Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sample Sunday for 24 July

The Red Cross of Gold I:. The Knight of Death is Book I of the Assassin Chronicles by Brendan Carroll. Genre: Paranormal Epic Fantasy with Romance for spice. The story begins when the 800 year old warrior monk assassin is sent by his Order to Texas to either capture or kill a defector. Before he has the chance to apprehend his quarry, he is set upon by a woman and her unscrupulous bodyguard and given an alchemical compound that destroys his memory long enough to get him into incredibly hot water. Now his Brothers of the Order are coming after him and they will take him back... dead or alive.

“They will be back,” he made an empty threat, but knew it was probably true and it would be to his detriment if they came back and found him tied in a chair for their convenience.
“Why were they fighting over you?” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You know why. Tell me.”
“Do you think you are the only one who would steal my secrets?” he asked cryptically. “Do you really want to leave me here like this so just anyone can find me?”
“Oh, now you are playing games with me,” she laughed. “Yes, I’m going to leave you here alllll alone. Don’t worry. I’ll do my best to protect you from your Brothers.”
Mark swallowed hard at that thought. If she thought she and her miserable Maxie were a match for what he knew was coming, she was sadly mistaken. His situation was not very hopeful. He had lost too much time regaining his senses and he had allowed his arrogance and his lust for the Pixie to get the best of him. Now he had really gotten himself into trouble. The gravity of the situation was totally beyond her comprehension.
“Pride goeth before the fall,” he muttered to himself in a brief moment of self-deprecation.
“You are in no position to sit and quote scriptures to me,” she retorted hotly, thinking his remark was aimed at her. “If I were you, I’d pray for a miracle instead.”
With that final declaration she left him and Maxie followed her out. He heard the precious key turn in the lock. The key that had been within his grasp so many times. He shook his head at his own stupidity.
“I was talking to myself,” he spoke to the empty room in frustration.
“And yet she was right, Brother Ramsay,” a deep voice from behind him, made his heart almost stop. He twisted his head to see who was coming to kill him now. The closet door stood open and one of the dark figures from his dream stood looking down his long nose at him. The man wore black from head to toe and tall black boots. A broadsword encased in a black leather scabbard hung from his belt and he wore a long cloak on his shoulders. His craggy face was dark of demeanor and his eyes seemed to gleam from deep sockets. His long, dark hair was streaked with silver. He looked like a vampire or an ancient sorcerer. Konrad von Hetz. Knight of the Apocalypse. An unforgiving, brooding man with little to offer in the way of hope. “Pray you should, before it is too late.”
Ramsay sat perfectly still, awaiting his fate, waiting for his heart to start beating again. The man drew the sword and he winced at the sound the blade made as it exited the scabbard. A disturbingly familiar, zinging sound. The bell-shaped hilt was configured in the likeness of a coiled black dragon with red eyes. He drew what he thought would be his last breath with his head still attached to his body and instinctively closed his eyes, waiting for the blow to fall.
Instead of finding his head on the floor, he felt pressure on the ropes at his bare ankles. He opened his eyes and saw the dark Knight kneeling in front of him, cutting the ropes with the blade. The man stood up and bent over the handcuff attached to his right wrist, inspecting the device briefly, before pulling a chain with a number of small metal devices attached to it from under his collar. Mark watched in silence as the man worked on the handcuff lock. Within a few seconds he was free.
The man backed off quickly and pointed the sword at him. “Get your boots and your shirt.”
Mark hurriedly followed the instructions, noticing that his boots were remarkably similar to the pair his ‘rescuer’ wore. “I thought you were going to kill me,” he commented dryly as he sat on the bed, pulling them on.
“That could be in the offing, Brother,” the dark man told him solemnly.
“How long have you been in my closet?” Mark had to ask as he searched in his bag for a clean shirt.
“Since before breakfast. I came while you were enjoying your shower.”
“That long?” Ramsay felt his temper rising. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“You know who I am, Brother Ramsay,” the man shrugged slightly and then placed the point of the blade under his chin and knelt on one knee in front of him. “I have come to offer my help. You are in grave danger here and I believe that you are well aware of it.”
Mark raised his eyebrows. This was an odd bit of irony coming from a man pressing a wicked blade against his throat.
“So I see,” Mark said quietly trying not to move his head.
“Come with me. We have to hurry.”
The man stood up and turned on his heel toward the door.
“What about John Tellman?” Mark asked as he joined him at the door and then wondered why. John Tellman was Cecile’s accomplice. Nothing more. He had to get these things straight in his mind. John Tellman was not a Templar, but Konrad von Hetz was.
“Who is John Tellman?” The man frowned down at him as he tried the door knob. He bent in front of the door and used the same probe that he had used on the handcuffs to open the door. So simple! He had to learn how to do that.
“Another who calls himself my brother,” he continued in the same vein simply to have something to say. An attempt to distract the Knight from his purpose. When lost, stay lost until someone finds you. That was his motto.
“Where is your sword? Still in the basement?” the man asked as he opened the door wider and peered cautiously into the hallway. He seemed totally unconcerned about John Tellman.
“I suppose so,” Mark leaned out the door to look as well. “I don’t know. I thought I had it… at one time, but I … lost it.”
“We will go back to the cellar to get it,” the man told him and stepped into the hall.
A few moments earlier, he would have agreed wholeheartedly. He wanted the sword, but he did not want to accompany this dark fellow down to the basement. Besides, Maxie was probably watching them or already on his way up with his trusty shotgun.
“Why don’t we just leave it there and buy another one?” Mark offered hopefully. He only wanted to get away from the house… Now!
“Do not trifle with me, Brother,” the tall man turned on him, still holding the sword at a dangerous angle. Mark took a deep breath and followed the man down the hall.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday for May 29, 2011

The Assassin Chronicles follows the adventures of a grumpy Scottish Knight who happens to be the alchemist and assassin for the only remaining Order of the Poor Knights of Solomon's Temple. He is one of twelve semi-immortal members of the Ruling Council. On an ill-fated assassination assignment that took him to Central Texas, he meets and falls in love with a rather gullible young lady while suffering from the effects of a powerful alchemical concoction. He then becomes a target rather than an operative as his Brothers of the Order come after him after assuming him to be a traitor. This six sentence sample comes from near the beginning of the first novel wherein he is trying to understand what has happened to him.

“What do you know of Hattin?”


She looked up at him in surprise.

The mention mention of the ancient battle confused and confounded him. He could smell the burning brushfires and hear the screams of the soldiers as the enemy charged up the hillside, killing and hacking everything and everyone to bits, even the horses. Then the vision and the sounds were gone as suddenly as they had come.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sample Sunday ~ The Wisdom of Solomon

This sample is taken from the Assassin Chronicles book #7, the Wisdom of Solomon. Meredith is attempting to conduct ritual magick in order to learn the whereabouts of her missing child and she is using three of her Brothers of the Order to be her disciples during the rite. It is not easy juggling the different volatile and diverse personalities long enough to make the magick work.

