Monday, July 31, 2017

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MRFWauthor #poetry #writing #Bile

Meander 1 - Tightrope

A tightrope stretched so fine is life.
Upon it we must tread.
The smallest slip can mean our blood
Spread on the rocks below.
And so we inch the dangerous heights.
We lean from side to side.
Sometimes we find a balanced one
To aid our journey on.

Meander 2 - Bile. Everytime I read in a book that bile flowed in my throat, I want to scream. This is a bit of an not accurate. Bile flows into the small intestines. And yes, I have seen patients vomit bile but they are very ill. What flows into the throat and perhaps reaches the mouth is acid. The condition is acid reflux, not bile reflux. I pray someone takes this wording that has become a cliche and learns how false it is. Acid flowed into my throat, so filled with fear was I.

Meander 3. Writing. Have begin the third draft of the book and hopefully this will be the last full one I have to do. We will see. I don't think I'll make the August deadline that I foolishly set but I will do as best as I can.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday's Book - Lines of Fire #MFRWauthor #fantasy #swordand sorcery

Lines of Fire (The Guild House - Defenders Hall)

To honor a promise made to his dying father, Alric trains as a Defender. For some reason the Swordmaster wishes him gone and his first two bondings end in failure. A failed third one will see Alric banished. His meeting with the older daughter of the Swordmaster reveals a double heart bond, but she has been promised to Petan, the Swordmaster’s favorite. A duel is fought and though Alric can read Petan’s lines of fire, the other dueler cheats and nearly kills Alric. Petan is banished but he knows secret ways into Defenders Hall. Kalia, his now bondmate’s lines are tarnished. Not only do Alric and Kalia need to find Petan, they must learn how to cleanse her lines.


Customer reviews

on January 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

on July 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday's Blurbs featuring Books by Carmen Stefanescue #MFRWauthor #Vampires #Paranormal

Dracula’s Mistress
PublisherCity Lights Press  
GenreParanormal historical/light romance
( just 0.99 $)
From the day that the powerful, brave and merciless Vlad III Basarab, a descendant of the Draculesti family—better known to most people as the infamous vampire Dracula—ascends the throne, he knows only battles, betrayal and intrigue.
Evil grips the town of Targoviste, capital residence of Walachia. The secrets behind the stone walls of the palace are as dark and violent as a winter’s night, as terrifying as the prince’s deeds. Dead bodies, drained of blood and missing their little finger keep appearing in the streets at night.
Lovely, smart, determined, Angela Oltenescu ignores all the aggressive rumors and her mother’s warning regarding Vlad. Will she suffer the consequences of falling in love with a man nicknamed Dracula by his enemies—an infamous creature of the night?
Rich, sly, treacherous,  Marin Craioveanu, a powerful landlord, craves the same woman loved by Vlad. Marin's hatred toward the prince will make him an ally to Handsome Radu, Vlad’s brother and Sultan’s friend, ready to sell the country to the Ottomans to get rid of his rival.
Dracula’s Mistress will awe legions of fans of Gothic literature, paranormal and historical fiction.
Buy link:

Dracula’s Prodigy,
                                                      book 2 in Dracula’s Mistress
Paranormal/light history/light horror/light romance
(just 0.99$)
Buy link:
Running from the hands of an abusing husband, on the verge of committing suicide, a series of strange events/apparitions make Linda reassess her life. She embarks on a thorough research regarding her unusual ancestor- Vlad, the Impaler, aka Dracula.
Can Linda discover the truth regarding Vlad among the countless malicious stories, exaggerated legends and whispered slander dating back to 15th century? Is he a hero, a brave protector of his hard tried people and country? Or a cruel monster feeding on the blood of those impaled at his order?
And is good-looking Jody really helping Linda regain her trust in men and love, or is he another evil envoy of a past that haunts her and threatens her life?
Dracula’s Prodigy is the sequel to Dracula’s Mistress, and will awe legions of fans of Gothic literature, paranormal and historical fiction.

Till Life Do Us Part
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre:  Paranormal Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Reincarnation

Barbara Heyer can hear voices of dead people. They whisper of their deaths, seek comfort for those left behind, and occasionally even warn her about future events. But when Barbara’s brother, Colin, is accused of murder, it will take more than her gift to prove his innocence.
Becoming smitten with the handsome investigator, Detective Patrick Fischer, is a serious complication given his assignment to her brother’s case. Barbara senses there is something far deeper—and perhaps much older—than the surface attraction between them. Could that be why she’s visited by a mysterious woman named Emma in her dreams? Could past life regression tie all the seemingly unconnected events together?
Barbara and Patrick must overcome heartache to find the truth to save Colin, and perhaps themselves.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday's Guest - Carmen Stefanescue #MFRWauthor #paranormal #What She Was Before

