Author’s Note: Happy Monday! I had a good, if somewhat sleepless, Spring Break. I was house and dog-sitting, and I never sleep very well in someone else’s house. That’s okay, though, the dog was a delight. ^_^
I had a good first two weeks of sales for Spellwrought. I sold around 70 copies if it, and 20 copies of Magebound, a few copies of my other books, so I’d say I sold 100 books in the last two weeks, which is awesome! Thank you to everyone who could support my efforts. ^_^ Sales have dropped off, back to the usual 2 or 4 a day, probably because I’ve quit promoting it. I wish I knew how to get the word out there better. I hate the idea of tweeting ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ all the time. I wish I could start posting stories for Free Fiction Friday again. I got some great traffic when I was doing that – nearly 700 views in one day. These days, it’s only about 60 a day. *Sigh* The dark and gritty side of self-publishing – marketing.
Anyway, enjoy the chapter and I’ll see you again in two weeks – April 13th!
Moonlight Ch. 58
Katica Locke: Welcome back, everyone, to our final interview with the characters of Spellwrought. Today we have a special guest with us, Venaritam, daughter of…um, business mogul, Venariritzan. Welcome, Tam.
Tam: Thank you, Katica. It’s great to be here. My father doesn’t let me leave the mountain very often, so this is a real treat. Ask me anything.
KL: All right, let’s start with you name.
T: Oh, sure! I was named after my great-grandmother, who ran the family business after my great-grandfather died in an ‘accident’–
KL: Actually, I meant could you explain why athaenian names are so different from the names of most other cultures?
T: Oh, right. Well, it’s all about family. We athaenians are big on family, so our family name is first, with our given name immediately after, because family is the most important thing, and each of is is forever linked to our family.
KL: So, what happens when two athaenians get married? Does one of you take the others family name, is it hyphenated, and what about your children? How do you name them?
T: Names don’t change in our culture. When I get married, I’ll keep my name and he’ll keep his. Our families will negotiate for the rights to our children’s names. Usually, someone pays for first rights, and the firstborn will bear that family name, with it alternating back and forth. If there’s an odd number of children, the family with the most will pay the other a settlement, the amount usually agreed to at the time of marriage.
KL: Wow, your culture sounds very structured.
T: Well, it helps to prevent bad blood between families. The last thing anyone needs is another blood-feud.
KL: No, that doesn’t sound good at all. So, can I ask you about Naeven? Is it true that the two of you are secretly dating?
T: (grins) That’s right.
KL: How did that happen? I mean, how did you meet?
T: You’re never going to believe it, but it was such a serendipitous twist of fate. It was years ago. Someone was killing my brothers – one of those blood-feuds I told you about – and I feared for my life. I had never been outside of the mountain, but I snuck out in the middle of the night – it was the first time I had ever seen the night – and I ran as far as I could. It was winter and I got cold and hungry, and then I saw this magnificent castle. I went inside and it was love at first sight.
KL: Well, that is quite the story. Do you have time for a few fan letters?
T: (grins) Of course!
KL: (paper rustling) Okay, the first is from Jeremiah in Redding, California. ‘Dear Tam, what is is like to live underground all the time? What do you find to eat down there?’
T: Oh, there’s lots of stuff to eat. We cultivate cave moss and several types of fungus, which we feed to our animals. Coomas give us milk and meat, and we can shear them for their fleece, pitaras lay eggs, and we have two large lakes that support healthy fish populations. We also trade with you above-grounders for things like fruit and vegetables. I know I make it sound like a paradise so you probably won’t believe this, but I hate it underground. All those artificial lights and the immense, vaulted caverns and the caves of emeralds and rubies and diamonds – it’s just so…stagnant. Nothing ever changes. Up here, you have the sunrise and midday and sunset and midnight – and that’s just the sky! Everything is always different, always so wondrous. I can’t wait until I can marry Naeven and move into his castle permanently.
KL: I see…The next question is from Erbangel in Siva Delta on Nethmalon. ‘Dear Tam, do athaenians have pets?’
T: Sort of, if you’d count the large, semi-tame lizards that eat the cave crickets that infest our houses pets. Otherwise, no.
KL: Okay, last question. DancesWithWerewolves in Madrid asks, ‘Dear Tam, if you could have anything in the universe, what would it be?’
T: That’s easy.
KL: Let me guess – Naeven?
T: No, I already have Naeven. I would want a purple unicorn named Frank that only eats jellybeans and drinks malt whiskey.
KL: Okay, that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you Tam and thanks to everyone who turned in. Until next time, this is Katica Locke signing off.
