Why Am I Doing This?   Leave a comment

Well hi there, brothers and sisters.

Since Aaron kick started me with the blog I did last week, I figured it might be a good idea if I got back to keeping up with my responsibilities’ around here. I mean there’s no sense in having a blog if you don’t blog, is there? The only problem is, I tend to run out of subjects to blather on about. But I’ll give it a shot and try to get at least one blog in a week… maybe two if I’m lucky.

Now you may suspect that the above title pertains to this blog, but it doesn’t. Instead the title is a paraphrased version of a question I have been asked a few times about my nearly finished novel, Wolfsong. It generally gets asked when the person posing the question discovers that I plan on giving away a novel that I’ve been working on and revising for the past three years.

Usually the actual question is, “You worked on this story for three years, and you’re going to give it away for free? For God’s sake why?” Or something along similar lines.

Putting aside the look on the questioner’s face at the moment, (The one that makes me suspect they have the local mental health clinic on speed dial and are thumbing the button.), it’s a legitimate question. Why am I basically working for free over the last three years? The truth is… I’m not.

Wolfsong actually began as something of an experiment, and a bet between my wife, Tammie, and myself. She had found a few short stories that I did ages ago and kept for sentimental reasons. She also discovered an online story I co-wrote on a renaissance festival site that encourages such things. Which prompted her to ask why I didn’t write anymore.

I went on to explain that writing was one damned hard profession to make a living at, and made certain to include all the negative things that I’d come up against back in the 80s. I might as well have been discussing advanced quantum mechanics with the Statue of Liberty. Not that she didn’t understand… she did. But, the poor dear has more faith in me than I have any right to expect.

So, just to prove my point, I went back to work and created Wolfsong. To be fair, I did my best at the time, and put every outdated thing I remembered about writing into it. Then, I tried to sabotage the whole mess by making the book a POD, (Print On Demand), and doing absolutely as little as I could to promote it. My evil plan was to be able to say, “See? I told you so.” It didn’t quite work out that way. The darn thing double crossed me and sold a few copies, (So, you see, I already did make a couple of bucks off the story.).

Ok. So she was right, and I was wrong. If I’d have known at the time such a thing would happen, I would have done a better job on the story. Now that I know, I am doing just that. I pulled the title, treating it as a rough draft, (And believe me, boys and girls… it IS a rough draft.), then set to work rewriting and revising the story. The difference now is, I want to attract some readers. To do that I need to put my A-game forward instead of just a half-hearted attempt to prove myself right and my poor wife wrong. I never win at that one, anyway. But I keep trying.

Now, I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I did realize that the story had some potential to attract that many readers with no promoting. A couple even left me nice reviews. So I decided to put my blood, sweat, and soul into the story and polish it to a flawless diamond shine. Or, as close as I could get it.

I found some beta readers, a few critique partners, and let them rip into my baby with both barrels. If you happen to be a writer who hasn’t done this yet with your story; you’ll soon understand why Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a writer.

In the meanwhile, as I worked on the seemingly endless revisions, I got back into relearning the craft. My dear aforementioned wife presented my with a library of books on writing, and I began getting back into the swing of things.

All of this preamble aside; Why am I doing this? To improve my writing? Yes. In the hopes of gaining a larger readership? Yes. To have a chance of making a living? Honestly. Yes.

But most of all; I am doing this to provide what readers I can get with the best work I can possibly turn out at any given moment. I kind of think they deserve it, even if it is free. And win, lose, or draw, I will always believe that.

Later, Gang. 😉

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The Next Big Thing (Week 23)   Leave a comment

Hoo, Boy!

Looks like I’ve been neglecting my duties here, again. But to my defense; I have been working my hairy fanny off, trying to get my WIP polished to perfection before I turn it loose on the unsuspecting minds of readers everywhere. And believe me, brothers and sisters, if you care about what you do, that takes up a major chunk of your time.

