Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New novella "The Leaf Flute" now available!

Our new novella staring Danaco, Bartleby, and Rannig, is now available! 

Before the events of Damson's Distress, and indeed before Damson ever joined Captain Danaco and his crew, the men of the good ship Myrellenos had their own adventures.

A mission to save an emissary's effects becomes a quest to dismantle the entire Sesternese underground, and by the power of Rannig's musical prowess, Danaco's cunning, and Bartleby's rants, the black markets of Sesterna will never be so disrupted nor so thoroughly entertained.

Buy The Leaf Flute in digital format at any online retailer. To purchase on Amazon, click HERE. 

Many thanks to all the readers who made this publication possible! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Story of the Day: The Lady Tabytha Ardalyddes

Many wonder what sort of lady it is-- or lord, for that matter-- that can attach Captain Danaco's heart, and while he might have many a dalliance, there is only one who has succeeded in capturing his perfect attention: The Lady Tabytha Ardalyddes, Matron of the Cipher:

A gale drifted in from the neighbouring harbour to complement the rising tide, and the saline intimation of the sea roused lilted over the balcony, rousing the matron from a gentle sloom. She sat  
up on the bed, her legs swathed in silk sheets, her pinned hair disheveled and deflated, one side of her face warm and wrinkled whence pillows had pressed against it, and she had time for one oscitation before consciousness revived what the throes of violent passion had so lately exhausted. She hemmed and rubbed her eyes, her features illuminated by the subdued light pervading the balcony window. She had been only asleep a few moments, but the sight of sideboard already furnished with high tea, and the glimmer of moonlight casting its lunanata along the far far, made her believe she had been longer out than she really was. Curls of steam billowed up from the teapot, the water and wine had already been mixed, and the butter on the warm scones had begun melting.
                “Hollie came in,” said a voice beside her.
                A hand smoothed over her thigh, and she turned to find Captain Danaco lying at her side, lounging with his legs draped over the side of the bed, his head supported by the bedrest, the amber glow of the setting sun painted across his chest. A satisfied smile wreathed his lips, the carps garlanding his arms undulated as he flexed, he widened the space between his legs, and he gave her thigh an affectionate press.
                “Milado,” she laughed, looking down at his full form.
                He pressed his hips forward and gave himself a suggestive look. “I know seeing me altogether is always a treat. Do not I look well by twilight?”
                The matron shook her head and blushed in spite of herself. “You are positively incorrigible.”
                “Do say so, inpala. Were I not debauch and irredeemable, I should have been exiled for nothing at all.”
                “I forget the terms of your banishment far too often.” She leaned forward, the tip of her nose meeting his. “Did you at least cover yourself when Hollie came in?”
                “You dare ask me to cover something so exceptional as this?” said he, bending a knee and gesturing to his whole extent. “Am I not impeccable? I do work on myself tirelessly. No one should be spared from the result, not even Hollie.”
                The matron’s eyes crinkled with smile lines. “How you will make a manstress of yourself, milado. Only imagine my position.”
                “I daresay I do imagine your position a great deal, inpala. I saw it only half an hour ago.” Danaco drew his fingertips along her lower back, tracing the outline of her hips. “You make a monstrous pretty shape when you are bent before me.”
                Here was a salacious look, and it was shared and blushed over and deliciated in, and though the matron turned aside, to regale in shameless iniquity and secret away a grin, she pressed the captain’s hand and held it to his heart.   
                “How you will flatter me, milado,” said the matron, turning back, “but did you really not cover yourself when Hollie came in?”
                “Indeed, I had no reason to shield her, inpala. Her eyes were turned toward the wall the whole time. She is such a timid creature, and she is so mindful of her mistress’ privacy that she is all hemlock when I am with you. Would that I had a dozen such on my ship.”
                “That would be and unnecessary indulgence to you, milado, and we know you are never addicted to indulgences.”
                With gentle alacrity, Danaco clasped her wrists and drew her down, laying her breast against his. “I am when you are my indulgence,” he purred, touching his nose to hers.
                He grazed her cheek with the back of his hand, drawing a drape of boltered wisps away from her face, and while eyes met and spirits regaled the redemancy of elated hearts, other sentiments soon prevailed. A gravity soon appeared, each remarking the other with a sobering aspect, and the knowledge of what must be beleaguered them both.
                “Evening is coming on,” said Danaco presently, holding her hand over his heart.
                She made no answer, and the captain pressed her fingers to his lips, watching the solemn feelings of what gloaming must bring surmount her. Her gaze faltered, her voice and courage failed her, and the hand that cradled her chin and passed his thumb along the promontory of her cheek only made her more melancholy.
