Needle Ash – Chapter 7, “Knives of Darkness” part 1

Chapter 7: Knives of Darkness   Sharona pushed herself closer to Michael as the center of the mattress sagged on its tired ropes, threatening to smother her. Their faces were so close that they could no longer see each other as more than a blur. The muffled sounds of passions pressed just as hard as the mattress, and Michael had to give out a whispered groan. Sharona breathed in Michael’s ear, “This is what you intended, was it not?” “I didn’t expect it to go so quickly.” “She’s apparently very good at her work.” “That remains to be seen… or…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 6: The King and the Queen, part 2

Back to Contents “Proof even a fool can do something right,” King Edward said as they trotted back to camp. “Your outburst might have put a seal on this ceding of territory.” “What?” Michael said. “You’re not seriously considering having Johan marry that woman, are you?” The king chuckled. “He would, if I said so, for I am his king, and we would still gain a kingdom. As consort he would have the real power anyway, being a man and a military leader.” He looked to Johan. “Sounds interesting, eh?” “Most definitely.” “What about Julia?” Michael said. “Michael,” Johan said…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 6: The Queen and the King, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 6: The Queen and the King Michael stood beside his horse, putting on his gloves. He wore a colorful doublet of blue and green, a fine set of satin trousers and his riding boots which, as he had neglected to bring formal shoes, were shined with cooking oil as per Guissali’s suggestion. He watched the pavilion tent in front of the gates having its final stakes hammered in. It was as neutral a location as could be managed; just beyond reasonable firing range from the city walls and equally far from the fortifications of the Artilland…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 5: Ferralla, part 2

Back to Contents “It was necessary,” Michael said. “I didn’t say anything,” Sharona said. The were riding out past the Ferrallese army encampment, their troops having left it abandoned save for a few cowardly men who refused to bar the way forward. “The look on your face said that you didn’t care for our dispatchment of the captain.” “I don’t believe it was the only solution, ‘tis true,” Sharona said. “I broke his leg so we would not have to kill him. Otherwise I would have done something to simply kill him quickly.” “If we didn’t kill him, the army…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 5: Ferralla, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 5: Ferralla   The sun was shining brightly on the plain as Michael, Sharona, and the handful of servants and guards they had brought worked their way slowly down from the rocky pass separating Ferralla and Artalland. The sparse dry oaks on the leeward side of the mountain were little shelter, and soon everyone in the party was loosening collars and removing jackets to cool off. Langelo came riding awkwardly toward them from up the road, his horse (borrowed from one of Michael’s retainers, who slept happily in the wagon) second-guessing his commands and turning this…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 4: Turns, part 2

Back to Contents “Are we even now?” Michael said. He had let Calot follow the road at his own leisure, but the beast had chosen to walk beside Rabble-Rouser, Sharona’s claimed destrier. Neither of them had spoken to each other yet. The morning had worn on, a light grey rain falling on the traveling cloaks that obscured the face of each, making the silence tolerable for longer than Michael had expected. “You’re quite a bit taller than me, actually,” Sharona said  at length, her face hidden in the heavy wool of her cloak and her head unturned. Michael shook his…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 4: Turns, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 4: Turns   Michael’s boots echoed in the gallery, washing his ears with sound as his eyes took in the familiar sights of the citadel, fresh and sharp amid the churning worry in his stomach. Great windows of colored glass stood high above, drowning the hallway in warm light. He passed by the portraits and statues of his ancestors, tributaries to the great river that was his family’s passage through time. The Third Dominion had grown its order and passed away, the Divine Empire had been shattered irreparably, and yet the house of Harthino and their…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 3: Strange Company, part 2

Back to Contents Calasora was a massive city, spanning two sides of the great river Tallaros some miles before it bubbled into a wide delta and emptied into the South Sea. The two halves of the city, West and East Calasora, were joined by great stone bridges held above the slow moving river by columns of black basalt. From the river canals and waterways went into the city, supplying fresh water for the many public fountains that served both rich and poor. At the center of the city, standing from the Western shore to an island in the river, stood…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 3: Strange Company, part 1

Chapter 3: Strange Company   A day and a half after leaving the army, Michael had come upon a little village, nestled in a sparse wood with good vineyards and fields all around. There was no inn as such there, but homely landowner had put him up for a night, recognizing him as the prince. The next day he came upon another town, called Gabora Minor; apparently if there was a Gabora Major it was long lost in the hearty oak woods of the country upland from the village. There he rested in a raucous inn called the Mottled Wyrm,…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 2: The Means of Victory

Back to Contents Chapter 2: The Means of Victory   Michael rode to Angelico, relief flooding him as his friend, dirty and mud-caked, opened his visor to smile. Michael opened his in return. “What are you doing here, sire?” Angelico said as Michael reigned in Calot beside him. “Coming to the real battle. How are losses?” “Not so bad so far,” Angelico said. “Or should I say, they could be worse. They didn’t catch us totally unawares. Our squad mage sensed some magic upstream, as it were. But sir, those dragoons aren’t going to do much on that side of…

Continue reading