The decision to take my first novella Canes and Scales and turn it into an epic fantasy didn’t come easily. In fact, at first I wanted write two more novellas and create a series. Luckily Elizabeth North at Dreamspinner advised me to go for one large novel. Good thing—I’d probably still fuss over finishing the series.
This time I outlined the chapters, not the norm for me. I’ll draft rough outlines, but this time I wanted control. I already struggled with stylistic problems—my writing had changes in the last few years. Of course my main characters Alasdaire and Linden wanted more page time – what character doesn’t want more time to shine—but at a certain point they decided not to play nice with the storyline. They rebelled. Alasdaire and Linden refused to “talk” to me anymore. It’s a wacky but true concept. The total disconnect drove me batty.
I originally planned to release the novel on its third anniversary.
That didn’t happen since Alasdaire and Linden delighted in shunning me. Fine. I shunned them in turn and worked on other short stories and novels. Ocassionally I’d poke at an earlier chapter that needed work, or realize I needed a strong new character to help the plot. Unfortunately, the novel refused to move past a certain sticky chapter.
Until the EUREKA! evening. A mental orgasm provided the solution. Did I really intend to stage a kidnapping along with more torture? Much of the novel is based around natural magic. Why wasn’t I listening to the book? Why not let the magic work for the characters?
Once I moved past my nefarious plans for Alasdaire and Linden, they worked with me. Together we created an entirely new ending. Everyone felt happy. Alasdaire escaped kidnapping and torture. Linden escaped mental disintegration.
And I escaped from thinking I’d never finish my book!
Here’s an exclusive, never see before excerpt:
Enterna Afratair, Supreme Duke of the Southern Totandia Empire, stared over his dry, desolate realm. A strong full moon washed light over the land. Twisted analita trees, towering Nerdean roses, and firespike palms created dark shapes against the horizon. Tonight only a few of the firespikes had burst into flame. Deeper shadowy areas showed the many canyons scattered through the realm. In the deep canyon beyond the palace, the dwindling Sira River still flowed, sluggish but supportive to the crops cleverly trained to grow against the canyon walls. If the Sira dried up—Enterna refused to contemplate the disaster. The dry earth had already devoured streams in many other canyons.
He felt his deep frown carve lines into his stern features. The simple act made his dry skin ache. When had be turned into a frail old creature?
He shook his head. Long gone were the satisfying days when the elves had still occupied large parts of Ardaul, living in the ancient forests and deep river valleys in peace. The elves had been free to travel as they pleased, to trade goods and charms. They had bothered no one. They had tended their shrines and lived for the earth.
During his long-ago youth, Enterna had visited every remote shrine hiding under the old oak trees in Southern Ardaul’s Summerlands. The elves had never bothered to establish shrines north of Summerlands. The vast, largely treeless Great Pastures beyond did not call to them. The shrines were ancient constructs, yet still attuned to the elves’ natural world. The journey had been risky but necessary. Every elven ruler needed to keep the shines alive.
Once the Serpents had decided to flex their lethal power, they had driven the elves back to their true realm, to sacred Hast’ntrata, hiding deep in the Nerdean Canyons. The Serpents had tricked those who wanted to remain into slavery. The Serpents didn’t understand elven culture. Instead of learning, they destroyed. They had little tolerance for other races. Enterna found their intolerance ironic. Once the Serpents had been the different ones, after all, marked by random scale patterns and their odd slit eyes. Over time, breeding with humans had removed those traits from all but the royalty. Those warped creatures still celebrated their scales.
In the light of history, banishment did not matter. The elves belonged in this savage land. The carnivorous canes had brought them forth from the earth, and here the canes protected them. Over the years, the Serpent armies had suffered from the canes’ strong protective magic. Under Enterna’s guidance, the canes’ lethal barriers triumphed to keep out the armies led by the slithering Serpent kings. Ultimately the Serpents had retreated.
