Epic Fantasy New Release!

by Autumn Birt

A story three years in the making has reached its conclusion with the release of Spirit of Life, book 3 in my epic fantasy trilogy on elemental magic the Rise of the Fifth Order!

And to celebrate, I’m having an epic sale!

Born of Water, book 1, will be free on Amazon US, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes until June 2nd – and maybe longer if Amazon US doesn’t notice the sale is over. 😉  Rule of Fire, book 2, is on sale for only 99 cents until June 2nd as well. Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo. AND the final book, newly released Spirit of Life, will be only 99 cents for its new release weekend! It is already live on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and should be available on Kobo soon!

Begin the adventure… and discover its end.

Would you protect a girl whose forbidden abilities condemn her to death?

Welcome to the world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. But there exists another gift, dubbed magic, which is considered an aberration by the Church. To be born with the powers of magic is to be condemned to death. To be born with the ability to control an element is to born to a life serving the Church… and obeying its rules

Seventeen year old Ria has mastered her forbidden gift of magic despite the Church’s pursuit. But for those who have protected her, the price will be paid in blood. War threatens those who have given her and others, who harbor the power of magic, refuge. As High Priest Sinika gathers the might of the Church, friends in the forest of the Kith prepare to fight, while a few join Ria to take on a greater challenge – a race to avert the coming war.

Return to the world of Myrrah with Spirit of Life, the final book in the Rise of the Fifth Order series!

It is time for the story to end.


What people are saying about the Rise of the Fifth Order Series!

“Just finished Born of Water book 1. Amazing, can’t wait to read the next one. Instant fan, keep up the amazing work!!!” – Edward Brady

“I read a lot of fantasy and I’d rate this as a great new author and a great new story! I can not WAIT for the next book and will check back often for it!” – Katy Reany 5 stars on Amazon

“I would recommend it to fantasy adventure fans, those who like a little romance, and anyone who is a fan of magic! I know I will read the next installment!” – W. Stuart 4 stars on Amazon

“I loved two battle scenes in particular. The battle at the Temple of Dust and the battle at the Temple of Wind. Fire versus water. Air versus Earth. Thrilling!” – Futureboy 4 stars on Amazon

“I’m biased, because this is exactly my sort of book. But maybe that bias should make me more critical…but there is absolutely nothing to dislike about Born Of Water…We’re not simply reading about this quest…we’re there with them.” – Stewart Bint 5 stars on Smashwords

“I’m halfway through Rule of Fire and I’m already looking for news of the next book. I’ll admit to being a fantasy addict, which means I’ve read an awful lot of books over the years from Tolkien onwards and I can honestly say your storytelling and character development are up there with the best of them. Keep writing (please!).” – Ian Leggatt

 


 

AutumnAutumn (also known as Weifarer) is a travel and fiction writer currently based in Maine where she lives in a small cottage lost in the woods, which she built with her husband with the supervision (and approval) of two Cairn terriers.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University in Studio Arts and English, Autumn once considered a career in illustration. However, an ecology course at Virginia Tech led to a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine in Orono. Since graduating with her M.S., Autumn has worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. This is a great job that not only lets her help the environment and protect local agriculture, but also gives her a paycheck big enough to support her writing habit!

You can learn more about her and her many writing projects on Autumn’s blog and website AutumnWriting.com.

You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+. Stop by and say Hi!

Cover Reveal: epic fantasy novel Rule of Fire

by Autumn M. Birt

The time has finally come! No, not the publication of Rule of Fire, the sequel to my first book, epic fantasy Born of Water. That is soon. Work is progressing on final edits as I hear back from beta readers. Plus, I do have to polish up the first few chapters to the final book in the trilogy, Spirit of Life. I’m rather optimistic that things will all come together – even if it takes an all-nighter or two…and a day off work. In fact, I’m so optimistic as to say that Rule of Fire should be available to the world on June 21st!

How could I not choose that date? As much as I would have loved to have it out on (or before) the publication date of Born of Water back in February, the first day of Born of Water takes place on summer solstice. So you see, June 21st being a Friday AND summer solstice…well it is just meant to be. So I’m going to make it happen!

But hey, that isn’t why you are here today. TODAY, I’m happy to finally release the cover to Rule of Fire! I hope you love it. It is actually a scene from the book! How cool is that? And how tempting too, I hope! So without further word clutter: the cover to Rule of Fire!