Unknown to me, there is a longstanding blogging tradition among authors known as So You Think You Can Write A Novel. At least it was unknown to me, until my awesome fellow author, and good friend, Aaron Bradford Starr, Tagged me to do this myself. And if you don’t believe me that Aaron deserves the title awesome, take the Pepsi challenge and check out his work through his blog, Imaginary Friend. I’m more than willing to take wagers that you’ll agree.

Following the tradition for a moment I’m supposed to wax all philosophical about being a writer. Well… I would, but those of you who know me know it would be 99 and 44/100s pure BS. In short, I’m an old hack who seems capable of telling stories. And I’m OK with that. Creating entertaining stories that people might enjoy is all I’m really after, anyway. Should something good, (Like making a living.), come out of all of this; I’ll be jumping on my own couch like Tom Cruise on crank.

But enough of this, let’s get to answering the traditional questions, shall we?

1- What is the working title of your book?
Wolfsong: Child of Fenrir. The book is a stand alone story that I propose to expand into a trilogy. Awwww. Who am I kiddin’? It is a trilogy, but you can read one book and it will be a story all unto itself. No tricks, no BS. No having to wonder what comes next, unless you happen like it and want to know what else I have in mind for my characters.

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?
My love of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I wondered if I could create a swashbuckling hero along the same lines without making a carbon copy of Conan. At least that was the initial challenge, and like all ideas, it ballooned into something else from there. Did I succeed? I’ll leave the answer to that up to you dear readers. I happen to agree with Mark Twain: Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

3- What genre does your book fall under?
That’s a toughie. It has nearly equal elements of Fantasy, History, Action Adventure, and Romance. I guess if I had to pick a genre for it, it would probably be Historical Fantasy.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Morgan Wulfsson: Cris Hemsworth. Nivia Gwynn: Uma Thurman. Marcus Octavius: Tom Hiddleston

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
During the Roman occupation of Britain an unlikely hero arose to stop the expansion, and in the process gave England its most enduring legend.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. As a matter of fact, I plan on making it free. At least as far as the e-book goes. The Print On Demand hard copy I plan to cut to the bare bone on price, if anyone would prefer a traditional book to an e-book, that is. On Amazon, Smashwords, and hopefully all the other e-book venues I can get into, it will be free, though. The idea being that I hope to attract readers who will enjoy my stories, and the ones who don’t won’t lose money by taking a chance on me. No one can please everyone, but i hope to please as many as I can. Hence all the work I’m putting into the project.

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
One year. And BOY! Was it R-O-U-G-H draft. A lot of it was a good idea, but quite a bit was just plain silly. I could have probably sold those parts to Monty Python.

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Another tough question. (Hey Aaron! I thought you said these were easy?) I would have compared Wolfsong to the Conan stories at one time, but things have deviated so far that I don’t think that would apply, except for superficially. I do know what movies it would compare to, though: Dragonheart, Troy, Alexander, and Kingdom of Heaven. (Hope that qualifies.)

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?
My wife, Tammie. She found some of my old short stories, and a story that i co-wrote on a Renaissance festival website. She was the one who encouraged me to get back into the game. I resisted for a while, then did it just to prove to her it was a dead end. I ended up eating crow on that one and made some sales that put real money in our pocket. Ya know something? Considering how things have gone so far, crow don’t taste all that bad.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a lot of research into the culture of the Celts and their reaction to Rome in the book. I also did my best to present an accurate picture of how Celtic life could have been in those days. Considering that the Celts did not have a written history, and I’m certainly not saying that I hit the nail on the head, I think I’ve presented a story that is imaginative, and plausable. More than anything, even though it is a fantasy and contains the traditional elements of fantasy, (Magic, mythic beings, etc.), I think the reader will come away thinking, “You know, that could have happened.”