Simon d’Ornan arrived right on time for Merry’s speech to Mark Andrew and Lucio. She had them sitting on the sofa in the library again like small boys at nursery school. They looked a bit flushed from their stay on the patio, but they were paying close attention to her... it seemed.
When Simon let himself into the library and stood looking at them silently, all three got up at once to greet him in the Templar fashion, hugging him and kissing him lightly on the lips. They hadn’t heard him come in. He almost cringed when Merry touched him and did cringe when Lucio Dambretti greeted him, but there seemed to be no lingering malice in the Knight of the Golden Eagle and Simon was greatly relieved.
“Please sit down, Brother.” Merry smiled and waved him over to sit by Mark Andrew. “I was just about to begin.”
Simon sat stiffly on the sofa and clasped his hands over his stomach. He leaned back against the cool leather and almost closed his eyes. He was past exhaustion and his eyes drooped.
“Now…” Merry said and sat down on the footstool facing them. “There will be a circle and each of you will be responsible for certain items which I will give you to carry. I will instruct you in what you will do with the objects and you must do exactly… exactly as I command when I say. Is that clear?”
They nodded in unison. Simple.
“Before we commence the ceremony, there will be a cleansing bath and suffumigation. You know what that is?” she asked.
“Suffumigation,” Simon repeated the word. “Incense.”
“Yes. Exactly,” Merry nodded. “No problem, right?”
They all shook their heads in unison.
“I will give each of you separate and individual instruction concerning your proper duties. Probably tomorrow. Today is the first day. Tomorrow is the second day. Thursday will be the third day and then on Friday morning, the first hour after sunrise, we will conduct the ceremony.”
They all nodded. Lucio yawned and stretched. “You did fast, didn’t you, Brother?” he asked Simon and the priest nodded.
“And you ate white food?” Mark asked him hopefully.
“White food?” Simon frowned and then looked at Merry. “I didn’t eat anything.”
“Nothing?” Lucio looked at him doubtfully.
“Fasting means not eating.” Simon turned a surprised look on the Italian.
“You can’t starve for three days, mon! Ye’ll nae be able t’ stand on yer feet!” Mark Andrew admonished him. “Merry, do ye still have some o’ those beans out in th’ kitchen?” Mark was truly concerned.
“It’s no problem,” Simon almost laughed. He had never been as fond of eating as his Brothers. Sometimes he even forgot to eat at all.
“I’ll check on it. Tonight, I will see each of you in private. I want to know that there will be no problems. I don’t want to get down to the last detail and then have one of you back out.”
Mark Andrew sighed and shook his head slightly. What was the big deal? He had been through many things. Certainly, this would be no more taxing than living as a dragon for twenty-one years and drinking nothing but water. Merry was worried for nothing. He wished they could just get on with it without all this waiting. Just do the conjuring or whatever it was and be done with it. Simple.
Lucio crossed his legs and spread his arms along the back of the sofa before smiling at her. He had no intention of backing out. Anything Mark Andrew could do, he could do. He could tolerate it and then he would be gone. They would find out where Lucia Simone was and he would be off to retrieve his daughter. Simple.
Simon wore a worried frown. What was so disturbing about this thing that Merry had to keep warning them that they could not back out? What was she so concerned about? Just what did this ceremony entail? Sacrificing water buffaloes and chickens? He had just had a terrifying nightmare on the plane from Italy wherein he was in a dark place with thousands of rats and someone had thrown a chicken at him. A chicken! Of all things! It had almost been laughable after he had awakened, but it had been very frightening at the time. He’d never dreamed of chickens and he’d rarely dreamed of rats. That was more along the lines of something Mark Andrew would dream. Mark Andrew hated rats! The only encounter he’d had with rats was when he had been in the Inquisitor’s dungeon and the rats had been the least of his worries there. He hoped that he would be able to get through this thing intact and then get back to France. He wanted to check on Orri and then plan his trip to America. Go to America. That was what his dreams told him to do. God was speaking to him surely, calling him out of this impossible situation and giving him a new direction. He would help Merry as he had promised and then he would be gone. Simple, except that he would have to try to speak to John Paul about the Ark before he left.
Merry was speaking again and he had missed what she was saying.
“Simon?” She held out her hand and he took it immediately, hoping that he had not missed too much. She pulled him up and he allowed her to escort him from the room. He glanced back at Mark Andrew and the Knight of Death smiled at him and raised both eyebrows. Mark Andrew did not understand what was happening here. Lucio sat gazing at him blandly.
Merry pulled Simon along the hallway to the backdoor and outside into the moonlight. She led him down the walk to the patio and he paused beside the flowerbeds he had tended with such care for so long. The amaranths, violets and lilies were gone now. They had been replaced by crocuses. Red crocuses. They were very dark, but the moonlight was so brilliant, he could see that they were red. He wondered vaguely why there would be red crocuses in his garden and then realized that it was not his garden, had never truly been his garden. Merry led him to the glass-topped table and pushed him into the chair.
“Thank you for coming, Brother,” she said and smiled at him in the moonlight and he thought he would have to leave. He even started to get up and she pushed him back down. “Sit.”
He sat down and looked about nervously, placing one hand over his mouth.
“Now I have to know that you will be suitable for this… experiment,” she told him. “Now listen to what I have to say and then we’ll see.”
“We’ll see?” He looked up at her and gave her a small smile.
“I am the master of this Art,” she began. “I beseech thee, I beg thee, I cajole thee that thou now by thy consent of thy free will submit thyself to my will in all things pertaining to this Art and by submitting that thou shalt set thy trust in me to perform only those things which shall be necessary to accomplish the purpose of this experiment and this invocation and this conjuration before God Almighty and to all His angels and all His power and majesty that by putting aside thy selfish interests thou shalt adhere to thy promise wherein thou claimest no will other than mine. By placing your hand in mine thou shalt seal this pact with me before God.”
She held out her hand and Simon sat looking at her, blinking rapidly. He raised his hand slowly and then put it in hers.
Merry had not expected anything to happen when she took his hand, but she began to see images immediately, as if his mind was emptying into hers. She saw an old black woman in a bed with a trickle of blood running from her nose and then she saw Mark Andrew lying in the cave after he had ignited the gas in the dragon’s lair. After that, she saw Louis Champlain with an arrow through his arm and then the Ritter von Hetz suffering from a terrible slash across his ribs. The visions continued and with each changing scene, she saw a different person with some terrible wound or injury. Some of them she recognized as the Knights of the Council. Some of them were strangers to her. With each glimpse, she felt the pain of each man, very briefly. Each time, she jerked back slightly on his hand, but did not let go. The images passed like still frame photos or a rapidly paced slide show. There and then gone.
Simon was fascinated. He could not let go of her hand. He could see her thoughts about him. He could see how much she loved him and how much she respected him and trusted him and honored him and revered him, but he could see that there was nothing more than the love of a friend for a friend and a sister for a brother, but he had never expected her to care so much for him in any manner. It was most gratifying and very enlightening and, at the same time, disappointing in a selfish sort of way. Then he saw something he did not want to see. He saw her feelings for Mark Andrew and then her feelings for Lucio. She let go of his hand and it was over.
She stood staring at him in the moonlight, her expression like none he had ever seen. She looked as if she had seen a ghost… no, perhaps hundreds of them.
“Are you all right, Sister?” he asked. He wondered if she knew what he had seen and then wondered if she had been able to see his feelings for her. His face went deep red. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” she asked. “I had no idea, Simon. You really are a magnificent soul, a Healer.”
“I am?” He looked about and then sighed in relief. It had not been a mutual sight and he was thankful.
“Yes. I believe you will do quite well for the experiment,” she breathed and sat down in one of the chairs next to him to catch her breath. “Give me a minute.”
Simon sat looking up at the moon. It looked like the same moon they had seen in the underworld and just for a moment he could almost imagine the sounds of the spirits’ drums and the laughter of the elves. He longed to return there with her, but it was only a dream now, lost to history, but never lost to him.
“Would you please go and send Mark Andrew out?” She reached out hesitantly to touch his arm and he jumped.


