Technology and Magic

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
― Arthur C. Clarke

 

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Better have a dragon, Joffrey.

Fantasy and science fiction share some elements, particularly the need to build a world for a reader. One thing that’s true for either genre, though, is that you can have so many things be true for the world depending on the level of technology.

Transporters = Teleportation Spell

Faster than light space travel = Cosmic ships following the time flow

Blasters = Wands

Seriously, if you told my great-grandmother about smartphones, netflix, and the internet, she’d have looked at you like you were crazy. Even my grandmother hasn’t gotten past basic television.

I can see how technology can very easily appear magical. As a reader, I am absolutely willing to suspend disbelief when I pick up either genre of books.

I will caveat this with some science fiction gives little lee-way for made-up science. One particular author I read years ago refused to use faster-than-light travel as it didn’t conform to what we know about space travel. Interestingly, however, the same author had cryogenics in the story to compensate for the long flight times to Jupiter where they were going to terraform moons.

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Terraforming in process. Or is that a magic spell…

Neither cryogenics or terraforming are exactly proven science, but it was a still a good story.

For me, that’s what it’s about. A good story. I want to read something and be immersed in it. I want to care about the characters and what they’re doing.

Start bogging me down in too much scientific detail or the minutia of your magic system, and I start skimming. If I can’t find the good bits again pretty quickly, I move on to the next book.

Both genres also have to be careful how they handle gender differences. I have seen too much misogyny masked in, “But that’s how it was.”

In some cases, it could be an accurate portrayal if medieval Europe, though frequently it isn’t. But here’s the thing, this is a fantasy world. The religion. The norms and mores. You can choose a Judaeo-christian society, just as you can choose to create one like the Mosuo.

Still, it’s interesting how certain themes come through both science fiction and fantasy.

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Okay, so maybe some we’d rather not see.

It’s fun to explore the impossible, and both genres do that. I enjoy reading both. Of course, there is that one thing I see in fantasy that science fiction has yet to tackle: dragons!

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

How about you? Do you see magic and technology as interchangeable? Perhaps indistinguishable? Why or why not?

Practice (Part 2)

If you’d like to catch-up with the story, Part 1 is here.

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Skyla caught up to Mara, the mage’s soft grey eyes were bright with excitement. “We did it. Just like you said.”

Mara nodded once.

“You really think this’ll work?”

Mara shrugged. “Where I’m from it would.”

Skyla chewed her lower lip as she avoided Mara’s gaze.

“You’re sure you’re okay with this?”

“Yes.” A beautiful blush reddened the mage’s cheeks. “Only one way I’ll know. And I’m curious.”

“Haven’t met a mage that wasn’t.”

Skyla stared at her for too long. “Are you okay?”

“It’s Keenan you should be worried about.”

The mage’s blush deepened, and she followed Mara the rest of the way to Ndrek’s bar in silence.

Mara nodded to Ndrek than took a table in the back corner. She sprawled into the rearmost chair, keeping her back to the wall as she surveyed the bar. A few regulars were already there, and a steady trickle of customers was filling the rest of the tables.

The floor was tacky from spilled ale, but the tables were clean enough and the chairs comfortable after a day toying with Knights. Mara would’ve had fun messing with them if she didn’t know what the Knights would face in the eastern provinces.

They were kids, most of them who hadn’t seen anything more threatening than a pack of wolves or a petty thief. Nothing compared to the horrors beyond Tamryn’s borders. And it was beyond those traditional boarders that most of those Knights would be stationed. And where they’d die.

She didn’t share that with Skyla.

Instead, Mara leaned back and listened to Skyla’s stories and anecdotes as she waited for Keenan to join them. He was a Knight. He would come. Knights didn’tgo back on their word.

Ndrek stopped over and gave Skyla a grin that showed his perfect white teeth. “To what do I owe the pleasure of having one of the most promising students from the University of Arcane Arts in my humble establishment?”

Skyla blushed and mumbled something.

“Three hellfires,” Mara said. “Knight Keenan will be picking up the tab when he arrives.”

“I will have to charge him double to make up for having a Knight in my bar.”

“Or you could double his drink.”

Ndrek grinned, bowed, and disappeared back behind the bar.

As Ndrek returned with the smoking drinks, Keenan entered the bar. Uncertainty pinched his brow as he walked into the darkened taproom, but he spotted Mara and worked his way toward her.

The Knight eyed the deep red drinks that still emitted a trail of smoke, but Keenan paid Ndrek and took the seat opposite Mara.

“I’ll buy you one of these awful things every day if you’ll help me whip the new Knights into shape.”

Mara took a long drink of her hellfire. “Tell me about their training program.”

She listened as Keenan talked.

When he paused, Mara nodded to Skyla. “If you’re really sending those kids outside of Tamryn, you need to teach them how to fight magic. And you need to put more than Dracor’s light on their side.”

