Book Review – The Dark Citadel Omnibus

Book: The Dark Citadel Omnibus

Author: Michael Wallace

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Part of a Series: Yes, The Dark Citadel

Spoiler Warning.

Sorry if the books run together. I did read them back to back.

The Dark Citadel Omnibus is the collection of five novels about a fantasy war. They are The Dark Citadel, The Free Kingdoms, The Golden Griffin, The Warrior King, and War of Wizards.

It starts off with the main protagonist, Darik in his home in the khalifate of Balsalom. His house is raided and he and his sister are sold into slavery in order to pay off his father’s debts. Through luck, they are bought by a local baker at the request of two other slaves Markel and Whelan. Before long, Markel, Whelan, and Darik manage to escape their master and Darik learns that his two companions are spies from the Free Kingdoms, a neighboring country.

As they escape, the city comes under siege from the dark wizard Cragyn. The sultana, Kallia, is captured, forced to marry, and raped. Despite all of this, she bides her time until the majority of Cragyn’s forces move out to continue their conquest. At that point, she launches a counterattack and reclaims her city.

Darik and company, meanwhile, travel just ahead of the enemy army en route to the Free Kingdoms to warn Whelan’s brother, King Daniel. While traveling, they are forced to escape a mountain fortress on the backs of griffins where Darik meets the griffin rider Daria. She helps him soar through the air and delivers him safely to the other side of the mountains.

As Cragyn’s forces approach, Whelan must convince his ailing brother to gather the armies of the Free Kingdoms. Unfortunatly, he is being opposed by the wizard Chantmer, Markel’s superior in the wizarding order. Eventually, forces are gathered near the town of Sleepstock where an epic battle is fought between men and wizards, griffin riders and dragons. The people of the Free Kingdoms are betrayed, however, as Chantmer helps to summon a great magical beast to battle the dragons only to have it turn on the armies instead. The Free Kingdoms are forced to withdraw to the capital where they hold their final defense.

Good prevails in the battle and our heroes defeat Cragyn’s army. Chantmer is bested by his order and forced to flee as well. The Free Kingdoms ends with Daniel abdicating the throne in favor of Whelan, Markel finding himself at the head of the wizarding order, and Darik able to join the Knights Temperate, an elite group that offers him forgiveness for the crime of escaping slavery.

Flash forward a few months and The Golden Griffin sees our heroes attempting to clean up after the battle with Cragyn. The dragons are still a threat which Daria and her griffin riders are trying to fight. Darik rides with the Knights Temperate to clear out the remaining pockets of resistance who didn’t flee. While doing so, he discovers a new threat. Not only are the dead rising to fight against the living, but Cragyn was merely a host for the wizard Toth, a powerful dark wizard who nearly broke the world centuries ago.

When Whelan hears of this, he gathers his armies and marches towards the Dark Citadel in order to put an end to this threat once and for all. Markel, meanwhile, continues to chase down Chantmer with Darik’s help. Darik finds that he is able to use magic and spends the journey learning his new skills.

In Balsalom, Kallia is reorganizing her city for the war effort. She has married Whelan, both for love and politics…and as an attempt to hide the fact that she carries Toth’s child in her womb.

In her attempts to end the threat from the dragons, Daria is presented with an unlikely opportunity. While escaping from a horde of dragon wasps, baby dragons, she leads them into a pack of wild, golden griffins. One griffin is injured in the fight, and Daria takes the opportunity to try and tame the creature while helping it heal. When she does, she becomes the first of her people to ride the powerful golden griffins.

The Warrior King sees the armies of the Free Kingdoms and khalifates marching towards the Dark Citadel. As they fight through Toth’s armies, Markel and Darik close in on Chantmer. The betrayer is hiding in a rival khalifate, learning the khalifate style of magic while also planning a coup that will place the long-lived wizards in charge of society. Politics and intrigue abound in the khalifate as the Free Kingdoms attempt to negotiate a treaty while Chantmer prepares his move.

As Whelan approaches the Dark Citadel, he finds that his brother Roderick was killed and reanimated by Toth to lead the dark wizard’s forces. The two brothers are forced to fight, unfortunately for Whelan, his sword Soultrap, a magical blade that traps the souls of the people it kills, is struggling against him. The evil influence of the souls of Toth’s armies are trying to turn the will of the blade against Whelan. During the fight, Roderick is able to temporarily resist the commands of Toth and manages to sacrifice himself on Whelan’s sword. His soul, now trapt in the blade, tips the balance and allows Whelan to use it for good.

