These are difficult times. We are all facing unprecedented restrictions to our lives. We are told to stay at home and keep our distance if we do go out.
Some people find this difficult. Some more so than others. If you are used to an active social life, and work with many people, you will undoubtedly find all this hard to do.
For those of us who are used to working from home, like writers, it’s not so difficult to keep on working. We are used to working in isolation, but for people who work in restaurants, cafes, and the like it must be very hard. Some people can work from home, but many cannot. What to do to fill the time?
Some people have decided, stupidly, that this is a holiday. The weather is good and they’ve nothing else to do, so they go off to the seaside, or National Parks. We’ve all seen the pictures of the crowds in these places. What are they doing but risking spreading the disease? It can spread fast enough on its own without stupidity helping it.
This sort of behaviour will force the government to create a lockdown when people are not allowed to go out. Do we really want that?
So what can you do in this self-isolation? Well, read a book. (Of course I would say that, wouldn’t I?) Or even several.
If you have been following the serialisation of Carthinal’s story, you might like to read this to find out what became of him in later life.
As it happens, from today (23rd March) until Friday 27th March, the ebook version of my fantasy novel, The Wolf Pack, will beFREE on Amazon. Why not pick up a copy while you can?
All Carthinal wants is admission to the ranks of the mages. Traveling from Bluehaven to Hambara, where his rite of passage is to take place, he doesn’t expect to end up on a quest to find the long-lost sword of the legendary King Sauvern.
With strangers he meets on his journey, Carthinal sets out on the seemingly impossible quest. Followed by Randa, the snooty aristocratic daughter of the Duke of Hambara, and the young runaway thief Thad, Carthinal and his companions face tragedy and danger.
Watched by the gods and an implacable foe, they will have to accept help from the least likely sources and face their innermost fears. As the fate of their world hangs in the balance, they realize that this is more than an adventure. This quest will change them all.
What have you got to lose? After all, it’s absolutelyFREE, and you’ve now got time to read.
What are your opinions on this self-isolation? Will it work, or are there just too many people who are too stupid to understand what it’s all about?
Will this behaviour cause the government to impose even more draconian laws?
The magician performed in the square for several days. Each day, Carthinal went and watched. By the prickling sensation, he quickly learned which of the man’s tricks were real magic and which sleight of hand.
Wren went with him the first couple of times, then she said, “Why do you keep on going back? It’s the same show every day.”
Carthinal shrugged, “I’m unsure myself, Wren. I’m fascinated by his magic. His real magic, that is, not that other stuff.”
After watching a number of times, Carthinal thought he could remember the words and hand movements the magician made when he conjured the small flame on his finger. He decided to try it out, but not in the Gang’s Headquarters.
He walked around the area until he came to a back street, Sitting on a doorstep, he began to mutter the words and copy what he thought were the hand movements. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. After a few attempts, he gave up.
The next day, he was again standing in the square watching. He thought he noticed a few things he’d got wrong, and he went to practise again, in the same back street.
He practised for a week. By then the magician had left the area. One day, sitting on the step, he wondered why he did this. The man he had been copying had gone, so he could not refresh his memory. He sat there, head in his hands, trying to picture exactly what the magician had said and done.
I’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give up.
He chanted in a slightly different way. His skin began to prickle and he felt a sensation deep within his stomach. A tiny flame appeared on his index finger, then quickly vanished.
The young man leaped up and yelled. “Yeah I did it!”
He ran all the way back to headquarters and burst in shouting “Wren, Wren, I did it.”
“Calm down. Did what?”
“Made magic. I got a little flame on my finger.”
Wren shrugged. “So what? How’s that going to help with anything.”
Carthinal took her by her shoulders. “Don’t you see. I can do magic. Perhaps if I practice I can learn more and then go and perform like that magician. We could be rich.”
“Who’s goin’ ter be rich?” Cat was just passing.
“Cat, I managed to do some magic. Real magic.”
Cat laughed. “You think ’cos yer did a little trick yer can become a real mage? Dream on, Fox, but keep ’em for sleep-time.”
Carthinal shook his head, but determined to keep on practising. Apart from the pride in learning to do it all on his own, when he had succeeded, the physical sensations it gave him were enough to make him continue.
Each morning, the young man went to the same back street and chanted and wove his hands around. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed, but he did not give up. Eventually, he could keep the flame going for several minutes.