RofF-Cover-final small

 

 

Hopefully the cover is so awesome you just have to know more about it! So, not to let you down…  😉

Rule of Fire

Six friends stand alone against the combined Orders of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, protecting a girl whose forbidden abilities have condemn her to death. Now they are joined by a man who was once the Curse, the Church’s most powerful weapon and Ria’s greatest threat. Left with no name and no memory, the decision to aid this stranger will cost friendships and more as the group of friends journey north to seek a tribe of people lost to time amid an ancient war. The path home is riddled with dangers as the Church of Four Orders still seeks Ria and the former Water Priestess Nirine. For one High Priest, the desire for vengeance is personal.

Ria must unravel the mysteries of her power to find acceptance in a world where her abilities are considered a taint. Is the strange gift of magic an aberration that should be destroyed or something far more, related to the skills held by the Elementals who rule Myrrah?

The sequel to Born of Water, Rule of Fire is book 2 in the epic fantasy trilogy, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Return to the world of Myrrah ruled by the Church of Four Orders. Release is scheduled for June 21st!

Please let me know what you think of the cover! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

A bit about me (in case you aren’t a regular here):

AutumnAutumn is a travel and fiction writer currently based in Maine where she lives in a yurt with her husband and lovable Cairn Terriers. Her work is featured on the adventure travel website No Map Nomads where she is the co-editor and writer (and also known as Weifarer). Her writing blog is at Weifarer’s Wandering, where she talks about the fun and trials of being a writer as well as upcoming releases. She is also a member of Guild of Dreams, which features her blog posts as well as those of eleven other fantasy writers. She is an indie author with two other books currently available: the adventure fantasy novel Born of Water and Born of Water’s Novel Companion. The sequel to Born of Water, Rule of Fire, is scheduled for release in June of 2013. She has plans for many more novels. Check out Weifarer’s Wandering and her Facebook page for updates.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University in Studio Arts and English, Autumn once considered a career in illustration. After a few years of selling paintings while working as the manager of a gallery and custom framing store, a party and fine gifts store in Virginia, working retail at a gourmet kitchen store, being the head embroiderer at a college clothing store, and finally waitressing for a year, she decided to head back to University. After two years of intense science courses, this career path change led to a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine in Orono. Since graduating with her M.S., Autumn has worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A wanderer at heart, Autumn’s desire to travel has led her to France while still in high school, a year abroad in Manchester, UK which led to excursions in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and around many parts of England, and more recent trips with family to Mexico (both the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico sides), US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Costa Rica, Saba, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and four Canadian provinces. She has plans for many further adventures both real and fictional.

Connect with Me Online:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/weifarer

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Autumn-M-Birt/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/weifarer

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6426917.Autumn_M_Birt

Blogs: http://nomapnomad.com/ww

http://NoMapNomads.com

Show and Tell

There are numerous adages for writers to follow. They are bounced around classrooms, websites, and editing groups.

“Write what you know”

“Write every day”

“Use active voice”

“Have the courage to write badly”

“Edit mercilessly”

“Read – a lot”

Working on editing my current work-in-progress Rule of Fire, I’m doing my best to keep them in mind without being overwhelmed by the clutter (It is a lot to fit in my head!). Sometimes I think it is best to edit in layers: clean up the plot and look for holes or breaks in logic (yes, even fantasy has logic!), double check characters for consistency, work on sentence structure, polish every word, and finally send to editor/beta readers for suggestions before beginning the sequence again (this step can be done earlier, but you might not like what they say). I’m looking forward to the polish phase!

But right now I’m still on the big edits, taking out chunks of chapters and building new blocks. Every once in awhile I find myself working on some of the nuances. One of the biggest to clean up early is “Show, don’t tell.”

Let’s face it, too much description and too much explaining, is just boring. But when you are writing, explaining everything to get it right in your head as the author can be important. More than that, describing a scene is a neat trick to overcoming a dose of writer’s block. However, the reader doesn’t really need to suffer along with the writer.

Since this is about showing rather than telling, to demonstrate, though I’m embarrassed to share something I feel is so bad (and has happily been deleted!), below is a snippet that when I going through the first read of my manuscript got me rolling my eyes, snarling, and circling in heavy, black marker. It just wasn’t going to do!

There had been nothing beyond the stunted grass and scrappy pines fading to the north. Only once had they seen a group of horses in the distance. Khodan’s heart had leapt to heights he had not known existed, growing greater with warmth than the sun. He had expected to see children at any moment tending to the sleek ponies. His ears listened for the call of a greeting on the wind.