  1     What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
I was a  high school teacher of English and German in my native town, Braila, on the banks of the Danube, in Romania. I think there’s  a close connection between my love of reading, my lifetime career and later becoming an author. The connecting thread being books - reading and writing. Part of my duty as a teacher was teaching English literature so, yes, it influenced me.
2  Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above.
I am a strong believer in life after death, reincarnation, karmic retribution so I enjoy reading this type of fiction, and not only, and I also write it. I may say without fear of making a mistake that my genre is paranormal -  ghosts, rebirth, past lives.
3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres?
Not entirely, as I read, in fiction, almost anything: thrillers, crime stories, romance, historical, war stories.
4. What's your latest release?
It’s a two parts novel - Dracula’s Mistress, vol. 1 and vol. 2 Dracula’s Prodigy, based on Vlad the Impaler’s historical figure. As a native of his country, I think I bring a new perspective on the man behind the infamous label –vampire. The books are, of course, paranormal/historical with a tad of romance and mystery.
5. What are you working on now?
Another 2 parts novel based on a haunted house in my town, Braila.  A story that has always facinated me. I’m ready with part one, but life has thrown some health obstacles on my way. As soon as I manage to overcome them, I will continue with part two. And I am waiting for the republishing of Shadows of the Past, another paranormal historical that was highly enjoyed by the readers. Unfortunately, the publisher closed its doors at the beginning of 2017.  Another publisher, Solstice Publishing, read it and agreed to release it again.
6. Where can we find you?
Author Carmen Stefanescu's Links

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday's Second Scene from The Amber Chronicles #MFRWauthor #witches #magic

Ludena, witch ruler of the world called Amber, witnessed the brilliant display of colors painting the velvet of the night sky. Though she had hoped to see streaks of amber showing true love had been found for Emme, she sighed. Therewould be no wizard to stand with her oldest daughter whenthe ending of her centuries arrived. Ludena left the ballroom where the mucic had soured and the guests stood in awe staring at the colors flaring in the sky. Would she find her oldest and youngest daughters dead?
Surely Emma would spare her sister. Ludena shuddered. To raise a child in the manner Emme had been had troubled her. Four princes, each with the potential for wizardry, had chosen one of Emme’s sisters.
She dreaded the next step to be taken but this prince was cannier than the others. There was a dangerof the four princes and four sisters uniting to overpower Emme. Without unselfish love Emme would be destroyed along with the world called Amber.
Ludena reached the garden and found the gazebo where her youngest daughter and Prince Rendel sat. She clasped Lysanda’s hand and restored enough power to allow the young woman to walk. In several hundred years, Lysanda would be a witch again but the man at her side would never acquire the power needed to become a wizard.
The prince glared. “I demand Emme be punished. Indeed, I would see her dead.”
“You have no right to anme her punishment,” Ludena said.
“She kept me from my rightful place.”
“You did that to yourself. Come, you and Lysanda must announce your betrothal for you have declared your love is mutual and binding.”
The pair walked ahead of Ludena. At the entrance to the ballroom she stepped to the fore and signaled the orchestra leader. The music changed and the pair walked to the centerof the room. Ludena sought her spouse.
Soldar waved and pointed to an alcove. As soon as they were inside he waved his hand. Neither sound or sight could penetrate the barrier he’d raised. “And so the final eligible prince has failed the test.”
Ludena nodded. “I fear so.”
“I saw the demonstration. At least she only drained her sister.”
“Again she showed restraint.”
“We must send her forth as your parents did to you and pray she finds love before our days end.”
Ludena sighed. “Thereare centuries ahead of us. Though anger rules her now I believe Emme will conquer anger, envy and jealousy. She will find her mate.”
“I pray you are right.” Soldar took her hand in his. “When do we do the deed?”
“As soon as possible. She must not have time to think or plan. Right now she’sin the basement of her tower.
Soldar took his spouse’s hand and dismissed the barrier. Wjile music played and the newly betrothed couple danced Ludena and Soldar strolled the edge of the ball room uuntil they reached the entrance to the throne room.
Light sparkled on the walls of amber. A pair of thrones carved from the gem appeared to be formed from crystalline honey streaked with ruddy tones.
Ludena paused to remove a tear shaped orb from a display niche. She sent her daughter a message andclasped Soldar’s hand. Her time away from theworld called Amber had been worth every lesson she had learned. Would Emme feel the same?
Soldar cleared her throat. “I feel your pain.”
And he did. She also felt his. “The lessons must be elarned. Mine brought me you and your love. Until she learns she is unfit to take my place on the amber throne.”
Soldar smiled. “She must not rule alone She is our daughter. Have faith and pray for her safe return. There are centuries ahead of us.”
“So we call and she must answer.” She placed her hand palm up on the arm of her chair. His palm covered hers. “Emme, come.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Finding the pattern #MFRWauthor,

Cause and effect, reaction and motivating force form a pattern. While in real life they can happen simultaneously, when you're involved with characters in a story there needs to be a pattern shown to help the reader understand.

