The Tower of Boran – Giveaway

Speaking of giveaways, if you haven’t had the chance to read Shauna Scheets‘s The Tower of Boran yet, you can enter the drawing below to win a free signed copy!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Tower of Boran by Shauna Scheets

The Tower of Boran

by Shauna Scheets

Giveaway ends May 20, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Want it now?  You can pick up the paperback at most online retailers, or purchase the eBook in all major formats at Smashwords.

 

Bene Scribete.

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Atlanta Nights

I suddenly realized that I haven’t talked about this book, yet.  An unfortunate oversight that I must now rectify, as it is something every aspiring author should read:

 

Atlanta Nights Cover

 

The story behind Atlanta Nights is classic.  About ten years ago, a group of thirty-some science fiction and fantasy authors, led by James D. Macdonald, set out to expose PublishAmerica as a non-discriminating vanity press against their claims of being a selective, traditional publisher (partially in response to the firm’s derogatory public statements about the sci-fi/fantasy genres and their writers).  The plan was simple – to create the most magically awful novel ever written, and get PublishAmerica to bite.

Each author, skillfully penning his or her most deliberately atrocious narrative, wrote a single section based on a vague outline, without cross-collaboration.   The result was a glorious disasterpiece.  Chapters repeat or are missing (one is even generated by a computer), the same events recur in different ways, characters change motivation, appearance, and sex, and the plot is wildly incoherent.  When finished, they submitted the compiled manuscript to PublishAmerica under the pseudonym “Travis Tea” (ha-ha) to see if they would accept it.

They did.

A couple months later, the group revealed the hoax to the public.  Conveniently, the very next day, PublishAmerica retracted their offer to publish the book, stating that upon further review, it did not quite meet their standards.  Gee.  (>^-‘)>

Fortunately, the group turned around and published the book on Lulu for the rest of the world to see.  And see it you should.  It’s hilarious.  Each chapter plays up some common mistake, bad writing habit, or other.  It’s effectively a negative blueprint for good storytelling.  A perfect example of everything not to do.  What makes it especially great is that it straddles a line where you can almost take it seriously – we’ve all seen bad but well-intentioned writing – and that gives its absurdities just the right punch.  As they say, “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

But I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that’s so fantastically wrong with this book.  Just do yourself a favor and check it out – your mind may burst, but you might end up a more judicious writer for it.  (>^-‘)>

The paperback is available in the usual places, and they offer the manuscript PDF for free download.

 

“The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts.”

— Teresa Nielsen Hayden

 

Bene scribete.

Watch a Writer Write

My good friend Matt Price alerted me to this interesting item the other day:

 

 

It’s a screen-capture video Brandon Sanderson (or Branderson, as I like to call him) posted of himself writing his next book in real-time.  You may know Branderson as the famed author of the Mistborn series and finisher of The Wheel of Time.  Although I have yet to read one of his books, I’ve been greatly impressed by the vast amount of well-received work he’s able to put out.

That’s why this video surprises me.  Seeing him in the writing process, it would appear that he is nearly as obsessive, indecisive, and back-and-forth as I am.  This is honestly painful for me to watch, because it’s too much like seeing myself write (complete with cursor-twitching, shunting stuff below, and pre-chapter notes).  I actually had to stop myself from grabbing at the keyboard and mouse to try and make edits to what he was doing.  With his level of output, I expected him to be a draft-blaster who’d zip through and edit later, but now I’m even more amazed with his productivity.  I suppose he did do 400 words in twenty minutes, though, which if a consistent pace would be nothing to scoff at.

Anyway, if you want to see how one prolific author goes about whipping up a draft (or how I do, for that matter), give it a watch.

As a side note, I am pleased to see that he still double-spaces sentences.  Even if he forgot how to spell ‘oar’.

 

Bene scribete.

Chapter 1-4

This week, I’m sharing out the current drafts of the prologue and first chapter of The Book with a little bit of commentary.  Click here if you’d like to to start from the beginning!

