Invisibles 5

Hello everyone, Tim here. I’m on vacation right now, so I’ll be ringing in August with my family back east-ish. Anyway, the latest chapter of Invisibles is the last in the first set.

Check out my new book, “Soul Art” Amazon/Other Sites

Check out my work on Instafreebie.

Now, on to the story.


Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.



Alina woke up quickly once the soporifics wore off. She sat up on the couch where she lay and looked around Hajur’s back room meeting place. Smoke and shadows dominated, but she made out the shapes of her fellow thieves on the chairs and couches around her, except for Saint, who would not have fit through the door.

They had all made it out of the score all right.

The room was warm but smelled less of the sweet narcotics she expected, then of… burning paper.

“The letter?” Alina asked.

Hajur grinned and lowered her pipe. In her free hand, she held the burnt edge of a piece of paper. “Disposed of,” she said. “After I read it, of course.”

“You wanted the letter to burn it?” Alina sat up fast, her face hot with temper. “He’ll just write another letter, you know?”

“Calm down, girl,” said Hajur, dropping the remains of the paper to the floor. “This letter was the Rogue Hound’s message to his legitimate leader. As I suspected it was time sensitive. By the time the couriers deliver the second letter, my associates will be long out of danger.”

Alina scowled at Hajur, past Percival, Kelebek, and Martin.

For their part, the other three thieves in the room looked puzzled, but Alina doubted any of them would care once they were paid. But Hajur had made Saint, and Martin who really should care, betray their leader, however nefarious, and that should be worth extra. Alina took a deep breath and explained her opinion to Hajur.

“Correct, indeed, girl.” Hajur took a puff on her pipe. “I will pay them an extra half share each.”

Martin gave a satisfied grunt. “Sounds alright. Now, if I hurry, I should be able to return with the case the letter was in. Get another bonus, maybe.”

“And Saint?” asked Alina.

“I’ll take him his share, and we’ll be on our way together,” Martin said.

Percival and Kelebek glanced at Alina. She nodded. “Alright. Fine.”

Hajur blew smoke from her pipe. “Take your cut, and be grateful, girl. Not everyone gets away so easily.”

She knew what Hajur said was true. As she took her bag of coins while the others took theirs’, she considered saying something else, to clash again with the information thief. Alina thought better of it. She glanced at Percival as they left the dusk diner for the night outside. He pulled his collar up but caught her gaze as he did.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“Back there, Hajur only wanted us to delay the Rogue Hound’s message. Why? I don’t believe it’s just her agents getting out of trouble.”

“I don’t know,” he said. And he really did not know. However, his hatred of the Rogue Hound meant he had not questioned the job before. “Anything to slow down the war machines.”

Alina shook her head. “You really hate the hounds, Percival.”

He snorted. “When someone enslaves you for their war, you can tell me how to feel.”

Kelebek clapped them both on the shoulder. “Don’t bicker too loud, you two. There are worse things in the night than hounds and golems.” She slipped between them and headed for her home. The money jingled a little in her pocket, telling her there would be enough to help her sister’s children eat for another week. She hoped Martin did something useful with his share. She could have used the extra coin.

Eventually, she reached her shop. Once inside, she locked the door, and then bolted it. She climbed the stairs to get some rest before morning. But sleep took it’s time to arrive.

Percival and Alina walked side by side in silence for a while. He wanted to apologize but could not seem to find the words. She turned to go to the smaller, local Church of Angels in her neighborhood near Nicodod Ring. Percival started to speak, to say sorry, but she brushed off his words.

“It’s late,” she said. “I was angry too.” She did not sound angry at that moment, but Percival let her go with just a nod of assent.

She knelt down before the altar in the little church with its simple tiled floor and single tower over the sanctuary. She prayed a while, asking for forgiveness for her lifestyle, praying fervently. Eventually, she raised her head and went home to sleep, but she did not feel much better by the time she drifted off.

Percival found his way to the fortune teller who worked near his home in a run-down part of Nicodod Ring. The windows of the fortune teller’s antique shop were dark and the doors closed. He kept walking as the last of the dust storm died away. At last, he reached his building and then descended into the basement he rested. Down there it was dark as pitch. He took off his coat and sat in a musty but comfortable chair, under a lamp. He doused the light before long, and eventually, he drifted off to sleep, dreaming not of his friends, or the Rogue Hound, but of what might be the next score. Invisible in the dark, the city slept, waiting for the next dawn.

The Rogue Hound was writing his replacement letter. Hajur’s pipe-smoke gradually dispersed. Martin Leng collapsed onto his cot.

Only golems like Saint remained, watching, listening between the dying of the lights and the rising of the sun.




Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more stories.

Soul Art

Today today today!

The sequel to “Hunter and Seed,” a little novel called “Soul Art” by yours truly is finally out for preorder!

I could not wait to release this, but it’s taken longer than I wanted. All things considered, my brain is a wild and weird artifact, including a few features I don’t like a whole lot. One of those despised traits is depression, and I have been dealing with that for much of my life. I suffered some serious bouts of depression over the last year and a half.

Excuses aside, I am excited to finally release this book. And in the honor of this release, I’ve lowered the price of “Hunter and Seed” to ninety-nine cents. If you have not checked that book out yet, now is the time.

I love writing, and writing this blog is good fun. However, writing fiction is my greatest passion. I think a lot of you, especially those of you who have enjoyed my serials on this blog, will like reading both “Hunter and Seed” and “Soul Art.”

Thank you for reading.

Triple Threat Giveaway

Hey, everybody, I missed my accountability post yesterday for two reasons.

1. It was Mother’s Day where I live. I love my mom.

2. I was actually busy working when I wasn’t doing Mother’s Day things.

That work involved editing and producing three samples of my existing fiction for three giveaways over at Those are all live now, as the triple threat giveaway.

Each of the sections is the opening of a novel I have not yet completed. They will be available until July 15th 2017. After that point, I’ll look at the one with the most downloads and the best feedback, and then I’ll complete the most popular book.

So, without further ado, here are the descriptions for these three stories.

The Mangrove Suite

A story of lost love, and the man who will give anything to restore a memory.
Jethro Gall is a memeotect, one of the specialists who creates shows for the mental networks of his strange near-future world.
When he finds a woman who he once knew, but with her memory erased, he will pursue the truth behind the otherworldly beings that govern humanity, and their ability to remove memories.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
White Curtain Court Mage

An empire built on magic. A young plant mage. A rival nation prepared for war.
Edmath has trained for most of his life to become a life mage. When he graduates from his magical academy, the real challenge begins. Separated from his royal lover by their diverging careers, Edmath finds himself caught in the intrigue of court politics.
The machinations of the neighboring nation will push him to the limits as war threatens. He will be driven far to find the truth and to stay alive.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “The Mangrove Suite,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
Temple Theater

Take the stage or die trying.
Dol once met the girl who would save the world almost nine years ago. He will do anything to protect her, and help her in her mission.
Gods in ill-health witness plays performed by mortals in their temples. Through those plays, mere mortals attempt to sway the minds of beings beyond time. Humans need all the help they can get against the gigantic enemies who appear in the east.
All the worlds a stage. And even the gods are merely players.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “The Mangrove Suite.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.

