).  She wanted to avoid another use.  She wanted an easy battle against sorcery.

Yet this battle isn’t easy.  She can’t find the sorcerer.  She can’t find the death-walker.  And a wizard from the Enclave is in close pursuit.

She knows the Enclave wizard comes to discover if she is keeping the wizard tenets

or if she is crossing the tenuous barrier that separates wizardry from sorcery.  Every time she uses blood-magic is a mark against her.

If he returns her to the Enclave, the wizard council will strip away all her powers.

Then Walking Death claims his re-animator as a victim.

With only a small portion of her powers freed, not enough against the death-walker, can Alstera wield blood-magic to defeat a blood-spelled monster?

Remi Black’s Sing a Graveyard Song is available now, exclusively on Amazon.

 

Here’s a free glimpse at the opening chapter of Weave a Wizardry Web, by Remi Black, available exclusively from Amazon

Chapter 1

Pearroc Ciele poured Fae power into the newly learned wizard spell.  Even as it flashed lightning bright, he recognized the weakness that shattered through the spell.

“If you are to pass yourself off as a wizard during the Trials, you must defend as a wizard would, not as a Fae would.”

He twisted his shoulders.  The aged man never missed a point when teaching

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wizardry.  He might be too weary to rise from the chair provided by the arena master, but his black eyes snapped onto a flaw and his quick mind decoded the reason for that flaw.  Fae spell contorted to look like wizardry:  most wizards would miss the foundation hidden by the swirling energies.  Pater Drakon never missed it.

Sine Pearroc’s springtime arrival, Drakon had trained him.  Pearroc had selected the aged man, one of the few clan leaders who supported Faeron.  A Blade sent in secret to the wizards by his queen the Maorketh Alaisa, he fumbled like a child at some lessons.  He didn’t regret his apprenticeship to the master wizard, but it was High Summer, and still he trained.

The old wizard had a point.  The Fae sparked power from the tangible element:  a flame for Fire, soil for Earth, and on to Air and Water.  Then they built the spell based on the power borrowed from the element.s  Wizards needed nothing to spark power;  it came from their essence.  Though Pearroc wielded wizard-shaped power, he still needed a tangible element to initiate his spells.  And as he fought to twist his spells to match to wizardry, he often dropped back to the easy Fae wielding.

The sudden clash of steel against steel jerked his head around.  Power sparked at his fingertips.

“Stand down,” the Drakon clan leader said.  “It’s a practice arena.  Are you expecting someone to assassinate me?”

Pearroc lowered his hands, but power still flashed at his fingertips.  “You are a clan patriarch and a council elder.  You have enemies because you so strongly support Faeron.  The Maorketh considers you a valuable ally.  And your comeis has not returned.”

“You do expected my assassination.”

Pearroc stopped scanning the balcony seats beside their box.  He dismissed the duelists in the practice ring.  “Are you surprised?”

“I am pleased that I am considered so valuable, even though my body is failing.”  Drakon grinned.  Light glittered in those black eyes.  “We aged are always pleased when we are valued.  I am not pleased you considered me worthy of assassination.”

“Your comeis is not—.”

“Huron Talenn will return in a few minutes.  He is on an errand for Faeron and for me.  How often can we combine two errands into one?  This time we can, for the person he needs to confer with is also the person I want you to meet.”  Drakon shifted on the uncushioned wooden seat.  “You, however, have a greater problem.  “Fae power skirrs through your spell.  I can clearly see it.  If I can see, others will.”

“It is a Fae defense,” Pearroc admitted, “but no wizard at the Trials will recognize it.  Few wizards of this generation have fought beside the Fae against a common enemy.”

“They will recognize it if they fought at the outposts, side by side with Fae against Frost Clime.”

Pearroc dipped his fingers into the pater’s glass, stealing the water in the wine to work another little spell.  He tossed the power in his hand, like a child’s ball, as he considered how to strip away the Fae glow that brightened the spell.  “The Maorketh herself built the glamour around me.  She decided my narrative :  My home is to border Faeron.  My parents hired Fae tutors when my powers manifested.  Enclave wizards would not come so far from Mont Nouris.  That training is the reason my spells have the Fae edge rather than orthodox Enclave training.”

“It’s still folly to reveal it.”  Drakon glanced again at the practice ring.  As a great wizard, he had no interest in sword-fighting, but the opponents in the arena still drew his attention.  And for that reason, they drew another look from Pearroc.  “Even if my fellow councilors do not know your spells are edged with Fae glow, their Fae comeis will know.”

“The comeis will not reveal it.  They are bound to clan leaders, yes, but their first loyalty is to the Maorketh Alaisa.  Your comeis will agree on this with me.”

