Needle Ash – Chapter 13, “In the Shadows” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 13: In the Shadows The way down was easy going, though slow, for the path took many switchbacks from the pass, descending into a rolling rocky highland. A few scattered farmhouses stood watch over the empty wastes, manned by free men and women and their children, who took little notice of the travelers except to wave from their work. Plots of wheat and barley were ripening in the new sun, fed by the previous night’s brief rain. The road was muddy as it wandered the hills, and the horses would occasionally do a stumble-step over a…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 12, “Shards of Reality” part 2

Back to Contents Mondal took a slow, deep breath and said, “Come, then, mortals, let us leave this place before it, too, fades.” “What do you mean?” Michael said. “This place is a creation of Porthil’s heart and mind more than mind. Without his spirit here, it’s details will become lost. So, I fear, shall we. Come, please.” Mondal motioned as he walked toward the strange house. Cautiously, Michael followed, Sharona at his side. “This place is not yours, as well?” Sharona said. “My heart dwells beyond the realm of Shadathal the Deep,” Morthal said. “And beyond it shall be…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 12 “Shards of Reality” Part 1

back to contents Chapter 12: Shards of Reality   Shadathal led them through the mists, a shining bauble of silvery glass in his upraised hand providing light to the path below them, dirty and drifting. The trees above were not aglow, even faintly, like the rest of the realm, but were dark and contained many brown leaves that would not abandon their purchase. The black limbs writhed around and into each other, like many finger of uncountable hands. Pinholes of star and moonlight drifted through here and there, lighting motes of white dust like tiny rods of white light. The…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 11: The Schism, part 2

Back to Contents Turns passed, the endless cycle of the strange realm healing Michael beyond what he thought possible. He felt stronger than before, and took to practicing with his sword. He wished to go riding, to break in and train the horse he had acquired from Batoli, but Shadathal cautioned him not to go afield, afraid he would lose his way back. “The paths do not run always straight here. You may return along the same path and end up somewhere else, since you are not from here,” Shadathal said one day, as Michael rode the horse around a…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 11 “The Schism” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 11: The Schism   Michael saw a light approaching, not from the softly luminescent trees, or a lamp, but from many sets of eyes and glowing baubles of glass, hanging from tall elven figures or fitted on staves like magic torches. The approached slowly. The men were clothed in robes or in trousers and simple shirts, the women in long dresses of many colors. Their hair was a variety of colors, Michael saw now, of dark brown and red and umber, and their eyes too were of odd shades. “I never got your name,” one of…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 10 “The Image Shatters”

Back to Index Chapter 10: The Image Shatters   The guard at the command tent, who stood with the new mage general Morolo, was a young sergeant Michael knew from his own legion, a man named called Huff. “Sorry, sire, but this meeting is for you and the king only, per his orders,” he said. Michael noticed the man’s hand on the hilt of his sword. He looked over to Morolo, who stood tall and plain-faced. “Stay here, Sharona,” Michael said. “And give me the mirror.” Sharona shook her head. “No. We can go in and show him together… then…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 9, “Mirrors”

Back to Contents Chapter 9: Mirrors Michael sat at the long, rough table, staring at his breakfast of ham and eggs and occasionally watching the dust motes at the kitchen window. At last, Sharona appeared, bright-eyed and fully dressed. “Did I miss breakfast?” she said, looking around at the empty kitchen, the still hot stove with a trail of smoke curling from a leak in its stack, and the dirty dishes in the basin. “The lady of the house had other chores to attend to.” Sharona sighed and sat down beside Michael. She picked up his fork and began to…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 8 “In Search of Twilight’s Memory” part 2

Back to Contents Michael followed Angelico up over the hill, and at its crest they could see what was assuredly the tree the little girl had spoken of. It stood out among all the others in the hills, for it was larger in every sense, and of an odd shape that was not quite a hardwood, like the live oaks that dotted the plain, and not like a cedar, which grew in groves to their north. Beside it ran a clear, gentle stream with green rushes along its banks. As they got nearer, having to ford the stream, Michael saw…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 8 “In Search of Twilight’s Memory” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 8: In Search of Twilight’s Memory   Michael rode Calot close behind Sharona, who was working a slow path through the thick brush on Rabble-Rouser, her eyes forward, but focused on nothing in particular. To the left of them Guissali ambled on his own horse, the black banner on his lance standing proud in the strong wind. Far off to either side, some fifty yards away, were escorts made of dragoons bearing crossbows and proper armored cavalry. At the request of Johan, Michael had allowed an elite guard to assist him in case the assassins might…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 7, “Knives of Darkness” part 2

Back to Contents “What now?” Michael said as they walked back, raising his voice to carry over the sound of shouts and claps, spears on shields, and the sounding of war horns. They entered a vast stretch between the first formations, waving. General Butler stood waiting for them in his full armor, and his visor up. He wore a smile that wrinkled his old face further. “We drink and be merry,” Edward said. “We’ll leave three companies on guard at all times, still, for their could still be betrayal or, more likely misbehavior in the ranks.” “A little tolerance will…

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