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Sunday Scribble – “Blight”

Blight

While he had no doubt been raised prim and proper, the foot soldier before her looked ready to wet himself. Clad in the scarlet and goldenrod livery of the Harding family, the young man was shaking so much the helmet he held rattled. He was either extremely desperate or extremely stupid to seek her out and leave his skull unprotected.

“Did you say your name?” Kora asked, her sudden question making him jump.

“Dax Cabot,” he answered immediately.

A common enough name.

“How long have you been with them?” She gestured vaguely to the uniform.

“Since I was about seven,” he said. After a beat, he added, “Ma’am.”

“Not what I asked.”

“About ten years.”

“Now why,” she leaned closer to him, speaking slowly, “would you toss all those years of loyalty to one of the houses closest to the king to come to the Blight?”

Dax straightened his spine, but his Adam’s apple bobbed with a hard swallow. “I heard the rumors of a rebellion against the crown—”

“Yes. So?”

He faltered, but pressed on. “It’s not the usual rabble of talk from those here in the Blight. The rumors are coursing from the noble houses, Harding included.”

Kora raised a thin eyebrow. “Again, so?” I have no interest in noble arguments. Why not tell the king’s advisors of this?”

Dax paled even more, had it been possible. “I don’t know how deep the rebellion has gotten,” he said. “And I… I thought you’d stop it. You’ve the royal family in your pockets, don’t you?”

“Curious.” Kora tilted her head to the side, her gaze narrowing. “Why would a little foot soldier like yourself figure that?”

“Rumors,” was the weak reply.

Silence stretched between the two, Kora staring at Dax and Dax looking anywhere but at her.

Eventually Kora said, “If I was to get involved in this squabble, what would be my reward?”

“The royal family stays neatly in your pocket?” Dax winced at his own answer and looked more frightened than relieved when Kora laughed.

“Keep honing your wit,” Kora said. “Your tongue may be able to save you just as much as your sword. Brogan.” One of her guards – a squinty-eyed man with arm muscles as thick as his neck – stepped forward. In one movement, Brogan put a sack over Dax’s head and pinned the soldier’s arms to his side. “Mr. Cabot, should you wish to really pursue our help in this matter, you’d do well to bring leverage to persuade me to the cause. The Blight works with tangible rewards and goods, not pretty words and promises. Brogan will kindly escort you back to the streets.”

Dax began to stutter a protest, but he fell silent when Brogan nearly lifted him off his feet and out of the office. Graham came in almost immediately after, his gaze lingering on the retreating pair.

“His ass doesn’t look broken,” Graham commented lightly. “Did you go straight for the face? That what the sack was for?”

Kora shook her head, her fingers steepled in front of her face as she wondered how the supposed foot soldier found his way around the Blight enough to reach an audience with her. “He’s still in one piece.”

“Feeling generous today, are we?”

“I would hardly think it appropriate,” Kora drawled, “to maim the kingdom’s prince.”

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Posted by on August 6, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble — “Easy”

Easy

This was anything but easy. She had half a mind to find the client that had wanted her to do this job and wallop him over the head.

She supposed it was her fault. He had buttered her up, saying how there was no one better for the job, no one with comparable skills to do what he had needed. She had been flattered and egotistical. She should have insisted on this being a team effort rather than just her getting cramped legs from perching atop the windowsill, waiting and waiting for her target to appear.

The prince himself eventually appeared but he was surrounded by a handful of bodyguards, some of the best in the business. She had already gotten rid of about half a dozen, but more just appeared the next time she found the prince, just as skilled as their predecessors. The prince wasn’t taking any chances with his life, and she almost admired how confident and stoic he was despite the fact that someone was always trying to kill him.

Almost. Frankly, she was more frustrated that he wouldn’t just die already.

The prince himself stopped in the courtyard, his bodyguards halting in the same instance. “I know you’re out there,” the prince said, his voice steady and strong. “Either come and try your luck… Or come down so that I may talk with you. I have a proposition that you may be interested in.”

Color her surprised.