“Work with the University of Arcane Arts?”

“What other mages do you have?”

“They’re not warriors. Can’t wear armor.”

“Skyla wasn’t wearing armor, and she lit up your cadets.”

Keenan glanced at the mage, and Mara could see his discomfort. Skyla had told her the history between her and Keenan, but it looked like there was a lot more interest on the Knight’s part than Skyla had imagined.

Kennan lifted his half-empty glass. “These things are terrible.”

Mara downed the rest of hers. “Didn’t come here for the drinks.”

“But you won the bet.”

Mara leaned across the table and dropped a key in front of him.

Keenan’s eyes saucered as he looked at the key and then up at Mara. “Are you propositioning me?”

Mara smiled. “No. We are.”

Playing in the Sandbox (Practice Part 1)

No, not my children’s sandbox. Too messy. We turned it into a water table for very good reasons.

I mean taking my characters for a spin in the sandbox of my imagination.

I have a character that has been knocking around in my head for sometime. You see her as an ancillary character in a few stories, but she’s never the love interest. I wanted to change that and write a story about her, but she’s very different from other characters I’ve written.

Having been allowed very little free will of her own for most of her existence, her morality is different. Her wants and desires are different. Her worldview is different. Not sure I’ll ever be able to write her as the heroine, but I want to try.

To help me better understand her, I wrote a short story from her point of view. The steamy scenes are very different than any of my other work, but I think it’s because she’s so much different than my other heroines.

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Practice

Mara swept the first young Knight’s feet out from beneath him and shoved him hard with her shield. He crashed to the ground, and before he could roll away, she hit his breastplate with her sword.

A second Knight charged her, but she pivoted, letting his momentum in full armor carry him past her. As he tripped over the first Knight, Mara hit his back with the flat of her sword.

Two kill shots. Both Mara’s. Anything but a training exercise, and the two Knights of Valor would be dead.

There was laughter and teasing from the sidelines, but a quick look from Mara silenced the other Knights. “How long will you survive in the eastern provinces?”

Knight Keenan helped the two younger men back to their feet. “We’re practicing. They’ll get better.”

“But not good enough.”

“Not all of us can be Sir Marcus,” the Knight Mara had tripped said.

Mara pierced the boy with her hard stare. “Sir Marcus spent his life training to fight a lich. You spent yours training to protect the safe streets of Tamryn.”

Knight Keenan cleared his throat. “We’ll practice again tomorrow.”

Mara looked over the assembled Knights, her gaze resting on each man in turn. “Anything you face in the eastern provinces will be alive because it’s survived worse than whatever haunts your nightmares. Do you think your enemies get knocked down during practice then toddled off to say a few prayers?”

The Knights stared back at her, and several of them were clenching their fists at their sides.

“Good. Get angry at me. Better angry than dead. Next lesson.” Mara motioned to a figure dressed in a plain brown cloak.

The woman walked over to Mara and bowed, then turned toward the Knights.

“Skyla,” Keenan said. “What are you doing here?”

“She’s going to help me demonstrate a lesson,” Mara said. “Are your healers out here?”

Keenan nodded toward Knight Matthias, but concern reflected in his pale green eyes. “Is this safe?”

“Less dangerous than sending out half-trained men.”

Knight Keenan glanced at Skyla then stepped back. “Be careful.”

Mara looked at the woman in the robes. Her rich brown hair was tied in a simple ponytail, and her large grey eyes seemed too big for her face. She was easy to underestimate as so many mages were.

“Just like we practiced,” Mara said.

Skyla nodded and moved several sword lengths behind Mara.

“Do you think your Knights can beat Skyla and me?” Mara raised a challenging brow at Keenan. “Or are you going to send them to their prayer vigil and hope Dracor gives them fighting skills?”

“I don’t want her to get hurt.”

“Not what I asked.” Mara smiled at the gathered Knights, a taunting expression meant to rile them. “Pick your best seven. If they can get three points in before I get a killing blow, you win and I will come back and help you train them until the new moon.”

Keenan glanced at the recruits and then back at Mara. “You called for a healer. What do you have in mind?”

“Don’t think seven of your Knights can get in three hits?”

“And if they can’t?”

“You owe Skyla and me a hellfire at Ndrek’s bar.”

“Seven against you and Skyla?”

Mara nodded.

“Until the new moon?”

Mara nodded again.

“They could really use the practice against someone with your skills. You’re sure Skyla won’t be hurt?”

“It’s not her you should be worrying about.”

Mara fell into her battle stance, and she felt Skyla building the first spell as seven young Knights took their positions opposite her.

Keenan signaled the start of combat, and Skyla let loose with the spell.

