Parental Embarrassment: Changeling teaser

Holding back the eager power of his own spirit, Alistair closed the rest of the distance between them, and his son’s spirit came into view.

“Spirits, Father. You’re a wolf!”

“You too? Good. I’m glad it isn’t just Aisling who sees it that way.” Alistair peered at the creature sitting timidly in front of him. “You are… odd-looking.”

The thing lifted its forepaws and looked around as if seeing itself for the first time. “Why? What am I?”

Alistair frowned and let out a groan. “Oh, I know the name. You know in all those Cyrille and Althaean fauna books your grandmother gave you when you were a boy?”

The thing put its forepaws down and its nose and whiskers twitched. “Yes…” Continue reading

Fantasy is ever-evolving

When I first started writing Changeling, the story was set on a single continent: Cyril. It was, like much fantasy, a decidedly medieval European setting – of the thirteen territories, five are based on England, one on France, one on Scotland, one on Wales, one on Poland/Czech Republic, one on Greece, and one on English colonies. Then as the story progressed, I added a second continent, which was based on Indian and Arabic settings of the real world; this was called Kriss.

Imagination progressed, as it is apt to do, and a third continent was imagined: Althaea. Although none of Changeling is set on Althaea, references are made to the culture to the east, and it is mentioned in passing. Althaea is based on German and Native American cultures, as well as English colonies, because the people of Cyril have shipped across the sea to try to claim it as their own.

So here I am, 70 000+ words into Changeling’s sequel, Abomination, and out of the blue while I’m working, I come up with a fourth continent idea, the tentative name of which is Thörstaag.

It, obviously, will be based on Norse and Scandinavian cultures. Continue reading

Monsters of the Past: Changeling teaser

I swallowed a lump in my throat and my hand drifted to my knife, which I had taken to wearing on my hip instead of my leg once we entered the Old Lands. “Logan, I am the one who lives in this territory,” I said weakly. “I am the one who had to convince you that it wasn’t haunted. But this place… it feels wrong.”

Logan stopped and looked at me, head cocked to the side. Sophia crunched away, oblivious to our hesitation. “Riane, this is why we came here. My legs haven’t stopped hurting since we left home, and I have never been filthier. But this is why we came, remember? We were going on an adventure to break from the monotony of our lives.”

I bit my lip and stole another glance in the direction of the fort. “I like the monotony,” I whispered, but he ignored me and jogged away to catch up with Sophia.

I watched their retreating backs, and my grip tightened on the hilt of my dagger. Night was quickly falling; soon we would be lost in the darkness, and I knew I wasn’t about to camp next to the ruins of the fort. We would have to walk back to Vavenby, and that would take all night.

My gut twisted and a shiver crawled down my spine. We were trapped. Continue reading

The Drunkard King: Changeling teaser

Jory dodged her and watched her skip through the murky evening. “Who is she?” he asked as I stepped up to him.

“Sophia Henson. Captain Sophia Henson,” I corrected, rolling my eyes. “You have probably heard of her. Her father was the late pirate king of Canton, Vincent Henson. Some people call her a queen. Most call her the Pretender.”

Logan cleared his throat as he stepped past. “Be nice, mutt,” he said, and followed Sophia out the door.

Jory watched him go, as well. I doubted his eyebrows could get any higher. “Who is he?

I resisted the urge to rub my head. “My younger half-brother. He’s also the heir to a Southern Kingdom. Let’s go.” I grabbed his hand and towed him from the big house before he could ask any more questions. Continue reading

The King Without a Crown: Changeling teaser

He made another noise, then crunched a few steps away. “Take off their blindfolds. We have nothing to hide from the likes of them.”

Rough hands yanked at my hair as the knots were untied, then the blindfold was pulled away and I saw him.

He stood a metre or so away, arms folded across the broad expanse of his chest. He wore dark cloth trousers and a similar tunic, with sturdy leather boots tied to his knees. Draped over his shoulders was a thick black fur cloak, which was clasped in the front with the tarnished bronze face of a bear. Tall and powerful, he watched us with dark eyes beneath thick, beetled brows; his hair was long and curled, pulled back from his face with a single braid down the side. Continue reading

Old Nostalgia: Changeling teaser

The air quivered under the weight of her open spirit. His own squeezed up in fear; she was liable to wrench the castle from its roots in her rage, and bury them all with her.

Behind him, Hession groaned. “Fuck me,” he hissed. “I forgot.”

