Weal or Woe (Book Excerpt)

Shaundar trained his glass on the approaching vessels; and then he saw something that froze his blood in his veins.  He uttered a curse that would have blistered paint.  “Bring ‘er about!  Get us out of here!   Max tactical!” he howled, limping over to the mainsail to begin tacking.  “Dammit, Trevan!  Grimmauld!  Help me!”

Trevan just stared at him for a few long moments.  “Have you gone completely insane?!” he exploded at last.  “How are we going to get rescued if we run away?”

“That’s no rescuer,” he moaned.  “They’re flying the flag of the illithid.  Mind flayers!” Continue reading

Book Excerpt: Haunted

Shaundar and Yathar stood with Sylria on Queenie’s Castle Deck, smoking cigars together.  They’d stopped smoking pipes because it was just too time consuming to load and light, and a waste of perfectly good tobacco if they were suddenly called into action, which happened more and more frequently.  The cigars were cheap and slightly sour – the best they could generally do on their Lieutenant’s pay – but Shaundar was becoming almost affectionately attached to them.

Supply lines were becoming more strained, too.  Occasionally, the alu’quesst ration was being supplemented with the human creation of grog.  Shaundar was not fond of it and generally chose not to have his allotted taut when that was what was available.  But he didn’t complain.  Nobody did.  That was just what there was.

They were in orbit around the Karpri space station, along with the burnt-out hulks of a Scorpion and an Ogre Mammoth, and a Hammership that was technically a prize but would likely be pressed into Navy service, depriving them of their shares.  The prisoners – survivors, is more like it, Shaundar thought privately – were few enough to be kept comfortably in the Hammership’s hold.  They had been exceptionally meek.  This was making the Matey jumpy, but Shaundar had no doubt that it was no act.

The Karpri station showed recent signs of battle to go with its ancient scars from when the illithid had destroyed it just after the First Unhuman War.  Shaundar felt badly for it.  The starfly plants that comprised it seemed deeply saddened.  Or maybe he was just being maudlin.  He was not sure what had possessed the scro to decide to take it.  Surely they must have guessed that there would be a reason that the elves had not used it themselves, now that war had returned to Realmspace?

The Queen’s Dirk had been sent to stop them, and stop them they had, but by the time they had arrived, the enemy had already landed and all hands not actively manning the helm were forced to become a boarding party.  Shaundar shook his head to banish yesterday’s images of screaming and blood from his mind.  Ship battles could be brutal but they were rarely so personal.  He wondered how Yathar managed it, being a marine. Continue reading

In the Hands of the Enemy (Book Excerpt) * Trigger Warning

The following book excerpt contains scenes of graphic violence and torture.  Discretion is advised.

A door opened.  Shaundar tried to get a grip on himself at once; the last thing their captors needed to see was weakness.  His eyes blinked against the sudden brightness of the lantern in the corridor, but it was quickly blocked by an enormous silhouette.  Its owner was a scro; gray-skinned and huge, with arms like tree trunks.

“Ah, good, you’re awake,” the scro rumbled in a voice that sounded almost like a lion purring.  His unconscious echo of Yathar’s earlier remark was a little disturbing.  It was odd to hear the Espruar tongue in such a rough baritone voice.  “Maybe you’ll be more forthcoming than your friends.”  He grabbed Shaundar’s shirt and with one hand lifted him to his feet.  Shaundar was too weak to stand, however, and his leg startled him with the blinding jolt of pain it reported when his weight was put on it.  He made a noise that sounded to his own ears like the bleat of a goat.

Yathar was on his feet as well.  “He just came to a minute ago,” he was saying.  “He’s still not quite aware.  You should give him some time.”

The scro backhanded Yathar in the face as casually as one might swat an insect.  He crumpled backwards against the wall.  Shaundar noticed now a purple bruise all the way around Sylria’s left eye.  He imagined this scro punching her in the face the way he had just punched Yathar and his fists involuntarily tightened.

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The Battle of Glyth’s Rings (Book Excerpt)

Tel’Quessir,” Captain Yvoleth began as he paced the Castle Deck, rounding the catapult turret, while the First Mate, whose name was Solahlyn Aelorothi, lurked by the hatchway with his arms folded, “I have just received orders from the Admiralty.  Strange ships have been sighted in the rings of Glyth.  They may be Scorpions.”

Shaundar let out a low whistle.  Well, that would complicate things.  Glyth was known to be a colony of illithids – squid-faced aliens who ate only brains – who kept humanoids of all sorts as “cattle” on the burnt out surface of the planet.  They were also known to patrol local space to add to their collection, despite the efforts of the Navy to curtail this.  Furthermore, the rings of Glyth were made up almost entirely of several small rocks and ice blocks, dangerous to navigate and often difficult to see.

“As the closest Navy ship, we have been ordered to investigate,” the Captain continued.  “If there are enemy ships present, we have been authorized to engage them.”

The blood started pounding through Shaundar’s veins.  Was this going to be it at last?

“So I’m sorry, leave is cancelled for now.  We need to see what’s there before they have a chance to move or hide.  We’re three days to Glyth from our present orbit.  Etriel Sylria, plot us a course.”

Sylria, Second Helmsman but Primary Navigator, saluted.  “Av, quessir.  I’ll head to the Chart Room now, sir, with your permission.”  The Captain nodded and she climbed down the hatch.

