Fan Art Contest – Videos

Last part of the fan art submissions today! All the awesome videos! If you can’t access the embedded versions, you can find all of these videos except Jessica’s on my YouTube channel. You can find Jessica’s here.

Tomorrow, the official voting will open. Yay!

First up, a scene from Dare as done by Hannah Rodes and her brother.


Dare book trailer as done by Rose Knight

Dare book trailer by Jessica Witt

Dare book trailer by Adri Ray

Fan Art Contest – Fiction Part 3

And the third part of the fan fiction pieces. This shorty story by Rebekah Jewett speculates what MIGHT happen in Defy. Sorry, I can’t tell any of you just how close she gets to what actually happens. That would be spoilers. 😉

I can say, she has some awesome ideas. Wish I’d thought of them. 😉


 

Blades of Acktar Fanfiction by Rebekah Jewett 

         Oh dear! What happened? Please let him be ok! 

         “Take him to his tent and have him cleaned up. Watch over him and give him some ointments and medicines.” 

         She was quick to obey, but fear continued to take hold of her body. She touched his forehead. It was burning hot! Oh dear! Please, please be ok! Oh Lord, please heal him! 

 

         Screams. Screams filled his ears. The screams were followed by the sound of metal entering flesh. Crunching against bone. He wanted to scream himself, but it did no good. However hard he tried to run or forget about what was taking place around him, the terrified eyes of those being slaughtered stuck in his vision. Just as all hope was gone, he saw her. His heart lept within him as he ran to meet her. Her eyes, however, were filled with fear. Why? He lifted his hand to caress her cheek, but at his touch she screamed. He pulled his hand back, and where he had just touched her there was a long slash of a red liquid lay on her cheek. Blood? What was happening? He reached for her arm, only to have her whimper and take hold of her arm, her blood seeping through her fingers as she valiantly tried to hide the gash. He looked down at his hand to see a dagger, his dagger, in his hand with her blood covering the blade. He had hurt the one person he wished to protect, the very person he would offer his life for if it meant her safety. He hurt her, with his own dagger. The look of horror, disbelief, and pain etched on her face was more painful to bear than if he had thrust the dagger into his chest. He watched her fall to the ground, covered in blood, and he could do nothing to help her. He screamed her name over and over, trying to find a way to help her. But with his screams, the screams of those around him intensified as well as her wails of grief. 

         Something cool touched his arm. He tried to open his eyes but they felt as though they were glued shut. The smell of blood filled his nostrils. He stirred, trying to open his eyes, but unable to because the force that held them shut was too strong.

“You think he will be ok?” A young feminine voice asked. Where had he heard that voice? It sounded so familiar.

“I’m not sure,” another feminine voice answered, her voice wavering as she spoke. He knew that voice too. That voice belonged to-

“Renna?” His voice sounded raspy. He felt two people lean over him, one pair of hands pulling his head in an upward position as someone held a flask to his mouth. His lips touched the opening, but he couldn’t get himself to drink any.

“You need to drink it. It smells bad, I know, but I can imagine your throat is half raw from screaming all-”

“Brandi!” Renna cut off her little sister from saying more. Leith winced. He’d been screaming all night? Had he awoken everyone in camp?

“It’s ok,” Renna reassured him. “Brandi and I took shifts during the night so we were able to keep you as quiet as possible while the other slept.” Even as she said the words, fatigue etched her voice. He cleared his throat.

“Thank you both for helping me. I think I can manage,” he started as he tried once again to open his eyes. This time he was rewarded with his sight, but what he saw frightened him. There were small streaks of blood across his shirt, sheets, and the dresses Renna and Brandi wore. Leith looked down to see his arms wrapped in blood soaked bandages. Brandi instantly found where his eyes had traveled and explained.

“You had a really bad fever and kept thrashing and screaming. Sometimes you would start clawing and you would scratch yourself. You would open up previous gashes as well as make new ones.  Renna and I tried to stop you from further harming yourself by wrapping your arms in cloth.” Leith put his head down and shut his eyes. The smell of blood was much more powerful and, even being (or at least used to be) a blade, he felt as if he might be sick.

“Perhaps since you’re awake now, we can clean your arms and get you some new blankets,” Renna mused aloud. Just as Renna reached for Leith’s arm, the tent flap opened and Cahira marched in, bowl and towel in hand. Cahira glanced at Leith, then gave a tight nod.

“Good, you’re awake. Renna, dear, could you use this to clean his arms and anything else that might have blood on it? I’ll be right back with all of your breakfasts.” With that, she walked and exited the tent as quickly as she had entered. Leith was still amazed about how much she resembled her husband, General Stewart. She led the camp’s residents just about as strictly as the General ran his army. Both could be very stern, but both were very kind, compassionate, and courageous.

Renna set the bowl next to Leith’s bed and both girls set to work unwrapping Leith’s bandages. Once they had gotten the bandages off, Renna began to clean the wounds. Leith tried not to yell as the cloth moved over his arm. The liquid must be some type of strong cleansing ointment. He locked his jaw as the searing pain ran up and down his exposed arm. After what seemed to be an eternity, Renna put the towel back into the bowl, then began to wrap Leith’s arms back up. It reminded Leith of the first time he had met her which brought a smile to his lips. How much had happened since then! It scared him to remember not too long ago he was still in bondage to Respen. But by God’s love and amazing grace he had become one of his own children. God had led him to Renna and Brandi’s cabin that night, and there he began to think about the Lord. That had happened not only because of Renna and Brandi’s care and love for him, but because of Brandi’s Bible stories of Daniel. He smiled again as he thought of all the times she had visited and told him stories of someone named Daniel.

“So, Leith, how did it go? We were both worried sick when you rode into camp yesterday afternoon with a burning fever. We did everything we could, but your fever was very strong. Thank the Lord it finally broke!” Brandi said as she scooted over to his bed. Leith cleared his throat. It had been almost  a week since he had left Eagle Heights. He had heard rumors that some Blades had been spotted roaming in the cliffs. Leith was worried by the news and decided to scout out the cliffs to see how close the Blades were to their encampment. However, he was spotted and then was locked in a fight  with two other Blades. But God was with him and allowed him to return back to camp, unhurt other than a fever, a miracle Leith was very grateful for.

He looked back at Brandi, her big brown eyes begging him to answer. Turning to face her, he began, “Well, it turns out the rumors were true. There were Blades roaming throughout the cliffs a little too close for comfort. Blizzard and I watched for a while, trying to determine their mission and course of action. However, we were-”

Leith was cut off by a stream of light coming through the open tent flap. Cahira and Shad marched in with Jamie at their heels. Leith smiled as Jamie was visually relieved to see him alive and talking. As promised, Cahira had three bowls of steaming hot oatmeal and gave both the girls one. As they thanked her, she turned to Leith hesitantly. Extending the bowl, she asked, “Do you think you can eat?” Leith nodded his head and eagerly reached for the bowl. He hadn’t had a hot meal since he had left Eagle Heights. Blades aren’t known for having luxurious food while traveling.

As he began to to scoop his oatmeal, Shadrach broke the silence. “Probably the first hot meal, or food that can even be considered a meal, since you left Eagle Heights,” he said with a chuckle. Leith gave him a nod and a muffled laugh.

“So what happened?” Jamie asked.

“Well, as I was telling Brandi, the rumors where true. Sixth Blade Franklin Tooley and  Eighth Blade Farsin Kent were both roaming about the cliffs. Blizzard and I watched them from our vantage point for a few days, trying to learn where they were going and why they were here. However, the day before yesterday, I was spotted. We engaged in a fight.” Leith turned to Shad. “They’re still training. Someone must be training them because they were more skilled than last I remember. I never remember learning some of the techniques they had mastered when I was sixth or eighth blade.” After letting Shadrach digest the entirety of what he had just said, Leith began the story of his journey again. “However, by God’s grace he allowed me to survive. In the fight my supplies were ruined, and I had to flee in case there were more men with them. I’m guessing that’s what led to the fever.”