Whew, the links are in the titles of each story.

Also, if you don’t want to scroll back up, here they are again.
The Mangrove Suite
White Curtain Court Mage
Temple Theater.

Thanks for all the support. Share. Share. Share and enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Now Available for Preorder

I am not going to beat around the bush.

“Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Novel” is now available for preorder on and Kobo.


*Available in more stores soon.

For those not yet familiar with the story, “Tenlyres” is an epic fantasy with advanced technology, ancient monuments, and plenty of action. Everything is shown from the point of view of the heroin. The pace is quick. Even if you don’t normally read epic fantasy you should give this book a try.

As you can probably tell, I am super excited about this release.

For those who have been following the serial, this volume contains everything that has been serialized so far, as well as the conclusive final part of the novel. All of these parts got another coat of polish and edits to make everything fit together tight. So even if you’re up to date on the serial go buy this version.

I’m very proud of the book. Support me and my writing career by checking it out at the links above.

The book releases officially on February 7th.

Time to ride east.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 32 – Metal Storm

Happy holidays, everyone, Tim here.

I hope you’re all enjoying the story, and I really appreciate everyone following along.

At the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link.

Sign up, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, for free! This is a great way to show your support for the serial.


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres II and read the rest of this story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa and her comrades are in the northern mountains, allied with the Vogmem tribes there.

            Following a difficult mental struggle to interrogate a captured mind eater, Ilsa prepares to fight the coming battle despite word of predictions that leaders will die in this fight.


The locust left as the sun rose, taking Koor’s sky carriage with it. He did not even bother saying goodbye to Ilsa, though Blue told her he had wished them all luck. Siuku had refused his offer to the last moment. Ilsa did not know if she could be glad for that, especially given the revelation of the Gray Lector from the previous night.

She and Lemuel stood near Blue and Tirica and Cass as they watched the locust leave its glittering trail in the cold air. The aquatic sky beast circled the lake once, then flew eastward, toward Morhoen and safety.

Not one of Koor’s war magi remained behind. Evidently, the Four could not agree to unify with the rest of the people of the steppe even now. Old grudges ran too deep, Ilsa could tell, and they were so different from the city-dwellers they would hate to make peace them.

From the western shore of the lake, banners and lights indicated Shayi Haram’s forces moving toward the camp. Ganara approached Ilsa and the others with the locust just leaving over the western peaks.

“We have to break one of the Ayochian forces if we are to escape. The Four have decided to leave this lodge until we can fight to reclaim it some other day.” As she spoke the Vogmem broke camp all around them. Ganara raised her voice and addressed the assembled warriors not helping to mobilize everything. “We are all nomads today, my people. We will ride with the Oshomi and wage war on Ayoch, and the Uzan on the plateau.

“Red Lectors. Gray Lectors. Queens. Generals. They are all the same to us. Animals we hunt.” Ganara raised her black staff over her head.

Her warriors cheered and clapped. Ilsa found herself joining them. Today, all of them were nomads. And today, all of them were warriors, even Lemuel. She glanced at him. He kept his revolver tucked into his waistband. He found her gaze, but his hands trembled.

She put her arm around his waist and rested one hand on his hip, by the weapon. “I won’t let you down, Lemuel.”

“I won’t let you go alone. Not this time, Ilsa.”

“You’ve saved me in battle before,” she said.

“Not as many times as you saved me.” He bowed his head. “Let’s get through this together.”

We have to try. But nothing is certain, Ilsa thought. She lifted his chin and pulled him close. They kissed fiercely, warmth against warmth in the cold light of dawn.

She pulled him onto Hailek’s back behind her. She loaded her machine gun, then her pistols, and her shotgun. She wore them all on the outside for the moment. She needed to be ready.

They rode back toward the windy gusts of the pass together. Blue and Tirica joined them, closely followed by the small cluster of Oshomi that surrounded Siuku.

The Keeper of Tenlyres nodded to Ilsa through the crowd of horse riders.

A flight of great Vogmem hawks with skyriders on their backs glided past overhead. Ilsa glimpsed the glint of steel, and the pennant on Megalli’s spear-point rising from one bird’s back.

Hiragen’s troops held the the pass. Akirette and Megalli had skyriders on the cliffs, ready to act as snipers before they took off to escape for themselves.

Cass waited by the mouth of the pass on a borrowed goat runner. She and Ferdinand, along with one of Ganara’s lieutenants were in charge of the prisoners, from the hulking form of Ozleji Sammhar to the slim form of Ashnia Haram, riding behind him.

This whole mass of humanity and beasts needed to break through the pass before the Uzan closed their trap on everyone. Two hundred indestructible monsters made for a deadly force on their own.

Indestructible. There must be a way to kill them, to cancel whatever magic preserved their lives despite fatal wounds. But for the moment, mortal humans  stood between them and their escape. She took a deep breath of crisp morning air. The time to run was coming, but they would have to fight through the Red Lector to have any chance of survival.

Blue and Tirica fell back from them as the column advanced. Both were better fighters at a distance.

Damn Koor’s oracles and seers. She would see Siuku through this battle. Ilsa guided Hailek into the pass with Ganara’s Vogmem vanguard.

Shots rang out from the cliff top as the cavalry split into two serried columns to use the large boulders and wreckage from the previous battle on either side of the pass for cover. Ilsa and Lemuel rode with Ganara and her troops on the eastern side of the pass, the one that would take them into the heart of the Ayochian forces. She spotted the immobilized gun carriage just behind the Ayochian line as men and striders raced this way and that. The few remaining armored vehicles were spread out among the troops, forming a barricade to hold the nomads back. With Shayi Haram’s force advancing on the Vogmem rear from west of the lake, the Red Lector hoped to trap the tribal forces in a pincer movement.

Ilsa leveled her machine gun at the enemy lines as they drew closer. Pounding of the feet and hooves of steeds thundered in her ears. Black Powder and his mercenary company shifted behind the front line to form up between the Vogmem advance where Ilsa rode, and the immobile gun carriage further back.

Evidently, her father knew they would break through the thin group of Ayochian regulars between them and the artillery. But did he really think his few hundred troops, however well-trained, would hold if the troops in front of them a routed?