Al Sajek al Hafiz dropped his water goblet on the table and spilled water into his lap. He stood up quickly and one of his servants came immediately to hand him a towel before cringing away from him as if expecting to be struck dead for allowing such a calamity to happen. He wiped at the water and then sat back down heavily. He had seen something unbidden. Flashes of things from somewhere else. Someone’s mind. Whose mind? He had seen an old black woman, a man with an arrow in his arm and another man with a wound on his ribs and more and he had felt their pain briefly. What was this? Was someone now sending him their thoughts? Could it be possible? He wore the amulet of Nodens. He was protected from such things. His first thought was the prophet, John Paul. He was the only one capable of such a thing. He left his meal unfinished and went into his chambers and closed the doors.
He sat in the middle of the floor on a satin cushion filled with goose down and stretched out his arms on either side of his body. The golden cup from the chapel sat on a small pedestal in front of him. He focused his concentration on the prophet.
John Paul was lying on his bed in his father’s house and his wife was sleeping next to him. The priest was not asleep. He was staring up at the underside of a canopy bed. His mind was full of turmoil. He was trying desperately not to sleep. More chaos. Good, but this was not what he expected. The images had not come from the priest. The Magician dropped his arms and frowned. This would take more work.


Merry stood up when Mark Andrew exited the back door of the house. He stopped on the steps and looked about before walking out the brick sidewalk toward the patio. He looked like a dream in the moonlight, but she had to shake off the thought of how much she simply wanted to go to him and take him back upstairs…
“Merry.” He nodded to her when he drew near and smiled slightly.
He did not understand the gravity of the situation. In fact, he looked rather sheepish and nervous, as if they were having some sort of secret rendezvous. For once, she wished that his usual somber self would take over. It almost seemed as if he thought all this was some sort of joke.
“Sit down, please, Mark,” she said a bit too curtly and his smile faded.
He took the chair vacated by Simon and frowned at her.
“I need to see if you can be serious about this. I want to know your true feelings. Would you like to back out now?”
“No.” He shook his head and the silver earrings in his hair jingled. He reached up to place one hand on them subconsciously.
Merry began to repeat the same invocation she had said to Simon. As she spoke, he began to smile again. These were not baneful words. Not witchcraft. Not some horrible secret words of darkness. Just a request for his willingness to obey her. He had no problem with making a pact with her. He was planning, after all, to marry her very soon and was that not the ultimate pact? When she reached for his hand, he took hers readily. The shock of what he saw rocked him back in the chair.
The first thing he saw was Simon sitting on a great white horse looking down at him. “Why would you murder your Brother? Why would you murder your love? Why would I murder you, Brother?” He held his sword up in a salute before riding away. Then Lucio appeared on a dark horse. The Italian bowed his head slightly and then pulled his silver sword from its scabbard. “I am not the source of your pain, Brother. I have forgiven you. You must forgive yourself.” He pressed the sword’s hilt against his heart and looked away across the horizon. The Knight kicked the horse and also rode away.
The next image truly fascinated him. Another horse galloped toward him and on it sat a Templar Knight in full uniform and armor. At first, he thought it was Luke Matthew again and that he was about to hear more of his long-dead brother’s prophetic words, but as the horse drew nearer, the Knight smiled at him and he saw the white braid in his long, dark hair and the silver earrings. He smiled up at his own image. He pulled in on the reins and drew up beside himself. It was an odd feeling, like being in two places at once. He reached under his surcoat and pulled out a single red rose and handed it down to himself. “Keep true to yourself, Mark Andrew Ramsay. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal. What your Brothers do, they do for love.” Mark Andrew took the rose and looked down at it. When he looked up, he saw himself riding away.
Merry thought she was prepared for what she would see, but nothing could have prepared her for what poured into her mind. These images came much faster than the one’s from Simon’s mind. They were briefer and more numerous and much more horrible than wounded or injured people. The first image was Sir Philip losing his head in Mark Andrew’s entry hall. Then she saw many more such scenes so quickly she could hardly keep them in order. She saw Argonne, Champagne, Devereaux, the man in the blue turban in front of the chapel, Beaujold, the other Benedictine priest at Ian McShan’s house, Maxie on the hillside in Texas, a soldier in a Nazi uniform, a beautiful blonde woman, another Knight in full uniform, a man dressed in army fatigues, and then more and more and more. Most were men. Some were women. The greater majority were men dressed in the far eastern garb with turbans and dark eyes and long beards. By the time she let go of Mark’s hand she was crying uncontrollably. He pulled her close and held her head against his chest, stroking her hair and asking her again and again what was wrong. She wouldn’t tell him. She couldn’t speak. He led her over to one of the rockers and made her sit down. After a few moments, she wiped her eyes and frowned down at her hands.
“I’m sorry, Mark,” she said and looked up at him. Did he really have all these things in his mind? How could he live with these memories?
“For what?” he asked and shook his head again. The earrings jangled in his hair. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” she lied and then crossed herself.
“No lies,” he reminded her and smiled, but the smile was sad somehow as if he could feel her pain. “I’m sorry that you have to put up with me, Meredith. I don’t have much to offer.”
“You’re right. No lies,” she cut him off and returned his smile. “Just don’t ask me.”
He kissed the back of her hand and then pressed it against his face.
“I need to see Lucio,” she said quietly. “It’s getting late and I’m in danger of losing control.”
This was not going to be easy. She had thought that the hard part was yet to come. If it was any worse than this, she might not make it.
Mark dropped her hand and his shoulders drooped a bit. He scratched his head and then ran his fingers through his hair.
“I’ll send him out,” he said.
They still had to make their nightly confession according to the rite and repeat the required prayers before going to bed. The thought of the underworld came back to her and for a moment, she almost wished that she could go back there with Simon. Surely, it would be a wonderful place with the evil spirits gone and the serpent dead. She even missed the rich flavor of the fresh milk and the wonderful bread that had appeared on their doorstep everyday. What a simple life it could have been for them. And she could think of no better person than Simon to have been stranded with. Well, at least, the old Simon had been the perfect companion. She didn’t know about the new Simon.

The Red Cross of Gold VII:. The Wisdom of Solomon: Assassin Chronicles

Friday, May 13, 2011

5/13/2011 6:13:04 AM EBook Giveaway Assassin Chronicles I am giving away 26 copies of the Assassin Chronicles in eBook form in a contest that runs through 9 PM your time tonight. Please send your answer to the question to The first 13 correct answers will receive copies of Books I and II of the Red Cross of Gold:. The Knight of Death and The King of Terrors. The second 13 correct answers will receive copies of The Knight of Death. Hint: I am a sucker for conspiracy theories. The Assassin Chronicles follows the adventures and misadventures of the Chevalier Mark Andrew Ramsay, a poor Knight of Solomon’s Temple and one of twelve ruling council members of the Order of the Red Cross of Gold. The Order is the only remnant of the once great Order of Templar Knights and the council members are semi-immortal Knights who have been around since the Middle Ages, running the Order in the shadows, preparing to fight with Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. The series starts with Book I:. The Knight of Death and runs through 28 novels. Book I can be read as a stand-alone novel, but the rest are dependent upon the book before, so it is advisable to start with book one. The books can be found in ebook form on for $2.99 for Kindle and also as paperbacks thru book #21. Currently, there are twenty-two books published with six to go. They are alos listed at the Ibook store and on Smashwords for several different eBook formats at a slightly higher price.


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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Red Cross of Gold ~ Assassin Chronicles: A Sample of Djinn Persona

Today's sample is taken from Book 15: The Red Cross of Gold XV:. My Hope is in God. The Mighty Djinni is paying a visit to St. Simon's Island and introducing himself to Merry Sinclair. Be warned: This is the 15th book of the Assassin Chronicles and if you are unfamiliar with the mannerisms of Djinn creatures, Lemarik's

discourse might seem rather strange as he tries to relate some rather startling family secrets to Merry. :^) Happy Reading!!

