Overlogic – January 29th 2018

Hey, everyone! I just launched my Patreon page!

Starting February 25th you can read my new serial story, Razavoda there, and support my various efforts online and in books.

I had some major flashes of insight, also sometimes referred to as “overlogic” as I prepared this page, and I’m quite proud of the story I’ll be releasing through it. These bits of inspiration resulted in little breakthroughs for this story. I can’t wait to share every bit of it with you.

Here is the video for the page.

 

Please consider supporting me. I appreciate very pledge from the greatest to the smallest.

Thanks for reading!

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Tenlyres Now Available for Preorder

ebook-tenlyres-complete-v2-white-mq

I am not going to beat around the bush.

“Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Novel” is now available for preorder on Amazon.com and Kobo.

Amazon
Kobo

*Available in more stores soon.

For those not yet familiar with the story, “Tenlyres” is an epic fantasy with advanced technology, ancient monuments, and plenty of action. Everything is shown from the point of view of the heroin. The pace is quick. Even if you don’t normally read epic fantasy you should give this book a try.

As you can probably tell, I am super excited about this release.

For those who have been following the serial, this volume contains everything that has been serialized so far, as well as the conclusive final part of the novel. All of these parts got another coat of polish and edits to make everything fit together tight. So even if you’re up to date on the serial go buy this version.

I’m very proud of the book. Support me and my writing career by checking it out at the links above.

The book releases officially on February 7th.

Time to ride east.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 6

Ilsa and Blue have outrun the Red Lector’s forces, but war is nearer than ever.
They have arrived at a Dalite Manor on the steppe close to the central part of Tenlyres.
After an initial clash with overprotective guards, the lord of the manor decided to talk to them.

Previous Chapter

Cover

Ilsa’s coat hung draped over the back of an elegant chair, her shirt folded on top of it. The shoulders of both garments were torn where the bullet had grazed her. She sat in the small dining room of Lord Palend’s manor house. Blue, across a carved wooden table from Ilsa, drummed her fingers on the tabletop as a groundsmaid who worked at the estate quietly stitched the wound.

Behind Blue, Lord Palend kept his eye averted from Ilsa. His craggy face had gone pale when Ilsa had removed her coat. Evidently he did not like the sight of blood. And there had been blood, despite the relative shallowness of the graze.

What surprise Ilsa had felt at Palend’s open squeamishness was overshadowed by the pain of the needle and thread moving through her skin. She grimaced, having refused the pain medicine Palend had offered. No matter the pain, she could not afford to sacrifice any part of her clear head in this situation. She did not know if she could trust Palend or his servants.

She turned her gaze toward Palend where he stood, leaning on his blackwood staff. “Is Fort Sardul near here?”

He waved his hand through the air but did not turn toward her. “Yes, very near. Just a few kilometers away.”

Blue raised her eyebrows. “We didn’t see it.”

The needle moved. Ilsa gritted her teeth. How much longer?

The groundsmaid squinted through thick glasses, intense in concentration.

Lord Palend frowned at Blue. “If you are with the Unification why are you going to Fort Sardul?”

Blue sucked her teeth. Her eyes flicked toward Ilsa. There was a question implied in her glance. Blue didn’t need her mental powers to convey it. Should we tell him about the Red Lector? An obvious question, but not easy to answer. Judging by his servants he might actually support the Ayochian offensive.

Ilsa started to nod. The needle moved. Sensation flared. She let out of a hiss of pain, then bowed her head toward Blue and Palend.

Through clenched teeth, she said, “A force from Ayoch is heading this way.”

Palend turned toward her with a gasp. “From Ayoch? Has the war begun already?”

She looked up at his face. Strands of hair, loosed from her once-tight tie, drifted at the edges of her vision. He paled further. She wasn’t sure which of them was swaying more. “Between Dal and Chogrum, not yet. But the Red Lector is leading these Ayochians, so it may be near.”

“The Red Lector?” Palend’s lips trembled. Gnarled fingers clenched around his black staff.

Blue’s hand flattened on the tabletop. “You sound like you know him.”

“I’ve met him. Unless Goji Haram has been replaced since I was last in Ayoch.” A scowl deepened the fissures in his face. “That man has never seen eye to eye with me.”