No. He had to have another plan. A counter-attack? That would make sense. Given the deadliness of modern weapons in the hands of skilled and bonded soldiers, he could be planning to stop Ganara’s charge by picking off troops during the fight at the front line, then closing to push them back.

Ilsa gritted her teeth. Too late to change plans now.

Ganara whirled the black staff over her head, then thrust it’s point forward as she bellowed a battle cry. The Vogmem joined her. In the din of shouts and screams of pain, Ilsa thought she her Lemuel’s voice join them. She urged Hailek to accelerate with her heels. The lines closed with each other.

Bullets whined and shotgun blasts sprayed. Troops on both sides fell, but the Vogmem steeds proved as tough as ever at this range. They often continued forward when wounded, with few even making sounds of complaint and fewer still that were audible over the drumbeat of hooves.

The Ayochian troops began to retreat before Ganara’s charge could meet them. The Vogmem column raced towards Black Powder’s mercenaries.

The line of her father’s troops looked heavy, thick with the long shadows of ballistic pavises interlaced with the barrels of rifles ending in bayonets. They were prepared for a charge.

Ilsa urged Hailek forward. Her fearless strider followed her heel’s pressure as law. He accelerated. She took her shotgun in one hand, and her machine gun in the other. Recoil from the two combined could make her less accurate, compared to using one with a pistol, but she needed the options against the dug-in troops.

She and Lemuel reached the front of the column. Hailek jostled with the steeds of Ganara’s vanguard, close to the Vogmem chieftain herself.

She raised her voice and shouted to Ganara, “They’re ready.”

“Not ready enough.” She held her staff before her, dragging bullets and shot to form a halo around her as Black Powder’s mercenaries began to open up. The black staff held the projectiles just a moment each, before bouncing them back the way they had come. Most of the reflected shots impacted on the steel shields in the front rank, but a  few mercenaries yelled in pain and went down.

Ilsa scanned the ranks, looking for her father. She spied him by the artillery, his hands empty. So confident. She gritted her teeth. Arrogant as ever.

Ilsa took shots when she saw them. A wounded shield bearer collapsed, and she killed the mercenary behind him with a blast of her shotgun. She hugged close to Hailek’s long-maned neck, felt his hair whip against her face in the wind. Her blood pulsed as she aimed, and shot, and killed.

The Vogmem column hit the mercenary line. There, the resistance intensified. Mercenaries with lances and axes fought hand to hand with Ganara’s warriors in close quarters. But they could not hold out long as more Vogmem poured into the fray.

Ilsa’s guns blazed. Her machine gun ran out of bullets, and she replaced it with a pistol from her hip. Lemuel took the fully-automatic gun and started to reload it. She felled another with the last loaded shotgun shell and he took that as well.

A pistol in each hand, she slew foe after foe. All around her Vogmem began to drop, lacking the protection of Ganara’s staff at such close quarters. Step by bloody step, Black Powder’s troops retreated to the bulk of the immobile gun carriage.

Ilsa reached Ganara in the midst of a lull as warriors surged around them in pursuit. “We have momentum,” said Ganara. “Keep moving.”

Ilsa’s bruised chest ached. “Something is wrong. Black Powder wouldn’t just throw away so many troops.”

Ganara scowled at her. “Time is already low. Press forward.”

Ilsa could not disagree with that. The Uzan could be only minutes way by now. She wheeled Hailek to continue the attack.

Behind her, Lemuel cursed under his breath as he fought to reload the shotgun. “This mechanism is impossible.”

She kept her eyes on the enemy. On the loading platform of the gun carriage, stood Black Powder, Henry Vel, her father. One sleeve was pulled back and marked with the long red line of a fresh brand from wrist to elbow-joint. He was trying to bond to a new weapon. But why now, in the thick of battle?

“Leave the gun, and hold onto me.” Ilsa pushed her heels into Hailek’s sides and the strider bounded forward.

Lemuel fumbled with the shotgun but put his small arm around Ilsa’s waist. Hailek carried them to rejoin the front of the Vogmem column, with Ganara not far behind them.

At the head of the column, the fighting continued, just a short ten meters from the gun carriage where Black Powder stood. Ilsa shot down another pair of mercenaries and closed.

“Jump, Hailek.”

The strider obeyed, leaping over the front line of mercenaries fighting on the ground. Ilsa killed another of them in mid-air. A small shadow darted between her and the gun carriage.

Hailek’s head bucked back. Blood spurted from his jaw, then his right leg gave out as he landed. Ilsa shouted, surprised. Her strider stumbled forward, half-dragging the limp right leg, then collapsed onto the stones.

Hailek’s blood flowed down his weeping yellow mane in thick rivers. Ilsa leaned close to the strider’s head as he struggled, still trying to stand, despite his uncooperative legs. She felt tears in her eyes. “Rest,” she said. “Hathani keep you, my friend.”

Lemuel grabbed her shoulder with his big hand. “Ilsa.” He pulled her sideways from the saddle. She grunted as they hit the ground  a meter blow. A hail of bullets raked across the saddle where they had been sitting and cut the saddlebags to pieces, sending splinters of Ilsa’s red staff flying.

She leaped to her feet and ran past Hailek’s ragged, bloody body. Before her stood Melinda. Her father’s psychotic apprentice leered at Ilsa. “There you are.” She giggled. “Sorry about your strider, but Black Powder must not be interrupted.”

Even with the battle raging, Ilsa could swear she heard Hailek scraping on the stone, still trying to move. Always trying.

Ilsa’s narrowed gaze met Melinda’s gleaming eyes. “All gods damn you.”

“Dull curse. He deserves better than you for a daughter.” Melinda’s pistols both aimed at Ilsa, and with Lemuel somewhere behind her, Ilsa did not dare dodge.

Instead, she took aim with both guns.

Melinda’s breath misted before her. No more words. A flame kindled atop the gun carriage at her back. Black Powder stood just behind the fire and reached for the artillery gun with his branded arm.

Melinda ducked toward Hailek and opened up on Ilsa. Their bullets could have crossed in flight. A rush of pain flooded Ilsa’s right elbow, followed by the creeping numbness of Melinda’s poisoned bullet.

But her fingers still worked. She twisted her wrist, one eye closed in concentration. Her finger hit the trigger as Melinda’s foot touched stone. Ilsa’s bullet went through the girl’s chest, just below the collarbone.

For a moment Melinda stood, halfway paralyzed. Ilsa’s stomach churned. “Sorry,” she murmured.

Blood bubbled between Melinda’s lips. Her knees buckled. She slid sideways to the stony ground beside Hailek. Ilsa held her left pistol aimed at Melinda until the guns fell from the girls’ limp fingers.

Lemuel caught up with Ilsa. He looked at where Hailek and Melinda lay still. His eyes went wide and he turned to Ilsa. “Dead?”