“Many of you have never seen combat before,” the Captain went on, fixing each of them with his kind but dark hazel eyes, which came to rest on Shaundar and Yathar.  “If this turns out to be the opening gambit of the War in Realmspace, keep calm, do the jobs you have been trained to do, and trust your crewmates, and all will be well.”  He smiled at them encouragingly.

Av, quessir!” they chorused.  Eyes glittered and the smiles were jovial.  They were ready to fight.

“Mr.  Yathar, you are also certified as a battlepoet, are you not?” the Captain inquired.

Av, quessir,” Yathar affirmed.

He grinned.  “I’m sure you know a few rousing battle ballads in addition to all those bawdy tunes you sing at the tavern.  Let’s hear one; that should put us all in the proper frame of mind.”

Yathar beamed.  “I’ll fetch my lute, sir!”  Yvoleth nodded and Yathar went to do so.

“Mr.  Sunfall,” the Captain said.

“Sir!” Shaundar replied, immediately at attention again.

The Captain smiled knowingly.  “I’m sure reverie will not come easily to you with a hot head to match your hot blood, but do your best.  We’ll be running full jamming shifts until we reach the rings of Glyth.”

Av, quessir,” Shaundar nodded.

The Captain returned his nod sharply.  “All right then.  All hands to stations.”

The boatswain piped the order and the crew fell in as commanded. Continue reading

First Flight (Book Excerpt)

Shaundar had hardly been able to rest at all that night.  He tossed and turned in the hammock until Tyelatae poked him in the ribs and told him to be quiet.  It probably didn’t help that Yathar whispered back and forth excitedly (and enviously, to be truthful) with him for most of the night.  Eventually he pulled out his charcoal and paper and drew pictures of flitters cruising through space until he finally fell into a cheerful dream about flying through a colourful nebula.

He was already waiting for Garan at the first bell.  Garan laughed out loud when he saw Shaundar there.  “Got the bug already, do you?” he chuckled.

“I always wanted to do this, Garan,” he confessed.

Garan shouldered a haversack and asked Shaundar, “Did you bring a lunch?”

Shaundar was crestfallen.  “No, I didn’t think to do that.”

Garan tried to keep his serious expression, but Shaundar’s stricken look made the corner of his mouth twitch into a smile.  “Don’t worry; I brought one for both of us, just in case.”

Shaundar grinned widely.  “Thank you, Garan.”

He clapped Shaundar’s shoulder.  “Let’s do this.  Get on board.”
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The Aerdrie’s Pride (Book Excerpt)

All week Shaundar had been at the docks, lending a hand with the loading.  It was a mind-boggling process, keeping track of all the provisions, which had to be taken into orbit bit by bit in flitters, since elven Armada-class ships were incapable of landfall.  It was amazing how many things were required to feed the crew of a dreadnaught!  First there came the dried provisions; waybread, dried fruits, peas and beans, pemmican and cornbread (innovations of the green elves borrowed by the Imperial Elven Navy,) and these in scores of enormous wooden crates.  Next were the preserves; fruit preserves, pickles of all sorts, magically-sealed and preserved citrus fruits to prevent Sailor’s Disease, these in scores of slightly smaller crates that were easier to carry.  They were followed by barrel after crate full of baking and cooking supplies: flour, honey, baking powder, yeast, spices, and butter in magically-preserved containers.  After that came crates and crates of various kinds of nuts.  Then came all the fresh foods, some of which were in the form of items that kept well (such as apples, potatoes and cheeses,) some in the form of carefully-tended live plants (like the miniature orange trees and the potted beans) and some were in the form of live animals (domesticated fowl for eggs, rabbits for fresh meat.)  Flitter after flitter carried the items and creatures into the stars, where a large butterfly appeared to be hovering.  Shaundar knew that was his father’s – and now, his – ship, the Aerdrie’s Pride.
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The Face of the Enemy (Book Excerpt)

Cleaning up the mess took days.  Of the roughly 400 elves, humans and gnomes who had participated in the Battle of Leira, at least a hundred and fifty of them were casualties, which included Yathar’s axe slice because it required stitches, but not the minor bleeding wound that the goblin’s blade had given Shaundar, because it did not.  Half the city seemed to be burnt or damaged.  When the Scro Fleet had taken over, they had assaulted the city from orbit.  This would have counted as a war crime in the Elven Navy, and the perpetrators would have been court martialled, but apparently this was par for the course in scro rules of engagement.

Fortunately the civilian casualties had actually been minimal.  Those bunkers that Commander Aravel had referred to sheltered most of the populace, and much of the city damage, Shaundar later learned, was from the Orcish forces trying to dig or burn them out.

The Realmspace Fleet arrived later on the day of the battle and captured the Scro fleet in orbit around Selune.  Shaundar was trying not to be a little cross that none of those who had fought planetside were being offered any of the prize share, when they did all the hard work.

The elven military was divided into three groups; one to put out the raging fire in the dockyards so that ships could land, one to gather up the wounded and the dead, and one to guard the approximately 300 prisoners.  This was the one consolation for their high casualty rate; the orcs had done worse.  Shaundar was, surprisingly, assigned to guard detail.  He and Yathar were specifically directed to watch the Scro Commander.  “He’ll respect you more because you captured him,” Uncle Madrimlian explained when he landed to aid with the clean-up efforts.  “We’re learning more about them.  It’s cultural.  His honour demands that he obey you, since it’s you he surrendered to.  We’ll have less trouble this way.”  He then smiled and clapped Shaundar on the shoulder.  “Good job on that, incidentally.”

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