A wall of flames scorched the ground and rose up between Mara and the Knights. Mara ignored the fire, ducking her head as she charged through them and tapped the chest plate of one of the Knights. Pivoting, she tapped the chest plate of a second before any of them had recovered their wits enough to close their mouths.

The remaining five backed away from the fire and Mara’s blade. Just as she’d anticipated.

Skyla loosed her second spell, and the ground under the remaining Knight’s feet turned to mud.

Mara charged.

Slamming her shield into the first Knight’s sword, she shoved hard and sent him stumbling back then barreled into the second. Surprise widened his eyes, and when he tried to turn, he slipped in the mud.

Mara slammed his chest plate with her sword, and if it hadn’t been a practice blade, she’d have killed the Knight. Instead, she sent him into the mud with the first, who’s chest plate she tapped.

They’d hurt, but the bruises would bring home a lesson they wouldn’t forget.

The remaining three Knights extricated themselves from the mud as Mara circled around them. She smiled as one tried to flank her while the other two came at her. Sprinting towards one, she used her shield as a battering ram and knocked him to the ground as the second scored a glancing blow against her arm.

She pivoted and knocked his feet out from underneath him them hit his chest plate with her sword. Leaping over him, she tapped the Knight she’d steamrolled to the ground.

One Knight remained.

As he stood watching her, black vines shot out of the ground and encased his feet, rooting him there.

Mara circled around him, but he couldn’t turn to face her. She came up behind him and tapped the middle of his back.

There were growing whispers that the battle hadn’t been fair. That they hadn’t been warned.

Mara only smiled. “Combat isn’t about fair. Or justice. Or right and wrong. It’s about winning. In real combat, Skyla would’ve been using fireballs, flame clouds, and ice storms. Never under estimate a mage.”

“Good lesson,” Sir Leopold said. “Well done, both of you.”

Mara felt the High-Knight’s faded blue eyes fix on her. She met his stare, her face impassive even as her stomach clenched. Tall and broad, the only thing that belied his age was the silver in his hair and the rank insignia on his uniform.

She wondered again what he’d feel like beneath her and how hard he’d fight her for top. How much she’d relish that fight. The thought made her belly tighten.

Stabbing the thought and leaving it to bleed to death, Mara handed her practice sword back to Keenan.

She picked up her sword and wiped the soot from her cheeks. “One hit to seven kills. See you at Ndrek’s.”

Keenan only nodded as he checked on his men.

 

To Catch a Dragon (Part 4)

You can catch up on the story at Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

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To Catch a Dragon (Part 4)

They followed the shoreline not sure what they were looking for. Perhaps another footprint. A scale. Or even a dragon bathing in the lake.

Instead, they found a handful of deer, a couple of moose, and even a flock of sheep. All which should have been tasty morsels for a dragon, but no such creature was tempted from the sky.

“Any people missing?” Ndrek asked as he glanced over his shoulder at the sheep.

“No. Livestock seem to be accounted for as well.”

“What I felt may not have been a dragon, but whatever it was, it was far more powerful than the lich Sir Marcus destroyed.”

Knight Kailis frowned. “Maybe you just drank too much ale.”

“It takes far more than Tamarian ale to make me fall down drunk.”

“Maybe it was spiked with something.”

“Let’s say it wasn’t spiked ale that knocked him out,” Vaiya said. “And, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it wasn’t a long dead dragon or elven arch mage. What does that leave?”

Ndrek thought for several long moments, then ticked each off his fingers. “A supremely powerful but untrained and undiscovered sorcerer. A magical relic of immense power. A dragon. An elven arch mage.”

“An untrained sorcerer would be hard to hide,” Vaiya said. “They tend to set themselves and those they love on fire while still in the cradle.”

“That leaves a relic.” Kailis frowned. “I suppose it’s possible.”

“And if true, very dangerous,” Ndrek said.

“We’ll spend the next couple of days searching for any additional clues and following any leads the locals can give us. If you sense that kind of magic again, I’ll send an urgent request for back-up to the Dragon Church.”

“And if not?” Ndrek said.

“Then I make a full report and let the Dragon Church decide. Not sure how much manpower they want to spend on this when they’ve got undead walking the streets in the eastern provinces.”

“I would not wish to return to the eastern provinces. Hard to believe, but the food is better here. So is the smell,” Ndrek said.

Knight Kailis shook her head and led them back to town.

 

Curiosity burned. Ndrek knew something was out there, something of immense power, but not necessarily hostile. If it were, Kelleran would already be dust.

Church protocol bound Knight Kailis, but it didn’t bind him.

He watched the Knight of Valor conduct the investigation with by-the-book precision, but they knew nothing more when they retired for the day than they had at the beginning.

Ndrek lay in bed and studied the whitewashed ceiling. There was something out there. He could almost feel a whisper of its power. Almost.

Perhaps it was his desire to find the source of the magic that he felt rather than anything else, but he had to know.

