After a Long Pause

August 14, 2015 at 4:21 pm (dark fantasy, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

This year involved a lengthy summer hiatus from blogging for multiple reasons. Summer is always busy for me. The kids are home from school. I work overtime at my day job. Some of my focus is on gardening. This year also included double weekly doses of jugger, a trip to France with my daughter, and new puppy. All of these things proved to be time sucks, albeit positive ones. In summer, the things at the bottom of my priority list get bumped off by the things at the top and because I want to keep writing my fiction, blogging is often one of the things that goes.

And off it went

But I’ve been wanting/meaning to set aside some time to announce some of the good things that have happened over the last few months. I received an acceptance for another pro-rate (per HWA standards but not those of the SFWA) venue, this time for my first stab at steampunk. You can find out more about it here:

This spring/summer has also been one of multiple releases including short stories in the anthologies Strangely Funny 2 ½ (Dead to Write) and My Favourite Apocalypse (Gaia’s Gift) and some non-fiction pieces in the Horror Addicts Guide to Life. I have other acceptances brewing for release I the near future, including a YA cyberpunk/fairy tale mash up, but those announcements will come later.



No news on the novel front. My series remain in limbo and no new acceptances for the yet-to-be-published, but I’m still writing and still hopeful. I have a test-reader working away at some of them, so we’ll see where that goes.

Until then, I hope to get back on the blogging track when my overtime is up, likely in time for my submission blitz in October.

Until then – if you need me, you may want to hunt me out in the jungle that is my garden this year. You’ll like find me digging up something for supper, pickling or freezing.

Turnip anyone?

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Zombie: Lockdown

May 21, 2013 at 1:46 am (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

I’ll do my best to do this anthology justice, but I’m still coming down from my Star Trek high (I just returned from watching In Darkness). Then again, this book gave me a bit of a zombie high. I really enjoyed all of the stories which, despite their common prison theme, had a surprising amount of variety and differing flavour from tale to tale. This was due in part to the spectrum of main characters, ranging from typical prison tough guy to much more placid intellectual criminal. There was gore, some of the stories quite visceral in places, but a lot of the horror came from that sense of isolation and entrapment, from hopelessness in the face of a grim and likely brief future.

Choosing favourites from this group was difficult, but there were three that slightly edged out the others (only slightly, mind you):

No God Waiting by T. Fox Dunham – I really liked the superman/experimental aspect to this story. It gave the tale a historical feel. The main character was somewhere between a creep-show comic book character and a dark champion . This was one of the more gory tales, but it seemed appropriate based on the nature of the story

Isolation by Rebecca Brown – This one offered up a real element of claustrophobia, along with deprivation and desperation. I found this one particularly chilling.

Death Row by Joseph Rubas – The story at the top of my list. The main character is both despicable and oddly moving at the same time, and I found myself quite invested in him by the end of the story. An impressive achievement, considering circumstances.

If you enjoy zombie fiction this is a great read. A firm thumbs up for this one.

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Genre for the Holidays – Crazy Happy or Just Crazy?

December 20, 2012 at 2:29 am (Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

This should be a very happy holiday season for me. I just finished the first draft for my twentieth novel (the one I started for NaNoWriMo) – that should make me happy, right? Well according to an article I once read it should also make me crazy. I wish I could locate that link but all of my searching has yet to yield the article in question (maybe I’m already nutty enough that I imagined the darned thing.) Anyway, it suggested that writing requires a fiction writer to alter their perspective and look at the world in a much different way than a non-writer. At about the twentieth novel point, it supposedly skews your reality permanently…

…or to put it bluntly, it makes you crazy.

Of course, I can’t say I honestly trust any articles on writing out there anymore. You can find “experts” who say almost anything imaginable about writing nowadays, and many of the articles are contradictory. According to some of them, my writing must be lousy, because I use an outline which means I’m not creative, because I write quickly which means I can’t write smart, and because I don’t write in a pre-selected writing space at a pre-defined time in complete silence without any distractions, which is the only proper way to write. So they say, if I believe all of the articles on writing out there.

Then again, if they are all true, that makes me already crazy – which means I shouldn’t care what any of them have to say.

