Tenlyres Chapter 45 – First

Tim here.

The giveaway for my novel, Rem’s Dream is still active until March 31st.

Check it out here!

This Sunday sees the releases of the next episode of Alive After Reading, so prepare your brain for more writerly madness.

Back to Tenlyres.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

At the top of the sidebar on my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa pursues her father’s first apprentice from a bloody melee outside the government center of Chogrum.


A chance at reconciliation is not too much to ask from the gods.


First limped down an alleyway, trailing blood from the wounds Ilsa’s bullets had left in her hand and leg. Damn it, though, she kept moving. Ilsa glimpsed her father’s wounded apprentice just as she flashed around the corner ahead of her.

Catch First.

Find Tirica.

She dragged herself forward and reloaded her pistols with the magazines she had kept under her torn skirt. These city clothes were less durable than the sort she had worn on the steppe. Far less.

She rounded the corner, both pistols readied. First crawled onto the rooftop to her right. A rusted, iron tube for vines hung down a meter from the edge, just over the dented roof of a small car.

Ilsa doggedly pulled herself up and onto the hood of the vehicle. The pain in her leg might as well be nothing after the trial Hathani’s staff had put her through in the dark passage.

She stuffed both her pistols into the waistband of her pants.

She threw herself at the crook of plastic tubing that reached the top of the building. One ankle flared with pain but she got a grip on the tube. Her fingers dug into a layer of rust.

With a surge of adrenaline, she forced her arms to boost her upward. She reached for the edge of the roof above her. Her outstretched fingers passed over it then came down and grabbed hold. She pulled herself over the top.

Panting with pain and exertion, she crouched there and looked around the flat roof of the squat building. First looked back at her with a grimace from the far side of the building. A figure in a hooded jacket threw down a crude bridge from the rooftop across the next alleyway ahead of First. First did not hesitate.

Neither did Ilsa. She drew her pistols and stormed after the woman. Her legs were battered, but First was already dragging one appendage. Ilsa fired the moment she found the range.

The bullet clipped First’s shoulder. The bullet ripped the press badge from the woman’s disguise. A splash of blood hit the rooftop in front of her, but she did not slow for a second.

“Slow her down,” First said.

The other figure faced Ilsa across the bridge as Ilsa raced across it. Her footsteps thudded on the scrap metal and boards tied together by hasty hands.

Then she was on the other side. She took aim at the mercenary in her path. “Out of my way.”

“It’s me, Ilsa.”

The hood fell back. Tirica’s dark hair and pale face appeared. Ilsa twisted her hand to aim away as she continued forward. Her finger fell from the trigger. Instead, she spread her arms wide and wrapped Tirica in a hug that bowled the girl over backward.

They rolled onto the rooftop.

“Ilsa, get away,” said Tirica. “She’s got me wired to go.”

Ilsa’s eyes widened.

She pulled open the front of Tirica’s jacket. Rows of powder explosives with their natural smell were wrapped around Tirica’s chest, and neck.

“Pitiful. You fell for it,” wheezed First as she backed away from them across the rooftop. She held a small but unmistakable detonator in one hand and a pistol in the other.

Tirica shoved Ilsa in the chest. Ilsa’s legs bunched together, then she kicked out. With strength of desperation she shoved Tirica in the chest. The girl rolled to the edge of the roof. Ilsa sprang up, trying to get as far as she could in the second before the bombs detonated.

“Don’t do it!”

First panted for breath. “Too late.” She dropped the detonator to the rooftop. The blast from behind Ilsa ripped through the roof. She tripped forward toward First.

“Damn you!” Ilsa swung the barrel of her pistol into First’s face. The weapon cracked against bone. Tears streaked Ilsa’s face.

Tirica, gone into the air, just like that.

She swung blow after blow into First, until the woman sagged to the rooftop.

First grinned up at her with flecks of blood on her puffy face. “I guess you’re angry.” Her eyes were cold. “Totally meant to do that, but you know the best part? You don’t. Or you wouldn’t be beating me. You’d just finish me off.”

Ilsa stepped back from the woman’s battered form. She looked down at her, tears running from her eyes. “What do you mean, you twisted bitch?”

“She’s not dead. It’s just an old trick.” First lay on her back, looking up at Ilsa, head on the cracked plaster that covered the rooftop.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Your father never told you about blast seals, did he? Turns out—” She coughed and blood trickled down from her broken nose. Then a laugh broke from her, real audible mirth.

Ilsa stared, trembling, at the bloody mess laughing at her.

“—You can summon a human from anywhere to anywhere using the same technique as bonds. You just need a lot more bang!” She pulled open her own coat, revealing a vest of explosives like the one Tirica had been wearing.

Ilsa scowled at her, eyes cloudy. “Why are you telling me this?”

“He told you to quit fighting. You didn’t. He won’t spare you again if you meet him on the steppe. Bye now.”

Then, First pulled the detonator cord on her vest.

The explosion was larger, and the building, already damaged by the first explosion, collapsed in on itself. Ilsa fell into agonizing darkness.


Spirits with human faces and horse’s bodies crowded around where Ilsa lay. They looked just like her mother had always described them, horse up through the mane, then the eyes followed by features of people Ilsa knew.

They spoke to her, told her things she couldn’t understand in voices that sounded like musical instruments ranging from drums to silver to wind.

She saw her mother among the horses, fully humanoid, in her gown. “Mother,” she said. “Hello, again.”

“Ilsa, you’re hurt.”

“Must be pretty bad this time.” Ilsa grunted. “I can’t even tell where I am now. I was in Chogrum.”

“You’re still alive.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Ilsa, do you trust me?”

“Now that I’ve seen what you see, yeah.”

“You know I’m not crazy. I can go free if you help me, Ilsa.”

“Yeah… It wasn’t right to leave you in that place. I’ll get you out of there. Just let me… Just let me…”

“I trust you, Ilsa. But right now, you have to wake up.”

“Wake up,” Ilsa said. “Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say. I have to tell Lemuel. His sister survived.” She reached out her mind and found she could feel the entire plateau. She smiled as best she could through the pain that began to eat at the edge of her senses. Tirica was out there, within a few days travel of Chogrum. So were Black Powder and First.

There was also something larger, a spirit but unlike the ones she saw as horses with human faces. At once it seemed more powerful, far stronger, but also more brittle. Her mind pulsed as she regarded the being through building pain.

“Asurdeva.” As she said it, she knew she was right. The ancient god of the Uzan seethed and turned in her direction. She looked to her mother. “Yeah, I need to go. Need to warn the others. And you need to warn Dal if anyone will listen.”

“Warn Dal about what?”

“The army is moving east. It should be ready to fight a god.”


She woke with a sweaty brow, and pain. Aches ran through her whole body. A soft pillow supported her head. She was alone, and that worried her. But she hurt too much to get up.

For the next few days, she saw only a few nurses who came in with food and changes of underclothes. She found her legs worked, and she had no need for breathing tubes or other devices. One arm had apparently been dislocated at some point, and she was bruised all over. Considering the shape the building she had been on was in, she could have been a lot less fortunate.

And Tirica was still alive. On the third day, she felt well enough to leave the hospital. One nurse gave her a map of the city, a cane, and the coins she had with her when she had been found. Ilsa took the tram back southward to the hotel where Siuku had been staying with Blue, Lemuel, and the others.

She arrived, tired and aching.

Blue met her on the ground floor. “Ilsa.”

“Why didn’t you visit me?” she asked, sounding petulant, even to herself. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

“We knew where you were, but if we let on, we were worried the mercenaries would try to kill you.”

“Oh.” Ilsa blinked. “That makes sense.”