There is no way in a story that cause, action, reaction can be shown simultaneously. If you try, the pattern is muddied. So to show the change, you need to follow step by step. first comes the moment of change or the cause. Next comes the reaction. Then comes the emotional reason.

A loud noise is heard. The character screams. Or the character cowers. The reaction depends on the character's reason to the noise. So you have a circle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday - New Releases of Mine This Week #MFRWauthor #Romance #medical

Opposites in Love: Volume 1Opposites in Love: Volume 2

Opposites In Love -Volume 1 and Volume - Two books in one. Astrology influences,  Medical stories.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Meandering On Monday with Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #poem #amwriting

Meander 1  Summons

Get up, Get up
You sleepy heads.
This is no day
To stay in bed.
The sun springs forth.
The air is full
Of vigor and enjoyment.
I could not sleep
Nor can I stand
To see others remain
In trance.
Wake up. Wake up
Come to the world
And live with me today.

Meander 2 - There's nothing today that strikes my attention. Do you have times when you sit to right and nothing pops into your head so you can put it on paper? That has happened to me today.

Meander 3 - Writing, sort of. Actually I've finished the plot draft and now I'm going through the mss to find places where the setting is scant. Sometimes it's not even there. When this is done, I'll examine the characters to give them some personality. To allow them to act and react. Then I can write new words into the story. In many ways, this is the boring part of writing but it must be done.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday's Book - The Amber Chronicles #MFRWauthor #Fantasy #Romance

The Amber Chronicles

Amber Chronicles Collection: Emme, a witch and the heir to the throne of the world called Amber is banished from her home to find love. She believes she can command a man to love her but this does not work. Angry at being told no by the crown prince of Rivand she casts a spell on the Riva family. Every hundred years when the moon is full at the summer solstice she will call the crown prince. If he refuses to cede his love to her he will enter the amber orb and vanish. Four times she fails and the princes find adventure on other worlds. One turns an enchanted amber dragon into a princess. The second is imprisoned in an amber tower and must select a bride. The third must free the heroine from an amber cage. Emme slowly learns her lesson and returns to spend her childhood with the fourth prince. Hoping knowing each other will help. She has fallen in love with the crown prince and enters the amber orb in his place. Can Emme who is Cast in Amber be freed and gain the love she has sought for all those years?

FOUR STARS! The witch's curse of zapping princes into an amber orb is one of my favorites. This story is the fate of the very first prince. It reads much like a fairy tale, where at least one moral is to be learned. An enchanting fantasy. **** Detra Fitch

on March 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday's Blurbs Feature Books by Daryl Devore #MFRWauthor #romance #contemporary

Darien's Desire – Book 2 – Two Hearts ~ One Love Trilogy
You loved What Happens in Bangkok and want to know what happens next….

It's complicated is not only her relationship status, but the definition of Erika Bailey's life. She loves managing her drag queen club in Bangkok, Thailand, but her rock star boyfriend resides in North Carolina. And to top it off, her father threatens she must stay away from Darien or lose the Pink Flamingo. Does she protect her club or her love?

Darien Scott, Grammy award winning international superstar, wants nothing more than to wake up in the arms of Erika, the woman he loves, but contractual obligations force him to exotic video shoots and an isolated movie set with one of Hollywood's sexiest stars.

With the feeding frenzy of social media trending every aspect of Darien's life—real or not—it's hard for Erika to know the truth. Will she be able to see through the lies and trust Darien? Or will evidence from damaging Internet rumors condemn their relationship? 

Buy Link

What Happens in Bangkok – Book 1 – Two Hearts ~ One Love Trilogy
To save Darien's life his brother asks, "Can you walk in high heels?"
Erika Bailey, owner/manager of a drag queen club in Bangkok, Thailand has happily settled into all aspects of her new life, except for her lack of a love life. When a new diva auditions, Erika is bewildered over her instant attraction to the blond God, Apollo.
Darien Scott is on vacation after a world tour and mistakenly figures the safest place to be is at The Black Dragon with the head of a Triad. When the club is hit, Darien is the only person to get out alive. Now   he's running from the police and a Triad. Mistake number 1.
Disguised as a drag queen, he's hired by Erika, but falls hard for his new boss, then struggles with not coming clean with her. Mistake number 2.
Can he fix his mistakes and find a life filled with love or is he headed straight for mistake number 3?

Brace for Impact
What could be simpler than a routine plane trip from Toronto, Canada to Caracas, Venezuela for a rookie flight attendant and a sexy R.C.M.P. officer?

But Fate had other intentions.

After leaving a disastrous marriage, Paix Allcot begins a new career as a flight attendant. The romance of travel plus the desperate need to be on any other continent other than the one her ex is on seems like a dream job. For the first time, Paix is no longer a trainee and the passengers in economy class are under her care. Especially the handsome passenger seated in 36C.

Guy Lapierre, undercover officer, is following a vicious human-trafficker. He has little time for relationships. Too many innocent lives are at stake. But when the plane crashes and Guy is stranded on a tropical island, he is forced to work with Paix to survive until he discovers that the man he is tracking is Paix's older brother.