Anyway, before I go stand in the corner talking to walls and laughing at my own jokes, I’m posting the last first draft chapter of The Trading of Skin to As I’ve done with past NaNos, all twenty chapters will remain public for three weeks and after that only the first five chapters will remain public. Here’s the link:

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Adventures in NaNo-land – Fudging it

November 19, 2012 at 12:21 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

The problem with writing a fantasy story based on an existing mythology is that sometimes you can run into gaps that need filling where the mythology has nothing to meet your story’s needs. I ran into that problem with the Sami mythology. There are plenty of references to a wide variety of gods, but very few lesser beings that would serve as opponents in the mortal world. Aside from the Haldi, which are helpful spirits, I could only find references to one giant, Stallon and creatures known as men of water. There are plenty of unpleasant gods: Jabbmeaaakka – Goddess of death, queen of the underworld, Mubpienålmaj – “The evil one”, and Ruohtta/Rohttu – The god of sicknesses, but no descriptions of any nasty minions. So I chose to create ones, the spirit-hunters, to round out my story.

Do I feel bad about adding my own fictional creatures to the mythology? Not exactly. The novel is not a presentation of an existing legend from the mythos. It is a storyline of my own making, and I’ve always offered the tale up as one of fantasy based on Sami mythology. That and while I may be adding something fictitious from outside what has been established, I’m not altering existing gods or legends. As a big fan of mythological tales, I take great issue with that. It’s the reason why I stopped reading Ric Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and never read any other books in his series. After the third blatant disregard of established mythology that I encountered, a changing of established details to suit the author’s needs, I put the book down in disgust. I was especially irked at the fact that he had Athena, one of the three Greek goddesses well-known to be a virgin (along with Hestia and Artemis), play the role of mother to an entire group of young demi-gods, or half-bloods. The way I see it, that’s not just fudging it, it’s outright breaking the rules.

Here’s a small excerpt from my latest chapter, containing some mythological references:

Relief washed through Oaván. He could suddenly imagine a future with Lieđđi at his side in Anár. They would live as a proper family there, with their children. When they were ready, he would marry her and support her with his work as a noaidi. Heaibmu would have no reason to object, as a spirit-bound Lieđđi would meet all of his conditions.

“Let me go with you then, to the River of Blood,” he offered. “You said you don’t like to travel alone, and you’ll be safer with me there. The spirit-hunters will still be looking for you until you go through the binding process. I’ll do what I can to keep them away from you until they lose interest in you.”

Lieđđi shook her head. “That’s a generous thought, but you’ll only be able to accompany me so far. You can escort me through the labyrinth the Haldi take to reach that section of the Meandash, but the route beyond that is barred to those who are not servants of the gods, like the Haldi or the Tjaetsieålmaj…”

“Or the spirit-hunters. They’ll still be able to come after you beyond that point, even if I can’t stay with you after that. I’ll go with you as far as I can then.”

“That would be the frozen home of the giant, Stallon, the ice structure they call the Castle of Glass,” Lieđđi said. “It’s located at the northernmost end of the labyrinth. He’ll be there to bar your way.”

Oaván did not mention this, but he was hoping when they reached this “Stallon,” he’d be able to negotiate his way past the giant anyway. He was part Haldi, after all. Why wouldn’t that be enough to allow him entrance to the River of Blood?

More tomorrow J

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Adventures in NaNo-land – Conflict

November 13, 2012 at 2:40 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , )

When I was attending a lecture by Brendon Sanderson on story structure, he mentioned he thought that conflict was the most important part of the story – that you didn’t really have a story without it. While “stream of consciousness” and “a-day-in-the-life” fiction writers would disagree that it is absolutely necessary, conflict is a significant element of fiction. The problem is, there are some less educated critics out there who don’t understand exactly what conflict is. Conflict does not have to exist as an in-your-face physical clash, a blatant battle of good versus evil or an obvious “man-struggles-with his environment” set-up. Conflict can exist in subtler forms. Sometimes the struggle is an internal one, a character battling with his or her own inner demons, or conflicting beliefs (“I love the assassin but I can’t support someone who murders for a living” for example.) The direct conflicts in the story might be an extension of an indirect conflict – the main villain may be beyond the reach of the heroes who are forced to tackle his disruptive force from a distance. Or there may be layers to the conflict or an assortment of smaller conflicts coming together to create one big problem.