“It is a mad plan:  a Fae masquerading as a wizard, to pass the Trials and become a voice in the Enclave.  I cannot believe your queen agreed to it.  I cannot believe I agreed to it.”

“Who else would have?”

“No one,” the aged man retorted, “more evidence of its madness.  And I see more and more difficulties as we near the Trials.  My fellow Sages may not see the Fae skirr, but the ArchClans might send a representative.  That representative could see the skirr.”

“It would take a puissant wizard.”

“Someone like Alstera, yes.”

Pearroc had met the ArchClans Letheina’s granddaughter.  Puissant, brilliant, and arrogant, Alstera wielded all four elements.  He’d heard rumors that she dabbled in the challenging fifth, the Chaos that few Fae could tap.  She would indeed see the skirr that fragmented his spells.

Chilling with a hint of autumn, a wind skirled around the ring and gusted through the balconies.  It disturbed only the few spectators.  Drakon, in his sheltered box, tucked his heavy cloak closer.

Pearroc conceded Drakon’s wisdom with a formal bow, a deeper one than Fae courtesy demanded.  “I will repress the Fae in my spells.  We have years invested in the Maorketh’s plan.  I will not cause its failure.”

The aged man’s eyes glittered.  Once more he looked at the practice ring.  “Forgive an old man’s worries.  The nearer your trial draws, the greater my concerns.  For your queen’s madness to succeed, we must enlist more aid than my orthodox training.  When you construct spells, your understanding is a Fae’s understanding of the spell’s foundations.  You need to consider a wizard’s basic understanding of the spell.”

Pearroc glanced at the duelists who kept drawing his mentor’s attention.  Then he scanned the other spectators of the sandy arena.  What aid is he planning?  “You train me more than adequately for the Trials.”

He laughed.  The sound turned into a cough he muffled in the wool of his cloak, and Pearroc thought again of the shorter lives of mortal men.  The clan’s healer had warned Drakon only yesterday against exertion.  Today he insisted on touring the entire arena before they came to his balcony box.

When the spasm passed, he leaned his head against the high chair-back and breathed.

“Do you know what you are doing with this?  The healer—.”

Those black, black eyes opened and bored into hi,.  “You have someone to meet.”  His eyes rolled to the sanded practice ring.  “There she is.”

The cane-wielding duelists had departed.  Five new people had entered, one of them a woman.

Pearroc huffed.  In his two months here, he’d discovered many city women affecting sword-play.  Disappointment colored his question.  “Another woman pretending to be a sword?”

“Not pretending.  She is.  Watch.”

As the new duelists prepared, he studied the woman.  Her youth had passed but not many years ago.  Her plaited dark hair looked stark against the white linen shirt.  Long legs were encased in deerskin, same as the men, and Pearroc admired their length and shape.  When she turned, he saw the patrician bones that sharpened her face.  Her swan’s neck would display rich jewels to advantage.  What was a noble doing at the common practice arena?

She said something that had three of the men chuckling.  He recognized two as house guards for the ArchClans Letheina.  The other two were Fae comeis bound to clan leaders.  One was Vatar Regnant, bound to Pater duCian.  The other—Pearroc looked closely—was the ArchClans’ comeis, Ruidri Talenn de Ysagrael, brother to Drakon’s comeis.  He was the one shedding belt and scabbard, as the woman shed her shoulder harness.  That pricked his interest more than her noble features.  Fae did not spar against human opponents.  Fae quickness proved too deadly.

They used edged steel, not wooden canes.  With a shocked inhalation, Pearroc turned completely toward the arena—and heard Drakon chuckle.

“Is she a fool?  Ruidri Talenn will take no pity on her.”

“Watch.”

The first flurry of blows rang into the seats.  Testing moves, strength and agility and skill.  Then Ruidri smiled and pressed an attack.

He expected her to miss a parry, to stumble as she gave ground, to drop onto the sand, bleeding from a dozen cuts of the Fae’s blade.

“He’ll kill her.  Or maim her.  A woman can’t match strength against a man.”

Her sword glinted with sunlight.  She met Ruidri’s sword, deflected it through a rapid pattern taught to every student of edged combat.  Ruidri’s grin widened.  Pearroc knew that grin, having crossed blades with the elder Fae years ago, before he left Faeron and crossed to the human world on the Maorketh’s orders.

The comeis changed the pattern.  This time the woman grinned.  Her defense didn’t depend on strength.  Her blade slid along Ruidri’s or deflected it.  Fae women learned these tricks.  But this woman was no student.  Her skill exceeded anything he’d see from humans.

