Protectors now up for Pre-order!
Protectors of Penwick is now up for pre-order on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Google Play. Unfortunately, B&N is still pending due to some technical difficulties with publishing the sample file, but I will let you know as soon as it's available.
In my last blog entry, I introduced you to the two folks on the cover, Pallas and Thea Stealle. Lloyd's brother and sister play a prominent roll in the novel, yet they are not the only Stealle's we meet in Penwick. Lloyd's parents, Kratos and Lara, are also introduced in this second book.
For those of you who have read Heroes and/or City, you may have seen Lara's entries in the introduction section of each book. As High Wizard of Penwick, Lara is quite knowledgeable about many subjects and has written close to a hundred books herself. Kratos Stealle has been mentioned a few times in the Heroes series as well. The original Protector of Penwick, it was he who defeated Eboneye, along with his powerful wife, and drove the pirate invaders out of Penwick twenty years ago.
With Kratos the Admiral of the Penwick Navy, both he and Lara hold prominent positions in Penwick. Both also sit on the City Council and each have founded a school to train their fellow citizens in the art of the blade as well as spellcasting. Thus, Kratos and Lara are a true "power" couple.
With that in mind, this next excerpt from Protectors covers the first time we meet both Lloyd's parents. Taken from the second chapter, here now is a passage from "Lunch with the In-Laws":
Glolindir found himself absolutely mesmerized by the natural splendor of the Stealle estate. While not set in the midst of a forest like his home, the surrounding grasslands and intermittent groves held a beauty all their own.
Kratos and Lara also proved to be quite interesting. Though both had larger-than-life reputations, neither came across as pretentious. On the contrary, they seemed quite friendly and down to earth. Glo supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised considering Lloyd’s good nature and tendency to treat everyone as equals.
Kratos leaned close to Glo as they followed Lara into the kitchen. “I’d like to thank you for watching out for our Lloyd. I have to admit, we were a bit worried when he headed out all on his own.”
A soft chuckle escaped Glo’s lips. “To be honest, Lloyd watched after us as much as we did him.”
“As it should be with all good friends.” Kratos nodded approvingly.
The kitchen at Chateau de Stealle proved to be as impressive as the rest of the house. Foremost, it was quite large. Long counters and tall cabinets spanned the walls around a huge cooking hearth. A wide oak-topped island sat in the middle of the area with a number of tall chairs lined up on one side. Across the room stood a large oval oak table with seating for six.
Bright sunlight filtered through a wide window and another windowed door. All in all, the kitchen had a very homey feel.
Lara bade the men to sit down while she and Andrella prepared lunch. Glo immediately noted how uncomfortable the young lady appeared. Truth be told, in all their time on the road, Glo had never seen Andrella cook.
Kratos must have read his mind. He whispered under his breath, “Not to worry. Lara is not exactly a cook, either.”
Lloyd placed a hand to the side of his mouth and added in a hushed voice, “It’s usually a crap-shoot with mom. When Pallas or Thea are home, they won’t let her anywhere near the kitchen.”
At that same moment, Lara dumped something into a cooking pot hanging in the hearth. Whatever it was, the pot responded with a loud poof.
“Behave yourself,” Lara scolded the lifeless pot with a wag of her finger.
Glo did his very best to suppress a laugh.
“Speaking of Pallas, where is he?” Lloyd asked his father.
“He’s filling in for me as temporary head of the fleet,” Kratos explained. “When Hightower warned us about those Dunwynn ships headed south, we sent some ships of our own up to Colossus Point—just in case they decided to cross the treaty line.”
Glo winced at the mention of the Dunwynn ships. They had not gone further south, but instead turned up river and ended up at the docks in Vermoorden. The companions had rushed there prepared for a fight, but managed to resolve things through a combination of diplomacy and intimidation.
“The Duke is greedy,” Lloyd agreed, “but I don’t think he’d cross the line and start an all-out war with Penwick.”
“Perhaps this union between you and Andrella can further curb his expansionist tendencies,” Kratos noted with an ironic smile.
Lloyd folded his arms and scoffed. “I’m not holding my breath.”
Kratos cast a quick glance at Andrella, but the young lady seemed quite preoccupied wrestling with a knife and a bunch of carrots. “Hightower also kept us apprised of the events surrounding Gryswold and Gracelynn.”
Lloyd sat back in his seat and grimaced. “Yeah, things were a bit touch-and-go there for a while.”
Kratos placed a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder. “What counts is that you saved them both. Honestly, your mother and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Lloyd’s face reddened with embarrassment. “Thanks, Dad,” he mumbled.
Despite one or two more kitchen mishaps, Lara and Andrella served up a hearty stew. They all adjourned to the kitchen table, where Andrella filled up everyone’s bowl. Glo noted a mild burning smell, but ate it anyway, gulping down the overdone pieces. When offered seconds, however, he held up his hand. “That was really quite—filling.”
Kratos, his expression neutral, managed a covert wink in Glo’s direction. Lloyd, on the other hand, accepted both seconds and thirds. Glo finally understood where the young man had developed his cast-iron stomach.