One say, as he tried to make the flame walk from one finger to another, he became aware of a shadow falling over him. Quickly, he extinguished his little flame and sprang to his feet.
“Steady, lad,” a voice said. “How did you learn to do that?”
Carthinal scowled at the man. “Why should I tell you? Who are you, and how did you find me?”
“My name’s Mabryl. I’m an archmage and I felt a disturbance in the mana, so I tracked it here.”
At the sound of ‘archmage’, Carthinal pricked up his ears.
“Archmage? You’re important, then. So why’ve you tracked me down?”
“One simple reason. Hardly anyone can learn to do magic of any kind on their own. What made you try?”
“I watched the magician in the square on Grillon’s day and during that week. I copied what he said and did,”
“Impressive. How did you know what to copy? In other words, how did you know what was real magic and what wasn’t?”
“I felt it. It was like a tingling all over my skin.”
“Young man, you have a talent for magic, but you need training. First, although you’ve managed to get this far on your own, that’s only a very simple spell. One we use to teach apprentices at the beginning. It’s called a cantrip. More importantly, though, is the fact that magic can be very dangerous in untrained hands, both to yourself and those around you.”
Carthinal looked into Archmage Mabryl’s eyes. “What are you saying? I should stop?”
“Not at all. You have a tremendous talent. I would like to train you.”
“No. I’ll not fall for that. You know who I am and want to lure me to your home so you can hand me over to the guards”
Mabryl laughed a soft laugh. “That would be such a waste of talent. Anyway, who are you that I’d want to hand you over? What have you done that the guards would be interested in?”
Carthinal looked down and shuffled his feet. “Nothing. At least nothing you need to know. I have to go.”
As he turned to leave the street, Mabryl said, “I live on Grindlehoff Street. Number forty three. Come there if you change your mind. I hope you do. Your talent will be wasted if not, and you could cause great danger to everyone around.”
When he got back to the headquarters he searched out Wren. He told her all that had happened.
“What did you say?”
“That he could go away and leave me alone. That I’m not interested. He’s only trying to tempt me so I’ll lead him to the rest of you.”
That night, Wren propped herself up on her elbow on the bed they shared. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Not too hard. I hope.” Carthinal yawned and turned to face her.
“About that man, Mabryl was it?”
“What about him?”
“If you went there and learned to be a proper mage, you could be a help to the Gang.”
“Suppose you could use magic to help people not notice us when we pick their pockets? Then perhaps you could make Cat invisible when he goes buglaring so no one sees him. Then you could use it when we fight other gangs. We’d be able to take over all the others.”
“Mmm. Perhaps. I’ll think about it.” He turned over and went to sleep.
Will Carthinal accept Mabryl’s offer and go to his house to become his apprentice, or will he stay with The Beasts? The relative security and friendship he knows or an unknown life are his choices. Read the next episode on the first Tuesday of December to find outwhich he chooses.
Find out more about Carthinal by reading The Woves of Vimar series. The first three books can be got from Amazon.
On Tuesday, I will be hosting a new member of the Creativia family. Sean Robbins has his very first book on pre-order. It is a scifi tale, so especially if you are a fan of that genre, don’t forget to come around and find out more about Sean and his book. It sound interesting.
I’m going to give you an update of my writing today.
I have been working on the next historical novel. I’ve completed the first draft, and it is currently undergoing some critiquing from a wonderful site I’ve found called Scribophile. I was hoping to get it out before Christmas, but it might be a bit longer than that.
It is called Jealousy of a Viking and is the story of a descendant of Adelbehrt from Vengeance of a Slave. She, Helgha, is a young Viking girl who falls in love with Erik, the son of a jarl from Jorvik, modern York.
Of course, true love does not run smoothly (no story if it does). They cannot marry because of the difference in their status. She becomes his mistress, but trouble starts when he marries to improve his family’s standing.
Her rival for Erik’s love has the advantage she is his legal wife and a feud begins between them. Which woman will win? Can Helgha find a way to be with Erik after all? Will her knowledge of herbs help her?
I’ve also been working on the next book in The Wolves of Vimar series. I lost a whole chunk of it somehow, and became a bit disheartened, then I found it. At least I thought I had, but a chunk from the middle is still missing and needs rewriting. Hey ho! That’s life. I suppose.