But there had only been a faint neigh and the sound of hooves over the sodden earth. No riders appeared, no nomadic village of lightweight willow huts with skin coverings. The horses, they could see when they finally walked stealthy close enough, were covered in mud with untrimmed hooves. There was no one to care for them.

Khodan had remembered the springs around which his people had camped. He’d found them. But there had been no sign of people nearby, no trampled grass or mud, no signs of grazing or manure. The moors rolled on endlessly in all directions, each as blank as the next. After the hope born of the horses, Khodan felt hollow in comparison. He was as empty as his homeland.wildhorses2

After a bit of work, it became:

It was over an hour later Laireag stopped abruptly.

“What . . . ,” Niri began, but he held up a hand, tilting his head.

“Don’t you hear?” Laireag asked. Then Khodan did.

Over the next hill, a horse neighed, another snorted. Khodan dropped his satchel and bedroll, running up the last of the ground to the hilltop. Over a mile away, a herd of horses jogged across the higher grassland. He had found his people.

It was like the sun had risen within him. He could not contain the joy as it leaked tears from his eyes. Any moment, he knew, riders would cover over the hill. They would be children, who tended the herds. The little group of four would be seen, greetings yelled in a language he only heard now in his sleep. Khodan held his breath and waited.

The breeze whispered through the stiff grass. The horses, a group of over twenty, slowed, bending their heads to eat. The sound of their hooves died away. The world was silent.

“No,” Khodan whispered without meaning to say the word.

“Perhaps,” Laireag began, but stopped.

Together, they walked cautiously toward the herd. The stallion watched them come, his ears flicking forward and back as they approached. Khodan guessed that Laireag calmed him somehow, but he couldn’t be sure. The stone he wore blocked all sense of such things. It didn’t matter though, he didn’t have to get very close to see what he feared.

Mud caked the horse’s hides. Untrimmed hooves were long, sinking into the damp earth. The animals were uncared for. Khodan closed his eyes, unable to look at them.

“A wild herd from animals that escaped?” Niri hazarded. Ty snorted. Khodan’s hand curled tight as his side, then the heat in him disappeared.

After the hope of the moment before, he felt empty. As empty as the moors. Khodan swallowed, taking back his satchel from Laireag, who had picked it up for him.

“The camp is still a few days away,” Khodan said. His voice finally spooked the wild animals. They tossed their heads, galloping away as if they had never seen people before.

Harry-and-Marlowe-escape-by-Carrie-Vaughn-575x442I hope you see an improvement! And I’m not done yet. I still have a lot of that polish to rub on! Oddly enough, to prep for that, I follow the last adage: Read – a lot. I keep a few of the best stories or sections of chapters I’ve run across on hand. I go through those as I edit to see why I find them so incredible (the list is top secret, sorry). Then I turn back to what I’m working on.

I wanted to share a recent find that truly swept me away: Harry and Marlowe Escape the Mechanical Siege of Paris by Carrie Vaughn. Even if you are not completely in love with the characters and story by the end, I hope you can see it is a fantastic bit of writing! Does Ms. Vaughn tell at all? Man, I have so much work to do . . . .

What are some of your favorite writing and editing proverbs?

___

Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water, its Novel Companion, and most recently the compilation of adventure travel stories Danger Peligros! All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of enovels.

Free Offer and New Cover for Born of Water, Plus a Sneak Peak of the Sequel!

BofW-Elemental-Cover-FINAL-MediumIt has been quite a week for me. I finally created a Facebook page to feature my writing, which you can check out here. Plus, I joined Goodreads and set up my author page there. But for me the best part was finally releasing a new cover to Born of Water!

I was never content with the original and messing around with it wasn’t improving the impact in the least. I wanted something that would say it was a fantasy novel featuring characters that could control the elements, that there was a battle brewing, and that was also eye catching. I think this one does it all, plus it is going to look so great next the sequel’s cover which is in the works.

Work on Rule of Fire, Born of Water‘s sequel, is going along swimmingly. I’m two thirds of the way through writing the manuscript and still hoping for a release sometime this spring. Date to be announced, of course.

Well with all the accomplishments this week, I decided I had to celebrate. So, I’m offering Born of Water for FREE at Smashwords and 99 cents at Amazon (since they don’t do a free coupon, boo!). Go to Born of Water‘s page at Smashwords and use the coupon code EA63Z from today until Saturday the 26th and you can pick up a copy with the new cover for free! Now if you don’t know, Smashwords offer multiple formats including Kindle. But if you just have to buy from Amazon (and earn me some pocket change), you can find go to Born of Water‘s page at Amazon.