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A grating squeal rattles through my bones, and I see a streak of something blacker than the night rush at us. Then Lucifer rears and I am flying through the air. I land hard in the middle of the muddy road, the breath knocked completely from my body. I gasp and taste dirt. Coughing, I pull an arm underneath me. I have to get up; I have to see what attacked us.
Lucifer squeals, his voice deeper than the other’s, but eerily similar. I raise my head and watch as Lucifer rears up, fangs bared, and lunges forward, his chest slamming into the shoulder of a large black horse, its silver mane and tail glittering in the moonlight. That’s no horse, I realize as the black equine bares its own jagged white teeth: it’s a shival. Lucifer dances back as the shival snaps at him. Then they both rear up, hooves slashing the air before they crash together again, the ground trembling from the impact.
The shival stumbles back, its predatory speed and strength no match for Lucifer’s vampiric abilities, but that doesn’t stop the black monster. It leaps forward, teeth flashing, and Lucifer squeals with rage as blood pours down his shoulder. Lucifer swings his head across the shival’s neck, sending the larger equine to its knees. Lucifer rears again and brings his hooves down, trying to break the shival’s spine, but it rolls onto its side, out of the way, and kicks out, its razor sharp hooves scoring a glancing blow up Lucifer’s left front leg. Lucifer leaps back, more blood darkening his hide.
Head raised and nostrils flared, Lucifer watches the shival climb to its feet, the little stallion not even seeming to breathe as he waits. They regard each other, neither moving. Then the shival lunges, its head low, snapping at Lucifer’s legs. Lucifer rears back and kicks the shival in the head, sending it stumbling sideways, blood flowing from a gash above its right eye. The shival squeals and attacks again, but Lucifer charges forward, slamming his chest against the black monster’s neck, and sends it sprawling in the mud. The shival thrashes, legs up in the air, and then rolls over. Only its front legs are under it before Lucifer charges again, long fangs sinking deep into the shival’s neck. The beast screams, a horrible, agonized sound, and pulls away, a thick gout of blood raining down onto the muddy ground.
The shival lunges to its feet, its chest and front legs shiny with blood. It staggers, lips pulled back from its teeth, still trying to snap at Lucifer, even as it falls back to its knees. I watch it try to rise, its legs buckling again and again. Lucifer steps closer, his ears laid back against his skull, and the shival whinnies, high, desperate, afraid.
“Don’t,” I whisper, and groan as I push myself up off the ground. It hurts to breathe, but not like anything’s broken, thank Maele. I take a step toward the fallen equine. “Lucifer, don’t—” The little stallion leaps forward and sinks his fangs into the shival’s throat, pinning its neck to the ground as it tries to jerk away. I watch it kick at the empty air, growing weaker as Lucifer gulps down its blood, licking and sucking at the wound. I turn away, nauseated.
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Katica Locke: Hello, everyone and Happy St. Patty’s Day! Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Vaelen Frast, a sailor and fisherman from Traxen. Welcome, Vaelen!
Vaelen: It’s a pleasure to meet ya, Miss Katica.
KL: Vaelen, why don’t you tell our audience a bit about yourself and the role you play in Spellwrought.
V: Isn’t much to tell, really. I settled in Traxen a few years ago ‘cause the fishing is good and the people are friendly, but I try not to let myself get tied down, ya know? I need my freedom and there ain’t no man nor woman worth giving that up. Now, in yer book, I play the lovable rogue who charms the pants off yer uptight main character, Lark.
KL: I think you mean you scare the pants off him.
V: You tell it yer way and I’ll tell it mine. Ya ask me, he was just playing hard to get.
KL: (shakes head) You’ll never learn, will you?
V: (grins) I hope not.
KL: Anyway, what can you tell us about the ocean around Traxen? Ever see anything interesting while at sea?
V: I’ll say. Those waters are full of wonders. At night, when the sea is calm, ya can hear the grayback whales singing, and in the morning, if yer close to shore, ya can see sea serpents lying in the sun on the rocky beaches, and after there’s been a storm, sometimes ya can see abyssal jellyfish floating on the surface, dredged up from the depths by the churning water. And, if yer real lucky, ya might see a selkie.
KL: Have you ever seen one?
V: Seen ‘em? I’ve caught ‘em in my nets before.
KL: What do you do with them? There’s no market for selkies, is there?
V: ‘Course there is. There’s a market for just about anything, if ya know where to look. The first one I caught, I asked around. I could have made a small fortune, but I couldn’t do it. Ya take a selkie away from the sea and something inside ‘em just dies. So, now I just let ‘em go.
