Halloween Promotion!

Good day my wonderful readers, I’m writing a quick blurb to let you know that today and today only, my horror novel The After-Death is free to download from smashwords!  It’s Halloween after all, my favorite holiday and what better way to celebrate than by giving my loyal fans a treat?  To claim your prize, download the book here  and enter coupon code BR73V on checkout.  Hey, if you want, you can buy my other books while you’re there too; your patronage is most appreciated.

Here is my annual Halloween blessing.

Once more I do indeed wish thee and thine a most blessed Samhain eve. May the dead dance for you once again. May their songs sing you into another year. Burn the sage and drink the wormwood over the aquamarine. The veil is at its thinnest. Revel in the merriment of the deceased as they send to you their joy, wisdom and strength.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 58

“We don’t have time to use kid gloves.”  Callindra said through gritted teeth. “Just set the bone and be done.”

Kain was looking at her leg with a concerned expression.  “This would be difficult to set in a controlled environment, doing so on the deck of a moving ship will be dangerous.  It might not heal properly.”

“Kain.  You have to set the bone before you can heal the sword wound.”  Callindra said, trying to stay patient. “If you can’t staunch the bleeding it won’t matter if my leg heals crookedly because I’ll be dead.”

He blinked and looked at her other thigh, noting the bone deep slash with surprise.  “Oh, I didn’t know that was your blood. There was so much of it I just assumed it was from the monster.”

“It didn’t have red blood you god rotting fool!”  She snarled, and then screamed in pain when he quickly jerked and twisted her leg.

“Apologies, but I had to distract you into relaxing before I could set the bone.”  He said, giving the leg a critical look. “Your muscles had tensed to the point that I would have had to tear them in order to set the bone.”

He gently touched the slash next and green gold light shone from his palm, closing the wound and knitting the muscle back together.  When the healing magic spread to her broken bone, the lessening of pain was nearly euphoric.  

“Apologies aren’t necessary.”  She gasped, “Thank you Kain.”

“You really shouldn’t be putting weight on that yet.”  He said, frowning. “I know, I know, we don’t have time.”  The half orc raised his hands in surrender.

Callindra accepted a water skin from Holt with a grateful nod and let him help her to her feet.  “We have to move now. Fast.”

The ship wasn’t in the best of repair, but her sails and rigging were in good enough shape to move forward.  Under Connor’s direction they got the ship underway again and managed to get her into the harbor even as the seas behind them began to thrash with other unseen threats.  To their relief nothing seemed inclined to follow beyond the harbor mouth.

“Ship seems to be sinking.”  Cronos said in a detached voice, “I’m afraid the bonds of Weave I’ve put about her are failing.”

“What?”  Holt said, just as the timbers began to crack and the sound of water rushing into the hold rumbled like a miniature thunderstorm.

“Probably won’t totally fail for another thirty seconds.”  Cronos said, sweat beading his brow. “If someone else could formulate a plan while I hold it together that’d be best.”

Callindra braced her shoulders and whipped Shadowsliver in an intricate pattern.  “Run off the Starboard side!” She said and released the spell, creating an invisible ramp of air.  When nobody moved, she ran off the side, the air as solid as stone under her feet.

As the ship crumbled the others followed on her heels. “Stay close, I can only make it two paces wide.” Callindra said as she ran as best she could.  Holt slid under her right arm and helped her move faster. She managed to keep the spell active until her friends had reached the dock, but only barely.

Looking around the quay, Vilhylm pointed at the most intact building with his spear.  “That looks like the most likely place if we want to find survivors.”

“We need to find a way into those spheres.”  Callindra said as they moved toward the building.  “If there are survivors I would imagine that’s where they would be.”

“Survivors aplenty in the undercity.”  A voice from a side alley said. “Come on down, The Lady Ellen Eth was quite impressed with how you took down that leviathan squid out there.”

Weapons were drawn in seconds and Callindra felt the exhaustion and pain vanish as adrenaline took over.  She drew a spell from her blade, feeling the Winds gather around her to grant speed and power.