His companions were asleep when he slipped out of the inn. He didn’t bother with the invisibility or silence spells. If he did find the presence, such magic would be of no consequence to it.

A sliver of a moon lit his path, and Ndrek augmented it with a faint light spell. No point tripping over a rock, and if this was a dragon, it already knew he was coming.

The familiar patter of his heart fueled him, and Ndrek felt himself come alive. His hearing was sharper, his eyes keener, even his sense of smell heightened.

A dragon. An elven arch mage. Something was out there. Waiting for him.

It would’ve been wiser to wake Kailis or Vaiya, but he didn’t want to endanger them. He had to find the truth, but he wouldn’t let anyone but himself die for it.

Ndrek crested the last hill and saw Lake Meade sparkling in the faint light. A man stood shirtless beside the water. His skin was pale as new fallen snow, and his hair shimmered as it reflected the faint moonlight.

“I knew you would come.”

Ndrek’s magelight spell evaporated as the words rumbled over his flesh. The wizard swallowed back the metallic taste of fear as his entire body trembled.

“You are not the one I seek.” The pale man continued to stare across the lake.

“Who is?”

“I don’t know. I thought I felt her, but I no longer do.”

Ndrek said nothing as the water lapped the shore. He could feel whispers of the same magic pressing against him, but this time, the magic was contained. Wrapped in strong wards that even now were weaving ever tighter and locking away the power.

The man turned to look at him, and Ndrek felt the weight of a thousand mountains in those violet eyes. Millennia of loneliness, isolation, and longing seared Ndrek’s mind in the time it took a firefly to blink. In the same moment, Ndrek’s soul was laid bare, exposing everything he was and all he wasn’t.

The man turned back to the lake, breaking the link.

Managing to stay on his feet, Ndrek forced himself to breathe.

“Go. You will find no dragon here.”

Ndrek nodded and fled to the inn, never looking back.

 

Ndrek accompanied Knight Kailis and Priestess Vaiya as they spent seven more suns following leads and looking for signs of a dragon, mage, or relic. They found none.

When Kailis asked him over and over about what he’d felt the night they’d found him on the road, Ndrek deflected, saying that perhaps the innkeeper had given him a stronger drink. Or perhaps he’d reacted poorly to something in the rocks or soil.

Kailis didn’t believe him, but she eventually stopped asking.

Three days after they returned home, Ndrek swore under his breath as Sir Leopold tromped into his bar and dropped payment onto the counter.

The Knight pinned him with his faded blue stare that always saw more than Ndrek wanted. “Knight Kailis thinks you found something but won’t tell her.”

Ndrek collected his payment and dropped it into the folds of his cloak. “You will not find a dragon in Kelleran.”

“Not what I asked.”

Ndrek closed his eyes as the memories flooded him, and even in the quiet warmth of his bar, he shivered.

“You look like you saw a ghost.”

“Those are easy to deal with.”

“What did you find?” Leopold folded his arms and waited.

“Doesn’t matter. It didn’t find what it’s looking for.”

“And what was it looking for?”

Ndrek paused a moment. “I think its mate.”

“Then it’s gone for good?”

“I hope so.” But the prickle down Ndrek’s back warned it was an empty hope.

To Catch a Dragon (Part 3)

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You can catch up on the story at Part 1 and Part 2.

To Catch a Dragon (Part 3)

He awoke to the warmth of a healing spell followed by a most un-Knightly curse.

Ndrek smiled up at Vaiya. “Thank you, though I think Knight Kailis would have preferred you to let me die.”

Knight Kailis balled her fists as she turned on her heel to face him. “What in the seven hells were you doing out here alone?”

A bit of the fire he’d seen in her once was peeking through her paladin veneer, and Ndrek couldn’t help but smile. “Looking for dragons. Alas, I fear they prefer beautiful young virgins. As I am none of those, I might have been more successful if you had joined me.”

“This isn’t funny.”

“I was not laughing.” Ndrek stood and waved his hand across his robes. The mud, sticks, and grass vanished. Though Vaiya’s healing spell had repaired the worst of his injuries, he still felt as if he’d spent the night drinking hellfires and black phoenixes.

“Who attacked you?” Vaiya asked.

He looked at the petite woman with russet hair and jade eyes who seemed all the smaller compared to the Valkyrie beside her. But Ndrek had learned long ago never to judge a person by their stature, especially when they channeled the power of the gods.

“I was not attacked. Not exactly,” Ndrek said.

“Then how’d you end up face down in the dirt?” Kailis asked.

“Some sort of magic force.” Ndrek waved his hand as he stumbled with the words. “Whatever it was, it knocked me aside.”

Kailis tightened a hand over the hilt of her sword. “Magic. But we didn’t feel anything, and none of the townspeople complained of it.”

