Legal Theft Project: Worse Days Yet to Come…

His magic had never failed him before, and now a boy was dead. He’d been too late. His protection charm had failed. The protections writ in wood and iron had been no match for the ritual here. The fire burned higher at his back. The light showing the circle, the body of the boy, and the bodies of those who had sacrificed him. At least he’d done that much.

Thus he was dramatically silhouetted in front of the fire and behind the bodies when the guard finally responded to the reports of smoke.

“Drop the weapon! Get on the ground!”

The mage stared for a moment, awed by the universal truth that things could always get worse. Then he muttered a few words and vines burst from his staff to entangle the guards. Cries of “Mage!”, “Demon!”, and “MURDERER!” assaulted him as he wove through the guards to the exit. A few of them got blows through and some of his own blood joined the collection on his clothes. He held back. They were just doing their jobs. He knew what he looked like, and he certainly wasn’t the hero of the piece.

The mage staggered up the stairs to the main floor, across the hall, and out into the garden. Then he ran. Ran through the rows of flowers and hedges. Ran toward the forest beckoning on the other side of the hill. To shelter, to green and growing things, toward life. He got most of the way there and happened to glance back. A figure in gleaming armor with a large sword on his back stood on the garden wall watching him.

The mage gulped and turned back to the forest with all the extra speed he could muster. The day just got worse and worse. Magical reserves all but spent, he made it safely away from the burning house and the horrors and would be heroes it contained. It didn’t matter that he’d tried to stop it. He looked guilty as sin and that was enough. It was only later, holed up in the bole of a hollow tree and miles from any path a horse could walk, that he allowed himself to grieve for the child he’d failed to save.

*****

Hours later, in the room where the bodies had been laid after the search, and before graves could be dug for them. The dead boy sat up and smiled to himself. He hopped down off the table and helped himself to one of the cultists daggers. His smile sharpened and he sauntered from the room. Things were going better than he’d dare hoped.


I am a thief! I stole this first line because someone left a gate open and I couldn’t resist. No really, go see for yourself.

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Legal Theft Project: Facing the Storm

“What are you doing?” she asked, seeing the chain and pendant in his hand. He did not answer right away so Solaria leaned in the doorway. She’d learned all her patience from him and was far better at it than he was. Ashael slipped the chain and pendant into his pocket and smiled at his daughter. Her hair had streaks of grey and she had a daughter who had a son. Solaria did not look old enough to have a grandson.

“Going on a walk,” he said. “Go with me?”

Solaria fell into step with her father, he looked at her and she could see decades swirling behind his eyes. They strolled out of the manse and out toward the cliffs Ashael favored. The waves beat a tattoo against the base of the cliffs. They walked with the easy familiarity of old friends along the path that could have been worn into the rock by Ashael’s feet alone. The sky was darkened as thunderclouds moved in from the west, and the wind urged the waves into greater fury against the cliff base. Ashael flicked his wrist and spun a quick breeze to keep the major effects from hitting them as they walked.

Solaria’s lips twitched in a smile. “That’s not your storm.”

Ashael laughed. “Not yet anyway.”

Solaria looked across at her father. He was looking fine around the edges, like the years were sanding him down closer and closer to his soul. Not lessening his features, but heightening. The points of his ears seemed sharper, his cheekbones finer. In short he was looking more and more ethereal.

They arrived at Ashael’s favorite overlook. They stood in the face of the strengthening wind looking out over the expanse of the bay and the canvas snapping on yardarms.

“I never get tired of this view,” Ashael said.

“It’s grown. You had three ships worth of supplies and people and now…” She looked out over the acres of cultivated orchards and fields, the sprawling docks with constantly shifting cargo, and the streets twisting between blocks of warehouses, houses, and parks throughout the city.

“Stormbolton.” Ashael’s hand dropped into his pocket and his fingers toyed with the pendant.

Solaria smiled. “No better place to call home.”

“None what so ever,” he said with a matching smile. He came to the decision then with all the quickness of the winds he rode. He drew out the pendant by the chain and held it out to Solaria. “So I don’t plan on leaving.”

Solaria’s brow furrowed the way her mother’s always had when Ashael had made a decision she knew she was going to dislike. “What are you planning?”