During lunch, the trio recapped their efforts in the City of Tears. They also related all they knew about the towers and the impending demon invasion.
Lara gently tapped her chin, her brow deeply furrowed. “So there are six of these towers still standing, each housing one of these powerful cruex crystals?”
“Yes.” Glo gave her a solemn nod. “The seventh tower is said to have sunk with the Isle of Namlon.”
Lara chewed on her lower lip. “And these crystals are fueled by the power of living souls?”
“That’s what we were told,” Lloyd affirmed with thinly veiled anger.
“That’s barbaric!” Kratos exclaimed, slamming his hands down on the table.
Lara clucked her tongue at her husband. “Now Kratos, the Naradon Empire was not exactly known for its gentle approach to conquest.”
“But the emperor’s letters to the empress did seem to indicate he had a change of heart in the end,” Andrella countered hopefully.
Lara pressed her lips together and slowly nodded. “Perhaps. Perhaps he even had a hand in the destruction of the seventh tower—which would explain why we’re all still alive today.”
Kratos rose and began to pace around the kitchen. “That won’t last if these demons spread to the rest of the towers.”
Lara got up as well and went over to him. She placed a hand on his arm to stop him from pacing. “This Elistra appears to have the one tower protected for now.”
She peered over at Glo. “Isn’t that right?”
“Indeed,” Glo agreed with a heavy sigh.
Lara let go of Kratos and strode over to the door. Her expression grew thoughtful as she peered out the paned glass into the distance. “And I’d have to imagine these other towers have safeguards in place or they’d have already been taken.”
Glo exchanged a subtle nod with Andrella, who in turn answered for them. “We believe so. However, the demons are using their tower and its crystal to grow their numbers…”
“…and once their forces are great enough, you fear they’ll attack the other towers,” Kratos finished for her.
“Yes,” Andrella affirmed with a grim nod.
“Which is why we need to know more about them,” Glo quickly added. “Is there really a tunnel network connecting the towers, and if so, what is this purple worm the empress seemed to be so afraid of?”
Lloyd stood and placed his hands firmly on the table. “It’s also why we need to talk to the city council. We need to work fast if we’re going to find weapons that can stop the demons.”
Lara wheeled around to face them, her chin firm with resolve. “The Hault School has the most in-depth library this side of Palt”—she swept her gaze from Glo to Andrella—“but you have to be a member.”
“Mom…” Lloyd began with clear exasperation.
She cut him off with a wry smile before he could finish. “…which is luckily something I can offer you, being Head Mistress of the school.”
Glo and Andrella exchanged a grateful glance before replying in unison, “Thank you, Lady Stealle.”
“As for the council, there is a meeting tonight,” Kratos addressed Lloyd’s point. “I’m certain we can get you in, but I’m not sure how willing they will be to help.”
Lloyd looked down and shook his head as he slammed his fist into his other hand. “I know, but we have to at least try.”
Lara and Kratos exchanged an approving glance. Lloyd had definitely grown in his understanding of politics.
Lara strode back to the table and swept her eyes over the trio. “I think this calls for a bit of prep work. Perhaps we should meet with your entire group and fill you in on what you are up against.”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea!” Andrella exclaimed.
Kratos steepled his hands together. “I have some business to attend to at the academy first. If you can inform your companions, we’ll meet them at the inn where you’re staying afterwards.”
Lloyd cast a curious glance at Kratos. “What business, Father?”
Kratos sighed. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another young blade who wants to test their mettle against the original ‘Protector of Penwick.” The elder Stealle suddenly raised a brow. “I have an idea, Lloyd. Why don’t you fill in for me? That way I can see what you’ve learned these last few months.”
Lloyd beamed with pride. “I’d be honored, Father.”
Andrella clasped her hands together. “Can I come as well?”
Kratos smiled at the young lady’s enthusiasm. “Certainly, my dear.”
“I’d be interested as well, if you don’t mind,” Glo added, curious to see this academy he’d heard so much about.
Kratos reached out and clasped the elf on his shoulder. “Absolutely. Any friend of Lloyd’s is always welcome at the academy.”
Glo felt truly touched by the gesture. In fact, the support these two seemed willing to offer was just shy of amazing. Glo found himself suddenly envious of Lloyd. While his own mother had always been supportive, his father had been the exact opposite.
After helping clean up the kitchen, the travelers gathered their things and reconvened in the foyer. Just before they left, Lara pulled Andrella aside.
“I’d like you to come back and stay with us as long as you’re in town, dear.”
The offer caught Andrella by surprise. “I—couldn’t possibly impose like that.”
“Now don’t be silly,” Lara insisted. “You can have one of the guest rooms in the east wing.”
Andrella’s face lit up with a radiant smile. “How could I possibly resist such a generous offer? Thank you, Lady Stealle…”
Lara placed a finger over Andrella’s lips before she could say another word. “That’s Mom, dear.”
“Mom,” Andrella corrected herself. She threw her arms around the older woman, both positively glowing as they embraced like mother and daughter.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave your comments or thoughts below. In the coming months, I'll have more excerpts from Protectors, updates on its release, and news about the audio book versions of both the Serpent Cult and the Dark Monolith.