                “Would that you come with me, milada ina,” Danaco dutifully implored. “I should make you my maiden of the seas, and you should stand with me, with your hand at the helm and the coarse sea breezing tumbling your hair -- but you are too much a woman of the world to be confined to a ship, and while I would have you at my side, at my table, and in my bed evey evening, while I would climb the rigging to the nest to bring you feathers from passing falcons and tie myself to the keel to bring you pearls from the mouths of mollusks, you naturally belong to this house and everyone in it.” He drew his forefinger along her neck and traced the turn of her throat with his fingertips, following the line along her collarbone. “I should be a selfish brute to take you from this place, for there should be no rescue. There would be only the cruelty of plucking a rare bird from her nest to convey her to a nautical cage.”
                 “I could never love the sea as you do, milado,” said she softly, with a pining air.
                “Never, inpala. Your hair would be a hideous litch from the breeze, and your complexion would be a coriaceous wreck, and I should never have you lose your looks because of something I compelled you to do. Appearances are never important until we ruin them, and I should never be so savage against such an exquisite landscape.”    
                He studied her expression in silence, and the pangs of parting soon supplanted all their happiness. Evening always brought about his leave, and though he must go, and she had borne the agonies of separation many times before, there was no reasoning them away; the longer he stayed, the more impossible it was to part, and while it was a pain not unfamiliar to her, she could never reconcile herself to it. It was a perpetual vexation, one that must be suffered again and again, despite her exultation when he was near. Wretched adoration. Why must she love him, and why must he lavish her with all the unmitigated attention that their attachment to one another deserved? It was a cruel trick, a lark of the most vicious kind, that nature should always contrive to keep them apart, that he must be to to sail the seas and she must be repelled by them. Her illness aboard vessels prevented her from ever going from land again, and though she tried to get the better of her ailments for the sake of one day going abroad, her wellbeing compelled her to stay. She could never go with him; Marridon was her home, and her duty to her many loyal subjects at the teahouse would keep her there for as long as good business permitted. Should she have someone to leave the teahouse to, should she have a daughter or even a sibling, to care for the Cipher, she would be more inclined to ignore her illness for the sake of flying with him, but the captain was the only one in the world she could consider as lover, and the captain was not a man to be kept by children. She would ask him to stay, but it would be cruelty to keep a nautivagant captain from his domain, and with such a ship and such a crew, it would be taking him from the home he had made for himself after being forced to quit the one he was born to. If he could not be a lord in Lucentia, he should never be a lord in Marridon; there were too many in Marridon’s first circles who would disdain him for his heritage, and though Marridon was a moderate kingdom upon the whole, the nobility, a class to which Danaco naturally belonged, would never admit a foreigner amongst them, reguardless his parents’ connections. Gentry, regardless of realm, were more interested in situation, and Lord Danaco Divelima had been expelled from Lucentia, a sin that might have been forigiven had he never taken up a profession, and that done by any man of half his rank was an unpardonable disgrace. To be distinguished as a Captain of a ship was respectable in its way, but as a captain of the navy, with uniform and distinction to add to his claims, and Danaco would never join the king’s service. He liked to go his own way, as any Lucentian far from home should do, and she could not command his predilections, though her heart would readily obey his, if her health and situation allowed. Being a lady of some consqeuence in Marridon was rather a blight than a benediction by any stamp; the women that made up Marridon’s gentry could never go where they liked, as many places were considered unfit for ladies, and a few minutes spent near a stews or even a watering place without the accompaniment of gentlemen would weave tales in the mouths of idle gossips, but being a rover, being the looking-piece of a Lucentian captain, was a sin of the first order. The civilities owed to a lady of quality in Marridon should be gone forever, she should be abandoned by all her better connections, and the matron sighed over the destiny of ladies in good society, whose moral judgement led them to love unabashedly and whose depravity led them to pay for it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Story for the Day: The Cat and the Wizard - Part 2

The digital release of The Leaf Flute is fast approaching. The art is nearly done, and all the edits have been finished. It will be available through all digital retailers, and the paperback version will shortly follow. Become a patron on our Patreon page HERE, and receive The Leaf Flute e-book free at the end of the month. And now, part two of the wizard and Mr Vostibbens:

