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 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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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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