Can a pink bra and a hot night on the side of a volcano save the relationship and their lives?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday's Guest features Daryl Devore What was She Before #MFRWauthor #Writing #Reading

1     What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
What was I before I become a writer? A writer in waiting. I was a high school teacher – no I did not teach English. Anyway – did that job influence my writing – no and yes. I have 2 pen names – the Daryl Devore pen name was not influenced by my former job. The other pen name writes NA – New Adult – stories with an age range of 17 to 24-ish. And yes, those stories were influenced by being a high school teacher.
2.    Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above. 

I would say genre general. I've written and erotic billionaire romance, an erotic twisted fairy tale, and erotic medieval romance, and an erotic paranormal romance. Also I have written 2 hot roack star romances. Then there's the other pen name's books.

3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres? 
No. Lol – no. I grew up reading the classics – Homer's Illiad, Shakespeare etc. I have every Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, every Agatha Christie, every Dorothy L. Sayers and every Rex Stout. Their use of language and POV and style affected my voice and style which I had to then adjust to the romance genre.
4. What's your latest release? 

Darien's Desire is my latest. It is book 2 of the Two Hearts ~ One Love trilogy. It is the sequel to What Happens in Bangkok, which is a hot rock star romance. Darien's Desire takes Erika and Darien's relationship further along and answers some of the questions but not all of the – that's what book 3 is for.
5. What are you working on now? 

Right now I am starting on edits for book 3. I just got them back from the publisher. I expect this book to be out in Dec and no, I'm not giving away the title yet.
Also – I have a Christmas release that I am expecting edits back any day now. That one – obviously – will be released in Dec. It's Love in the Key of C. A sweet romance between a street person and a composer.
Then there a several books partially written or roughed out sitting on my ahrd drive waiting for me to sit and write them.
6. Where can we find you? 

GoodReads Author Page -

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday's First and Second Scene - Confronting the Wizards #MFRWauthor #Fantasy #YA

Chapter One
The Way of the Healers

Much is demanded of a Healer and inner peace is her only reward. She must seek neither power nor wealth. To walk in the Way is difficult and not all who try will succeed.
When a Healer names a man as Chosen, she must leave the House for she must think only of her craft and those who need her care. If she elects to depart, her knowledge of the healing arts will be stripped from her mind. She will be left with only those skills known to commoners who do not follow the Way.