War of Wizards is the final fight against Toth. As he sits atop his Dark Citadel, Toth sacrifices the innocent people of his kingdom in order to fuel his dark ritual. This ritual raises an army of wights, tortured souls who seek to avoid the Harvester and kill the living.

Darik has returned to Balsalom and helps to manage the defenses of the city against the wights that are coming to claim Kallia’s child for Toth. With the aid of Chantmer, they manage to hold out against the undead army, hoping that Whelan can end the war on his front.

At the Dark Citadel, Whelan and Markel lay siege to Toth’s fortress. They manage to breach the walls just as the dragon reappears. Daria swoops in on her golden griffin with the rest of her griffin riders to battle the dragon while the armies burst into the city. Whelan and Markel climb the Dark Citadel where they meet Toth and kill him.

Unfortunately, that was part of Toth’s plan. His soul flees his body and travels to Balsalom where it tries to take root in the child Kallia just gave birth to. Through powerful magic, the Harvester is summoned to the room where the god of the dead is able to gather Toth’s soul and end the threat. In a moment of compassion for the living, the Harvester grants a new soul to the child so that it can grow and live a normal life. Darik leaves fighting behind him and travels north with Daria to find a new land for the griffin riders to settle.

So first off….the first two books in this series were pretty good. The last three kind of plodded along. All in all, it was fine, but it felt like Dark Citadel and Free Kingdoms ended the story only to have the author keep it going. It really didn’t pick back up until the second half of War of Wizards minus a few scenes throughout.

This series also felt like it could belong in the young adult category. It was a fairly simplistic writing style, the arcs were decent enough, but most of the struggle seemed to be about the boy Darik finding his place in the world and who he was. I don’t say this to be disparaging of it, just that it felt like it was being billed as more than what it was.

Of course, there are issues with the main focus being on Darik and his struggles. The biggest one is that Darik was a pretty passive protagonist. On the one hand, I kind of like the fact that he wasn’t the big hero, that he was secondary to the larger characters. That works well in some stories. It didn’t really fit with this one though.

The best example I can think of where the protagonist wasn’t the hero was The Ten Thousand by Michael Curtis Ford. With that book, the hero was Xenophon, while the protagonist was more of an aid. That book also stuck with one point of view. We saw the events solely through the protagonist’s eyes. The Dark Citadel follows multiple points of view. This makes Darik’s story weaker because we spend just as much time with the actual heroes, with actual power, that we don’t really need Darik’s experience. He is usually just along for the ride.

Of course, there is also the elephant in the room of Chantmer feeling like a Saruman rip off. Powerful wizard, turns evil, betrays his order. I mean, reading the book, my image of Chantmer was of Christopher Lee wandering around the desert.

Despite all of that, the books are fun. Yeah, they end up being a tad formulaic. Yeah, it follows a lot of the epic fantasy tropes of put everyone in the worst situation for a last-minute save, but it was still a fun journey. Ultimately, I recommend The Dark Citadel and the Free Kingdoms. The last three books you can read if you want.

I award The Dark Kingdom and The Free Kingdoms the Iron Stash (4/5) and The Golden Griffin, The Warrior King, and War of Wizards the Bronze Stash (3/5). I award the Dark Citadel Omnibus the Bronze Stash (3/5).

Let me know your thoughts. And remember that I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

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D&D Story – The Beginning of Bob

Ever wonder how a wood elf becomes a cleric of a tempest god in a port city?

Spring came and Bobalietha celebrated his fifteenth year. It was a year of decision, of elfhood. As with all wood elves of the Shaythean Woods, it was time to choose his purpose in life. While it would still be decades before he would be allowed to sit before the council, his physical maturity was at the point where he would be able to start developing the skills he would give the community.

Life within the Shaythean Woods were uneventful, especially for a young elf full of vigor and energy. The spiritual practices felt empty and hollow to his mind, lacking in some aspect. There was something missing from them that Bobalietha could not place his finger on. As such, he could not imagine choosing a life inside the confines of the village.