“Lemuel fought us on it. I insisted. Sorry.”

“No, you were right.” Ilsa flushed. “I need to tell him, his sister is alive, but she isn’t in the city anymore.”

“How do you know?”

“First told me. And I sensed her while I was out.”

“Alright. It’s going to take some getting used to, you just knowing things when you wake up.” Blue frowned. “We need to get ready. Chogrum is moving, and the prince wants us to ride with the army.”

“I guess we succeeded then.”

“It’s true. I almost think it’s a trap, the way they attacked the prince so close to the first battle. It’s like they meant for Chogrum to bring more forces against them. It worked for someone, one way or the other.”

Ilsa frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Someone got Ashnia away from the suite while we were out.”


“Maybe. Either way, she’s gone.”

“Damn,” said Ilsa. “We should watch out then.”

Blue nodded, then sighed. “We have to get moving, no time to worry about her now.” She touched Ilsa’s shoulder gently. “I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me too,” said Ilsa. “We’ll find her again, Blue. I know she’s important to you.”

“Dangerous too,” said Blue. “If her brother freed her, at least she’s safe.”

Ilsa nodded. She did not know what else she could say. Ashnia was a powerful mind eater and a dangerous enemy. Still, Blue cared for her.

But the war was here, and it was guiding them west.



Thanks for reading. Sign up for my mailing list to show your support for Tenlyres. The form is at the top of the sidebar on timniederriter.com. Or, click the mailing list link here.

Share and enjoy!



Giveaway News

Hey everybody, just checking in with a little update this Monday afternoon.

I’ve really been hitting the writing over the last couple of days. It’s been awesome. Hopefully, it will prove sustainable over the long-term as I’m doing around 3000 words per day without pushing too hard.

So, as the title of this post suggests, there is some news on giveaways. Right now, Rem’s Dream is still free, but that will end on March 31st 2017. Here is the link to that if you are interested in the free book.

That won’t be the end of my giveaways. I’m planning a Maker Mythos giveaway in April. We’ll see which book I pick later. I have not decided between the first novel, Hunter and Seed, and the new prelude. I’m excited as book two of that series is almost done.

So, that’s it for me today. Hope you’re all well.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 44 – The Spear

Tim here.

The giveaway for my novel, Rem’s Dream is still active until March 31st.

Check it out here!

Of Mooks and Monsters will return next Wednesday, so you can get your RPG fix with another session of Actual Play.

This Sunday will see the releases of the first episode of Alive After Reading, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Back to Tenlyres.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

At the top of the sidebar on my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa has suffered through the test of the Prince of Chogrum. She and her allies try to solidify a new alliance, while enemies wait in the shadows.


Fighting is not always the best option, especially in war.

Sometimes one must wait and listen, or even retreat to improve the odds when one returns to the fray.


Dawn’s light crept in under the slit of the door frame. Ilsa dressed in Chogrumian city clothes and concealed her ammunition belts under a skirt she wore over a pair of trousers. Yes, it looked silly, but she had seen people with the same sort of clothes the previous day. It would do well to hide the magazines. She kept the bullets loaded in one pistol. She felt confident she could produce the weapon easily, despite that complication.

Lemuel rose and went to the window. He pulled on his clothes, tucked a revolver into the waistband of his new black pants. She nodded to him.

“Let’s hope we won’t need these,” she said.

“Definitely,” he said. He pulled on his overcoat to hide the gun. “Let’s go make an alliance.”



They met Siuku and Blue along with Megalli at the suite upstairs. Ferdinand and Cass were on the roof, keeping an eye out for trouble in the skies over Chogrum.

So far, it seemed no battles had been fought on a large scale between the east and west. Not yet. Soon that would change if they did not do something.

The prince would meet them at the parliament building near the palace at the city’s center. Ilsa and the others took the tram to the north. Her pain had mostly faded. Only small hints remained.

She rode in silence. Even Blue seemed subdued, or maybe tense. She did not reach out with her mind and talk to Ilsa. They both knew the other was tense.

Her eyes watched the buildings passing outside. All of this should be protected, even if it was Chogrum. No, because it was Chogrum. It was so much like Dal where she had grown up, even with the many differences between the two cities. Ilsa swore to herself she would not let them destroy each other if she could help it.

The nomads too were hers to protect as long as she could. As long as she drew breath.

The tram turned away from the palace and toward the parliament building. The charged guiding wires over the track emitted a low crackle as one set disconnected and the next attached. Ilsa rubbed at her eyes to clear the last of the sleep dirt from them.

Blue looked across the tram at Ilsa. She wore her armor openly. “It’s been tough to sleep.”

“Today could be a moment of truth,” Ilsa said. “If we don’t succeed it may cost us the war.”

Blue leaned forward and folded her hands together. “It could cost the peace.”

“You’re right.” Ilsa frowned down the length of the tram.

Besides her and Blue, most of the others had come with them.

The young Okko and the veteran lightning catcher who had ridden into town with Ilsa, Siuku and Lemuel sat near the keeper. Lemuel was beside Ilsa. On his other side, Megalli fiddled with the spare buttons on her trousers.

Only Ferdinand and Cass were elsewhere. They had ridden out on separate striders to look for trouble ahead of the tram. Ilsa had barely had any time to talk to Cass since the mountains. They always seemed to be moving parallel to each other. At least they were going in the same direction.

The tram pulled to a stop at the station in front of the broad parliament building. Ilsa led the others down the steps and then up to the troupe of bonded palace guards fanned out on the ramp leading to parliament. The ramp was broader and less steep than the one to the palace. Her senses felt sharper. She could feel each of their bonds, two or more for each guard. Ilsa felt certain none of them were bonded to the spirit, and not just because her father’s technique was so rare. Somehow she could feel each of them had their shrine somewhere in Chogrum.

Ilsa suspected the guards were only here because of the prince’s presence, because groups of ordinary soldiers also patrolled the building, their radios sounding of static as two of them moved along the street nearby.

The leader of this group of palace guards, a big woman with a thickly scarred jaw, bowed to Siuku as the Keeper of Tenlyres walked toward them.

“Your Holiness of Tenlyres. Bless me, please.”

Siuku’s eyes narrowed. “You serve a different master, the Prince of Chogrum.”

“Indeed. But my family has often prayed at the Flowering Lyre. I have heard what you did in Atalem. You healed their wounds.”

Siuku’s eyes relaxed. “Then I bless you, servant of Chogrum. Proceed in the ways of the spirits.”

“Thank you, your holiness.” The guard leader turned to her squad as the rest of Ilsa’s group caught up with her and Siuku. “Allow them to pass. The keeper and the prince have words for parliament today.”

They climbed the ramp, past the first group of palace guards. Then past another set at the top. They passed through burnished doors painted with murals depicting Chogrum’s founding a thousand years prior. Ilsa fought the urge to marvel at the sights of the grand building. Dal has structures like this too, she reminded herself, though she had rarely seen them up close.

Okko did not resist the same urge. He craned his neck. “This is the biggest tent ever,” he said in the Oshomi language.

The older lightning catcher gave a disapproving click of her tongue and tapped the top of his head with her hand. “Keep your guard,” she said in the same language Okko had used.

He laughed at her. “There is an army around us.”

“An army, but not our army,” said the veteran lightning catcher. “Stay alert.”

“I’ll keep my eyes peeled.” He went on gaping as they entered a columned passage forty meters broad, the public corridor into the parliament hall. It was lined with more palace guards, but fewer than there had been outside. Wall mounts held bioelectric lights.