OK, Gang, here is where I let you all know who I tagged to do this with their stories next week. Now, since Arron and I move in pretty much the same circles, we share pretty much the same author friends. So, when I say the pickin’s are slim, you know I’m not just flappin’ my gums at ya. I’m waiting to hear from a few other great authors I know. However, since I have a week to fill this up a bit…

I do have the incredible Joyce Alton of Yesternight’s Voyage on the hook for the 21st of the month. Be sure to check out what she has to offer on the above subject. I also have the amazingly talented Alisha Marie Klapheke, and her blog, I Heart Words. So be certain to check what they have on their own great works. That way you’ll be sure to catch The Next Big Thing.

Now all this still leaves me with three more spots to fill, and if I can sucker… Uhhhh, con… Uhhh talk three more fantastic authors in my circle into doing this, I’ll be sure to update the post. So check back here over the next seven days, and be sure you don’t miss Joyce, or Alisha giving you the lowdown on their books. Who knows? You could be saying to your friends. I knew about that best seller before you did.

Later, Gang!

Yesternight’s Treasure Hunt   Leave a comment

Avast there, ye writing swabs. Haul anchor, and prepare ta search the seven internet seas fer hidden booty. (Not that kind you pervs!)

As I mentioned in a recent post, my good friend, fellow writer, and AQC member, Joyce Alton is celebrating her blog’s anniversary. What I failed to mention is that Joyce is a very accomplished beta reader, and critique artist par excellence. So much so that she recently had to take a break from critiquing just so she could get a bit of her own work done. Yes, she is really that much in demand.

Here comes the good part for any writers who are reading my blog.

Joyce is going to have an internet treasure hunt. She is going to break her critique abstinence and offer a free critique to the winner.

The Treasure hunt starts tomorrow morning, so if you would like a chance to have Joyce critique for you, check out the following link tomorrow morning. If you win, you’ll be more than glad you did.

Yesternight’s Voyage Treasure Hunt

Personally, I hope I get ta broadside the rest of you lot, so’s I can claim the bounty fer meself. But good luck to you all anyway.

Later Gang… or should I say, “Arrrrrr!” 😉

I Didn’t Eat The Canned Version, Either.   7 comments

I thought a little departure might be in order, but not much of one because I’ll still tie this into writing.

One of the things that I find absolutely hilarious are things that you won’t see on this blog. It’s a behind the scenes kind of deal, which I am sure my fellow bloggers have dealt with. I’m, of course, talking about Spam.

Now, I’m not in the least reserved about following another blogger’s posts, especially when they have had the decency to follow mine. I may not always have time to comment, but I do read as many as I can and juggle them to give these friends a fair shake. However, the out and out spammers do give me a chuckle.

One of the funniest, and most recurring, is the one that promises to help put you at the top of the Google search engine. For a price, naturally, although the initial spam tries to make it sound like a free service. One, it isn’t even changed –except for the post it targets– and thus retains its bad grammar, and syntax mistakes. Two, it assumes I am too stupid to check the search engine myself. Therefore, I always get a giggle when the ‘bot tells me a certain post of mine is low on the Google rankings and it happens to be the third, or fourth title listed on the first page of the search I did.

Hey, for a blog that just started out, and has only had time to pick up a handful of readers, I think that is pretty damn good. I certainly wouldn’t say it is “low on the Google rankings.” Which shows me that they do not actually check those rankings, so how good can they really be at helping you get, or stay there? Can you say, “Con job”, boys and girls? I knew you could. 😉

Others are even funnier, and I actually laugh out loud as I send them into cyber oblivion. Apparently these jokers think that flattery will get their comments approved. Trust me, some of those spam comments have kissed my ass so hard I think I have a hickey or two back there. The funny part is you can tell from the spam that they did not even read the post they are commenting on.

Here’s an example that almost made me riot’s disease, (spew for those of you who are not familiar with the term), coffee all over my new monitor:

“This was a very helpful article. I found it very well written, and it made a good point and helped me a lot.”