“Ho, Brother of Adar!” A man’s voice caused her to open her eyes. She was surprised to see the purple wizard walking up out of the foamy surf.
Luke stopped and shaded his eyes against the lowering sun.
“Ho, Lemarik!” Luke returned the greeting and walked out to meet the wizard.
Merry did not understand this creature at all. He was not quite a man and yet he was a man, though his movements were strange and his voice hypnotic. The first time she had met him in the inner bailey, he had scared her to death. She had been looking over the flowerbeds next to the walls in idle curiosity when he had climbed up out of the well, greeted her as if he had known her all his life and then hurried into the keep looking for Luke Matthew, his long, purple robe flapping out behind him.
She watched with one hand shading her eyes as Luke and Lemarik hugged each other briefly and then the wizard came directly to where she sat.
“Ohhhhhh,” he smiled down at her and swayed back and forth. “You are very great now. It will not be long and the babe will be here with us. Such a strange and wonderful thing. But much too painful. You should allow me to help you with that. I could make a bubble for the child and you would be free to do as you please.”
“No, thank you,” Merry declined politely, remembering that Luke had told her time and again that politeness was extremely important when dealing with Adalune Kadif. She could never tell if he was serious or just kidding with her. A bubble? “I’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will. It will be as it was before,” Lemarik made another of his endless cryptic remarks and turned to look at Luke. “Will Simon of Grenoble be attending? Will Adar come to see the birth of his son?”
“I dunna know aboot me brother, but Simon ’as promised t’ be ’ere,” Luke told him.
“Surely Adar would not miss such a momentous occasion. He missed it the first time. He should be here this time.”
“Me brother will nae be th’ father o’ th’ babe, Lemarik,” Luke told him. “Merry is me woife now. I will be th’ boy’s father.”
“Ohhhh. Ahhh.” Lemarik's eyes grew wide as he swayed back to look closely at Merry's face with first one eye and then the other. “So this is what Adar has been keeping from me. You do not love him. I see. That makes things a bit different. That makes things much more complicated. But it is just a matter of some small adjustment. The boy will have his uncle as father and the nephew will be the uncle’s son. And what will the boy call his father? Uncle? Father? Hmmm. This will have to be decided. I will call him brother.”
Merry frowned. Brother?
Luke caught Lemarik’s arm and drew him away from her.
She could hear the wizard oohhing and aahhing as Luke spoke to him in a low voice. She wondered how the wizard had managed to come out of the water completely dry. His long beard fluttered in the breeze and his dark hair blew about his head as they talked. Presently, the wizard came back to her. He bent low over her hand and kissed the back of it.
“Welcome to the family of Adar, Meredith Nichole. I am your humble nephew, Adalune Kadif, but you may call me Lemarik and I will call you Merry. Your brother-in-law is my father. Your husband, my uncle, tells me that you are not well and that my presence here may be disturbing to you or distressing to you. I would not wish to be rude.”
“You are anything but rude, Lemarik.” Merry raised up slightly to look over his shoulder at Luke. “You are quite... charming. Won’t you stay for dinner?”

“Ohhh. No. I do not think that would be wise. Your Corrigan and your Simon do not like me. They are most rude to me and I would not wish to destroy them. A mighty Djinni such as myself can only allow so much rudeness in a man and they far exceed my limits in very short order. They are friends of Adar and he would be most unhappy with me if I were to feed them to the vultures.”
Merry’s eyes widened and then she smiled. He was teasing her.
“Ahh. Such a beautiful smile. Just like Adar’s wife. Her smile was like sunshine and she smelled of violets and roses, though she bathed in vanilla. Ahhh. Vanilla. Second only to frankincense and myrrh. And her baths were such wonderful things to see.”
“Ah, Lemarik.” Luke clamped one hand on the Djinni’s shoulder. “Air ye sure ye wudna want t’ come up t’ th’ keep? I can assure ye thot me Brothers will keep a civil tongue withee or they’ll answer t’ me.”
“I would not want to be a bother, Uncle,” Lemarik shook his head.
“No. Please.” Merry began to push herself out of the chair to which she seemed to be grown. Luke came to help her.
Lemarik frowned slightly and stepped back. Merry shuddered in the cooler air that had sprung up with the evening.
“Allow me,” he said, bowed low and whipped off the purple robe, wrapping her in it. “Come, come, come.” He waved one hand to Luke. Luke frowned and stepped a bit closer, taking Merry’s arm and then they were in the castle in the library.
Christopher looked up from his computer and shrieked involuntarily at the sight of the three people suddenly standing in front of the fireplace.
“Now then, that’s much better.” Lemarik took his robe from her shoulders and tossed it across one of the overstuffed armchairs in front of the fire. Luke and Merry stood looking at each other in shock. “What a wonderful fire. I do love to watch the flames. I see all sorts of things there.” The Djinni turned about and rubbed his slender hands together in front of the fire.
“Christopher?” Luke addressed the frightened apprentice. “Fetch some woine. And some tea fur th’ lassie.”
Merry found her way to the armchair and picked up the purple robe. It was heavy and smooth in her hands. A grand piece of work with deep pockets on the inside. Soft and yet strong. Warm and yet, cool to the touch. She ran her hand along the black embroidery on the hem and wondered who had sewn the work for the wizard. She sat down, holding the cloak in her lap.
“Won’t you sit down?” She asked him and waved one hand at the other chair.
“Ohhh. No. I like to stand. It is more conducive to moving about and less disturbing to watch,” Lemarik told her and then began to travel about the room, peeking into every nook and cranny. He picked up the objects on the tables and smelled of them one by one as he talked. Some of them, he tasted and made faces of delight or distaste at the results. “I came to remind my Uncle to practice his work diligently for the time of your labor draws nigh and great things will be accomplished on that day. Some of it will be very sad for me and yet, some of it will bring great joy. But he will need to be ready for that day just as you are.”
“Whattar ye talkin’ aboot?” Luke asked and backed up to the fire and put his hands behind him to keep from waving them about in agitation. His brother had taught him to be very careful when talking to his nephew. Luke had quickly learned that a little patience always stood him in good stead and usually brought the best results.
“Omar has raised a great army. And he has taken up with the Dogs of Shaitan against my protests. I am most ashamed of him. He has allowed his mind to become polluted and he believes that he has... transcended. He no longer needs his father’s wisdom and he shuns the wisdom of his grandfather. His mind has been unduly affected by his wife just as I expected would happen. She has made him turn from his truer purposes and she has ruined my beautiful son. The sadness breaks my heart.”
“Your son?” Merry turned about in the chair to watch him as he pulled random books from the shelves, opened them and then put them back.
“Ohhh. Yes. Yes. Yes. He was such a beautiful child. Wonderful. Glorious and most wise. Most kind and most polite. And then the daughter of Adar came and beguiled him with her charms and... poof.” He snapped his fingers. “He was lost to me.”
“Wait. Wait. Wait.” Merry shook her head. “Adar’s daughter? I thought you said that Adar is your father?”
“Oh, yes. Adar is my father.” Lemarik glanced at her and then continued his perusal of the books. “My son’s wife is his daughter.”
“Luke?” Merry turned to look at her husband. “Is there something here that does not make sense?”
“Mark Andrew is or was, at one toime, Adar, th’ moighty Hunter,” Luke shrugged. “Or so I’m told. Adar was or is Lemarik’s father. Nicole was and is Omar’s woife. Omar is Lemarik’s son. Nicole is Mark Ramsay and Sister Meredith’s daughter. Damn me, if I understand it, lassie.”
“There is nothing to understand.” Lemarik swayed across the room to stand next to Luke. “It is very simple.” The wizard was a bit taller than Luke and thinner. He wore a white shirt and black pants. His tall boots reached above his knees and he wore a wide belt about his waist. The hilt of a jeweled dagger sparkled on his left side. He looked very much like a pirate to Merry, except for the long beard which she did not like. “Mark Ramsay was Adar before he came to this world. His brother, not Luke, but another brother, chased him from the heavens because he was jealous of my mother’s attentions to him. His brother wanted my mother for his own, but she did not return his affections. As soon as I was old enough, he chased me away as well and I followed Adar here. This is a wonderful world if you do not pay too much attention to the workings of men. Adar had himself born as a man and was a great wizard, a mighty sorcerer, very powerful and then he was enchanted by a sorceress. Alas. She was one of his own students. She imprisoned him for many years until his brother found him and released him with the intent to destroy him, but Adar had a surprise for him. A wonderfully powerful work of magick. And he sent his brother to the halls of dust and ashes. But his brother was also very powerful and very tricky, indeed and he soon escaped the land of Kurnugi and came to search again for Adar, but Adar had found his way into the womb with Luke and there he remained hidden for nine moons with him while his elder brother cast about in darkness for him.”
Merry sat with her mouth hanging open as Lemarik told this story. Luke stood by the fire, also staring at him in disbelief. Mark Andrew had never told him any of this. It sounded like some great faery tale to him and he would never have believed it, except that Mark Andrew had warned him to always be polite to the Djinni at all costs. The Djinni was most dangerous, Mark Andrew had told him. Extremely powerful and very unpredictable. Mark had told him to merely listen to him and agree with him for the most part and then report to him everything that the Djinni might say. So far, this was the third visit that the wizard had paid to them since Merry had come here. The first visit had been in the company of Mark Andrew and he had departed with him again without speaking to Luke personally. The second visit had been very brief. The wizard had stayed only a few minutes, inquired after Merry’s health and then gone about his business as mysteriously as he had appeared. This was the first time that the Djinni had come inside the keep and actually talked with them. Luke was fascinated and Merry was beside herself.
Christopher reappeared with the hot tea and wine Luke had requested. He set the tray on the desk and poured drinks for them. Lemarik took tea.
“And then what happened?” Merry asked him when he had his cup of tea in his hands and Christopher had left them.
“Ahh. Then a terrible thing happened. Luke, here, was born. And Adar was not ready. He did not want to come out of hiding. He was afraid that his brother would find him in his helpless state of infancy. Luke’s mother tried to make him be born, but he refused and she