Someone snapped a photograph of them, the flash dazzling even in this bright hallway. Ilsa looked in for the source of the flash and found a cluster of news teams. Most had large pile cameras for video. As she turned to them, though, another series of bright flashes made her blink.

“The press is allowed in?” she murmured.

“Parliament exists for the people,” said Lemuel from beside her. “And the Keeper of Tenlyres has never visited the city in all of its thousand years.”

“You would know about that.” She smiled at him.

He flushed.

They reached another set of double doors, smaller and less colorful than the ones outside, but not by much. These, two large men, in uniforms not belonging either to the ordinary soldiery or the palace guards, hauled the gate open as Ilsa and the others drew near. Each of the big men wore a large battle ax on a baldric tied around the back of their deep green and gilded uniforms. Neither was a weapon bond.

She glanced at Lemuel.

“Parliamentary Lictors,” he said to answer Ilsa’s questioning look. “They are mostly ceremonial, have been since powder became more common.”

“Why the axes?”

“Chogrum’s founders are said to have lived for a time in the forest east of the plateau. Tradition holds that woodsmen served as representatives of the commoners in those days.”

They passed the lictors with their axes and entered the hall of Chogrum’s parliament. Ilsa looked out at a huge room set in muted tones, except for the rings of red tiles among the gray of the floor at the center of the ranks of desks.

“One hundred and twenty members. And nearly all of them should be in attendance because the prince is here.”

Ilsa nodded as she took in Lemuel’s words. Part of her did not like that she felt the power in this room. As if politics could accomplish everything it claimed.

On the other hand, democracy could be beautiful in the right circumstances. Ordinary people deserved more power than they had in Ayoch and many of the Morhoenese monarchies.

A pair of green-clad lictors led them down to the floor below the desks. “You will stand before the prince, in the sight of the people,” said one. “As foreign representatives, you may not sit during the proceedings.”

Lemuel sighed. “Never thought I’d have to hear that, personally.”

Megalli bounced on the heels of her shoes. “You keep foreigners off guard. I like it. I may have to do something like this once I return home.”

The lictors looked at her with solemn expressions.

Blue directed an unrestrained smile in Ilsa’s direction. “At least someone is going to benefit from our sore legs.”

Ilsa nodded. “How long do parliamentary proceedings last?”

“Hours, usually. For something like this, at least three or four. And it could be a lot longer than that,” said Lemuel.

Ilsa patted his shoulder. “Lean on me if you need to. I can handle it.”

“Four hours?” said Megalli. “That’s a lot of the day. How do these people have time for it?”

“The members of parliament are mostly ordinary citizens like me and Blue, but they receive compensation for their civic duty.” Lemuel glanced at Megalli. “Money means more in the city than in the mountains.”

Siuku turned to them. “These may be ordinary people, as you put it. But they represent our chance of an alliance.”

Megalli nodded, a little of her exuberance suppressed. She straightened her back a little. “I can be dignified too.” She pressed her lips into a line. “Just watch.”

Okko covered his mouth with his hand. His suppressed laughter still sounded too loud.

The lights above them dimmed. Then, a plain door, almost invisible when closed, opened in the center of the wall of the low part of the room where they stood. Two palace guards processed in, hands folded. After them came two lictors, and then the prince of Chogrum, flanked by two more lictors. He wore a white robe and carried the True Red staff. His feet were bare.

All six guards bowed their heads and stepped off to the sides of the room. The prince stepped into one of the two circles formed by red tiles and motioned for Siuku to stand in another near him. The members of parliament took their desks.

The prince tapped his staff on the floor twice.

From behind Ilsa, two bells chimed.

“Session begins,” whispered Lemuel.

They stood as the prince introduced the Keeper of Tenlyres to parliament. They stood as the heads of parliament responded to the prince. They stood for an hour as Siuku made her case to the people and bureaucracy of Chogrum.

Ilsa noticed that, though there were one hundred twenty desks, each one sat both a representative and a government bureaucrat to assist them. In the gaps between different representatives standing to speak and then sitting back down again, others conferred quietly with the bureaucrats beside them. The system struck her as sensible, with advisers for representatives whose jobs were not normally political.

Ilsa could not follow it all. She had been a mercenary and priestess for half her life. Her field of action was not here.

In the second hour, her legs began to feel stiffer and stiffer, though she did her best to shift them to keep from cramping. When the session ended, at last, it had been four hours, and she fairly lurched back up the steps to leave the room. This time, the prince walked with them. He moved slowly with the true staff of Hathani in his hand.

They descended the ramp outside the building. A plain black car waited on the street by the tram station, surrounded by a squad of palace guards. Ilsa wondered how dangerous the city would actually be for the prince, though she did not doubt the guard were necessary.

News-people took photographs and videos. Others shouted out questions, which the prince and Siuku ignored. Okko laughed and called out words Ilsa didn’t know in Oshomi, including one he repeated every time the cameras flashed.

“Bakasta. Bakasta.”

Ilsa glanced at Lemuel.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not an expert on Oshomi language.”

Megalli smirked at them over her shoulder. “It sounds rude.”

“It is,” said the dour lightning catcher walking close to Siuku. “You’re better off not knowing. Shut up, boy.” She tapped Okko on the back of the head.

“Bakasta,” he said and then gave a snort of laughter.

The older lightning catcher rolled her eyes, an expression of exasperation that existed across cultures. As they reached the car at the bottom of the ramp, Ilsa’s small smile morphed into a frown. There were weapon bonds on the sidewalk, and not all of them were members of the palace guard.

“Wait,” she said. “Somethings wrong.”

Lemuel glanced at her, as the prince reached his car, closely followed by a cluster of news people, held back by the presence of just a few guards. One of the news-people, an older woman with stringy white hair, looked strangely familiar.

Ilsa’s eyes went wide as realization struck her. The woman might be different above the brows, but other than the wig and the camera in her hand there could be no mistake. Black Powder’s first apprentice snapped a photograph of the prince.

Ilsa clenched her hand, preparing to draw her loaded pistol. She leaped from the last meter of the ramp toward the car. Her pistol appeared in her hand as she landed beside the prince. The guards began to produce weapons. Ilsa shouted in warning as First started to move a pistol produced in the hand not holding a camera.

For a second no shots were fired. Ilsa faced First down.

“What is the meaning of this?” bellowed the prince.

“This woman is one of Black Powder’s apprentices.” Ilsa kept her eyes on First.

The woman swung her weapon hand. She fired twice, and two of the guards holding back the news-people fell. Ilsa’s retaliatory shot hit First in the other hand, smashing through the camera.

Her father’s apprentice flinched backward.

People screamed. More shots went off, exchanged between the prince’s guards and more of her father’s hidden weapon bonds. The enemies emerged from their cover all down the sidewalk in front of the parliament building.

Ilsa put herself between First and the prince. She fired another shot. Then a third.

First ducked around the front of the car and evaded both bullets. Ilsa cursed almost as much as Okko as the bullets ricocheted off the pavement.

One of them hit a genuine newsman. He fell to one knee, his leg ripped in and out by the bullet. The man clenched his teeth and shouted in pain, but as he did he pointed behind Ilsa.

Ferdinand Thoss rode his white-furred great strider down the thoroughfare, towering over the low-built cars and even the tram. He thrust his long spear into one of the mercenaries who had just dropped a palace guard.

Ilsa called to the prince, “Stay close to me. We have to get back inside.”

A high caliber shot rang out from across the street and another of the guards fell. The prince ducked his head but raised his staff. “That looks to be a risky proposition at the moment, priestess.”

Caught on the end of Ferdinand’s spear, the weapon bond struggled with something under his bloodstained summer jacket. Ilsa smelled powder. A bomb.