Cahira stood beside him and felt his forehead. “Well, another one of God’s blessings. Your fever is completely gone!” She gave him a warm smile. I’ll go let the General know. He will probably want a full update on what has taken place.” She took Renna, Brandi, and Leith’s now empty bowls, and left the tent.

Shadrach made his way to Leith’s side and placed his hand on his arm. “I’m glad you’re ok. We were all worried, and we prayed for you every day.” He took a breath. “I’m glad you’re all good. Would’ve been too quiet and boring without you.” He smirked as he left the tent.

Renna sat watching all this take place. What would have happened if Leith….didn’t come back? What would she have done? Tears stung her eyes as she quickly wiped them away. No, she couldn’t think of that now. She sniffed again as she thanked the Lord for safely bringing Leith back to her.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Leith tried to stifle a yawn. He had been summoned to the army headquarters to review what he’d learned with the General and a few lieutenants. What should have been a short meeting turned into a full fledged battle plan. Well not quite, but Leith felt as though he’d spent enough time in the stuffy, cramped tent.  He just wanted to get back to his tent and sleep. He looked over at Shad, who looked to be just as bored as he was. Shad caught his gaze and made an overdramatic bored face. He wanted this to be over. Leith nodded to show he thought the same.

“So would that be ok with you Leith?” General Stewart asked, breaking into Leith’s thoughts. He looked at the General and tried to remember what had just been said. General Stewart’s face held a hint of a smile as he cleared his throat. “By our sources we have learned that there are more men roaming about the cliffs. You ran into one company, which happened to have two Blades. However, one of our spies was able to follow another group. They, as you said, are definitely training. Our informant said he’d never seen so many men able to be so uniformed together. They practiced, never missing a beat. We’ve decided to send out a small party to watch, perhaps even learn from these groups. We also want to range how close they are to camp. We were wondering if you could be the leader of the party, as you have knowledge that would be invaluable for scouting out Blades.”

Leith thought about it. His previous life as a Blade would definitely help if they tried to find the Blades. He would know the best way to defend them if a Blade attacked the party. But he had just gotten back from a scouting expedition, and he really didn’t want to go on another one…especially so soon. He sighed. No, it was his own selfishness that didn’t want him to go. The desire to be able to relax…slothful. No, he would go. Besides, he had promised Lord Alistair he would protect his family. His family would need him to join the men going in order to protect them.

“Yes, that would be fine, though I will want to have a say in who will go and who will not.”

General Stewart gave a nod and then turned back to his lieutenants. “Tomorrow we’ll pick some men to go with Leith. Meeting dismissed!” Leith breathed a sigh of relief. Finally!

He found Shad by the entrance to the tent and walked over to him. “Have any idea on what they’re up to?” Shad said with a solemn expression.

“I wish I did, but a Blade’s ways are only known to himself. I don’t even have a clue,” Leith answered. Shad nodded and then relaxed. “Well, I’ll see you later, Leith!” With that, he walked off. Leith wondered what was with the strange change in his mood, until he saw Joline standing not too far off. He smiled briefly in her direction, then turned to walk to his own tent.

He walked around aimlessly for a while, wondering what journeys the day ahead would bring him. Who could be training the men? Would a Blade “lower himself” so much as to train another common man? What Blade would be training them? How many men were trained? How extensive was their training? All these questions, but no answer. Leith had almost driven himself insane trying to answer the many questions swirling in his mind when he remembered the answer. Bowing his head, Leith prayed to the Lord. Prayed for wisdom, strength, and courage to face the Blades; to face his old life.

Leith felt better after he prayed, he always did. He couldn’t imagine living without being able to pray to God, to be able to pray for his strength and love. He had lived like that for too long. He had been a cold, heartless, merciless Blade. He shivered. No, he would never return to that lifestyle. God had chosen him as his own child, and the Lord would be with him no matter what.

As Leith approached his tent, he heard a muffled sound inside. Even if he was no longer a Blade, he still had his instincts. He positioned his hand to a dagger strapped to the side of his legs. He no longer wore his daggers strapped to his chest, but he wasn’t completely unarmed.

He stealthy made his way towards the opening of the tent flap. He swiftly tore it open and stepped inside. There was no enemy, no Blade. Instead, stood a girl, her strawberry blond hair frizzing as she sifted through some chests by the opening of the tent. He cleared his throat and she slowly turned around. After recognizing his face, she burst into a smile.

“LEITH!” she screamed. “I was worried they’d keep you in there all day!” she said as she ran to hug him. He wrapped his arms around her as she bounded into them. Brandi was the little sister he was never able to have. She looked up at him with her big, questioning brown eyes. “So how’d it go? You finally recover from your journey just to be thrown into a boring meeting all day! That must of been horrible!” she exclaimed.

Leith chuckled. “Well, yes, it was difficult. Shad and I were practically falling asleep! But we did discuss important issues.” Leith said with a small smile.

Brandi nodded then said “Jamie said that they’re sending out a party to go look for more Blades. A-are you going too?”

“Actually, I am. My knowledge of Blades will be very useful for the scouting expedition, so I decided I should go.”

Brandi simply made a grim nod. Leith gave her another quick hug. “It’s ok, God has been with me and I know he will continue to guide me.” This time, Brandi nodded more vigorously. She made a sidelong glance to the chest she had been roaming around. Leith’s curiosity peeked. “What were you doing in there?” He asked as he gestured towards the chests.

Brandi shrugged, but a mischievous sparkle was in her eye. “Well, Blizzard was a little antsy this morning so I brushed his mane. It calmed him down and I had wanted to give him a complete wash since he was probably dirty from wandering in the cliffs. I was looking in the drawers for something to wash him in.” She said as she hurriedly moved back to the chest. “I found this,” she exclaimed as she held up a bottle of yellow-orange liquid. Leith strode over to her and bent beside her.

“Yeah, that is good for his mane. And this,” he said as he took out another bottle, “is for his body. There’s brushes and combs in the bucket” he said as he gestured to a bucket next to Brandi. Brandi smiled at him, her eyes sparkling.

“Thanks Leith!” With another hug she skipped outside the tent in the direction of Blizzard’s stable.

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Leith was up before the sun the next morning. He needed time to pray and think. It was a restless night of sleep and he was unable to go back to bed. Bowing beside his bed, he prayed.

By the time breakfast came around, Leith was mentally prepared for the new task that lay ahead of him; physically being prepared was another story. He had to check with Renna to make sure his cuts wouldn’t open up once he left. That would lead to infection, and infections were never good.

He quickly made his way over to the tent that served as the camp’s hospital. As he opened the door, strong odors hit him; some not-so-pleasant smells, and some that smelled like herbs and spices used to calm a queasy stomach or heal a wound. He spotted Renna not too far away, helping a patient wrap his foot with bandages. Leith made his way beside her. She looked up, startled at first, then relieved.

“Leith,” she said. How happy she was to see him. But he was leaving soon, if not that day. She bit her lip, then forced a smile back to them. “Hold on, I’ll be right with you.” She wrapped her patient’s leg quickly, but with care, then turned to face Leith. What should she say? Had he come here to tell her he was leaving? To ask what had happened the week he was gone? Maybe Brandi had gotten in trouble and he was here to tell her. She mentally kicked herself. Of course he was here to see how he was healing. How could he go on a journey with a wounded arm? “How are your arms?” She asked as she gestured to his bandage covered arms.

He brought them between them to show her as he said, “I think they’re fine. I just wanted to make sure I can use them without risk of infection.”

She motioned for him to follow her, and moved to a table with a chair on either side. She unwrapped the cloth and inspected his arm one by one. Leith watched her, her eyes carefully searching for any sign of infection, even for a cut that threatened to open. She shifted his arm, looked it over, then gently placed it back on the table. She stood and roamed about a shelf not too far off. Leith watched as her hand moved up and down the shelf, looking for a certain ointment. She picked one up and walked back to the table.