In my latest chapter, “Trouble” there is direct conflict, when Oaván and Dáidu confront their chieftain regarding the treatment of their family and Lieđđi, and underlying internal conflict, as Dáidu struggles to accept the truth about who he really is. My stories tend to be rife with conflict, but whether or not a reader sees that depends on exactly what they are looking for.

I was planning on posting “Trouble” to tonight, but the server isn’t working properly, so the link will have to wait until tomorrow. I’ll close instead with an excerpt:

Heaibmu was sitting in the tent with three other men, discussing concerns for the settlement during the upcoming cold season. Not wanting to interrupt, Oaván turned to leave again, but Dáidu grabbed his arm and held it with a grip so tight Oaván thought his fingers might leave dents in the bone.

“We’re doing this now,” Dáidu said quietly.

Heaibmu stopped and looked at them, standing in his doorway. He waved his hand to hush the others with him.

“This is about the girl – isn’t it?” he asked, scowling. He was a larger, darker man with a great deal of presence and this made him very intimidating.

“It is,” Dáidu acknowledged.

“I have business to attend to. I don’t have time for this now.”

“Then we’ll wait,” Dáidu replied, crossing his arms and giving the chieftain a challenging stare.

Oaván found himself immediately uncomfortable. This was supposed to be about him and Lieđđi, but somehow it had also become about Dáidu and Heaibmu. Oaván’s issue had just been an excuse. He felt a little used at that moment.

When the other men had left, Heaibmu gestured for the brothers to sit.

“It is customary to ask for a meeting with the chieftain, rather than just come barging in uninvited,” he said sternly.

Dáidu seized upon this right away. “And it is customary to include someone in discussions where deals are being made regarding their future, but you chose to bargain with our mother behind our backs. Apparently, this was not the first time. We have come to tell you that we are adults and Jaská no longer has the right to speak for us. We reject the agreement she made regarding Lieđđi and how long she can stay. We want her to have the option to stay here for good, if that’s what she chooses. We don’t think it’s fair to limit the hospitality of Anár to the point where she is healed.”

Dáidu did not attempt to hide the bitterness in his voice. It made Oaván shiver. His older brother was clearly enjoying this confrontation. Suddenly, Oaván was regretting that he had agreed to this.

More tomorrow J

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NaNoWriMo Blog Hiatus – Guest Blog #1

November 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm (Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

NaNo means I don’t have the time for my regular blog, but no fear! One of my colleagues at Trestle Press has volunteered to help me out. I’m pleased to present to you Fiona (McDroll):

Me? A published writer? Don’t be daft…. Yet this week, it actually happened. Still can’t quite believe it but I’m loving every single minute of it. It’s been great to see the look on my colleagues’ faces when I’ve told them. Had all sorts of responses from, ‘Well, you’ll be self publishing,’ to ‘Oh, an e-book, not a proper book.’ Well, stuff the lot of them! Trestle Press is going all out to get some great writers out there so that people can read some fresh new fiction. And e-books…do you remember when we used to have to go to Woolies to buy a record? We don’t do that anymore do we?

My first collection of short stories, KICK IT has just been published this week and my goodness, I certainly did get a kick from seeing my book up there for sale on Amazon. KICK IT is a collection of 5 short noir / crime stories with a little twist of Scottish humour thrown into the mix.

Three of the stories have my favourite character, DC Gemma Dixon, strutting her stuff around the crime scene of Glasgow. New to CID, Gemma has to learn very quickly to stand up for herself in male dominated environments where as the newbie she gets some of the roughest assignments on offer.

I love having fun with Gemma as she banters with her fellow officers, making sure that she asserts herself and doesn’t take any of their cheek.

My other two stories deal with our perceptions of people and I attempt to show how far off the mark we can be when we don’t take the time to dig a bit deeper into ‘hidden stories;’ the secrets that people keep close to their chests as they go about their daily lives. So much can be going on beneath a person’s outward shell and I try to uncover some of these tales.