“Both of them,” she said. “I’m sure.”

She turned toward the gun carriage. Suddenly the mercenaries seemed very far away. But the flame on the gun carriage still burned. Black Powder’s shadow danced against the wall of the pass. His hand gripped the dull steel base of the artillery gun as the fire crept toward the munitions piled by the gun’s autoloader.

Over the sound of Vogmem hoof-beats catching up to them, Ilsa heard her father’s voice say, “Bond to me, dear weapon.” And the long brand on his arm burned red.

Ilsa remembered the way the ritual fires flared when father had bonded her guns to her as a child. The flames ignited a collection of shells on the front of the carriage.

Too late to run away.

Shelter. Need shelter. Ilsa shoved Lemuel toward Hailek’s sagging bulk with her shoulder. She pressed herself close to him and dragged him down to the ground behind Hailek’s body.

The explosion of the gun carriage rocked the entire pass.


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Tenlyres Chapter 31 – Cold Rage

Hello, everyone, Tim here.

I hope you’re all enjoying the story, and I really appreciate everyone following along.

In case you weren’t aware, at the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link.

Sign up, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, for free!


Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres II and read the rest of this story right away!

Previous Chapter


Ilsa and her comrades are facing an approaching battle in the mountains.

            Her old mentor, Koor, as arrived, and wishes to interrogate one  of their prisoners, an Ayochian mind eater Blue met in the Temple of Colors.

            Danger lurks in the mind.


Ashnia Haram lay on a bedroll in a tent near the center of the Vogmem camp, separate from the other prisoners. She appeared to be unconscious, rolled onto her side, and did not stir when Ilsa, Blue, and Koor entered the tent. Cass stood at the foot of the bedroll, broken arm in a sling, and her good hand gripping her red staff of office.

Ilsa stopped short when she saw her. “Cass.”

Cass looked up in surprise as Ilsa and the others entered. “Ilsa,” she said. “What is it? Who is this?”

“This is Koor,” said Ilsa. “Morhoen’s highest priest of the Unification.”

Cass’ eyes narrowed. “What is he doing here?”

“Making plans, alliances.” Koor nodded toward Cass. “You are also a priestess of Hathani?”

“I am. I’m from Saint Banyeen’s Garden, like Ilsa.”

“I know who you are,” said Koor. “Perhaps one day you will accept the importance of Unification.”

Cass shrugged.

“She’s still asleep,” said Blue as she walked over to Ashnia. “Mostly fatigue, I would guess.” She sank to her knees beside the unconscious blond woman.

Koor nodded. “Luckily, we won’t need to wake her to begin our interrogation. There is much even Blue could not tell us about the Temple of Colors, not to mention our current situation caught between the forces of the Red Lector and the Uzan.”

He walked over to where Blue sat, then, supported with one hand on her shoulder, sat down on the mat beside her. “We will have to make sure the hermit does not interfere. Can you do that?”

“I’m not sure. If you help me, then maybe.”

“I’m not the magus I once was.” Koor looked at Ilsa. “But I have a sense Ilsa can assist us.”

Ilsa started with surprise. “What? I’m not magus.”

“Maybe not, but you have seen a vision, have you not?”

“When Ferdinand stabbed me, I saw my mother, but it was just a hallucination, I’m sure of it.”

“Indeed not. You have a connection to the spirit world, just like your mother.” He motioned her forward. “Please, take Blue’s hand. We will both need a connection with her to be of any use.”

“And what about me?” asked Cass. “I’ll be useless in this.”

“Far from it. It’s good you’re here,” said Koor. “Keep an eye on us for physical reactions. And be prepared to go for help. If none of us can take clear action things could become dangerous.”

“How dangerous can an interrogation be?” asked Cass.

“Dreadfully so,” said Koor, “When the Temple of Colors is involved.”

Ilsa sat down, legs folded, beside Blue. She reached for her friend’s hand. “We need to know what she knows.”

“I agree,” said Cass. “Good luck.”

Blue grasped Ilsa’s wrist, leaving her hand free. “Be ready to use your bonds,” she said.

Koor took Blue’s other hand. “Be not hasty, though. This is a rare opportunity.”

And a rare person, Blue thought into Ilsa’s mind.

Blue, Ilsa sent back. You still care for her?

“We have to do this,” Blue said aloud. “Let us begin.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes tight.

Together their minds melted into the world of thoughts.

Such a communal process is similar to the Temple itself, only smaller, Blue related to them mentally. The voice of the hermit reached Ilsa’s ears from outside in the following moment.

“You think to try me?” he used Ashnia’s voice, but the tone was absolutely that of the old man in the cave across the lake. “You are more foolish than I thought, Nameless.”

“It is not you I try, Hoon. You are only one obstacle to batter down.”

“I have studied in the temple for more decades than you have years as a mind eater.”

Ilsa turned her attention from the mind eaters’ conversation to the outer sensation of a world beyond their enclosed bubble of conflict. She could definitely sense other things out there, hazy, amorphous, but not threatening. She focused on the nearest one, the one she felt sure belonged to Ashnia’s mind.

Then the hermit was between her and the mind of the girl on the bedding. “Priestess.” Hoon’s mind yawned, wide leonine jaws, to bite at Ilsa. “You are full of surprises.” He smashed against her and sent her tumbling to the edge of the  bubble where she and Koor and Blue were situated.

Her sense of the outside dimmed. She focused on pushing back against the hermit. Koor’s mind did the same, along with Blue. A piercing scream and flash of rainbow light filled Ilsa’s senses.

Then, the hermit’s mind was gone from the edge of the bubble. She could not tell what had happened to him. But the resistance to her approaching Ashnia’s mind faded.

They turned their collective attention to Ashnia.

Blue broke through the outer barriers of the unconscious mind eater’s defenses in seconds.

Ilsa, Blue sent, be ready to leave us. Koor and I can take it from here.

But I can help, Ilsa replied.

You can help more on the outside. Someone has to listen for what she says, and I can tell Cass is going to have her hands full already.

I’m going. Ilsa pulled free of Blue’s hand and found herself in the tent once again.

She turned to Cass, who leaned on her staff, eyes on Ashnia. “Get ready to listen if she starts talking,” said Ilsa.

Ashnia rolled onto her back, pushing her hands, tied behind her back, against the bedroll. Ilsa got to her feet and felt her wrist where Blue had held it. The spot ached from how tight her friend had held on.

A guttural grunt escaped Ashnia’s lips. Another grotesque sound followed. None of the sounds belonged to any language Ilsa knew, on or off the plateau.

The string of grunts and growls continued. Ashnia writhed on the bedroll. She tossed her head this way and that.