This book has no title as yet. In it, the group known as Wolf travel to Bluehaven and hence Holy Isle for the wedding of one of their number, Randa, to Prince Almoro, brother to the king. Then revolts occur in several cities, and Erian, the land bordering them, marches in and takes over several dukedoms, capturing the Duke of Senndolina.
Several of Wolf travel to try to rescue him, and Rollo, Duke of Hambara, sets off for Erian to try to talk peace with The Master.
I originally wrote this as the first chapter of The Wolf Pack, but I had a comment from someone who read the book that it was too slow to start and so I eliminated the first few chapters. It has not been published before and so you will be getting a very first glimpse of the earlier time. before the actual story starts. I hope you enjoy it.
The half-elf leafed through the book he was studying. He was due to take the tests to end his apprenticeship soon. Mabryl, his master and adopted father had sent off to the Mage Tower in Hambara asking for the young man to be considered for the tests at the next opportunity.
He was a tall, handsome young man, just over six feet with shoulder-length auburn hair, a closely trimmed beard and eyes of an intense blue. He was sitting in the study at the home of Mabryl in Bluehaven, which was situated on the south coast of the land of Grosmer. With him were Mabryl’s other two apprentices, 14 year old Tomac and 16 year old Emmienne. Tomac pushed a lock of his unruly dark hair out of his eyes.
‘I think that’s the Master coming in now, Carthinal,’ he said. ‘You’d better look as though you’ve been doing something instead of moping around waiting for that letter or you’ll be in trouble.’
Just as he said this, the door opened and Mabryl entered shaking his cloak out as he did so.
‘It’s cold out there,’ he said, ‘and it’s turning to snow if I’m not much mistaken. Unusual this far south.’ He turned to his three apprentices. ‘Have you finished the tasks I set you?’ he asked as he hung his cloak on a stand by the door. Carthinal stood up and walked over to the fire, putting a fresh log on to the flames.
‘Come and get warm, and, no I’ve not finished. I can’t seem to settle down to anything until I hear about whether I can take the tests soon. I think Emmienne has finished though. I can’t say about Tomac.’
‘Nearly,’ replied Tomac, jumping down from his chair and carrying his workbook to his master. ‘I was a little stuck on the moon phases though. It’s complicated trying to work out both moons at the same time.’
‘Stick to it, youngster,’ Emmienne said from the window seat. She grinned across at the younger boy, the grin lighting up her otherwise rather plain face. ‘I had problems too, but it comes eventually.’
Tomac groaned and went back to his seat.
‘I’ve finished though, Sir,’ she said. ‘I’ve learned that new spell you gave me and am sure I can make it work. When can I try it?’
Mabryl laughed. ‘Such enthusiasm. We’ll try it out tomorrow, I think. In the meantime, I’ve made what I think may be a big discovery. Perhaps the most important one for many, many years. Look,’ and he put an ancient looking book on the table. The three apprentices gathered round.
‘I think it may be a spell book from before the Forbidding,’ he went on.
Emmienne gasped. ‘That is old, and if it is, we’ll be able to find lost spells. You’ll be famous, Sir.’
‘Calm down, Emm. It may not be the spell-book of a magister, or even an arch-mage,’ smiled Carthinal. ‘It may have just the spells we already know and not any of the lost ones.’
Just over seven hundred years previously there had been a war between conflicting mages. It had caused such devastation and hardship to everyone that the king had forbidden the use of magic on pain of death and all spell books were ordered to be burned. Some, however, had been rescued and these came to light occasionally. During the time of the Fobidding, as it came to be known, much knowledge had been lost and there were currently mages working to try to re-discover the lost spells. If this book were to be of use, it would need to be taken to one of these mages.
Just then the door opened and Lillora, Mabryl’s housekeeper entered.
‘Sorry to disturb you, sir,’ she said, ‘but a bird arrived a few minutes ago. I thought you should know.’
‘I’ll come and look then,’ replied the mage and left the three apprentices to their own devices.
Carthinal picked up the book that Mabryl had bought and began to leaf through it. He could understand little of what was written there. Firstly it was in an archaic script and language and secondly he was as yet only an apprentice and had not the knowledge to understand more than a limited number of spells.
He frowned as he tried to read the words on the page. He lifted the book from the table to take it nearer to the light when a loose page fell onto the floor. He stooped to pick it up and realised that he could read it, unlike the rest of the book, and that it was not a page that had fallen out, but a note that had been inserted. He took it to the window seat and sat down by Emmienne to read it.