And because I really am in such a good mood and so happy with my writing progress, below is an excerpt from Rule of Fire. It is a section from early in the novel and gives voice to someone we never got to know well in Born of Water (and if you read it, you might be wondering what became of him). I’ve been really having fun getting into his twisted little head in Rule of Fire. Enjoy!

Rule of Fire

Chapter 5

FREEDOM

There were no other senses, only patterns of shimmering light in reds and golds. A shadow formed in the center. A figure leaned over him. He blinked. A woman, her face framed by long hair, came into focus. Nirine had returned to torment him. Panicked, clawing his fingers into the ground below, he tried to push himself away from her.

“High Priest Sinika do you understand me? Can you hear me? You are free.”

The touch on his wet skin was gentle. Her green eyes were broad with concern, green not brown. A man stood behind her smelling of water, his white robes wet from the knee down. Fine brows drawn, the woman turned away.

“Misshal, go get Dahal. Quickly!”

Once again, Sinika’s world faded to darkness.

 

It took Sinika a moment to realize he was staring at a bright square. Finally conscious, his mind registered that he was watching sunlight shine outside a tent door. He was out of the drowned Temple.

His arms did not support him as he tried to sit up. He struggled a moment before gentle hands lifted his shoulders, resting him against the support of piled pillows. A glass was pressed to his lips, water flooding his mouth.

Sinika coughed, spitting out the vile liquid tasting of murk and dark. The glass was gone. Steady hands radiating a comforting warmth held him still until his weak fighting stopped. Energy filling him, Sinika focused and found before him a face he knew.

“Dahal,” he whispered hoarsely.

Dahal nodded. A smile touched with relief stretched his lips across his russet skin. He held up the glass again. Sinika turned his head like an obstinate child.

“No, wine.” Dahal’s black brows drew together, but he nodded. The wine Dahal brought to him was watered down, but it tasted more of grapes and sunlight than a mud puddle. He let the disobedience go. As the sun set, Sinika drifted off again in sleep.

The world was sunlit ghosts for days. Dahal would give him bits of food whenever he was awake, but there was no sense of time. The only difference in day came from the angle of light hitting the tent door. He tried to not wake at night. When he did, it brought a sweat that chilled him in the desert darkness. The tent walls moved like a wall of water, like his prison in the Temple. There were moments where Sinika thought the tent and Dahal were illusions born of his desperation. Then Dahal would come, calming him to sleep with a touch.

Sinika did not know how long it had been when he could finally sit up on his own. He looked around the cloth walls that sheltered him, wondering how he had mistaken them for the Temple. Sand was scattered across the cloth covering on the floor, a brass brassiere stood in the corner near a small ring of blocks and a chest. The tent had been set up for days at least.

Dahal entered, hurrying over when he saw Sinika awake. Sinika brushed his hands away. “Who is here? Who did Timpada send?”

Dahal stepped back. He nodded once before leaving again. He brought the woman with him when he returned. She wore a loose wrap to keep off the desert sun. The cloth glinted yellow with flowing lines woven into it. Wide green eyes jumped from Sinika to Dahal before she approached, pulling up a folding stool to place next to his bed.

“Dahal said you were much improved. I am so relieved, High Priest.”

“Said?” Sinika asked, a lift to his eyebrow.

“A manner of speech,” she said, blushing. “I am not very familiar with the Inner Council’s healer, forgive me.”

Sinika watched her a moment. Fair skinned, light brown hair, and green eyes, she was not familiar to him but her colored robes marked her as more than an acolyte.

“You are a Priestess from the Order of Air.”

“Yes, I am Felya. High Priestess Timpada sent myself and Acolyte Misshal from the Order of Water to help you as you instructed.” Felya’s amazement had worn off. She sat up straighter as she spoke of the honor High Priestess Timpada had given her.

“It worked well then?”

Felya reached to the table next to Sinika, pouring him a glass of water. He took it rigidly, not bothering to sip it before setting it down.

“Yes, I could easily sense the pockets of air trapped in the Temple. There were many, but only a few large enough to hold a person.” She glanced away a moment, drinking from her own glass before continuing. “It took Misshal some practice to thicken the water around the air bubble enough so that anything trapped inside did not fall through. We lost everything the first attempt.”

