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…

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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…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 16, “The Ends of Victory,” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 16: The Ends of Victory Michael moved silently through the halls, followed closely by Nit, Langelo, Aarne, and Mondal, who had covered his face once again, along with another mercenary, a young half-orc named Peterus. Clad in mail, the dark elf somehow did not jingle. The rest of them wore only gameson. Michael held up a hand, and the group stopped silently. He pulled a hand mirror from his pocket and held it past the wall. He pointed around a corner at a guard, who was talking casually with a female servant, dusklight streaming through the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 15 “The Gambit,” part 2

Back to Contents The boat rocked slightly as they drifted into part of the city where its shores became lined by stone retaining walls, creating small eddies. Michael stood on the prow, watching for guards and hoping they all reached the citadel before the sun rose. Thokar was sitting down on a bench beside him, his cloak covering his ashen face, like all the other orcs. His old attire was gone, replaced by a gambeson and a coat of plates, similar to what Michael knew the citadel guard would wear. It wouldn’t fool anyone when they got close, but with…

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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…

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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…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 14: The Conspiracy, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 14: The Conspiracy The Dolanari Estate was a wide stretch of land at the base of the gold mountains, composed of rolling, grass-filled hills dotted with trees that gradually transitioned into a hardwood forest. Farms stood out among the sparse oaks and wild olives as either cleared patches, irrigated most often by channeling a stream from uphill, or neat orchards of fruit trees. The vast majority of these belonged to Freemen, former enlisted soldiers and other citizens, who owned their plot and payed a direct tax to the family Butler Dolanari. Closer to the estate proper,…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 13 “In the Shadows” part 2

Back to Contents Michael stared in shock, but felt himself being turned away. A hand was on his face, and he saw Sharona leaning over, nearly falling off of Rabble-Rouser, drawing him toward her. Then they were kissing, and she grabbed the front of his shirt with force, holding him in. When the released she was already turning Rabble-Rouser, and Michael’s horse Turner was wanting to follow. Michael looked back to the street to see the back of his brother, and the unmistakable profile of the queen. “What was that?” Michael said. “You don’t think your own brother would know…

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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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