The wizard sighed and looked sullen, and Mr Vostibbens gave his leg an affectionate rub.
                “Yes, I know you are still here with me,” the wizard crooned, petting the cat on the head, “but you do spend most of your time at the teahouse with Tabytha, and rightfully so. I would have you here oftener, but I own that she is the properest person to be in charge of you while Beldynn is away. She is an excellent manager and a good friend for lonely old men who have nothing else to do but pine over their sons.” He paused, and a velocity of unpleasant feelings assailed him. “He was there again today,” he grumbled. “Do not play coy, Mr Vostibbens. You cannot pretend to it. I know he was at the teahouse, and I can tell by your look that you were talking to him. Last time we spoke of him, we had a protracted discussion about why you should not be talking to him.”
                The cat sniffed and looked perfectly unassuming.
                “What do you mean there is no harm in talking to a scientist? They are the harbingers of everything that is mercenary and detrimental to the old ways! They are a wizard’s natural adversary! How could you betray me by courting him and sitting on his lap? Do not come here to me and pretend it was all innocently done. I know what scientists are—and given the chance, you know he would club you over the head and dissect you and claim it as a scientific necessity. You are nothing to him but feline anatomy to be recorded. Yes, you have very fine anatomy, I’m sure, only do not let that scientist find it out. If he discover you are a wizard’s cat, he shall take you apart flesh and bone to prove there is nothing extraordinary about you. What a man like that does not understand is that extroadinary cannot be measured with a microscope. He will look you up and down and examine every hair on your body and cry, ‘Aha! It is only a cat!’ without understanding the consciousness or acknowledging the soul. Fah!” he spat, tossing his hands. “Scientists! What is before them is all they see, and all they need to see. They care nothing about anything that cannot be quantified. Their reliance on logic alone is ghastly appealing. What good has logic ever done for anybody, Mr Vostibbens? Has it saved anybody? Has anybody used it to great advantage? No, because whether it be science or magic, everybody will believe as they like and leave reason by the wayside. Wizards understand logic as well as any scientist, and we know when is proper to use it and when we should rely more on intuition, a thing scientists say does not exist because it cannot be calculated.”
                The cat canted its head, and the wizard sulked in silence.
                “How can you say such a thing. Mr Vostibbens?” said the wizard presently, in an injured voice. “Do not say we are alike—indeed, we cannot be alike. It is morally and literally impossible that I should be compared to a scientist. You shall take it back, and you shall never repeat such a thing again. It hurts my feelings. Because I hate him. Do not look at me as though I have just offended your whiskers. I hate him, and that is all. I am a wizard, Mr Vostibbens, but I am still a man, and I am not above base aspersions. I am old and have no time for cold civilities.”
                He gave a curt humph and folded his arms, and Mr Vostibbens chirruped and seemed severe.
                “No,” said the wizard, with a relenting sigh, “I do not believe he deserved what happened to him, despite my feelings. I have no ill-will against the old man, regardless of how little I like his profession, but the Dean of the Academy, that atrocious institution—that man I would gladly see smoulder in the raging agony of a fire spell.” His fists clenched, his nose flared, and he snuffed. “Of course I would use spells on him—do not for a moment think I would not, only it has been forbidden by the king, and I do respect His Majesty, though he has prohibited the open use of magic. I know he only did it because the Chambers convinced him that magic is somehow harming someone—and yet he allows for the construction of that misshapen iron monstrosity that is to barrel through here in a great whiff of noise and steam—that he should forbid, but instead His Majesty bans the demonstration of magic in a public forum. It is discrimination run mad, Mr Vostibbens. Do they believe wizards would simply begin attacking technological progress? If we wanted to do so, we need not do it so brazenly. There are many spells that would make a locomotive dismantle itself. It is impudence and blatant disesteem of Adiethian ethics that impels the decisions in the Chambers.  