The needle came out of Ilsa’s shoulder. The groundsmaid used a fine-pointed scissors to cut the string. Ilsa gave a grateful sigh, despite the continued burn of the wound. The groundsmaid stepped back from her, carrying the needle and spool of thread, as well as the tissues she had used to soak up the blood.

“Haram.” She remembered the name of the leaders of the scouts, Yunn, and Kaij Haram.

“You know the name.” Palend met Ilsa’s gaze, face darkened. “You should, being that you’re with the Unification. Goji and his wife are known as conquerers in the west of Ayoch. She is a general, and he is the Lector who justifies her wars within their national religion.”

A chill ran down Ilsa’s spine, and it had nothing to do with wearing only a bra for a top. She leaned against the back of her chair. “I’ve heard of the Red General of Ayoch, but I never knew why she was called that.”

“It isn’t just her husband’s status,” said Palend. “My partners in the lands she has conquered have spoken of her tactics. She spills too much blood in the name of her queen.”

Be red. Be red. Cass, did you know what was going on in Ayoch when you told me that?

Ilsa frowned. “I didn’t see a female general back in Korlom.”

“They’re already in Korlom?”

“They were a few days ago,” said Blue. “We just barely outpaced them on the way here.”

“It was a close call.” Ilsa grunted. “They have war magi with them. Enough to send one with the scouts. Does Goji Haram have children?”

“Three that I’m aware of. Twin sons, and a younger daughter.”

Ilsa pressed her palm to her forehead. She brushed her hair back from her face. “I think his sons are riding with the scouts. Will they come here?”

Palend shook his head. “Likely they will camp by Fort Sardul. They probably radioed ahead and requested the veil be lifted. I bet that’s why you couldn’t see it on your way here.”

Veils produced by war magi usually formed as side effects of other magic and consisted of chaotic illusions that muddled reality’s appearances.

“A veil?” Ilsa stood up and walked to the chair where her shirt and coat lay along the back. “Does the fort have war magi too?”

“As far as I know they have a machine that replicates the illusory effect. It’s quite a new invention, only added this year.”

Ilsa’s scowled. “A machine the produces veils like a magus? Is that even possible?” She glanced at Blue.

Her friend shrugged. “It could be possible with digital assistance, but plant-piles definitely wouldn’t work because they don’t have muscles to control gestures. An animal-pile might be capable of that, though.”

Ilsa wrinkled her nose. Animal-piles could be used to store data, but they were difficult to feed and maintain because of their size and waste products. Plant-piles nourished only from water and sunlight captured by other plants connected to them. Animal-piles were like other animals. They needed to eat, drink, and pass waste. On the Plateau of Yr, they lived only in human captivity and were usually considered more trouble than they were worth by normal people. On the other hand, animal-piles could provide mobile databases and networks, the kind an aggressive army might find very useful.

She stopped by the chair and frowned at Blue and Palend. “If they have this kind of ability and share it with the Red Lector, our mission could get complicated.”

Palend walked to the table. The base of his staff thumped on the hardwood floor. “What is your mission, priestess?” He glanced at Blue. “And who is your traveling companion?”

“My name is Blue.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m a mind eater, but I fight for the Unification too.”

Ilsa nodded, still unsure if she could trust Palend though he obviously had no love for the Red Lector. “We’ve worked as mercenaries in Morhoi until recently.” She glanced at Blue. Her friend shrugged. Ilsa picked up her shirt and looked at the filthy, bloody garment. She turned toward Palend. “I’d like to know if you have a stance on the Unification before I tell you what we’re doing on the plateau.”

“Very well.” Palend bowed to her, then turned and dipped his head to Blue. “In all honesty, I admire the philosophy of Unification, despite growing old in the light of Vada.” He closed his eyes for an instant, as followers of Vada often did when they mentioned their deity by name. Vada was one of The Three, so Ilsa was familiar with many of her related ritual gestures. “After all.” Palend turned to Ilsa. “A peaceful world would be a better world.”

Blue kept her eyes on Ilsa. She did not look convinced. But choice did the two of them have?

“Alright,” said Ilsa. “We’re looking for the Guardian of Tenlyres who lives among the nomads. If there is a war, the Oshomi could be caught in the middle, and we mean to keep the heart of their religion safe.”

Blue nodded.