“Ferdinand, drop him!” she called over her shoulder.

He did not hesitate but withdrew the spear into its bond. The wounded mercenary vanished in an explosive roar that sent shreds of his jacket flying through the air. Ilsa winced from the blast, surprised at the lack of blood with such a concentrated detonation.

First darted around to the street-side of the car, firing a pistol at the guards on the steps. The other mercenaries appeared to have fallen or retreated.

Ilsa scowled as she stepped around the prince. “Stay here, sir.”

“I am not eager to fight,” said the prince, hunkering down behind one of the car’s rear wheels. “Finish this attacker.”

With what pleasure there can be, Ilsa thought. “I will.” She snaked around the back of the car, moving to flank First.

The older woman shot another guard on the steps. She broke from behind the car just as a rusted van barreled down the street toward them.

Ferdinand, his strider now on the sidewalk, jumped down and joined the prince, Lemuel, and the rest of Siuku’s group near the car and the dazed members of the press.

One of them actually kept taking pictures. Apparently cooler-headed than the rest. Or crazier.

First reached the other side of the street and the van screeched to a halt between her and the guards on the parliament building ramp. Ilsa glanced at Ferdinand’s strider. The creature’s eyes glinted and swung his long body, sending one of the mounting lines flying to Ilsa. She grabbed the line and scurried up.

The strider swung back and she leaped off the line onto the top of the van. Her stomach roiled, and then shock ran through her legs. She took aim at First, who had just finished crossing the street.

Ilsa’s bullet hit her father’s sadistic apprentice in the leg and sent her staggering.

Beneath her, Ilsa could hear firearms being loaded. She gritted her teeth. More mercenaries, but she could tell where they were by sensing their bonded weapons. She fired the remaining rounds in her pistol through the thin metal roof of the van. She killed the occupants, all except one.

That one kicked out the windscreen and climbed out. He wore the same kind of hooded jacket of light material as the man who had blown himself up. And he leveled a shotgun at her.

Cass’s bullet hit him from behind. The red-haired priestess rode in from the end of the street opposite the way Ferdinand had come. He stumbled on the hood of the van, then pulled the cord of the explosive vest he wore beneath his coat. The blast burned through the van. Ilsa leaped from the roof.

She rolled onto the pavement two meters down, limbs and spine aching. Her arms had shielded her head from the worsts of the fall. She scrambled to her feet and went after First at a fast limp. One leg burned with pain from scrapes through the leg of torn pants. Her vision narrowed with intent.

Stop First from escaping. Find Tirica.


Thanks for reading. Sign up for my mailing list to show your support for Tenlyres. The form is at the top of the sidebar on timniederriter.com. Or, click the mailing list link here.

Share and enjoy!



One Week Off (Of Mooks and Monsters)

Hey, everyone. Due to some scheduling conflicts, there will be no new episode of the podcast Of Mooks and Monsters this week.

Our apologies.

However, coming up this Sunday, we are pleased to announce the first episode of Tim’s new interview podcast “Alive After Reading.”

That’s all the news for now.

Thanks for lending your eyes and ears.

Metal Time – Still Life by Opeth

Back in 1999, progressive metal heroes in a band called Opeth released an album. That album was not the first I heard from them (That honor goes to 2008’s Watershed), but it has become a favorite example of their work for me. I especially like listening to this one while writing.

Why a death metal album?

Why Still Life?

There are a few reasons. First and foremost, I suppose, I like the sound. This is a nebulous reason for me, because I don’t really understand music. I only enjoy what I enjoy. I find it difficult to put into words why some sounds work for me and others do not work as well.

Second, as with many of my favorite albums, Still Life is a concept album. It tells a story. As a death metal album, this story is thoroughly dark and bleak. But the story is there, and connects the songs into a single theme. I find that enjoyable.

What really struck me yesterday, however, was the lyrics. That’s the third reason.

Now, lyrics for an album where half the words are growled or roared, may sound silly, and to some degree that is true. I actually have looked up the lyrics, because the ones I could decipher have stuck with me.

Having peered into that particular abyss, I was reminded of a moment from my education as a writer.

I was a senior in high school, and taking a class at the local collage, Introduction to Creative Writing, taught by a poet who would not terribly long later receive some recognition for his work, Matt Rasmussen.

In class he said something, the meaning of which I never forgotten even if the exact words are difficult to recall.

He told the class that most songs don’t have great poetry for lyrics, because poetry and music require different qualities to succeed.

I agree with him in-general, but recalled his words yesterday as I looked over the lyrics for Still Life.

I concluded that the lyrics for these songs are, in-fact, pretty good poetry. Lots of variance in word-choice, and tons of tonal flavor just in the text alone. Anyway, this is not really a review. This is a gushing praise of something I adore.

Still Life, by Opeth. If you like death metal, have a listen.

Anyway, I have other words to hammer on today.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 43 – True Red

Tim here.

The giveaway for my novel, Rem’s Dream is still active.

Check it out here!

I survived the daylight savings time transition, though some other madness this week really nagged at productivity. But all is well that ends well, as they say.

I am preparing a new podcast to run parallel to the Of Mooks and Monsters show. This new one is more focused on fiction. Exciting times lie ahead.


Back to Tenlyres.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

At the top of the sidebar on my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa and her allies have reached Chogrum, but some old enemies, the brothers Haram, have arrived as well. After a skirmish in the street, Chogrumian sodiers take Ilsa and a few others in for questioning.

Electricity. Genetic shaping. Magi.

The gods, whichever you believe in, left their powers to humanity. It is up to us to know when to wield them.


The Chogrumian soldiers at the security center gave Ilsa more than a few curious glances as they processed her. Show us your hands. Take off your shoes. Are those all weapon bonds?

“Not all of them. Some are just scars.”

She tried not to give them a reason to be upset with her. After all, she had not fired even when Kaij pressed her. Being a weapon bond was not illegal in Chogrum any more than it was in Dal. Still, she was Dalite, even if she could fit into a crowd in Chogrum better than most.

She decided it would be best to stay silent and let Lemuel talk them out of this one.

An officer turned from talking to Lemuel. The officer approached Ilsa. “What were you doing so close to the palace?” he asked.

“My friends and I were looking for someone.”

“Someone? Who?”

“My friend’s sister,” she motioned to Lemuel with her head because her hands were still cuffed. “He could tell you more.”

“His sister, huh.” The officer took a note on a piece of paper.

Then his eyes glazed over with the control of a mind eater. Ilsa noticed Blue’s spirit. His expression returned to normal.

Blue made him signal to the others. “Let’s go. The prince wants to see them.”

“The prince?” someone asked. “Why?”

“By the gods, I don’t know,” said Blue’s officer. “But it has to be right now. Bring them all.”

Blue had chosen her target well. The other soldiers obeyed.


Ilsa and Lemuel were marched out of the lock-up and led side by side with Kaij to the five hundred meter-long black ramp leading to the gates of the palace. Behind them, the Chogrumian soldiers herded Okko. The young Oshomi kept looking over his shoulder. Ilsa hoped his worries of being shot in the back were groundless. She doubted that even with Blue in control of the lead officer in front of them.

The palace loomed over them as they started to climb the ramp. Walls of black and red stone were topped by high crenelations. Even on the hot summer day, this place was warm within the city. Waves of heat rose from black courtyards on either side of the ramp.

As they climbed, Ilsa wondered how Blue planned to get them out of here if they failed to convince the prince to ally with the nomads. He may not be as absolute a ruler as he once had been. Before the parliament was installed. Even still, all Chogrumians still answered to their prince in the end.