Sinika could hear his pulse thundering in his ears. For a moment his vision was blocked by the image of the tomb of dark water, faint sunlight filtering down from far above and growing more dim as he sank into the black weight. Anger curled his hands as he refocused on Felya, pale and frozen before him.

“We were sure,” she said quickly. “Absolutely certain that you were not in that one. We chose a small air bubble first to practice with.” Surprisingly, her eyes were sincere. Sinika almost laughed. The earnest look reminded him of a deceitless child fresh to Solaire. That in turn recalled a memory of the first time he had met Nirine. The amusement evaporated on his lips.

Sinika reached out and picked up his glass of water. Over it, he regarded Felya again. “How long ago was that, when you brought me to the surface?”

“Four days. The High Priestess thinks you were trapped . . . down there for a week and a half. We were not sure you would be alive at all.”

Sinika felt a smile as dry as tinder grass touch his lips. “But yet you tried anyway. And succeeded, I thank you.”

Felya nodded, swallowing hard. “You are tired, I’m sure. I will bid you good rest, High Priest Sinika.”

He did not even notice her leave, his thoughts turning toward the one desire that was in his breast now that he had light and freedom once again.

Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water and its Novel Companion and most recently the compilation of adventure travel stories Danger Peligros! All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of e-novels.

An Ode to Memory

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             With clicking claws
             On sauntering paws,
             The dragon comes a snorken

             His fetid breath
             Will scare you half to death,
             When the dragon comes a hunten . . .

I used to be a happier person. I made up the poem above and used to sing it to my older Cairn terrier, known lovingly as ‘Dragon’ (yes, I sang to small furry animals. I blame it on too much Disney as a child). There are quite a few verses and I meant to write them down, but then we lost him just before Yule in 2011. I’m not ready to get back to it quite yet.

My Dragon hunting frogs in better days

My Dragon hunting frogs in better days

I’ve been fairly ambivalent about the whole Holiday season thing for awhile. After losing a member of the family that was around longer than my marriage and add to that some really nasty crap going down at work, I thought I couldn’t get any lower this year. Then I lost 10 chapters to Rule of Fire, the sequel to my currently published epic fantasy novel Born of Water.

It was an update gone wrong on my laptop where even the backup done before hand was corrupted. My husband tried everything to restore what had been lost, but all of my writing had gone to electronic Nirvana. In one second, I went from being halfway done at Chapter 15 to only having most of Chapter 4 with a bit of 5 from an email copy I’d send to myself in August.

Oddly, I didn’t freak out. I did think it was going to be what finally pushed me over the edge though! I had a VERY large glass of wine and went to sleep.

The next day I checked to make sure I hadn’t gone down the wrong rabbit hole somewhere and been trapped in a horrible parallel universe. Nope, still gone. Drats! I knew I only had myself to blame. I mean, I know better. If you have something valuable, you NEVER keep only one copy of it. Especially something as easily copyable as an electronic file. I’d thought in the days leading up to the electronic massacre that I really should send myself another email copy for safe keeping. Did I? No . . . .

So that morning after my moment of regret, I sat down (next to the fire with some tea and cookies) and got back to work – at Chapter 4. Surprisingly, the thing that I thought would by my anchor to the depths of deep darkness turned out to kick start the rise up. It was a bubble, not a boulder.

I made an outline of the chapters I’d lost and just jumped back in without the driving desire to finish it ASAP. Frankly, I admitted to myself that I’d pushed through more than a few chapters and had been hoping the first (few) edit(s) would transform them from crap to brilliant. Writing ’round 2′, I knew what was going to happen, could even remember a lot of what was now gone, and found myself really fleshing out the skeleton I’d written the first time. I actually found myself enjoying the experience far more than having fits of “I already freaken wrote this once. Why do I have to do it again?” (Which did happen, I admit, but I kept them to myself).

Does this work for e-files too?

Does this work for e-files too?

I initially figured that my hope to have the sequel published this spring was shot. But now I’d nearly refinished Chapter 10 on New Year’s Day and hope to be closing in on the last 4 lost chapters by early next week (especially if the frequent heavy snowstorms can continue for Maine . . . please?). I think considering the improvement of the writing, I’ll not have lost any net time as I’ll be saving some on the editing side. Go figure. Life is weird.

(NOTE: This writing speed is only possible due to having already written the chapters previously so I know what will happen and by ignoring all family members while eating and drinking as little as possible. The numerous days off so that work didn’t interrupt helped too! I’ve let several other projects slide, but made a promise that once I hit Chapter 15, I’d start to spread out my time.)