Palend took his staff in both hands. He looked very old in the electric light above that made the lines in his face seem deep as the darkest rivers of Morhoi. “A worthy goal. Perhaps I can assist you. I have little reason to help Ayoch or the Red Lector’s family.”

“Your guard said Unification was worse than Chogrum,” said Blue.

“Raheb has my safety in mind. He knows I will act in the cause of peace, even if I risk this life of mine.”

Blue frowned.

“I believe you.” Ilsa looked up from the shirt in her hands, surprised to realize the words wore true. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“I can offer you a place to rest for now. And when the Red Lector’s army arrives, I can help you get into Fort Sardul to investigate things. My wealth and lands afford me special protections from the Dalite military.”

“We could use more information,” said Blue.

Ilsa reached for her shoulder and touched near the stitches with a ginger hand. “We could use real rest, no matter how little.”

“That’s definitely so.” Blue smirked.

Palend smiled. “I will tell my staff to prepare accommodations.” His eyes moved to Ilsa’s torn and dirty shirt. “And we’ll see if I can find you some clothes while we wash what you’re wearing.”

Blue chuckled. “Are you a dirty old man?”

“No. But I’m looking at two filthy young women.” Palend held his nose and grinned.

Blue laughed. “You know what, you’ve got a point, old man.”

Ilsa smiled. A chance to bathe almost made her wounded shoulder worth it. She dropped her shirt onto the back of the chair. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Thank you for your mission. But may I ask you one thing?”

“Sure.”

“Why would servants of the Unification fight as mercenaries for money?”

“We have taken money from many commanders, but we only ever fought for one cause, our own.”

“That could be a good proverb,” said Blue. “Write it down, Ilsa.”

She shrugged. “It’s the truth.”

“That’s what’s so good about it.”

Ilsa rolled her eyes but Blue’s praise still felt good.

Palend looked from one of them to the other. He nodded absently. “I will have my people draw each of you a private bath.” He left the room for the larger adjacent dining hall. His staff thumped on the floor as if he were forcing it down with every step.

 

Steam still rose from the bath as the water drained. Ilsa had carefully avoided getting her stitches wet. She walked to the sink by the door, still trying to dry her hair with a towel, and looked down at the clothes folded under the mirror beside the basin.

The shirt was pale blue, almost gray. It looked a little small for her but was finely woven. Ilsa found herself grateful for fresh clothes, regardless of either of those facts.

Light streamed through the high window in the wall over the tub and shined off the mirror in front of Ilsa. Her reflection looked tired, even to her own eyes, despite being newly clean. Her eyes moved down to her shoulder. The stitched wound looked so small with the blood around it washed away, but the residual pain went deeper than the surface.

Ilsa finished drying her hair and folded her towel beside the basin of the sink. She took care as she dressed in the warm clothes left by Lord Palend’s servants. The day had been strange so far, and replacing her worn and battered clothes with oddly comfortable new garments did not make it feel any more normal.

She fastened her old belt around the waist of a pair of dark-colored riding pants. The belt carried two magazines of pistol ammunition in the pockets on either side. She slipped her black hair into a fresh tie to keep it back from her eyes. She buttoned up her new shirt and it found it was indeed a bit smaller than the last old one. She left the top button undone, pulled on a light jacket and then left the steaming bathroom for the hallway that led along the first floor of the house.

Somehow, Palend’s estate had been off her radar when she had been thinking about crossing the plateau. At the moment, it was a stroke of luck, a gift from Hathani perhaps.

A short woman, blond hair tied into a ponytail, stood in the hall with her arms folded. She leaned against the wall opposite the bathroom door. “Priestess.” She bowed her head. “Forgive me.”

Ilsa took a deep breath as she looked at the woman with her head bowed against her gray-green camouflage shirt. “For what?” She had suspicions, but it would be better to know for sure.

“I shot you.”

Ilsa’s stitches were too fresh for her not to feel an instinctive flash of temper. She controlled the feeling and nodded. “You were doing what you thought was right. I can forgive you for that.”

“Thank you for sparing my husband. I don’t know what I would have done if…”

“That man out front?” Ilsa thought of Raheb and remembered her weapon under his chin. Words from Hathani’s ancient book returned to her mind. “Always fight alongside those you love. Those you love are those you trust.”

“Thank you, priestess.”

“My name is Ilsa.” Ilsa held out her branded right hand, sideways to not threaten with the marks of her weapon bonds.