They arrived at the gates high atop the ramp. There, a squad of palace guards in black and gold stepped forward and stopped the officer ahead of Ilsa.

“Who goes there?” The leader of the guards looked around the officer at Ilsa and Lemuel. His eyes lingered on Ilsa.

“The prince made clear to me his desire to meet them.”

“Who are they?”

“A priestess of Hathani, a scholar, and an envoy from the Keeper of Tenlyres.”

“And the fourth one?”

The officer looked over his shoulder at Kaij. Blue must have been thinking fast because Ilsa saw the man’s face pinch for a moment with surprise. She had to be nearby to keep her control over this officer so absolute, but she must not have realized Kaij was still with them.

“A noble prisoner from Ayoch.”

Kaij’s eyes flashed. His cuffs rattled on his wrists. “Let me go and I can have you all spared.”

The leader of the palace guard squad sneered. “Impudent, even when captured.”

“Don’t take him lightly,” said Ilsa. “He and his brother killed an entire patrol south of the city.”

The guard leader’s eyes narrowed. “I see. I will send an extra detail to ensure the prince’s protection.”

“A good idea,” said Blue’s officer. “Now, they are cuffed because of suspicions we had of them fighting.”

“Understood,” said the guard leader. “Leave them to us.”

Blue’s officer bowed to the palace guards, and then he and the security soldiers with him descended the ramp back to the low gates of the palace. Ilsa wondered if they would make it back on the tram before they realized what had happened to them. Would there be enough time to convince the highest leader of Chogrum before they returned?

She could only hope.

Her gaze returned to the leader of the palace guards.

“You’re almost pretty for a priestess,” he said.

She shrugged her shoulders the best she could with cuffed hands. “It’s not often I’ve been called pretty. Please, take us to the prince.”

The other palace guards behind their squad leader exchanged glances. A heavy one grinned. None of them spoke. The leader grunted. He had the squad take each of them inside one by one, starting with Kaij, and followed immediately by Ilsa.

Lemuel and Okko were brought in last.

The guards escorted them to a narrow passageway going deeper into the palace. The walls within were sheer. With no light fixtures along its length, the only flicker of color was at the far end of the passage, a warm yellow glow.

“Enter,” said the guard leader to Kaij. “Any of you who are impure will be tested.”

“Impure?” said Ilsa.

“The bonded and the magi use powers beyond the understanding of mortals. If you have those gifts, prepare for hardship.” With that, he fell silent. The squad formed into two lines, one on either side of the prisoners.

Kaij growled. “They’re lying to you. These people are not what they seem.”

“Are you?” asked the guard leader. “We could kill you where you stand if you are. Someone like you. The prince would not punish us.”

Kaij’s lip twitched. He turned to face down the passage. With a deep breath, he stepped into the darkness. His footsteps faded away until they sounded like a kilometer away, even with the reverberations in the small space.

“You’re next, priestess.”

Ilsa nodded. She braced herself for the test, jaw set, and started into the darkened hallway. Almost immediately, she lost her sense of the world outside. Her hearing seemed muted, except for the sounds of her own footsteps.

Her brands began to ache as the light at the far end of the passage grew larger. She could not tell where Kaij was, or whether he had left the passage yet or not. Her brands began to tingle with pain.

Then, the pain burned her from within.

Heat could scarcely even serve to describe it.

Agony only began the march to the indescribable gates of suffering which Ilsa began to push open. She groaned. One foot moved. Then, the other.

She forced herself forward, pushing further into the passage.

Every step hurt more than the last. She grimaced, her face sore with the reflected pain from her brands. She felt like screaming, but she would not give them the satisfaction. She sagged in on herself. She had emerged into the yellow light on the other side.

Kaij sat on his knees a few meters away. Tears streaked his face. Ilsa realized she was crying too. Who wouldn’t, given the pain both of them had just experienced?

“What. What was that?” she managed to say. She sank to her knees on the floor, looking up at a vast basalt throne. Before the throne stood a slim, dark figure in a white robe. The prince of Chogrum carried a red staff, the True Red staff of Hathani, Ilsa felt sure in a wild moment. He carried it with him.

Ilsa fell forward. Her hands, still aching with remembered pain, pressed on the cool tiles of the floor, cuffs still around the wrists. And she held herself up, just a little. She had made it into the throne room. Going any further might not be possible, but she had made it inside.

Lemuel and Okko emerged from the passage behind her. Both of them rushed over. Lemuel crouched down by her side.

“Ilsa. What happened?”

“It hurt. Not a test. More like torture,” she murmured.

Okko looked from Kaij to the prince. Ilsa followed his gaze with wavering eyes. There were guards around the room, but all of them were dressed differently from the ones outside.

These wore all black. And Ilsa suddenly knew they were weapon bonds. All of the guards in the throne room were weapon bonds, and there were at least twenty.

“Stand, strangers. If you can,” said a firm, high voice.

Ilsa struggled, and pushed, and got to her feet. Nearby, Kaij somehow managed to find it in himself to do the same.

The prince of Chogrum smiled.

He had a small black beard, with a few hints of gray. Tall and thin, he wore no crown or jewels, only the white robe, and the red staff. The light in this room came from a skylight in the center of the domed ceiling.

“You have experienced the trial of Hathani, newcomers.” The prince motioned to his guards to stand back. Then, he marched down the steps from his vast throne. One end of the red staff clicked on the tile. “I take it you know what this is.” He indicated the staff in his hand with three elegant fingers.

“The true staff of Hathani,”  said Ilsa, her legs wobbling.

“Yes,” said the prince. “My guards tell me you are a priestess of the goddess. Is that true?”

“It is.”

“Where is your staff of office?”

Ilsa gritted her teeth. “It was broken in the mountains of the northwest. I was fighting against Ayoch.”

“Indeed?” The prince’s gaze moved to Kaij. “So, this could be one of your enemies from there?”

“He is,” said Ilsa. “All four of us were there at Howling Pass. We three—” She indicated herself, Lemuel, and Okko. “—Fought alongside the nomads, the Vogmem at the Lake of Saints.”

“My spies tell me the Red Lector died there. Is that true, priestess of Hathani?”

“It is, prince of Chogrum.” She straightened as the pain from the trail began to subside. “But we did not kill him.”

“Then who did?”

Kaij glared at Ilsa, teeth clenched. “He was betrayed. By his general. And by Black Powder.”

“Black Powder. The mercenary bonder is known to us. For killing my enemy, perhaps I should thank him.”

Kaij’s eyes boiled. He said nothing.

“He is still on the steppe.” Ilsa lowered her eyes from their lock on the prince. “He is on his way east.”

“You are well-informed priestess. Something tells me you know Black Powder. How?”

“He is my father,” she said through her teeth.

The prince raised one eyebrow. “Interesting. You have earned my curiosity. I will listen to what you have to say.”

Ilsa explained the mission to the prince of Chogrum. Lemuel helped when the pain from the trial flared up again, as it did in waves. The prince listened with quiet attention. At last, he nodded to her.

“I believe what you say. Priestess, you fight for the Unification. But I have never felt pressured by them, not from Koor in Morhoen, or Embrana the Islander. I trust you also are not trying to pressure me, Ilsa Barrett.”

“I would not presume,” she said. “I came to Chogrum with the Keeper of Tenlyres. She seeks to ally with you and your people to protect the plateau.”

He nodded. “I will speak with her. Tomorrow. At parliament.” He motioned to Kaij. “Guards, take this one to the cells. We will send him for interrogation as soon as we can.”

He turned to Ilsa and the others. “You used deception to enter this place, but after that told only the truth. You intrigue me, priestess. The guards will show you the way out.”