A cold feeling crept through Ilsa’s heart. “What is she doing?

Cass dropped her staff so it thudded to the floor of the tent. “She’s speaking. It’s some kind of pre-ancient Yrian. I can’t tell what she’s saying, though.”

Ilsa snapped her fingers. “Lemuel. He probably could.”

“Go get him. I’ll keep watch,” said Cass.

“Right.” Ilsa turned and rushed out the flap of the tent. Her shoes thumped on the stone and earth. She made her way toward the lodge, where she had last seen Lemuel. At the edge of the main camp, she stopped and looked toward the water’s edge.

His shadow stretched over the water near the sky carriage’s side. She sprinted over to him. “Lemuel,” she said.

He turned toward her, hands folded, small inside of large. “Ilsa, what is it? Are the Ayochians attacking?”

“No. But follow me, we need your help.” She explained as quickly as she could about Koor’s interrogation of Ashnia. “She’s speaking in some old language. Neither Cass or I can understand her.”

“Is it a harsh tongue?” He asked as they made their way back toward the tent where she had left Blue and the others.


As they approached, a terrible, inhuman, howl of fury erupted from within the canvas coverings. “It sounds that way,” Lemuel added in shock.

Ilsa pulled the flap aside. Lemuel stared through the opening for a second. He gulped back obvious fear, then went through it. Ilsa followed him, cautious at the sound of the scream.

Cass had moved around Ashnia’s bedroll to stand opposite Blue and  Koor. She looked down at Ashnia, who writhed below her, screaming, growling, and swinging her body with restrained wrath.

Good thing her arms and legs are all bound. She could be really dangerous otherwise.

Ilsa dropped down beside Blue, where she had sat to commune when they had begun their attack on Ashnia’s mind.

Blue’s face was gray, and tears gleamed on her cheeks. Ashnia roared in a voice like a lion. Lemuel stared at her from behind Blue and Ilsa.

“She is talking,” he said. “The language of the gods. I’ve only seen it written before now, but that’s got to be it.”

Ilsa grimaced. “What is she saying?”

“It could be one of a few things, but given context…”

“Now!” said Cass. “Spit it out, scholar.”

“She’s talking about the Gray Lector,” said Lemuel. “She’s saying he leads the Uzan.”

“He’s with them? Those monsters?” Shock ran through Ilsa. Even Black Powder would not dare go to war beside the Uzan personally. “Why wouldn’t they just kill him?”

“He’s one of them. Or she’s saying he’s part of them. I guess it’s clear.”

Ilsa scowled. “He’s an Uzan?”

“The Gray Lector could be anyone, right?” said Cass. “And he has waged war in Ayoch for almost twenty years.”

“This is his motive,” said Lemuel with a frown as he translated the grunts and roars from Ashnia’s lips. “He’s a missionary, a demon who serves the gods.”

“The gods?” Ilas asked. “Hathani? Another of the Three? Vada? Jath?”

“It’s tricky. I don’t think so.” Lemuel bit his lip. “I’ve got to keep up. Asur-Asurdeva is one of the old gods of the steppe, referred to in Lyre lore.”

“That helps,” said Ilsa. “He’s fighting for this old god?”

“He thinks so. The Uzan he leads are on the same side. They all serve this being.”

“Why war in Ayoch?”

Lemuel’s brow furrowed at the next screams from Ashnia. “The crown. The royalty of Ayoch, they ruled them. They controlled the Uzan once, a long time ago.”

“Holy shit,” said Cass. “If they could do that now, they could rule the world.”

Ilsa nodded. “Imagine what they did back then.”

“They conquered the continent,” said Lemuel. “Maybe the whole world. The Gray Lector wants all of that for himself and his god.”

“Asurdeva,” said Ilsa. “Asurdeva.”

Ashnia’s back arched. The bonds on her wrists split with an audible crack and snap. Her hands lashed free and then scrambled for her feet.

Ilsa dove for the Ayochian mind eater’s legs. She wrestled to keep Ashnia from untying the bindings on her ankles. Ashnia’s muscles must be pumped with adrenaline because she seemed stronger than Ilsa had ever felt someone of her size before that moment. All the while, Ashnia barked and growled in the language of the ancients.

Cass cringed back and produced a pistol from a bond. She started to load the weapon.

Lemuel glanced at her. “What are you doing?”

“We have to be ready if she breaks free completely.”

Ilsa fought for one of Ashnia’s arms. The other one snaked out and wrapped around Ilsa’s neck. She gave up her struggle to keep Ashnia from freeing her legs and sought to keep the girl from choking the life out of her with her adrenaline-fueled strength. Spots of darkness danced in her vision.

Automatic chaos, a deliberate incitement of a violent reaction, Blue said into Ilsa’s mind. Hang on, we’ve almost disabled her attack responses.

Ilsa grunted, unable to focus on anything except prying the arm from her throat. She managed to keep her ability to breathe but lost the battle to understand anything else. Still locked within Ashnia’s arm, she slammed herself down on the Ayochian’s belly. The blow forced air from Ashnia’s lungs and weakened her hold enough Ilsa could slither free of her grasp.

She lay on her back beside the mats. Cold ground sent tendrils clawing up through her flesh. She snarled and forced herself upright. Ashnia’s limbs went still.

Blue’s eyes remained closed, but she spoke between ragged breaths. “I—We-have what we need.” She sagged in on herself. “And she won’t fight back for now.”

Koor opened his eyes. Unlike Blue, he seemed completely, infuriatingly, composed. “It seems she knew a great deal.”

Ilsa looked in his direction. Lemuel stood off to one side. “She didn’t say that much,” he murmured.

“No, but her secrets are now in my mind,” said Koor. He got to his feet slowly. When he left Blue’s side, she spilled slowly onto the mat beside Ashnia. “Thank you, Blue.”

Blue nodded, eyes open, but said nothing.

“I am leaving this camp at dawn,” said Koor to Ilsa. “Make it clear to the Guardian of Tenlyres that she can still join me if she wishes.”

Ilsa glowered up at the man, pain still fresh in her mind and body. “I’ll tell her.” But she knew Siuku would not change her mind.

“Good.” Koor turned to Lemuel. “Thank you for your assistance, Mister Chollush. You are a skilled interpreter.”

“I did my best.” Lemuel crouched down beside Ilsa. “Are you alright?” He offered her his hand. She took it and pulled herself to her feet. “I’m not hurt as bad as Blue. Come on, let’s get her out of here.”

They helped Blue up, though she had to lean on Ilsa every step of the way back to her own tent. The cold of the night sent them all to their own places, except for Lemuel, by the time she spotted Hailek outside her tent. He appeared to be in good shape despite all the shooting earlier that day and the day prior.