“I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen. No one has ever attempted this outside of the Hame.” Solaria knew that grin. Her father felt a deck beneath his feet, and the wind at his beck and call. He was set on his course and set on enjoying himself.

“You know what you’re doing? Because I do not want to tell Galahar and Iseulle you injured yourself with ignorance.” She drew out the words, measuring them carefully so he could see how much they meant to her. She accepted the pendant and he pulled her into a hug.

“I love you, Solaria.”

She hugged him back. “You’re scaring me, Dad,” she admitted.

He sighed and leaned back from her. “I’m sorry for that. I’m tired Solaria, and I don’t want to bury you or your siblings.” He made sure she was meeting his eyes. “If I were human, you would expect me to go any day. As I am now, I would live through more generations of my family than my shoulders could bear.”

“I understand, but it still sounds like a cop out to just…”

“I’m not, Solaria. I’m just getting stronger shoulders.”

Solaria blinked at her father.

“Just trust me.” He was looking at her with that bright eyed confidence he’d had when she was a child.

“Always,” she said. It was low, but her eyes were steady.

Ashael pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “Then watch.” She let him go and he leapt off the cliff, using the winds to hold him aloft as he raced to meet the storm. Laughing.

It wasn’t that long before she could not tell the difference between the winds Ashael was riding, the storm, and which of them cast lightening, but the storm was held off the coast  and she swore she could still hear her father’s laughter. She clutched the pendant and cursed the fact that he hadn’t told her what part it played in this odd challenge of the natural world.

Thunder pealed out in quick roaring sheets and lightening played across the clouds. Finally there was a flash so bright Solaria was forced to look away. The flare following the flash was even brighter, and then the wind settled down, and the storm dwindled in the sky. There was no sign of Ashael.

Solaria gripped the pendant tightly enough that her knuckles turned white.

Calm down, Solaria, it’s all right. The words came on the new breeze blowing her hair back from her face. It sounded like her father, but it had a deeper resonance. It’s all right. The flapping of large wings brought her eyes up. A massive dragon scaled in silvers and blues descended from the sky. I said I was getting stronger shoulders.

“You never do anything minor. Ever.”

Never. He said with a laugh. Though this will take some time to get used to.

“Your mastery of understatement remains unchanged.” It was disconcerting to hear her father’s voice from the dragon, but… at the same time, the dragon was definitely her father and the same warmth and care he always emanated.

As do most other things. The pendant will allow whoever wears it to call me. I want you to have it, and then pass it on to the next heir and so on and so forth. Ashael created an air cushion and sank onto it.

“I’m glad we’re not losing you,” she said and slipped the chain over her head so the pendant hung over her collar bone.

It is the choice we have, to move on or to stay and watch over our domains. I chose to stay. The dragon smiled. After all, this is all the home I’ve ever wanted.

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I’m a thief! I stole this from Gwen at ApprenticeNeverMaster. See what she wrote here.

Legal Theft Project: Wind at Your Back

He handled frenzied leviathans and royal messengers with equal insouciance. The leviathans were easier though. Ashael poured two glasses of pomelo nectar and offered one to his guest. Heverard accepted though he declined the offered chair. Ashael draped his cloak over the arm of his seat and sipped at his drink. “You look carved from ice, Heverard. Whatever does my mother want that has you so stiff?”

Heverard held his fingers very still around the curved bowl of his nectar glass. Ashael looked as untouchable as ever. The golden rays of afternoon sun streamed through the crystalline cabin windows and gilded Ashael’s fair hair. The sea green Duveldre eyes watched Heverard with a cool dismissal that made what Heverard had to say easier.

Kir Ashael, I regret to inform you that your father, Kir Lysander, has gone to join his ancestors.” The cool formality of the Adularrii phrase echoed oddly in the cabin.

Ashael bobbled his goblet. “My father would never…”

“It was not of his will, Ashael.”

Heverard’s words stopped Ashael short. He blinked and took a sip of his nectar before putting it down on the side table. “What do you mean?”

“Your father was murdered. It is currently assumed that a zealous group of humans was behind the assassination.”

Ashael turned to the window and let the sun hide his features. Formal announcement delivered, Heverard took a seat and sipped at his drink. His throat was oddly dry and he sipped again.

Ashael did not turn his head when he spoke. “So I must move with all speed back to Khallais.”

“The Kourii would appreciate haste in this matter.”