Ilsa nodded. She almost lost her footing to a wave of nausea and had to steady herself on Lemuel’s arm. The guards led them to a side passage, and then out of the palace. There, they ordered a tram that took the group back to the hotel. She could only sit, eyes closed, and pray for the pain to fade away.


Back at the hotel, Ilsa collapsed onto the bed. When she woke, Lemuel was talking to someone in the doorway of their room. Ilsa sat up, feeling less pain than she had when she had returned from the palace, and looked toward the hallway where the muted voices were coming from.

“I’m awake,” she said in their direction. “You can talk in here.”

Blue and Lemuel walked into the hotel room. The sky was dark outside the curtains. Ilsa sat up.

“Whoa,” said Blue. “Take it easy. Whatever that trial did to you, it was rough.”

“Can’t afford to stay down.” She groaned. Lemuel winced. “The keeper needs to meet with the prince.”

“We know. Lemuel and Okko told us.”

Ilsa rubbed her temples. “What about Megalli. Where is she?”

“She’s back in the suite. Got here before you did.”

“Tell her thanks. She tripped Kaij back there. If she hadn’t we might not be having this conversation.”

Kaij. He had tracked them all the way to Chogrum. And his brother, Yunn, was still out there.

Ilsa shook her head. “I think the Ayochians could try something.”

“We’ll be ready for them if they do,” said Blue. “But we could use your help if you recover in time.”

“I’ll be ready,” said Ilsa. She clenched her jaw. She had to make sure everything went right if only to justify the pain she was suffering through in that moment.

Her eyelids closed. “I will be ready.”

She felt Lemuel’s hand on her shoulder. “Come on, you can’t do anything more tonight.”

But later that night, when he was asleep, she climbed out of bed and limped painfully to the writing desk in the room. By moonlight, she wrote another set of words for the day. Words of endurance. Words she believed were true.

Lemuel woke as she climbed back into bed. “What’s going on?”

“I felt a little better,” she lied. “Had to get some words recorded.”

He stroked her chin, and then reached back to touch her earlobe. “You are amazing.”

She put a hand on his lips. “Shhh. It’s late.”

“Very late.”

They pulled each other close and slept.


Thanks for reading. Sign up for my mailing list to show your support for Tenlyres. The form is at the top of the sidebar on timniederriter.com. Or, click the mailing list link here.

Share and enjoy!



A Challenging Book

I just finished reading a very interesting book. It’s called The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by ZigZag Claybourne. Some of you may recognize him as the author of a fabulous guest blog post a while back.

I thought this book was really quality entertainment, but at times it was difficult to follow for a few reasons I went into in my review over at amazon and goodreads.

Reviews aside, I liked the book. I also thought it challenged me a little bit, especially with some of the notions I have acquired as a writer.

The first of those notions that The Brothers Jetstream challenged was the assumption of what needs to be dramatized as a scene, as opposed to summarized. Without getting too nuts-and-bolts, I mean that certain types of scenes, especially action scenes received moments of concise summary, in place of length exchanges. I like this part of the book a lot, but it is definitely not something I have done much in the past, within my work. In the future? Probably I will have to try it out.

Second, I think the sheer glut of characters, while it did not bother me, it spiked up the reading difficulty. Just keeping track of all the names could be tough at times. However, I could generally put the name to about 80% of the characters in even the biggest group scenes. All in all, this is more of a quibble than a complaint. And the fact that, given the name and a little dialog I could usually recall large parts of the character’s introduction, I gotta say ZigZag rocks quick characterization.

I’m beginning to run down for the day. I think I’ll leave it here.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 42 – Chogrum

Tim here.

This week I began a giveaway for my novel, Rem’s Dream.

Check it out here!

In other news, I have been writing on the edge of consistency. Plans are in motion. Plots are moving… Oh, and Daylight savings time approaches. Hope you’re all well.

Back to Tenlyres.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

At the top of the sidebar on my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa and her team ride east to try to form an alliance with the city of Chogrum against the monstrous forces raised by Black Powder. Now they approach the city…

And when life ends, let it end with peace.

No matter how much one must struggle to survive.


Chogrum appeared the next day, and the five of them rode right toward it, along the eastern cliffs of the plateau. The horses kept a good pace, but it still took them until late afternoon to make it to the city. At the outskirts, Ilsa began to become nervous their steeds would make them suspicious, but Lemuel assured her horses were not unknown in Chogrum like they were in Dal.

Not for the first time, she missed Hailek. The strider would have given her a higher vantage point to observe the street around them. Siuku and the other Oshomi took in the sights of the city with awe.

The people around them regarded the five weary, bloody, worn riders with curious, sometimes nervous, gazes in return.

In Chogrum, the people varied even more in appearance than Dalites. They ranged from the dark skin of the southern continental peoples to Morhoenese, to pale skin like could be found in Dal or Ayoch. Some could have belonged to the Filami or even the nomad peoples.

The buildings on the outskirts were less different from each other than the people Ilsa saw. Almost all of them were two-stories with vines and creepers turning green in the summer sun crawling along their sides. Some of those vines attached to plant piles where the pavement parted, bulging at the edges where the roots pushed up from below concrete. Almost every one of the gray structures was topped by a glowing screen. Letters in Yrian common that scrolled across each one.

To her surprise, Ilsa noticed uniformed soldiers patrolled the rooftops on the main thoroughfare that led toward the city’s center. Yet, no one stopped the obviously armed Oshomi riding down the street. Maybe they figured five riders made little difference against the numbers of troops in the neighborhood. They were probably right.

Trash filled containers in alleyways, but the smells were muted compared to the massacre, still fresh in her mind.

Eventually, they moved into a less dilapidated part of the city, a few kilometers from the edge. There, Ilsa began to feel the presence of Blue nearby.

Feel may not have been the right way to think about it. She understood Blue’s mind was extended, and it brushed against her spirit senses at the edge of awareness. She took the lead and followed that sense.

They made their way to a hotel, five times the height of the buildings around it, where they reined in the horses and then, led them to the stable next door. The stable was built for larger animals, and Ilsa spotted the dark-colored strider Blue had brought from Dal in a stall next to Ferdinand’s white one. Part of her heart surged with new confidence because of the knowledge her friends had made it to Chogrum safely.

She followed the others out of the stable. They had paid with coins collected from troops at the massacre site.

Ilsa felt sick at the thought of the slaughter. They checked into the hotel with the same tragic currency as collateral. The group had enough for a week in two rooms. Plenty of time. Thanks to their scavenging and the little money given to them by the Vogmem tribals when they separated a month ago.

They went up to the rooms. How odd they must look, walking down the halls of even a small hotel. The Keeper of Tenlyres and her warriors. And Ilsa and Lemuel, who probably did not look much different from the Oshomi, after two months as nomads.

Ilsa and Lemuel took one room. The Oshomi took the other.

While Lemuel took the first shower, she reached out with her mind and looked for Blue.

At first, the vast number of people in the city around her was overwhelming, chaotic, shifting, difficult to comprehend. She touched the locket, focused on it. Blue’s connection to the locket brought her back, guided her around the hotel, and quickly brought her to the suite just above hers and Lemuel’s room.

Her friend was at the center of a group of familiar spirits in the suite. Ilsa hopped up from the edge of the bed where she had been sitting. She went out into the hall, taking her room key with her. She headed upstairs and knocked on Blue’s door.

Audible motion came from within. After a moment, the door opened inward.

The room on the other side was far larger than the room Ilsa and Lemuel had been in downstairs on the ninth floor. Blue stared at her from the center, by a crescent-shaped couch. She still wore the same set of body armor she always did, and her hair hung back in thick braids. Her eyes widened when she saw Ilsa.

