It's finally spring and we are nearly done with the Baron's Heart! As estimated, the last novel in the Heroes series is nearly at the four hundred page mark. Just two more chapters to go before the end of this journey with the young Heroes. But never fear -- there is more to come!
As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, an anthology of short stories from the land of Thac is currently being planned. It will branch out to other characters, both old and new, that the Heroes have, or will, cross paths with in their travels. Further, an entire second series about the companions' adventures is in the works.
Writing for the anthology is slated to begin within a few months after book 5 is released. Efforts toward the next series, Rise of the Thrall Lord, will follow immediately afterward. It's exciting! I can't wait to share these stories from some great authors I know. Yet let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, lets turn our attention back to the Baron's Heart.
As we discovered last time, Glolindir, Lloyd, Elladan, and Donnie had traveled to the city of Tarsmoor in search of the missing Wizard Maltar. Meanwhile, Aksel, Seth, and Martan went back to Vermoorden to investigate rumors of a guild of assassins that worked out of the town. That left Kalyn in the singular position of watching over the Lady Andrella.
With the Baron's murderer still at large and a squad of Dunwynn Skyknights in town, the others felt it a prudent precaution. Unfortunately, Kalyn is anything but prudent. Leaving her in town with Dunwynn Skynights may not have been the best idea as evidenced by this month's excerpt.
With that in mind, let's get straight to the shenanigans that seems to revolve around the young Deepwood sniper. Enjoy! See you all again next month.
Kalyn Rhan tromped through a mud puddle as she and Kailay Finespun walked from Ravenford keep toward the Golden Golem. The bubbly strawberry blonde squeaked when some of the mud splashed at her skirts. She shoved Kalyn in the shoulder playfully.
“You’re such a tomboy!”
Kalyn giggled, then frowned. “What’s a tomboy? Is it a good thing?”
Kailay looked at Kalyn, her brown eyes wide, then she threw her head back and laughed. A sweet smile graced her lips as she wrapped her arm through Kalyn’s and pulled her close. “Kalyn, you're a hoot!”
“What’s so funny?”
Kalyn turned to find Xelda Sheenarn approaching them. She had met Xelda earlier that day when Andrella took her on a tour of the town. It had been the first time she’d ever seen a half-elf.
Xelda’s dark eyes gleamed with curiosity, a small smile cracking her diamond shaped face. Kailay hooked her free arm into Xelda’s, linking the three of them together.
“Kalyn doesn’t know what a tomboy is,” she whispered conspiratorially to Xelda.
Xelda pushed a long strand of black hair from her face, her eyebrow rising. “Are you serious?”
Kalyn shrugged. “I’m assumin’ it has something to do with mud puddles and it being something that boys like. To me, boy or girl, everybody enjoys jumpin’ in a mud puddle once in a while.”
A bright smile lit up Xelda’s face. “You aren’t wrong.” She glanced around. “Where's Andrella? I thought she was joining us tonight?”
“She had to change her dress and slather her face with paint.” Kalyn rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what was wrong with the dress she had on.”
Xelda laughed while Kailay patted Kalyn’s arm. “We’ll explain the fancy dress rules to you later.”
The trio walked arm-in-arm up to the inn. Rather than unlinking their arms, they walked sideways through the door. As soon as Kalyn stepped through the door, she felt a change in mood and atmosphere. The Dunwynn Sky Knights were all drinking together, clustered at a table in the center of the room. The regular patrons were silent as the knights laughed loudly, chugging their drinks down as if they hadn’t a care in the world.
Kalyn spied Shalla standing behind the bar, her brows knit and a frown engraved on her face. The young archer’s eyes flickered back to the knights as she picked up some of their conversation.
“…and he ordered that we shouldn’t insult the elves serving lady Gracelynn, and I was like ‘Well, if calling them leaf-ears is out of the question, what about calling them senior citizens, since they live so long?’”
Kalyn snorted as the men all laughed, but she quickly regained her composure and looked at Kailay.
“Let’s sit near the bar.” Kailay suggested, her normally cheerful smile bare and thin.
The three girls quietly moved in Shalla’s direction, doing their best to ignore the raucous going on.
“…I don’t know. I couldn’t ever bare to touch one myself, much less think about kissing one. Like that one walking by there—I could stand for a little of that blondie, but that elf spawn makes my skin crawl. Don’t see how anyone could make them, much less love them.”
Kalyn clenched her fists as she watched Xelda’s jaw tighten.
“Well, why don’t ya ask that bard wench what it’s like!” One of the men turned and staggered a few steps forward, catching himself on a chair, sloshing his drink across a patron. He mumbled a weak apology, then glanced at Shalla. “Hey! Bartender woman! What’s it like to dance and sing with an elf all night long? Does he have any chest hair?”
His comrades laughed at the question. Shalla narrowed her eyes, her frown sharpening into a glare. “I don’t know. Do you have any chest hair, boy?”
“Judging by that rabbits foot hanging under his nose, I’d guess he don’t have much.” Kalyn turned and leaned against the bar, crossing her arms and eyeing the knights darkly. Kailay joined her on one side, propping her elbows on the bar, while Xelda stood on the other side, a drink in hand.