Unfortunately, Hast’ntrata now suffered from the South Inatoli Desert’s steady northern advance. Viable lands suitable for crops continuously succumbed to sand and the disappearance of surface water. Despite strong sorcery, the underground water sources slowly failed.
Enterna shifted to stare into the north. His frown deepened.
He still mourned for his daughter. What a stubborn female, exquisite and strong. He had never imagined Anadona capable of blocking her existence so skillfully. Years ago, Enterna had felt her death like a stab to the heart. He had warned Anadona not to believe in the aggressive human who had claimed to love her.
He also wondered about his grandson. Until tonight, Enterna had felt Anadona’s son in a random manner—he was hard to track due to his human blood. Enterna reasoned why bother to make peace? Surely Anadona had taught her son to hate her kin.
Anadona’s death had supplied Enterna a name: Alasdaire. He smiled. Anadona had given her son a fine elven name.
Tonight Alasdaire’s use of strong elven magic had burst into Enterna’s mind, awaking him from a troubled sleep. He still couldn’t believe his half-human grandson owned the power to dreamsave. As far as he knew, only he owned the fierce power required to weave such a potent spell. Only profound emotions like hate or love fueled a full dreamsave.
Worst of all, his grandson had saved a Serpent prince.
The concept horrified Enterna. Granted, his grandson’s diluted blood added to his ability to love beyond the elven race, but to save a Serpent? How troublesome. Enterna needed extensive information on this Prince Linden. He also needed to meet his grandson. It seemed foolish of him to feel proud of the half-breed’s magical strength. Perhaps the dreamsave was a fluke.
Or perhaps by fluke his grandson nurtured royal powers that had slowly faded away from the decaying elven court. Enterna suspected one other in his family still cultivated strong powers, but Deniertaire had started to embrace darkness and depravity. He had turned away from the earth. Enterna still wondered whether he should name Deniertaire his heir.
It seemed now he might have another option.
A hot breeze blew sand into Enterna’s eyes. He blinked away the irritation. Was this to be his kingdom’s sorry fate, to succumb to the creeping sand? Why had he pushed Anadona to marry her brother? Enterna had been such a fool. If she had remained and married a strong, fierce noble, Enterna could hope magic might strengthen enough to save the kingdom from the sand. Anadona had strong natural magic in her soul. She must have passed the power to Alasdaire.
Weariness passed through his body. Perhaps the time had come to yield to the Raven Court’s supreme judgment. He had lived for entirely too long. As he sighed, Enterna turned and walked through the struggling royal gardens. The gardeners tried but failed to make the expanse look cheerful. Only the bloodred Nerdean roses looked healthy.
The fantastically carved limestone palace loomed before him, looking eerie in the moonlight. Wind and sandstorms had transformed the walls into wild curves. A few of the tallest towers had been abandoned. The crumbling structures could no longer support habitation. Perhaps the time had also come to live in the canyons along with the remaining elves. His ancestors had constructed the palace long before the sand began consuming the earth. Why struggle to maintain it for the remaining nobles?
A glass of rose wine sounded perfect. Enterna stepped forward.
Dizziness claimed his balance. His sight blurred, softening the palace walls into sand wisps. The sensation of fading away ate at Enterna’s consciousness. The sound of his knees hitting the pale flagstones seemed too loud. How had someone pushed past his strong magical wards? He slumped to his side. His body shuddered. He tried to resist the attack. Somehow the force intensified.
Who dared to…?
Voices sounded around him. The warmth of the flagstones pressed against his cheek. As darkness claimed him, he sought to discover who had dared to spell him.
He fought until a blazing spell signature appeared to him in mocking triumph.
Before the hungry magical darkness swallowed him, Enterna focused and willed his power toward the remote elven shrine dedicated to Tadn’nast, the Stormraven. He hoped he could make the journey.
Soul wind pushed him forward, away from his body. Enterna allowed his soul to rise. Borne on the wings of the ravens, his soul fled from his compromised body.
Could he look back? Yes. His body lay still against the flagstones.The dismal sight urged him on.
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