So what? Well this particular spam was attached to “The Assassin’s Daughter,” which is a story, not an article. Unless it helped this particular spammer to figure out how to poison a group of ruthless soldiers to save a girl from being fed to a giant, I’d have to say they did not actually read the thing at all. Which, of course made the comment a perfect ROFLMAO.

Another one tried to give me advice on making the title to my blog and post catchier, like they do on Yahoo. The funny part there is, if you read the comments on Yahoo you notice that when they do this more people complain about being misled by the article’s title than anything else. Now, I’m not above self-promotion, and I’ll do nearly anything to gain a readership. I am a writer, after all. But trying to trick my readers with misleading titles, and catchy phrasing that has little to nothing to do with what I’m trying to say is a big NO-NO for me. Besides, Yahoo got where it is with an expensive television advertising campaign, not catchy and misleading titles.

That one was also attached to “The Assassin’s Daughter,” which is one of the few posts of mine to make it to the first page of the Google rankings. So, I guess the title wasn’t so bland after all.

Yes. I put the link to the story in this post twice. I told you I wasn’t above self-promotion. What I will not do is to subject the few legitimate readers I have to Spam. Neither am I going to give “free advertising” to a spammer just for kissing my ass. False ego stroking I do not need. Readers who want to read my posts, or my stories I DO need, and these half-cocked jerks don’t quite qualify. Note that they aren’t even bright enough to make sure what they are talking about.

OK, I need the laughs they provide from time to time. I also still watch The Three Stooges. Judging from the quality of the Spam that gets caught in my filter… I’d say Moe, Larry, and Curly are alive and well. At least in spirit and principal.

And now, to make good my threat to tie this post in to writing. Here’s a bit of advice for all those poor spammers: Most serious writers are smart enough to research what they write about. Although it won’t work with me –because any comment that has a URL attached to the ID, or in the text I automatically delete after my sides quit hurting– try doing a little work and at least research what you are spamming about or to. Maybe then, at least, you won’t look like complete idiots.

Bottom line for all you spammers out there: I didn’t eat the canned stuff, I’m not about to eat the cyber version. But don’t let that stop you from wasting your time. I do like to watch some people make fools of themselves. 😀

Later Gang. 😉

Swigging The Muse, Fighting The Urge   Leave a comment

Nope. Sorry to disappoint, but this little post is not about the hazards of addiction, or alcoholism in the writing profession. Well maybe one addiction, but we’ll get to that in a moment. As far as alcoholism goes; I take the fifth. Maybe the pint, but that’s another story. 😉

This post is about the most insidious addiction any aspiring author can face: The desire to get published. Like all addictions this one has more hidden traps than a politician has lies. If we’re not careful it can also land you in a hole that Betty Ford can’t dig you out of.

Besides our love of storytelling, and much like a drug, there are few things that will give a writer a bigger high than when the muse is pouring out full force. Hence the first half of the title. When we are hitting the groove, and the well of clever creativity seems bottomless, that’s when the addiction to publish rears its ugly head. We become as desperate as a heroin junky to have our baby shown to the world. If Satan showed up at that moment with a contract in hand, we would jump at the chance, or at least seriously consider it. The problem is he often does, but doesn’t look like himself so we’ll be more likely to take the bait.

By now, most of us know about the land sharks that swim through the business of writing. If not, then I suggest bookmarking two sites that can help the newbie to identify these publishing leeches. One of the best is Predators and Editors. The other is, Writer Beware by the SFWA.

However, these are not the only forms the publishing addiction devil can take. One of the worst, and most devious is when he takes the form of YOU. When Louis Binstock first said, “Very often we are our own worst enemy…”, he wasn’t lying, and that little cliche deserves a place carved in gold.