1. Who is McDroll?

To begin with, gong back about three years; McDroll was the silly name I came up with when I started tweeting. I wanted a name that would combine the fact that I am proud to be Scottish and indicate that my tweets would contain a certain amount of ‘tongue in cheek’ humour. Like most nicknames it kind of stuck and now that’s how most people on-line know me.

I think it’s quite memorable and a bit different so perhaps it will help me to get noticed!

When I’m not writing / reviewing, I teach and have been a primary school head teacher for the past 23 years, I know, I don’t look old enough! Cough

I live in Argyll, Scotland which is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world, steeped in history from prehistoric standing stones to Celtic crosses and castles and countless lochs and glens.

I sit at night, laptop on knees and write about murders…well, what else would I do?

2. Why crime writing?

I’ve always wanted to write as far back as I can remember and over the years I’ve had various disastrous attempts that just didn’t work. My writing was boring, bland and twee. I had come to the conclusion that I just didn’t have what it takes.

Then I joined Twitter and quickly discovered that there were lots of writers around the world tweeting about their writing. They would discuss their difficulties, the characters they wrote about and the struggle to get published.

Slowly I crept into this circle of talented people and as I have always been a rabid reader of crime fiction, I thought that if I couldn’t write then at least I could review and be a little help to those with talent struggling to get noticed.

Eventually some very kind people asked if I wrote. After the initial, ‘no, no, no,’ I decided to give the writing lark another go but this time try to write within the crime genre….and that’s all it took. My years of reading crime have somehow helped me understand how to write the type of story that people seem to get a lot of fun out of reading.

3. What’s next?

I’m hoping to have another collection of short stories KICK IT AGAIN out soon and then move onto a serialization of a novella that I’ve been working on for some time. More ‘Gemma’ stories are in the pipeline and you will be able to meet Gemma again in BRIT GRIT TOO, soon to be published by TRESTLE.

So I hope you check out my first ever e-Book and please let me know what you think!

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Meet Ebon – a Magic University Teaser Tale

October 1, 2011 at 12:52 am (fantasy, Links, Magic University, writing) (, , , , )

Out of Phase

    Ebon struggled with his telekinesis, trying to get his phantom fingers to do what he needed them to do. The quill twitched and skipped over the paper, but his fine manipulation with the spell was just not what it had to be in order for him to write out the words required. The erratic movements caused the ink to blot and instead of the simple letters he had intended, there was nothing but dashes and splotches. Ebon railed over the failure, releasing his spell and allowing the quill to drop to the table. He then snarled and unleashed a tiny ball of flame that ignited the marred parchment, turning it into a small pile of ash – one that matched the collection of others scattered atop the table.

    It was a task that should be relatively easy for anyone literate, unless they lacked a physical form the way that Ebon did. He did have his telekinesis to make up for it, and could accommodate chores that asked for tangible efforts involving gross motor skills. But fine manipulation? He was not practiced enough with the spell for fine manipulation. He had oodles of strength, but lacked finesse. He hadn’t had reason to manoeuvre anything solid for quite some time, which was why his skills with the spell were not very refined.

    “Bastards should have an application form accessible to all. This is discriminatory,” Ebon rasped, pushing the table away from him with a thrust from an invisible hand. “How the hell am I supposed to complete this?”

    He knew one possible solution was to hire a scribe to do the work for him, but that called for money and Ebon had none. Why would he? Carrying it would be a constant inconvenience; he had no need for possessions. In this instance, the application forms had been provided by Magic University and the quill was borrowed. He didn’t have a need for shelter, clothing, food or drink – he had no problems ignoring typical animal urges because in his case such things were irrelevant. He didn’t get hot or cold, he didn’t get wet and he didn’t even need to breathe. This time, however, things were different. He did need help.

    Resigning himself to finding some way of paying the scribe’s wages, Ebon left the magistrate’s office where he had been trying to complete the form and made his way to the closest scriptorium. Most people recoiled or ran away as he passed through the streets, frightened by his wraith-like appearance. At night-time or even early dawn or dusk, the shadows presented him with enough cover that he could avoid the unwanted attention, but in broad daylight his shadowy form was an obvious blight. Their reaction made him yearn for the day where he would have been ignored as uninteresting or mocked slightly for his pasty complexion and mediocre build.