“Your arms are healing very well. I just want to apply some of this salve to help ease any pain you might be feeling, and to be sure to prevent infection,” she said as she coated his arms in the cool, sweet smelling liquid.

She finished quickly, and returned the bottle to the shelf. Leith managed to wrap his own arms and walked over to her. He smiled down at her, then turned serious. “Thank you for your help. I probably would’ve ended up much worse than a few scratches on my arms if it wasn’t for you and Brandi. Thank you!” With that, he turned and headed to the front of the tent.

Renna watched him leave. He was leaving, and she didn’t know if he was coming back. She could tell by the look of regret and sadness in his eyes. She might never see him again. They’d been through so much in the short time they’d known each other. She and Brandi nursed him back to life, Brandi told him Bible stories, Leith endangered himself so many times for their safety, he didn’t hesitate to put himself in front of a mountain lion for her and Brandi, to go against Respen for them. And-

A cough interrupted Renna’s thoughts. She’d fret over Leith’s departure later. Now, she had to resume her job as the camp’s nurse.

 

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Leith barely blinked after he had consented with General Stewart about whom he wished to accompany him to scout out the Blades and their parties. Men came swiftly from around the camp, bringing swords, shields, horses, Rashens, and other supplies they would need for the journey.

Leith was loading up carts when Brandi suddenly appeared beside him. He didn’t want to look at her, it would make it all the more harder to leave. But she waited, and didn’t make a single move. Leith finally turned. She smiled up at him, then did a funny salute. “Reporting for duty, sir!” she said in her most general-like voice. Leith laughed and saluted back. He turned back to his work but could still feel her eyes on him. He turned, once again and saw her staring at him. He raised one eyebrow.

Brandi cleared her throat, saluted and said, “Here I am, reporting for duty sir!” accenting each syllable. She wasn’t joking. She wanted to either help, or go along with them. But no, she couldn’t go. It would be much too dangerous, especially since Renna and her were so important to Acktar.

He shook his head. “Sorry Brandi, but you can’t come with us-” he began, but she interrupted.

“I wasn’t exactly asking to come along. I just wanted to help,” she said as she ran to the wagon and began to organize the shelves. “And obviously, you need some help,” she said as she pointed to the shelves that had odds and ends littering it.

Leith chuckled and nodded. “Very well then. Thank you, Brandi, for your help!”

The work seemed to go by much quicker with Brandi working beside him and the men. Her cheerful attitude and quirky jokes made it seem as if they weren’t even working. Even in the heat of the day when she was drenched in sweat, Brandi never complained. Leith found her attitude admirable and strived to make his the same.

After an entire morning and some of an afternoon, the men were ready to depart. They would wait till dusk, for the lack of light would eliminate the chance of being spotted by watching eyes. Leith tried not to get pulled into the pit of selfishness that was waiting to swallow him up. He knew that the Lord would be with him, that He wanted him to go. If he stayed, It might be more comfortable for himself for a time, but it was disobeying His will. Leith never wanted to do that again. Yes, there were times he would slip up, but he strived not to. And that was only possible by calling upon the Lord for help.

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Renna could barely keep the tears in as she watched the group of men vanish into the cliffs. She was thankful for the darkness that she hoped hid her red eyes and red nose. She didn’t mean to cry but it was just too much! Beside her, Brandi sniffed and rubbed her nose. Renna looked at her and could see her tear streaked cheek glistening in the little moonlight that lit the camp. Renna rubbed her own, hoping no one would notice. She watched as the last of the party was swallowed up by the darkness.

Again there was a sniffle, however this didn’t come from Brandi. Renna looked at Jamie, as a single tear slid down his face. They all were obviously thinking the same thing. They would never see them again. Even if they survived the night without falling off the dangerous cliffs, the little group would be no match for the many Blade-trained masters they would be facing. It was too much. Renna began to quietly weep. After a while, she felt hands on her shoulders, one on each. She looked up and saw Brandi and Jamie staring back at her.

“It’s ok. God kept Daniel safe with the lions. He will keep Leith safe with the Blades.” Brandi said, her voice barely above a whisper. Renna attempted a smile. Of course Brandi would find the perfect Bible story for any situation they were in.

She nodded and looked at them once again. “We should probably go back to camp,” she said as she hugged them both. They nodded and then began the slow, sad walk back to their tents.

 

 

 

Leith turned in the saddle again. The darkness had already fallen so much that he could barely make out the people standing at the edge of the camp seeing them off. He saw who he was sure was Renna standing beside Brandi and Jamie. Leith nodded. He was glad he had told Jamie to stay behind in the camp. No matter how much he had assured Leith he was up to the task, he didn’t want to risk Jamie’s life, no more so then he already had. Jamie had been so courageous and brave, going back to Respen’s castle even when he had freedom in his reach. Jamie was not one to shrink away from responsibility, and he was loyal to a task he started. But Leith didn’t want him to go along on this mission. His mission was to stay in camp to train the young men or woman who had to stay behind. Even in his youth, Jamie was skilled with the sword. He could use his knowledge he had been forced to learn in the art of the sword to train those in camp. He could also protect Brandi, and Renna.

Leith turned forward once more. His throat constricted and moisture began to collect in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes. He grabbed Blizzard’s reins and urged him forward. He eventually caught up with Shad, who was closer to the front of the procession. Shad had a look of grim determination on his face. It was probably externally hard for him and Jolene. Leith was glad Shad had decided to come though. It would have been a lot harder leaving if he hadn’t come.

Shad acknowledged Leith’s presence with a nod when he rode up beside him. They rode in companionable silence for a long while. Leith’s mind wandered as they rode. Who could possibly be training the men? How armored were they? Would their group of valiant men be enough to stop them? If their group lost, who would protect the refugees in camp from the Blades? How were the people at camp faring? What was Jamie doing? Was Brandi wandering in the stables? How was Renna?

They rode into the night. Darkness grew around them. The only light was the silver that came from the moon. As their journey wore on, Leith began to become more anxious. He pulled on his reins and listened. Blizzard picked up his big head and looked around, sensing his rider’s discomfort. Leith also looked about but couldn’t see anything other than his party and tree branches swinging in the gentle breeze. But his uneasiness grew. He spent a few minutes watching and listening for anything unusual. There was nothing. He grabbed Blizzard’s reins and nudged him onward.

They had only gone a little farther when the company stopped. Leith saw Shad conversing with some other men and made his way over. “Leith, we have approached the cliffs. We will need to dismount and go single-file for a bit. This will also prove dangerous, for once out of this portion of the cliffs, our protection is gone. There is an open plateau that you can see for miles on. We must use extreme caution from now on,” Shadrach informed Leith.

Their journey had begun. They were in the midst of leaving Eagle Heights and entering into the Blades’ territory. Leith nodded. “Very well, have most of the best swordsmen go first. A small handful shall stay in the back in case of attack.” Shad nodded, as did the other men. Leith led Blizzard forward. He made his way through the crowd to the front of the procession. Fear gnawed at his stomach as he looked over a steep drop. It was so long, he couldn’t even distinguish the bottom. A memory flashed in his mind, a memory of Shad falling off a cliff similar to this one, except that had been the plan. Leith prayed no one would accidentally fall; fall to sudden death. He shivered at the thought. Perhaps they should wait to sleep before pressing on? The men had a much better chance slipping over the rocks in their tired state. No, they could not sleep next to the cliffs. That would be just as bad, if not worse, than trying to navigate through them.

Leith carefully dismounted Blizzard. He stroked his mane as he searched for a safe way to maneuver about the cliffs. He heard footsteps behind him and turned. Shad stood two paces away from him. “All the men are positioned and ready to move.”

Leith nodded. “Very well.” Turning to the narrow outcroppings, he sighed, “I suppose we shall continue.” Shad nodded as both men began to carefully made their way through the cliffs. Both were consumed with prayers for safety.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Two men sat beside the fire. One was lying on his side, the other staring into the roaring flames. The one on his side turned, his knife in hand. “What do you suppose we do?” He asked, his voice low.