A true story, and I’m not naming names because this can happen to anyone and I don’t want to embarrass, only illustrate. A very talented writer I know recently epublished a very good novel. Thinking that they had exhausted their list of agents, and none of them were interested they decided to go to the readers with their book. Normally this is a very good tactic these days. You have to work your tailbone off to get some recognition, but your story has a chance of gaining a audience and you have a chance to gain a career. All in all it is a smart move. Unless, as in their case, an agent you forgot about suddenly pops up asking for a look at the manuscript.

Yep, that is just what happened, and my heart goes out to them. Most agents won’t touch a story once it has been epublished, and neither will most publishing houses. The possible exception being a story that is raking in the bucks. Even then, they would be likely to offer publishing your next book instead of going with the epublished one. In a way it’s not really fair, since you did all the work gaining a readership, and now they want a piece of your pie, but that’s the way it plays out most of the time.

Let’s face it; epublishing and POD (Print On Demand) publishing is something of a godsend to a struggling author. But, if you allow the addiction of getting published to drive you like a mule team, it can also be your worst enemy.

Another way this “golden goose” can trip you up is by turning out bad writing. As hard as it is to live down a bad reputation in the real world, it can be a thousand times worse here in cyberspace. Especially if that rep goes viral. At that point your probably better off turning to a pen name and starting all over again from scratch.

This is why an editor or, a whole trailer truck of beta readers, is so important in serious epublishing. Even then there are no guarantees, but at least your not putting the noose on yourself, and jumping off the gallows on your own.

The point to all this drivel? Haste does indeed make waste. Being in a rush to publish is usually a suicide charge into a machine gun nest. If your very lucky, you might only get wounded, odds are your gonna get cut in half.

This is a slow business, no matter how you approach it. Take your time, get it right, and most of all do not jump at the chance to get published in any form. You have all the time that is left to you. Make it work for you, instead of against you, and keep that addiction locked up tight in a little cell somewhere.

In the end, you may just be glad you did.

Later, Gang.

Yesternight’s SF Tag   6 comments

My dear friend, and fellow Speculative Fiction writer, Joyce Alton, has just had a birthday… not her, her blog, “Yesternight’s Voyage.” One year of successful blogging. Not bad, eh?

To help in the celebration I’ve been tagged. Somehow I always end up last in these things, so I won’t be able to follow one of her rules. Everybody I know has already been tagged! ARRRRRGH! But I’m use to it; the same thing happened with alarming frequency on the playgrounds of my youth. 😉

Anyhoo, here are the rules.

The rules are as follows:
1) Answer the questions on your own blog.
2) Tag three other speculative fiction blog writers to participate.
3) Each participant needs to link their blogpost with their answers back to Yesternight’s Voyage.
4) Leave a comment in the original post (on Yesternight’s Voyage) as to why you love, write, or read speculative fiction and a link to your blog.
5) Stay tuned to Yesternight’s Voyage this month for a mad treasure hunt (later on) that will connect all the participating blogs.
6) Make sure you post these rules on your blog when participating.
7) Please note that the blogging part of the treasure hunt will only run between March 6th – 19th. So have your answers posted by then. If you are posting your answers on the 18th or 19th, don’t worry about tagging anyone new.

Part II answer her questions:
Questions:

1) Who are your favorite speculative fiction writers?

Ray Bradbury, Issac Asminov, Frank Hurbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and whoever it was that first penned Beowulf.

2) Write a two or three sentence writing prompt to inspire your readers today. (Encourage them to post their responses in your comments section.)

(I’m not sure how much good this is going to do, since I can count my readers on one hand and I’m not real certain that very many of them show up at any given time. But, here goes.)

Your MC is alone in a dark castle. They have just found the answer to the quest they have been seeking. As they reah out to claim their prize, an ominous noise comes from behind them. (Please answer in the comments section, if you happen to be out there. LOL!)

3) List three favorite industry blogs/websites that you’ve found helpful.

