On the Road to Shalas

Lots going on in the world, but nothing I want to talk about. So instead I’m offering a snippet of the WIP. Marta is returning to Shalas after the events of Power’s Shadow, and the vague “he” referenced is a person she doesn’t know she knows, and that’s all the context you’re going to get, because that’s what the book’s for.

The next morning Marta reclaimed her horse and set out on the road south. Dessera had tucked herself out of the sun and into some quiet crevice of the saddle bag. Bonetapper rode on Marta’s shoulder, sound asleep. He’d spent the night scouting the southern road until it reached the sea and turned east toward Shalas and didn’t return until just before dawn.

“Didn’t see anything or anyone at all until I reached the sea road,” he reported. “Traveling merchants, one or two wandering priests. Not much else. Either he didn’t go that way or he’s better at hiding than I am at looking.”

“Interesting, but not very reassuring. No matter; we have to take this route if we’re going to reach Shalas before winter.”

That was the end of the discussion and Bonetapper nodded off soon after. Marta rode on, enjoying the silence. She was tempted to turn west when she reached the sea road; it was the most direct route to Lyksos and home. Yet circumstances had dictated that she leave her cart and pony in Shalas, and she was not inclined to abandon either. As for home…was there really any point in going there at all? She would only have to leave again when the Arrow Path relented and showed her the path to the Seventh Law.

Assuming it ever did.

This possibility was one Marta did not enjoy considering. The Arrow Path asked a great deal, whether you were the witch following it or the one who incurred the Debt because of it. Those who accepted the bargain an Arrow Path witch offered did so freely if not always wisely. They weighed the value of what they received against what they gave up, and for them the scales balanced. For those who followed the Arrow Path, the bargain, both in terms of value and loss, was not so clear. Yes, it led them to the Laws of Power without which they would be unable to meet their obligations, with the promise of both power and the freedom to use it however one saw fit at the end of it all. That was the lure that brought so many to it. But was this ‘promise and hope of mist and smoke,’ as the child’s rhyme went?

Has anyone ever found all Seven Laws?

Perhaps her mother had done so. She was, after all, widely regarded as the most powerful witch in the Seven Kingdoms. But if she had found it, why had nothing changed for her, in all the time Marta had known her? And then there was the undeniable fact that Marta’s own discovery of the Sixth Law owed more to dumb luck than guidance and she did not feel any pull from the direction of the Seventh Law at all.

We had a bargain, Amaet. Me, my mother, and every Arrow Path sorceress who ever lived. Are you going to honor it? Or have I, after all I’ve been through, misunderstood everything the Arrow Path was supposed to be?

It was a careless thought which Marta regretted immediately when the voice echoed through her skull like a bad memory.

“Smart girl,” said the familiar voice. “Would you be surprised to know your mother asked the same question? It’s true. And she had her answer. Will you have yours? The anticipation is delicious.”

“And when will I know?” Marta asked. “Will you tell me that much at least?”

“Certainly, because it’s something I need you to understand when the time comes.  You will have your answer,” Amaet said, “When you find the Seventh Law of Power.”

“But—” Marta didn’t bother to finish. The silence in her mind told her not to waste her time.

(c) 2021 Richard Parks

Alarums and Excursions

Since both First Reader and I were going a little stir-crazy, we drove up to the covered bridge at Salisbury Center and took a stroll around Spruce Creek. Sometimes it just feels good to get your feet on the ground, and it was a lovely day for it.

We’ve having what I guess they still call an Indian Summer. Close to 70 degrees and sunny, and has been for the last few days. This picture was taken on a previous visit, as I didn’t get a clear shot of the bridge this time.

Spruce Creek splits here. Part goes off to the right, part toward where I was standing, meeting again just after it flows under the bridge. Which meant we were essentially standing on an island, socially distanced from anyone else by several hundred feet. We had the place to ourselves, which was even better. It did us good to get out, even if just for a little while.

So we’ve had the excursions, now on to the alarums. I’ll be running a countdown deal on All the Gates of Hell (affiliate links) and a separate promotion on the 15th. However, assuming Azon has it together, the deal will actually start on the 14th, which is Saturday. The price will be .99 to start, then after a day or two (vague, I know) will go up to 1.99, then back to regular. The deal will only be good in the US and UK. Azon’s rules, not mine.

On that previous note, since Australia, Canada, and All Else were excluded from the last special, I manually put the price of The Long Look down to .99 US. That will end this Friday, so if you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time.

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Always in Motion, the Future

This is now the cover to The Long Look, first in The Laws of Power series. Those following the series might recall that the first cover was a bit different. It used the same artwork as the original Five Star hardcover which I still like, but subsequent books in the series went in a different direction by necessity, making the first book appear less and less like it belonged with the others. Which it does, even if there is a 500 year disconnect between the first and second. Thus the change. It also connects nicely with The Collected Tymon the Black, so that’s a plus.