“Good strider,” said Lemuel. “He found his way back.”

“He’s pretty smart.” Ilsa smiled wearily. “Like someone else, I could name.” She pressed against his side. “Thank you, for being where I need you.”

“I don’t know where else I would go.”

“But you know enough not to run away.” Her hand felt down his back to his belt. “Thanks.”

“You’re tired.”

“We’re both tired. Aren’t we?”

He put his chin into her overgrown hair. “You don’t mean–”

“What do  you think I could mean?”

“I almost think you want me to sleep with you.”

“I do. Just sleep tonight. Have to be ready.”

“For the morning.” He sighed against her. “It’s alright. I know.”

They slipped into the tent, and lay down on Ilsa’s bedding, fully clothed. She had not realized how tired she was until he wrapped his arms around her. Then she slept immediately.


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Tenlyres II is out!

It’s official. has Tenlyres II: The Gray Lector on sale.


I love this story, I think it is some of my most vivid writing to date. It continues the adventure from Tenlyres I: Ilsa and Blue, as our heroes try to escape the machinations of the eponymous Gray Lector as well as their old enemies.

Perhaps overshadowed by the second part of the Tenlyres story, but also out today is a Tenlyres short story, “Mount Higatha”, about the rogue and adventurer from the main story, Ferdinand Thoss.

So… links.

Tenlyres I: Ilsa and Blue is available for free on all major online stores HERE. If you haven’t been following the serial it is probably the best place to start.

Tenlyres II: The Gray Lector is out on Amazon HERE and will soon be available through the other vendors.

Mount Higatha is out now as well on Amazon HERE. But if you sign up for my mailing list (On the top of the sidebar of you can get it for free!

Whew! It’s been an exciting day for me. I love releasing new work, and I’m very proud of Tenlyres. The third part of the story should be out in mid-January, and that will wrap up the tale. And, if you like reading on websites, the story will continue to be serialized in its entirety on both the blog at and at

I appreciate any eyes people want to point at my stuff.

As always, thanks for reading.

Straight from the Subconscious! It’s Urban Fantasy!


So, I’m writing this blog post from the depths of my near-delirious state. I hope it is, at least, understandable when I post it.

Stayed up late last night talking to my twin brother online.

This kind of 2-3 hour conversation was of the sort of scale I have fairly often with my brother, but last night’s talk was something special as far as the amount of fun I had. It reminds me how well these conversations can go.

We discussed A LOT of different story stuff, mostly related to dark stories (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Narcos, Joe Abercrombie’s First Law books), and the anime Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Now, of those four TV shows and one book series, I have only barely read or watched about half of the total stories. However, these are all up my brother’s alley.

I told him he really seems to like dark stories to a degree I do not (Though I like at least some things about most of the stories I mentioned above). While I don’t think I really fall in love with the dark stories, I do enjoy them. Of course, as a writer, that distinction is important.

The most powerful ascendant element of fiction for me right now is adventure, not tone or grit. I enjoy adventure stories and having realized recently how much Urban Fantasy I’ve been writing over the past few years, I think this is an important element to emphasize. Some Urban Fantasy goes more toward horror, while others lean on romance. Mine rely on adventure, at least at this point. And I do not plan to fight this (Apparently) natural development.

With a mighty mental leap, I managed to fit my thoughts into Urban Fantasy. My brother and I also talked about genre last night.

My first released novel, and the sequel I’m working on, the whole Maker Mythos really, is Urban Fantasy. That point is fairly clear to me now. It has a contemporary setting in which technology from present Earth can have an effect on the supernatural and fantasy elements (Unlike something like Harry Potter where guns and phones are pretty much unknown among wizards, for example). So, that one fits.

Many of my other series ideas surprised me a bit in this regard, but I realized I could just slightly tilt them and have them fit as kin to the genre of Urban Fantasy if not quite fit them in as kind.

A few examples from other story-worlds I have not released much stuff for yet…

Rem’s Dream has a novel out, and even though I’ve categorized that as cyberpunk, I realize now how much magic and crazy fantasy elements are effectively present in the story. Young people can alter the dreamworld at will. Nightmares become real monsters. There is a lot in just those two sentences that make the story as much fantasy as near-future.

Next up, my short stories.

Stolen Parts deals with necromancers in the modern United States in a small-town setting. It is DEFINITELY Urban Fantasy in the most customary sense of the moment, a la The Dresden Files.

Weirder to think of as Urban Fantasy for me is Ludosensitivity. This is a VERY short story I released a bit over a year ago. It’s also set in a setting I always thought of as Science Fiction, near future, but still. However, there are people who gain psychic abilities temporarily by drinking the blood of strange nonhuman characters as a major part of the story and world. It takes place in a city on Earth. Huh. And the technology level is basically similar to the present, despite the year listed. So, my point? This could easily qualify as Urban Fantasy too, even though my personal prejudice wanted it to be some kind of science fiction. The larger, unreleased stories from this universe fit the family even more clearly.

Does that not cover all my current releases (Except for Tenlyres I, which probably does not fit)?

One last example is a book I wrote years ago, with no consideration for genre whatsoever.

This novel’s working title was Hanging Jupiter, and it takes place in a modern city on a different Earth (Much like a couple other unreleased stories I will not go into here because they are not as complete at the moment). There is magic in this book, side-by-side with technology. There are nonhumans, a protagonist with a dark past. Huh. I guess this is pretty close to Urban Fantasy tropes too.

You see? I write and have written a goodly amount that can be classes in the Urban Fantasy sub-genre. I don’t think that is a big stretch.

Anyway, my point is this: I can fit a lot of stuff into this genre, world-wise.

So, I’m waking up now. I’m happy to report that this post actually has helped me get my thoughts together this morning.

I can only hope you will get something out of it.

What are some favorite books of yours in Urban Fantasy? Do you like dark stories or prefer a lighter tone?

Let me know in the comments if you like.

And you can check out Rem’s Dream and Hunter and Seed today on most online stores.

Thanks for reading!

Words from Tim

This is the first post here that is neither podcast nor fiction in quite a while. The Serial, Tenlyres, has been going for about six months at this point.

I think it is about time I reintroduce myself and my other work.

That goes double because I have just got the updated covers of my short stories released, and I have another novel almost ready to release in ebook.

I want to go through the books I have out in the order I released them. It may seem a bit early in my career for a retrospective, but these stories are all still good and I want you to know a little about them. If you are a reader of Tenlyres you may have noticed the sidebar where I have the book covers.

Right now, there are four of them.

First of all, over a year and a half ago, is a little short story called Stolen Parts.

Stolen Parts is about a pair of necromancers who are also a girlfriend and boyfriend having relationship trouble. What can bring them back together? Her heart is stolen, and he tries to save her. He is gonna need her help to get it back from the small-town master necromancer who stole it. I think it’s a fun, and funny, little urban fantasy story.