Jindera left the herb storage hut and strode toward the cottage. Clouds dimmed the morning sun, then slid away. The leaves of the oka trees rustled in the summer breeze and the mingled scents of herbals and seasonings swirled around her. The coming of clouds meant a storm approached, but she felt certain no rain would fall this day.
Would the medicinals she would brew from the herbals she’d selected be of any help? She could only hope. All night, she’d fought the fever raging through her mother’s body and had seen no change.
“Mama, why did you leave the Healers’ House?”  Her mother could have remained and raised her children with the sons and daughters of the other Healers. On his tenth birthday, Jindera’s twin would have been sent to his father. But Jindera’s mother had chosen to leave. Love for a man had been her reason.
Tears blurred Jindera’s sight. She had loved her father dearly. His death seven lunars before had brought sadness to a home where love had ruled.
Rays of sunlight glinted on the golden stones of the cottage and brightened the dull yellow of the thatch. Jindera hurried along the garden paths that meandered among the beds of herbals and seasonings.
The plants flourished. Lajin’s touch, she thought. Her brother had only to tend any ailing plant and it thrived. She paused at the cottage door and peered along the road from the village. Her twin should return soon with the staples he’d gone to fetch.
The stench of illness pervaded the room where her mother lay on a narrow cot. Jindera’s breath caught. For a moment, she thought her mother had left this plane without the blessing to release her.
Holding back a sob, Jindera fled to the kitchen to blend a fever potion. She carried the mug of steaming liquid to the sick room and spooned the medicinal into her mother’s mouth. A drop or two fell on the linen sheet and spread like the tears Jindera held inside. She inhaled deeply. She had to hold grief and fear at bay. When the mug was empty, she rested her head on the edge of the mattress and prayed the remedy would work.
She jerked awake. How long had she slept? The light in the room told her ’twas near midday.
The rasp of labored breathing filled her ears. She felt her own breaths fall into the same pattern. She raised her head and turned toward the door. Where was Lajin? She tried to reach him on the inner path where they could speak in secret. Flight. Fear. What had happened to him? Her hands and body shook. His fear or hers?
Jindera rose and looked outside. The fragrant scents of the garden brought a welcome calmness to her troubled spirit. ’Twas a false hope. If Mama dies, what will Lajin and I do? Having but sixteen years, they weren’t old enough to hold the land.
She heard a rasping cough and turned back to the cot. Her mother’s eyes were open. A wave of hope spread through Jindera. “Mama.”
“Leave. You. Lajin.  Go soon. Danger comes.”
“We can’t leave you without saying the blessing.”
“Must.”  Racking spasms shook her mother’s body.
“Mama, don’t talk.”
“Must. Once. Three sisters.”
Jindera listened to her mother’s halting words. A grandsire who was a Master Wizard. Mama born on the desert and leaving with her older sister for a Healers’ House. How her two sisters wanted power and schemed to obtain control of others. One who had talent. One who had none. Mama who had talent and wanted love.
“Ralor. Comes. He hurt. You. Lajin. No Healers’ House. Not good.”
“Mama, be still.”  Jindera pressed her hands against her mother’s shoulders.
“Starflowers. For Ralor. Make tea. He sleep. Then flee. Remember, danger from Healers.”
Jindera chewed on her lower lip to keep from crying. The door opened and for an instant, she feared her father’s brother had arrived. The garden, the guardianship, the cottage would pass to him and to the one the Healers sent to tend the garden. The door opened. She turned.
Lajin stood in the doorway. His flushed face and panting breaths told her he’d been running. “What’s wrong?”  she asked.
“Black robes in the village. Taking boys. What will I do if they come here?”
Jindera shivered. The Wizards would learn about Lajin’s talent for nurturing plants. They would take him. “You must flee to the forest and hide. Go now.”
He knelt on the other side of the cot. “Not until we say the blessing.”
“Son. Daughter. Go.”
Jindera grasped her mother’s hand. Lajin took the other. “Mama.”
The heavy breathing slowed, then stopped. Had she willed her death?
Jindera’s voice joined Lajin’s. “Fare well, Mother. May the sun shine on your days and the moons light your nights. Let your shade depart and do not hover between this plane and the next.”
Jindera met her brother’s gaze. “You must go. I’ll follow.”
“The grave must be dug.”
“Lajin, why do you linger? You heard Mama. You must go.”
The door of the cottage slammed against the wall. Jindera saw the man in the doorway and shivered.
Her uncle grasped the frame. “So she’s passed. The land and you are mine.”  His slurred speech spoke of drunkenness. He pointed to Lajin. “Boy, dig the grave. I would see her in the earth before sunset. Should have time before they come.”
“Who comes?”  Jindera asked.
“Wizards,” Ralor said.
“Why?”  Lajin asked.
Ralor laughed. “For you. Do you think I want to live with one who in time will challenge me for the land? The Healers usually send their elderly to spend their last years in a garden. Such a one would be no threat. Girl, to the kitchen. I would eat.”
Jindera sought her twin on the inner path. Go to the forest. I’ll fetch the packs. When he’s at his meal, I’ll follow.
Lajin shook his head. I’ll see Mama in the earth before I leave.
Why must you be so stubborn? Your pack will be at the kitchen door.  Take it and flee before ’tis too late.
She hurried to the kitchen and pulled the soup kettle from the warming shelf. She hung it over the fire. In the pantry, she grabbed the packs she and Lajin had prepared and tossed them into the yard. On a cutting board, she put roast antel, cheese, bread and the last of the appa pie.
“Uncle, the food is ready.”  She dished the soup and filled a mug with kaf.