The woman looked up at her face, surprised. “I’m Jia.” She took Ilsa’s hand cautiously. “Still, Jia Suel, thanks to your restraint.”

Ilsa frowned. While some Dalite women returned to their maiden name when widowed, she had thought that tradition might die out. If there were children in a marriage the combined name almost always stuck. She pulled Jia close and clapped her on the back with her free hand. “Good to meet you, Jia Suel.”

Jia pulled back, tears in her eyes. She dabbed at her face with a white handkerchief. “Thank you, Ilsa.” She took a deep breath. “Lord Palend sent me to ask if you would be ready to go to Fort Sardul this evening.”

“I should be, as long as Blue is.”

“Blue.” Jia’s shoulders slumped. “The mind eater.”

“Yes.” Ilsa met Jia’s damp gaze. “She’s my partner in the Unification, Chogrumian or not.”

“Do you think that’s wise? Going to the fort with her, I mean.”

“She can find things I can’t.”

Jia touched her forehead with her fingertips. “I think I know what you mean.”

Ilsa nodded to Jia. “I’m sorry she had to hurt you. Tell Palend I’ll be ready.”

The woman bowed her head. “I’m a hunter. I thought shooting people would be the same as shooting animals. I guess I was wrong.”

“The action is the same.” Ilsa closed her eyes. “The consequences are different.”

Jia did not reply, but turned and walked away. Ilsa let her go. She thought of the people she had killed, with her bonded weapons, and by other means. In war, such actions were encouraged. Thoughts about the consequences were punished by one’s own mind. Those were memories not even someone like Blue could devour completely, not that Ilsa would ever ask for that. She had to remember her own actions to forgive others.

Fiction Press!

The first two chapters of my serial, Tenlyres, are now up on fictionpress.com and the next chapter will release on Friday, at about the same time as it appears on this blog. That chapter is gonna be a doozy ‘cause it ended up being a long one.

My username over there is TimNiederriter.

Not much else to say today. I’ve got writing to do on the sequel to Hunter and Seed. The opening is already in motion, and I can’t wait to be able to share all the new stuff with you folks.

I know this is a very short post, but hey, blogging 2 days in a row just isn’t that good of an idea. I may have to revise my approach and space those days out through the week. If you have an opinion on this, let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 1

Cover

A vein of pink granite ran through the gray stone at the edge of the train tracks. Ilsa noted the color as a sign they had almost reached the city of Dal, just a few miles after taking the tunnel up to the Yrian Plateau. She laid her head against her seat, eyes still following the pink line in the barren ground where only sparse grass grew.

A few small shacks passed in the distance, right where the ground fell away at the edge.

Train wheels roared. The whistle blew. They passed the end of the pink granite vein and began to slow. The train pulled into Eshak station, on the western side of Dal.

Fingertips brushed Ilsa’s arm as her traveling companion, Blue, sat forward and peered out the window past her. Black braids fell around Blue’s shoulders. Those braids shifted only a little as the train came to a full stop.

Home. Ilsa took a deep breath. “This is it.”

Graystone buildings set with sparkling glass panes loomed over downtown Dal, visible in the distance above the long street outside the train window.

Blue grinned, eyes still focused out the window. “No fooling. I finally get to see the place you grew up.”

“Probably not. My mother told me they tore down our old building a few years ago.” Ilsa stood up and stretched her arms. She reached for the overhead luggage bins, where she had stowed her pack along with her red-painted wooden staff, a symbol of her office as a priestess of Hathani.

Blue shrugged. “I meant the Garden.”

Ilsa raised her eyebrows. “You want to see Saint Banyeen’s?” The garden where she had been trained in Hathani’s clergy had once been more home to Ilsa than her mother’s apartment, but those days were passed. “I thought you didn’t care about gods.”

“I don’t care about gods in particular.” Blue reached up with one long-sleeved arm and pulled down a travel case from the overhead compartment. She grunted with the effort of lowering the heavy case.

Ilsa knew from watching Blue pack, that the case contained her suit of combined armor. Blue did not like walking around in ordinary clothes, but security on the train took notice of heavily equipped mercenaries. As agents of the Unification, both Ilsa and Blue traveled with a low profile, but habits like Blue’s insistence on wearing armor were hard to kick. Ilsa knew that from experience.