Ruidri gave ground to her attack.  She didn’t step around the comeis;  she flowed around him.  Her blade was spell-quick.  It lacked the flashing energy that would have charged it in battle.  The Fae’s sword also remained energy-free.  He said something that had her laughing, the sound ringing across the clash of swords and the grunts of the cane-using duelists.

Their sparring changed again.  The comeis increased to Fae speed.  Pearroc held his breath, both fascinated and horrified.  The woman couldn’t match his quickness and gave ground.  Even so, she anticipated his thrusts.  The ones she couldn’t guard against, she melted away from.  The ones she didn’t deflect, she turned into throwing Ruidri off-step.

He fell back.  Lightning fast, she came after—only to stop on her toes when Vatar spoke.

Her chest heaved.  Sweat slicked her linen shirt while Ruidri merely gleamed with exertion.  He spoke again then held his hand up in a Fae-to-Fae salute.  And she returned it.

“Who is she?” Pearroc demanded.

“Impressive, isn’t she?  A pity they did not magic their blades.  I have heard that lightning crackles along the blades.  I have always wanted to see that.”

He didn’t look away from the woman.  “How is she possible?  A human with Fae-training in edged combat.  To support her sword with magic, that is another Fae skill.  How do I not know her?”

“For the past fifteen years she has commanded Chanerro Pass.”

“Who is she?”

“She is good, isn’t she?”  Drakon croaked the words then started coughing.

The woman heard and turned to look.  She located the box.  Eyes as black as Drakon’s stared up.  Ruidri Talenn and Vatar Regnant looked as well, then Ruidri Talenn spoke to her.  As Pearroc bent over his mentor, offering magic-infused water, he saw the woman shake her head.  Vatar Regnant stepped closer, adding comments of his own.

The magicked water eased the coughing spasm.  Drakon looked shrunken inside his voluminous cloak.

“Where is your comeis?  Huron Talenn should be here by now.”

“An errand, I told you.  Don’t press.  I can breathe again.”

“You shouldn’t be out, Pater.  The air is too chill.”

“Humor an old man a little longer.  Let me enjoy the last of High Summer.  I am dying, but I am not on my death bed.  Ha!  You didn’t protest.”

“Penthia said seven weeks, perhaps eight.”

“My own magic said that.  The body decays, not the mind.”

He straightened.  He gestured to the practice ring.  “Who is she?  Why do you point her out to me?”

“My daughter.  She should be clan leader after me.”

Fae trained to shield their emotions.  Pearroc hid his shock.  He had already embarrassed himself enough with surprise.  Drakon had no acknowledged children.  Magister Brandt was his nephew.  In a clan filled with his bloodline, he had no direct heir.  Pearroc glanced into the ring, but the two comeis and the woman had left.

“A wizard not in your house, not even in Tres Lucerna for years.  Clan leader after you?  Not possible, Lord Drakon.”

A clawed hand gripped the wool cloak.  “Not more impossible than a Fae passing the Wizard Trials,” he retorted.  “She is no stranger to the Enclave.  She is ArchClans Letheina’s daughter, Water and Air instead of our Fire.”

“The ArchClans has no love for Clan Drakon.”

Drakon laughed then wheezed, but the attack passed quickly.  “An understatement, Pearroc.  Camisse does not know that I am her father.”

“Lady Camisse?  Commander at Chanerro Pass?  Her power is—.”  He stopped before he offended.

“A wizard unworthy of the rank?”  The aged man admitted to the slur Pearroc had dammed.  “Rumors claimed she passed the Trials only because her mother was ArchClans.  They say she commands at Chanerro only because her mother pushed the posting.  But she redeemed herself there:  she keeps the wizards and the Fae working together.  All that is true.  Except that her mother helped her pass the Trials.  That was my doing.”

He gaped at his mentor.  “A clan leader cannot have weak power.”

“She doesn’t have weak power.  She has the puissance;  she can’t draw it up.  Not with the spells that she was taught.”

“Enclave teaching failed?”

Drakon didn’t answer.

And Pearroc understood the problem.  Puissant but unable to access her power.  Taught spells for Air and Water, her mother’s elements, while her basic element that would kindle all her spells might be Fire, her father’s element.  Her tutors misidentified her powers.  The ArchClans controlled all of her clan and reached fingers reaching into other clans.  She would not have accidentally misidentified the powers of her own child.  “You’re suggesting the ArchClans crippled her daughter’s power.”