“Get in here,” she said in a thick voice, almost slurring her words. Ilsa hurried into the room. Blue wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “You made it!”

“So did you,” said Ilsa.

Someone chuckled off to her left. Ferdinand Thoss shook his head as she looked in his direction. “I thought you never missed, priestess?”

“You thought wrong.” Ilsa felt tears in her eyes. She half-wished his joke was true.

At the window, where she had been looking over the city, Cass turned toward Ilsa. “Hathani, you’re crying, Ilsa.”

“I know.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m just—I’m just glad you all made it.” She looked around the lavish room with three bedrooms connected to it by adjoining doors. “Looks like you sprang for some nice rooms.”

“I had some cash saved from the last time I was here,” said Blue.

“I’ve never stayed anywhere this nice.” Ferdinand whistled, “But then, I never knew how to save money.”

Cass gave a snort of laughter.

“We needed the top room,” said Blue.

“Why? For a lookout?” Ilsa asked.

One of the bedroom doors opened. Ilsa stepped back in surprise at the sight of the lithe form of Megalli standing in the doorway. She wore Chogrumian city clothes, including a pair of white trousers and a small-brimmed hat.

The chieftain of the Vogmem skyriders grinned at Ilsa. “For my people to land on, priestess.”

Ilsa could not help the smile that crept onto her face. After days of riding with worry about Tirica, and witnessing the sight of the massacre on the way to the city, Ilsa had needed some good news.

“You’re awake! Blue didn’t tell me you had joined her group.”

“They only caught up with us yesterday,” said Blue. “Ten skyriders and Megalli.”

“The greatest of the skyriders, that is,” said Megalli with a grin. “Since the keeper healed me, I made a decision for my people. We may never convince the others, especially not Ganara. Still, my people can do what is necessary to fight the Uzan, even allying with Chogrum.” She bounced up and down. “I’m the only one to enter the city so far. The first Vogmem chieftain in over a century.”

“You led the way.” Ilsa nodded. “I’m glad to see you.”

“Me too,” said Megalli. Her faced grew serious. “I did not expect to survive my wounds when I fell in the pass. I remember thinking: This is death. It felt so simple. I wonder if Akirette felt the same?”

Ilsa bowed her head.

Blue put a hand on Ilsa’s shoulder. “Ashnia’s here too, still suppressed of course.”


Blue motioned to the bedroom. “In there. She has been sleeping a lot.”

Ilsa nodded. “I had better get back downstairs. Lemuel was in the shower, and I don’t want him to worry about where I’ve gone. He has enough to worry about.”

“Go,” said Blue. “Keep the man reassured. We’ll look for Tirica tonight.”

Ilsa left the suite and made her way back to the room below.


Ilsa sat cross-legged on the floor of the room she shared with Lemuel. Her eyes were closed and she breathed deep and calm. Her arms crossed in front of her. She held Blue’s hand with one of hers, and Siuku’s hand with the other. Their minds joined, and they sought for Tirica’s mind located who-knew-how-many kilometers away across the steppe.

Human spirits were few and far between once they passed beyond the armies of Chogrum and Morhoen arrayed between the city and its western foes. Feeling as though she was flying on a hawk over a ghostly world, Ilsa realized the way she and the others had ridden into Chogrum was now being closed by Chogrumian troops. Those troops moved through the night.

They had only just slipped through the net.

She turned her consciousness westward extended by Blue and Siuku’s powers. As the weakest of the three, she served the team by leading the way, the rider to their combined psychic steed.

It took hours of searching westward, before she saw the first hint of Tirica’s presence. A group of mercenaries just on the other side of the horizon from the view of Chogrum’s westernmost army contained Black Powder himself. She recognized her father’s spirit as sure as her mother’s as if he was standing right before her, giant against the land. He knew where Tirica was, she could feel, but did not have the power to dig deeper.

Neither First nor Tirica was in his camp.

Blue’s grip on Ilsa’s hand tightened in the physical world. “She’s not that far away.”

“Closer? I combed the steppe. She isn’t anywhere near us out there.”

“She could be in the city,” said Siuku. “I can barely distinguish individual minds with so many around us.”

Ilsa’s brows bent. “I don’t have your abilities, but I grew up in a city. Let me try.”

She reeled in the extension of her conscious mind, pulling back to the city. Chogrum was a seething soup of different thoughts, hatred and fear, love and joy, all swathed in a heavy layer of nervousness from the approaching conflict. Somehow, it made sense to her.

People were pressed so close to each other, they formed chains of spirit between them. The nomads were tight-knit on the plateau. But Ilsa could see the same sort of bonds among the different communities of Chogrum. She cut through that mental jungle like a machete and cleared her way to the bright beacon formed by the object of her search.

Tirica was close. Once she brought herself into the city, she could sense the girl’s presence clearly.

However small the star, it still provided a little light. Ilsa dug deeper into the center of Chogrum, chasing that light.

“She’s in the city. Somewhere near the middle. I can’t tell exactly.”

“Careful, Ilsa. The Temple of Colors has a strong presence in Chogrum.”

“Blue.” Ilsa’s spirit reached for the tiny source of starlight within the veils and chains made by the city’s people. “I’m almost there.”

Siuku spoke. “I sense aggression, a powerful temper.”

Blue’s hand tugged on Ilsa’s. The fingers in her grip ached. “She’s right. The temple has found us.”

Ilsa pulled back the last veil from Tirica’s spirit. A blinding light filled her vision. Then, like she had been kicked by a strider, pain bloomed in her chest. She released Blue’s grip and fell onto her back on the hotel room floor. Her eyes flew open. The pain in the back of her head from the impact with the floor could not match the agony in her chest.

She gasped for air.

“So close.”

Blue slumped where she sat.

Lemuel rushed to Ilsa’s side. “You alright? What hurts?”

“My heart.” Ilsa pressed a hand to her chest. “Maybe it’s the old wound Ferdinand gave me.”

Siuku got to her feet. “Focal pain. That wound awakened Ilsa’s spirit senses, but it also serves as her weak point.”

Blue nodded and took a deep breath. “Mental attacks can have physical consequences. The temple knows how to strike both ways.”

Ilsa looked up at Lemuel, her own breathing ragged. He clasped her hand. “It’s alright. She’s close. We can try to find her another way.”

Ilsa nodded. Her chest throbbed. “Good idea.”

He helped her sit up. She pressed a hand to the back of her head. “I got overconfident, didn’t I?”

“It happens to many with new abilities,” said Blue. “The temple doesn’t need someone with your potential to train into a mind eater. But you could have been a strong one if you studied with them early.”

Ilsa looked at her friend as pain wracked her from sternum to skull. “I’m glad I didn’t. This power hurts.”

Blue unfolded her legs and got to her feet. “It gets easier, but mental attacks always hurt. No one is invulnerable.”

“Indeed,” said Siuku.

Blue frowned. “Did you see your attacker?”

“No. I just saw light.” Ilsa sighed. “I wish I had more to tell you.”

“Sounds like you saw enough. Brightness is a calling card of a few temple members. We can guess they are operating separately from Black Powder and his people, I would say.”

“Would they interfere in the war?”

“I can’t say for sure. My gut says they don’t care who rules.” Blue shook her head. “The temple is crazy that way.”

Ilsa turned toward Lemuel. “I won’t give up on Tirica.”

“None of us will,” said Blue.

Siuku bowed her head. “It is getting late. The sun set long ago. We should rest.”

“Yeah.” Ilsa got to her feet with Lemuel’s help. The others left their room.