She slung her pack over one shoulder. Staff in hand, she followed Blue out of their compartment and through the brightly lit central corridor to the open exit doors of the train. They stepped onto the platform.

The street that led downtown was lined with food stands and travel vendors, operating out of the sort of small motorized carts common throughout the city. Ilsa breathed in the smell of city air, fuel mingled with spicy food, fresh in the cool air. For the first time since she had left Saint Banyeen’s Garden, she had returned home.

Blue hefted her travel case and slung its strap over one shoulder. “Which way first?”

“Saint Banyeen’s is on the other side of town, but Fountain Street Hospital isn’t far from here.” The bottom seemed to drop out of Ilsa’s stomach as she said the name of the place where her mother had been committed.

“I’m hungry.”

“You can eat while I visit my mother.”

Blue frowned. “You’re going right now?”

The void sensation in Ilsa’s belly grew. “I have to see her. I won’t be long.” She paced a few steps from the edge of the platform and set one end of her staff on the pavement.

Blue raised her eyebrows. “You have to?”

Ilsa nodded.

“If you say so. I’ll get you something to eat for when you’re done.”

“I can feed myself.”

“I’m starting to doubt that. You haven’t eaten since we left Ayoch this morning.”

Ilsa sighed. “Please. It’s only been a few hours.”

“Does your mother really make you this nervous?”

“Maybe.” Ilsa held up her free hand, palm open. Her loose coat sleeve fell back. The back of her hand bore a pale brand shaped like a ring with a single dot in the middle, the evidence of one of her weapon bonds. “Please, Blue. Stop.”

“I understand. I’ll eat, then meet you outside the hospital.”

“Thanks. And sorry.” Ilsa lowered her hand, letting the sleeve fall back over the brand. She didn’t like pointing an open palm at her friend. For most people the gesture meant resistance in peace, but for someone who knew Ilsa’s bond, the motion implied a threat. When she summoned the weapon bonded to that symbol, it would appear in that hand.

“Don’t ruin yourself over any of this.”

“Over what?”

“Take your pick. Your building. Your mother. Her condition isn’t your fault, you know.”

“I know.”

“If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to see her.”

Ilsa sighed. “Yes, I do.” It’s my place as her daughter, even if she is insane.

“If that’s what you think.”

She nodded to Blue. “It is what I think.”

“Good luck,” said Blue.

“I’ll eat when I’m done. Then, we should get striders for tomorrow’s ride.”

“Deal.” Blue turned toward the food stands. “It’s a long way from here to Tenlyres.”

Ilsa nodded to Blue. She hesitated and leaned on her staff for a moment. Then she started down the street toward the hospital.

 

Fountain Street Hospital occupied an entire block one street south of the street that led downtown from the station. Ilsa followed a narrow lane around the western side of the building to reach the mind ward. Like the front of Fountain Street, the building was made of the gray granite common in buildings across the Plateau of Yr, from Dal in the west to Chogrum in the east.

Behind a wrought iron fence with traces of snow at its base, the outer wall of the mind ward was painted with a peeling mural of white roses, another symbol of the goddess Hathani. The mind ward had been funded by contributions from temples and clerical gardens all over the city. Saint Banyeen’s had offered a sizable donation. Ilsa’s mother had been freely committed to the ward because of Ilsa’s affiliation with the garden.

Ilsa trudged through the open gate in the fence. She went up a patched blacktop drive to the four-doors-broad entryway of the mind ward. The place looked like Ilsa felt inside, like it was fighting a losing battle.

She stepped inside and crossed a floor of white tiles to the front desk. The nurse working there looked up at her. Dark eyes moved to Ilsa’s staff. “Good morning, priestess. How may I help you?”

“My name is Ilsa Barrett. I’m looking for my mother.”

The nurse nodded to her, then turned to the bright screen of a tablet where it sat upright on the desk. A ten-centimeter-long interface pin jutted from one side of the tablet and connected to the green and mossy side of a domesticated plant pile where it rose up through a hole carved through the desk.

Plant piles were easy to keep indoors. They grew wild the world over, each one capable of storing vast amounts of digital information within its genetic repository. The larger the pile, the more data it could hold. The one set in the desk was tiny by most standards, but it probably contained copies of all the patient records for the mind ward.