When he was called before the council to announce his intent, there was little surprise when he volunteered to join the Southern Garrison. The outpost rested on the southern end of the woods, just north of the city of Waterdeep. It was an important post for the Shaythean Woodelves as a point of information and trade with the many cultures who frequented the port city.

Upon arrival, Thurodan, the garrison’s captain, assigned him various duties. The garrison was staff by volunteers, limiting its number to a mere twelve, and all members had to do their part. Bobalietha fletched arrows, ran messages, and helped with the maintenance of the barricades and palisades. Most of the buildings and the barracks rested within the trees on the edge of the woods, though a single, fortified building sat on the ground to conduct business and as a final defense.

Bobalietha admired Thurodan. The elf was pragmatic and fair. There was no duty that he did not help perform, a true example to the elves underneath him. Once, a group of goblins attempted to raid the garrison. Thurodan thrust himself into battle, felling three of the five himself with a mighty swing of his hammer. Since that raid, Bobalietha put down his spear and attempted to teach himself the warhammer.

After staffing the garrison for six months, one of the famous coastal storms swept past the wards of Waterdeep and drove towards the Southern Garrison. The elves scrambled from their treetop outposts towards the safety of the ground building in order to protect themselves from the winds and hail. Outside the building, the winds roared, tearing saplings from the ground and blowing away the defenses of the outpost.

The earth trembled in the storm and the building shook. The central crossbeam, a mighty oaken log, cracked and began to slide down. The walls leaned drunkenly inward and the roof sagged. Thurodan strode forward and placed himself under the massive beam, bracing it against his shoulders and holding it in place. Thunder crashed from outside, ringing in their ears. Hail drove through the weakened roof and struck the ground around them. Despite it all, Thurodan held that beam, seemingly immovable as the oaken support had been.

Alas, like the crossbeam, Thurodan began to waiver under the weight and ferocity of the storm. His knees trembled. Sweat streamed down his face. Bobalietha, in his youthful excitement, darted forward and reached out towards the beam in an attempt to help his captain. Within moments, his arms trembled violently. The weight was too great for him to manage, and he was unable to provide any meaningful help.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning crashed through the roof and struck the ground at Thurodan’s feet. The world disappeared in a flash of white, the sound like so many metal objects striking the ground. When his vision cleared and his senses returned, Bobalietha found himself laying on the ground and staring up at a giant man.

His physique was near perfect. His biceps bulged like boulders on his arms. His back rippled with each movement. With seemingly no effort, he took the beam from Thurodan’s shoulders and held it in both hands, pressing it above his head.

He turned his head towards Thurodan and smiled. “Kord smiles upon you.” The divine accent was unlike any Bobalietha had heard, the very words sounding thick and muscular. “Your strength has called to him and saved your people Thurodan. Accept his call. Become his messenger to the people of Waterdeep.”

Thurodan said nothing, was unable to say anything, in the presence of this divine creature. All he could do was nod. The man reached out and placed his hand over Thurodan’s head. His giant grip engulfed the elf’s face. Energy crackled in the air and Bobalietha saw Thurodan’s body tense.

Pushing himself to his feet, he ran towards the creature. He had no idea what he would do, just that something had to be done. Pain ran through his shoulder as he felt like he crashed into a rock. The rock rumbled with laughter, looking down at the scrawny wood elf. “Easy boy. I would never harm a cleric of Kord and temple master.”

Thurodan’s body relaxed and he motioned for everyone to move outside. His eyes had become as gray as storm clouds, a flash of lightning playing over them. Before Bobalietha could follow, the divine man grasped his shoulder. “You have spirit boy, but you are too scrawny right now. Behold! The blessings of Kord!”

Electricity shot through his body and his felt it grow and expand. When the pain passed, he gasped and looked down. Before the storm, he was short for an elf, with a lanky frame. Now he stood at six feet, his shirt drawn tight against his arms and chest. Thighs and calves bulged within his leggings.

Even more impressive than his new physique was the feeling of electricity within him. He felt the rumble of thunder within his chest. His own heart pumped lightning, causing the hairs on his arm to rise. He laughed softly at the gifts, the laughter driving out the remaining pain.

“No gain, no pain bro,” the herald said. Bobalietha left the building and the herald disappeared. With the absence of anyone holding the beam, the building collapsed behind him. The storm still raged about them, though neither Bobalietha nor Thurodan had any fear of it. There was no reason to fear a display from their god.