 

O.K., last one for now!  In the final scene of the first chapter, we switch back to Lennais for a closer look at his place in the world.  The concept of the caledoran (animal-people) is introduced, we get the first glimpse of the princess, Elysa (a later focal character), and we meet the pompous Sir Gammond. An older version of this scene was how I had originally handled Lennais’s introduction, but the prior sequence ended up feeling like a much better starting point.


 

Dummy Cover
 

(C1-4)

 
“I’d heard it was dragons as did it,” Sir Dennen Farr was saying, a younger knight of the First Order, clean shaven with a shock of sand colored curls.  “Can’t say I fought one of them just quite yet, but I’d wager a taste of steel would send ‘em running back to that queen o’ theirs.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain of that,” countered Sir Norris Blackwood, chewing on a leg of roast turkey.  “They spit fire and lightning and any other manner of nastiness if tales be true; why would they fear a sword?”  He was an older knight, with a short beard and peppered black hair, his right cheek bearing a scar from the slash that took most of his ear.

“Not the sword, Norris, but the man who wields it.”  Sir Dennen made a flourish with his knife.  “Lastern’s finest.  Isn’t that right, Commander?”

Lennais looked up from his stew, the last of which he was mopping up with a chunk of soft golden bread.  “No greater knights could His Majesty find.”  He took a bite of the bread, watching the men beam from the endorsement.  “And a great knight should remember to demonstrate the virtue of humility as an example for our brothers-in-arms.”  Dennen shrugged affably, but bowed his head in acknowledgement.  “No one can tell us exactly what is happening outside our walls at the moment,” Lennais continued, “but we shall find the truth soon enough, and if swords are needed, I shall be the first to raise mine.  Until then, let us not play part in the spreading of this troubling gossip.”  The others nodded their understanding as he rose, gathering his empty cup into his bowl.

The knight commander made his way through the crowded dining hall toward the adjoining kitchen.  As he passed the high table, he spotted the king’s eldest living child, Elysa, sitting alone.  She was a girl of sixteen, draped in a laced white gown, long dark auburn hair tied back and calm hazel eyes pondering a colorful arrangement of fruit before her.

“Sir Lennais,” she said softly as he passed.

He faced her and rendered a bow.  “Good evening, Your Highness.  Not dining with your father, today?”

The princess picked up a thin slice of green melon.  “I had not much of an appetite, earlier.  Though I suppose it has not improved as much as I would have liked.  In truth, I may have simply wished for an excuse to be amidst the others who share the castle without the distraction of familial obligations.”  She set the melon back down, then turned her eyes to the knight.  “I hear from my uncle that you have settled the matter of the counterfeits?”

“For the anes, at least.”

“Was the coin of Avenic origin?”

“I fear thus.  Nevertheless, the supplier has been named, and can expect to be turned away at the harbor.”

Elysa nodded slowly, looking back to her melon slice as she turned it over in her hand again.  “I am often convinced we should be better off to readopt the Indolic Standard.”

“May that it would be, though I am certain it is no matter with which you need worry yourself so.”

“There I must disagree with you, Commander.  So many concerns have few enough who bother to consider them.”  She offered a small smile, a succinct and cordial expression crafted perfectly by her upbringing to mask the distance in her eyes.  “Good evening, Lennais.”

“Your Highness.”  He bowed and continued onward, stepping into the kitchen, then set his dishes amidst the piles of others waiting to be cleaned.

“Did you enjoy your supper, Commander?” a cheerful voice rang beside him.

“Delightful, as always, Liria,” Lennais regarded the young lessiporan warmly as she ladled stew into another row of bowls for the castle’s hungry staff and attendants.  Lessip oran translated to something in the manner of ‘rabbit folk’ from the old fay tongue, which was a simple if not fittingly concise way to describe the race.  Liria’s size and body were of roughly human proportion, but her features were otherwise leporine.  Like other varieties of caledoran, she had the head and tail of the animal, as well as the feet, although they lacked the pads and digitigrade structure of the more commonly seen carnivorous mammals.  Her hands still seemed half-paw, but that did not appear to inhibit her aptitude in the kitchen.

