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

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.


Tote That Barge

Today I’m posting an excerpt from The Seventh Law of Power (working title) which, if everything works out as I expect, will form Book 4 and finish the Laws of Power series. When I’m far enough along to keep up I’ll likely post draft chapters weekly as I did with Power’s Shadow, but that’s still a little ways off yet.

Oh, and absolutely no context provided. It is what it is:




Tymon, sat on a broken stalagmite studying a stalactite. While he understood, in terms of geologic era, practically no time at all had passed since he had taken up residence and looking for infinitesimal differences was profoundly silly, he still felt the compulsion to do just that.

Then again, five hundred years living in a cave could have that effect on a person.

“Five hundred years a hermit? I expected you to go insane. Instead you’re as focused and dramatic as ever.”

Tymon had been expecting the manifestation. The cool air in the cave had been almost charged with anticipation for the last three days. When a Power’s attention was focused on a person, that attention always revealed itself, if one knew how to look. Now Amaet perched on a broken stalagmite, looking beguiling. One would think she was nothing more than a winsome young woman, if one didn’t already know she was neither young nor a woman, and she didn’t glow like a newborn ember. Tymon knew she chose her appearances carefully for the effect she wanted. The current manifestation was designed to keep him both beguiled and off-balance. There was a time, half a millennium gone, when it might have worked.

“Amaet. To what do I owe this honor? Or rather, what do you want?”

“How do you know you’re not already giving it to me? Oh, honestly. I’ve so missed teasing you.”

“Then why did you leave me in peace all this time?”

“I’d have left you in peace now, save that you’re becoming interested in the world again.  That is, you’re combining interest with action.”

“Because you removed your curse of immortality and replaced it with the curse of knowledge, and thus I am twice punished. The Long Look. I see the future. Again.”

“Not so grandiose, spellcaster. One possible future.”

“One I have to prevent. You knew what I would do.”

She looked at him. “Of course I did, silly. What I don’t know is why.”

Tymon took a slow breath. “If I can prevent disaster and choose not to act, the lives destroyed belong to me. I cannot escape that. Now, the real question is, why did you give me the Long Look again?”

“Because I knew what you would do. Isn’t this fun?”

“Fun? To save what little remains of my humanity, you force me to serve you again?”

Amaet scowled. “Serve me willingly and you could avoid all that.”

“’You only worship a god. With a Power, you negotiate’ as a wise woman once said. I prefer to keep our relationship the way it is.”

“Fair exchange then. I get what I want, you get what you need. Why do I want it? Aren’t you even a little curious?”

“I’m curious about many things, Amaet. First there’s the Long Look, which, whatever else it may do, serves your purposes, not mine. Then there’s the Arrow Path, far more structured and yet every much as goal-oriented as my own curse which, I think it’s safe to say, did not give you everything you wanted yet or why give it back? Nor apparently, has the Arrow Path itself. I do wonder how Marta fits into it all.”

“There are many Arrow Path witches, Tymon.”

“I know. Yet none save for her mother, Black Kath, progressed so far as she has. I do know of your special interest in Marta so don’t bother denying it. I also know what she seeks, but your ultimate goal? Yes, it’s fair to say I am very curious about that.”

“You have had a lot of time to think about this, haven’t you? Still no closer to an answer?”

“I do know, whatever you do, it isn’t out of kindness.” Tymon met the beautiful, terrible creature’s gaze. “I really hate you, you know.”

“I know. And that serves me as well.”

Amaet vanished, and Tymon the Black, the most evil wizard of all time, shrugged. “I was happy when the world forgot about me. Now I have to remind them.”

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights reserved.


Power’s Shadow

A slight pause for a bit of dusting.

Okay, I’m back. I think. I liked doing Story Time, but after a while I realized I was spending too much of my limited time on my back catalog, so to speak, and not enough working out what comes next. Yet despite that, there are a few more issues of old business I need to address. One of which is that the third book in The Laws of Power series, Power’s Shadow, did not yet have a print edition. So for the readers (both of you) asking for that very thing, it’s finally on its way.

Right now I’m in the stage of taking the original manuscript and formatting it for print. This will take a little time yet, because it’s simple enough to do but it’s not quick. I’ve been re-reading each chapter as I work, trying to catch any spelling or grammatical errors that crept into the ebook edition and stop the critters from making their way into this one. And, being a writer, I’m having a hard time leaving the text completely alone. A word choice here. An arrangement of sentences there. A word that I tended to overuse but have now learned better. That kind of thing. We’re talking a few tweaks, not a major rewrite, because, imho, it doesn’t need one. Minor stuff and probably best left alone, only I can’t help myself.

I’m about a quarter of the way through, and then there’s reformatting the cover for the print edition, running it through production, getting proof copies, checking those…you get the idea. Probably why it’s taken me so long to get this done in the first place.  I hope no more than a couple of weeks more. Regardless, I’ll post when the print book is available.

Story Time: What Power Holds

Today’s Story Time is from Dragon Magazine #209, September 1994, back when Barbara Young was fiction editor and before TSR was bought out by (ugh) Wizards of the Coast. The story itself was the first in the “Laws of Power” universe that eventually led to the novel series.

Treedle was first. The character, like Golden Bell from “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng,” was from a dream. He and Black Kath appeared, along with elements that eventually came together into the very first scene. It was all about Treedle in the beginning, but it was only when Marta showed up that the story came together and I knew it was a series. Treedle’s part was done once the first few stories became part of Black Kath’s Daughter, which, oddly enough is the second book in the series, not the first, because later I figured out that The Long Look was really the first book in the series, and Tymon the Black was in the same universe (yeah, I know. Sometimes I’m a little slow that way). “What Power Holds” remains the actual first story written in that universe.

Confused? Me too. I just go with it, and things usually work out. My subconscious is way smarter than I am.

Standard Note: “What Power Holds” will stay up until next Wednesday, April 4th. And then, not.