His companion looked at him. He stared at him before speaking. “We will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes!” he answered. He stood and continued, “I will go look for some others.” With that, he picked up his own knife and walked out of their little encampment.

 

 

 

Leith, Shad, and a few others had made it safely down by the time the sky began to change colors. It was a beautiful sight that Leith would have enjoyed very much, if it had not been at such a crucial time. He had no idea how many had safely made it through the night. Leith made his way to Shad. Shad greeted him with a small smile. Leith returned the gesture. “Do you think we should scout the area?” Leith asked Shad.

Shadrach looked around their surroundings and nodded. “I suppose so. But right now, I’m hungry. Do you want to have breakfast first?” Leith nodded.

They opened their packs to find their rations. Leith bit into his almost rock hard roll. He had never minded such food, but at that moment, he missed Cahira’s fresh herb seasoned rolls she made for the camp. Shad bit into his too. He, however, obviously minded the food.

“Ugh, how do you go on nibbling it as if it was some gourmet piece of dough? I think I lost a tooth just now trying to bite into it!” he exclaimed. Leith let out a chuckle. Shad had never had the stomach, or teeth, for the meals Leith so easily ate.

By the end of their small breakfast, a few others had made it down the narrow passage. Leith and Shad got up and began to hike around the perimeter of where they started to make camp. All seemed well, too well. Leith thought they should at least see some sort of activity somewhere, but nothing moved. The continued westward. Leith found a vantage point that would enable them to overlook the Westward ridge of the cliffs and some of the plateau. He pulled on Blizzard’s reins and spun around in the saddle. “Want to see if we are able to see anything from up there?” Leith asked, indicating the small outcropping with his head.

Shad looked at it then nodded. “I suppose.”

 

 

They climbed for a while. It was steeper then Leith had imaged it was going to be. However, they still made good time climbing it. They made it to the top not too long after, and despite Shad’s horse slipping once or twice, it was a relatively easy route for it being so steep. When they placed their feet on solid ground, the view took Leith’s breath away. The sky was beautiful so early in the morning, and being so high gave him an amazing vantage point. He spun in a circle, taking it all in. Shad let out a low whistle. “This is amazing!” he said in awe. Leith nodded.

He stood there, soaking up the beauty when another feeling welled up inside him. Small, then it took over him as much as his awe had, except it wasn’t a feeling of awe. It was fear. An uneasiness fell upon Leith and his stance became rigid. Shad obviously felt his discomfort for his stance changed to a more battle-ready stance. He turned around. His eyes became huge as a scene behind Leith played out.

He barely had time for a yell to pass his lips before a knife came flying-aimed for Leith’s neck. Leith fell face forward, landing in the dirt in a forward break fall. Shad searched for his weapons. His bow and arrow was strapped to his horse. It would take too long to retrieve. Another dagger came flying, this one aimed for him. He tried to dodge it, but it scraped his left arm. Burning fire poured down his arm. He grasped it with his other hand, trying to slow the bleeding. He looked up and found the other man’s attention on Leith. This was his chance.

He knelt down and reached into his boot. He would only have three chances, three daggers. He held firmly onto the dagger as he did a practice flick. He had learned to throw daggers a while back, knowledge that had been useful when he had to pretend to be the late First Blade Harrison Vane. But even then, his shot had been dreadfully off. This time, both he and Leith’s life depended on his accuracy.

“Oh God, please guide these,” he mumbled as he let his first dagger fly. It landed in the dirt next to the other man’s boot. It startled him, which gave Leith a moment to find a way to defend himself. The man turned his focus back to Leith. Shad saw the glint of metal in his hand as he was about to send it flying at Leith, but he was too slow. Shad sent one flying to their attacker. This time, it lodged itself into his abdomen. He screamed and dropped his dagger. Pushing both hands onto his wound, he turned to flee. Before he had gone far, he turned and sent one last dagger flying to Shad. He noticed too late.

Another searing pain shot from his calf. Blood spilled from one wound into the other as he tried to apply pressure to his newest wound. Leith ran past him, pursuing their invader. Shad couldn’t keep his eyes open, the pain forced them closed. He tried to take deep breaths. He heard a scream not too far off. He prayed it wasn’t Leith’s. He sat there praying and trying to stop his bleeding wounds.

He heard footsteps coming near him. He forced his eyes to open and saw Leith. Shad breathed a sigh of relief. Other than a nasty gash on his forearm, he looked fine. Leith walked over to his horse and grabbed his water skin. As he walked over to Shad, he used his dagger to cut a strip of his shirt off. He sat beside Shad and carefully wet the cloth. Shad tried not to yell at the pain that was caused when Leith moved his shin in order to tie the makeshift bandage on. Fire ran down his leg where  the dagger had landed. He tried not to scream.

“Thanks for doing it as carefully as you could,” Shad said, his words laced with pain and sarcasm. He remembered another time when Leith had helped him with a dagger injury. It had been as painful as it had been right then, but this time he didn’t have any pitch pine to aid in the healing process. Leith went through the entire process again, wrapping Shad’s arm this time. Shad noticed he tried to do it more gentle this time, but it didn’t make too much of a difference with all the pain he was experiencing.

After soaking his wounds with water, they felt better; not healed by any means, but as good as it was going to get. He turned to face Leith. He was obviously struggling with the same pain on his forearm.

After sitting together for some time, Shad broke the silence. “Did you recognize him?”

Leith shook his head slowly. “He was a Blade. Fourth Blade Dallen Offen. I never knew he was able to throw daggers. I thought the only Blade, the only person, who had mastered that was Vane,” Leith said in disbelief.

“Thanks Leith,” Shad said sarcastically.

Leith shook his head. “You know what I mean,” he said with a small laugh. “He was a master. I didn’t know he had taught anyone else how to do it.” Had he? If Offen had learned, who else had?

“Thank you for saving my life,” Leith smiled. “And yes, I guess there are others who are able to throw knives,” he said with a hint of a smile in his voice. “And shockingly, that includes you,” Leith smiled again. “I am impressed actually. Thank the Lord you still can, or else we would have been dead!”

Leith turned serious once again. “I found a small campsite close to here. That’s where he was fleeing. I wonder who else was there. There were two tents,” he said.

Shad inhaled a deep breath. “Maybe we are closer to our enemy than we expected. We should prepare our men to be ready at all times. Hopefully they’ve all made it through the cliffs safely.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

“They’ve all made it through and are accounted for,” Geralt informed Leith. Geralt was one of the leaders of the party, and a friend of Leith’s.

“Thank the Lord!” Leith said. “Shad and I ran into a little skirmish when we were scouting out the area. I chased our attacker for a while. He led me to a campsite he must have been sharing with someone else. There were two tents and a fire. It seemed they had been camped there for some time.”

Geralt thought it over. “Did you know who it was?”

Leith nodded. “It was Fourth Blade Dallen Offen. When he attacked us, he was throwing daggers at us. That was the way Vane would fight. It is a very effective fighting style if you can aim. You can injure and even kill your opponent without going close to them. If he knew how to do it, I’m sure there are many more who can.”

Just then, Shad walked up, his injuries freshly bandaged and cleaned as much as they could be. Hearing the last words exchanged, he nodded. “We should be prepared to fight at any moment. There was a campsite near here that Leith discovered. If there were two, there may be more,” he paused. “We’re not even that far from Eagle Heights and we have spotted enemies. I hope those at our camp are safe.”

Leith became worried. Shad was right, they were only a good twenty-four hours away from Eagle Heights. Could it have been discovered? Leith prayed not.

Geralt broke into his thoughts. “I understand the urgency of our situation, but our men have not slept in far too long. I’ve already set up a sleeping schedule that will have enough men on guard when the rest sleep. I’ve bend waiting for you to get back to make sure you agree.”