“How many of them are wizards?” Vaiya said.

“You think it’s targeting magic users?”

“I do not think it cares about magic users,” Ndrek said. “If it did, it would have killed me. It had ample opportunity.”

“Then why attack you?” Kailis said.

“I believe I was an accidental casualty. If you had felt the power…” Ndrek shook his head. “I am not a threat to it. Not even a lich is a threat to it. I have never felt such immense power.”

Kailis frowned. “Do you think it was a dragon?”

“Perhaps. Or an elven arch mage.”

“Those don’t exist either,” Kailis said.

Ndrek shrugged, hiding his curiosity under a bland expression. For the first time since he’d joined Sir Marcus, he felt a prick of excitement. Danger, yes, but finally here was something unknown. Something new.

“What do we do now?” Viaya looked at the Knight.

Kailis fidgeted then looked down at the dragon on her shield. “We follow orders. We go to Kelleran and see if we can find evidence of a dragon.”

“And whatever it was that attacked Ndrek?”

“If it’s after magic users, he’s the only one in the area. It’ll be back, and we’ll be ready.”

Ndrek only smiled. The being may come back, but they would most assuredly not be ready.

 

Ndrek was rather disappointed when they arrived in Kelleran without coming across the source of the immense magic.

Unlike the other villages, Kelleran was quite crowded as people from the surrounding areas and as far away as Aerius had descended on the town in hopes of seeing a dragon. Kailis’s presence confirmed to those gathered that the dragon was, indeed, real.

Still, her popularity meant everyone was telling her what they knew. While the stories varied from improbable to impossible, the trio quickly learned that none of the stories matched. The only thing any of them could agree on was the dragon footprint they’d found near Lake Meade.

“Is the footprint still there?” Ndrek asked.

“Gone,” Kailis said. “Wiped away by rains.”

“Did you see it before it was destroyed?”

Kailis thought for a moment too long.

“You saw something. What was it?”

“Faint outline at best, and the locals had to point it out to us. If it was a footprint, the creature that left it had to be as big as the royal palace.”

“Hard for villagers to forge such a thing, yes?”

“Not saying they made it up, but they might have been seeing what they wanted to see.”

“The sun is still high. Let us investigate this lake.”

“Can’t take another night of weak ale and local gossip?” Vaiya asked.

“I would rather have hot coals placed on my back.”

“You might like that a little too much,” Vaiya said.

Ndrek grinned at her, and Kailis frowned at them both.

After packing a lunch of fresh bread, dried meat, and cheese, the trio followed a cow path to Lake Meade.

Ndrek sucked in a breath as he looked at the massive expanse of water. Lake did not convey the immensity of the body water that extended beyond the horizon. It reminded him of the ocean, but rather than the tang of salt and fish, it smelled like the morning after a rainstorm.

Watching the waves lap the shore and the sun illuminate the water, Ndrek eased his horse to the edge of the lake.

“How deep is this lake?”

Kailis shrugged. “Deeper than most. Mountains further south feed it with spring run-off, and there are several underground springs that empty into it as well.”

“Deep enough for a dragon the size of the royal palace to dive into for a snack?”

Kailis paused. “Yeah. I suppose it is.”

Ndrek nodded. “We should proceed with caution.”

 

To Catch a Dragon (Part 2)

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You can catch up on the story here.

To Catch a Dragon (Part 2)

Ndrek watched the rolling hills of the Tamarian countryside slide past. The scent of green growing things and manure filled the air, and the afternoon sun was warm on his back.

Not much more exciting than tending his bar.

And he couldn’t practice any spells as it would spook his horse and probably his companions’ mounts as well.

Magic users were uncommon everywhere, but even more so in Tamryn. The few that did exhibit both desire and potential were trained at the lackluster University of Magical Arts where the Dragon Church could keep a close watch on them.

Ndrek was uncertain why so many Tamarians feared magic, but it did explain why he hadn’t been able to find a horse that magic didn’t bother. The beasts were too much like their owners.

He’d have to pay Mara handsomely to find him one, but he doubted she’d accept such an offer. No, she’d want a favor in return. That’s how her kind worked. Gold was too easy for her to come by on her own.

But that would have to wait for his return to Aerius.

In the meantime, Ndrek whispered a tiny spell to make the saddle more comfortable, and his horse stamped a foot and snorted.

“Told you not to cast any spells,” Knight Kailis said.

Yes, he would trade Mara a favor for a real horse.

Glancing across the idyllic farmsteads with their grazing animals, rich crops, and tended barns, Ndrek had to admit it was better than the last time he’d traveled with a Knight. The roads were tended, riding was easy, and there were plenty of inns along the way. There were also no undead wondering around, a blessing in itself.

“We’ll stop in the next town,” Knight Kailis said.

Ndrek glanced at the sun still well above the horizon. “We could make it to the town after that without difficulty.”