Ashael could not keep the bitterness from his voice. “So it was more than my mother’s conceit.”

“Cohesion is important in such uncertain cir-”

“I was not asking you, Heverard.”

Heverard pressed his lips together and wrapped his fingers around his goblet a bit more firmly.

“Is there aught else?”

“From Yvain and Illien, no.” Heverard stood. “For myself, I sincerely hope you do not let them down.”

Ashael laughed. He spun from the window to face his mother’s seneschal. “Let them down? Goodness, no. I plan to devastate them.” He grinned. “I’ll come back to Khallais, but not for the city, and definitely not for her. I’m going to find the offal that ended my father and pay them back with interest.”

Heverard retreated into his ice. “Well then.”

Ashael waved a hand. “Do head on back to the embassy, Heverard. I would not want to clip your ears.”

Heverard turned on his heel and walked out, back stiffer than a frozen mast.

The door slammed shut as Ashael clenched his fists and let winds race around the cabin. Books, trinkets, and his remaining nectar crashed to the floor. He was going home.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That darned Babbling Buzzard babbled a bit with this first line. Go enjoy the crazy on her blog.

Legal Theft Project: Second Chances

He’d take a vow of silence and murder ten kings before he’d let them scuttle the Defiance. As he doubted they’d wait for him to hunt down and slaughter ten kings, he’d better hurry. Dawn was not far off. He clambered aboard and walked to the center of the deck. Long and rapier sleek, Defiance stood against horizon, man, and sea daring anyone to take her down. The sky and sea let her be, and if he didn’t speak quickly, she’d strike down the foolish man who dared to set foot on her dark planks.

“You know those fools want to scuttle you in a few hours,” he said.

The sails unrolled and snapped forward. The cannon rolled forward to the ports, unloaded, but the message was clear. They can try.

“They call you a jinx ship. Cursed. No longer fit to be sailed. I say they’re right.”

The deck pitched, he stood firm. A line lashed his cheek, leaving a red welt.

Brandon raised his voice, “You don’t need anyone to sail you. You’re your own Captain. You scare them. They’re scared of dying.”

The ship bobbed on the swells. Brandon felt the ship lean in to listen to him. He’d fought in battles that turned the sea-foam red, he’d warred with men whose name brought nations to their knees, and if he’d still been somewhat sane the attention of the Defiance would have frozen his marrow. Instead Brandon’s blood fired and he dropped his hands to his sides and spread them palms out.

“I saw you in the harbor before I heard them whispering tales. I don’t care which of them are true. I don’t care how many men you’ve killed. I don’t care how many more will join them. All that matters to me is that when some man broke faith with you, you fought back.”

He stepped toward the quarter-deck and the slowly rocking helm. “And it wasn’t enough, so you lashed out and took vengeance on any man who crossed you. Death and Fire! Wasn’t that a kick in the ass.” Brandon’s eyes blazed and he paced the deck. “You’re the most gorgeous thing on the water because you stand up and fight. You never rolled over, turned to drink, disrepair, or dissolution. You never ran your hull into rocks and let them get away with the hurt they caused you. You never believed for a moment that you deserved one lick of bad fortune. You-”

Very clever. He could feel the scorn and anger in the interruption. But pretty words and sob stories will not save you. A loose line dropped in front of him and formed a quick noose, then unwound again. What do you want, dead man?

Brandon looked down at his hands. He put his back against the mast, and the fire went out of his eyes. “I deserve to be dead.” He shrugged and looked back toward the helm, his hand falling to the small dagger on his belt and he tapped his fingers against it absently. “My life isn’t worth the air I breathe, and my heart is a sorry pile of shards.” He held out the hand that wasn’t tapping the dagger hilt. “But I’m all yours if you want me.”

The sails billowed in the slight natural breeze. Why should I let you call yourself my Captain?

“Because you and I know it’s just an empty title. I know I’m not worthy of you.” He dismissed himself with a smile. “But I’m here, and I can hear you.” He shrugged. “If you find someone better, you kill me.”

I’m going to kill you one way or another.

Brandon’s fingers stopped tapping an idle tattoo on his dagger hilt. “Then do it. We can both be dead come dawn, or you can take me and we’ll make a legend that no one will ever forget. It is and will always be up to you.”