Ilsa stretched her arms, cleaner than she had been since Dal, following her shower that afternoon. She was a little hungry, but as she looked at Lemuel, she forgot about it.

He looked at her with bright eyes. “Thanks, for looking for Tirica. I wish I could have helped.”

“You can get started on helping more tomorrow,” said Ilsa. “After all, this is your city.”

She sat down beside him on the broad bed and smiled wearily as the pain began to fade away.

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Lemuel with a smile. “Not many people even think I’m still alive, probably.”

“You’ve still got family here, don’t you?”

“A few,” said Lemuel. “But right now, I’m not worried about most of them.” He took a deep breath. “Say, do you remember how we met?”

“In Dal, where that idiot was shouting about Chogrum outside a stable.”

He nodded and adjusted his glasses. “It was after that, at Doubtless Manor, the last time I had a shower. But at that I point, I still didn’t know who you were. Not really.”

“Now you do,” she said, one hand on his.

He put his small hand to her cheek. Warmth came from within. “I’m thankful I met you. All the time.”

She drew herself closer to him and they kissed in the heat of their embrace. Ilsa guided him back onto the bed.


The next morning, the group ate breakfast together in the hotel restaurant. Ilsa almost could not believe the taste of city food could be so good after months of travel rations on the steppe. Megalli told stories about her best hunts, and how the meat had been afterward.

After breakfast, the group split up.

Some went to search the city, while other remained to plan a way to get an audience with the prince. Megalli, Lemuel, and Okko went with Ilsa to scout the house owned by Lemuel’s parents close to the city center for Tirica.

As they moved deeper into Chogrum’s urban jungle, the buildings became higher until they reached for the sky in the center-most districts around the arched rooftops of the prince’s palace, with the lower-built government buildings spread out all around.

Snatches of song drifted over the market street from a speaker system as the group made its way north toward the palace. They were already close to the city center. Ilsa wondered how close First would have gotten to the palace without raising suspicion if she had Tirica with her as a prisoner.

Slavery was outlawed all across the plateau, which would make it easier for people to see Tirica was being led around captive. Most likely, First had hidden the girl wherever she was staying. She could not have arrived in Chogrum too long before Ilsa and her group.

The recorded music fluted in the air. Birds rustled their wings on the rooftop. Ilsa smelled fresh fruit and cured meat rather than powder and blood. Everything seemed warm and safe, compared to the steppe, even in spite of the undercurrent of nervous tension that ran everywhere through the city.

Lemuel plowed ahead of Ilsa through the crowds, using his larger arm to push past people. His black clothes and height made him stand out among the people flowing around him. She followed in his wake, with Okko behind her. Megalli kept pace close to Ilsa’s side.

The four of them were almost to the place, Ilsa realized, where she had sensed Tirica’s spirit the previous night. She held out one arm to stop Okko and then closed her eyes. Tirica’s spirit had gone.

“She’s not here.” Ilsa frowned. She pushed past a few people to catch up to Lemuel. Megalli and Okko followed her.

“What’s wrong, priestess?” asked the Vogmem chieftain.

“Tirica’s gone. First must have moved her.”

Megalli nodded. “Isn’t it odd for someone to want to be called that? First?”

“It is strange, in every culture.” Ilsa took a deep breath and caught a whiff of propellant, and not Chogrumian propellant. This had the auto-launch scent found in ammunition from Ayoch. No shots had been fired so far, but someone in this crowd had a foreign weapon.

“Lemuel,” she said, “Wait.”

He turned just in time for Ilsa to glimpse the towering, hooded form of Kaij Haram over his shoulder, among the Chogrumians. Her eyes went wide. She shoved Lemuel by the chest. He stumbled backward, nearly tripping over himself.

Kaij lunged through the crowd. The huge cavalry sword he had bonded to him slashed out from his palm and toward Ilsa. She produced one of her pistols by instinct and ducked. Her hands worked automatically. She slammed the magazine into the pistol.

A chill fell over the marketplace. Kaij faced her in a gap formed by Lemuel’s stumbling. People drew back from him with cries of warning.

So much for keeping things quiet.

He glared at her over his blade. “Where is Ashnia, priestess? I know you know.”

This close, her gun gave her little, if any, advantage. She had to fight carefully. Yunn must be here too. Someone’s powers were already lowering the temperature on the street. Ilsa’s bet was on Kaij’s twin.

Her eyes followed the glint of Kaij’s blade.

“My sister, priestess. Tell me, or this time you won’t survive.”

Ilsa glared at the big Ayochian. “I can’t tell you.”

He gritted his teeth and swung his blade. The motion was swift. But she had guessed it was coming. Ilsa darted backward and out of reach.

Okko, his lightning lances left in the stable, cried out, a harsh, blood-curdling battle cry as he circled around Ilsa to rush at Kaij from the side.

He slipped on traces of ice as they formed on the surface of the street beneath his feet. Okko fell, dropping a small electric dart he must have concealed somewhere when he left the hotel.

Kaij pursued Ilsa as she fell backward. Her pistol was loaded, but she could not take him down without risking hitting a civilian with a miss or ricochet.

A horn echoed over the street. Ilsa kept her focus on Kaij. Megalli had vanished into the crowd.

Chogrumian soldiers emerged from alleyways ahead and behind Ilsa and Kaij.

He cut at her once, twice, three times. Each time, she fell back further to avoid the cut. The fourth strike caught up with her.

She got the butt of her pistol in the way and deflected the tip of the blade so it slashed along her forearm, opening the clothes and a shallow gash beneath.

Her eyes narrowed with the pain.

Kaij pressed forward. A shadowy shoe, small and in the Chogrumian style snaked out from the crowd. The foot hooked around Kaij’s ankle. He fell forward and caught himself on one knee. Megalli vanished into the crowd again.

Ilsa pointed the pistol at Kaij’s temple. He looked up at her. Hatred seethed in his eyes.

Chogrumian soldiers closed in on them.

Ilsa counted a dozen she could see, but she did not dare turn and give Kaij a chance to attack again.

“Drop the weapons. Hands in the air.”

Ilsa let her pistol fall to the ground at her feet, fully loaded. She raised her hands and met the sergeant’s gaze. A pair of hands grabbed her arms. Another soldier forced her to the ground. She heard radios crackle as the soldiers sent word of the situation to their commanders.

Two more soldiers grabbed Okko, and another pair went for Kaij. As they led Ilsa away, Lemuel followed behind them, but not held by the soldiers. He nodded to her as they passed each other on the way to the nearby security center.

A prisoner in Chogrum. Ilsa could have imagined the day going better.


Thanks for reading. Sign up for my mailing list to show your support for Tenlyres. The form is at the top of the sidebar on timniederriter.com. Or, click the mailing list link here.

Share and enjoy!




Good Monday to all and to all a good morning.

I am facing quite a challenge today (To tackle as soon as I stop yawning every five seconds). Today is the first day of a new attempt at a work schedule. The schedule? Eight AM to Eleven AM will be writing time on weekdays.

Three hours. Three hours of writing all in a row.

That may not sound like a lot, but overall it means about 4000 words if I stick to it with enthusiasm and discipline.

I would love to do that many words, that much story, each day. I will love it, is how I should write that.

The work of a few hours a day will really add up fast. And my current project, the sequel to Hunter and Seed, really needs to get done.

In related news, I am editing a much longer book into a pair of smaller books now. We will see how difficult that gets, especially because I have to give priority to the sequel I mentioned above. My hopes for getting two series out this year are high.

But right now, it all feels a little mental, as the Brits might say.

Hence the title of this post.

My books can still be found on Amazon and elsewhere if anyone is interested.

Thanks for reading.