Monday, February 28, 2011

Libyan Sanctions

What is it about the state of the world's collective attitude concerning priorities that allows things like this to happen?
Gas prices are going through the roof, not due to real expenses, but due to speculation in the marketplace.  Everyone recognizes the devastating effect this will have on the shaky US economy.  The unrest in the Middle East, especially Libya is driving the price up at a phenomenal rate.  In Libya, people are dying in the streets at the hands of an obviously insane dictator along the same lines as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  Muammar Qadaffi is not only mad, he is a war criminal and a terrorist.  And yet he is only one man.
OK, in order to deal with this growing crisis, WE, THE PEOPLE, have sent our Secretary of State (yearly salary $191,300) to Europe in order to DISCUSS the possibility and likelihood, the merit and impact of kicking Libya off the Human Rights Council.... say what?  Huh?
That's like saying "OK, you bad, bad man, Mr. Qadaffi!!  If you don't play nice, we're not going to let you sit on the Christmas decorating committee!!"

Muammar must be crying into this pillow every night over the possibility of a bunch of people he doesn't even know in an organization he doesn't even care about kicking off of a decorating committee for a holiday he doesn't even celebrate.  Geesh!! When will our own brand of madness be replaced with a little common sense?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sample Sunday ~ Tempo Rubato

This little scene is a conversation between the two main protagonists in Tempo Rubato ~ Stolen Time, now on sale at Amazon for Kindle for only $.99.  Also available from Smashwords.