The ship lurched, and Brandon stood. The sails furled inching back into rest with the precision of a naval crew. A single line dropped and twined around Brandon’s neck like the caress of a lady’s hand.

You’re mine.  Brandon tilted his head back and laughed. “By the stars and sea I am.” The line dropped from his neck and the door to the captain’s cabin swung open. The Defiance took Brandon’s offered heart and tucked it away far more carefully than he knew. But he would, one day.

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My friend, over at buildingadoor is a thief! Click to read what she did with this first line. I must say I loved it.

Fantasy: Spirit’s End by Rachel Aaron

The epic conclusion to a campaign arc that takes characters to levels from myth and legend, and never flags or falters. I enjoyed Spirit’s End so much I finished a chapter, stared into space mouthing the word ‘Wow’ and dove back into the next chapter. This book kept me from getting sleepy. My heart raced as I prayed my favorite characters would survive. I called up friends only to babble incoherently about how they simply must read this book.

Coherent reasons to read this book:

1. The world building is flawless. Every point has a counter point and the fabric of the world doesn’t bend or buckle, even under the pressure of cosmic plot and powers. I learned a lot about necessary details and consistency by reading this book.

2. Holy pink guacamole, the action sequences. If my heart raced as I wondered who would survive this book, I never got to stop racing because one right after another, things kept crashing down and unraveling. I watched a movie in my mind and it was Return of the King scale epic.

3. Character consistency in the face of extreme pressure. There are points where it looks like people lose themselves, only to come roaring back. I believe every character in this book. Most of them are flawed. All of them are important, and all are handled with sensitivity. This is not a pure black and white battle and is not handled as such. I fell in love many times over.

4. It Ends. It is named Spirit’s End and it actually ends. I would read other books set in this world, but what I respect the most is that this 5 book series is done. The story this series tells, has ended in a most satisfying and final way. In a time where I have read so many tales where authors keep going like energizer bunnies, this reminds me how stories are supposed to end.

To speak else would include spoilers. Suffice to say that Rachel Aaron is awarded a spot in my library forever.

Fantasy: The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron

As the old man standing up to Loki in The Avengers says, “There are always men like you.” Or in this case, there are always people like you.

This fourth book in the Eli Monpress saga is Joseph, the swordsman’s, book. It starts with his back story and he centers the plot. This is a book where all the simmering threads and questions from the previous books explode into action. There were some plot twists I saw coming and some that surprised me. What impressed me the most, however, was how the challenges stayed complex and threatening to dearly beloved characters.

There was no easy answer to any of the hero’s problems. No sword that could slice everything, no easy way to justify moral decisions, and villains that harmed the heroes. I think the best recommendation I have for this book is that I could not put it down and I was never bored. I immediately ran to Barnes and Noble for the next book. When they did not have it I dealt with a serious case of grumpy for the rest of the day. This book has such a well written intriguing ending that I simply HAD to have the next one. And the next one was even better.

[Kate looks at all of the gushing above] This will make more sense if you read the previous reviews in the series The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater. Then read the upcoming review of Spirit’s End.

Fantasy: The Spirit Rebellion & The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron

Oh how the world can change with just a stone roofing tile. Helped by a wizard thief, the greatest swordsman of all time, a girl with a demon problem, and the ever stubborn Spiritualist who wants them all arrested.

The 2nd and 3rd books in the Eli Monpress series continue the romp through the world of The Spirit Thief. Neither book falters nor slows down. If the first book was our introduction to the world and the main players in it, then the sequels focus more or less on the three members of Eli’s band. The Spirit Rebellion leads to revelations about Eli’s past and The Spirit Eater deals with Nico – the girl with a demon problem. Josef the Swordsman is covered in the next book, The Spirit War which will be reviewed shortly.

In addition to the main trio, Miranda Lyonette is the perfect foil to Eli. She is the cop to his robber, the white knight to his anti-hero. And she manages to be a likable well rounded character. Miranda is not the villain here. She just happens to not be in the Eli Monpress club. She is not the only member of that club, but she is certainly the only one I like. Both Rebellion and Eater have fantastic villains and well crafted plots. Witty banter and feats of daring abound. I was charmed and entertained by it all. Out of the five books total in the series, one, two, and three are similar in tone and quality. I cannot recommend one over the other.