Agent Query Connect
Magical Words
Predators and Editors

4) Give us the low-down on your main character (or one of your main characters) in the story you’re working on right now, regardless if it’s finished or not. Describe his/her personality, situation, and what his/her biggest problem/obstacle is.

(I’m working on a couple, so I’ll pick the Sci Fi one. I’m keeping the Fantsy MC under deep cover until Marathon for good reason, but ya all will have to wait for May to find out. :P)

Robert Morgan is an ex-military commander turned seedy private eye for hire. Blaming himself for the annihilation of his squad during the war on Centaurius Prime, he apparently turns to alcohol to dull the guilt. Xenophobic from his experience in the war; a plea for help from the alien commander responsible sends him into a conflict of emotions where he must question his life choice afterwards, and confront the fallacy of his own bigotry.

5) What are your favorite speculative fiction movies from the last five years?

In no particular order.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of The Rings, Avatar, District 9, and Ella Enchanted. (I’m fairly sure a few of those fall outside the specified timeline, but there it is.)

6) If you were suddenly thrown into another world where magic existed, what is something from the real world you’d want to take with you? (Limitations apply on energy sources and such.)

The recipe for making gunpowder, (Oooo! That’s gotta hurt! ~Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness), and a darn good Katana sword, (Not the cheap copies.).

7) List the first type of these things you think of:

a) color: Blue-green
b) number: 42 (It is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. 😉 )
c) made-up name: Kharnn
d) an adjective: Amazing

Part III:

I am tagging:

Nobody. I checked out the blog, and everyone I could tag has already been tagged.

Sorry Joyce, but someone has to be at the bottom of the barrel, and it looks like that spot is still reserved for yours truly. 😀

Well, there you have it… and I didn’t even lie this time. LOL!

Take a moment, if you would, and hop over to Joyce’s blog Yesternight’s Voyage. I’m gonna pop overe there now, and try to post a’la the rules, but given the problems I have commenting on Blogspot, I’m making NO promises. LOL!

Later, Gang!

The Assassin’s Daughter (Conclusion)   4 comments

And now, the conclusion of The Assassin’s Daughter. I hope you like it. 🙂

The Assassin’s Daughter
A Short Story by Peter Burton
© 2012
All rights reserved: No part of this story may be
reproduced, or reprinted by any means without the
written permission of the author

Sharing of this story is authorized as long as it remains
unaltered, and the author is properly credited as the author.

Part Two

Ancourt arrived at the village with Galin’s warning echoing through his mind. Perhaps the similarity of the two villages played more than a small role in that. Only two features differentiated this township from the one they left a week ago. There was no tavern named The Assassin’s Daughter, and at the top of a wide knoll sat an exquisite house. Although not as grand as the home of a nobleman, its larger structure and detailed craftsmanship made it stand out against the modest dwellings below like a castle. No doubt this was the destination they sought. He brought his hand up and turned his mount to face his men.

“Take heed, you dogs,” he said as he brought his hardest gaze to bear on each one of them in turn. “Rowlan, Kynth, and Jerick will arm their bows before we enter. If this assassin moves to touch me, or picks up any item unbidden, I want to see at least six arrows in his corpse before he hits the ground. The rest will stand with me, and if necessary search the hovel for the girl should he fail to produce her.”

Ancourt paused to emphasize his next words. “Fail me in this, and before I die I’ll take as many of you to Hell with me as I can. Is this understood?”

“Yes, my lord”, they shouted in unison. Satisfied, the commander turned his horse to the road that led through the village and up to the assassin’s home. His reputation with a blade had been well earned, and his men knew it.

The richly polished door barely opened when Ancourt pushed his way inside and the serving girl found his sword pressed to her throat.

“Are you Synyata, daughter of Mordacye the assassin?” His question hissed between his clenched teeth.

“No. She is not, my lord,” the soft, deep voice came from down the white plastered hall. “My daughter is indisposed at the moment. May I be of assistance to you?”