And now the Academy has not only removed its courses on magic, but it has expunged the curriculum of Adiethian history too. What is the Dean about, trying to have Marridonians forget their anscestry—and why should he remove class on magic? It is not as though the class was on practical application, only theory. If we forget our forebears and their ways for the sake of scientific endeavour, we will go nowhere as a people. We cannot move forward without glancing backward once in a while. That is the very meaning of accomplishment. Yes,” with a heavy sigh, “I am rhapsodizing, but I am grown tired of learned men thinking that magic is merely something to be forgotten. I do not mean to set myself against anyone, but they will make themselves such officious antagonists. Cannot they see there is such a thing as magic? Do not they see that it works?” The wizard gave a little flourish, and a blush of iridescent colour trailed from his hand. “And if magic did not create that glow, what did? Frewyns have little difficulty understanding that both science and magic might co-exist. Why must Marridonians be so obdurate? Perhaps that is part of the reason Beldynn left us for that frigid sloe of a country. There is talk of a Frewyn church being to go up near the residential quarter, rather in the poorer part of the capital. I suppose that is the easiest way to entice parishioners. The Chambers cannot like it, because it would mean Frewyn religion pervading the precious Marridonian womb, but why they should allow Frewyn magic in and want Adiethian magic out is amazing to myself. Is it because Frewyns do not call it magic? They might call it the Gift of the Gods, but it is magic still--- yes, I know I am rambling,” giving the cat a sharp look. “I do not mean to be so quarrelsome, Mr Vostibbens. I am only an angry old man, and when one in my line and at my age sees those of the same being suppressed into silent oblivion, it does vex me. Do forgive me.”
                Mr Vostibbens bowed his head.
                “Thank you. Well,” said the wizard, rolling up his velvet display mat, “I shall do my best not to talk of science or scientists at dinner. I have got my staff, and that should be all my concern—what was that?” stopping and staring at the cat. “You cannot be serious. Leaving? And he is going with the captain? But how can it be? Did Tabytha have anything to do with it? Well…” pausing and stroking the white bramble at the end of his chin. “But the man is married to his library. I daresay he will take the whole library with him. You know, Mr Vostibbens, though I do not like the man, it is a sad thing to think of such a paragon of the academic world as being to leave it. I suppose you are right in one respect—do not look at me like that, I am giving you your due credit—we are alike in that we are both becoming relics. Soon his ideas will be considered old fashioned and will be discredited by the country. I suppose they already are, which is why he was removed from his post. Once he is gone from Marridon, and all his knowledge gone with him, and his peers no longer look to him for guidance, he will understand how we feel. He certainly understands the isolation of genius, whatever that genius might operate by.”
                The cat shook its head, and the bell around its neck jingled.
                “I do not mean to call myself a genius, Mr Vostibbens,” said the old man, with a dignified air. “I only meant to imply that people with great knowledge understand how that knowledge must be got. Mastery of any subject requires much solitude and patience, leaving time for little else. Yes, we might be lonely in the evening of life, but we have gained in other ways.” He passed his thumb over the pommel of his staff, and his brows furrowed. “To leave our knowledge to our children, that they might benefit from our discoveries and concessions, is all any old man could ask for really.”
                A slight blush tinged the wizard’s cheek, and he looked gravely at his empty table. A nose pushed his hand, and the wizard looked down to find Mr Vostibbens standing on his haunches and nuzzling him.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Story for the Day: The Cat and the Wizard