“Good, good,” Liria said, rubbing her brow.  “That’s what I like to hear.”  She was covered in a coat of soft grey-wheat fur, with a light cream encircling her eyes, down her chin and chest, and on her underarms and toes.  Her long ears, while naturally upright, were pulled down and back while she worked, as a woman might hold her hair.  Despite the fur, she wore a loose-fitting tunic and breeches over her ungracefully thin frame, slotted to hold a variety of cooking utensils.

“There was something new about the stew, I think.  A different seasoning, perhaps?” Lennais asked, gesturing toward the pot she held.

“You noticed?” she grinned, setting the pot down and picking up a basket of fresh-baked rolls, placing one by each bowl.  “Our stocks are out of the black pepper I use as custom, so I tried a bit of turmeric in its place.  A suitable change, then?”

“Certainly.  It seemed to bring out a livelier flavor.”  Lennais was not entirely sure what turmeric was, but he did like what it did to the dish; Liria’s experimentation produced highly palatable results more often than not.  “Serve it that way from now and hence, and I should not count it a shame.”

The lessiporan bowed courteously.  “I am happy to please you, sir.”  She turned away and set to chopping a pile of long purple carrots for another batch.  “I haven’t seen Father this evening.  I hope you will see that he comes for his supper?  You know how cross he can be when he hasn’t eaten.”  She twitched her nose playfully at him.

“I hardly think that will be necessary,” scoffed Sir Gammond Hornswell, stepping up to the serving counter.  The captain’s son was a few years junior to Lennais, and had the same lean build.  Locks as dark as pitch fell from his scalp in loose curls, framing a handsome face which was rarely seen without either a self-satisfied smirk or a sneer of distaste.

It was the latter he wore today.  “Commander,” he greeted flatly, eyes flickering toward Lennais before disdainfully surveying his meal options.  In skill, no one could deny that he was Galfrey’s son; his swordsmanship had earned him a place in the First Order, though it was clear enough he believed himself entitled to something more.

“Hello, Gammond,” Liria smiled nervously.  “I—I hope—”

Sir Gammond,” the knight corrected, folding his arms.  “You will address me properly, Liria.  Your animal mind is not too simple to understand your place, is it?”

She bowed her head respectfully.  “No, sir.”

“Then see that you heed it.”  He called up his smirk.  “And don’t let me catch you spouting any more of this ‘Father’ talk.”

Lennais offered the other knight a cold look, but said nothing.  It was not his place to involve himself in a family affair, which was, oddly enough, exactly what this was.  Ten years prior, Sir Galfrey had caught Liria stealing from the food supply stores, and chose to put the eight-year-old orphan in the kitchens to work off her debt.  There, she soon displayed a culinary creativity which caught the interest of the other staff, and eventually rose from scullion to head cook when King Malcolm had learned she was behind several of his new favorite dishes.

Galfrey, who had lost his wife during the stillbirth of his own daughter, had grown fond of the girl, and despite murmurings of protest, gave her the honor of naming her part of the Hornswell household.  It was a small token of conciliation to those who felt it an affront to work under a caledoran orphan, but enough that it would be untoward for most to speak against her standing.

Gammond picked up a bowl of stew and sniffed at it, wrinkling his nose.  “I had best not find any rabbit hair in this.  I should hate for you to tarnish our food as you do the Hornswell name.”  He turned to depart, and Lennais met Liria’s eyes with something between apology and sympathy before following.

“The whole damned court is up in arms over this Densbury business,” Gammond complained to him as they made their way back through the dining hall, glancing around the room.

“It represents a threat to Lasterene ground and Lasterene people,” Lennais reminded him.  “Do you believe it is not a matter to be taken seriously?”