Sleep. Leith’s eyelids threatened to close just thinking about it. He nodded, “Yes, that should be fine.” Geralt nodded and marched off to go put his plans into play. Leith walked over to Blizzard and untied his sleeping bag. He hadn’t slept for too long, and the fight had taken the last bit of his energy. The last thing he was aware of was the slight throbbing in his forearm.

 

 

Leith felt something shaking him. He couldn’t force himself to open his eyes. The shaking increased, and with it the throbbing in his forearm.

“Come on, Leith! Wake up! It’s time to keep moving!” a voice told him. Leith obliged and opened his eyes. Shad was standing over him, his pack swung over his shoulders. “They’ve been preparing to head westward, towards the campsite you discovered yesterday. They think there are probably more.” Shad offered his hand. Leith took it and swung himself up with his good arm. He quickly packed up his things and strapped his little pack back onto Blizzard.

Looking around, Leith spotted Geralt. He led Blizzard over to him. Geralt nodded at him as he approached. “Sleep well?” He asked. Leith nodded. “How is your arm recovering?”

Leith shifted his arm. Pain shot through it. Not as bad as the day before, but still there. “Better, but not yet healed,” he responded.

Geralt nodded. “While you slept, we sent Grioghar to keep watch over the campsite. He said another man dressed in black came a few hours later. He had a group of about twenty men with him. Once they spotted the blood and noticed the absence of Offen, they quickly fled southwest. He followed them to a river. From there, they went in the direction just west of Naglar Castle.”

This spiked Leith’s interest. Not exactly to Naglar Castle. What was west of Naglar Castle? He couldn’t think of anything. One thing was for sure, they were going to face this evil, probably sooner than expected.

Geralt continued. “We’ve decided to follow them. We may be able to discover what they’re planning. If we are attacked, we will all be there to fight together.” Leith nodded. That would be fine.

The men quickly got up and made ready to depart. It was only mid-morning when they left their campsite. They swiftly maneuvered through the plateau, heading westward towards the campsite Leith and Shad discovered; towards the enemy, and towards what Leith prayed wasn’t death. They made good time, and were able to reach the campgrounds in a matter of hours.

Leith dismounted and looked around. Everything looked the same. They had even left the tents up in their haste. Leith beckoned Shad towards him and slowly made his way to the tents. Shad followed him and nodded. They silently entered the tent, looking for anything that would help them.  They didn’t find anything except for a pile of daggers with the initials  DOingrained intothem. Shad took the daggers and went to put them in his pack. When he came back again, Leith was done searching the tent.

They entered the next one, desperately looking for anything that would give them a clue. This one had more supplies in it. There were different odds and ends in it that would help them in their journey. Shad took then to Geralt for inspection. As Leith was searching, he noticed a small strip of paper close to the bed roll. There was a large spill of ink on it, but it also had writing on it. He bent to look at it.

Hegarty,

         My men will soon be on the move. We believe to have found them. We shall begin our attack immediately. I believe you have been tra

The rest was blotted out with black ink. This looked like a letter. But it was much too small. Did the Blades use courier birds to communicate? More so important than the knowledge of their enemy communicating with courier birds, was the message itself. Who was Hegarty? Hegarty….he had heard that name before.

Shad walked in again, just coming back from giving Geralt some medicines he had found within the tent. He noticed Leith’s concerned look and began to worry. “What’s wrong, Leith?” Leith held out the stained paper for him to read. His eyes grew big and he handed it back to Leith.

“Could they have purposely put that in here? They noticed that we were here and put that here to mislead us?” Shad asked.

Leith thought it over. It was very likely. Maybe they weren’t going to attack for a long while. They would wait for our soldiers to exhaust all our supplies, then attack.

“Maybe,” Leith muttered. “It’s very likely possible.” Turning to look at the letter, he noticed something. “How long would it have taken for it to dry?” he asked. Shad followed his train of thought and inspected the parchment.

“It’s hard to tell. It does not help that much because it was at least an entire day ago,” he sighed.

Leith nodded. “We should still show it to Geralt,” he said as he exited the tent.

He found Geralt with Grioghar not too far off. He approached them and handed the paper to Geralt. He inspected it, then handed it off to Grioghar. He took it carefully and stared at it for a long while. Looking towards Leith, he asked, “Where did you find this?”

Leith pointed to the tent he had just come from. “In there by the bed roll. It’s the only useful information we found,” he briefed. Geralt was suspicious.

“Could they have placed it in there purposefully for us to find? Could they have known we were coming?” He pondered.

Grioghar cleared his throat. “Sir, I watched the campsite and saw them arrive. They had no time to write this and place it in the tent. They saw the blood, looked in the tents for a brief minute, and conversed together. They then fled southwest to the river. There was no time to write the letter. I believe this was written and was supposed to be given to whoever Hegarty is.” Handing it back to Leith, he continued, “Sir, I would suggest following these men. We must know their every move. They seem so sure of their ability to attack us. That could only mean one thing. They have located Eagle Heights.”

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Fan Art Contest – Fiction Part 2

Here is part 2 of the fan fiction pieces, a short story submitted by Rachael Steele that speculates what might have happened the night Leith helped kill Renna and Brandi’s parents.


 

Rachael Steele – backstory short story

Rennelda awoke to an uneasy feeling, as if someone was watching her. She sat up and pulled her blanket up to her chin. The feeling made her want to hide in her covers and block everything out.

Her door opened and she clasped a hand over her mouth. Brandi crept over to her bed and sighed.

“Renna, I’m scared. It feels like something is wrong, like something is going to happen.” She whispered. Renna wrapped her arms around her sister and took a deep breath.

“I feel like that too,” she said, “I think we need to just try to sleep well.”
“Or…we could go take a look around?” Brandi suggested. “Come on Renna, please?” Renna glanced at her sister and sighed again.
“Ok, come on.” She said, standing up and walking over to her closet. Removing a cloak, she draped it over her shoulders. “Did you come already dressed?” she asked. Brandi grinned.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “I was going with or without you.” She threw her sister a wink and ran out of the room, Renna following slowly.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Leith Torren glanced at First Blade Harrison Vane and took a deep breath. If he failed this mission, he would receive his first mark of failure. He rubbed his left shoulder and ran his other hand over his knife.
“Hess, Torren,” Vane said, “let me run over it to make sure we don’t mess this up. Torren, you make sure the guards can’t interfere, Hess, you kill the Lord Faythe and I’ll take care of the Lady Faythe. Don’t fail me!” he warned. Leith coughed, drawing the attention of Vane. “Yes?” he growled.

“Um, don’t you mean don’t fail the King?” he asked. Vane removed one of his knives and glared at the younger boy.
“When I am in charge and you fail, you fail me.” He snapped. Leith locked eyes with him and held his gaze.
“I do not serve you, I serve King Respen.” He answered. Vane pressed his knife to Leith’s neck.

“If you are not loyal to your First Blade, you could turn on the King as well.” he said. Leith restrained himself from shaking and dropped his gaze.
“Vane, we need to finish this.” Hess said. Vane returned his knife and lowered himself into a crouch.

“Come on.” He said. “Let’s complete this.”
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Renna crept towards the courtyard and glanced behind her, jumping back. Where was Brandi? If something was wrong, she had to keep an eye on her sister and make sure she was ok.

“Brandi!” she hissed, looking around. No, no, no, please she prayed.
“I’m right here!” Brandi sighed. “Quit being loud!” Renna breathed out a sigh of relief and pressed a hand over her rapidly beating heart. Thank you Lord, thank you so much.

“Don’t do that!” she told her. Brandi snorted.
“I didn’t do anything!” Brandi insisted. Renna sighed. Why didn’t her sister understand?
“Renna, I think I see something over there! I think I see…someone!” Brandi pointed at the wall.
“What?” Renna asked, turning around. She squinted, trying to see who it was, and then hit the ground as something smacked painfully into the back of her head. Darkness enveloped her sight and she slipped into unconsciousness.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Leith watched as both girls fell to the ground and he turned away. Now to do his real job: find the guards and make sure that they were immobilized. It wasn’t that hard, at least he didn’t have to kill one of the Faythes.