KL: Oh, Vaelen, that’s so generous of you.
V: (grins) Well, I won’t pretend like I don’t get anything out of it. Most selkies are real friendly, once ya convince them that ya ain’t gonna steal their skin. Real friendly, if ya know what I mean.
KL: Yes, I think we get it. Let’s see what’s in the mail bag, shall we? (paper rustling) Here is a question from PixieGrace in Tallissa on Eixiin. ‘Dear Vaelen, what made you decide to become a sailor?’
V: You could say that sailing in in my blood. My father was a merchant sailor, and his father was a fisherman, and his father was a pirate, so the sea has long been a part of my family.
KL: Nice. Our next letter is from Alexi in St. Petersburg, Russia. ‘Dear Vaelen, you seem like a friendly guy. Is there anyone in Traxen that you don’t get along with?’
V: No, not really. I mean, the mage ain’t real friendly, but I’ve never really had a problem with him, personally. The drac blacksmith don’t like me much, but that was just a misunderstanding. I didn’t know that dracs will only mate with their own kind. Oh, and then there’s that alien that’s shacked up with Rayne. I don’t much care for him, but he keeps to himself, most the time.
KL: (frowns) You mean Belaeden?
V: Yeah, that’s the one. I wish he’d go back where he came from.
KL: I see. Okay, last question. This one is from SeamenLover on Ashael. ‘Dear Vaelen, if you had one day left to live, what would do?’
V: Well, I s’pose I’d have as much sex as possible.
KL: Which I’m sure comes as no surprise. Thank you, Vaelen. And thank you to our audience. If you’d like to read more about Vaelen, be sure to pick up a copy of Spellwrought, and don’t forget to tune in next time, when I’ll be interviewing Tam, the crazy daughter of a mafia kingpin. Until then, this is Katica Locke, signing off.
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Author’s Note: Finally, the moment of truth has arrived – Izeri must face all the lies he had told. How will Charias react? Is their relationship over? When you get to the end are cursing me for ending the chapter, just remember, originally, I was going to have it end two paragraphs earlier.
Enjoy and I’ll see you again in two weeks – March 30th!
Moonlight Ch. 57
It was brought to my attention that the version of Spellwrought sold on Amazon had several glaring mistakes in it that I somehow missed. Edits were visible – underlined text, words that were struck-through. I have no excuse, I was simply too eager to publish to check it over thoroughly. I will do my best to make sure such a thing does not happen in the future.
I have updated the file on Amazon so you should be able to download a better copy. I apologize for the inconvenience.
The bucket draws at last to the top of the well, and I flip the catch into place to keep it from falling all the way back to the bottom the moment I let go. I balance the bucket on the edge of the wall and slip the waterskin off my back, pulling the cork and carefully pouring the water through the narrow mouth of the skin. Some of the water spills down onto the ground, but I get most of it inside. A bucketful only fills the skin about halfway, so I jam the cork back in, hook the strap over Lucifer’s saddle, and toss the bucket over the side. As I step over to release the catch, I notice a man striding across the muddy road toward me. He doesn’t look friendly.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doin’?” he asks, his voice thick with the accent of the north coast. He’s a good head taller than me, with a nasty scar running from hairline to chin and just missing his left eye. I don’t think I want to fight with this guy.
“Just getting some water, sir,” I say, my eyes shifting past him to two more men slowly making their way toward us. They don’t look friendly, either. Where are all the nice villagers I’ve met? At home eating supper, I guess.
“Who are you?” the Northman asks. Before I can answer, someone standing on the front step of the inn yells, “He came down from the mage’s mountain.” Someone else on the other side of us adds, “That’s the mage’s demon horse!”
The Northman’s scowl deepens. “Is that so? Are you the mage’s boy?” I don’t like the insinuation in his voice.
“No, sir, I am Lord Sactaren’s assistant,” I tell him. His fist flies out of nowhere and sinks into my gut, driving the air from my body. I double over, trying to breathe, and an elbow slams into the middle of my back, knocking me to the ground. My head is ringing, light and dark flashing in front of my eyes, but I can hear Lucifer squeal, can feel the ground shake as he stomps his hooves. I blink hard and glance up, gasping for breath. The villagers are drawing back as Lucifer rears up, his hooves pawing the air above me. He brings them down, less than a hand’s length from my body, and he stands over me, fangs bared as he glares at the Northman, who is bleeding from the shoulder.
“Lucifer,” I gasp, “what did you do?” I try to rise up on my hands and knees, but my arms are shaking.
“Stone them!” someone shouts from a window, and I duck as a rock flies past my head.
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