“Bros,” Thurodan began. His voice was a deep boom, the touch of Kord changing its tone as well as his speech. “Kord saves those who lift! Join me bros, to spread the message. We will establish our gym temple within the city and teach the people the prayers of the bench, the squat, and the deadlift. They will pray with every curl. They will pray with every lunge. We shall guide them along the path of brodom. From brotoges to bros. From gym rats to brofessors.

“Brotoge Bobalietha.” Thurodan turned his stormy gaze on the boy. “You have been blessed with Kord’s gainz. Will you answer?”

“Master Brofessor,” he answered. “I will follow the path of the Iron Church…and call me Bob. It is a stronger name.”

“Very well Brotege Bob. Let us go spread the good news. A new gym is open.” With that, they led the way to the city of Waterdeep followed by the other ten wood elves. Over the years, the temple grew, a haven for wood elves seeking another path. Bob discovered the missing piece of his spirituality was action, movement, the ability to overcome what was impossible yesterday.

He rose from brotege to bro and guided others along the paths. He taught the ways of the Iron Church. He spotted them on the holy lifts and motivated them through the penitent’s path of cardio. He worked tirelessly in his devotion to be worthy of the gifts Kord bestowed upon him.

Then one night, he sat in front of the temple, deep in meditation, the smoke from his pipe curling about his face. His spirit called out to Kord, and a whisper answered him. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wind changed directions. The signs pointed to a new path for him. Opening his eyes, he looked out into the darkness and saw a small group dragging the body of a dragonborn through the streets.

“Bros. Come closer. Let me help your friend…”

Flash Fiction Friday 012 – The Persian Sand Wyrm

The Persian Sand Wyrm lifted it’s mighty head and spit forth it’s venom as the crimson clad combatants. Heinrich ducked, Rich dodged, and Tim dove, but Ulrich did not move fast enough. He screamed as the venom struck his left arm.

It quickly ate through his armor, burning into his flesh. The pain was intense, almost unbearable. Tim rolled to a crouch a few feet from Ulrich and dove back towards his injured battle buddy. He scooped Ulrich up in his arms and tackled the fellow Crusader to the ground as another burst of venom shot overhead.

“Crusader Main, Crusader Main. This is Crusader Bravo. Request immediate medevac at LZ Hawk. Elaine. I say again Elaine.”

Ulrich was family aware of the report Tim was sending up. Through the haze of pain, he recognized the code word for confirmation of the sand wyrm. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Heinrich and Rich engaging the creature, saw it slither and writhe under the hail of gunfire from the other two Crusaders.

Ulrich was pulled back to the reality of his situation as he felt something tightening on his arm near the shoulder. Tim was applying a turniquet to his injured arm. Reaching into his aid pack, Ulrich popped one of the pain potions that had been issued him and waved Tim away. “I’m good. Help them.”

Tim nodded and took off towards the wyrm while Ulrich finished applying the turniquet. A wave of euphoria washed over him as the potion took effect. After several moments, Ulrich was done treating himself. He couldn’t move his arm, but he was ok for now.

Ulrich reached for his weapon, the crossbow just a few feet from him. The bolts were specially designed and enchanted for desert dragons. Luckily, it was undamaged from the wyrm’s venom, but he only had one shot.

The other three had the wyrm’s attention. It was now or never. He lifted the crossbow, aimed, and loosed the bolt. It struck the wyrm in its venom sack, sinking deep into its neck. With a terrible cry, the creature reared its head before collapsing to the ground.

The medevac arrived a few minutes later and the team loaded up on the helicopters. Ulrich didn’t remember much after that. The medics had given him some of the good stuff, and he faded into a drug induced sleep.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 011 – The Red Crusader

Ulrich flexed his left hand as he walked down the city street. It didn’t hurt; it was incapable of hurting, but old habits and all. The sound of traffic and the hum if humanity blared all around him; however, the commotion was muted in Ulrich’s ears. His mind was somewhere far away.

“Hey, Ulrich! Man, you want a taco or what?” Jack had stopped next to a good truck and was trekking at Ulrich.

Blinking, Ulrich moved by his friend in line. “Quite a wait for a mobile meal isn’t it?”

Jack laughed and have a shrug. “Master Monty has the best prices on tacos in the city.”

Ulrich craned his neck to see the menu. “Can’t be that good for those prices. How are drinks the most expensive item on the menu? Rat meat, that’s how.”