He saw the guards and crept up behind them. Hooking his foot around one’s leg, he jerked it back, shoved the man into his fellow guards, ducking a fist. What poorly trained guards, he expected more from such high people.

One guard drew his sword, but before he could direct a swing at Leith, the Third Blade pulled one of his knives out and brought it across the guard’s throat. The man dropped to his knees, then to the ground. His part of the mission was a success, and he had full faith in Vane and Hess to complete theirs. They had trained for and completed mission far more dangerous than this.

<><><><><><><><><><><>

Renna saw…black. She groaned and tried to sit up, but her head pounded. The last thing she remembered was something hitting her head.

“Brandi.” She croaked. Her vision remained damaged, but she made out her sister’s body lying a few feet away. Dragging herself closer, she reached out to touch her sister’s hand.

A scream ripped through the night. Renna stiffened and her head jerked around to find the source. Two figures came into view and she squinted, trying to make them out. It looked like a…a Blade and her mother. Renna stumbled to her feet.

The Blade jerked his hand back and her mother fell to the ground with a gasp. Renna stopped, staring at her mother. What had just happened? Had the Blade really just killed her…

“Mother!” she screamed. The Blade jerked around and, catching sighed of Renna, smiled. His smile held no joy or happiness, only cruel delight.
Renna ran to her mother’s fallen body and fell to her knees, bursting into tears.

“Mother!” she screamed at her, shaking her arm. “Mother! Don’t leave me!” She shook her mother again. “Please, don’t leave me!”

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Leith watched the girl cry and plead with her mother’s body. He swallowed, but his throat tightened. This was not a mission he was proud of.  Out of all of the missions he had completed, even murdering a fellow trainee and a boy his own age, this was the worst.
“Torren.” Hess said. “Come on.” Leith glanced back and hesitated. “You’re a Blade, this is your life.” Hess reminded. “We have to report back to King Respen in a timely manner.
Leith took a deep breath and tapped into the ice that waited inside of him, ready to surround his heart. This mission was accomplished.

Fan Art Contest – Fiction Part 1

Whew, so many good fan art submissions! I’m still so blown away!

Today’s post is going to be a little long. I’m sharing part of the fan fiction pieces (a collection of poems and a small story). Tomorrow, you’ll be getting two posts for both of the longer short stories that were submitted.


 

Josie Ophoff – Renna

Her family was a token,

But now it is broken.

No Father or Mother,

Only a sister, no brother.

Renna is afraid

Of Leith the Blade.

But she loves God with all her heart,

And nothing can bring them apart.


Josie Ophoff – Brandi

Bright

Renna’s sister

Always happy

Never upset

Devoted to God

Imaginative


Paul Ophoff – Leith

Lord Respen’s blade

Eager to be free

Important to blades

Traitor of the blades

Harrison’s enemy


Josie Ophoff – Brandi’s Adventure

 

On a bright, sunny day, Brandi wanted to go exploring in the forest.

“Renna, I am going to play outside. I will be back soon. I am going to be in the forest,” Brandi yelled to Renna.

On the way to the forest she found some flowers. A little bunny was jumping around in them.

When Brandi got there, she saw a squirrel climbing up a tree, and a baby bird with its mother. But when Brandi was looking up at the trees and the wildlife in them, she lost her footing and fell into a steep pit. She landed on her arm. Brandi was still stuck. She was tired, hungry, and not feeling very good. It was getting late. It was cold, windy, and dark.

Renna looked at the time. “Where is Brandi? She should be here by now. She must have gotten lost in the forest!”

Renna searched almost the entire forest for Brandi. “Brandi, Brandi! Where are you?” Renna yelled across the trees. Eventually, Brandi heard Renna calling, but was too exhausted to call back to Renna. Brandi began to worry if Renna would ever find her.

Renna prayed that God would guide her to Brandi.

Now Renna was getting hungry too. She considered going back for food, then thought of how hungry Brandi must be. She stayed and kept looking.

It was getting too dark for Renna to see. She had to stop her search before she got lost, too. Brandi went to sleep.

*

Brandi woke up. She found herself surrounded by large nuts. The pit she fell in was right under a walnut tree. She opened the shell by cracking them with sharp rocks.

Renna woke up as soon as possible. She ate, grabbed food for Brandi, and went to the forest.

Brandi was still exhausted. She was dehydrating fast without water. Her arm was also bad. It was turning red, and dangled at a weird angle down the side of her body.

Renna called again, “Brandi, please tell me where you are!”

With her last breath, Brandi called, making sure Renna was close enough to hear, “I’m over here.” As she said this, she fainted.

Renna went immediately to where she heard Brandi’s voice. She grabbed Brandi’s good arm, and pulled with all her night. When she got Brandi out of the hole, she fed her and gave her some water. Brandi’s face was regaining color. She would be alright!

Renna took Brandi home immediately. She put Brandi in bed and told her she can’t go alone in the forest anymore. Renna examined Brandi’s arm.

“It is a break, but not too bad,” said Renna. She gave Brandi some pain relieving medicine. She put a splint on Brandi’s arm and put her to sleep.

Brandi knew what could have happened to her. It wasn’t the scariest thing she has ever been involved in, though. Brandi became more cautious anytime she went with Renna to the forest. She still enjoyed it, though.

 

 

 

Character Interviews #3

I watch as Shad, Leith, Renna, and Brandi file back into the room and take their seats. Leith still has a wary look on his face. Shad glances between him and me, as if trying to figure out what questions I might have asked to set Leith on edge. I do my best not to wince. The questions I had for Leith today weren’t much better.

I sit taller in the chair, but I still can’t rest my elbows on Lord Alistair’s desk. I sit on my foot to boost myself up a few more inches. There. Much better. Or, at least, until my foot falls asleep.

I smile at my assembled characters. “All right, guys. Thanks for coming back. Let’s start with an easy one. I have a question for all of you: what is your favorite food?”

Brandi grins. “Aunt Mara’s maple sugar cookies.”

“Probably the same.” Renna shrugs.

“Venison steak slow roasted over a campfire.” Shad closes his eyes as if he can taste the steak that way.

Everyone glances towards Leith. He shrugs. “Any food that isn’t moldy or stale, I guess. Food is food.”

Brandi snorts. “You haven’t had Aunt Mara’s maple sugar cookies yet.”

“Anyway.” That was supposed to be an easy question. “Renna, if you could learn one form of self-defense, what would it be?”

“Self-defense? Like sword-fighting?” She wrinkles her nose. “I’m a healer. I don’t go around hurting people.”

“Not even to defend yourself?”

“I mean, I guess, to defend Brandi, I might try something, but I don’t think I’d be very good at it.” Renna’s frown deepens. “I don’t know what it would be.”

I nod and turn to Brandi. “Brandi, is there a situation that you never want to find yourself in?”

“Separated from Renna.” She crosses her arms and glares at me. “That would be horrible.”

“Yes, that would be.” I keep a straight face. “Shad, what is your fondest memory?”

A slow grin spreads across his face. “The day we were visiting Sierra, and I asked Jolene to go on a walk with me. She said yes.”

“I can see how that would be a very fond memory.” I take a deep breath. Now for the worst question of the morning. “Leith, if you could erase one memory, what would it be?”

Leith stiffens and sucks in a breath like I’d just stabbed him. “Why couldn’t I be asked about my fondest memory?”

“Go ahead and answer that one too if you wish.”

“Brandi naming Blizzard.” Leith grips the hilt of one of his knives. “I still have to answer the other question, don’t I?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. I’m sure Hope would be more than happy to give you a hug to apologize for asking the question. Actually, I think the whole Goodreads fangirls group would be more than happy to give you a hug.”