“I suggest nothing.”  He spat onto the box’s rough planking.  “I say it.  At the Trials, Camisse only knew spells for the elements of her clan.  She struggled with those spells—but she can work them.  Without great puissance, that wouldn’t be possible.  The girl never learned Fire.  That is a deliberate choice by her tutors.  If she had learned Fire and wielded it with ease, her parentage would have been suspect.  My fellow councilors on the Trials banc agreed with me.  Perrault suspected shackles on her power.”

“You don’t know—.”

“I know Letheina.”  Venom rimed the words.  “It was a political move to lure me to her bed.  It was a political move to cripple her daughter’s power.  It was a political move to shuffle her off to the border and keep her there, out of sight and hopefully forgotten.  But Camisse is too successful in her command.  Now they have recalled her and sent Raigeis’ fool sons in her place.”

Pearroc stared at the practice ring, but he didn’t see or hear the sparring there.  The enmity between ArchClans and Drakon was known even in Faeron.  Was Camisse the reason it had sparked?  “The girl would have sparked fire when first she came into her power.  How could they hide that from her?”

“All that matters is that they crippled her, restricted who had access to her, built lies all around her, used her to raise her nephew and her niece, then all but exiled her.  I had hoped her time at the border would give her doubts.”

“If she can fight like that,” he mused aloud, “and edge her blade with magic—.”

“Exactly.  Pearroc, I want you to teach her to wield Fire.”

He jerked around.  His mentor nodded.  Knowing the difficulties, the old man still asked this of him.  “You are old in manipulation, Pater.  What happens if I refuse?”

“My daughter remains a crippled wizard.”

Pearroc winced.

“Brandt will succeed me.  His voice is not strong.  He will not stand against the ArchClans and her magister.  They oppose more ties between the Enclave and Faeron.  And your Maorketh’s mad plan to have a Fae be declared a wizard will be for naught.”

“You set a clever trap, Pater.”

‘Until three days ago I had no idea that Camisse would be recalled from the border.  She is the linchpin.”

“You had to have hoped.”

He smiled, a wicked twist that revealed his manipulations.

“You are as wily and ruthless as the dragons you are named for.”

“Experience gives me wiliness;  approaching death gives me ruthlessness.  This is necessity, Pearroc.  You must start training her soon.  Tomorrow is not soon enough.”

“What do you suggest?”

He snorted.  “I leave that to you.  If I am not mistaken, you will fulfill more than your queen’s mad command.  I saw the way you watched her.”

That comment embarrassed him.  He hid his emotions, his physical reactions, but the aged man understood Fae behaviors.  He didn’t look for the obvious and human signs.  He counted the minutes of Pearroc’s focus.  Saying “she is your daughter” did not disprove Drakon’s claim, so he added, “She is a sword.  Lethal beauty.”

“And death makes me ruthless.”

Pearroc stared at the ring, but he pictured Lady Camisse, turning her lithe body to counter Ruidri’s ringing sword.  “She is known for her support of Fae at Chanerro.  Do you think she will stand with the Fae against her mother?”

“The ArchClans argued against more Fae inside Enclave walls.  She argued against the bond with a comeis.  She argued against adding Fae warriors to the king’s forces.  She appointed Camisse to Chanerro Pass, probably hoping that experiment would fail—only to see her daughter regain outpost after outpost while Iscleft barely holds against Frost Clime.”

Pearroc arched an eyebrow.  “You tell me this, but I do not need to be convinced.  Lady Camisse is the one who must accept that she’s Fire and not Air and Water.”

The door to their balcony box opened.  “Pater Drakon,” a man said.

Without looking around, the aged man nodded.  “Enter Huron.  Bring the others.”

The comeis bonded to Drakon entered.  He bowed to the clan leader.  “Lord Drakon, Comeis Vatar Regnant would speak with Commander Camisse of Letheina House in your presence, a private consultation needing a Council witness.”

“I will be honored to oversee this consultation.  Please admit the commander and your fellow comeis.”

Huron Talenn retreated, leaving Pearroc to wonder what wiliness the Drakon patriarch had in play.

Aristotle rocks because he’s a rock?

Aristotle’s Essential Characters

For writers beginning to Think / Pro, converting from a hobby writer to a professional writer, Aristotle seems like a wrong turn.  Especially when we’re looking at the Essentials of Characters.

Geez, what could he possibly know?  I mean, look at him.  He’s a bust.

I thought this way, too–once.

I mean, Aristotle is over two thousand years OLD.  Really OLD.  Decrepit.

What on earth can someone so OLD tell me about story?

I grew up with movies and TV.  I have computers.  And I drive a car.  He had a banging chariot and scratched on something called parchment.  He didn’t even have good paper and ink.

Continue reading “Think / Pro: Aristotle’s Essential Characters”