“As seriously as it needs to be.  I see no cause for getting spooked over it.”  He shook his head.  “What force in all of Candaela Minor can stand against the organized might of Lastern?  Whoever sacked the colony will soon enough be rooted out and crushed.”

“An optimistic view of the long term,” Lennais admitted, “but for the time being, those who have not the fortune to live within stone walls may yet have something to fear.”

“A distraction which can only dilute our efforts to resolve the matter quickly,” Gammond snorted, taking a seat at the First Order’s table.  “The serfs must learn to have confidence in His Majesty’s knights.  We ought to send out a peacekeeping force to calm the streets now before rumors get any more out of hand.”

“Mayhap we shall.”  Lennais put a hand on Gammond’s shoulder.  “And I believe I know the perfect man to lead it.”

Gammond looked questioningly up at his commander, his face darkening as realization set in.  Lennais offered a small smile and a curt nod, then turned to exit the hall.  Gammond protested, “Surely you can’t—any knight of the court would—”

“—do well enough, I imagine,” Lennais finished.  “Although the captain would wish that such a delicate matter employ the expertise of a knight of the highest caliber, would you not agree?”  He looked back over his shoulder, no trace of mirth remaining in his features.  “I should hate to tarnish the Hornswell name by offering any less.”


 

Bene scribete.

Chapter 1-3

This week, I’m sharing out the current drafts of the prologue and first chapter of The Book with a little bit of commentary.  Click here if you’d like to to start from the beginning!

 

In the third scene, we go back to Xenasi and try to get more of a feel for her as she stumbles deeper into events at large.


 

Dummy Cover
 

(C1-3)

 

As Xenasi patrolled the woods around her grove, she could not quite shake the uncanny sensation that she was being followed.

Stopping for the third time in as many hours, she stilled herself and listened, eyes panning around for anything unusual, but catching little aside from the small birds in the web of boughs high above.  She slipped a canine over her lower jaw and blew, then continued onward, convincing herself again that she was simply imagining things.

She had discovered some of the human tracks which had gotten her sister so worked up, but they seemed confused and aimless.  Hardly worth the fuss.  She had not seen Kaliska herself in the few days since their argument, but this was nothing unusual; they had not lived together since their father’s death, and often went a moon or two without meeting up.  Xenasi was used to being alone; she had always been something of an outsider and had come to terms with what that entailed.  She could take care of herself, and was better off for it.

After another few minutes of walking, she caught the faint smell of deer ahead, and her stomach offered a pointed reminder that it had been neglected long enough.  She idled a moment, reluctantly forcing her mind to switch gears, then followed the scent until a gentle rustling cued her in to her prey’s position.

Keeping downwind, the dragon lowered herself and crept closer, stalking silently over a carpet of twigs and leaves until she spotted the small tawny doe grazing on a lush patch of long grass, still oblivious to the fate which awaited her.  Xenasi folded her wings in tighter and shifted slowly toward the animal, positioning herself behind the thick rotted trunk of a fallen birch.

Slowing her breath to a calm and steady rhythm, Xenasi stretched carefully out, acutely aware of the tension in each muscle and tendon, an electric charge running through every joint in her limber frame.  She flexed her claws and her eyes focused, taking in every detail about the animal and its immediate surroundings, watching for the slightest movement.  For a moment, nothing else existed.

The doe looked up, then bolted.  She was fast, but Xenasi was faster.  The dragon leapt into her prey’s path, colliding with the doe and taking her down in a whirling tumble which ended with her jaws around the back of the animal’s neck and her claws deep within its flanks.  With a sharp twist of her head, she heard a wet snap and felt the doe give a violent shudder and kick which devolved into a spurt of jitters before stopping entirely.

Xenasi took her time with the kill.  She carefully peeled back the skin on its sides, cooking the choicest sections with short controlled bursts of dragonfire, and filled her stomach with as much as it could take before folding the remains up neatly, having eaten evenly from both sides to preserve its symmetry.  Satisfied with the pleasant but painful weight in her gut, she sat and cleaned herself thoroughly, her saliva making short work of the blood on her arms, snout, and anywhere else it had splattered.