Leith hangs his head, his fingers flexing. When he draws in a deep breath, his shoulders give a tiny shake. “The first time my father hit me. That’s the memory I’d erase. It was the moment I realized my father hated me. I was six.”

Brandi jumps to her feet and gives Leith a hug. Renna stares at him, a soft look in her eyes that told me she would comfort Leith too if there wasn’t anyone else in the room.

I clear my throat. Best to move on past this quickly. “Shad, how would you describe your friendship with Leith? Did you ever expect to become friends with an assassin?”

“No, I can honestly say, I never expected to be friends with an assassin.” Shad’s mouth quirks a little at the corner. “But now, he’s pretty much like my brother.”

Leith’s head jerks up. “A brother?”

“Yes, a little brother who’s always getting into scrapes that I have to rescue him from.” Shad’s grin appears for a moment before he’s serious again. “My brother Jeremiah is nearly ten years younger than me, and we don’t exactly share similar interests. Maybe when he’s older we’ll be closer, but right now…” Shad shrugs.

Both he and Leith were starting to get I’m-a-guy-and-this-is-way-too-much-sharing looks on their faces. “Renna, what do you like to read?”

“Old legends, mostly. Stuff about the early kings of Acktar and all that. I don’t get to read all that often, and Stetterly doesn’t have the collection of books the way Walden does.”

“Speaking of legends and stories, I have a question for both Leith and Renna. If you found a genie in a bottle and were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?”

Both Leith and Renna blink at me with blank expressions. Finally, Leith raises an eyebrow. “Genie? Wishes? What’s that?”

“In my world, we have legends about these creatures who live in bottles who can grant wishes. They aren’t real.”

“Then why are you asking about them?”

“It’s a hypothetical question.” I sigh. “Skip the genie part. If you could have three wishes, what would they be?”

Leith shrugs. “I guess, I could wish for a lot of things, but isn’t that kind of what prayer is for? Putting your desires into God’s hands and trusting that His decisions on what to grant you are better than yours?”

“A very wise way to go about not answering that question. And Renna?”

“What Leith said.”

“It’s a good thing I’m running out of questions, because you guys are getting better at not answering them.” I flip to my last couple of notecards. “Leith, if you could wear any color besides black, what would it be?”

“Green, maybe. Tan. Something that would blend into the prairie.” Leith glances down at this black clothes. “Anything but black.”

“Anything?” Brandi cocks her head and smirks.

“Maybe not anything.” Leith eyes her.

I flip to my second to last notecard. “What was it like growing up with Vane, Leith?”

He grimaces. “Not pleasant. He enjoyed controlling the rest of us, and if we didn’t join him in bullying the others, then he made life especially difficult.”

I can tell he wasn’t going to say any more than that. I pull out the last notecard. “The last question is for Martyn, but it would cause a whole manor-full of problems if I brought him in here, and he can’t answer it anyway without giving away spoilers. So, I guess that’s it then. You all are free to go.”

Leith bolts for the door as if he’s worried I’ll change my mind. Renna tiptoes after him with her I’m-invisible-you-can’t-see-me hunched shoulders.

As she stands, Brandi raises her eyebrows at me. “You’re going to do this again for book 3, aren’t you?”

I shrug. “Probably. The fangirls really like it.”

“I’m glad. They come up with some interesting questions. Maybe next time, I’ll have to come up with a few questions of my own.” Brandi smirks and waltzes from the room.


Well, that’s all for the character interviews! Hope everyone enjoyed them!

Deny is officially out into the world! It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

I’m still working on getting a Paypal buy button on my website for signed paperbacks and getting it uploaded as paperback to other online retailers.

There’s still a few more stops along the blog tour the rest of the week, and this Friday is the Facebook party. You won’t want to miss out on the fun!

 

 

Cover Reveal for Deny

Yes, as you can see from the title, I have a cover for Deny! Whooohoo! My cover designer worked her magic once again, and I think this cover is even better than the one for Dare.

A few reminders before I get to the big reveal.

I’ll be at the Covenant Christian Craft sale this Saturday in Walker, MI selling signed copies of Dare. Since Deny releases 1 month from today (Eeep!) I’ve decided to also offer pre-orders for signed copies of Deny, which will be available for pick up the Saturday after Deny‘s release. More information will be available at the craft sale if you wish to place a pre-order.

I also still have a few spots left in my launch team for Deny. If you wish to sign up, please follow this link and fill out the Google form.

Okay, okay. You’re impatient to see the cover. I’m getting to that. 😉

Like with Dare, I emailed Deny to my cover designer Ashley and pointed her to a few scenes that I thought would work best for the cover. We both picked out the same scene that we thought would work best, and she drew up a concept for it and put it all together.

Into this: the cover for Deny (The Blades of Acktar #2)

Deny_cover_resize; regular

Isn’t it spectacular? I can’t wait until I get my first proof book so I can hug it. 🙂

What do you guys think?

Freestyle Writing Challenge

Michigan Woods Freestyle Writing Challenge

A little while ago, Lauren tagged me in the Freestyle Writing Challenge.

Here are the rules:

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Set a stop watch or mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!
  4. Once you start writing, do not stop until the alarm sounds!
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check. (The challenge is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought-flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals.
  7. At the end of your post, write down “No. of words = ____” to give an idea of how much you can write within the timeframe.
  8. Copy and paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees, and copy / paste these rules along with your nomination (at least 5 bloggers).

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I broke #5. It’s such a part of my natural writing process to backspace when I want to change a word, phrase, or I type something wrong that I didn’t realize I was doing it until partway through the challenge. I still made a few typos that I didn’t go back and correct, so I mostly following the rules.

My topic was: Your two main characters from two different WIPs happen to meet. What are the circumstances? What happens? Which setting do they land in?

This presented a little bit of a problem. Currently, all of my WIP are in the same series. All the main characters already know each other.

Finally, I decided to use a main character from a manuscript I wrote with a friend of mine, who also happens to be one of my alpha readers. We started this manuscript back in 8th grade and completely deleted it and started over 3 times over the years.  Someday we hope to publish it but right now it continues to be an ongoing WIP.

One of the main characters, the Shadow, happens to be an outlaw who is tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed, amazing with knives, good with a sword, and decent with a bow and arrow (hey, I started writing this in 8th grade when clichés were cool).

When I started writing Dare, my friend and I joked around comparing Leith and the Shadow from the manuscript we’d written together. At first, I worried they were too similar, but all the re-writing I did on Dare made Leith into his own character. One of the things we talked about was who would win in a fight. The following couple of paragraphs is what we eventually decided:

Leith Torren Meets the Shadow

Leith blinked at the deep forest around him. What was he doing here? The trees, taller and broader than any in Acktar even in the depths of the Sheered Rock Hills, loomed far over his head. The leaves layered the forest floor beneath the sprouting saplings and ferns.

The forest was still. Quiet. Leith froze. If only Blizzard was here with him to alert him to trouble. But Blizzard seemed to have disappeared along with everything else familiar.

A movement caught his eye. Just a flicker. A shadow.

Something was there. Or someone. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. He drew his knives and crouched.

A man stepped from behind a tree, a knife in one hand, a sword in the other. Leith glimpsed a hint of movement and dove to the ground an instant before a knife thunked into the tree behind where he’d been standing.

Why did it have to be knife throwing? He rolled and lunged at his attacker. The other man stepped back and swung his sword at Leith.

Leith twisted to avoid the thrust, but the other man seemed to sense how he’d move. The sword grazed his side. Leith ignore it as he thrust one knife towards the man’s chest, his other knife coming up low and fast at the man’s stomach in a move that always caught a swordsman off-guard.

All swordsmen except this one. Leith’s attacker dropped his sword and grabbed Leith’s arm, deflecting the knife away from his chest. His other hand swept Leith’s strike at his stomach aside.

Moments later, a knife appeared in the man’s hand. He loomed a good foot taller than Leith. Leith barely had time to parry. The blow knocked his knife from his hand.