    Three years he had borne the accursed appearance, three years of vague memories and time lost as he wandered in search of answers that still had not all come to him. At first he had not remembered anything including who he was. Gradually, the recollections returned, one by one, but his memories prior to his transformation were spotty at best. He hoped some day that would change because he had a feeling that those memories would be important if he was ever to reclaim who he was.

    It was a warm enough day that the door to the scriptorium had been propped open. Not that it mattered to Ebon if the door were open or closed, unless it was enchanted. An ordinary door could never bar his way anymore. He swept in and advanced upon the counter. Settling there, he waited for the man attending to clients to approach. He eyed Ebon warily as he did so.

    “I wish to hire your services,” Ebon rasped.

    “We do not serve the undead,” the scribe replied, pulling a couple of scrolls from the shelf behind him.

    “I’m no phantom,” Ebon assured him. “I’m inter-dimensional. That does present a problem. I need to complete an application for Magic University, but I lack proper physical form. I would like you to complete the task for me, but since I have no way of offering money in exchange for your work, I propose bartering services of my own. I’m a very powerful spell-caster. Perhaps you can make use of my skills for your own purposes.”

    It seemed like a reasonable offer to Ebon, and it was the only thing of value that he really could give. The offer was not received without interest. The scribe stood contemplating the being in front of him. Clearly, he had something in mind.

    “I think we can strike a deal. Follow me to the back, and we’ll discuss our terms.”

    The room that they entered was suffocatingly small, but physical walls meant nothing to Ebon anymore. He hovered on the opposite side of the table from where the scribe took a seat.

    “So what do you ask of me to fulfil my end of the bargain?” Ebon demanded hoarsely.

    “When I established my business, I had little in the way of capital,” the scribe admitted. “I was forced to seek out a sponsor. There was a Master wizard, Jovan Oakley, who was willing to pay a retainer, but he offered a pittance compared to the usual asking price for a scribe of my talents, and he demanded a twenty year contract. I was desperate for the money, so I signed the agreement. Five years later, my business is well-established and I should be enjoying my success. Instead I am bound by my contract with him, and spend my evenings doing repetitive and petty work for him, copying scrolls and the like. I have things I would prefer to be doing with what should be my leisure time. In exchange for my services, I want you to enter Jovan’s home and destroy the contract so that I’m no longer bound to him. The work you want would be a small price for my freedom.”

    Ebon agreed to the scribe, Bartholomew Fenway’s, terms, as if he had much of a choice. After discussing the situation in detail, Ebon decided to pay a visit to Jovan’s house that day. He would be less likely to be home than if Ebon waited until evening.

    The wraith-mage could not pass unhindered through the magically locked door, but Jovan had not enchanted his entire house similarly, so it was just a matter of sliding through an unprotected section of wall. Once inside the home, he quickly located Bartholomew’s contract. Getting at it was not a simple job. Jovan had the document well protected, an item of great value to him. It took a fair amount of time, but little effort, for Ebon to strip away the anti-theft spells. Once it was free of such nuisances, Ebon moved closer to snuff out the contract as easily as he had the failed application forms.

    He had not been expecting the contingency spell. Apparently, Jovan had been anticipating that Bartholomew might choose unorthodox tactics to liberate his contract, which included striking deals with demons. The moment Ebon attempted to ignite the parchment, he found himself trapped within an inter-dimensional magical cage. Seconds later a middle-aged bearded and bespectacled man appeared before him bearing the slender frame and robes customary of a Master wizard.

    “So, Bartholomew strikes again. Well, what have we here? You certainly are nothing like the petty thieves he has sent in the past. They did not get this far, and I dispatched of them easily enough.” Jovan scrutinized Ebon closely. “How did Bartholomew succeed in recruiting you?”

    “I required his services. I need to make application to Magic University, and because of my ‘condition’ I was unable to do so on my own. This is what he asked for in exchange.”

    Jovan scratched his chin.

    “Ah – my alma mater. Well, I can hardly fault you for wanting to better yourself in that way, can I?”

