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

The dogs of war: Purity teaser

He could feel anger radiating from Vanessa like steam. He understood why, of course. He had ample opportunity to shoot Heinrich in a fatal zone—the heart, the head—and end this foolish war without further bloodshed.

But Vanessa didn’t understand. Vanessa had never been truly lost and alone in her darkest time of need, had never found that one person with whom to seek solace. In truth, Vanessa had no friends. Only allies.

No matter what happened, Heinrich had been a friend.

Fane gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on the pistol at his side. Joachim was right. He wasn’t strong enough to kill the man who had been his pillar of strength after the deaths of his father and Verity.

Heinrich snarled another curse in German. He released his injured arm and, before Fane could even move to react, grabbed a fistful of Joan Gwyther’s hair, yanking her upright. She shrieked, thrashing, but Heinrich held tight. “See what you have done, Fane!” he roared, loud enough to startle birds from their roosts. “This is the end! Everything you have fought so hard to protect will die today!” Continue reading

The process of writing

Everyone does it differently. Some people write passionately with pen and paper, and only pump it into the computer once there’s a significant amount. Some take notes and plot the entire story out before even writing the first word. The goal is the same – write the story – but getting there is different for everyone.

I write by the seat of my pants. The one time I can remember plotting out entire points throughout a story, I veered so drastically off course from the timeline that it could have been a different story altogether. I learned then that plotting out every detail is not for me. So I changed it, and I gave up trying to write down what I wanted to happen. If I stuck to a single idea, that was all well and good, but if not, hey, as long as I ended up liking the story, I really didn’t mind.  Continue reading

The Continent of Cyril: Changeling mythology

A hand-drawn map of Cyril

These are a few historical notes and facts about the continent of Cyril, which the story Changeling is set. The world of Changeling has several continents, but the entirety of the first novel is set on Cyril.

Cyril is a large continent to the west of Althaea and north of Kriss, and is the most populated continent yet discovered. Though it is physically smaller than Althaea, more people choose to make it their homes, due to the diverse history of the countries, and less of a chance for random warfare.

Cyril is made up of thirteen territories. Willowfirth is the northernmost land, consisting of boreal forests, ancient mountains and glaciers. It is home to elven clans, and is the only known place where dragons will nest and breed.

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

Father and Son: Changeling teaser

With a sigh, Godric pushed the map away and wearily pulled food toward him. “From what information the generals’ scouts have given us, the range of attack only seems to be a few kilometres along the border. Along here.” He dragged one finger along the dark, jagged line that marked where Syllan ended and the Fells began. “None of the scouts were able to actually reach the barbarian camps on the other side of this forested area before being caught or attacked, so we don’t know just how long the trees go until another clearing comes through. But from that, it seems that our camp is closer to the battleground than theirs.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it? Should we suggest moving back?”

“No. They have further to go to bring their wounded back, so I suppose that is a benefit. But as long as they do not penetrate the treeline and attack the camp itself, we should be all right here.” He rubbed his face and shovelled food into his mouth. “I sent a messenger back to Nallis, to fetch more of the army. We are greatly outnumbered here, and since Nallis is untouched by war at the moment, we can afford to steal away more men for ourselves.”

“How many were you proposing?”

“Fifty thousand. Another ten goes to Galenor to supplement those who are already there.”

“What about Loun?”

“We don’t have a navy.”

“No, but foot soldiers can help organize civilians and defend in case Henson’s blockade becomes a full assault,” Alistair pointed out as he reached for the decanter of wine.

Godric considered it for a moment as he chewed. “That is true,” he agreed. “And they will not need many, as it is Loun’s navy that keeps her safe. Five thousand?”

“One. Someone needs to stay behind and guard home, just in case the worst happens.”

“Very well. I’ll have another message sent out tomorrow morning. I was discussing this earlier with the generals,” Godric said, tone changing suddenly from tired to wary, “but I have a small proposition for you.”

Concerned by his father’s voice, Alistair lowered his cup and gave him a confused stare.

“You have had extensive training in military tactics and weaponry, ever since you were old enough to pull back a bowstring or heft a sword,” Godric said, with a small smile and some measure of pride in his voice. “I never spoke it aloud, but you were much better than your brother on that account. He cared more for politics and history.”

“A good thing he was born first, then.” It was a pitiful joke, and Godric’s flattened expression told Alistair that he hadn’t appreciated it.

“Hm, yes. I only plan to stay here until the tide is turned in our favour,” he said, lowering his voice to a soft murmur. “The generals and I agreed that this battle is an ideal time and place for you to put that training into use. We want you to lead action against the barbarians and crush them into submission by whatever means necessary. You know how to do it. You are a capable leader, son.”