Stolen Parts cover v2 hq

Next up, is the first story in my “Clean” world. It’s got a long name. Ludosensitvity.

Ludosensitivity means something along the lines of “sensitivity to play” or “game sense”.

The setting is the near future, but a very weird near-future where the population gains psychic abilities that they can use to network like computers. There are many complications that result from this set-up. This short story focuses on a corporate buy-out… resolved over a game of chess between two people, both using psychic abilities.

ebook Ludosensitivity Cover 3 hq

I released my first novel-length fiction last January. It’s a series starter, and I am at work on the sequel.

It’s called “Hunter and Seed” and is the first in the Maker Mythos. It follows a man from another dimension but exiled to our Earth as he breaks the law to pursue a thief across multiple worlds. At stake? The creation and shaping of a new world. This is a fast-paced urban fantasy novel with a lot of adventure elements. It’s also a send-up of some classic fantasy tropes. The protagonist, Saul, is definitely a bit of an antihero. As he struggles to do the right thing he also has trouble giving up his own selfish goals.

The first part of Hunter and Seed, the Earthborn Hunter, is available for free on every major site my work is found other than Amazon at the moment. It’s quite popular over at Barnes & Noble.

ebook Hunter and Seed 12 hq

That brings us to Tenlyres, the current serial in progress. I’m pretty proud of the way this story is evolving, and I enjoy the serialization process. You can get the compilation of the first third of the story over at and on other sites like Barnes & Nobel and Apple. This story is VERY out-there epic fantasy with a lot of odd technology, including firearms.

ebook Tenlyres I new hq

That’s where we stand. Rem’s Dream is my next novel. It’s cyberpunk, and should work for a younger audience. Follow the young heroine, Rem, as she grows up in a near-future where dreams are both the next frontier and the source of energy for the waking world. That will be up in a few weeks, and I will be back to chat with you again as that gets closer.

REM'S DREAM6 ebook hq

Another chapter of Tenlyres is out tomorrow. So watch out for that.

Thanks, and keep reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 22

Ilsa and Blue ride north from the Central Lyre with the Keeper of Tenlyres, who it is their mission to protect.
Separated from the rest of their group during a sudden attack by the monstrous Uzan, Ilsa, Blue, and the Keeper, ride toward the mountain pass on the edge of the plateau.

Previous Chapter

Buy Tenlyres I on Amazon!

Tenlyres II - Chapter 22 lq

The mountain pass came into sight a few kilometers ahead of Ilsa, Blue, and Siuku. Dew glistened on wiry clumps of mountain grass, pale blue glittering against struggling green. The rough terrain was difficult for already weary striders. Hailek seemed to be tiring as dawn crept over the mountains to the east.

They had ridden evasively during the night to avoid the Uzan, or they would have reached the pass sooner. Blue’s eyes were shot with blood, and Ilsa could only conclude her own looked similar. Granite slopes. Spiny trees. Dark birds that never called out. These things did not seem to care about the arrival of the Uzan so close to them.

Ilsa shivered as she thought of the monstrous beasts. The fact that she had killed one of them seemed completely unimportant. That one had barely managed a shot thanks to Blue’s control. Next time she might not be so lucky.

The world had grown darker since the journey began. Darker, and far, far stranger. Ilsa guided Hailek up a slope into the broadest portion of the pass to the Lake of Saints. Riding behind Blue, Siuku pointed. “Others,” she said in her monotone.

Ilsa’s tired eyes made out the shapes of horses and striders, clear against the gray mountains ahead. Her heart leaped into her throat as she searched for her friends. Lemuel, you have to be here, she thought, and Cass, I still owe you.

She found Tirica first. She sat upon a strider’s back with her long rifle propped against her shoulder. Cass rode behind her, red hair like a halo around her face.

Ilsa kept searching the group of Oshomi who had survived the siege and the Uzan attack. She finally spotted a dark coat with a high collar. Lemuel.

She pushed her heels into Hailek’s sides with more force than needed. The strider grunted and lurched the last few paces up the slope. He stumbled with a groan of protest but covered the rest of the distance. Hailek shuddered and sank to the ground just a few paces away from Lemuel, whose horse gave an anxious snort.

She slid down his side and her shoes landed on the stony ground. “Keeper,” she called. “Please help him, if you can.”

“You should have asked sooner, priestess.” Despite her words, Siuku climbed down from Blue’s strider and ran to the place on Hailek’s side where the Uzan had wounded him.

Ilsa leaned close and brushed the hair of Hailek’s neck gently. “It will be alright, my friend. Hathani keeps us all.”

She turned toward where Lemuel had sat on his animal and found him close before her. She smiled at him, but could not keep from sagging forward from exhaustion. His embrace caught her. His small hand moved down the back of her coat. “They all feared for you.”

“And you didn’t?”

“Only a little.” He squeezed her to him with both arms. “I trust you, Ilsa.”

She set her chin on his shoulder. “Thank you.” It had been years since anyone besides Blue and the Unification had invested that kind of confidence in her. “You helped me get here, you know.”


She flushed, glad he couldn’t see her face. “I wanted to see you that much.”

“And your mission.”

“Yes.” She spoke into his ear. “My mission didn’t have to bring me to this place.” Her grip on him released and she stepped back.

Blue rode to the rest of the party. “The Uzan won’t be far behind us. Do you know anywhere we can go?”

Siuku replaced her veil and straightened her back. “To the Lake of Saints,” she said. “It is not far from here, though the way is difficult for horses.”

“Vogmem control the Lake of Saints,” said Cass. “I heard that at Saint Banyeen’s just before I left.”

“It is a good thing we shared peace meat with them.” Siuku walked past Ilsa and Lemuel toward her riders. “We must hurry.” She raised her bow and one of the riderless horses trotted to her. She climbed up to ride bareback.

A groan came from behind Ilsa. She and Lemuel looked in Hailek’s direction. The great wooly strider climbed to his feet, steady once again. His wound was sealed, but the hair above it was still gone, and the skin was pallid where it had been sealed.

Ilsa offered Lemuel the rope. They climbed into the saddle and rode after the rest of the party.

As they went, Cass and Tirica gradually dropped back to ride beside them.

She glanced at the other priestess, who still wore her arm in a sling. Their eyes met.

“I’m glad you made it,” Cass said. “When that missile hit, I feared the worst.”

“I wouldn’t die while I owe you.” Ilsa grinned wearily, feeling the tug of Lemuel’s small hand holding onto her belt. “And you’re not the only one I owe a debt in this group.”