I’ve read so many tales of writers of the past losing manuscripts to fire, carelessness, the postal service . . . and been amazed they could forge ahead afterwards. I see now it is possible. Memory is amazing. The first thing I said to my husband when he told me my writing was gone was “No it isn’t. It is still in my head.” And it is. So is the poem about my Dragon along with the memories that inspire each verse. It is nice to know that they will still be there when I’m ready to write them down, even if they too come out a little altered.

So losing 10 chapters didn’t prove to drive me any further insane than current estimates. I think it actually improved my writing and perhaps my outlook. I’m still having a ton of fun writing (see mention of insanity in first sentence). Though I can’t say it was beneficial enough for me to contemplate accidentally recreating the event using chapters 15 to 30. Actually, I am now strict about making back-ups – at least three!

Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water and its Novel Companion and most recently the compilation of adventure travel stories Danger Peligros! All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of e-novels.

A Little Bit of Adventure for Your Day: Excerpt from Born of Water

In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16 year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success. Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders and Niri, if they must. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.

So goes the description to my epic fantasy novel Born of Water. The Companion to Born of Water, full of background information and other tidbits, will be released within a week and I’m hard at work on the sequel, Rule of Fire. I’ve offered up Born of Water for free, but never given out sample chapters! Bruce has convinced me to mend my ways, so for the first time ever here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 – The Bazaar of Sardinia:

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No one entered Sardinia unnoticed. The town was perched on an exposed slim finger of land which jutted out into the Sea of Sarketh. High hills dropped quickly to the ocean, leaving no deep, sheltering harbor or port for vessels. Instead, a natural breakwater was formed by a line of rocks sweeping out from the point. It offered ships meager shelter from the current and incoming storms.

A small town had formed by those skillful or desperate enough to seek refuge behind the submerged rocks of the breakwater. Despite the convenient location of the town between the Archipelago and the cities lining the Sea of Sarketh, the lack of a harbor had kept the settlement from becoming a thriving commercial town. Over time, the breakwater had been enlarged with boulders and the town had turned to catering to those whose needs were not met in the traditional markets. Sardinia was avoided by conventional merchants and honest professionals, or so Ria had heard.

As Lavinia steered them toward a ramshackle wharf, Ty stood watch leaning over the edge of the boat.

“Rocks awash fifteen feet to port.”

Lavinia nudged the rudder post to turn them a degree to the right.

“No, keep the course steady.” Ty’s harsh voice caused Lavinia to flush as she froze her hand.

“Then say ‘stay on course,’ not ‘rocks to port,’” Lavinia snapped at her brother.

Ty ran his hands through his already rumpled hair. Ria and Niri glanced at each other in silence. Ria’s breath caught in her throat as they glided past the half-submerged remains of a ship. The cracked boards of its hull were an ominous welcome to the dangerous town and harbor.

“You are doing fine. Just keep it slow and follow the channel,” Ty said a little more kindly.

Lavinia took a deep breath and glared at the back of her brother’s head. She refocused on the quickly approaching wharf. The mass of wooden planks and pilings sprawled along the shore without order. In places, small rope-and-board bridges spanned sections that had fallen into the waves.

“Where do I go?” Lavinia asked, admitting that she needed help.

“Stay to the starboard side. Head there, just off the channel. You see?” Ty said, pointing to a doubtful-looking mass of planks nailed haphazardly between old pilings.

“That’s where the merchant vessels tie up?” Lavinia’s voice broke with nervousness.

Ty glanced at her grimly. “No, but it’s the closest to the channel and will be the fastest to leave from.”

The edges of Ria’s vision faded, the colors blending to white. She inhaled sea-laden air while her stomach tumbled. Overcome with seasickness and nervousness, she focused on the rigid lines made by the bones of her hands, not looking up toward the town until the boat brushed the dock.

Three men were walking down the wharf toward them as Lavinia stalled the sailboat just off the dock. They confidently stepped across the missing planks with an easy swagger. His gaze not leaving the approaching men, Ty casually looped a rope around a nearly upright piling, not so much securing them as making certain the boat did not drift.

“Do exactly as I say while we are here,” he said quietly.