After she finished serving Ralor, she slipped out the back door and lugged the packs to where Lajin dug the grave. “Go now.”
He lifted a shovel of dirt. “Not ’til Mama lies beside Papa. We’ll go tonight when Uncle’s sleeping.”
“How can you be so sure he won’t hear us creep from the loft? What if the Wizards come? Mama is beyond our care. She bade us leave.”  Jindera’s hands clenched. Why didn’t he feel afraid?
“If they come, I’ll hide.”  Lajin continued to dig. “Mayhaps Uncle lies and ’tis tragon speaking.”
Jindera frowned. Ralor had been drunk. “Then I must go into the forest.”
“To gather starflowers to make sure he sleeps.”  She grabbed her brother’s shoulders. “I wish you’d leave now. I have the feeling trouble comes.”  She groaned. He had that stubborn look she hated.
“We go together.”  He jammed the shovel into the earth.
She saw the tear-tracks on his face. He grieved, too, but his eyes showed a determination to have his way. “Come with me.”
He shook his head. “When I’m finished and Uncle sleeps.”
She wanted to thump him on the head, though what good would a blow do? When he had these stubborn notions, there was no way to move him. “Take care. I won’t be long. Mama told me things you should know.’
She ran toward the line of dark trees. Something puzzled her. Where had Ralor gotten the coins to buy tragon? Since her father’s death, her uncle had lived at the cottage and earned enough from the sale of milk and eggs to buy brew. Had he some scheme involving the garden? Once he was named land holder, one third of the herbals and seasonings would be his. She and Lajin would be little more than servants. But her uncle had said the Wizards were coming. Didn’t Ralor know her twin was the one with Mama’s touch with plants?             Jindera sighed. She wished she’d been blessed with the talent. Her abilities lay in the blending of herbals into medicinals and knowing what an ailing person needed. Mama had called her a Healer born. Yet she knew without training, she couldn’t practice except in the village. Her parents had refused to send her to a Healers’ House and her mother’s learning had been blocked when she’d left the Way.
As the dim light of the forest surrounded her, Jindera set aside her grief and scented the air for the dulcet yet spicy aroma of starflowers. She needed enough blossoms to brew a sleeping tea so she and Lajin could escape.
In a small clearing where sunlight dappled the surface of a pond, she found clusters of the pale flowers. With care not to pull the roots from the ground, she collected a bunch. The aroma soothed her grief.
For a moment, she leaned against an oka and breathed the scent. Where would she and Lajin find a refuge? Though Mama had cautioned against the Healers was there another choice? Any Healers’ House would take her, but her twin was too old. Since the Houses were located in towns, she wondered if he could find work nearby. His ability to coax plants to provide rich harvests should excite any farmer.
Jindera straightened and started back to the garden. As she neared the forest’s edge, she heard shouts.
Jindera, help me. They want to take me. Lajin’s plea on the inner path startled her. She stumbled and nearly fell.
Black robes.
In order to see what occurred, she dropped the starflowers and climbed an oka. She saw Lajin struggling with several black-robed men. Don’t fight. I’ll follow and help you escape.
Now. Help me before they make me one of them.
Stay calm. I’m coming.
No. Flee. ’Tis you…”
Lajin’s voice ceased abruptly. With a suddenness that made her gasp, pain shot through her head. Feeling dizzy, Jindera clung to the rough bole of the tree. Where was her twin? She couldn’t see or hear him. He couldn’t be dead.
The Wizards mounted their horned horses. As they rode away, she climbed to the ground. Not caring that she trampled the plants, she ran across the herb beds. She stumbled over her uncle’s body and nearly toppled into the grave. Tendrils of smoke rose from the house. She grabbed the packs.
“Girl, help me. They lied.”
“Who, Uncle?”  She dropped the packs and knelt beside him.
“Black robes. Bought me tragon. Asked about you and your brother. Took him and wanted you. Told them no. One stabbed me.”  He groaned.
She examined the gaping abdominal wound and noted the pool of blood around him. She had neither the knowledge nor the skill to mend the torn flesh. “I can’t do anything. I’ll run to the village for help.”  She swallowed several times to keep from losing her morning meal.
“Too late.”  His moan rose to a scream that died in a whimper.
With a whoosh, the thatch of the cottage blossomed with flames. Long fingers of fire thrust into the air. Showers of sparks took flight.
Jindera tried to drag her uncle away. She fell into the grave. When she crawled out, he was dead. Bits of burning thatch fell on the paving stones. Would the garden take fire?
She grabbed the packs and ran. At the edge of the garden, she turned. The flames had died. A pillar of black smoke stained the sky. Jindera collapsed on the ground. Everyone and everything that had been hers was gone. She rested her head against her bent knees. Exhaustion swamped her.
A voice on the inner path. Lajin?
Not her twin. The voice repeated the command. Where? The order was the only answer. Who wanted her? She couldn’t abandon her twin. She rose, wavered and nearly fell. She had to find a place to sleep. Then she would decide where to go.
She looked around. The clouds seemed heavier. Would the storm begin this night?
The fire hadn’t spread beyond the stones separating the herb and seasoning beds from the cottage. The herb hut on the far side of the garden had been spared. So had the meadow where the antels grazed. With leaden steps, she made her way to the one room building.
Jindera burrowed beneath a pile of sacks. Lajin!  Still no response. He lived. She would know if he’d left this plane. When she woke, she would search out the Wizards and steal her brother from them. Soft tears began and continued until she slept.