The man standing at the end of the hall with an unnerving aura of calm looked no more the assassin than a duck did a pig. Neatly combed whitish-gray hair hung to his shoulders. The robe he wore was white and spotless, with gold trim around the cuffs and collar. His thin face sported no moustache, nor beard, and looked as beguiling as a child’s despite the age etched into it. His pale-gray eyes, however, did not match the harmless feel the rest of his body seemed to radiate. They held a steady assurance and subtle threat, like the far off dark clouds of a brewing storm.

“Mordacye Synon, I take it.” Ancourt advanced on the smaller man with deliberate slowness, his sword held loosely at his side. The assassin made no move at his approach, nor did he look anywhere except the warlord’s eyes as the soldiers surrounded him in the wide foyer. When Ancourt came within easy striking distance he raised his weapon in a flash of motion, resting the tip against Mordacye’s chest, a hand’s breadth below the neck.

“I am, my lord.” The assassin began to extend his hand, stopping in midair as the archers aimed their notched bows at him, and Ancourt’s steel inched closer to his throat. The hand lowered to its former position, lightly clasping the other in front of him. “Again, I would ask how I may be of service.”

“Your daughter has drawn the honor of serving the realm this year, old man,” Ancourt smirked. Once you knew of this assassin’s tricks, he was as helpless as any unarmed peasant from any number of villages they had conquered and sacked. Like an adder, the assassin merited caution but not fear. “You may be of service by calling her here to fulfill that duty.”

Mordacye did not hesitate. His gaze remained as calm and neutral as when the soldiers first entered his home. The man had courage, Ancourt conceded.

“Synyata. Attend me, my child, and bring my cedar chest with you,” he called out in a steady tone to the spacious, well-furnished room behind them.

A tall girl with raven black hair appeared at the far end of the room. Ancourt sucked air into his lungs through his teeth. Thin, but well-shaped with gently curving hips, and high firm breasts, he had seen daughters of noblemen who fell far short of the beauty this girl presented. Huge jade colored eyes rimmed with long dark lashes, gazed out from a flawless face, and for a moment he considered keeping this maiden for himself.

“As you wish, Father.” She moved to the old man’s side with the grace of a swan on a still lake, and set an ornate cedar chest about the size of a small market basket down beside him.

“With your permission, my lord?” Mordacye asked, indicating the chest with a slight nod of his head.

“Let the girl open it.” Ancourt edged his sword a fraction higher and took a half step away from the chest. He wanted this assassin to know beyond doubt that he was not easily fooled. He raised the sword more to see if he could shake the assassin’s calm, as for any other reason.

“Synyata,” Mordacye said without looking to see if she obeyed.

She knelt and flipped the catch on the lacquered lid. Ancourt came close to hissing with surprise a second time. The chest was filled to within a finger’s breadth of the rim. Gold coins and every type of precious gemstone known to man; diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires glistened in the light like berries in a bowl of yellow porridge. The commander almost missed Mordacye’s next words from staring at the fortune laid before him.

“All told there is a value of 300,000 gold pieces within this chest, my lord.” Mordacye’s tone neither rose, nor fell, but remained as calm as his demeanor. “It is yours in exchange for the life of my daughter.”

“Jerick, fetch a sack from one of the horses.” For the first time since they entered his home, Ancourt saw the faintest trace of a smile cross Mordacye’s lips.

The archer returned with a large leather bag that had held provisions at one time and offered it to his commander. Ancourt tossed the sack in front of the kneeling girl with a wicked grin. If what he suspected were true, this assassin would find the warlord’s sword exiting the top of his skull before he could react. Looking down at Synyata his smile took on a sadistic edge. Yes. He would enjoy training this maiden to serve him, in deed as well as bed.

“Empty the chest into the bag, girl,” he ordered. “But use your bare hands to do so.”