‘What’s that?’ asked the brown-haired girl, straining to read it upside down.
‘I’m not sure,’ replied Carthinal, wrinkling his brow. ‘It fell out of this book that Mabryl has bought but it doesn’t seem to be the same writing, nor is it in the same archaic script. It’s a note of some kind.’ He paused to read it.
Just then, Mabryl came back holding a piece of paper in his hand.
‘It’s good news, Carthinal,’ he told the young man. ‘There is a space for you to take your tests in the next batch, which takes place just before Grillon’s Day. That’s in about five sixdays time so we’ll need to leave here in three sixdays to allow us time to settle in before your ordeal.’ He saw that Carthinal was holding a paper. ‘What’s that you’ve got there?’ he queried.
‘It fell out of the book you bought,’ replied Carthinal. ‘It doesn’t seem to be by the author of the book though. It’s in a more modern script that I can read. It doesn’t make much sense though.’ He handed it to the other man who read it, then read it again, this time out loud.
‘“When Kalhera descends from the mountains, and orcs once more roam the land,
When impossible beasts occur and the Never-Dying man is once more at hand,
Then the Sword that was lost must once more be found; only it can destroy the threat
And kill the immortal mortal to balance out his debt.”
Well,’ he continued, ‘it seems a rather strange thing to write and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. How can Kalhera descend from the mountains? She’s a god and the gods don’t come down to Vimar.’
He turned the page in his hand and saw some more writing on the back. ‘This says that it is a quotation from something that the writer heard and wrote down. The author says he visited the Oracle on the Holy Island and this was what he was told the oracle had said earlier in the day, but to no one in particular. Only the attendants were present it seems.’
He replaced the paper in the book on the table and turned to Carthinal.
‘We must take this to a colleague of mine in the Mage Tower when we go,’ he continued. ‘She is working on finding the old spells, I believe, and this may be of use to her. The loose note may be a prophecy if it came from the Oracle, but who knows when it was made? It could be that it was centuries ago, or yesterday; and it could be referring to a time well in the future or even in the past. I think we should ignore it for now. Lillora says that our lunch is almost ready, so I suggest we go to the table before she gets mad.’
So the three apprentices forgot all about the book and the note as they enjoyed Mabryl’s housekeeper’s excellent cooking. After the meal they returned to their studies. Mabryl gave them all tasks to complete and then went out again to visit the Duke of Bluehaven, who was an old friend of his, taking the book with him.
Duke Danu of Bluehaven had trained at the Mage Tower in his youth. He had some talent for magic, but with the death of his elder brother in an epidemic, he had to take over the duties and prepare to become the Duke one day. He had never taken the tests to end his apprenticeship, but he retained an interest in magic and still practiced it in a small way. ‘To keep my hand in.’ he told people.
Today he was sitting in his study going over the accounts of the duchy when a knock came at the door.
‘Arch-mage Mabryl to see you, sir,’ said his butler.
‘Send him in, then,’ replied Danu, rising from his seat and walking over to clasp Mabryl in a hug. ‘You’ve not been to visit in some while, my friend,’ he scolded the other man. ‘Busy with your three apprentices, I suppose.’
Mabryl smiled at the Duke. ‘Yes, they do keep me busy. Carthinal is ready to take his tests and become a full mage now.’
‘Is that so?’ Duke Danu raised an eyebrow. ‘Hardly seems any time at all when you took that scruffy little urchin in off the streets. Everyone thought you were mad, you know. Taking a street child to be your apprentice; and then adopting him. Well, it seems we were wrong. He’s turning out all right.’
‘Considering his background, yes. He still has his faults and I can’t say there weren’t times when I agreed with you that I’d done the wrong thing. But I didn’t come here to talk about Carthinal. I’ve made a discovery and I want your opinion.’ He pulled the spell-book out of a bag at his side. ‘I’m going to take this to Yssa at the Mage Tower when I take Carthinal. She will be the best to decide how important it is.’ He handed the book to Danu.
The Duke whistled. ‘This is important, Mabryl. I can’t read it, but it certainly looks like a spell-book to me. It’s old and could easily date to before the Forbidding.’ He picked up the note that was still between its pages. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘A little note that was in the book. Carthinal found it. It doesn’t seem to belong to the book though, and I’ve thought it could be a hoax. Someone putting a seeming prophecy in an important old book.’