The tablet screen bore a news bulletin, warning of a Chogrumian force’s advance toward the center of the plateau. The desk nurse ignored the bulletin and tapped a few keys on her tablet’s touchscreen. “Is your mother, Luca Barrett?”

“Yes.”

“She is on the second floor. Room 216.”

“Thank you.”

The nurse squinted at the screen. “She has another visitor at the moment.”

Ilsa’s frowned. Who would visit her maddened mother? For that matter, who else still living in Dal even knew her?

“Is something wrong?”

She forced her expression to return to a polite smile. “Nothing.”

The nurse smiled at her. Laugh lines crinkled at the corners of her mouth. “Have a good visit, priestess.”

If that was possible, Ilsa would not be so worried. She had not seen her mother in over seven years. Luca Barrett had spent a decade in this place, and Ilsa doubted that would help matters. Despite the care the facility offered to its patients they were still effectively prisoners.

Ilsa walked past the desk to the main hall of the mind ward. She found the stairway the same place she remembered it, near the elevator on one side of the hall. She climbed to the second floor, stepped into a low-security hallway, and then followed it straight to Room 216. Everything was where she remembered though a fresh coat of paint may have gone over the interior walls, unlike the mural outside.

She stopped at the door. With the sound of her boots on the tiles silenced, she heard a voice from the other side. It belonged to her mother, soft, ethereal, and barely audible.

“I’m always happy to see you. But I’m afraid you worry too much, Cass.”

Cass. Ilsa’s breath caught. She knew that name all too well.

“I’d worry more if I didn’t visit enough.” The voice that replied took Ilsa’s mind back to Saint Banyeen’s Garden and years into the past, an old friend and a betrayer.

She had first met Cass at her initiation as a neophyte when they had both been thirteen years old. The short form of High Priestess Uopemm marched across a garden path, strands of gray hair drifting in a slight breeze. Ilsa and Cass stood beside a prayer altar at one end of the path, both with their long hair, traditionally left untrimmed for a month prior to beginning training in the garden, tied back into long ponytails. Cass’s hair was red-blond, Ilsa’s, so black the highlights could have been blue. Each held the stem of a white rose in both hands.

The high priestess looked Cass up and down, said the blessing of Hathani in old Yrian, which sounded completely different from the modern version of the language nearly everyone spoke on the plateau. Cass bowed to the high priestess. Uopemm gave her a curt nod, then turned to Ilsa.

Nervous under the high priestess’s gaze, Ilsa shifted the rose in her hands. One of the thorns cut her already-branded palm. The high priestess did not seem to notice the blood that flowed between her fingers. She said the blessing. Ilsa bowed, silent despite the pain. Then, Ilsa and Cass set their white roses on the altar to complete the ritual.

Cass’s had been clean, but Ilsa’s flower was spotted with blood.

Almost fifteen years later, Ilsa took a deep breath outside the door to her mother’s room in the mind ward. She opened pulled it open and stepped inside.

Cass sat in a chair by the head of the bed, pale red hair cut short now that she had the freedom of a full priestess. Her red staff was propped against a wall in the corner by a south-facing window, through which light filtered into the room. She wore a plain black shirt and trousers. Her coat hung on a hook by the door.

Mother and Cass turned together to face Ilsa. Luca looked surprisingly well, for a middle-aged woman who had been a prisoner since her mid-forties. Her formerly pure black hair had strands of gray in it, and her face was pale and lined, but she did not look like a miserable prisoner. Her eyes bloomed with recognition when she saw Ilsa’s face.

“Is that—?” She hesitated. “Is that you, Ilsa?”

“It’s me, mother.” Ilsa walked to the foot of the bed and let the door shut behind her.

Cass stared at her, eyes wide. She put her hands on the arms of her chair and pushed herself to her feet, eyes still on Ilsa. “I can’t believe it.”

“You thought I’d never come back?” Ilsa shook her head. “You were wrong.”

Tears began to build in mother’s eyes. She pushed herself to her feet, hospital gown trailing about her ankles, and then walked to the foot of the bed where Ilsa stood. They were the same height, mother, and daughter, but her mother had not passed many of her finer features to Ilsa. Mother’s face in her youth had been the model of Dalite beauty, but Ilsa’s was far too blunt, too harsh. Mother opened her arms to embrace Ilsa.