“You really believe you were actually poisoned?”  She asked in disbelief even though she had written an entire paper to prove that it might have been so.
 “I don’t believe.  I know.”  He said.  “I received the letter.”
 “What letter?”  She asked though she had some idea of what he was talking about.
 “They were constructing a new building and according to the old ways, they needed to sacrifice a member in order to consecrate the building.”  He continued.  “Everyone knew that someone would be chosen. It was all supposed to be symbolic, of course.  No one would actually be killed.”
 “What?”  She shivered at the thought.  Again, this was part of the study she had made, but it sounded so much more sinister now than when it had been just a legend of sorts.
 “They sent the poison in a letter.”  He said.  “The letter congratulated me on having been chosen for the ‘special honor’.  The poison was in the letter.  By the time I had opened it, it was too late.”
 Elisse said nothing. 
 “I destroyed the letter; of course, because I was afraid someone else would be affected by the stuff.”  He told her.  “There was nothing that could be done.  I kept hoping it wasn’t so, but then I became ill and I never recovered.  Not until Frieda took me.  In fact, when the two men came, I assumed that they were from the group and that the time had come.  You can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be otherwise.  That’s why I never much minded what happened... until you came along.  I was a dead man and Frieda saved my life.”
 “You’ve never told Edward?”  She asked.
 “Of course not!”  William looked at her and smiled.  “He’s a member.  Didn’t you know?”
 “Then you really don’t trust him?”  She asked.
 “I trust Edward, but I don’t trust his loyalties.”  He shrugged.  “I am not sure where his loyalties will eventually lie.”
 “How do you know about Edward?”  She asked not wanting to accept that the good psychiatrist could be a threat.
 “One member knows another.”  William shrugged.  “There were others. Several in the orchestra.”
 “Did he ever say any thing at all about it?”
 “No.  And that is what makes me worry.”  He told her.  “Edward is no mucky-muck.  He doesn’t display the trappings.  He exhibits no outward signs.  That means he is advanced.  I have thought much about this.  I believe it is no accident that Edward is with me.  He was sent.”
 “But surely you are not a threat to this... this... group now!  Not two hundred years later!”  She exclaimed.  “Why?  How?”
 “Because I know their plan.”  He said simply.  “I was there when it was hatched.  You might say I was one of the founding fathers of it, although somewhat reluctantly.  But now, as then, I am a turncoat.  I am a risk.  Even now they cannot allow such risks to exist.”
 “Do you mean to tell me that you think they are still after you?”  She asked incredulously. “What could you possibly do to them?”
 “I only know that Edward is not what he seems. It’s a matter of principle.”  He said and then stopped to sit on an upturned bucket that had washed up on the shore.  He took off his shoes and socks and began to roll up his slacks.
 “What are you doing?”  She looked at him in surprise.
 “I’m going in the water.”  He told her.
 “Do you swim?”  She glanced around the beach.  They had left the line of apartments and condominiums behind.  There was nothing but beach, water and dunes to be seen.
 “No.”  He told her stuffing his socks in his shoes.
 “Would you like to learn?”  She asked and raised one eyebrow.
 “No.”  He looked up at her and narrowed his eyes.
 “We could go swimming.”  She suggested playfully and sat on the sand to take off her shoes.
 “We would get wet.”  He told her, frowning.
 “Of course.”
 He watched her as she began to undress, laying her clothing carefully on the sand.
 “What are you doing?!”  He asked.  It was his turn to be surprised.  “You can’t do that.”
 “Why not?”  She waved one arm toward the dunes.  “Who’s to see?”
 “Well...”  He looked around and then back at her wide-eyed.
 She finished her task while he sat speechless holding his shoes in his hands.
 When she had her ‘swimsuit’ on, she tiptoed down the water and waded out on the gently sloping shore until the water was lapping at her waist and then ducked beneath the waves.  It was wonderfully warm and all thoughts of Edward disappeared along with the rest of the troubling thoughts that had been plaguing them.  She didn’t want to hear any more about secret societies just then.  It would be just what they needed, another faction out to get him.
 William sat on the bucket unmoving.  She waved and beckoned for him to come in.  He shook his head and looked around again.
 “You’re missing all the fun!”  She called to him and he stood up.
 At last, she had him on the short end of the stick.  It was wonderful to see him perplexed and taken aback by her actions.  He had always been in control even when it seemed he was not.  She had felt as if she were on the outside looking in and that he held all the cards;  that she could never express her own personality without interfering with his.  But now he was lost.  She had been in his element long enough and now she had him in hers.
 She wondered if he would take the challenge and follow her for a change or if his antiquated sense of propriety would win out.  She laughed and waved at him again and ducked under the water to come up with her hair wet and streaming down her back.
 He pulled off his shirt.  Then he made a motion for her to turn around.  She turned around and waited.  After a few minutes he caught up with her.
 “I have never been in so much water!”  He exclaimed looking around him.  “It makes me feel very small.”
 “We are very small.”  She put her arm around his neck and allowed him to hold her up in the water.  “We are so small, in fact, that no one can see us.  We can’t be found.  We are lost in the vastness of the sea.  Never to be seen again by human eyes.”
 William sank to his knees and the water came up to their necks.
 “Now we are even smaller.”  He told her.  “But I believe there are creatures in these waters which could easily swallow us altogether whole without even tasting us.”
 “There are creatures on the land that would do the same thing, if we let them catch us.”  She laughed and slipped into the water to face him.  She kissed him and he looked at her in surprise.
 “So this is what Americans do?”  He asked her.
 “No, this is what tiny sea creatures from Austria do.”  She told him.  “Now turn around and lie across my arms.  I’m going to hold you up and you are going to swim.”
 “No, I don’t think so.”  He shook his head.  “It would not be... fitting.”
 “What?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.” She said taking his arm.  “I’m going to hold you up and show you how to kick your feet so you can stay up on your own.  You never know when you may need to swim for your life.”
 “But you’re a lady and I’m... I’m...”  He was genuinely perplexed. “You shouldn’t hold me up.”
 “You won’t be heavy at all!”  She frowned and ducked under the water to grab his feet, upending him with very little effort.  She thought it highly unlikely that he had ever played in the water, but did not know for sure.  At least nothing had ever been written about it. 
 He came up sputtering with his hair in his face.
 “You’ve just never been in the water with a naked lady before!”  She laughed at his expression.
 “What did I tell you about saying never, Lisserl?”  He asked and ducked under the water to grab her feet performing the same trick.
 It was her turn to be surprised.  She came up spraying water in his face and slinging her hair.
 “There was plenty of water in Vienna... and Rome... and Paris...”  He told her.  “Why, they even have water in England, but you are right about one thing.  I have never been in the water with a naked lady.”
 He began to chase her through the water splashing and ducking her as if he had done it all his life.  This lasted only a short time before the exertion took its toll and they were both feeling exhaustion creeping up on them again.  The first gray light preceding the inevitable sunrise began to grow in the east.  Elisse knew they could not stay much longer or they would be taking a terrible risk.  She held him at bay by wrapping both of her arms around him and they sank in the water.
 “Do you think we could come here to live?”  He asked her.
 “I suppose anything is possible.”  She said in earnest.
 “Do you think we could stay here now?”  He asked and kissed her neck.
 “I don’t know.”  She thought that would probably not be possible.
 “Do you think we will ever be rid of Edward?”  He asked and kissed her eyes.
 “I don’t know.”  She could not think of William without attaching Edward.
 “Do you think you will want to stay with me forever?”  He asked and kissed her forehead.
 “Forever is a long time.”  She told him.
 “Do you think that whatever is biting my toe could be deadly?” He asked and raised both eyebrows.
 “What?”  She looked down at the dark water surrounding them.
 He laughed.
 “You know that there is more to life than just holding onto each other.”  She said running her finger down his neck.  “We may not be allowed to stay together.”
 “I won’t have it any other way.”  He told her matter-of-factly.  “I’ve been giving that some thought.  I won’t have it.”
 “I don’t see how you can prevent it.” 
 “I will find a way.”  He assured her and kissed her almost desperately and released her.  “Edward and the rest of them be damned.  I don’t give one good care about their secrets and their plans and their science.  They brought me here and I didn’t ask to come.  If you will stay with me, I’ll find a way to keep you.”
 “I have no intention of leaving of my own accord.”  She told him. 
 “I have heard him professing his love for you twice now.” He told her.  She was surprised to hear that and could not imagine when he might have heard the second time. Could he actually read aloud and listen at the same time? “He may have a lot to offer you.”
 “He has nothing I want.”  She shrugged and then shivered.  The breeze had picked up and her skin was becoming cold.
 “This could be very nice, it we had more time.”  He told her and kissed her nose.
 “We’ll have to do it again.”  She agreed.
 “We could do it again now.” He suggested and looked around her at the growing light on the horizon.  He kissed her and pulled her into his lap, but a low whistle caught his attention and he immediately dumped her in the water.  She foundered and came up to see him frowning toward the shoreline where someone was whistling to them. 
 “Oh, my God.”  Elisse whispered and clung to him in the water.  Edward stood on the sand holding up several pieces of their clothing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh yeah? Well, I have a gun!

I just heard a news report about a guy who walked into a pharmacy and demanded drugs. He said "I have a bomb!" to which the pharmacist replied "I have a gun!" The would be robber left.

Immediately, I thought what if?

A man walks into a bank and says to the teller "Give me all your money. I have a rock!"

To which she replies "Oh, yeah? Well, I have paper!"

To which he replies "Oh, yeah? Well, I have scissors!" He lays the rock on the counter.

To which she replies "Oh, yeah? Well, I have a rock!" And then she grabs the rock, bashes him over the head and sounds the alarm.

What is it with criminals these days? No, no! What is it with people these days? It seems that incompetence reigns supreme from the top to the bottom of society. Imagine a would-be criminal putting up his/her resume on Monster, looking for a job as a robber. Now, the potential employee is sitting back, waiting for the job offers to roll in. But nooooooo, this applicant receives a terse email from Monster stating that there are currently no openings that match their qualifications. These people are not even qualified to be CRIMINALS.

Believe me when I say that this is not far from the truth. If you don't believe me, watch a few episodes of "World's Dumbest Criminals". I have met one of the people portrayed on the series... I believe I've met examples of everyone of them at one time or another during my career as a prison official.

Just an afterthought: You think criminals are dumb? You've heard jokes about them? Yes, but to what do we attribute this?

In a popular grocery store yesterday I saw a tag under a shelf of canned soups:

2 for $4.00 or $1.78 a can

Today I received a flyer in the mail from the same store and an ad read:

5 for $5 Chicken Breast (limit 2 packages with an additional purchase of $10.00)

So, it is no wonder the teachers are on strike in Wisconsin. They need more money so they can teach less to more students for more money than would-be criminals can ever steal unless they go to work writing ads for supermarkets.... well, duh!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Questions...

Question 1: Why is it that the computer I am working on always acts goofy?
I have four computers in my house. Three are hooked up with internet connections. It doesn't seem to matter which one I sit down I choose to work on, it always acts up. Invariably, I will spend some 2-3 hours fighting with malware removers, virus scans, updates, restarts, you name, just to get the thing going again. And these are not old computers. They are fairly decent, well-maintained and very orderly systems. I know that it is the computer I am working on because eventually, I will overcome its problems, but in the meantime, if someone else is working one of the others, I will ask "Are you able to post or are you able to open this or that?" and they will answer "No problem here!" "Mine is working! Did you try to restart? Did you run a malware scan? Did you update? Did you brush your teeth? Did you fix lunch? Are you getting up soon? Would bring me a sammich? Did you see the free multi-billion dollar giveaway for anyone named Brendan Carroll on Facebook? It expired ten minutes ago!"