Alistair couldn’t help but be surprised, and let it show on his face. After the contempt his father had shown him after he voiced his opinions in the war council at the Kelver Fortress, he had assumed there was no faith in the skills he had trained so hard to perfect all through his youth.

When he finally found his voice, he stammered, “The soldiers will never follow a mage into battle.”

Godric lifted his chin and leaned back in his chair until the wood creaked. “No? This will be where all Nallisians, whether soldiers or peasants, see what you are capable of. They will see their future king in his full glory, proving his worth and honour to House Wymer. You are their lord first, then a general, and a mage. You are their future, and if they do not care to see it, then they can spend a night in the castle dungeons for their impertinence.”

Startled by the passion in his father’s outburst, Alistair remained silent for several more beats. He trusted his father, but he doubted Nallis’ ability to suddenly cope with a king who could perform magic. Yes, he could control it and it wouldn’t randomly kill people in his court, but to undo nearly one thousand years of hatred and suspicion practically overnight? The only mages who had survived living not just in the castle or capital, but the whole country, without being discovered and executed were the ones who refused to practice their magic, lest someone visiting sense their spirit or someone notice something abnormal.

His father was handing him a revolution upon his death, without even realizing it.

There was no point in refusing. Godric was still king, and would be for many more years. If he wanted to abandon his final heir to war against barbarians, so be it.

“Thank you, Father,” Alistair whispered, lowering his head so his father couldn’t see the anxiety on his face. “I hope I do you and Nallis proud.”

“You will, son. Now go rest. We have a big day ahead of us.”

In silence, Alistair stood, stomach curdling, and left the tent.

The Fields of War: Changeling teaser

Whatever allied soldiers had survived the explosion had either fled back to camp or been slaughtered by barbarians. We had not come fast enough; no corpses could use our help.

We stood there, with no inkling of how much time had passed. Both aware we were needed elsewhere; both too shocked by the savagery of what was before us to leave.

Then something stirred the air. Hession grunted, sensing the shift in spirit as well, but before he could shout a warning or unsheathe his sword, or before I could cast a spell, something invisible and hard slammed into us, sending us flying into the ash and remains. We tumbled through the embers, burning bared flesh and inhaling dust and ash. I managed to stop myself with a blast of psychokinesis—which I recognized as being the spell that knocked us back—but Hession had no such luck and only stopped when he landed face-first in the mud.

Whirling around to our attacker, I snarled and curled my hands into fists. “Lacramioara.”

“Aisling.” She smiled and flicked her long blonde hair over her shoulder. Behind her stood a flock of at least twenty Gabal Mages—men and women I had grown up with, who had all been treated to Father Zdenek’s cruelty and somehow remained. “I never expected to meet you here, of all places. I knew I smelled your spirit the night the prince left. We should have known you would not leave him to rot.”

“Father Zdenek would have killed him or have him locked away. His training needed to end.”

“Cute. Leave this battlefield now and we will spare your life,” she warned, and with a whisper of words and a flick of her fingers, the charred remains began to moan and shift around us. I grimaced, and behind me Hession let out a string of disgusted oaths. Necromancy was a filthy magic, and one I never favoured. “You know I am capable. My pets defeated you last we met. No prince is here to save you now.”

I used a minor mimicry spell to keep my face neutral. She was right, as much as I was loathe to admit it. I would have suffocated and died if Alistair hadn’t intervened and destroyed her undead creations, when we met in the woods before meeting Father Zdenek. She had been favoured in my absence.

Hession stumbled up beside me, battered and disoriented, but his sword was drawn and his healing was at work. Lifting a hand to wipe blood from a cut on his forehead, he fixed Lacramioara with a baleful glare and snapped, “Raisin’ the dead is sick magic.”

A cruel smile curled her lips. “And I learned from the best, Canton.”

As one, the bodies jerked toward us.

There is no doubt that, especially during war, necromancy was a useful, if foul, magic to practice. Turning the bodies of a general’s soldiers against him was useful, as Zdenek and Lacramioara liked to prove time and again.

However, as with most of the rare and difficult magic—chronomancy, psychometry, psychokinesis—it had a weakness, about as avoidable as the sunset.

In order to control a unit of soldiers, as Lacramioara was apt to do, a mage must know a series of command phrases in Old Helmenian—or Gabalic, in our case. Without these phrases, the corpses are reanimated but worthless. This leaves only a small margin for a Gabal Mage to cast any other spells, leaving her to rely almost solely on her undead army.

I knew from experience that Lacramioara was skilled enough to produce a volley of devastating attacks between commands but it was our only window of opportunity, and I planned on taking full advantage of it.

I lunged at Hession. As soon as I moved, Lacramioara pushed her corpses into movement. I enveloped Hession in camouflage, and as soon as he vanished from view I called white-hot fire between my palms and sent an arc of it around the clearing. It hungrily caught what was left of clothes and hair, but the bodies continued to shamble toward us.