* * *

The Code of the Merchants’ Guild

Once the fee is paid, a boy must be apprenticed to four experienced peddlers. One who deals in cloth. One who deals in all manner of foodstuffs. One involved with jewelry, gems and household wares. One who deals with herbals and seasonings. Next, the boy must serve as a journeyman. Should he succeed in all his ventures and pay off his debts, he can buy into the Guild and open a shop in one of the towns. If he fails, he will remain a journeyman.

Corin hitched the four ponies to the cart. Yesterday, rather than continue past sunset to reach a village, he’d spent the night at the crossroads. He poured the remainder of kaf into his mug and drank. This was a popular spot for travelers to camp. There was a rude shelter and a fire circle large enough for a spit. He wasn’t sure how many kils he would have to travel to reach his destination. He’d only come this way once before with his first mentor.
After dousing the fire he’d used to cook his meals, Corin stored his pack, blanket and cooking gear in the narrow sleeping space. He thought of the rumors he’d heard in Pala that portended changes he hoped to see and telling of events he wouldn’t believe until he met someone who had witnessed them.
The hopeful rumors included tales of the White Jewel being found and a new Queen for Earda, of the Black Jewel destroyed in an arcane battle and the Master Wizards dead. Then there were the dire reports stating the White Jewel had been destroyed and the Wizards now ruled Earda.
He shrugged. Did it matter who ruled? He’d seen no differences during the lunars he since he’d begun his trip as a journeyman. He’d been forced to avoid too many black robes, especially in this area.
Once more, he heard his mother’s voice. ’Twas all of her he had for remembrance other than a picture of her broken and bloody body. “Wizards are evil. Made me a slave. Don’t let them near you for part of you is theirs. They’ll know. Beware for there are Wizards who don’t wear the robes and who hide among the people.”
Corin climbed to the seat and flicked the driving reins to set the team on the way. He prayed he would meet no black robes along the road. ’’Twouldn't matter to them that he was in bond to the Merchants’ Guild. Because of his age, they would test him for talents.
When the team clopped at a steady pace, Corin thought about his plans. Beyond the next village was a garden where a former Healer and her Chosen grew herbals and seasonings.
He’d always planned to return once he was on his own. Four years had passed since his mentor had bargained with the couple for part of their harvest. They’d sold him what didn’t belong to the village or the Healers. The peddler had been able to open a shop in Quato and leave the road.
Corin’s palm itched in anticipation of the profits he would gain. If he entered Pala or Quato with a wide selection of seasonings, he would pay his debt for the cart, ponies and supplies. In two or three years, he could open a shop in Pala. He even had a location selected. The shop fronted the busy market square.
The steady thud of the team’s hooves against the hard-packed surface of the dirt road coupled with the swaying movement of the cart lulled him into a dream state. The thundering sound of an approaching party startled him. Some band of men rode in haste. Guards? Bandits?
When the first rider came into view, Corin shuddered. He had time to get off the road, but not enough to hide from the black robes. He pulled the wide brim of his hat low and hunched his shoulders so he would appear older. Near a stand of evergreens, he halted the cart and waited for the band of Wizards to pass. Their black steeds, the horns dyed red, raised clouds of dust.
Corin touched the blade of the knife he kept on the seat. He flexed his upper arms. The concealed stilettos were primed for action. Rather than surrender to the Wizards, he would force a fight and pray for death.
“They are evil, my son. I would not let them claim you. ’Tis why we live like this.”
Their home had been a hovel. Their clothes and food gleaned from trash heaps. What they couldn’t use had been traded or sold in the seconds’ shops.
Corin watched the parade of horned horses. He noticed the unrobed young men riding on pack horses. His eyes narrowed. A third unrobed boy was held in front of one of the riders. His head lolled. Had he been fool enough to attack a Wizard? Why hadn’t they killed him? That was the usual reward for defiance.
When all but two riders had passed the cart, Corin felt a surge of relief. If he’d been in Pala where streets twisted and alleys abounded, he could have escaped and even removed one or two of the group of Wizards. His years on the city streets had given him knowledge of every escape route. Out here, he stood no chance.
The pair of Wizards wheeled their mounts and rode toward the cart. Corin froze. Every instinct called for flight. He hunched his shoulders until his back was bowed.
“Peddler, what tribute have you for us?”
“T...tragon. Ch...cheese. Cl...cloth.”  His voice quavered like that of an old man.
“Unlock your wares.”
Corin slid from the seat. Tremors spread from his hands to his legs. He nearly fell. He fumbled with the lock and finally opened the trading side, then propped the wooden gate so it formed an awning.
“Old man, we won’t harm you. Just take a few things.”  The man grasped two flasks of tragon and passed them to the second man. He examined the cheese and shook his head. He lifted four more bottles of the liquor. “Just this. Got prime cheese at the village. Left you two flasks. Thank me.”
“Th...thanks.”  Corin swallowed. Tragon was the most expensive of the items he’d stocked and good for trading for food and coins. At least they hadn’t thought to look for his hoard. Those coins had been saved to trade for seasonings.
The Wizards packed the flasks in their saddlebags and mounted. Corin clung to the cart. His knees buckled and he slid to the ground. Laughter rose from the Wizards. Corin pulled to his feet. Better laughter than being taken like those three boys. He felt pity for the trio.
The air smelled of old smoke and blood. What had happened? Corin didn’t want to know.
He locked the cart. Once he climbed on the seat, he grasped the long knife. He stared after the troop until they were out of sight and the dust raised by their steeds had settled.