Wide-eyed, Lavinia watched her brother over the dropped sail as she lashed it to the boom. Niri was pale, but her serene face did not betray any fears. Ria felt that if she opened her mouth she would scream. Her heart thudded in her chest so hard she thought it would break her ribs, which felt as fragile as crystal. She was a creature made of spun gold and milk glass about to step foot in a world that would crush her as surely as the Church. Eyes twin shards of moss agate set in alabaster, Ria stared at Ty, feeling as frightened of what he was asking her to do as she was of the men walking down the dock.

“Aye, what business do you have?”

The lead man stood over their small ship, coolly appraising it from the height of the dock. One thumb was hooked into the waist of his faded red, rough-woven pants, while his weight rested on his right leg in a casual pose. His muted brown hair fell to his cheeks, which showed two days worth of scruff.

“We have goods for the bazaar,” Ty answered calmly, eyes not leaving the man’s face.

There was a slight glimmer to the man’s hazel eyes as he looked at Ty, then the air of nonchalance fell back across his face. His eyes drifted between Ria and Lavinia. “Is that so? Anything good?”

The muscles around Ty’s face tightened and he stood a little straighter. “Odds and ends mostly; we need to clean out the boat.”

“Not selling her, are you?” the second man asked from where he stood a pace behind the first. Sandy blond hair trailed over one eager brown eye. His tan tunic had a slash of dirt across the front, while his pants were neither gray nor brown. They were the color of mud.

Ty paused, his gaze shifting as he tried to judge what the man was referring to. The man’s eyes rested on the girls as much as on the ship.

“No, the boat isn’t for sale.”

“Too bad. She is a slick little vessel,” the man replied, his eyes laughing at some private joke.

The third man was hard to gauge. He stood well back from the other two. Built lithely with fine muscles that rippled under his deep black skin, his eyes took in everything. But his expression gave little in return. His clothes were dark, a sleeveless violet tunic with embroidery at the keyhole collar over black pants and boots. The fabric of his shirt was crisp as if still new. His eyes were the only ones that did not stare at the two girls. He met Niri’s gaze steadily.

Niri remained unreadable, not in the least bothered by the direct stare. She stood alone near where she usually sat on the boat, the bright and slightly revealing shirt looking out of place on her controlled form. Ria felt as pale as a summer rain cloud. She refused to look at any of the men, wishing they would disappear if she did not acknowledge their presence, as if she could will this place not to exist. Lavinia stood in front of her, looking up at the men through a lock of dark hair that had fallen across her downcast face. To Ria, the glare to Lavinia’s blue eyes looked startlingly like her brother’s.

“You’ll need to pay the normal dock fee, then,” said the first man, who looked to be the oldest, or at least the one in charge.

Ty did not hesitate. “I’ll pay you to watch the ship, too. We won’t be past sunset.”

The offer erased the dour look from the man’s face. “That would be all right. I’m Gaff. Causis and Hahri can help you take items up to the bazaar as well. You can pay me.” His grin was easy and gap-toothed, more troubling in the boyishness of it compared to the nefarious look the moment before.

Ty passed Gaff a handful of coins without even counting them. Ria watched the money they had spent the last two days earning disappear into Gaff’s shirt. Her breath came in little puffs as she floated high in her head, detached from her body, the boat, the town.

Gaff vanished down the haphazard wharf. Sandy-haired Causis stood leering at the two girls while Hahri waited silently behind him. Ty tossed the bags they had sorted the night before and brought on deck at dawn at Causis’s and Hahri’s feet. Causis scowled but picked up his share.

Ria followed Lavinia’s actions, bending to pick up a small sack of mostly fine cloth. It was light but Ria felt like a willow being bent over in a storm. Ty helped her from the boat to the wharf, his touch warm on her ice-like skin. It made her come back to herself and her skittering heartbeat like a wild bird caught in a snare.

Ria walked down the rickety wharf as close to Lavinia as possible. Hahri and Causis were nearly to end of the dock and Ty was moving quickly to stay with them. Ria’s stiff, stilt-like legs and the weight of the bundle twined in her arms nearly caused her to overbalance at every missing plank. Her eyes would lock on the water swirling around the rocks below and she would nearly misstep. Niri’s hand on her shoulder kept her moving, bringing back enough focus to keep her from walking off the edge.

The relief of finding the muddy road under her feet fell away the instant the wind shifted. The smell of strong spirits and stale urine hit her with a sudden onslaught. She gagged this time for a reason other than nerves. On solid ground now, Lavinia moved her bundle to her left hip so that she and Ria could walk next to each other, their shoulders nearly touching. Ty followed directly behind Hahri and Causis, while Niri was last, keeping the girls between herself and Ty.