Grogginess began to set in, and she was tempted to nap after gorging, but before she could commit to the notion a faint wheezing from deeper within the woods caught her attention. The sound was accompanied by what she only now noticed to be the hint of a peculiar odor.  She listened intently, and the noise came once more.  Leaving the doe’s carcass behind for whatever lucky scavenger would chance across it next, she cautiously slinked amidst the trees to investigate, keeping low and alert as she twisted around their trunks.

In another moment, she came upon the body of a human, leaning motionless against a gnarled birch, covered in a torn, drab garment caked in dirt and blood.  Xenasi watched for a few moments before approaching the body.  So far as she could tell it seemed female, older with long matted tresses of a faded earthy hue.  So there are still men here…  It could not mean anything good.  What happened to this one?

As the dragon leaned in for a sniff, the woman’s eyes snapped open and her body shook with a ragged gasp.  Xenasi recoiled instinctively, lifting a clawed hand.

“Demon…!” the woman rasped, her eyes wide and quaking with revulsion.

Xenasi bristled.  “I’m not a demon…” she responded quietly, with a bit more indignation than she intended.  She narrowed her eyes but lowered her claw.  This creature was no threat.

The woman tried futilely to push herself away with one arm, struggling to raise the other to point an accusing finger at the dragon.  “You took…killed…”  She shook her head feebly, gnashing her gums together as she struggled to bring forth the words.  “My hus…the f—the whole…whole village…  We were…good people.  We—we said our prayers…  Why?”  The tears welling up in the corner of her eyes began trickling down her cheeks.  “Why?” she sobbed, letting her finger drop as she turned her gaze toward the sky.

The dragon averted her eyes for a moment, feeling oddly stricken by force of the allegation.  “I didn’t—what was—what happened?”  She looked around.  “Is there anyone else?”

You defiled them!” the woman cried, spattering loose strands of spittle down her chin, her breath growing heavy and increasingly labored.  “The White…the White will see retribution done.”  Her frail hands coiled into trembling fists and her eyes fluttered shut.  “They will tear…the black heart…from your breast…”  That notion brought a crooked smile to her face, and it was thus her countenance remained when her chest collapsed and she ceased to move.

Xenasi stared for another moment, feeling her full stomach knot and turn sickly.  Her thoughts drifted toward the village a couple days’ travel to the east as the implications of the woman’s words gnawed at the edge of her mind.  It couldn’t…she wouldn’t… She tried ardently to shake away the darker suspicions that began to crave recognition, and she found herself clutching at the pendant around her neck.

Another sound from the north pulled her focus away.  This one was fainter by distance, yet had more weight behind it.  It was not the weakening struggles of one, but the purposeful motions of many.  She strained to make it out.  Is it getting closer?

Xenasi began a careful stride toward it, wanting to get a glimpse at what she was hearing without being seen herself.  The sound was getting louder.  Footsteps.  Travelling.  Xenasi made her way on what she hoped to be a course parallel to the approach, so as not to intercept it directly.  She listened again to confirm her path, then took another step, and felt her arm go through the ground.

A sudden burst of pain exploded below her elbow, and she had to clench her throat shut to avoid crying out.  Her vision swam in a blurry haze as she looked down, seeing leaves, dirt, and twigs piled around and caved in below her arm.  She quickly but carefully scooped them away to reveal the jagged metal clamps which had seized her.  Holding her breath, she tried to free her arm and the contraption from the hole they were in, but it did not budge, and moving her trapped arm hurt so badly that a rush of dizziness threatened to rip away her consciousness.

She tried to pry the trap open from where it was, but could not get enough leverage with only one arm, and the hole was too narrow to get her teeth down in to assist.  She tried to dig it larger with her free claws, but the ground was still cold and stiffly packed, and what little progress she was able to make was counteracted by the tension it caused on the trap itself.