“Protocol says…”

Ndrek sighed loud enough to silence her. “Very well. We stop in the next town.”

Kailis glared at him, but said nothing the rest of the way to town.

As they rode into the village, Ndrek groaned when he saw that it looked exactly like the last five they’d stayed in. Sure, the houses were painted different colors, and there were different flowers in the planters, but the same Dragon Church surrounded by massive oak trees dominated the center of town. Merchant shops lined the main street, and an inn was tucked in the center of them.

As they entered the inn, it was clean and furnished with the same practical heavy wooden tables and chairs that were well-worn from use. A smattering of locals were already comfortably seated, mostly the elderly and very young.

Ndrek could smell a thick stew simmering that would be served with fresh bread for dinner. How he longed for a bowl of spiced meat stew so hot his eyes would water. Something to make his taste buds work again.

He settled for sitting down at the bar and listening to the hum of conversation.

Just as she had at the last five inns, Kailis showed the innkeeper her credentials and secured them a room, a meal, and fresh traveling supplies. And just like in the last five inns, the young Knight was soon surrounded by locals, all wanting news of the happenings in the capital city and stories of her adventures.

While Kalis obliged them with the same boring news she had in the past five towns, Priestess Vaiya tended to the sick or injured of the town.

He should be happy, relieved even, after everything he’d seen. No ghouls. No vampires. No zombies. Another perfectly normal, perfectly quiet Tamarian town.

It was enough to make Ndrek want to vomit.

He watched Knight Kailis talk to the locals as he drained his mug of ale. Decent stuff, but nothing like a Fire and Brimstone. After five days on the road with her, he needed something a lot stronger than ale.

Even after a day of riding, her strawberry-blonde hair was in the same tight braided bun so many female Knights wore. He wondered if they took a course in it so they all did it just right.

Ndrek snorted into his empty glass.

Of course they did. They all had to be the perfect protégés of Dracor.

Knight Kailis wasn’t awful, but she was everything that was wrong with the Knighthood.

He’d seen a glimpse of fire in her, a spark, back in her early days as a Knight. He’d thought she’d be different. Had expected her to shake up the place, but now, she was just like all the rest.

Perfect braids, the blue eyes so common in Tamryn, and pristine armor. She looked like a Knight, and she had the same polite but commanding tone they all used. Must’ve had classes in that, too.

The barkeep stopped over and offered to refill Ndrek’s glass, but he waved the man away. He’d had enough. Enough of beautiful Knights, following orders, and basking in boredom.

He was going to find this dragon.

Making sure Kailis was occupied with the locals, Ndrek flipped up the hood of his traveling cloak and walked out of the inn.

The night was cool, and the songs of frogs mixed with the chirping of crickets. He smiled as he realized some might consider the summer night hot, but they’d never suffered through the Qumarefi desert. Boredom was better than some things.

Still, he couldn’t imagine much that would be a challenge for him anymore. Especially not after his travels with Sir Marcus. But better to be safe than dead, and once Ndrek was at the edge of town, he cast an invisibility and silence spell on himself.

Time to see what the local smugglers knew about dragons.

Of course there were smugglers out here. They had to be more careful in Tamryn than in other places Ndrek had been, but that just made the rewards richer. And there were plenty of goods Tamryn outlawed that would be well worth the risk.

Following the road south, he looked for telltale signs when he felt a prickle on his skin.

Magic. Strong magic.

Stronger than anything he’d ever felt.

He stopped and strengthened his wards.

The magic increased from a whisper to a grinding pulse, pounding against him and driving into his chest. Into his heart. Into his head.

He tried to scream, but he could make no sound.

Ndrek fell to his knees as blood gushed from his nose and soaked the ground in front of him.

The magic intensified until spots danced in front on his eyes. Clutching his chest, he glanced towards the heavens, a prayer Sir Marcus had taught him on his lips, when a shadow glided over the trees.

As it drew closer, the darkness closed in on Ndrek and unconsciousness took him.

 

To Catch a Dragon (Part 1)

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As I’ve been working through my novels, I ocassionally take my characters on a “test drive” in different scenarios to see how they’d handle them, if there’s any chemistry, etc. I thought I’d share some of those on the blog. Let’s me do some character development, and gives you some (hopefully) fun short stories.

As always, comments are welcome.
To Catch a Dragon

Ndrek sat behind the bar, sizing up each of his mid-afternoon customers. Some had started drinking early, others had rented a room for the night and were just starting their day. Boredom itched.

Now was as good a time as any to start work on the new spell he’d discovered.

As he slid off his stool, the door to the bar opened and the man that entered had to stoop to get under the doorframe. His shoulders matched his height, and the gold dragon on his breastplate seemed to glow in the dim light.

The archetype for the Knights of Valor.