“Hey now, no need for that.”  A man in light armor walked out of the shadows of the alley with his hands in clear view.  “I’m here to extend an invitation from the Lady Ellen Eth, mistress of the Undercity. She bids you welcome to her domain and wishes to meet adventurers who could defeat such a dangerous opponent as the leviathan squid that patrolled the waters outside the city.”

“I am Callindra.  We’ve come here to try and find the survivors.”  The winds still swirled around her with a promise of violence.

“Well.  You found ‘em.”  He said with a grin, “If ya wanna find the rest of us you gotta come with me, and I’d appreciate it if you decided not to try and carve me up with that toothpick of yours.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 57

Callindra sprang into action without hesitation, sweeping Shadowsliver in a vicious arc that hacked the last two paces of the tentacle in front of her completely off.  It fell thrashing to the deck, nearly knocking her off her feet when she didn’t skip out of the way fast enough.

Connor took a piece of parchment out of a pouch and began furiously scribbling arcane symbols on it.  Reed scrambled into the rigging, frantically trying to shove the book back into his haversack. Vilhylm cut with the point of his spear, opening a gash in one of the other tentacles that threatened the ship.  Kain gestured with his holy symbol and a light golden nimbus surrounded him. Holt strung his bow and began firing arrows into one of the tentacles, pinning it to the deck and forcing it to further damage itself to withdraw the limb.

The massive monster ignored their attacks, instead wrapping its huge sucker covered arms around their small craft and squeezing.  The timbers creaked in protest as its terrible strength was brought to bear.  

“I’m going for the body!”  Callindra shouted, “Try to cut these loose!”  Before anyone could stop her, she ran and vaulted over the rail, summoning the winds to bear her aloft before she struck the water.  Beneath her, the voluminous body of the monster stretched out nearly twice the length of their craft. Running along a breeze as though it was solid ground, she began to search out the thing’s head.

Behind her on the ship, the others began to hack at the tentacles with whatever was at hand except for Connor who still wrote so fast that his quill tore the parchment in places.  The ship groaned and the railing shattered as the huge squid kept the pressure on.

Callindra realized that the thing’s head was actually right next to the ship itself, not at the end of the long undulating body.  With a cry, she dove downwards with Shadowsliver held in front of her like a lance. She took a deep breath and dove into the water at a speed that made the impact feel like being slapped by a giant.  

The speed of her dive drove the twin points of her sword into the creature with such force that she was buried in its soft flesh up to the elbow.  It began to thrash wildly and one of its hideously powerful arms let go of the ship to wrap around Callindra’s waist. She was torn from the water, and her blade was pulled free of the monster’s flesh so abruptly that her fingers lost hold of his hilt.

Black spots filled her vision as the tentacle wrapped about her tighter and the air rushed from her lungs.  Her small stature in comparison with the beast was all that kept it from crushing her in a single ripple of its muscles.  She desperately clawed at it with her free left hand, but her efforts only seemed to make it grip tighter. With superhuman effort she managed to shove her right wrist up and out between two of its huge grasping suckers.

Using the last of her strength, Callindra grabbed Shadowsliver’s chain and began to pull him up.  The indestructible Mithril chain cut into the squid and its grip slackened very slightly. When the razor sharp edge of the sword came into contact with the creature a convulsive shudder ran through it, driving the blade to cut into it even deeper.  

Callindra would have cried out in pain if she’d had the breath.  The tentacle was crushing her body, but worse was that Shadowsliver was double edged.  She welcomed his razor’s caress if it would free her from the monster though. The squid released her abruptly, blood flowing from the sliced limb and she fell toward the waves.

Jerking Shadowsliver back to her left hand with a flick of her right wrist, she screamed out another spell, drawing the Weave and the Winds to her bidding.  Even as she fell, a thousand razors of wind exploded from her blade’s twin tips and shredded two of the tentacles clutching the ship into bloody meat. She felt her heart sink her as she realized her trajectory was taking her towards the unyielding deck of the ship instead of the waves.

Connor laughed in triumph and threw the paper he’d been writing on overboard.  The ocean around the ship began to boil, superheated steam rising with a rush so sudden that it slowed Callindra’s fall.  She crashed to the deck of the ship, rolling with the fall but feeling shooting pains going up both her legs.