‘Maybe, but I don’t think so. Some research I’ve been doing suggests that Grosmer is about to face some danger. This may be a prophecy about that. I would suggest you take it to Rollo in Hambara when you go. His library is much more extensive than mine is and he can find out more. I’ve been in touch with him about this possible danger so he knows a little of what I suspect.’
‘I don’t know Duke Rollo,’ Mabryl replied. ‘He may not believe me. I’ve heard he’s a suspicious man. I think that this note maybe a hoax even if you don’t. I’ll need to prove that I’ve come from you.’
‘I’ll write you a letter to give to him,’ Danu said going over to his desk and picking up his pen. ‘I’ll also give you this.’ He picked up a small statuette of a trotting horse about three inches long and two high that sat on his desk. ‘It’s one of a pair that we found in our adventuring days. He has the other. He’ll know that I’ve sent you when he sees that, especially if you ask him about the other one. Now, sit down and I’ll get some wine for us to drink while we talk about other things.’
So the two old friends passed the afternoon remembering past times and gossiping about the goings on in the city of Bluehaven as the afternoon passed into evening and the Duke’s work lay unfinished on the desk.
The raiding party moved ever westwards. the mountains the Horselords called The Barrier, retreated ever further away until they were just a blue haze on the horizon. Kimi looked longingly at them as she rode surrounded by Prowling Lynx warriors. Her home was at the foot of those mountains. Would she ever see it again? She prayed for a miracle, but the days passed and none arrived.
One evening, just as the men began to set up the camp, Kimi heard the sound of galloping hooves. She was inside her tent with a guard as they had put her tent up first. Not for any chivalrous reasons. Just that they thought she would be less likely to escape if she were safely in her tent with a guard.
Sounds of shouting came through the thin walls of the tent, followed by the noise of fighting. Horses whinneyed in fear, men shouted and the sound of metal on metal rang through the air. Kimi’s guard was in the process of tying her up, but when he heard the sounds, he rushed out to help his friends, leaving her alone and free. She thought of trying to make a break, but the sounds of fighting were all around. She thought she might be safer in here than out there.
Then suddenly, all was silent. Kimi crept to the tent door and peeped out. Her captors were now the captives. They stood in a huddle, surrounded by other men. A few bodies lay on the ground, and several of the captives had sustained wounds.
I hope the chief’s son is hurt, she thought, surprising herself at this thought. She had never been vindictive. But then, she had never been kidnapped and threatened with marriage to a violent man before.
One man walked round the group of captives. she listened to what he said.
‘You dare to cross the lands of the Swooping Hawks? You will come with us to our chief. There you will be tried.’
Kimi tried to slip back into the tent, but the man saw her and came over.
Kimi shrank back. This man was fairly tall, around five foot eleven, with a proud bearing. He wore his dark hair long and tied with a bandana to keep it from his eyes.
It was not his height or bearing that made Kimi afraid, though. On his face was a tattoo. This tattoo was in the shape of a hawk with its wings spread over his forehead, head down his straight nose and talons on his cheeks.
‘Who are you?’ he asked her. ‘I’m surprised they brought a woman on their raid. Even if they are Prowling Lynx ‘
‘I…I’m not with them,’ she stuttered.
He raised his eyebrows, making the hawk’s wings seem to flutter.
‘Then what are you doing here?’
Kimi swallowed. They raided my family’s ranch and took our best horses. When we went to try to get them back, they captured me.’ She took a deep breath to try to stop tears. ‘They were going to make me marry their chief’s son. He was cruel. He taunted and hit me.’
Now Kimi could no longer be brave, and tears began to fall. The young warrior strode out of the tent without looking back.
She heard the sounds of his feet striding towards the group of prisoners. Then she heard the young warrior’s voice calling to them. He called a name, but no one replied. There was silence for a while, then she heard quiet voices before the sounds of someone being beaten.
Shortly, the young warrior returned.
‘I taught him a lesson,’ he said. ‘Now we go to my father for him to judge them for trespassing and theft. Come.’
He left the tent before Kimi could reply, leaving her to follow.
When she caught up, he turned and said, ‘You ride one of your horses. We go back to my people.’
‘Why can’t you take me to my people?’ Kimi replied.
‘We need to take these men back first. See my father then see what he says.’
Has Kimi fallen into the hands of another tribe? What will they do with her?