“It’s your choice,” the prince continued after a moment. “You may try and fail again to take my life, or you can agree to my terms for an even greater reward.”

She paused, mulling the idea over. She was getting rather sick of this charade, and she was positive that the prince would have much more to offer than her twisted client.

With a practiced leap, she deftly landed atop one of the bodyguards’ heads, snapping the neck and tossing him toward another. Her feet hit the ground several yards away from the rest and she stood slowly.

“Tell me this proposition, Prince.”

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Underestimated”

Underestimated

The day had been successful. The bandit group that had been terrorizing the border town between Perion and Gronn had been all but vanquished. The few members of that group of thugs that had still lived would hopefully have enough sense to not show their faces again. Kachina prayed that they would realize that Perion’s Watchers would hand their asses to them again if need be.

Kachina was wandering around the small town, smiling and nodding to those that recognized her and thanked her for the help the Watchers had given them. She felt oddly light and happy. It was still a bit unnerving for her to be able to go about without a cloak and hood covering her face. Her thieving days, however, were permanently behind her (although she wouldn’t deny that the skills she had honed all those years weren’t helpful). She was grateful that she had the opportunity to have a better life, both for her and for Cecil.

Kachina eventually found her way back toward the inn that the Watchers had been graciously given accommodations for the night before they continued on their way along the border. She was about to go into the front door, but the scent of burning wood and smoke caught her attention, and she went around the back of the building to find Jeharraz sitting by a small fire and just looking up at the stars.

“Enjoying yourself?” Kachina asked, freely sitting beside the prince by the fire.

“I am, actually,” he said, turning to her with a smile. “It’s better with you here.”

She returned his smile with a crooked one of her own and didn’t protest when he gently laced their hands together. The pair sat in a comfortable silence, just enjoying each other’s company, and Kachina was reminded of the first time she had caught Jeharraz out alone stargazing. That time had felt so long ago, back when they had first petitioned to the late Osend king to aid them in their quest for the Dragon Scale. Osend wasn’t even its own country now, not with the marriage between King Ellery and Queen Viola. With that merge, Osend had become under the protection of Perion, eventually morphing into western Perion.

“Jeharraz,” Kachina said, “the last time we were outside alone like this, we had been talking about the royal families and how Ellery was the heir to the throne rather than you. I remember you mentioning how there was some sort of competition for the heirs to find the best one, and how your mother didn’t play by the rules. So you said, anyway. Can you tell me that story? How your mother became the queen?”

He actually grinned and Kachina was surprised he hadn’t just burst out laughing. Once Jeharraz got his composure, he said, “I can, I suppose. I don’t see the harm, and I think you’re the type who would actually be impressed with how my mother won the Perion throne.

“She was the youngest sibling in her family,” Jeharraz said, “born after her twin brothers, Sterling and Jett. She was never seriously considered for the heir of the throne and, as she was growing up, it always seemed as if she never really cared. She was the apple of both of her brothers’ eyes, and while they loved her dearly, they sorely underestimated her.”

“You’ve never mentioned any uncles,” Kachina said.

“Well, they’re dead,” the prince replied. “See, unlike Ellery and myself, Sterling and Jett were not fond of each other at all. Both, upon learning of the heir competition, took it to heart and sabatoged each other as best as they could in an effort to win the throne. In the eyes of the court, of course, both played fair and were amicable to each other, but Mother always told me that neither cared much for the well-being of the other.

“My uncles did have one thing in common with Ellery and myself,” Jeharraz continued. “One had chosen the way of the blade while the other became a sage. Sterling was the Knight Prince, while Jett was the Sage Prince of Perion. After the pair had completed their chosen education paths, they embarked on separate pilgrimages. Sterling’s company had consisted of knights and warrior friends of his, being attracted to their power and strength, and believing that those aspects would help him perform great deeds of glory to bring home for the throne. Jett had a few trusted advisors, usually others who were magically inclined and known for their advice and wisdom about the land, for Jett’s plan to secure the throne was through knowledge.”