She stopped struggling for a moment and took several long, ragged breaths, noting that the passage of footsteps was nearer still.  The cold of the ground was beginning to numb her arm, creating an unpleasant contrast with the warm trickles of blood slipping down it and pooling at the bottom of the hole.  She lay down gingerly, trying not to strain her arm, and felt her mind go fuzzy.  Her foremost thought was suddenly that she wanted Kaliska very badly, and would even welcome the stern reproach she was sure to get for being so careless.  But such futile wishing would not do; she could not rely on another to solve her problems.

Panting, she closed her eyes and tried desperately to focus.  I can get myself out of this…  Panic and pain were demanding her attention, but she needed to think clearly to get herself free.

Yet as she forced herself to relax, conscious thought began to lose coherence, and indifferent to any efforts she put forth toward escaping her predicament, her mind drifted off to the sound of footsteps.


 

Bene scribete.

Chapter 1-2

This week, I’m sharing out the current drafts of the prologue and first chapter of The Book with a little bit of commentary.  Click here if you’d like to to start from the beginning!

 

In the second scene of the first chapter, we return to Lastern and offer up the perspective of Lennais (len-EYE-iss), another focal character.  I had tried a few different (more direct) ways of introducing him before coming upon this one.  As it currently stands, out of all the opening matter, this is the scene with which I am most satisfied.


 

Dummy Cover
 

(C1-2)

 
“Father should be out, shortly,” piped the coal-haired boy as he re-entered the forechamber.

Lennais acknowledged the comment with a distracted nod, surveying the room around him.  The midday sun lanced through a few well-positioned windows and sent streaks of light along a floor of hewn stone, beaming off the ornate pot of an exotic plant amidst the otherwise modest furnishings.  Like his two companions who stood stiffly to either side behind him, he was wrapped in a long hooded cloak of brown wool, its cowl covering his nose and mouth.  A pair of mercenary soldiers who stood outside the door through which they had come remained at their post.

The only other among them, a well-dressed woman who looked to be the boy’s mother, placed a hand upon the child’s shoulder.  “I just had a fresh batch of biscuits baked if you would like some while you wait,” she offered pleasantly.  “Or perhaps some spiced wine?”

“My thanks,” Lennais responded, “but we do well enough.”  She smiled politely and inclined her head.

Another minute passed before the banker came forth to meet his guests, holding a hand over his mouth in a vain attempt to stifle the rough burps which escaped his lips.  “Ah, welcome,” he greeted after a forced swallow.  “My apologies; I was not expecting you for another few hours.  But, no matter – it is good to meet you, yes.”  He clasped his hands together as his features were graced by a grin that oozed the murk of insincerity.

“Where shall we speak?” asked Lennais.

“Right this way, my friend,” the banker gestured.

Lennais followed him into a smaller back room which was lit by slotted windows in the ceiling.  His two companions came close in tow, keeping behind him when he stopped before the desk at which the banker seated himself.

The banker was a tall but portly fellow, clad in an ostentatious array of brightly colored silks and linens, sporting a short cap of black curls which trailed down the sides of his square face to meet the neatly braided beard which dangled from his chin.  He laced his fingers together and leaned forward across his desk, raising his brow as he inspected his potential clients.  “Now, then – what sort of transaction are you looking to make?”

Lennais stepped forward, producing a golden auring from a pouch within his garment.  “I have some lucrative business with a few Avenic merchants.”  He turned the gold piece over in his hand and made a show of scrutinizing it.  “But they don’t care much for Lasterene coin.”  He set it upon the banker’s desk.  “I was told you are the man to facilitate me.”

The banker smiled again and picked up the coin.  “Ah, you need Indolic Standards.”  He opened a drawer in his desk and withdrew a larger coin, offering it over.  “You were told right, my friend.”

