Needle Ash – Chapter 17, “A River Running Swiftly,” part 2

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents The Tallaros picked up substantial speed as it went south through the city, eventually becoming a narrow choppy waterway. By the time they found themselves drifting through the open country around Calasora, the river had pushed them miles and miles ahead of any pursuit. The difficulty became not outstripping the chasers, but keeping the boats upright and men onboard as they passed over rough white patches. The first of these rapids had waked Michael, but even the few short hours seemed to have refreshed him. The sun rose in the east, lighting the…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 16 “The Ends of Victory,” part 2

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents Michael did not want to open his eyes. He heard voices around him: voices he could not understand, but who seemed familiar and comforting. A face disconnected to those voices drifted by. A round, sweet face, with rich dark eyes… The eyes became shining eyes, or just one, great and fathomless, the eye of a monster, but the other always returned. It was a woman’s face, and he felt in the darkness for it. His visions twisted. A deep laughter, part sardonic and part authentic, rumbled in his heart, echoing a message he…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 15, “The Gambit” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 15: The Gambit Michael found Sharona sitting on a low hanging branch of an oak tree, seemingly staring at her feet. The light of the day was almost gone, but beside Sharona something glowed very faintly, like fire. “Sharona?” Michael said. “Hello Michael,” she replied, without inflection. “Are you alright?” “I’m whole and uninjured.” “That’s not what I meant.” “I know.” She looked up at him, and despite the low light he could tell she had been crying. “You were eavesdropping on me,” Michael said. “Weren’t you?” He stepped closer and saw next to her a…

Continue reading

Needle Ash – Chapter 14 “The Conspiracy” part 2

Back to Contents Michael stood on the balcony, watching the vineyards and fields in the valley below. He rested his sword on a wooden rail, richly oiled, and worked the edge carefully in the bright sunlight. It was an old ritual of his, one that most officers and knights foisted onto their squires or other subordinates, happy to give up the tedium of maintaining equipment. Michael, however, knew that his equipment was his last and best defense. A dull sword could mean an opponent living long enough to kill you. Poorly oiled armor could limit your range when you needed…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading