Thursday, September 1, 2016


I'm so happy, and I hope that you are as excited as I am! My fourth book is finally finished, and it is available on Amazon. It has been a whirlwind process, and I have learned a lot. Namely, to be more conservative when setting deadlines for myself. Haha! But it's here, and I'm so proud of myself and everyone that helped me to get this book done. Please take a moment to help me spread the word, and don't forget to send me your feedback after you read my new book!

Fire Sower

Idris couldn’t wait to choose an item from the royal treasury on his fifteenth birthday. It was a chance to bring prosperity to his family’s farm. But something was waiting there among the gold and jewels—something that would take him from the safety of his home and change his life forever.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fire Sower Preview: Chapter Three

This will be the last preview chapter before the book goes live on September 1st! I'm really excited to see what everyone thinks of my new series, so be sure to give lots of feedback. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my editor, Brenda Johnson. She worked extra hard to help me get this done on time, and I couldn't have done it without her. I would also like to thank my husband for his support and involvement. He's a crucial part of my writing process, and he enables me to do so much.

So, here's the next chapter of "Fire Sower." If you haven't read the first two chapters, click here to begin.

Chapter Three: The Treasury

The home of King Nikolas was called the Water Palace. It had been built from marble composed of various shades of blue, and the design made the building look like an enormous fountain. The spires looked like jets of water shooting towards the sky, and the walls were textured to look like water as well.
If the design of the palace itself were not enough to carry on the theme, the courtyard held several magnificent water features that added to the ambience. A waterfall tumbled down the center of the stairs to the grand entrance, several fountains glittered along the walkways, and an artificial stream flowed through the ground level of the palace.
Idris stared at his surroundings with open wonder on his face. He could never have imagined such wealth and grandeur.
One of the civic soldiers—wearing the green tunic with the city sigil—had been assigned to show them to the entrance of the Treasury, which was also on the ground floor of the Water Palace.
They walked up the stairs to the grand entrance, and through a large set of double doors that bore the royal crest—a dragon with a starburst in one of its front claws. The entrance hall was several stories high, with a glass roof letting in the sunlight. A small golden bridge took them over the artificial stream flowing through the room, and they walked down a hall to their left.
The hallway was guarded by palace soldiers—designated by blue tunics with a silhouette of the Water Palace embroidered on the chest. They watched the progress of the four farmers as they walked along, as if they didn’t trust the civic soldier to keep them under control.
At the end of the hall was a simple wooden door, in front of which stood two more palace soldiers. The civic soldier gestured them forward and then walked away without further explanation.
“You must submit to a search,” declared one of the palace soldiers.
Idris looked at his father in confusion, but followed his lead in allowing the soldier to make sure there was nothing hidden on his person. Their packs were taken to a small room off to the side, where they could pick them up after leaving the Treasury.
Idris and Cadell waited while Owen and Meic went through the same process, and then they were led through the wooden door and down a winding staircase.
At the bottom of the stairs there was a large room with several rows of benches where people could sit and wait for their turn in the Treasury. Next to another wooden door was a desk, where an aged woman with spectacles sat with a quill before her and a bookcase full of thick ledgers behind her.
Cadell led the way to the woman at the desk, and she looked at them shrewdly.
“What is the name of your city or village?”
“Rest Stone Valley,” answered Cadell.
The woman stood up and turned to the bookcase, scanning the ledgers and muttering to herself.
“Rest Stone Valley, part of the Hills Province, west of the Fenn Province…”
She selected one of the ledgers and set it on the desk with an impressive thump. The woman opened the book to the middle and thumbed her way to the last entry. Then, with a soft sigh, she sat down and prepared her quill.
“Name and lineage?”
Cadell nudged Idris, who stammered his answer. “Idris, son of Cadell, son of Garan.”
The woman made a careful entry, and Idris watched her in fascination. He had never learned how to read or write.
“Very well. Please wait there until you are called.”
Idris followed his father back to the benches where half a dozen others waited. He half-listened as Meic went through the same process, but his mind was focused on trying to slow down his racing heart.
The wooden door opened and a haughty looking girl came sweeping out. She was dressed in an elegant silk robe, and she held an elaborate tiara in her hands. A palace guard followed her out and handed the woman at the desk a slip of parchment. The woman nodded as she took it and set it aside to enter into the ledger when she was able.
“Hildar, daughter of Lord Wythe, Duke of the Hazelwood Province,” called the soldier at the wooden door.
Idris looked around and spotted a remarkably beautiful girl making her way toward the soldier. She had wavy chestnut hair and her skin was fairer than any Idris had ever seen. However, the beauty of her delicate face was marred by an expression of supreme disdain.
She went through the wooden door, and it closed behind her. Idris estimated that a half hour passed before she emerged.
The soldier handed a slip of parchment to the woman at the desk, and the process began all over again.
“Sten, son of Sten, son of Pryor.”
A slightly nauseated-looking boy followed the soldier through the wooden door. It was only a handful of minutes before he returned with a leather pouch in his hand.
“Durban, son of Cian, son of Laz.”
Idris found his attention waning. He was tired from the heightened emotions of the day, and he was impatient to be done.
After another hour, he heard the soldier call out, “Meic, son of Owen, son of Cybi.”
Idris leaned over to his father and whispered, “I thought I would be first.”
Cadell shrugged. “They must have mixed up the order. It does not matter.”
Meic followed the palace soldier through the wooden door and emerged several minutes later with a sword in his hands. His smug face shone with triumph as he faced his waiting father.
“Well,” said Owen softly, “I suppose we should head home.” He turned to Cadell and asked, “Would you like us to wait for you?”
Cadell shook his head. “No, you go on ahead.”
Idris could understand why his father had said that. There was an expression on Owen’s face that said he wanted to talk to his son alone.
“Idris, son of Cadell, son of Garan.”
Idris felt his heart leap in his chest and he turned around in a jerky motion.
“Good luck, son,” Cadell said quietly.
Idris nodded his thanks and walked over to the soldier, feeling that his feet were somehow not attached to his body.
He passed through the wooden door and found himself standing in another room, smaller than the last. There were two more palace soldiers standing by a table that held scales and other measuring instruments, and beyond them was a tall and ornate door.
The door was overlaid with gold and the royal crest was depicted with thousands of glittering jewels. The dragon appeared to be made of rubies, with eyes of emerald, and the starburst was made up of diamonds.
“Idris, son of Cadell, son of Garan?”
Idris nodded to confirm his identity, his eyes still glued to the display of wealth before him.
“You may return with a single item or, if you wish for coins or jewels, you may use one of the pouches provided within and fill it to capacity. Return here with your choice and it will be documented.”
He nodded again and one of the guards grasped the golden handle to the door and pulled it open.
Idris forced himself to walk through the opening, once again feeling as though he were not connected to his own body. He came to an abrupt stop as soon as he crossed the threshold, and he barely heard the door close behind him.
The Treasury was easily half the size of the palace itself, and Idris marveled that such a large space could exist underground. More amazing than that was the fact that every reasonable space was filled with valuables.
There were mountains of coins—gold, silver, and copper—and there were veritable rivers of loose jewels. There were several display cases with jewelry and armor, and there were stands holding a variety of weapons. There were bolts of cloth and a stack of rare fur pelts, and there were ornate vases and statues and other works of fine art. There were gilded mirrors and jeweled platters, and sets of fine china in protective cases.
Idris could barely process all of what he was seeing. How could he possibly choose a single item among all of the riches?
On a table to his right there were three stacks of leather pouches in different sizes. The smallest was as large as his fist and the largest was the size of his head. Idris suddenly understood his father’s advice about choosing carefully. It was indeed a great temptation to use the biggest pouch and fill it with gold and jewels, but how would he ever pay such wealth back?
Having become more accustomed to the sight of the glittering abundance before him, Idris took a deep breath and began his search.
To his left there was a curious stand filled with tokens hanging on small silver hooks. The tokens depicted pictures of different livestock, along with a number. Idris didn’t know how to read, but he had been taught to recognize numbers. Farmers used numbers far more than any other written symbol.
He could see that there were many options in regard to animals that could be claimed from the royal stables. One horse or one cow; two pigs or three goats. There were tokens representing sheep, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, dogs, cats, pigeons, and numerous others. There were also a number of exotic animals, such as peacocks or leopards. Idris grinned at the idea of taking home a leopard.
Even though it made the most sense for Idris to take one of the tokens back to the palace guards and go to the stable to claim his prize, it still did not feel right. He slowly walked away from the stand, wondering if he was making a mistake.
He wandered among the piles of valuables, occasionally picking up something to inspect it closer.
There was a filigreed spyglass sitting next to several instruments that Idris did not recognize. There was a vase made of pure crystal. There was a statuette of a man riding a horse.
Nothing stood apart in Idris’s mind.
He stopped in frustration, rubbing his eyes, which were tired from the glare of the gold around him.
How was he to choose?
Suddenly, he felt something.
It was almost like a physical tug on his body. He took a few uncertain steps forward, following the pull but almost wanting to resist.
He didn’t understand what was happening, and that frightened him.
He continued moving forward slowly, his mind searching for a reason for this strange pull. He wove through the Treasury as if he had always known the path he was taking. At the far end he slowed to a stop, staring at a small doorway hidden to the side of a large display of helmets.
Even if Idris had walked right in front of the doorway, he doubted that he would have noticed it. Yet, somehow, he had known it was there.
With a sense of trepidation, Idris walked through the opening into a darkened room. The only light in the room came in from the Treasury, which was not much to see by. Dimly, he could see the outlines of a number of weapons—swords, bows, spears, axes, and other things Idris didn’t recognize.
His eyes fixed on a single silhouette and his hand reached out to grasp the item that had drawn him there.
Almost expecting some sort of trap to suddenly snap around him, Idris hurried out of the dark room and back to the light of the Treasury. Then he stared at the doorway for several heart-pounding moments, waiting for something to happen.
When nothing did happen, Idris began to breathe more normally. He looked down to examine the weapon in his hand.
It was a polearm, almost like a spear but with a larger head. The shaft was about six feet long, and the wood gleamed with a black lacquer finish. The end opposite of the blade had a pointed cap made of steel with designs etched into it. The metal piece that held the head to the shaft was formed in the image of a dragon, and the blade itself looked like a tongue of flame issuing from the dragon’s mouth.
The dragon was overlaid with gold, and dozens of tiny rubies were set to look like sections of its scales. The details etched into the figure were exquisite, and the fierce expression on its face made it seem alive. Two glittering sapphires made up the eyes, and the teeth were tiny diamonds.
Idris stared at the weapon in wonder, amazed at the skill and care that had been put into making it.
Who are you?
Idris almost dropped the polearm in surprise. He looked around, trying to find the source of the voice that had spoken to him. It was a woman’s voice, musical and filled with confidence.
Who are you?
The voice had become more insistent, but Idris hardly took notice of the tone. His mind was whirling with the realization that the voice had slipped directly into his head.
“I…I am Idris…” he stammered.
How dare you take hold of me without the permission of my master!
Idris’s eyes widened as he stared down at the weapon in his hand.
“Are you the spear?”
The voice was filled with contempt. I am not a spear. I am a partisan.
“I am sorry,” apologized Idris. “I am a farmer, and I am not very familiar with different types of weapons.”
A farmer? scoffed the partisan. Then you have no business touching one of the most famed weapons in the world. Return me to my master at once.
“Who is your master?” Idris asked.
He is called Marlais.
“Marlais Dragonspear?”
If Idris had not already been shocked by having a conversation with a weapon, this information would have floored him.
Marlais Dragonspear was a legendary hero, not just in Calaris but around the world. It was said that he defeated the last of the bloodthirsty giants that had terrorized the land. Stories told of his many battles and his glorious victories. There was even a tale that he had fought with Death for the soul of his beloved wife. Such elaborate tales may have been invented by storytellers, but history did say definitively that Marlais Dragonspear helped King Lyndham to found the kingdom of Calaris.
I suppose he is called that by some.
Idris had so many questions rushing through his head he didn’t know where to begin. “What was he like? Were you his magical spear? Were you with him when he battled the giant?”
The voice became rather testy. I told you, I am not a spear. And why do speak of him in the past tense?
“Marlais Dragonspear lived hundreds of years ago. He is long dead,” Idris said carelessly, eager to ask more questions.
You lie, said the voice quietly.
Idris was taken aback. “What?”
You lie!
“Why would I lie about something like that?” he asked the partisan.
There was no response.
The silence seemed almost deafening, and Idris wasn’t sure what to do next. He briefly considered putting the magical weapon back in the hidden room, but something deep within him rejected the idea.
He may not understand why, but he was meant to take the partisan with him.
Not knowing what else to do, Idris walked back to the entrance of the Treasury and pushed the door open. The palace soldiers were waiting for him, and they waved him over to the table.
“A spear?” asked one of the soldiers, his quill ready to make a note on a slip of parchment.
“She said she was a partisan,” Idris answered.
The soldier looked up sharply and took the partisan from Idris’s hands. He only had to glance at it and his eyes widened in disbelief.
“Where did you get this?” he asked harshly.
Idris felt his heart beating faster, and he wondered if he was in trouble. “I found it in a room near the back.”
“How did you find that room?”
“I do not know. I was led there…” Idris tried to explain.
“Led there?”
He made a helpless gesture. “Something inside me took me there.”
Idris didn’t have any other explanation, and he wasn’t sure if the soldiers believed him. They were all staring at him so intensely that he felt uncomfortable.
After several moments, the palace guards began conferring with one another in low voices. Idris could only hear a murmur, and so he had no idea what they were saying. Before too long they seemed to come to some sort of agreement, and the soldier who had been questioning Idris turned back to the boy.
“It is rare that one is drawn to that room. Only the one who is meant to wield a magical weapon can find the room and remove an item from it. If you have brought out this partisan, then it is meant to be yours.”
Idris felt a twinge of doubt. The voice of the partisan certainly didn’t want anything to do with him.
The soldier went on. “However, there is a condition to go along with such a choice. You will be offered the opportunity to train as a member of the Royal Guard—an elite group of soldiers dedicated to the personal service of the royal family. If you wish to keep the weapon, you must go through the training and serve the king for the rest of your life.”
Idris’s chest constricted and he had difficulty taking a breath to speak. “What if I do not want to be a soldier?”
The palace guard shrugged. “Then this weapon goes back to the Treasury and you go on your way.”
“Do I get to pick something else from the Treasury?” asked Idris.
The soldier turned and began writing on the slip of parchment. He spouted more instructions as he did so. “The partisan will be kept here for safekeeping. If you choose to train as a member of the Royal Guard, you can reclaim it. You will first go through the same basic training as the army recruits, and then you will begin your specialized training with other members of the Royal Guard. The next training cycle begins in twenty days, and the following cycle begins exactly a half year after that. If you choose to reclaim the partisan, return to the palace by then.”
The soldier walked over to the wooden door that led to the waiting room. He held it open for Idris to pass through.
Idris was so stunned by the events of the past hour that he could barely believe that they had actually happened. He walked back to the waiting room mechanically, feeling dazed and overwhelmed.
His father appeared before him with a smile on his face. “Well, what did you pick?”
Idris was speechless. How could he explain to his father what had happened?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fire Sower Preview: Chapter Two

We're getting closer to the release date of my latest book! It will be available for sale on September 1st, so mark your calendars. Until then, enjoy another preview chapter. If you haven't read the first one, click here. Be sure to let me know what you think!

Chapter Two: Journey to Marath

Rest Stone Valley was surrounded by several low mountains, barely taller than hills. It was given its name due to the large stone in the center of the valley that vaguely resembled an enormous bed.

The fertile grasslands of the valley had been claimed by farmers over the generations, until it had been transformed into neatly plowed fields for as far as the eye could see. Occasional trees dotted the landscape, as did the tidy homes of those who cultivated the land. Down the center of the valley was a small river from which numerous irrigation canals spread outward.

A soft breeze swept down from the mountains, bringing the scent of pines with it. Idris took a deep breath and enjoyed the smell of it mixed with scent of freshly overturned earth.

“I doubt there is anywhere as beautiful as our valley,” he said happily.

Cadell smiled at his son’s enthusiasm. “Well, I cannot say I have travelled much, but I would be inclined to agree with you.”

“What is Marath like?” inquired Idris.

“Big,” was the unhelpful reply.

Idris laughed. “And?”

“It is big and noisy and crowded,” Cadell expounded. “There are buildings twice as tall as a house, and the palace is as large as one of our mountains. People there wear clothes made from exotic silks and fine linens, and they ride around in carriages pulled by the finest horses.”

Idris rubbed his hands over his coarse shirt, which had been carefully mended by his mother. How would he look to the rich people described by his father?

Cadell noticed the motion and gave a reassuring smile. “We will only be there for a few hours, and then we will be heading home. The people of Marath are accustomed to seeing visitors from all over the kingdom.”

The road that they walked on began winding towards the west, and Cadell waved to neighbors as they passed them working in their fields. Before long, Idris and his father were joined by another pair of travelers bound for Marath.

Idris tried to hide his dislike as he greeted the boy his own age. “Hello, Meic.”

Meic made no attempt to hide his disdain for Idris, but his father nudged him to reply. “Hello.”

Idris had known Meic his entire life, and had disliked him for nearly as long. They were almost exactly the same age—Idris being one day older—and therefore they were always grouped together during local activities.

Meic did not wear a topknot like the other boys their age, but wore his long black hair in a high ponytail. He did this because that was how warriors were described in the stories they had been told as children, and Meic dreamed of being a warrior as well. He scorned those who were happy with life on a farm and declared that only simpletons chose to stay.

Idris was among the so-called simpletons.

The animosity between the two boys went unnoticed by their fathers. Cadell shook hands with Owen heartily and suggested that they travel together.

“You are not waiting until your birthday to set out?” asked Idris, even though the answer was obvious.

“I will be fifteen by the time we reach Marath,” sneered Meic.

“I know,” said Idris, “but I thought you would want to spend your birthday with your family.”

The other boy sniffed haughtily. “I do not care about that. In a few years’ time, I will not see them anymore.”

“Lucky them,” muttered Idris.

If Meic heard, he chose to ignore the remark. “I am going to get a sword from the Treasury, and when I learn to use it I am going to join the king’s army.”

Idris frowned. “Why not join right away? They have training for people our age, even if you have never used a weapon before.”

Meic looked even more disdainful. “Do you think I want to be grouped in with all of the beginners? No, I intend to join the army when I am ready to be placed ahead of everyone else starting out.”

“Who is going to teach you how to use a sword? It is not as if there are any soldiers in Rest Stone Valley,” Idris pointed out.

His companion waved away this concern. “I will teach myself.”

Idris hid a smile as he thought about the fun that could be had witnessing Meic flailing about with a dangerous weapon. Maybe he would lose a finger and be unable to join the army after all.

At this point, Owen glanced over his shoulder and spoke to his son. “I still think you should get a cow or two pigs. I would be happy to make you a partner in the farm if you were willing to bring something to it.”

Meic’s eyes flashed with anger. “I told you, I am not going to be a farmer.”

Owen shrugged and went back to conversing with Cadell, but Idris thought he glimpsed a hurt expression in the man’s eyes.

“What are you going to choose?” Meic asked, his tone still warm from the confrontation with his father.

Idris tried to sound casual. “I do not know. I thought I would wait to decide until I see what is available.”

Meic was incredulous. “You have not decided?”

“There could be things there that we did not imagine,” said Idris defensively.

“How much imagination do you need to get something for a stupid farm?” Meic shot back.

“If you do not wish to work on the farm,” Cadell said over his shoulder to Idris, “you could get a horse. I am certain that Heilin and Collen would be happy to let you join their business.”

Cadell’s two younger brothers bred and trained horses on a ranch on the other side of the valley.

“I… maybe,” Idris said lamely.

The road they were following began sloping upward, over one of the mountains that protected Rest Stone Valley. Idris had never gone beyond the mountains of their little home, and he looked forward with anticipation to the sight he was soon to see.

The climb was not a difficult one, and the road soon reached the summit. Idris quickened his step and hopped on top of a large rock to the side of the road. Calaris stretched out before his eyes, all the way to the coast.

“I can see the ocean from here,” exclaimed Idris in delight.

Even Meic couldn’t hide his excitement. “Is Marath by the water?”

Owen nodded. “Yes, the western edge of the city is a massive port.”

Idris turned around to take in the entire view. Rest Stone Valley looked peaceful and quiet below, and beyond it lay the rest of the kingdom. Cadell began pointing out different landmarks to his son.

“Just beyond our valley the land turns to fen, all the way to the eastern border of Calaris. Then to the north and south there are grasslands, and that is where you will find all of the cities and villages and farms. Calaris is not a very wide nation, but it is quite long. I once saw a map,” he explained.

They continued walking on the dirt road as it wound downward, away from the mountain. Meic began to pepper his father with questions.

“King Nikolas has to fight to keep invaders out of the Calaris, right? Is he not the first warrior king in three generations? Are we at war with the barbarians to the east? What is their country called? Is it true that King Nikolas encourages all young men to become soldiers?”

Idris could practically see the dreams of glory swirling around Meic’s head.

Owen seemed reluctant to answer his son’s questions. “The country to the east is called Roshum, I believe. It is true that we are often at war with them…”

“Then it is our duty to join the king’s army and fight,” Meic said with satisfaction.

Cadell raised a finger. “Ah, but if we all were soldiers, who would grow the food to feed the kingdom? Even King Nikolas the Bold cannot create grain out of thin air.”

Meic was silenced by his words, and Idris grinned at his father. He knew that Cadell took great pride in his farm, and he often spoke of how it was the greatest occupation a man could have. Idris also loved the farm, but he felt strange when he thought about working there for the rest of his life.

The four kept a good pace throughout the day, stopping only briefly for a quick meal at midday. By the time the sun was beginning to set, they had reached an area just off the road that had been cleared of any plants or rocks. A blackened fire pit sat in the center, and it was apparent that the site was often used by travelers.

Idris and Meic began gathering sticks from the ground surrounding a nearby tree, and soon a small fire was burning in the pit. Cadell and Owen combined supplies, and before long they had a pot full of stew to go around and a loaf of bread to sop up the gravy.

The conversation naturally turned back to their destination, and Meic and Owen got into a heated discussion about Meic’s desire to join the army.

Cadell and Idris gave them a bit of privacy and settled down to talk on their own.

“So,” Idris’s father started, “you have not decided what you want from the Treasury?”

Idris had been reluctant to discuss it with others, but it felt natural to confide in his father. “I have been thinking about it a lot, but I can never seem to settle on anything. Every idea that I come up with just does not seem right for me.”

Cadell’s brow furrowed thoughtfully. “Do you want to join the army, like Meic?”

Idris shook his head. “No, I love the farm. But when I think about getting cows or pigs it just feels… wrong.”

“Well, there are lots of options,” his father said encouragingly. “You could get some gold and buy some land, or the blacksmith is looking for an apprentice. When I was your age I decided to get gold because I was not sure what I wanted either.”

Idris had never known this about his father. “Really?”

Cadell nodded. “Really. My brothers already had plans for breeding horses, and so your grandfather said that the farm would be mine. I did not know what I would need to help the farm along, so I just got some gold from the Treasury. I figured I could always decide later.”

“Maybe I should do the same,” said Idris doubtfully. Even that didn’t feel right.

Cadell fixed his solemn gaze on his son. “If you do, just remember that it will have to be paid back someday. It is tempting to take a large amount of gold, but if you cannot earn it back during your lifetime then you leave your family in debt when you die. Remember: we are only farmers, not lords.”

Idris considered his father’s words as he rolled up in his blanket for the night. He could not understand why it was so hard for him to decide, especially since he knew that he wanted to stay in Rest Stone Valley. He did not have dreams of adventures or glory. He just wanted to stay near his family and settle down. Maybe find a girl to marry…

It seemed that he had only just drifted off to sleep when he was being shaken awake again.

“Wake up, my boy. Time for us to get going.”

They had a cold breakfast of bread and dried fruit, packing up their camp as they ate. Owen pulled out a sweet bun for Meic, declaring it to be a birthday treat. Meic ate it with relish, looking at Idris as if expecting him to be jealous.

Idris smiled blandly and said, “Happy birthday, Meic.”

The weather was as fair as the previous day, and Idris had an enjoyable time walking along the dirt road. A slight breeze rustled through the tall grass on the sides, and soon the small road merged with a larger one that was paved with cobblestones.

Traffic on the new road was heavier, since there were many who had business in the capital of Calaris. There were wagon trains with various goods, patrolling soldiers in charge of keeping the peace, petitioners, and several other duos that looked to be parents escorting their fifteen-year-old children to the Treasury.

It took them half a day to reach the gates of Marath, but they could see the city looming in the distance long before they arrived.

Marath looked just like the cities described in the old war stories, with a wall that was made of thick stone and stood three times the height of a man. Each of the city gates were made of giant logs that had been reinforced with bars of steel, and archers were positioned along the top of the wall at regular intervals.

The four travelers joined in the line of other visitors to the city to be questioned by the guards at the gate.

“What are your names?” The guard who asked the question was wearing a green tunic that bore the sigil of the city—a tower guarded by a dragon.

“Cadell and Idris of Rest Stone Valley,” Cadell answered.

“What is your business in Marath?” the soldier questioned, jotting down a note in an enormous ledger.

“My son is now fifteen years of age. We are here to visit the Treasury.”

The soldier nodded, making another note. “How long will you be in the city?”

“One day.”

“When you leave Marath you will be required to pass through this same gate so we can verify your information,” droned the guard, waving them past. “Thank you, move along.”

Idris thought briefly about whispering to Meic that his future as a soldier would probably be the same as the guard’s, but the jibe was driven from his mind as he entered the city.

The noise of a thousand voices talking all at once broke over Idris’s senses. The gate opened up to a square that was filled with all sorts of people. Some were greeting visitors they had been expecting, some were watching a group of street performers, some had small handcarts from which they were selling food or trinkets, some were simply standing around chatting. In the center of the square was a statue of a man holding a broadsword. He had a thick beard and he was portrayed wearing elaborate robes.

“King Nikolas,” said Cadell, gesturing to the statue.

Idris studied the statue with renewed interest. He had never seen the king before, nor a likeness of him. The statue certainly gave the man the look of a warrior, and Idris wondered if the same was true in real life.

At this point they were joined by Owen and Meic. The two of them looked just as unnerved by the chaos of the city as Idris felt.

“Shall we go on?” suggested Owen, his voice rather strained.

He pointed towards the center of the city where, even over the tops of the tall buildings, the spires of the royal palace could be seen. That was where the royal family lived, along with the higher nobility and those that served them.

Cadell gave Idris’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “The Treasury awaits.”

To read the next chapter, click here.