Those arms were frail, all but devoid of muscle. Ilsa hugged mother back, still holding her staff. The emptiness she had felt in her stomach when she left the train remained, even in that moment. Ilsa stepped back from her mother and felt the beginning of tears in her own eyes.

“I’m glad you’re here.” Mother wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m so happy to see you, Ilsa.”

“I wanted to see you, mother.” Ilsa sniffed back a trickle of tears.

Mother cried openly. “You haven’t written since the middle of summer. I worried you were dead. Your work is so dangerous.”

“You don’t need to worry about me. I’m a priestess of Hathani.”

“A mercenary priestess,” said Cass from the corner of the room, “Isn’t safer than any other mercenary, east or west of the plateau.”

Ilsa turned toward Cass, words she wanted to shout at her former friend already on her lips. She spoke softly. “Don’t forget why I went east, Cass. I sure haven’t.”

“I wasn’t the one who requested you leave Saint Banyeen’s. And I didn’t make you leave Dal, or Yr, either.”

Ilsa walked around her mother and planted her staff between herself and Cass. “You told them about my father. The rest followed.”

Cass grimaced. “The High Priestess already thought she knew.” She took her staff from the wall and started toward Ilsa.

Mother stepped between Cass and Ilsa. She raised her clean, empty palms as if to hold them both back without touching them. “Peace, both of you. What’s done is done.”

“Yes. It is.” Ilsa grimaced.

“Ilsa, please. Cass has been good to me. She’s helped me stay sane while you were away. The visions aren’t so bad when I have visitors.”

Ilsa lowered the end of her staff. “You still have them? You never mention them in your letters.”

“You don’t want to hear about them. The doctors call them hallucinations, and I thought you would agree.”

“Mother. I—” What could she say? She did not believe her mother had mystic sight. The ancient legends of those who could see spirits were nonsense. Even the Oshomi Nomads who lived in the center of the plateau didn’t really believe in them, except for the small band that lived around the Guardian of Tenlyres.

“I see them all the time. My parents. My brothers.”

Trauma hallucinations, the doctors had called them. Ilsa remembered from years ago when she had first had mother committed. Mother’s whole family, including both her parents and all her brothers, had died in the war with Dal’s rival city, Chogrum forty years ago. Ilsa’s father had been from Chogrum. Since her childhood, she had wondered how her mother could have loved him, knowing where he came from.

Ilsa put a hand on mother’s shoulder. She looked into mother’s eyes. “It’s alright. I’m here.”

“They aren’t my only visions, Ilsa. I see a horse with girl’s face, white roses in her hair.” Mother’s eyes went wide. She trembled as she looked Ilsa. “When she talks, she sounds like you, my daughter.”

“Mother, please try to calm down.”

“She has pale skin, pale like ours, but her face is shaped like a nomad’s. Why does she speak with your voice? Why does my beast daughter visit me?”

Cass approached slowly from mother’s other side. “Luca, your daughter is here, your real daughter.”

Mother blinked and turned to Cass. Ilsa kept her hand on mother’s shoulder and looked at her tear-streaked face. “I’m here, mother. Everything is safe.”

She nodded, and then wiped away her tears with her hand. “Thank you. Thank Hathani, and all the gods, for both of you.” She looked from Cass to Ilsa. “Ilsa, I’m so glad to see you. It’s just, my beast daughter frightens me.”

“A sight like that would scare me too.” Ilsa wished she did not have to tell mother the rest. “I wanted to see you, mother. But I can only visit you today. Tomorrow I’m leaving again.”

“You’re leaving?” Cass scowled. “You just got here.”

“I have something to do. I’m riding east in the morning.”

Mother deflated. All the excitement from first seeing Ilsa faded from her face. “Why do you have to go? Are you here to fight against Chogrum?”

“I’m not.” Ilsa sighed. “I can’t tell you where I’m going. It’s for the Unification.”

Cass’s scowl turned even darker. “Unification is never going to happen, Ilsa. Your mother needs you.”

Ilsa shook her head. “I’m going, but I’ll come back. I promise.”

“Is it dangerous, this mission of yours?” mother asked.

“I won’t lie to you.” Ilsa squeezed her mother’s shoulder gently, and then released her grip. She turned toward the door. “But I will be back. Saints preserve you, mother.”