One came close and snarled as its gnarled paws swiped toward me. In the moment between their approach and the beginnings of their attack, Lacramioara shouted another attack and a crackling storm materialized above me. The heat and electricity snapped the air, sending prickles of static through my skin. Before lightning could strike and spear my heart, I kicked the nearest corpse away and let my spirit swell within me to absorb and steal the power of Lacramioara’s attack. I gritted my teeth as the sudden jolt of power shot through me, but my spirit quelled it and pushed it down to my fingertips. Fingers splayed and hands flat, I ducked the attack of a shrivelled corpse and sent a wave of lightning through its body. The blinding blue-white flashes danced over the blackened flesh, then jumped to the one nearest and spread through the crowd.

“Aisling!”

Hession’s cry made me whirl around, just in time to see a fist of ice shooting toward me. I blasted it aside with a jet of fire before running to where I sensed Hession’s spirit. My camouflage was holding up, and he was moving silently and invisibly through the clearing. Undead fell as his sword cut through them without them knowing; Gabal Mages in Lacramioara’s troupe were swearing and trying vainly to find him and force him out of hiding.

Another wave of Lacramioara’s monsters rushed me. I sent out a blast of flames, but it only kept them at bay for several seconds.

Hession and I would be overwhelmed if we didn’t escape or do something drastic. I doubted he would back down from a fight, and I had too much pride to let Lacramioara win like this.

Drastic measures must be taken.

A blast of psychokinesis sent the corpses sprawling away, and left a neat round crater in the already ravaged ground. “Hession, keep me safe!” I shouted, then dropped to my knees and cupped my hands together.

I would need utter silence and serenity to do this. But I had neither, and would have to make do.

It was a delicate manipulation of the spirit that allowed chronomancy. Ancient Helmenian scholars once surmised that the gods only allowed a small handful of born chronomancers to walk the earth at one time, due to the dangerous nature of the magic. Father Zdenek had been one of those lucky ones, and his powerful time-alteration had been passed down through the children.

Gods do not wish the fingers of mere mortals to touch the hands of time.

My spirit slowed and nearly ceased all movement. It itched to rush through me, ready to jump at a chance for practice—a side effect of being pyrophoric—but I forced it to relax.

Calm passed over me.

Then with an intricate phrase that flowed from my lips like a tangled web that smoothed itself out into a flat braid with each added syllable, it seemed to ooze through me and pulsed.

The beat nearly rent my soul in two, with its bottled energy unleashed. I felt the warm rush of it pass through me, escape through my pores, and wash over the battlefield. It was just powerful enough to affect the clearing where we fought; any further, and the only indication would be a tingle of spirits in nearby mages.

Then I opened my eyes, and time stood still.

Hession’s spirit stood nearby, and as I stood I tentatively reached out and brushed what should have been thin air—but instead felt the rough material of his armour. Around us lay the battered bodies of Lacramioara’s risen army; the air was thick with the stench of their rotted death and lingering fire and ash. Several Gabal Mages were dead or dying, hunched in the mud where they fell. Moving slowly, too exhausted by the effort of casting the spell, I walked past the wreckage, to the spot where Lacramioara stood.

Her long blonde curls were spread behind her, frozen in a gust of wind. Her face wore an expression of hatred and determination, matched by the thin blue tongues wrapped around her arms. I reached out, fingers just millimetres from the frozen lightning. Had I cast the spell a moment later, I might not have survived.

A shiver passed through me. I very rarely tampered with time, but it always left me uneasy. I was not nearly skilled enough to stop my own aging as Zdenek did, but even just stopping time for a moment was uncomfortable. Unnatural.

I scoffed and rounded on Lacramioara. I had once fancied the idea of agelessness. It would be useless now.

With trembling fingers, I unsheathed the small blade on my hip. I whispered a small prayer and plea for redemption from the Druid, then drew the sharpened edge of the blade across the thin, unprotected flesh of her neck. The skin parted, but no blood fell quite yet.

My stomach squirmed as I slipped the sword back into its scabbard and walked back across the clearing. The air started to shift and morph around me; I froze and held back my nausea as the world suddenly tilted and time resumed.

The noise and stench hit me like a boulder and brought me to my knees. Something crackled and fizzled behind me, then voices began to screech and snarl oaths in Gabalic. Clutching my roiling stomach, I whirled around just in time to see Lacramioara collapse. Blood soaked her front and turned the ground beneath her to mud. Hands and bodies whirled around her, shouting for help and hurrying her away.

Breath stirred my hair. “What happened?” Hession’s voice was exhausted and out of breath, and thick with confusion. “I feel sick.”