He reached for the second knife strapped across his chest. His hand met nothing by air and empty leather. Gone. How could his knife be gone? He’d only drawn two.

He reached for one of the knives in his boots but froze at the prick of steel under his chin.

“Don’t move.” The stranger’s black eyes glinted.

Leith’s gaze traveled down the length of the knife pressed against his chin. Down the gleaming blade and to the hilt gripped in the stranger’s fist. A hilt emblazoned with the initials LT.

His own knife. “How?”

The stranger raised one eyebrow. “I grew up on the streets. I learned a thing or two about picking pockets.”

* *

Yep, we eventually decided the outlaw the Shadow from our manuscript would defeat Leith. Mostly because the Shadow is more competitive, and I gave Leith a few more limitations.

Number of words: 406 words in ten minutes.

I’m going to leave this as an open tag. If you’d like to do the Freestyle Writing Challenge, here’s your topic: You and one of your main characters are locked in a dungeon. How do you try to escape?

7/7/7 Writing Challenge

Power of Words

I was nominated by Lauren Gunter to participate in the 7/7/7 Writing Challenge. It looks like fun, and I think you all will enjoy it!

The rules of the 7/7/7 Challenge are:

  • Go to page 7 of your WIP
  • Scroll down to line 7
  • Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  • After the excerpt, tag 7 other writers to continue the challenge.

I’m actually working on three works-in-progress right now. Um, yeah. Not doing too great on my whole stick to one project until I finish it resolution. In my defense, all the projects are at least in one series. That’s an improvement from where I was at a few years ago.

Currently, I’m editing Deny (Book 2), writing the first draft of Book 4 (title yet to be released), and *drum roll* I started on a prequel short story that I hope to release as an ebook sometime in August (to tide you guys over until Deny releases).

I’ve decided to give you guys TWO sneak peeks: a seven-line snippet of Deny and a peek at Deal, the prequel short story.

First up, seven lines from Deny: 

Jamie stretched out, keeping his feet planted as far from Leith as possible, while he helped Leith remove the bandage. Jamie bit his lip only once, as if puzzled. Had he realized the bandage was neater than Leith would have been able to manage by himself with only one arm? Was he questioning how Leith had gotten the bandage on if he couldn’t get it off without help? Thankfully, the boy was only a trainee. He wouldn’t dare say those questions aloud, especially not to the First Blade.

As they reached the final layer, Leith gritted his teeth.

Anyone excited yet?

Next up, a sneak peak at Deal: 

Orn turned to the dealer, but the man just shook his head. “Sorry, Torren. You’ve already used the limit on your tab tonight.”

The stranger’s fingers drummed a rhythm on the table and the inside of Orn’s skull. “Do you call or do you fold?”

“No, I…” He scanned the crowd for someone—anyone—who would loan him some money.

The fingers stopped tapping. “You have a son, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Worthless brat that he was. 

Can you guess what is happening in this sneak peak? 😉

My nominations for the challenge:

Shantelle Hannu

Claire Banschbach

Angie Brashear

Jaye L. Knight

Kim Moss

Jason Hein

E. Rawls

Fun Fiction Friday – Follower of the Word series

I actually finished Morgan Busse’s Follower of the Word series a while ago but haven’t had the chance to spotlight it here on my blog yet.

Many of you in the Christian fantasy community have probably already read this series, since it released over a period of a number of years. I was actually kind of glad I didn’t stumble onto this series until late last year because I only had a few agonizing months to wait for the third book. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, you’re privileged that you can read the entire series without a wait! (Because trust me, you won’t want to wait!)

My Recommendation

If you’d been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Christian fantasy, and this series is Christian fantasy at its finest. The characters are all well-developed and the multiple POVs do not get confusing. I loved all the characters so much that I had a hard time picking a favorite. Once of the main characters is a reforming assassin, and all of you know how I like stories with assassins in them! 😉

There are two things that especially impressed me about this series:

1. Even the established Followers of the Word have struggles. Too many Christian books make it seem like things instantly get easy once a person follows Christ. That isn’t the case in real life, and it certainly isn’t the case in the Follower of the Word series. In fact from an earthly standpoint, things get a lot worse for the characters. Each character pretty much is called on to give up everything they hold dear to follow the Word. Things appear really dark. Faith is tested to the breaking point. Characters are forced to make choices they never thought they’d have the strength to make. Yet, the Word is still there for them, giving them the strength they need.

2. It has one of the best representations of Christ I’ve read. Representing Christ in fiction is extremely difficult. How does an author capture a glimpse of God on the page? C.S. Lewis’s representation of Christ in Aslan is probably the best I’ve ever read because somehow Aslan captures friendship and awe-inspiring power. The Word in the Follower of the Word series is a close second. The Word is a friend yet remains powerful and mysterious. The representation of how He bears our guilt really made me think about what Christ did to pay for my sins.

I highly recommend this series!

About the Books:

Book 1: Daughter of Light

As the Shadonae rise in the west and war threatens the north, a young woman discovers she is not human . . .

Rowen Mar finds a strange mark on her hand, and she is banished from her village as a witch. She covers the mark with a leather glove and seeks sanctuary in the White City. She lives in fear that if she touches another person, the power inside her will trigger again, a terrifying power that allows her to see the darkness inside the human heart . . .

But the mark is a summons, and those called cannot hide forever. For the salvation of her people lies within her hand.

Book 2: Son of Truth

The war in the north is over, but the war for all the Lands has just begun. As the Shadonae solidify their hold on the city of Thyra, Rowen Mar, the last Eldaran and savior of the White City, awakens to find herself hunted by those she has saved.

Meanwhile, the assassin Caleb Tala finds himself in the presence of the Word. The time of reckoning has come, and he must pay the price for all the lives he has taken. But in his moment of judgment, Caleb is given a second chance to change his life.

These two hold the power to save the Lands from the Shadonae. One must escape slavery, and one must choose to forsake everything before the world is consumed in darkness.

Book 3: Heir of Hope

The great city of Thyra has fallen and shadows spread across the land. Rowen Mar, the last Truthsayer, is taken before the Shadonae. But the Shadonae are not who she thought they were, and now they want to claim her as their own.

Caleb Tala, former assassin and prince, is now a Guardian of mankind. Exiled from his country, Caleb wanders the desert in search of his mother’s past and clues to who he is.

These are the last days of the Eldaran race. Rowen and Caleb must find their way along the dark path set before them by their ancestors: to heal what was wounded and love where hatred grows. But the road is narrow and the darkness beckons. If either of them fails, all will be lost…

And the human race will be no more.

About the author:

Morgan L. BusseI am a wife, mother, and author. I write Christian fantasy for adult market. My work is published with Enclave Publishing, the premier publishing company for Christian fantasy and science fiction.

Have you read the Follower of the Word series yet?

Dare Blog Tour Wrap Up

Wow, this has been a crazy week! A lot of fun, but crazy.

I’ve realized that a blog tour is a little bit like being Cinderella at the ball. You’re the center of attention, and your head is buzzing with all the excitement and adrenaline, but you’re also overwhelmed because you’ve never been the center of attention like this before, and you’re stammering and hoping you’re saying the right things to all the people coming up to say nice things to you.

I’m beyond thankful to all the authors and bloggers who participated in the blog tour. It was like having a whole group of fairy godmothers!

And of course all the readers who have contacted me on my blog or Facebook to say they are excited to read the book, and especially those who went out and bought the book, read it, and then reached out to let me know they loved it.

A special thanks to Kim Moss who came up with this snappy line in her review and gave me permission to use it. This new header is already up on Facebook, and I love how it looks!

Facebook Author Page Header

But the fun isn’t over quite yet! The Facebook party is tonight, and it is going to be a blast! I hope you all can make it, even for a few minutes!

In case you missed any of the stops, the full list of the blog tour can be found here.

Today is also your last chance to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway if you haven’t already. The winner will be announced at the Facebook party tonight! I can’t wait to chat with all of you there!