The man glared back at his comrades when they chuckled at Shalla and Kalyn’s comebacks. “I wouldn’t expect a bunch of backwater harlots like you to know the difference between a twig man and a real man. You’d all marry dogs if you could and leave your spawn behind for the rest of us to feed, just like that.” He pointed his drink at Xelda, sloshing the liquid across the floor. “If you ask me, the baron got what he bloody well deserved for treating the likes of you as equals.”
Kalyn pushed up to her feet, dropping her hands to her sides. Several of the patrons stood to their feet as well, pushing their chairs out of the way. The other knights quickly followed their example.
Shalla walked around the bar and stood in front of the girls, feet spread and fists on her hips.
“You need to leave now.”
Kalyn moved to Shalla’s side, resting her hands on the back of the nearest chair while glaring at the man. “Dunnie go home–while you can still walk.”
He cast his gaze around the room, peering at the stern-faced patrons. “Ya hear that, boys?” He turned to his men. “Looks like fine human company ain’t appreciated around here. Maybe we ought to show these bloody elf-huggers a lesson.”
“Oh, shut up ya slobbering goblin licker.” Kalyn picked up the chair and crossed the space between them quickly. As he turned and locked eyes with her, she brought it down on his head. There was a satisfying crack, and the chair splintered. The man weaved on his feet and went cross-eyed, then fell flat on his back.
The other knights stared at him for a moment before looking up in unison. They stared in disbelief at Kalyn who still held the back of the chair in her hands.
“Okay, which pansy blue hippogriff manure shoveler is next?” she shouted.
All at once, the inn erupted into a flurry of action. The knights and Kalyn charged each other with angry shouts. The patrons charged the knights with curses.
“Fighting is stupid… you… idiots!” Xelda screamed just before she and Kailay started throwing whatever they could get their hands around. Mugs and bottles were sent sailing through the air. Shalla grabbed a leg of Kalyn’s shattered chair and used it to thump anyone wearing powder blue Dunwynn uniforms.
Kalyn tossed a man over her shoulder, flopping him onto a table that gave way under his bulk. She jammed the back of her chair into the throats of two oncoming Dunnies, then punched one beside her.
Someone grabbed her braid and pulled on it. Kalyn twisted sideways and wrapped herself around a tall soldier, grappling him and sinking her teeth into his elbow. He howled and tried to pry her off, but slipped and fell to the floor where Kalyn landed a solid punch to his jaw.
Someone’s foot haphazardly connected with the middle of Kalyn’s face, sending her sprawling. Blood poured from her nose almost instantly. She rolled over to her hands and knees, struggling to her feet. A pair of strong arms wrapped around her middle and hoisted her into the air.
“You’ll pay for that chair move, you little Deepwood rat!” She heard the rabble rouser growl in her ear.
She twisted in his arms, her elbow connecting solidly with the side of his head. The knight dropped her and clutched at his ear with a howl. Kalyn jammed her fist into his middle as hard as she could, making him buckle over. She jerked her knee up, smashing it into his forehead, sending him straight onto his back again.
“Ha! You’ll feel that Deepwood wrath poundin’ in yer head tomorrow mornin’, ya Dunnie dog!”
Another pair of arms wrapped themselves around Kalyn, trapping her arms to her sides. She kicked her feet up, punching her boots into the chest of an oncoming soldier, at the same time making the one holding her stumble into a table. He couldn’t regain his balance as Kalyn squirmed and kicked, and eventually fell to the floor. She jammed her elbow into his ribs, wiggling away from him, then grabbed a chair leg and hoisted it over her head, aiming for the middle of his back as he tried to crawl away.
“I said enough!” The piercing cry was followed by a couple of red hot rays lancing over their heads, hitting the ceiling with a hiss.
Everyone froze and ducked in unison. They turned to the door to find the Lady Andrella, fuming, hands in motion as she prepared another spell.
“Sky Knights, return to your rooms now!” She waited until the soldiers had picked their drooling comrades up off the floor before addressing the patrons. “The rest of you, go home! Xelda, Kailay and Kalyn stay! I want to have a little talk with you.”
Kalyn looked at the chair leg in her hands and quickly lowered it, slipping it behind her back.
Once the inn was clear, Andrella sighed and lowered her hands. “Whew. What a mess.” She stepped over a broken chair and looked at the other girls. Her eyes widened when they came to Kalyn. “You’re a mess!”
Kalyn wiped her bloody nose on her sleeve, glanced around the room, then shrugged. “Sorry.” She peered at Shalla “Really sorry. I’ll clean it all up.”
Shalla smiled, pushing back her messy hair and revealing a black eye. “No apology necessary. We’ll clean it up later. Right now, drinks are on the house!”
“And when it’s time to clean up, we’ll all do it together,” Kailay said, hurrying around behind the bar to set out clean mugs.
Kalyn stared at each girl in turn as they took seats at the bar. “Wait. Aren’t we in trouble? I would be if I were at home.” She gazed at Andrella. “I thought you said you wanted to talk to us?”
Andrella shrugged with a grin. “Yeah. Sure. What do we want to talk about tonight? Boys?”