Question 2: What is sexy about this image? Of course, I know he doesn't appeal to me because I am strictly interested in vampires of the female race. But this was one of the most popular versions of Vlad ever. He looks nothing at all like the Twilight fellow, but in comparison, I think I would take this one over that one because that one is stuck in high school forever and I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the price of sending a kid to high school has sky-rocketed. Personally, I would rather be associated with the older fellow simply out of economic concerns. If anyone thinks our man above is sexier than our man below, please let me know.

Composite Edition: The Knight of Death and The King of Terrors

By tomorrow at this time, I hope to be able to offer my latest publication: The Red Cross of Gold I & II at Amazon Kindle for only $3.99 for both books. This is a savings of $2.00 off the price of buying them separately. Here is a preview of the book cover as it will appear when the Amazon meatgrinder spits it out. I'll be back with the link ASAP.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13 Sample Sunday: Assassin Chronicles

This excerpt is a small section of The Red Cross of Gold IX:. The Queen of the Abyss wherein the Chevalier du Morte is trying to stave off the dragon and her minions in the underworld after having been disenchanted with the way things were going in the overworld, but a previous injury will not heal and is getting the best of him in spite of his magickal abilities.

Elizabeth’s soft shoes slapped the stone floor of the great corridor as she hurried down the hall carrying a guttering silver candlestick in her hand. Another terrifying scream echoed through the empty passage around her and made her shudder through and through. These things were happening more and more frequently now and they were worse every time. She pushed open the heavy wooden door and rushed around the bed where she set the candlestick on the bedside table before she drew back the dark velvet draperies surrounding the bed.

“Mark Andrew!” she shouted at the man who thrashed uncontrollably in the tangled bed linens.

He could not hear her. He was having another of his fits. Kicking and screaming and clutching his stomach first and then his head as great pains and convulsions wracked his body. Sweat gleamed on his skin in the light of the candle. The young woman ran from the room and back down the hall to the head of the stairs.

“Hurry! Hurry!” she shouted to the two men who came rushing up the wide steps toward her.

The two Knights passed her without a word and she turned to follow after them as they headed for his bedroom at breakneck pace.

Sir Barry was first through the door and literally flung himself onto the bed to hold the ailing man down. Guy de Lyons skirted the foot of the bed and grabbed hold of his kicking feet. Barry sat back on his stomach, pushed Mark’s arms forcefully against the carved headboard and then quickly wrapped his wrists with a braided cord suspended there for just such a purpose. He remained sitting on the Knight’s stomach as he held up the small bottle he had retrieved from his pocket. The screaming was almost constant now. They had never seen it this bad before. The Knight of the Baldric was almost bucked completely off before he could remove the cap and take a tiny bit of the precious liquid on his right middle finger.

He leaned over the Knight and crushed him bodily as he fought to hold his head still long enough to make a cross on his forehead.

The fit lasted another several seconds before gradually subsiding, while Elizabeth fell back against the wall, watching in horror. How could he possibly survive these things much longer?

Armand de Bleu stumbled into the room sleepily and came around the bed.

“Where have you been?!” Barry shouted at the younger Knight.

Armand shot a dark look at his Brother and fell to his knees beside the bed and began to repeat the prayer Mark Andrew had taught him. As the prayer drew to a close, Barry released his hold on Mark Andrew and backed off the bed to stand breathlessly by Sir de Lyons.

“That was very close,” Sir Barry grumbled and turned to look at the woman. “Where were you?!”

“I went to…” She faltered and then stopped. These men frightened her. “He sent me for some wine,” she said quickly. “I never made it down stairs.”

“Just call me next time,” Barry told her gruffly and then bent over the bed to slap Mark’s face.

Mark Andrew opened his eyes slowly to look up at the worried face of his Master at Arms.

“Get the horses!” he told them in a hoarse voice. “Bring the horses. We have to go… now.”

“You need to rest a bit first, your Grace,” Barry objected and shook his head as he untied the king’s wrists.

“Make the horses ready and wait for me. Give me an hour,” Mark Andrew relented and pushed himself up in the bed, kicking at the tangled bed linens. Elizabeth dragged them to the floor.

Sir Barry of Sussex, Knight of the Baldric, snorted his disapproval and then turned to leave the room.

Guy de Lyons, Knight of the Sword and Armand de Bleu, Knight of the Throne, trailed after him, muttering to each other about his condition and the hour and the idea of going anywhere at this time of night.

Elizabeth approached the bedside and held one hand out toward his face. He closed his eyes briefly, but she did not touch him.

“I don’t have much time,” he said when he looked up into her dark green eyes.

“I know,” she nodded. “I’ll make you a bath.”

Mark Andrew sighed and stood up slowly, holding onto the tall bedpost for support.

“Thot wud be good, lassie,” he sighed and looked down at his damp clothes and shook his head. The silver earrings jangled in his hair. At least he would be able to spend a bit of time with her before they left. He had no idea what they would find when they went out. He had been putting it off too long and now he would have to go and take his chances.

Elizabeth came back shortly and stood watching him as he pulled fresh clothes from a big, iron-bound trunk.

“Will you take me with you?” she asked hopefully.

“If you… Yes!” he nodded his head vigorously. “I will. It may help our cause.”

“I love you, Mark Andrew!” she said brightly and then hurried away to prepare the bath. The bath was the only place they had together. And their time together seemed to be growing shorter and between each of these episodes wherein she thought she would lose him and if that happened… what would happen to her?

He watched her go and then set about finding his weapons and armor in the dimly lit room. Only an low-burning oil lamp on one of the tables provided any light. But the gray panes in the window showed the sun would be rising in the east, away across the ocean below the cliff. He could smell the scent of vanilla issuing from the arched doorway that led into the ‘bathroom’. It was not a modern bathroom with all the amenities, but it was the best he could do in this place with no plumbing and no electricity. Not bad work for an alchemist. He had built many baths, but they usually sat on lab tables and were not made of stone. He was thankful it never got cold here. But then… it never changed here. Perpetual summer. Midsummer, in fact. Yes, and now it was true summer even in the overworld. He calculated the days in his head. Summer or at least very close to the first day of summer, no doubt. Midsummer’s Eve they called it. If it was the first day of summer, then why call it Mid-summer? If things were just a bit different…

He took off his damp clothes and threw them on the floor. Someone or something would take care of them for him and he would find them clean and carefully folded in his trunk the next time he needed them. Elizabeth called to him from the bathroom and he tip-toed across the cold stone floor.

Six mounted Knights waited for him an hour and a half later when he emerged from the front doors of the keep and hurried down the wide stone steps to meet them. Elizabeth followed close behind him and received six disapproving glances as she waited on the cobbles for him to make room for her behind him on the back of the black horse. She wore her finest dress and all her gold and silver at his request. She certainly looked the part of his Queen. He said nothing to the men who waited on him and simply reined the big horse around and galloped away to the south, toward the caves with them following after him. Their mantels fluttered behind them in the moonlight as they rode along. Chain mail jangled and their swords and weapons clanked as they rode single file toward an unknown destination. They wouldn’t know where they were going until they got there and each one wondered why he was taking the girl with him this time. He’d never taken her before. The sun was rising in the east and the gulls and terns were beginning to make their daily racket on the sea cliff behind them and to the right as they entered the shadowy forest. By the time they left the trees for the open plain again, they had collected a host of faery creatures, following them on both flanks and in the rear.