Cass nodded. “The gates of the mountains stand open to all,” she quoted from the oldest scripture. “But we who fight for Hathani must always remember the ways of gods do not rely on our success.”

“Not your words?” Ilsa said. “I’m surprised.”

“The ancients said it best.”

Ilsa looked down at Cass’s arm. “How did that happen?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

Ilsa nodded. “Alright.” When they had been students Cass would never have passed up an opportunity to talk. Things had changed.

The way through the mountains grew steeper within the hour. She could only imagine how brutal the slopes would be if one strayed from the pass. Certainly, a horse would not make it through, and a strider as tired as Hailek likely would do little better.

Around noon, they followed the path around a bend in the rocky side of the mountain. Glimmers of pale blue water scattered with shards of ice were Ilsa’s first sight of the Lake of Saints. The lake filled a vast crater situated between three white peaks.

The mountain north of the lake bowed over, like a doting mother inspecting her child’s cradle. Her appearance had earned her a name known well in Dal, Chogrum, and beyond. Nurse Mountain’s arms wrapped around the water’s edge.

Lemuel gasped as he looked down upon the lake. Ilsa admitted the awe of the sight to herself as well. The Lake of Saints was holy to every member of the three. Hathanian scripture did not emphasize physical structures, but even among her clergy, the place bore significant history. For this was where many hermits had lived to pen their scriptures, and from here prophets had often proceeded with their messages to the people.

Veins of pink granite, the same traces as on every edge of the plateau, ran through each mountain. Lightning transcribed on stone. Fresh, cold air surrounded the party as they began their descent toward the pale waters of the lake. Hailek’s labored breaths became harsh halfway down the slope. Ilsa patted his side.

“Just a little more, my friend.”

A rumble like stone upon stone made Ilsa turn toward the peak above her, but thankfully there was no sign of a rock slide. Ahead of them, Siuku raised her hand to halt the party. The cry of a bird echoed over the heights.

Three great birds glided by just above their level, a rider on each of their backs. The old skyrider circled back on the lead bird. “What brings you Oshomi to this place?”

“Banasi,” called Siuku. “We seek shelter with our friends?”

Banasi replied with a laugh. “Times are strange, but peace is also on my chieftain’s mind.” Her bird carried her higher before Siuku could reply.

Lemuel shook his head in wonder. Ilsa glanced at him.

He sighed. “If only Chogrum and Dal could put aside the past so quickly.”

She pressed her lips together tight and nodded. Unification would be ideal, but it was a matter of hope, and far from a simple one. She would fight for that hope as long as she was able.

Banasi’s bird circled lower. The old skyrider called out, “Follow this path to the lake, Keeper of Tenlyres. My band is already there.”

Siuku signaled the party to keep moving. Down the slope, the sound of stone and stone drew Ilsa’s attention again. A shaggy, gray and white goat climbed along the steep slope. On the animal’s back, sat a woman with yellow hair and a heavy coat almost the same color as her goat. Other goat-riders moved in along the slopes above the pass. They escorted the Oshomi, Ilsa, and her friends, down to the Lake of Saints.

The Vogmem encamped by the edge of the lake gave Ilsa and the Oshomi glares and nervous looks as they approached. So much for the peace meat, Ilsa thought. The people did not appear as trusting as their scouts suggested.

They were clad in thick clothes and had mostly red or yellow hair. Most of them carried firearms ranging from rifles and shotguns to a variety of old-fashioned pistols. A few even wore piecemeal plates of armor sewn together with joins made from ballistic cloth.

Ilsa and the others rode to the lake shore within the camp. A cabin far larger than the tents of the rest of the camp stood nearby, and before it, two groups of armed Vogmem riders on their own large goats waited for them.

“Keeper of Tenlyres,” said a man from the center of the group closer to the lake in a slight accent that sounded close to Chogrumian, but definitely tinted with the hints of the Vogmem tribal language.

His beard was thick and red. He wore a black woolen coat and his goat had brindled fur of almost the same coloration. The man rode forward a few paces, stocky on the back of his animal. “I am Hiragan, chieftain of the northern pass. Welcome to the Lake of Saints.”

Siuku rode her saddle-less horse toward the man. Her veil hid any trepidation she might have, but Ilsa guessed some kind of worry had to be going on in the Keeper’s mind. Here they sat among the people who killed her parents.

“I have heard there are four chieftains of the Vogmem.” She motioned toward the camp. “Am I correct in guessing you are not the only one here?”

Hiragen grinned within his beard. He glanced at the other group of riders by the cabin.

“You guess well, Keeper.” A goat carried a woman forward. She was pale, though not albino like Siuku and her hair was blond. She wore a pair of pistols with old-fashioned revolving chambers on her belt. A black staff crossed the saddle behind her. A primrose flower was nestled in her hair.

The black staff and the primrose were both symbols of Vada, the same symbols Lord Palend had displayed back at his manor. Ilsa’s eyes narrowed as the woman smiled at Siuku. “Here we pray to the Three, but you are a welcome guest, Keeper.”

“So, you are Ganara,” said Siuku. “I’ve heard of your war with Chogrum.”

“Fortunate Chogrumians never meet me,” said Ganara with a smirk. “The unlucky ones do.”

Ilsa felt Lemuel stiffen in the saddle behind her. “I won’t let anyone hurt you,” she whispered to him.

He relaxed a little but remained tense. Ganara’s eyes fell upon Blue. “This one is not Oshomi.” She shifted her gaze to Tirica, then Ilsa and Lemuel. “I see you have some odd allies, Keeper.”

“No more odd for me to ride with them than with you.”

“Vogmem ride together.” Ganara raised an eyebrow. “And you need our help.”

“And I need the help of these city-dwellers as well.”

She glared from Ilsa to Siuku. “You’ve used them. Now you have us as allies. What use are these?”

“I do not abandon those who have fought by my side.” Siuku’s voice remained atonal, but the words still sent a chill through Ilsa.

Hiragen bellowed a laugh. “I believe you, Keeper of Tenlyres. Ganara, the others will be here soon, and I’m sure they won’t appreciate it if you or your people murder the Keeper’s friends. Even if they are city-dwellers.”

“I will wait for them. But we will have a verdict on these Chogrumians.” Ganara nodded to Hiragen. “For now, I will wait.”

“The other half of our Chieftains are on the far side of the lake,” said Hiragen. “They will return by nightfall. You and your riders have endured much, and you look it.”

“We would appreciate rest,” said Siuku.

“My thoughts exactly.” Hiragen motioned for two of his riders to lead the group into the camp. “Join us for now. My skyrider, Banasi, tells me you have dealt with many perils. The details can wait for when the other chieftains arrive.”

“Thank you.” Siuku nodded to the chieftains.

Ilsa and the Oshomi followed her into the Vogmem camp.