Sir Leopold grimaced at the sticky floor.

“To what do I owe this…” Ndrek paused. “Honor?”

The Knight leaned against the bar, his back to the wall as his faded blue eyes surveyed the tap room. “Don’t believe for a minute you’ve settled down as a barkeeper.”

“That is not what brought a High-Knight to my humble establishment. Perhaps you came for a Fire and Brimstone? My establishment is said to make the very best.”

Leopold looked at the pristine glasses behind the counter. “At least those are clean.”

“Too much cleanliness would scare away my best customers.”

Leopold’s eyes narrowed. “Not what I came to see you about, though I probably should.”

“What has brought you here?”

The Knight reached into his cloak and withdrew a sheaf of papers imprinted with the wax seal of the dragon church.

“A writ?”

“Interested?”

Ndrek sucked in a breath as he looked at the sealed documents. “You have an army of Knights blessed by Dracor Himself. Why would you have need of me?”

“We’ve been issuing more of them lately. Not enough Knights to oversee all of Tamryn and the eastern provinces.”

“Then you need more Knights.”

“That’s up to Dracor,” Leopold said.

Ndrek bit back his quip about fickle gods.

“Figuring you’re getting bored about now. This’ll keep you busy and out of trouble. Pay’s not bad either.”

Ndrek grinned and took the papers, but he frowned as he read them. “This is a goose chase, as you Tamarians say. Dragons have been extinct since before men walked these lands.”

“Locals of Kelleran don’t agree with that assessment.”

“A dragon.” Ndrek rocked back on his heels as he tried to wrap his brain around the thought. “Are you sure?”

“Nope, but that’s where you come in.”

“Would not the followers of the Dragon God Dracor wish to be first on the scene?”

“Already sent a contingent of Knights.”

“Let me guess. They did not return?”

“Of course they did. They didn’t see any dragons, and they didn’t find any proof that there’d ever been any.”

“Then why send me?”

“Found a few things that made some folks worry there might’ve been a dragon. Knights couldn’t tell if it was real or a hoax.”

“Would not the Knights know this best?”

“Dracor might take the form of a dragon, but dragons are magical beasts.”

“No wizard was with the team you sent?”

Sir Leopold shook his head.

“So you think I will be able to tell for sure.”

“That’s the reasoning, anyway.”

Ndrek looked at the bundle of papers, including the generous payout. Far more interesting than tending bar.

Sir Leopold pushed off the bar. “I’ll send Knight Kailis over. She was on the original expedition. And Priestess Vaiya.”

“Was she on the original expedition as well?’

“No, but I figure if you find a dragon, you might want the healing skills of Priestess of Thalia on your side.”

Ndrek frowned. “You think there might actually be a dragon.”

“Doesn’t much matter what I think. It’s what you find that counts. I’ll send Knight Kailis over in the morning.”

Ndrek watched the High-Knight leave and looked down at the papers in his hands.

If Sir Leopold thought it was a goose chase, he wouldn’t be sending Ndrek, a Knight, and a Priestess of Thalia to investigate.

Sir Leopold hadn’t become a High-Knight by being wrong.

 

Where Are the Dragons?

The current books I am writing all take place in the same world. You’ll see the same characters, but each book is stand alone and has its own romance.

To date, I have not introduced a dragon character. Do I have them in my head, you betcha. At the moment, though, the people of my world believe that humans may carry a drop or two of dragon blood in their veins, but that dragons themselves were destroyed by the god that created them.

So, I love dragons, and I want to add them to my story, but a dragon takes things to a different level. They aren’t something you can just add without potentially unbalancing the world.

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As a romance writer, if I add a dragon, I also have to have an appropriate female love interest in the story. That’s a core part of the genre. That means we need an appropriately formidable female protagonist.

I have no issues with this as I enjoy strong female characters. No suitcases, please. But, that adds another layer of complexity if I have two such powerful characters.

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But, I still want them!

Anderantamosien, who goes by Ander to us mere mortals, is all ready to make his entrance. I have a full backstory for him, his character flushed out, and a motivation. I even have an idea for his love interest. The downside is that love interest would be the daughter of two characters whose story I’ve already written. I’m not sure I want to move time along in my world that much just yet. Although, strangely, I already have ideas for the children of other characters whose stories I’ve written as well. Perhaps this is because I already know so much about them and their parents.

What I’m struggling with is giving Ander an appropriate antagonist without becoming too Dragon Ball Z. I need to give this more time, let the thoughts percolate, but I most assuredly need to bring dragons into the world.

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For the moment, I’ve established the Dragon God, a symbol of justice and righteousness. He’s part of the Holy Trinity that includes the Goddess of Wisdom and the Goddess of Mercy. There’s the Unholy Triumvirate to oppose them. There are other gods, such as the god of death, that are part of the pantheon, but not really on the side of good or evil.