Mr Vostibbens, the teahouse cat, has many acquaintances, but his most pressing call is the one he makes to Haryld, one of the last wizards of Marridon:

The milkman’s cart rattled along the cobbles, the rag and bone man brought his bags in to be sorted, the sharpener took his bell down from the jaunty, and through the davering  gaits of laymen and
labourers leaving their stations, Mr Vostibbens tittupped across the main square toward the fountain. He stopped to drink and glean the commendations from passing ladies about his cravat, and once he was amused enough, he pranced across to the wizard’s row, where the old men and their apprentices were storing their wares and taking down their tables for the day. A sharp look from a raven and a gawp from an owl was the worst censure he endured as he passed, but companions nowadays were not the same as they once were—a noble position, one to be revered and respected, not one to be filled up by the dregs of animal life -- and Mr Votibbens ignored the glaring condescension of the inferior ranks, pitying them for their mistaken sense of ascendancy when they had done nothing to deserve their situation. He had always been a companion, and though his first master had gone, he should be a companion still; he must carry himself and act as though his master were not far off, and while he disregarded the envious stares and would consciously remember to forget them, he held his tail and head high, honoured to reflect the office he had so long held and pleased to show those who could never earn or love the position how a wizard’s companion ought to behave.
                He went to the last house in the row, and there, crambling around his table and putting his potions away was an old wizard, who was noggling about with the aid of a particular staff. He miffled to himself, riffling  through his various trinkets with an air of confusion, and glanced down at the gold pommel of his staff momentarily, to catch his reflection looking back at him.
                “I think I have polished you too much,” said the wizard, scrutinizing his staff. “You make me look at myself, and I have not been interested in appearances these many years. I suppose I should be glad you are come back to me, and let you reflect me all you like, even to my dismay. I’m an old man anyhow, and very soon nobody shall mind what I look like. Where did I put that charisma potion? Ah, here it is. They do work, of course-- I should know, I made them— and yet I have never been tempted to them, nor has anyone come to buy them since I put them out. I cannot understand why. I have seen many faces that could use one-- oh, hello,” glancing down to the cat at his feet. “Come to make your call, have you? Well, look what’s just come back to me this very day,” giving his staff a flourish. “Yes, you guessed right. The captain brought it back to me, just as I said he would do,” and then, in a more serious hue, “My Lady watch over him and his crew,” raising his eyes and holding the staff to his heart. “May his deeds be justly rewarded,” and then, rallying himself and returning to his usual conviviality, “So, are you come to join me for dinner?”
                The cat looked expectant and licked its lips.
                “Well, you are dressed for it, certainly. I had not meant it to be a dinner party, but if you will treat it as a formal dinner, I shall not stop you. And how lovely your cravat is, Mr Vostibbens,” the wizard proclaimed, reaching down and touching the starched cloth. “Did the haberdasher do it up for you, or was it the tailor? It is very well made.”
                There was a pause, and the cat pawed the wizard’s leg.
                “Yes, I agree. I think Beldynn would approve it. It does look very well on you, but finery always did. All the nice things that Beldynn used to put on you. What? Do not look to me as though Beldynn’s going off was my doing. I will not be held accountable for his having gone so far. If he wanted you dressed every day, he should have taken you with him, but you know him. He is eccentric and odd as any of us. Me? Well, I certainly was not going to dress you once he’d gone. Tabytha is much better suited to cosset you. She is rather an ostentatious sort of woman, but she is a very compassionate and good one, upon the whole. Do not glare at me, Mr Vostibbens. I meant no disparagement to Tabytha when I said ostentatious. She is a lady after all, and ladies generally know what is best.” He paused and focused on the cat,and after receiving some intelligence, he continued, “Oh, you saw them, did you? Well, that’s your own doing. Who told you to be so absolutely curious? Beldynn never taught you to be such a prying-tom, but he never did bring home anybody to skulk away with himself.”
                A meow succeeded here, and the wizard’s wooly brows arched.
                “How is Beldynn? Oh, he is pretty well, I daresay—as well is anyone can be in such a frigid country. Why did he have to chose Frewyn, of all places? There was no need for him to cross the sea. He only need go across the country, if he wanted to escape from this house. He knows I will never visit him there. The snows are enough to kill any man. What honourable country has snow for seven months of the year? I know you may like it, but it is unnatural for snow to fall in droves. A light blanket dusting the countryside is all anybody should ask for. I am not as young as I once was. The cold whips through my bones—the heat, too, bothers me. I have no idea how you suffer it with such a thick coat. It is uncommonly warm today,” looking suspiciously at the sky. “No, I do not think Jenkynn had anything to do with it. At least, not this time. He is doing well, though I know you did not ask. I’m telling you anyway.”
                The cat licked its paw and rubbed it over its ears, and the old man gowled and looked offended.
                “Yes, well,” said the wizard cooly, “you might not care about Jenkynn, but I’m proud of both my sons, so let me proud of them equally, and that is all. They are both highly accomplished and good boys. Beldynn has got his students now, and Jenkynn has got his first companion.” He paused and looked mindful. “No, I should not worry, if I were you. I do not think Beldynn shall have another companion again while he is away. I know I certainly could not have more than one companion at a time. Ms Byra never would have allowed it.” He stopped and quirked a brow. “What do you mean, she was a fusspot? Well, yes, she was officious, but she was my companion, and she was excellent company to me after Hettie passed on. She was a little nattish betimes, I grant you, but she was a somebody to talk to. You cannot blame a wizard for wanting a companion, Mr Vostibbens, just as you cannot blame an old man for being lonely.”
                And he was lonely, more lonely than a heart so deserted by those he loved would dare confess. Solitudinary habits and fearful isolation was a wizard’s sufferance; their work required all the quietude that a study and an endless stack of ancient tomes admitted. Vellum and inkstands spoke more than words and voices did in a day, and where staves and the secrets of the Old Kingdom reigned, the centuries of suppression must follow. The wizard spent the chief of his day with his beakers and books, rapt in rumination over the mysteries of Mlys, whilst idle patrons treated those in his profession as a national curiosity, and with his sons, his wife, and his companion gone, there was little more for the wizard to do but wait for a pilferer or a caller, whichever came first, and send letters to his sons, who returned the correspondence sparingly now that they were on their own. A new apprentice should keep him well engaged and make the day more lively, but animation was never recommended for his time of life, and though he would teach anyone who wished to learn the Olde Ways, too few had any interest. The captain was right: in a country that prided itself on commerce and economy, there was little time for the arcane, and though the wizard’s residence was hardly in dilapidation, it was not what a man of business would occupy.