Master Of The Planes (Book 3) (85 page)

BOOK: Master Of The Planes (Book 3)
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“Well you have heard how there were no prince of Undersalve, not after Bledrag field.  Well, that whole province it’s been reconquered, some rebel they call the General, he made peace with the nomads and drove the orcs out and now it’s part of the Salved Kingdom again.  And you never know what that new queen has done.”  Again the innkeeper’s wife dropped her voice into another resounding stage whisper.  “She’s gone and made this General into the new Prince of the province.  Kaylan his name is, Kaylan ap Stonhelm they call him, now ain’t that a funny kind of a name for a prince.”

“Not a bad name for a dwarf though,” Marcus observed with a grim smile at an account he had heard before.  “Or a thief, and I’ve known a few of them some mighty falls are followed by great rises.”  He winced.  “And some aren’t, mind, some are just falls.”  

“Well he’s certainly a friend to dwarves, but there are, like Mr Marcus is hinting, these rumours that he had a dark past and as for his companion.”  Ailsa raised her hands in a ‘don’t get me started’ gesture before getting started.  “He’s always seen with this white haired old lady, Trajet heard talk she was his mother, she always walks with a stick, but Trajet found out the truth.”

She bent low to whisper the awful truth. “It’s sorcery, she’s a sorceress, or that’s what’s aged and twisted her, some tragic accident of magic.” She stopped herself short looking at the stranger’s scarred face and disfigured hand.  “Leastways that’s what them as is in the know reckon must have done it.  Weren’t no natural aging.”

The stranger covered his maimed hand with his good one and observed with equanimity.  “But she can’t be a sorceress. Sorcery is illegal, she’d be sent beyond the barrier.”

She pounced as though it were her own design that had led the stranger to the pinnacle of her story.  “And there’s the thing, the third thing.  Hasn’t this young queen just gone and done away with old Thren the Eighth’s laws.  She’s repealed them all.  Magic is legal now for the salved people.  She’s gone on about how old Thren made a mistake, how the Salved Kingdom prospered for five hundred years using magic, built an empire even, and the insanity of one madman should not condemn or constrain a nation.”

“So sorcerers do not now face punishment or exile in the Salved Kingdom?”  His voice was faint and the eye on the injured side of his face seemed to be troubling him.  The eye on the other side was looking rheumy too.

Ailsa shook her head.  “There is no exile no more.  She’s having a prison built at Padanus, it’s for any of them as served the Dark Lord and have unpaid sins still to account for.  Young Trajet says it’s going to be a dreadful waste of money.  There’s only the one prisoner at the moment a little fellow, used to be a librarian.”

“Haselrig?”

“That’s it.”

“You are remarkably well informed on names for someone who has spent some years away from the dealings of the salved,” Marcus eyed him carefully.

“And you are remarkably perspicacious for someone who should surely be drunk into insensibility.”

Marcus smiled.  “You’ll find I can hold my drink.”

“And you’ll find I can hold my secrets.”

“Eek, what’s that,” Ailsa’s cry broke both men from their steady duel of gaze and wit.

A fat green lizard had crept out of the girl’s cloak as she slept and perched now on her shoulder flicking a long globular tongue out at Ailsa.  The innkeeper’s wife trembled flicking her dirty rag towards the creature.  “Get it out.”

The girl stirred and gathered the unprotesting animal in her arms.  She stuck out her tongue at Ailsa, with a frown.  “Don’t be afraid.  His name’s Bob.”

“We don’t allow no pets in here,” she held the stained cloth out infront of her. “It baint hi-jennic.”

The stranger pulled out a heavy purse that showed a glint of gold as he tossed three silver crowns upon the counter.  “Bob is very clean,” he insisted.  “Cleaner than I am at this moment and he can pay well for his room.  It will only be for the one night.  We’re not stopping long, I have some old haunts to explore in the Eastern Lands.”

Ailsa scooped up the coins.  “Well, if it’s just for the one night,” she said.

“That’s a heavy purse for an old cripple and a young girl to be carrying around, begging your pardon sir,” Marcus said.  “But these are grim times, stray beyond the gates of Salicia and you’ll find naught but dark roads.  The Satrap don’t look too kindly on them as come out of this city – still thinks of them as invaders.  There’d be a queue of people waiting to stop and search you and some would be inclined to take more than your gold.”  He withered a little beneath the stranger’s glare.  “You might want to take on some protection.”

“Don’t be deceived by my appearance, sir.  I am not entirely helpless.”

“Every man has to sleep sometime, does no harm to have a bit of extra protection.”

The stranger nodded.  “And are you offering yourself up for this post.”

Marcus shrugged.  “I might be, for the right money.”             

“I’m going east.  I have some old associates to call on and there are a few long dormant investments that I wish to cash in.  The road my niece and I will follow takes me away from the Petred Isle and I don’t mean to return.”

Marcus shrugged.  “Me neither.  I had my fill of it, and but for one thick bank of snow I reckon it’d have had its fill of me.” He rubbed his bad leg unconsciously.  “I’d gladly travel with you, you and your niece and Bob.”

The stranger extended his good hand.  “My name is Demus.”  Demus gestured to his niece who swayed a little eyes half closed with exhaustion as she held Bob close.   “And this is Persapha, she has had a long day and much excitement.”

Marcus dipped his head towards the girl and then Demus, before he took the latter’s hand in his. “My name is Marcus, Marcus Fenwell, your servant sir.”

 

Afterword

So, it is done.  It is Tuesday 28
th
October 2014 in Belfast and the trilogy is complete, and edited.

I hope you have enjoyed it and kept with me through this extended final volume.  Books, like babies, seem to get bigger with each gestation.  Lady of the Helm was 130,000 words, Wrath of the Medusa was 160,000 words and the book you hold in your hands (or on your kindle) is just over 257,000 words long.  So I guess we must be grateful that there are only three books in the series. 

There are acknowledgments to be made: to Tess, my untiring and passionate beta-reader; to those first kind readers and reviewers of Lady of the Helm who saw beyond the impatient expediency of its self-published nature and championed the book to a wider audience, especially Brian and Fiachra and Mark and Geoff; to “Vezer” Agnes Mezsaros and Mark Lawrence for their thoughts, encouragement and the exposure they gave me on the internet.

When I set out I wanted to tell a story on an epic scale.  I wanted a tale full of majesty and grandeur but peopled by credible people driven by simple human emotions.  Like so many, I was of course inspired by The Lord of the Rings, but there were parts of that story where I had wanted something different to what Tolkein wrote.  I wanted the villain to be more than just a dim shadowy shape of incomprehensible evil felt only through his influence on others.  I wanted the great weapon to be something with more precisely defined and logical powers.  I wanted more leading female characters, and I wanted a betrayal that would steal the reader’s breath away. There were other things I strove for too.  I wanted a story line that would twist and turn in complex patterns so as to constantly surprise as well as entertain.  I wanted an emotional connection that might dampen a reader’s eye from time to time.  I wanted a line between the good and the bad that was less straight and more mutable. But above all else I wanted to tell a good story.

You the reader will know how well I have succeeded in those aims.

You may have noticed that I have left myself an opening to return to the world of the Salved, should time and a suitable storyline present itself.  In the meantime, the interest and support of readers is a great encouragement.  All feedback is gratefully received and the kindest thing you can do for an author whose work you like is to write a review of any length (20 words is enough) on amazon or goodreads

 

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BOOK: Master Of The Planes (Book 3)
10.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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