Ancourt tensed, waiting for Mordacye to make a move to stop his daughter from touching the treasure. A slight widening of the smile on the assassin’s face was the only change in the man. The fortune had not been poisoned. It could only mean that he thought his bribe had been accepted, and his daughter was safe. Ancourt would soon relieve him of that notion. Meanwhile he contented himself watching those delicate hands moving the contents of the chest to the sack, imagining how they would feel caressing his body instead.

As soon as the chest was emptied, he nodded to his men. While two of the archers kept their arrows centered on the old man, one picked up the full satchel. The other two soldiers took Synyata by the arms. Mordacye started forward, only to find Ancourt’s sword point pressed deeper beneath his chin, and the bows of the archers drawn to full.

“That would be a mistake, assassin. Unless, of course, you would like for your daughter’s last memory of her father to be your death.” Ancourt and his remaining troops backed towards the door. “Let me also suggest that it would be the height of foolishness to attempt a rescue of the maiden. At the first sign of an ambush, or any other treachery you can conceive of, I promise she will be the first to die.”

Ancourt had his men separate 200 gold pieces from the booty before they arrived at the door of The Assassin’s Daughter. Galin, the innkeeper, waved as they entered and hurried over to wait on the group.

“Ah, Galin, it’s good to see you again. As you can see, your information proved invaluable. Here.” Ancourt tossed the small leather bag of coins to the innkeeper. “I’m a man of my word. 200 gold pieces.”

The old tavern owner opened the small bag and whistled loudly. No doubt it was the largest sum this peasant had ever seen in his life. Ancourt continued jovially. “Now, if you would be so kind as to bring us eight flagons of your best ale while we await our dinner.”

Galin bowed repeatedly as he back away from the table. “Right away, my lord Ancourt. And thank you for your generosity.”

After Galin left for the back room, Ancourt leaned close to his captive. “Cheer up, little one. Things may not be as dire as you suspect. Some ale will calm you, and if you’re nice to me tonight, it would spare you waking up in a giant’s belly. We could always pick up another maiden on the way back to take your place.”

Synyata, drew back from him, silent tears staining her lovely white skin. She had not spoken, or eaten in the week since they had left her father’s house.

“No matter.” Ancourt straightened back up in his chair as the innkeeper brought the wooden platter of drinks to their table. “We’ve three months to travel yet, and I dare say the closer we come to your fate, the easier it will be to change your mind.”

As he expected the girl refused to touch the tankard, while he and his men drank deeply of the alcoholic amber liquid. He had to admit he’d never tasted ale quite this good, not even on their first stay. Ancourt chuckled to himself. It amazed him the hospitality a bit of gold could bring out in people. With what he had left, he could bribe his way into a baronship, with plenty to spare. He would have to rid himself of the louts accompanying him, of course, but there was time enough for that. Once they neared the safety of the capitol, he could dispose of his men and make up any story he liked. None but he and the girl would know of the treasure, and by then she would be obedient to him alone or a feast for the giants.

This was damn fine ale; he could feel the beginnings of numbness forming around his lips from the alcohol. They would have to be careful, or they’d all wind up too stinking drunk to properly watch their prize. Still, one more tankard couldn’t hurt. Ancourt tried to raise his arm to signal for another round. The limb lay lifeless on the oak table, as though it no longer belonged to him. Only his eyes remained his to command, and he glanced about, noticing that all of his soldiers sat as still as statues.

Galin came into view and held his hand out to Synyata. As she arose from the table he spoke.

“Lord Mordacye regrets that he could not offer you any refreshment while you were a guest in his home. He knew you would never accept. He also regrets that you have had to be inconvenienced with the burden of his gold, and daughter. In compensation, he sent a barrel of his best ale ahead for you to enjoy.”

As he led the girl to the door, Galin turned and smiled. “I did warn you, my lord. Mordacye is a devious man. All the members of the assassin’s guild are devious men. Even me.”

Posted March 6, 2012 by Peter Burton in Stories

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