Lennais took the piece for examination.  The coinage left over from the fall of the Candaens was plentiful, and still used as international currency.  Unlike the Lasterene aurings, which bore a crown on one side and a scepter the other, the Indolic Standard Gold Piece was only single-struck, displaying a simple sun with nine thin rays drawing out toward the edge.  The specimen Lennais held was light in his palm, and in good repair.

“You could travel the world the rest of your life and not find a better deal than what I can give, my friend,” the banker continued.  “Three standards to four aurings.”  He must have seen Lennais’s eyes widen, for then he chuckled, “I have a lucrative arrangement of my own.”

“A respectable offer,” Lennais agreed, tossing the coin up and catching it.  “Shall we make an exchange?”

The banker pushed himself to his feet and stepped over to one corner of the room, retrieving a small chest which he hefted upon his desk, then pulled a key from one of his various pockets to open.  “How many are you looking to acquire?”

“More than that.”  When the banker gave him a suspicious look, Lennais nodded to his companions, who quit the premises to return momentarily hauling a larger chest between them.  Lennais unlatched the lid and threw it back, revealing the soft gleam of the aurings piled within.

For a moment the banker stared, then nodded as his smile slowly returned.  He made his way over to the heavy door behind him, produced another key to unlock it, and pulled it open.  He entered the vault and grunted as he pushed out a sizeable trunk, then removed the cover and waved a hand proudly over its contents.

The gold inside had even more splendor than Lennais’s own.  “These appear to be in exceedingly good condition for being more than three-thousand-year-old coin,” he observed.

The banker shrugged amicably.  “Gavendail still mints them, you must know.  I have a fresh source, and men like yourself get to take advantage of this generous bargain.  Everyone profits.”

Lennais reached into his cloak and withdrew a dagger.

The banker started, taking a step back and holding his hands up before him.  “Come, now…  They may not be Candaenic, but they are still good coin.  Gold is gold, my friend.”

“Gold is gold,” Lennais conceded, giving the coin another thoughtful turnover.  He then drove the tip of his dagger into it; rather than denting, it scraped, revealing the black underneath.  “But this is gilt iron.”

With a mournful sigh, the banker put down his hands and regarded the counterfeits, lowering his voice.  “Your merchants need not know that before they accept payment.  An attractive offer, a weighted casket…  They are busy men.”  That slimy grin made another appearance.  “I am prepared to give you one for one, auring for standard.  You will get twice what you pay for, I promise you.  Everyone profits.”

“I fear your time for profiting on forgery is at an end,” Lennais remarked.  “This operation cannot be allowed to continue.”

The banker pursed his lips.  “Think carefully before doing anything foolish.  I have guards waiting outside.”

“So do we.”  Lennais gestured at his companions, who removed their cloaks to reveal suits of chainmail underneath, over which lay light sleeveless surcoats emblazoned with the crown-and-sword sigil of the First Order.  “And they do not fight for false coin.”

Sir Lennais Sorell, Vice Commander of the First Order of the Crown, removed his own cowl and drew his sword.  A tall and lean man, two years from thirty, he possessed the copper-tan skin of the north, a sharp nose, and deep brown eyes which matched the neck-length shag of locks above.

The knight fixed the grimacing banker with a steely stare and leveled his sword.  “In the name of His Royal Majesty King Malcolm IV, you are hereby commanded to submit yourself into the custody of the Court for the crime of circulating tender counterfeit to a currency recognized by the Crown, in full knowledge of the same.”

The banker’s face grew pale and his tongue stumbled, but he had few enough words to mitigate the accusation.  He fumed silently but thankfully offered no resistance as Sir Ken Pollinder stepped forward to take him by the arm.

“Sir Baltan,” Lennais continued, slipping his sword back into its scabbard, “see to the confiscation of all monetary assets on the premises.”  They would need to sort through everything the banker had, weeding out the counterfeit and using the legitimate to compensate those who were given false coin.