He eased his team onto the road and flicked the reins. Where were the black robes bound? He wasn’t traveling in their direction. For that he was thankful. He tested the hidden stilettos by flexing the muscles of his upper arms. The hilts slid into his hands. The blades were thin and razor-sharp, but he gained little comfort from their presence. The knives were useless in a face-to-face confrontation. They’d been crafted for attacks from hidden places.
Corin gulped a breath. If the Wizards had seen him as a youth, he would have been forced to join them. They would have discovered his talent, the one he’d used but once on someone other than himself.
Guilt and sorrow flashed into his thoughts along with memories of that dreadful day. He’d been eight. He and his mother had been scavenging when a party of black robes had found them. His mother had screamed for him to hide and he’d obeyed. He’d listened to her agonizing cries and the sound of their fists.
After the Wizards had gone, he’d crept from his hiding place and found her broken and bleeding body. He’d been too young to understand what to do. He’d straightened and mended her bones, but he hadn’t known the loss of blood was more dangerous to life.
Tears flowed over his cheeks. He’d failed, but even a Healer might not have saved her.
As the sun moved to late afternoon, he reached the village. He halted the cart beside the tavern and unhitched the ponies. Once they were in the grazing pen, he took one of the remaining flasks of tragon and relocked the cart. He’d had no midday meal. The nausea caused by his encounter with the Wizards had finally passed and he was hungry.
When he entered the tavern, the buzz of voices in the dark smoky room halted. Corin studied the sullen faces and strode to the bar.
The burly barkeep leaned on the counter. “Your pleasure?”
Corin held out the tragon flask. “Trade this for a meal and a few coins.”
His announcement seemed to loosen the tongues of the villagers. The whisper of conversation became a roar. The barkeep took the flask, drew the cork. He sniffed, then tasted a drop. “Prime. I’ll buy. Have you more?”
“Just one flask,” Corin said. “Had six more. Black robes stopped me and took the rest of my supply.”
“Mine, too.”  The man spat on the floor. “Took two boys from the village and one from the garden. Good riddance to one of the village boys. Nothing but trouble. Fire setter. How’d they miss you?”
Corin pulled his hat low and hunched his shoulders. “Was so scared I shook. Guess they thought I was old.”
“Or their sniffer wasn’t with them.”  The barkeep slid a stack of silver and copper coins across the bar. “Take a table. Food’s plain and hot. To drink?”
“A brew and kaf to follow. Pass the word I’ll open the cart for trade after I eat.”
Before long, his meal arrived. Savory stew, bread and a semi-soft cheese with the kaf and appa tart. Corin waved away seconds, then left to open for business.
First, he hid the coins in his stash. The early customers were older women. They purchased pins, needles and thread. Several bought lengths of sheepsilk.
One of the women arrived with two of the cheeses he’d had at the tavern. “Would you have kaf beans?”
He nodded. “And chokla leaves. Several varieties of tea, too.”
“Weight for weight?”
After hefting the cheese, he shook his head. “Would leave me with little kaf to trade.”  He put his scale on the counter and scooped four measures of beans into the pan. He put them in a sack and weighed the cheese. “I’ll add two measures of tea and one of chokla.”
She nodded. “Done. And for the other cheese. How much cloth?”
Corin closed his eyes. The cheese was delicious and he could sell it at a tavern in some other village. He pulled three bolts from the stores. “A length of each.”
“Three lengths of this one.”  She pointed to a blue with white embroidered flowers.
Soon men appeared to examine his supply of tools. Young girls bought ribbons and trinkets. Children came for sweets and toys. By the time first moon rose, the customers were gone. He stored the coins and traded items in the bins.
Not bad, he thought as he lay on his sleep mat. Surely he had enough coins to purchase a stock of seasonings. Even if he hadn’t a large enough supply for one of the city markets, he could sell them along his route and return to purchase more.
The next morning after he broke his fast at the tavern, he left the village. He hoped to persuade the holder of the garden to allow him first selection for three years. That would give him a good hoard when he made his move to a shop. By then he would be twenty-one. He grinned. Few Guild members began so young.
As he rounded a bend in the road, he gasped. What had happened here? The thatch roof of the stone cottage was gone. Soot-blackened rafters showed and black stained the stones. A heavy aroma of burned wood and cloth hung in the air.
Corin urged the skittish ponies onto the paving stones beside the cottage. After hitching them to a fence railing, he stared at the remains. Had anyone survived? He approached and peered through a window where a partially burned shutter allowed him to see into the house.
Had the black robes done this? The gossips said they’d taken a boy from here. Had there been trouble?
What now, he wondered. He rounded a corner of the house. Beds of plants spread toward the forest. A windfall, except he had no idea what they were. His experience with growing things tended toward weeds seeking purchase in the dirt between the cobblestones of Pala’s streets. Once he’d seen a well-appointed garden of a Guild leader, but that had gained him no knowledge.
He started toward the garden. When he came upon a man sprawled near a grave, he shuddered. Someone had killed this man. He dragged the body to the hole and managed to maneuver the corpse inside. He lifted the shovel and spread dirt over the body.
“I don’t know who you were,” Corin said. “I don’t know who killed you. I’ll not say the blessing to help you pass from this plain to the next until the man who took your life is dead. Seek and torment him.”
When he finished the burial, Corin studied the garden. The stone hut in the far corner caught his attention. ’Twas there the peddler had selected herbals and seasonings. Corin grinned. Surely he would recognize the seasonings by their taste or smell. If fortune favored him, he could raid the hut and be on his way.