    The Master wizard paced the floor, considering his options.

    “What if I told you I was willing to let you return to Bartholomew with claim of success, but I require your services in exchange as well,” he proposed. Ebon was hardly in the position to argue.

    “Name your terms,” he rasped.

    “A former apprentice of mine holds a series of letters that she could use to defame me and wreak scandal upon my house. I would like you to do for me what Bartholomew was having you do for him. Play purveyor of those documents, and I’ll reward you by destroying Bartholomew’s contract myself. I will need you to swear your agreement under oath, however. I want to guarantee that when I release you, you do not simply leave in search of some other scribe to do your bidding.”

    Once again, Ebon was not in any position to object. He allowed himself to be bound magically to completing the task. Once freed from his cage, he took directions from Jovan, and set off to find the wizard’s former apprentice, Yvette.

    While Yvette’s home was wealthier than Jovan’s, they had fewer magical protections in place. Instead, Ebon encountered a different problem. When he arrived, Yvette had the letters directly in her possession, and was poring over them tearfully. Ebon didn’t want to waste time with formalities, and presented himself unannounced before the young woman. Since he couldn’t exactly snatch the letters from her grasp, he decided to try intimidation instead.

    “Jovan sent me. He wants his letters back. Give them to me.”

    He let his frustration seethe through him, knowing it would darken his form and cause his eyes to flare red. That usually was enough to put the fear into the bravest of men. He expected the young woman to shrink away from him and perhaps even toss the letters his way in order to get him to leave her be. Instead, she gripped the letters with greater fervour and offered only resistance.

    “No! They’re all I have left of him. He thinks I don’t love him, but I’m not marrying another by choice. I was betrothed to the cad by my parents – an arranged marriage to better business relations. I would give anything to get out of it, but my father is convinced that Terrance is a good man. He’s not, but without evidence to show otherwise, they’ll never agree to free me from the obligation to marry him.”

    “If I bring you evidence to this effect, you will give me the letters?”

    Yvette nodded.

    “But you have to tell Jovan that I wanted to keep them, because I do still love him,” she insisted. “If you promise me that much and then bring me the evidence I need, you can have the letters.”

    Ebon sighed inwardly, ruing the fact that it was such a convoluted path to obtain the scribal services that he required, entangled in some foolish love triangle.

    “And this Terrance? Where can I find him?” Ebon groaned.

    “He and his business associates meet regularly for revelry at the Decadent Thrush, an inn in the merchant area of town. You’ll likely find him there tonight, relaxing after a day’s work. He invited me, but I have no interest in joining him solely for appearance sake. He does not actually enjoy my company and I think he is a mean-hearted boor.”

    “Fine, an evening at the Decadent Thrush it is then.”

    Ebon slunk away begrudgingly. As opposed to waiting for evening, he made his way to the inn that late afternoon to wait. He had nothing better to, and it allowed him time to select an appropriate spot to position himself within the shadows where he had a complete view of the entire barroom. He was actually grateful that he had chosen to venture there early when Terrance made an appearance. At least, Ebon was fairly certain that it was him based on the description that Yvette had given him. Terrance was there long before he was scheduled to meet with his friends. And he was not alone.

    The woman who joined him secretively, once the young man had seated himself in the dimmest corner of the barroom quite close to where Ebon was standing, looked like some sort of high-priced courtesan. Her “wares” were clearly on display, but the fabrics of her well-tailored clothing were expensive and the heady perfume she wore was laced with pricy exotic flowers and spices. She approached Terrance cautiously, and once she was certain that nobody was watching, albeit the wrong conclusion, she bent and whispered into his ear. The arrogant-looking young man smirked and watched her walk away, ascending the stairs to the upper level of the inn. A few minutes later, Terrance pursued her.

    Ebon followed the errant fiancé up the stairs just in time to see him disappear into a room on the upper level. The wraith-mage listened at the door for a couple of seconds, and once he was sure they were well-distracted, he shifted through the closed door, into the room beyond.

    The two were entangled together atop the bed, Terrance’s lips firmly attached to the jezebel’s and his tongue thrust deep within her mouth. Neither of them had noticed Ebon enter.