“And their sister?” Kachina asked. “Rather, Queen Pearl?”

“I’m getting to her.” Jeharraz smiled. “My mother, being doted on and not being noticed at the same time, was in the prime position to learn all about the people of the country, and that was her trump card. She was quite the cunning woman, my mother. She played for both sides, both Sterling’s and Jett’s, and neither knew until their unfortunate end.”

Kachina’s eyes widened, but she wasn’t particularly shocked. “Your mother killed her brothers?”

“She didn’t send assassins after them,” Jeharraz said with a shake of his head. “What she did was secretly pit the two against each other without the men knowing they were fighting a three-way war. They believed that the other was going to turn on them, and so they thought to get rid of the other first. My mother exchanged letters with both of them, dropping false hints and clues to each about what the other said. Eventually, they destroyed each other. Their deaths weren’t part of Mother’s grand plan, but unfortunately it happened. Their downfall was believing my mother without being suspicious of her own motives.”

“Your mother always wanted to be queen, then?” Kachina asked.

“That I’m not sure,” Jeharraz said. “She always spoke about how neither of her brothers would have been fit to rule. She was afraid that Sterling would take their army to new heights, building up strength and power when it wasn’t needed, and neglecting the land. For Jett, it would have been the opposite. He would have put in regimes regarding food crops, risking soil and farmers’ health in an effort to be sure no one would go hungry. Instead, Mother predicted there would have been too much food, too much spoiled, abandoned food created from new farms that would throw nature out of balance. Perhaps my mother cared more about the country than about her own ambitions. She firmly believed that she would be the best ruler for Perion, and she did something about it.”

“Wow…” Kachina was almost at a loss for words. “Your mother was amazing, Jeharraz. I’m sorry I couldn’t have gotten to know her better…”

His hand gave hers a squeeze. “Thank you, Kachina,” Jeharraz said. “That means a lot to me. I’m certain my mother would have liked to get to know you better as well. In fact…” the prince chuckled lightly, “I’m sure you probably reminded her of herself in her younger years.”

Kachina smirked and leaned against the prince’s shoulder. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Scribbles

 

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“Cinder” Review

“Even in the Future the Story begins with Once Upon a Time.” – Marissa Meyer (Cinder)

“Cinder” Review

This post may contain spoilers.

“Cinder” is a wonderful twist on the familiar Cinderella fairy tale. The title character is Linh Cinder, a cyborg, a second-class citizen, living in the futuristic New Beijing where humans and androids alike try to survive both a deadly plague and an ambitious lunar colony from destroying their planet.

Cinder is rife with unique characters, such as Cinder herself, Prince Kai, and the Lunar Queen Levana. Each have their own agendas, their own worries, and they blended together wonderfully. With Queen Levana doing her best to implement herself into New Beijing’s empire by taking advantage of the plague that ravages the population, Prince Kai is preparing to take over the empire in his dying father’s place, fighting against his grief with his mounting frustration concerning Queen Levana.

Then there’s Cinder, who was a simple mechanic living with her stepmother and stepsisters. Her path becomes entangled with Prince Kai’s, both with her job and with the plague. While she’s immune, her stepsister is not, and Cinder gets involved in helping to find a cure while attempting to figure out her past. It becomes apparent that her past is entwined with Queen Levana’s, putting her in danger and forcing Cinder to choose between her own freedom and the safety of the empire.

I greatly enjoyed this story, especially with the futuristic settings and the characters themselves. While there was an obvious attraction between Kai and Cinder, both characters were also focused on the world outside of their romance. They were responsible for the empire and their families, both pushing their own way forward in a dangerous world. I found myself rooting for Kai just as much as Cinder.

My only true complaint about the book is the ending. It was one of the biggest cliffhangers I’ve read in a long time, and while I’m planning on purchasing the rest of the series, I felt cheated. I expected somewhat of an end to Cinder’s story rather than the realization that I had just gotten the beginning. There was plenty of build-up, but not satisfying conclusion to go with it.

“Cinder” gets a 4 out of 5 stars.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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