The cover for the eventual release of The Seventh Law of Power should coordinate with the first three. So that, you know, it does sort of look like a series.

A few years ago I wrote a couple of stories about a fictional University attended by mythical creatures, monsters, and the occasional human. I thought they were fun. Other people whose opinion I respected thought I could certainly sell them but they were too different from what I was writing at the time (there is a strong element of the romantic) and best not put them out under my own name. I listened. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. Since I was adverse to shopping them around under a pseudonym, I just put them on Azon myself…under a pseudonym. There they rested until someone who knows my work outed me as the author.

I’m not upset about it. Rather the opposite. I’m glad the secret’s out because I don’t think I did right by them. Both were available as short reads and I have since de-listed them. My plan is to re-list them with a better cover, revised text, and together as a two-fer, under my own name this time. Tales of Bergstryker U, or something of the sort. Maybe I’ll even continue the series. You know, in my abundant free time.

I’m also pondering the future of this blog I’ve been doing since my Livejournal days. I said earlier that the blog will continue and I stand by that, but in planning revisions to this web site I’ve been considering a slight change in emphasis, which might entail moving the blog to an occasional subject of the Newsletter while the web site shifts to other duties. Still considering, but if ya’ll have an opinion I’d love to hear it.

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Monday After Monday After Morning After

Is it the End of the World as We Know it? Do we feel fine?

I can’t say I do. This whole year has been a dumpster fire that just will not go out. Most of it preventable, or at least the embers tamped down. Yet the people in charge can’t do anything and the people who could aren’t in charge. Sort of a perfect storm of SNAFU. I don’t feel fine. But I’m enduring, which feels like a win.

 

When the book’s finished I’ll likely put together some kind of price promotion for the first in the series, The Long Look. In the meantime, here’s a snippet of the The Seventh Law of Power, submitted with absolutely no context nor explanation. You’re welcome.

 

“I admit you’ve lost servants in a short order before,” Bonetapper said, once he was back in his raven body. “But you outdid yourself this time.”

“She was never my servant,” Marta said. “Not really. I thought I was acting according to the precepts of the Arrow Path, but I never felt the connection, the bond. Now I think it was no more than our interests coincided for a while.”

What can’t be taken, can be given. The Second Law. So perhaps according to the Laws, but not the Path?

Marta hadn’t thought of it in those terms before, but it was clear to her now that the Laws and the Arrow Path were not the same. The latter was simply a map to the first. If anything, her time with Dessera had proven that.

“Whatever else she intended, Dessera did me a favor. I’m beginning to understand something now that I did not before.”

“So am I, or I never would have realized the nature of my curse. You did me a favor, too.”

Dessera stood before them once more, a ghostly shimmer in the firelight.

Marta smiled a wistful smile. “I never expected to see you again.”

The ghost sighed. “Nor I you. Toban apparently had no questions about his next course. I’m embarrassed to admit I have no idea what should come next for me. I don’t feel imprisoned in this place now or indeed any other, yet I do not know what stage of existence or oblivion awaits me.”

“True of most of us,” Bonetapper offered. “Yet we assume, when the time comes, we’ll know.”

“I cannot help you with that,” Marta said. “I honestly wish I could.”

“I know. But would you mind if I traveled with you a while longer? I can be useful, and perhaps it would help me sort the matter out,” the ghost said.

Marta thought about it. It wouldn’t be the first time someone traveled with her as a companion rather than a servant; she rather missed it. And Dessera wasn’t formally asking for her help as would fall under the Arrow Path strictures, after all. She was simply asking a favor, as one person to another.

What can’t be taken, can be given. I believe this too is covered by the Second Law.

“I have no objection,” Marta said. “What about you, Bonetapper?”

The raven looked startled. “What? I actually have a say in this?”

Marta demurred. “Say rather you are free to express your opinion, as you always do. Just as I am free to ignore it.”

“That’s what I thought you meant. Fine. Just try not to get us killed.”

“Always,” Marta said.

 

Update and Upward

Finished Chapter 3 of The Seventh Law of Power and am well into Chapter 4. Marta has to destroy a cursed immortal monster with the help of a snarky raven and a dead girl. It’s almost—but not quite—like doing it alone. Except at this point she has five of the seven laws, which means she’s never alone, or at least a long way from helpless.

Wrote another Yamada story last week. A flash piece that I’m probably not going to expand, since I rather like it the way it is. Likely I’ll fit it into the collection when I’m ready to do that. Aside from that there are two more full length Yamada stories in the pipeline. Assuming they’re both published as I intend, it’ll be a year before both will be free to republish, so the Yamada collection is at least a year off. I’m planning ahead.

Pretty good considering I had to go into the hospital on Friday for a minor procedure…which took two days of prep. Let’s just say everything’s fine and I’m glad I did it but I’m also very glad it’s over.