I reached behind me and rested my hand on his sleeve. I murmured a soft word, and the camouflage melted off him. “We should go,” I whispered, and turned back the way we came. I kept my head down as we walked back to the hospital tent and our side of the battlefield. The sounds of battle were all around us, but our allies kept the barbarians at bay. We returned to the tent tired but unmolested, only to find no time for rest; survivors of the earlier fiery explosion were being tended to by Chard and Maks, but the two were overwhelmed.

Numb, I rolled up my sleeves and accepted a fresh rag offered by Maks, and followed him to a group of moaning soldiers, each coated in fresh magical burns.

I had never once toyed with the thought of ending Lacramioara’s life. Zdenek’s wrath would have kept me at bay, but I was no murderer.

When had I become so ruthless?

77 167 words and counting

I’m really falling for the intermingling stories in Changeling. Most of the novels I have written have focussed on one main character, with maybe a few chapters from the villain’s point of view, or those of the main character’s closest companions. For example, in Of the Arbour and Of the Arena, most of the story is written from Sage’s perspective, but there are several points where we enter the head of the villain, Cain, to give a more diverse story, as well as going into the point of view of Briar, Sage’s longtime friend, for scenes that are given much more depth and intensity due to her being totally blind.

Changeling is much different. Most of the chapters are told from the main character’s perspective – this being Aisling, in the first person, which I rarely use and am starting to really enjoy – however there are other chapters written around other characters. I know you’re thinking “Jessica, that isn’t new. People go into the heads of multiple characters all the time.” I’ve never done it to this extent before – there are so many different plots all twisting together, related but without the characters knowing. Aisling and her relationships with Alistair, Leir, Zdenek, the elves of Willowfirth, and even her own parents, and her twisted history; Alistair and his journey to becoming a mage and king, and heal his broken country in the midst of kidnapping and war; Lacramioara and helping Zdenek in plotting to [spoiler] with the help of a pirate ally and his own flock of supermages, and her own internal turmoil over her childhood feelings regarding Aisling; Vincent and struggling to raise a rambunctious ten year old alone as well as remain the strongest de facto leader of Canton, while still controlling his pirate fleet and wage war as Zdenek’s ally; Leto and remaining a true and loyal rider of the elves of Willowfirth, keeping to his faith and quest, his feelings for an untouchable human within his clan, and his deep-rooted suspicions of Aisling.

These are just the characters who have chapters told in their perspective. There’s also the secrets of Zdenek himself, as well as those of the upper echelon of the Willowfirth elves and Aisling’s parents, and the conflicts of kingdoms. Throw in minor skirmishes and conflicts, mythological creatures and random uprooting and relocation – such as moving the princess of Nallis (Alistair’s little sister) to a desert island nation – and this is one of the more complicated stories I’ve ever written.

I love it :3

And as usual, there are some minor characters shoving their way into the spotlight. Vincent’s daughter, Sophia, is so freaking adorable. Her father isn’t the stereotypical dirty pirate lord – in fact, he’s a little neurotic – and because of it, she’s wild and is majorly raised by his right-hand man, Saïd. As shown in a recent post, when she meets Alistair she clings to him straight off the bat. He’s technically her enemy, due to him being the son of the enemy of her father’s ally (confusing!) but she’s so innocent and curious about anything and everything around her that she just doesn’t care. Another character, Morwenna, is similar to Sophia in that she’s minor and stealing the limelight. She’s an elf that ends up being taken under Leto’s wing; she’s too curious for her own good, as well as being clumsy and a little naive when it comes to the world, and Leto treats her like a daughter.

Ah, I’m most pleased with Changeling right now. I keep getting ideas and I’m so excited to get them in. Shit is really starting to hit the fan for Aisling and Co, and they’re going to hate me for it.

“This is the most beautiful room I have ever seen,” she breathed, slowly moving to a mosaic and tentatively reaching with her fingers. It was an image of a beautiful nude woman with flowing golden hair; at her waist started the body of a fish, and her hands were webbed. Her piercing stare was made of two sapphires, flawless and sparkling in the sunlight shining through the room.

“Can you imagine what Mahara Pavanir’s rooms must be like if this is just a guest wing?” I moved up beside her and tilted my head to the side. “What type of gem do you suppose that is?”

“I’m more curious as to why someone would use a gem for her nipples, and not just glass like the rest of it.”

“Perverse fascination, perhaps? It looks flawless, but that might have been overdone.”

“I am really starting to love walking into your conversations,” Adele piped up. Leir and I glanced back at the entrance to the apartments to see her standing just inside the room, a small smile curling her lips. “Most servants censor themselves no matter what, for both conversation content and accent. I see why my brother is so fond of you.”

I flushed and pointedly looked away from the mosaic, embarrassed, but Leir only grinned. “We are most sorry, milady,” she said in her false western accent, sounding anything but sorry.