Alistair ran his tongue over his dry lips as they neared the main hall. He hadn’t forgotten. He had spent the past seventeen years aching for that spirit, in tenderness or anger, if only to remind himself of what could have been. Continue reading

The Last Night: Changeling teaser

She was on the verge of sleep. Her weight was on him, her head on his chest and hair tickling his nose. Her breath was heavy; it brushed the hair in his oxter, nearly making him giggle.

The evening was hot. He was almost ready to beg for fall, just so late summer’s obscene temperatures could end. Their skin was stuck together were she lay on him, and the rest of him was covered in a light film of sweat. The windows were all open, albeit with nets to stop mosquitos from buzzing in, and a small fire was lit only for light. They had long ago kicked off all the blankets from his bed, but it wasn’t enough.

She seemed to sense his unease. Their skin parted with a wet noise as she moved, and she blinked blearily at him. “What’s wrong?”

He couldn’t help but smile. Her hair was tousled around her head, and her lips were puffy and red; she looked like she had a rough night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Running his fingers through her hair, he dropped his head into the pillows and sighed. “I’m going to be crowned tomorrow.”

She was so precious when she was half-asleep. All her defences melted away, and she was almost drunk with exhaustion and innocence. She gently spun her finger in his chest hair and blew on his damp skin, making gooseflesh ripple down his chest.

“You will make an excellent king,” she said, and patted his chest. “Have you planned how you will announce your magical inheritance?”

“Not word-for-word, but I have a general idea.”

“That is a start.” With a soft groan, she rolled on her back, so she lay arched over his lap, arms spread and face pointed to the ceiling. He thought it looked horribly uncomfortable, but she didn’t seem too bothered by it. “The king’s chambers are much better than your old room,” she remarked, lifting her head just enough to look around. “More windows.”

Alistair smiled and took one of her hands in his. Her fingers automatically tangled themselves with his. He frowned; she was being unusually affectionate, had been all day. It was odd, but not unwelcome. With a contented sigh, he kissed her fingers and let their hands rest beneath his chin.

“You know, you hated me a year ago,” he said. “Have you ever thought of that?”

She let her head roll to the side so she could see him, and she smiled. “It wasn’t yet a year ago. It was late fall, not summer. It was after your birthday. And I did not hate you, but you were an annoying little fungus.”

His brows arched. “Fungus?”

Her smile lessened, but the tender emotion of it remained in her eyes, and his heart skipped. “You grew on me. I am quite fond of you now.” She moved, leaning slightly on her side; then it happened again, the same thing she had done earlier. He had touched her breasts, they being his favourite part of her—well, other than her eyes and amazing personality, of course—and a grimace had flickered across her face, so quickly it was almost imperceptible. He had refrained from touching them after, except very lightly, to his great disappointment.

She adjusted her position again, so she wasn’t leaning her weight on her side as much, and squishing her breasts between her and his abdomen. His frown returned, but either she pretended not to notice or was completely oblivious to his concern.

“Are you all right?”

She rubbed her eyes and crawled up beside him. He automatically opened his arm so she could lean on him. “I’m fine. Only tired. Thaddeus has had me worked to the bone since we got back.”

He kissed her head and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. She didn’t fight; rather, she nestled closer, as if taking advantage of every chance she could to touch him. Unable to help himself, he brushed her hair off her neck and kissed her there too. She hunched her shoulders automatically, and he chuckled.

She shuffled to look up at him. “Are you happy?” she asked, hushed.

“I’ve never been happier. Are you?”

She took a moment to answer. When she finally did, and turned to him to look him straight on, he thought there were tears in her eyes. “My life has never been happy, but spending these past few months with you is the closest I will ever come to bliss. I will remember this moment until the day I die,” she whispered, and kissed him.

He wanted to tell her. At that moment, with her warmth pressed into him and her lips, tasting of wine, against his, he wanted nothing more than to tell her exactly what he felt. But Hession’s words still rang in his head, warning him away from any rash decisions.

She pressed her palms against his chest and kissed the heartbeat in the hollow beneath his jaw. Without another word, she settled herself on top of him. His hands automatically set themselves on her hips, but as he looked up at her his breath caught in his lungs.

There was something dark in the depths of her eyes—something desperate and unforgivable.

War Council: Changeling teaser

It was the second hour of the meeting when Alistair’s presence was finally acknowledged. Yes, he was there because his father had died and he was the new Nallisian monarch, but the only official ceremony he needed was a coronation, especially during a war. They could have managed the meeting just fine without him.