The squid released the ship, thrashing in the waves in agony.  Callindra forced herself to her feet and threaded a spell through Shadowsliver, calling up the winds to blow them into the harbor.  The pain from her legs and the exhaustion from the spellcasting made her head spin, but she forced herself to stand and grab onto a safety line as the ship heeled into the wind and lurched forward.

Kain dropped the ax he’d been using to hack at the monster and ran up to her.  “Callindra, your leg!” He said, even as her right leg buckled underneath her. She looked down and saw her leg bending at the shin.  

“Oh.  God’s balls.”  She said, crumpling to the deck.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 56

It was a frightening way to discover her plan had succeeded.  She was right, if the Abyss was to be defeated, it would take every living thing working together.  No matter the differences they may have had before, life was all that was important.  

Sitting in the bow of the ship with the wind whistling through her hair, Callindra felt a weight settle on her shoulders.  She had to build on this, she had to spread the word, she had to build an army.

“What’s got you all pissed?”  Reed asked, swinging down from the rigging.  “That face, you look like you’re going to do something stupid and violent.”

“We have to recruit everyone we find Reed.”  She said, taking out her pipe and thumbing the bowl full of tac.  “The only way to defeat the Abyss is by banding together.  No matter what, we can’t afford to alienate any living things.”

“What’re you on about?”  He asked, sitting on the rail and pulling a book from his pocket.  The boy opened it and idly flicked through a few pages before reading with a furrowed brow.

“The Taken have to be opposed Reed.  We all have to work together or we’re going to get wiped out.”  She lit her pipe and let the smoke trail from her nostrils. “This has to be our new mission, and the first part of it has to be finding what their weakness is.”

“How you gonna do that?”  Reed asked, sounding distracted.  “Ain’t like anyone knows anything about them other than how to kill the Taken.”

“That’s the thing Reed, Terevelen told me about a place in Starvale.  He thinks it leads to a place where we can finally get some answers.” Callindra said, “That’s just one more reason we need to go there.”

“Yeah.  Like I trust the words of a Necromancer.”  Reed said, flipping to the next page in his book.  Callindra looked closer it, frowning.

“Where did you get that book Reed?”  She asked, eyes narrowing. “It looks familiar.”

“Uh, I found it?”  Reed said, looking at her guiltily and tucking the book back into his pocket.

“That’s one of Cronos’s books.”  She said, giving him a dark look.  “What are you doing with one of his books?  What book is it?”

“It’s his spellbook.”  Reed admitted. “I didn’t want those ungrateful townsfolk to use it for toilet paper, so I swiped it.  I never thought it’d do anything for me, but it’s fascinating stuff really. I mean, once I got past how hard his handwriting is to read anyway.”

Callindra paused, remembering how Reed had thrown lightning at the Dragon in their last battle.  If he hadn’t they all might well be dead by now. She smiled and touched his shoulder in a fond gesture.  “I think he’d have wanted you to have it.”

“It’s not like I stole it I-“ He paused, “What?  You’re OK with it?”

She grabbed him in an impulsive hug, “Yeah.  It’s like having a part of him along with us, but without the horrible puns.”

Reed stiffened at her embrace, but was careful not to let on that he felt the tears falling on his shoulder.  “Actually, there’s an entire chapter of puns. Just wait until I decipher them and I’ll make your life miserable with the horrible legacy of Cronos’s humor.”

Her arms tightened around him and he tried not to wheeze as his ribs creaked. “Gods and demons you’re strong.”  He croaked.

“Oh, sorry.”  She let him go and wiped at her eyes.  “I forget sometimes.”

“Starvale off the Port bow!” Connor shouted, breaking the moment.

They turned to look at their destination as the ship rounded a promontory of land.  Huge colored spheres of light floated above a city devastated by war. The walls were breached in several places and fires still sent columns of black smoke into the sky.  The harbor was in shambles, craft of all sizes smashed and clogging the docks. There was no sign of life anywhere within it.

“Looks dead.”  Reed said, and that’s when the tentacles of the giant squid rose up from the depths to wrap around the ship in a deadly embrace.