Legends, Myths, Fables

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Black Chuck

Black Chuck

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Spell Crossed 3-Book Bundle

Spell Crossed 3-Book Bundle

The Paper Sword / Second Kiss / Missing Piece
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Missing Piece

Missing Piece

Spell Crossed
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Excerpt

Chapter 1
Return to the Phaer Isle

In the midst of a hurricane, the Dawnrider‘s mizzen mast broke and was swept away. The vessel was driven many leagues off course and several crew members, including the ship‘s surgeon, were lost to the fierce wind and waves. The ship itself was lifted so high several times it seemed about to be dashed to pieces. But somehow it survived and the storm finally abated.
      Not long after the last crosswind ended, Tharfen, standing atop the forecastle with her telescope, caught her first sight of the Phaer Isle in five years. Initially it was little more than a distant purple speck on the sea-green horizon, but as the galleon strove forward she could make out the fluttering pennants along the seawall atop the cliffs, and despite herself she felt a similar fluttering in her chest.
      Tharfen had been and done so much since she‘d left this isle of her birth. She‘d sailed all around the world with her father‘s fleet. She‘d studied navigation and military strategy in the finest academy of Udara. The greatest swordsman in the land had been her personal instructor and she his favourite student. At eighteen years of age, she was the youngest woman ever to captain a ship, and in two around-the-world voyages she had witnessed cultures and practices most people didn‘t even know existed. During all her travels she had not missed the Phaer Isle at all. It was almost as though she‘d been a different person then. If her mind ever did alight on one of its memories, it felt more like ten years ago than five.
      For a while she just stood there scanning back and forth with her telescope. Even when the galleon rocked in a cresting wave, her stance remained uncannily steady. She wore her second-best uniform — an embroidered blue coat unbuttoned to a white high-collared shirt, black breeches, and black stockings with buckled black shoes. Her rich red hair was captured in a tight bun at the nape of her neck, almost hidden in the shadow of her tri-cornered hat.
      Tharfen turned to look up into the billowing sails, and without any apparent extra effort, emitted in a loud, penetrating bellow “Trim the sails, Miss Yato!” Such was the authority and volume of this order that it not only caused the lookout to startle a little in the crow‘s nest, but scared from the railings a long line of gulls waiting eagerly for galley scraps.
      The stopover would be brief. Once they had replaced the mizzen mast and provisioned the ship with water and victuals, they would catch the westerlies and rendezvous with the fleet to voyage for the first time into the underocean and back around. While Tharfen was on the isle she would take the opportunity to stock the ship with lots of pickled cabbage to fortify the crew against the loss of so much sunlight. And she already had onboard a large shipment of Pathan torches. She yelled again to the woman in the rigging. “Have an ear now, Miss Yato. Set a course due east.” The gulls that had only recently settled back upon their perches once again flocked off.
      Tharfen returned to her telescope and noticed for the first time the missing piece in the seawall atop the cliffs. Despite her detachment from this place, she felt surprisingly concerned. She made a note to herself to alert the authorities when she arrived — if indeed there were still authorities here at all; she had heard varying reports over the years. But she would nonetheless leave a strong message with someone at the port. It was the least she could do.

The arrival of a galleon in the port of the city of Ulde was far from a unique event that day. Several other large vessels — a carrack, two schooners, and four cargo ships — were already lined up along the docks of the inner harbour known as the Lion‘s Paws. Tharfen realized with some irritation as the Dawnrider sidled into eighth place that her stay here might not be as brief as she had hoped. A little of her annoyance at this crept into her voice as she barked orders at the crew. It was already late afternoon, and judging by how slowly the stevedore Thralls were transporting various cargo from the warehouses to the ship eight places ahead of them, she and her crew would be here overnight.
      Tharfen had work to do and maps to study, and she could easily have stayed on in her cabin, but she had a surprisingly strong desire to see the ancient city again. When she‘d left five years earlier, mere days after the Second Battle of Phaer Bay, much of the city had still remained buried under the debris of spell-made things. What must it look like now? And what had become of her brother, Torgee? He had not been pleased when she‘d told him she was leaving the Phaer Isle with her father. They‘d had harsh words for each other, worse than any they‘d had before — and they‘d had many a bad word. But they‘d always gotten over it. Not this time though. Not yet.
      There was something else that remained unresolved from those days, but Tharfen hardly even thought of it anymore. Over the years it had dispersed throughout her being so evenly that its effect on her was hard to detect. The farther she‘d gone on her travels, the smaller its vibrations had become. But now, just under the rim of her consciousness as she advanced toward the city on the heights, that thing was struggling to make itself heard; the piece, that small part of her one-time friend, Xemion of Ilde, which she had come away with after they collided in the city of Shissillil. She didn‘t specifically think of the piece now, but Xemion himself came to mind.
      Striding along the wharf toward the tunnel, Tharfen couldn‘t help but remember the last time she‘d seen Xemion, blood-spattered, here in the low-tide sands of this same bay. And she recalled his terrible accusation, something she hadn‘t thought of in quite some time. She rejected it now as she had rejected it then.
      Spotting a long-limbed, long-haired Thrall she vaguely recognized, she called out, “You! Where is your governor?” Her elocution, shaped by two years of speech training, was almost too precise.
      The fellow looked up, offended by her tone, but he soon surrendered under the greater force of her gaze.      “Lirodello? He‘s upstairs,” he responded in a surly drawl, taking a big haul on his pipe and blowing the smoke as near her face as he dared.
      Glaring at him, Tharfen removed her tri-cornered hat to wave away the tendrils of smoke that had drifted too close. As she did this, a long lock of red hair escaped from the bun at the back of her neck and dangled elegantly down her right shoulder.
      The Thrall cocked his head to one side and said “Tharfen?”
      “Captain Tharfen,” she responded.
      “Tharfen the Cyclopes-slayer?” the man asked excitedly.
      Tharfen rolled her eyes.
      “Fellows!” the Thrall shouted. “Lookee here! I’ve got Tharfen the Cyclopes-slayer here.”
      “Be quiet, you fool!” Tharfen barked at him. “I didn‘t ask to be announced.” As she set off through the mouth of the tunnel and up the pathway beside the rail line that transported the shuttles of foreign goods up to the city, she had a momentary feeling that it was something much more powerful than her curiosity that was tugging her forward.

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Second Kiss

Second Kiss

Spell Crossed
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