    “I hate having to meet like this,” the woman whined, when they finally came up for air. “It’s so inconvenient and unfair…and I don’t want to share.”

    “Not that much longer, Loretta. I’m to be wed in two weeks and then it is just a matter of impregnating that loathsome cow I’m expected to marry to secure her family’s favour. She might be a frigid bitch, but she’ll have to put out on our wedding night. Once she is a few months into her pregnancy, I’ll dose her with the potion the apothecary provided. Mother and babe will die apparently of natural causes, a conception gone wrong, and after a few months of playing the mournful husband, I’ll be free to return to you.” Terrance spoke the words with such evil glee, savouring the idea. Such cruel intentions would have shocked the average person, but with Ebon they fell upon a hollow heart.

    Considering this revelation sufficient ammunition, Ebon departed to return to Yvette. He did not want to hang around long enough to play voyeur as the pair romped between the sheets. All that would do would be to remind him of some of the physical pleasures he might never again be capable of enjoying. He wasn’t about to put himself through that kind of torment.

    Yvette was startled to see him return so soon. As she listened to Ebon’s recounting of what he had seen, her face first paled, then blotched with red, both furious and horrified at the same time. She intended on bringing the tale to her father immediately. Since Terrance would not be returning home until the wee hours of the night, his belongings would be searched for the potion he had referred to, and militia men would be sent to question the innkeeper and the apothecary. There would be enough proof to warrant postponing the wedding and eventually cancelling it altogether. There might even be criminal charges brought against Yvette’s murderous betrothed.

    She allowed Ebon to take the letters in order to return them to Jovan, but once again sought affirmation that he would tell Jovan of her true feelings and explain as much of her unfortunate situation as possible.

    When Ebon arrived, bearing the letters in his telekinetic grasp, the Master wizard was waiting for him. He was not expecting the wraith-mage to appeal to him on Yvette’s behalf, and while his grim expression did not change much as Ebon spoke, he seemed receptive to the story, and a smile gleamed in his bespectacled eyes.

    Jovan gladly took the letters from Ebon, and without another word, before Ebon had even bothered to dismiss his spell, the Master wizard had passed him Bartholomew’s contract. Ebon accepted it into his magical grasp.

    “You know, you could keep this and simply provide the services that I requested from your retained scribe yourself,” Ebon suggested. “I don’t care who completes my application form for the university for me. It’s just that circumstances dictate that it has to be someone other than myself.”

    But Jovan waved him off.

    “The reason I retained Bartholomew in the first place was because such things are too trivial to merit my time. I have more important things to attend to, especially now. Besides, I’ve more than profited from my contract with Bartholomew, and I think he has earned freedom from our agreement by initiating this whole chain of events. Take it back to him, and you can let him know that you are doing so by my good graces.”

    Ebon didn’t wait around long enough for the wizard to change his mind. Extending his telekinesis spell, he carried the contract back to the scribe. Bartholomew was surprised to see him.

    “You return? So soon? I didn’t expect to see you again. The others I hired to fetch my contract for me never came back for their fee,” the scribe said, astonished.

    “Well, I am not ‘the others.’ Not only do I return to restore your contract to you, Jovan acknowledges that you have fulfilled your obligation and will not seek out any further services without appropriate recompense.”

Ebon dismissed his spell, allowing the roll of parchment to drop to the table. With an air of disbelief, Bartholomew snatched it up and unrolled it, eager to investigate. He scanned it carefully, gasping with pleasure when he was satisfied that what Ebon had brought him was the actual document he had sought.

“Now it is your turn to fulfill your end of the bargain,” the wraith-mage breathed. With another spell, he manifested a copy of the Magic University form directly from the Magistrate’s office onto the counter in front of the scribe.

There were no arguments from Bartholomew. After setting aside his contract for future disposal, he gathered the supplies he needed to fill out the form, ink and quill, and settled himself down in front of the document. Perched there, he glanced up at Ebon and grinned.

“Alright then – from the beginning. Surname…?”

Read more of Ebon’s adventures in Masters & Renegades: Magic University from May December Publications, available as an ebook and now in trade paperback format at:

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