Mother said nothing. Ilsa marched out the door. She made it most of the way down the hall to the stairway before Cass caught up with her.

The red-haired priestess clapped a hand on Ilsa’s shoulder. “Ilsa, stop.”

Ilsa whirled and swung her staff one-handed. Cass blocked the blow with her own staff. Wood rebounded from wood. They glared at each other.

“What do you want?”

“We’re on the edge of war with Chogrum,” said Cass. “Why are you going east?”

Ilsa lowered her voice. “I’m going to Tenlyres. Cass, you can’t stop me.”

“I wish I could. But you’re right. I should never have told the high priestess about your father. She only suspected you, but she wouldn’t have dismissed you from the garden if I hadn’t confirmed what she thought.”

“An apology? You’re a few years late, Cass.”

“I regret it every day, Ilsa. You were my best friend. I would never have told her if I had known what she would do.”

“Whole lot of good that does me now.” Ilsa took a deep breath and drew her staff up, away from the lock with Cass’s weapon. “But I’ll remember this.”

“Be careful. Tenlyres is going to be even more dangerous than usual with war brewing.”

“I know. Thank you for visiting my mother. Saints preserve you, Cass.”

“Be red.” Cass nodded to Ilsa.

Ilsa turned and continued on her way out of the hospital. She recognized Cass’s words. They were the beginning of one of her proverbs. Cass always had been good at writing those little scripts.

Blue met her on the street outside the mental ward, dark hair and skin glowing in the light of midday.

“That really was quick,” Blue said. “You alright?”

“I’m fine.” Ilsa’s stomach growled. “But I’m hungry.”

“Good. You admitted it.” Blue smiled. “Let’s eat.”

“You waited?”

“Of course, I waited. You’re like my sister, even if you try to live like you don’t have a body.”

Ilsa smirked at her friend. “Thanks, Blue.”

“Food, then striders. It’s a few hundred kilometers even to the Western Lyre.”

“It is.” Ilsa nodded. Her smirk faded away. “And I hear there’s a war on its way.” She turned over Cass’s parting blessing, one only Hathani’s clergy really used. Be red, Ilsa thought, like blood on a rose. She clapped Blue on the shoulder.

They started down the street, heading to the east side of Dal.

 

*

Patrons, Serials, and Good Feelings

I started a patreon page for the serial project which starts releasing next week!

The video I recorded is a bit rough, but hey, I’m a writer, not a speaker.

You can check out that page here: https://www.patreon.com/tniederriter?ty=h

Now, I really like the idea of doing a serial fiction project. I’ve had this in mind for quite a while. Now I am finally starting this one. It will be free on my website at timniederriter.com (One chapter a week, released each Friday), and on this blog (Also released on Friday). The patreon supporters will get more special stuff each week as well, and I will be releasing it in collected ebook forms as I hit the ends of story arcs in the weekly story.

I’m happy to finally be getting more work out there, and though I should share the terms here, especially so you folks won’t be all confused once fiction starts popping up on this page.

I had a great week. Those of you know me or follow me on twitter or facebook likely figured that out. I’ve been working hard and having fun. I set up sites, outlined and started writing the serial project I just discussed above.

And I’m feeling good about my prospects pushing toward the release of the first novel in my Maker Mythos series later that month. That book goes by the title Hunter and Seed, and should be out around January 25th in ebook (Amazon and several other formats) and soon after that in print from Createspace.

I am excited, working effectively, and just generally happy.

I owe much of this to the vacation I went on over New Years. I’m doing my best to take precautions to keep this way, or find my way back here if I lose this attitude. Life is good.

I’m happy for everyone who is used to reading this blog and seeing me whine. I hope you won’t mind a shift in tone because I can’t whine when I feel like this.

Thanks for reading.

Preparing for Liftoff

So, my earlier plans to put a novel on sale by this time of year has pretty much fallen through. I’m okay with that because the novel I was preparing is destined for the land of queries in the near future.

On the other hand, I don’t want to have to freelance too much either. As I get more work done on these other stories I plan to start releasing one of them (For starters) through a Patreon page (Which is not live yet) as a serial story. I think Patreon will finally give me the ability to distribute chapters at the right rate to allow serialization to work.

That’s the new plan. More on that as I get moving on things and do more editing. Now, back to the grindstone with me. Have a good day!