“All of—” the banker shook his head fervently as Ken escorted him from the room, looking back to the commander in despair.  “You cannot, sir!  Owl take you, these are—this is everything I have!  My household earnings, my—my entire fortune!”  He may have protested further, but the knight who held him turned him roughly about and continued marching him out of the building.

Lennais gave a nod to Baltan Clay, who set about to gathering the variety of chests and coffers together for transport, and stepped back into the forechamber.  The banker’s son was huddled close against his mother, watching fearfully as his father was taken away from him.  The wife regarded Lennais with a look of disgust, pulling her arms protectively around her child.

When Baltan came out behind, hoisting the first of the smaller chests over his shoulder, Lennais leaned over and said quietly, “We’ll not be likely to miss a small pouch of aurings, I should think.”  The other knight offered back a quizzical look, but when he followed the commander’s eyes to the other two, he gave a hesitant nod before proceeding out the door.  It is unlikely that the whole of the banker’s capital was gained illicitly, Lennais told himself, and more so that his family played party to his unsavory business.

He stepped toward the woman and child.  “I know this is not an easy thing to bear, but if your husband should prove cooperative, he will be shown leniency,” he offered as a token of condolence.  In response, the wife wrinkled her nose and spat at his feet.  Lennais inclined his head.  “May the Emerald Scholar guide you to prudence in your hardship,” he spoke with earnest before exiting the banker’s hold.

Lennais returned to the coach his party had taken as Ken was chaining the banker within it.  He tasked a few of the city guards who had accompanied them with helping Sir Baltan load up the other carriage while he took inventory of the collected coinage.

It had taken over two moons’ time to track down the origin of the counterfeits’ circulation, involving three similarly set up exchanges, none of which accomplished much other than to give the Crown a healthier stock of foreign currency.  It was difficult to determine how many times the forged pieces had changed hands by the time they were reported, let alone who along the line had been complicit in the scheme.  Lennais supposed that those used to handling Lasterene coin might not immediately realize how much heavier an Indolic Standard should have been, or perhaps the initial outflow was typically done in large quantities as the banker suggested, but it seemed likely that the man they had just arrested was not the only guilty party.

With the distribution point removed, things could at least begin to normalize.  From where the independent banker was receiving these coins, however, was another matter entirely.  He could be persuaded to give up his source for some measure of clemency, Lennais did not doubt, but it was as likely as not that they came from across the sea, in which case all that could be done would be to keep an eye out for other potential distributors, should they be approached to pick up the arrangement.

He said as much to the Minister of the Treasury when he returned to court later that day.

“Mm,” the minister shook his head and waved his hand.  “Little we can do but to stay vigilant,” he concurred.  Hector Callistan was brother to the late queen, a wiry man with a bowl of fading blond atop his head and a close-trimmed beard encircling his mouth.  “Belike we shall have Elbon issue a warning to the merchantry, now that our dispenser has been uncovered.”  He set his hands upon his hips and looked away, twisting his mouth up as he sighed.  “But that will be a matter for later.  Excellent work, Commander.  You’ve saved the realm a share of grief that might have been, I have no doubt.”

“You honor me, my lord,” Lennais bowed.  “Though it was hardly my work, alone.”

“Lennais of Lithmark,” came an amiable voice behind him.  “Will you ever learn to take a compliment?”

Lennais turned at the approach of Sir Galfrey Hornswell, Captain of the First Order.  Though not quite so tall as Lennais, his commanding presence might have been enough to convince one otherwise were the two not standing adjacent.  Straight and hard-bodied with piercing green eyes, his short-cropped hair had gone grey while his thin mustache and small triangular beard remained black as tar.  Galfrey the Grand, he was called, Lennais’s greatest teacher and the finest knight he had ever known.

“Well met, sir,” Lennais greeted.  “I am glad to see you have returned.”

Galfrey nodded.  “As did His Majesty, amidst the night.”  His tone took a turn for the somber.  “Walk with me, Lennais; I fear we have foul tidings to discuss.”


 

Bene scribete.