Chapter Two of Seventeen

that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good

“Planxty Grine!” Merry began again as she scrubbed at her apprentice’s face with a damp cloth. He was smudged black and green. “How many times do I have to tell you. One drop! One drop. You cannot hurry the sublimation with a hotter fire and you cannot make a hotter fire with more yellow.”

“But, Master…” Planxty’s grimy, freckled face was too comical for her to scold him as thoroughly as she should have. “I did only use one drop! It was not the yellow. It was the oven door. I forgot to open the door and the blast erupted upwards instead of being expelled from the side. I was unprepared.”

“Then you were leaning over the vent,” she scolded him anew. “I told you never to lean over the vent!”

“I know,” he pouted slightly. “But I think I have the hang of it now. I would like to…”

“You would like to go on now and get a shower and change clothes. It’s almost time for the banquet to start. Now, go on.” She pulled him up off the floor and then surveyed the mess on the counter. “I’ll straighten this up and then I’ll have to go change. You can clean it up tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Planxty murmured and looked disappointed.

He loved to work with all the arcane equipment in the lab. She hardly had the heart to tell him that, if things ever got straightened out, she would not be the Alchemist anymore and that he would be expected to learn the Wisdom of Solomon instead. A shudder ran up her spine at the thought of Planxty Grine wielding the magick of King Solomon and then she smiled wanly at the memory of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice and all the brooms trying to empty the flooding laboratory in Fantasia. It would be a challenge and one she would gladly have tackled if only Mark Andrew would come home again. She could not believe that she had lost him for the third time and working in his lab with his beloved equipment made her feel like crying every time she thought of him, but she had cried so much over the past several years, she could hardly have found more tears.

Simon had gone and gotten married almost immediately after Mark Andrew’s disappearance and she still didn’t know how he had met Rachel. Lucio had waited around a bit. For what, she didn’t know. She thought perhaps that he might have been waiting for her to ask him to move back to Scotland with her, but she hadn’t and he hadn’t pursued it. He had come often to visit Marco and had brought Lucia to see her, but they had never really had any serious discussions, arguments or even deep conversations about anything since Mark Andrew had simply ridden away in the middle of the night.

Lucio had seemed almost as devastated as she had been when it became obvious that Mark was not coming back. They had both lost a Brother. She had lost the love of her life and he had lost his surrogate father and his best friend. Ramsay had practically raised him from the age of fourteen or so. Dambretti had idolized Ramsay and practically worshipped him as his apprentice and then called him Brother of the Order for almost a thousand years. Certainly his grief was no less heartfelt than hers, regardless of the strained relationship between the three of them for the past fifty years, give or take a few years. Now Lucio was a newly wed and Seneschal for the Order of the Red Cross of Gold and would be returning to Italy to resume the duties of that Office again after a short respite granted for his wedding and brief honeymoon.

“Jasmine!” she whispered the name aloud. She glanced at her watch. Surely they had arrived by now and she had missed them. What a great hostess she was and Lucia, her daughter, would be coming with him. She hadn’t seen Marco’s twin sister in three months!

Planxty! Damn it! She made sure the furnace was cold and all danger had passed before she hurried up the stairs to the kitchen and then on to the second floor to her bedroom to clean up and change clothes. She glanced out the window into the back yard. The caterers were lighting the patio torches and the stringed paper lanterns hanging about the tables already glowed with festive orange lights. She could see the Grand Master sitting with the Ritter at the main table and William Montague leaning across the table, speaking with him. Simon and Rachel were still at the pit, sitting in yard chairs, staring intently into the yawning black opening at something Louis Champlain was fighting with on the grill. Simon held one of his younger sons on his shoulder, while his wife bounced the baby on her knee. A tall, elegantly dressed woman was trying to help Louis with whatever it was that was giving him trouble.

She could hear the woman’s laughter and see Louis’ discomfiture. Mrs. Dambretti, no doubt. But where was Lucio? She didn’t see him anywhere. Turk, the old cook, was standing back with his big, muscular arms folded across his chest, shaking his head in apparent disgust, a watering bucket near his feet, ready to extinguish any flaming children or guests if necessary. The other young d’Ornans were chasing about the patio wreaking havoc on everything within reach. The older children were weaving in and out the tables, chasing each other with party horns and squeakers.

She turned away from the window and almost screamed at the sight of the Italian standing in the open doorway looking at her with his arms folded over his chest.

“Lucio!” she said and pressed one hand over her heart.

“Sister,” he said and flashed his winning smile briefly before crossing the room to give her the Templar kiss.

“What are you doing up here?” she asked and looked about as if she were lost.

“Louis told me that you don’t eat,” he said. “Simon told me that you don’t sleep. Konrad said that you spend all your time cooped up in our Brother’s dungeon, smelling fumes and making decoctions all day. You are a bag of nerves, Merry. You look awful. Did you know that?”

“I’ll have you know that Planxty Grine blew up the laboratory again and I had to clean it up… not to mention, clean him up as well!” she said defensively. “Did you come up here to insult me, Brother?”

“No. I came to say hello and see how you were doing for myself,” he told her and backed away as she began to tear about the room looking for the clothes she intended to wear. “I had thought you might come down to meet my beloved wife.”

“I am coming down to meet Jasmine!” she snapped. “Surely you don’t want me to come down like this?" She pulled out the hem of the smudged white blouse and looked at him incredulously from an equally smudged face.

“I’m sorry. You are always beautiful to me, Meredith. No matter what you are wearing or how filthy you are,” he told her in all seriousness.

“Gee, thanks. Graci, Signor.” She found the dress she was looking for and began to push him from the room. “Now go and see to your new bride before she finds you up here in my bedroom. Not wise, Golden Eagle. Not wise at all.”

Lucio kicked the door shut behind him and took her in his arms, pulling her close, kissing her as if they were the newlyweds, even against all her protests until she stopped beating on him and returned the kiss sincerely.

“Merry," he said softly into her hair as he pressed her head against his shoulder and began to cry. “I know you miss Mark Andrew and so do I, but you have to come to grips with the fact that he may not return this time. I know he always came back before, but…”

“Lucio, stop…” Merry had managed not to cry in several weeks, but this was too much. Tears ran down her face and she became angry with him for causing it. “Please. Just go down stairs. I’ll be fine. Just leave me alone a bit and tell Jasmine that I’m sorry I missed her arrival. OK?”

Lucio let go of her and then opened the door.

“There’s one other thing, Sister.” He looked back at her. “Jasmine is… not like you. Not like you at all. I hope you won’t be too mad at me for marrying her.”

“Mad at you?" She frowned at him. “Why should I be mad at you? I don’t blame you for getting married again, Lucio. And if you think I’m jealous…”

“No, no. Not jealous. Just mad,” he said and looked confused. “She’s just... not like you. Not like you at all. I didn’t mean to find someone so different. I mean I wanted to apologize to you for…”

“OK, OK,” Merry nodded. “OK. So she’s not like me. Fine. Rachel is not like me either. That’s good. It wouldn’t do for a bunch of me’s to be wandering around in close proximity to me, now, would it?”

“I guess you have a point. I’ll see you downstairs, Sister,” he said, smiled again and pulled the door closed gently between them.

Merry burst into a flood of tears and rushed into the bathroom, slamming the door with a resounding boom.

How could he have married this woman? An outsider. She knew he still loved her and she still loved him and even if they could never be together, at least they had Paris… She frowned at herself in the mirror and began to laugh hysterically. Without thinking, she rearranged a vase of fresh flowers on the vanity.