That said, if you think this sounds like a relatively brainless series: Think again. The exploration of free will, control, and choice underlay the struggles and threats of this action packed world. And you must read these three books if you are going to understand the final two books in the series. At the conclusion to The Spirit Eater I sensed that a change in tone was imminent. I was not sure I wanted to read the next book if that was the case. A shift from the light witty action series to dealing with issues on a grand scale is rarely done well. Goodness was I wrong. So while I recommend this series highly, the first three books are strong fun reads, the last two are so epic that when I tried to describe them to friends, I lost the words because I did not want to spoil anything.

Read these, you won’t be disappointed.

Fantasy: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

I picked up The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron because the sample page ended on the phrase, “He’s stolen the king.” Interested in meeting the kind of person who would steal a king (not kidnap a king mind you, that gets old), I looked forward to a quirky medieval fantasy tale.

Well, I got a wonderfully frustrating thief in Eli Monpress, foils for his cheer and antics in his two companions, and a unique and clever fantasy world to play in. I particularly enjoy the magic system employed in this book. Eli is called a wizard, is hunted by a guild of wizards known as Spiritualists, and spirits can awaken, think, feel, and are the general venue for magic. Magic seems to be control of spirits. I got the sense from this novel (the first in the series) that there is more to it than that, but it is still too soon to see.

There is a great deal of emphasis placed on free will and choices, the good people often having many, and the bad guys resorting to forcing their will on others. Free will being a favorite theme of mine, I think this book shall remain on my shelf and I shall read the rest of the series. Hopefully the series will stay as entertaining as this first romp through Eli’s world.

I must say I found the plot rather predictable, but the characters are endearing, and this book is simply so much fun! Part heist caper, part game of cops and robbers, and part saving the kingdom I enjoyed the plot and pacing. There are a lot of details like Josef’s sword, the nature of demons, the League of Storms, and the occasional mention of the Shepherdess, I want to see explored in future installments in the series. I know most of the books are already out so if you are looking for a new series to sink your teeth into, take a look at this witty fantasy and its easy humor.

Fantasy: The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore

And thus begins my love affair with the Forgotten Realms. I have not read this book in its entirety in years, but it will never leave my shelves. The Crystal Shard introduced me to Drizzt Do’Urden and he stole my teenage heart. There was nothing about the lonely stoic ranger that didn’t tug at my heart strings. Ignorant humans kick him while he’s down, he is utterly loyal to his true friends, and he was such a perfect tragic hero I was blind to any and all flaws.

There will be a different post about the pitfalls in R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series later, this post is dedicated to the sheer nostalgia of discovering a new group of adventuring companions and the wonderful world of the Forgotten Realms. I have never played a straight Drizzt knock off in any of the many campaigns I’ve played, but I do have an elf in my head who started out as a misunderstood drow. I may also have a fascination with two weapon fighting, strictly because of Drizzt.

Magical and heroic, the Crystal Shard is my gateway fantasy drug. A quest to defeat the bad guy, heroic companions, and written more simply than my beloved Lord of the Rings. The Crystal Shard was the book that made me say, “I can do that. I want to do that.” Nothing in this book will ever be a total cliche to me, because I saw them here first. The dragons, the evil sorcerers, the armies, the magical cat, and the outcast hero are defining bits of fantasy, and I will always love The Crystal Shard for opening the portal to the Forgotten Realms.

Fantasy: The Bell at Sealy Head by Patricia A. McKillip

Reading a Patricia A. McKillip book is like sinking into a dream deeply enough that even when you know you should wake up, you don’t. At least not until your head aches from absorbing the images and rich world densely folded into the pages.

The Bell at Sealy Head is one of the lighter books, in that I only feel that there is water about two feet over my head instead of two hundred. All of her writing is lyrical and gorgeous. This particular book is a song lilting out of the hills on a foggy morning followed with a faint sound of bells ringing deeply. An original fairy tale in structure and character, the book is best with an overcast morning, a slice of sweet bread, and an herbal infusion.

This is not a dark book. Wonderment and entertainment are the purposes for these pages. As in any of Patricia A. McKillips work, there are themes relating to literature, human life, and the twists of people’s personal perceptions. In the range of her work however, this is less epic and more light-hearted. If you like lush language, a sense of wonder, and high fantasy, try The Bell at Sealy Head.