So, yes, I have established that dragons once existed. Ander’s story will talk about their fall and their current place in the world.

But I still need to give him a true challenge, a true adversary that could take all he wants. And I’m not looking to retell a Beauty and the Beast tale. Ander can, and does, take human form. Still haven’t decided if that should have an impact on what buildings he can walk in  or if, you know, magic. Because if a dragon has the kind of magic to take human form, of course he can adjust his mass accordingly.

 

How about you? Ever write or read a book with something as epic as dragons? How did you or the author you read handle them? Did you like it? Why or why not? Also, if you know any good romance novels with dragons in them, please put them in comments! I have been searching for books with this done right, and it’s been very difficult to find.

Mysterious Fireball Streaks Across the Night Sky

A fireball in the night sky would at least draw me to my window, if not outside. I have a bit of self-preservation in me (some might call it cowardice).

But then I live in a world where fireballs at night are not the norm.

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But I’ve often wondered if people in a fantasy world where there’s magic would respond in the same way. Would they be startled and intrigued, or would they respond much as we do to an airplane passing overhead?

I suppose it would depend. Simply because magic is possible, doesn’t mean it’s everywhere. And it’s possible that some cultures would’ve adopted it more readily than others.

Long ago, back before I had kids, I played World if Warcraft for awhile. I remember when they first came out with Blood Elves and it was intriguing to play a character whose whole race depended on magic, especially after having played a Tauren in Thunder Bluff.

I imagine a fireball in Thunder Bluff would’ve been met with a lot more interest than one in Silvermoon City.

In the novels I’ve written or am working on so far, there is magic, but it’s the exception. While magic exists, it’s unusual for someone to know how to use it. It makes them special. Unique. Dangerous. So far, all of these works take place in roughly the same kingdom.

As I contemplate another story in the same world, I am considering setting it in a very different kingdom the revolves around the imperial elves of T’analear. This would involve creating a very different culture. One that not only has embraced magic, but takes it for granted.

Kinda like my kids do with iPads. Of course there are iPads and they have access to all of the information in all of the world. And cat memes. Those too.

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I imagine Prince Celadrius would be more annoyed than curious about a fireball streaking across the night sky, whereas Sir Marcus would be grabbing his sword and shield.

How about you? What’s your response to a mysterious fireball in the sky?

 

 

 

 

Loving a Mage Lord: Part 4

Continued from Part 1Part 2, Part 3, should you wish to catch up on the story. Or just jump right in.

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Post 4

His words weren’t a request. Aenwyn sucked in a breath. While she and most of the Empire knew of Mage Lord Dryden, what was said about him wasn’t complimentary. She almost regretted letting Caewyn go.

Almost. She wanted to see her friend happy more than anything.

Gathering up her courage, she walked to the edge of the dance floor then turned to face Dryden. “My apprenticeship? I’m the duchess’s companion, nothing more.”

“I can protect you from Lady Melisandra better than a half-trained wizard can, duchess or not.”

Aenwyn swallowed, and her eyes darted to the crowd.

“Come, let’s talk. I promised to be a gentleman, and I will be.” Dryden offered her his arm, and Aenwyn bit her lip but took it, forcing her hand to remain still despite the fluttering in her stomach.

The sea of guests parted before the mage lord, and he swept her outside and along the paths of the garden.

She could feel the change in him, feel him relax under her fingers as a whisper of his magic seeped through his wards. Sky magic, she was almost certain of it. Sky mages were some of the most powerful, though the title of archmage meant he’d mastered all schools of magic.

No small feat, and it was a testament to his tenacity as well as his intelligence and skill.

They were deep in the gardens when he took a deep breath and let it out. His magic flowed over her like the quiet blanket of night.

“You don’t like the crowds.”

Dryden lifted his shoulders. “Do you?”

“I’ve learned to deal with them.”

“To be Lady Escadia’s companion?”

“A companion is of little use if she never leaves her rooms.”

“And a mage of great potential is of little use if she spends her time as a companion.”

Straightening her spine, Aenwyn glared up at the haughty archmage. “How can someone as offensive as you have such serene magic?”

“The truth is seldom flattering.”  He paused then looked at her. “You can feel my magic even through my wards.”

“It leaks. Less so inside than out here. Probably because you’re back under the sky.”

“Gifted and observant. You’re squandering your potential.”

“Not all of us have the birthright to get to do as we choose.”

“A failing of a crumbling empire.”

“I do what I must.”

“Which is why you’re hiding behind Escadia. Listening to her tutors and doing her work for her.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“I don’t have to.” Dryden paused beside a flowering shrub. “Can you turn the blossoms yellow?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know if you can.”

“I never learned that spell.”

“You are an elven wizard. Can you do it anyway?”

Aenwyn frowned, but she accepted his challenge.