Monday, January 21, 2019

Slave of the Black Tower

Ashari dwelled in her gilded world of silken curtains and perfumed nights, looking at the stars in the black sky, watching them fall in trails of fire while she breathed dreaming smoke and brooded on her future. She walked the halls surrounded by her coterie of followers and sycophants by daylight, but when the red sun set she was alone, and glad for it. The harem was a beautiful cage, but a cage nonetheless. She had not felt the bars so keenly before, but now they seemed to close in upon her.

She had been the old emperor’s favorite, and had warmed his bed on many nights, using all her powers to please him, and in return her status within the palace was assured. No other girl could compare with her, nor would she ever bear the master a child. She was a perfect plaything, for her race were durable and long-lived, gifted in ways no human could match. She did not fear that age would steal her beauty.

But now the emperor was dead, and she felt a coldness in the air. Kurux was a new element, and thus far she had not been able to charm him as she had hoped to. He had not sent for her, nor for any of the women kept here for his pleasure. She had called to him with her dreams, as she was able to do, but he had not come. At court she wore her finery, all her jewels and silks, and paraded herself with her coppery flesh showing all she had to offer. She polished her horns and her hooves, painted her face, but nothing seemed to attract his eye.

Already some of the other lords of the court had made polite overtures, and she knew it was an accepted thing for past favorites to leave the harem and become concubines of lesser nobles, but she bristled at the prospect. She had enjoyed a place of prominence no other could match, and now it was gone, and she bitterly refused to simply relinquish it.

Only now she had done something unforgivable. Now, in a fit of anger at Kurux, she had freed his war-prize, the barbarian Shath, and she feared he would discover she had done it. She had watched as he sent guards pouring into the catacombs, seeking some sign of the escaped prisoner, and she had to wonder if someone had seen her that night, if someone would whisper her name.

She would not cower. She was a daughter of the Shedim, a race now almost extinguished, but who had once ruled their great southern empire with fire and blood. She had courage and strength no human could guess, and powers they only dreamed of. She would not be afraid.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tides of War Ebook!

The ebook is here!  Collected are all 25 stories from last year's saga, all in one ebook with one low price.  Smashwords lets you download in any format you want with no DRM to get in your way, so there's no reason not to grab it.  You can buy the book HERE.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Iron Hand

The red sun burned in the skies above the plain of R’sharr on the third day of battle, and the smell of blood crawled in the shadows. The ground was black glass scourged by some ancient blast of fire, and the razor edges cut men where they fell. Iron relics of another age jutted from the ground like teeth. The cursed earth would drink no blood, and so it ran down the dagger channels and gathered in pools beneath the sky.

There on the deadly ground the armies of the empire clashed with the war-hosts of the horned clans. The legions stood in their rigid ranks, shields locked and spears uplifted, and again and again they withstood the charge of the mounted enemy. The warriors of the clans towered above their foes, faces hidden behind their horn-crowned helms. They rode their black-scaled beasts to the attack, howling blood-mad to the black sky.

Again their charge crashed home, and at their head rode their battlemaster, Shath the Iron-Handed. He came at the tip of the wedge, like the keen point of a spear himself. In his hand flamed his ancient sword and his shield was like a wall of steel. Larger than any man, he surged into the ordered lines of his enemy and plunged into the madness of battle. He hewed around him, cutting down men to either side, and the black armor of the legionnaires could not stay the bloody edge.

All around him the armies clashed, and red ran over the glassy earth that spurned it. The legions held to their lines, stabbing in with spears from behind their wall of shields, while the men of the clans sought to batter their way through, hacking with swords and axes, their reptilian war-beasts clawing a path through before they were speared and brought down. The line where the foes met became again a welter of blood and bodies, and the war-cries of each mixed with the screams of the wounded and the dying.

Shath’s beast was cut from beneath him, coughing out a tide of blood through its tusks as it fell with a dozen spears embedded in its flesh. He set one foot upon the carcass and battered the enemy back with his shield, using his weight to dash them off their feet and then cutting them down with his sword, splintering spear-hafts and shields alike. He looked up, beyond the battle-line, to the place where black banners flew over the dark form of the emperor himself, seated upon his massive, armored war beast in a saddle draped in black and crimson. Shath pointed his sword at that distant shadow and swore he would spill the tyrant’s blood.