“Now we can send more help to Syllan!” the Lounian ambassador shouted, louder than those around him with a thick accent. “Montfort and Loun are no longer threatened by such danger as—”

“You trust the end of that blockade?” someone else shrieked. “It was a pirate—”

Quite abruptly, one of the ambassadors—Alistair had no idea where from—stood from his seat and slammed his hands on the tabletop. The room fell quiet, and the air around him crackled with suppressed fury. Lips pressed in a thin line, he pointed an accusing finger at the row of thrones and snarled, “Let him explain the goings-on of the embargo! Should we be concerned that Nallis will secede from the Kingdoms and make a partnership with the foulest land in Cyril?”

Alistair kept from rolling his eyes at the melodrama. Other voices rose up in protest, accusing him of joining hands with a pirate and selling the soul of Nallis; the ambassador lowered his hand, smiled smugly, and returned to his seat.

Queen Ailith cleared her throat and stood. It took a moment, but the anger of the crowd went from a bubbling froth to a simmer, waiting for a chance to explode again. Once it was relatively quiet, Ailith gestured to Alistair and said, voice echoing off the hall’s stone walls, “Before we accuse anyone, we will allow them to speak. King Alistair, will you explain to us why Captain Vincent Henson is claiming you and he are allied?”

With a sigh, Alistair stood and rested his hands on the railing before the thrones. First act of public speaking as king, and it was to explain his actions like a naughty child.

“I am certain many of you were here the last time I attended a war council, when Vincent Henson sent the allied cryonics here with an offer to stand down. I said then, and will reiterate now, that I spent time in his company during my captivity in the Gabal Mountains, and I know that he has the mind of a businessman. Offer him a suitable enticement, and he would end the blockade; offer him slightly more, and he would help us. He does not run on loyalties like we do; rather, he gives his help to the one who pays him the best.

“My opinions at that war council were scoffed at,” he added, remembering the day with distaste. “And it seemed you all decided to leave Montfort and Loun’s coastline to the fate handed to it by Vincent Henson. I returned to Syllan with my father, and the war continued as it had before, with no alterations despite our attempts in this chamber.

“Over a month ago, on the Syllan front, I received news that my father had been killed in an ambush in Galenor. My brother passed away last fall, leaving me heir to Nallis, and king I became after my father’s death. My first act as king was to send a letter to Captain Henson’s blockade, requesting his presence in Syllan. He obliged and left the embargo in the care of his right hand, Saeed Hartir.

“I offered him exactly what he wanted to hear, and what we should have done, as allies,” he emphasized, glaring down at the dignitaries gazing up at him in silence, “when the idea was first brought to us. I offered him a monetary sum and the removal of his outlawry in Nallis; in return, he ended the blockade and agreed to attack the coast of the Wynd. For as long as there is money left in our agreement, Canton and Nallis are allies.

“So yes, it is true what you have heard. I have made a contract with the pirate king of Canton, and thus ended the blockade of Loun, stopped the destruction of Montfort, given Syllan an opportunity to actually win a battle against the barbarians, and found a way to distract the Wynders and help the Galish loyalists recover and turn the tide of war in their favour. I have no intention on seceding from the Southern Kingdoms, and as for Canton being the foulest land in Cyril”—He shrugged, anger reaching a peak—“I can certainly think of worse places. Have any of you ever been to the Necropolis, or the unclaimed territories?”

The silence met his ears with a painful ringing, and he backed away from the railing, satisfied that he had made his point. With a frustrated snort, he sat back in the throne and crossed his arms, feeling rather like a petulant child.

Ailith gave him a long stare, face carefully composed to hide her thoughts, then stood once more and faced the council. “King Alistair has given his reasons as to his alliance with Captain Henson. We shall not discuss it now. This meeting shall be adjourned until further notice. Thank you all for joining us today.”

Alistair stood and bowed to her before the first ambassadors began to file from the room. “I appreciate your hospitality, Your Majesty,” he said, just loud enough that the others in the room could overhear if they so desired, “but I would rather not join another war council until after my coronation. My duties lay in Syllan—for now.”

Those sparkling green eyes remained on him for a moment, unblinking and impassive. Then a smile crossed her features and she held out a hand. Alistair took it and kissed the back. “I understand, King Alistair, and I thank you for gracing us with your presence for today, at least. You will send my regards to your sister?”

“Of course, my lady. She will be delighted to hear from you.” He bowed again, murmured meaningless farewells to the other monarchs, and left the chambers through the rear entrance.

He didn’t hesitate a moment when he returned to his borrowed chambers. Changing quickly into riding gear, he packed away the few supplies he brought with him, added extra food and drink, and collected his escorts before hurrying to the stables.

Maybe Aisling was right; maybe he could ease Nallis out of Helmene’s grip, and bring in a new age of independence with his magical inheritance.

But for now, he was just going to focus on staying alive and beating the barbarians in Syllan. Royal business could wait.