Dilapidated buildings with broken boards and missing narrow windows lined the dirt road winding up the hill. Bottles were smashed into the muddy track. A rat dove under the corner of a building, something moldy in its mouth. In an upper window, Ria saw movement. She found herself meeting the dull eyes of a girl about her age. Her naked shoulder was bruised and scratched, lank hair falling down to cover her breast. Rough hands covered the welt and pulled her back and out of sight.

Trembling so hard that she thought her bones would fall apart, Ria pulled her eyes down to Ty’s back and trudged ahead in a nightmare.

The abused wooden buildings gave way to low stucco structures and then larger ones of worn stone. Still far from elegant, these building at least gave a sense of purpose and organization. Ria found herself glancing around again from under her lashes.

Ahead, Hahri opened a tall arched door set in a high wall. Causis and Ty slipped through without pausing. Ria raced through on Lavinia’s heels, who stopped so quickly Ria bumped into her. The bazaar of Sardinia swirled around them on the other side of the old stone wall. The winding narrow streets of chipped stone and stucco buildings echoed the shouts, music, laughter, and sales chatter of hundreds of vendors. Shop doors stood open, giving glances into the dark interiors of rug merchants and dimly lit cafés. Smoke from small cook fires along the street floated in the warming air. The smells of roasted coffee mixed with spices and cooked marinated meats mingled in the still morning. It was the largest and most vibrant market Ria had ever seen or heard of. She blinked in surprise.

“Where do you want to start?” It was the first time Hahri had spoken. His voice was a low base that rumbled deep in his chest. After walking through the doorway to the market, Hahri was now behind Niri while Causis was next to Ty. Ria glanced at Ty to see Causis staring at her. Ria felt her cheeks flame as she glanced away.

“I know someone. You will be able to leave us there. This way.”

Ty led, moving along the bazaar with the ease of someone comfortably familiar with their surroundings. The tension was gone from Lavinia’s form as she watched her brother’s back. The bundle she carried dangled only a foot above the ground. Niri and Hahri were behind Ria, so she could not see if they were similarly relaxed in the vibrant heart of Sardinia. Ria felt more confused than reassured.

But it was easy to be drawn in. An elongated red and orange demi-dragon twisted around the arms of a tattooed man, the rich colors of his skin blending with that of the chained beast. Birds in cages or with feet tied to sticks screamed and sang from one stall. In another, fire sylphs danced above their brass cages waiting to be sold. A man ran up to Ria holding out lengths of gleaming silver silk. His words were incomprehensible as he described the material in a language other than trade. Ria shook her head and looked away, seeing a young boy acrobat, wearing little more than paint, lithely tumbling forward from a handstand. It was marvelous and lurid, fantastical and deceptive.

In the midst of it all, Ria felt like every eye turned toward her. Silk and jewelry, delicate shoes and fine dresses were whisked in front of her. She pulled into herself, for the first time in her life wishing away the novelty of her delicate beauty. The sellers could not help but notice her. Eyes from the shadows of stores assessed her potential. She could feel the stares pushing against her.

Senses assaulted by a new wave of merchandise thrust at her, Ria floundered, gesturing them away with her hands. The bag she was holding dropped and was scooped up before she could bend over. Tears of frustration filled her eyes as she stepped after it, only to be stopped immediately by the surrounding wall of merchant men. Lavinia was not next to her, Ty nowhere to be seen.

Ria scrambled to step back, not knowing how she had become separated from them so quickly. But the men would not let her pass. A hand like a shackle closed over her wrist and pulled her sideways through the throng. Ty had come to collect her, she was sure. The relief that Ty had found her shattered as Ria found herself staring into Causis’s greedy brown eyes. His other hand cut off her scream as he dragged her forward toward the edge of the street.

His grip was brutal. His hand crushed her wrist, bruising her flesh while the arm of the hand across her mouth felt like a steel band across her chest. As he pulled her down an alley barely a doorway wide, Ria stumbled against him, feeling the length of his body against hers. She began to struggle, writhing and kicking.

The hand over her mouth let go. Ria sucked in air before it was knocked out of her again by the slap across her face.

“Stop it. You are worth more to me unblemished, but not by much,” Causis hissed into her ear.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny snippet of the novel! You can find Born of Water on amazon. Look for the Companion, which will be free, sometime in the first week of August. And if all goes well, Rule of Fire should be out late fall.

Autumn