“A. Probably better than that shit you were eating down range. B. The food is legit. Monty has a taco storm in a jar. Fresh as magic can make it. Don’t get a drink here though.” Jack added. “Potions. Don’t want you popping hot when you get back to your unit.”

While Jack spoke, movement caught Ulrich’s eye. His head jerked around to see a woman walking her pet dragon down the sidewalk. No taller than the woman’s knee, it had it’s muzzle on to prevent accidental fires.

Ulrich tensed at the sight of the thing, his fists clenching. The edges of his vision began to black out before being filled with fire. His left hand began to tap his leg repeatedly while he stood frozen.

“Yo. You’re on leave. You’re on leave. Chill bro.” Ulrich faintly heard Jack’s words at first, but each sentence became clearer and clearer. After another moment or two, his mind cleared and he was at the front of the line for tacos.

Ulrich barely registered anything during the transaction. He knew dragons were pets. They were vey popular pets. Breeding the big ones was also a violation of several international treaties. That didn’t stop some people, though.

Some dictators just got it in their head that dragons were better when big and angry. That’s when units like Ulrich’s were called. USAMA claimed they were the Black Knights, and they could pretend. Ulrich was a Red Crusader, one of four knight forces in the US Army, trained and proficient in handling mythical and magical problems.

Jack guided him to a seat as he continued to flex his left hand. The sound of cogs and actuators was barely audible being magically powered and muted. Despite having no actual sense of anything in that hand, Ulrich could tell the moves of the metal didn’t feel right. Maybe it was just the way the shoulder joint still rubbed burnt skin. He still had a few weeks to get used to it while he finished up hid convalescent leav… man. That was a good taco.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free.

Prince Phillip – Chap. 1

I feel bad about missing last week’s #flashfictionfriday. To make up for it, enjoy chapter one of my #wip Prince Phillip.

Hey all. Life got in the way last week and I feel bad about not getting the Friday Flash Fiction up. To make up for it, I’ve decided to give you all a little extra treat this week. Here is the current draft of the first chapter of Prince Phillip. Enjoy.

The hall was colorfully decorated for the party. Golden banners intertwined with red were strung across the walls. A merry din echoed off the stone surroundings, a mix of happy voices and the plucking of a psaltery filled the air. Everyone was in a joyous mood. After all, the infant princess had just been officially presented to the lords and ladies of the court.

There was one present, however, who was only mildly interested in the baby being celebrated. Prince Phillip had little concern for the child. After all, what use did a baby have to a five-year-old prince? He was far more engrossed by the various foods and punches that were available. The thought of the return trip home was also weighing on his young mind. It took ages to get to East Thuringia and it would take ages to return home. Frowning at the thought, he attempted to wash it away with another drink of punch.

“Phillip, my boy. Come here.” The sound of his father’s voice cutting over the noise of celebration pulled Phillip from his thoughts and the lad moved towards where his father was standing with Stephen, the king of East Thuringia.

“What do you think of Rose my lad?” Hubert looked down at his son with an expectant eye. Phillip knew the look. It meant his father was waiting for a certain answer, though the boy often did not know which answer his father wanted.

“I don’t know father. She doesn’t cry much.”

Hubert slapped his large belly with a hearty laugh, his face turning a slightly deeper shade of red than his tunic. Phillip smiled, thinking he answered the question well enough. After all, he didn’t have much experience with babies outside of those the castle wet nurse helped care for.

“What do you make of that Stephen? A high compliment from a young lad I think.”

Stephen stroked a jet-black beard in quiet thought for a moment. “I am not sure what I expected, but there is plenty of time for them to get to know each other.” The East Thuringian king was soft-spoken, a stark contrast to his father’s boisterous demeanor.

“Then it is settled?” Hubert raised a golden brow at the taller king.

“Yes. It is settled.” Stephen turned from Hubert to address the hall. “My lords! If you will please settle yourselves.”

The hall quieted down and Hubert pulled his son to the side, holding the lad in front of him.

“My lords,” Stephen continued. “Tonight is a great night. We have many things to celebrate. Not only do we have the chance to officially present my daughter Rose on her first birthday, but we also have a very special announcement. We announce the betrothal of Princess Rose to Prince Phillip of Thuringia.” The hall broke out into a loud cry of approval at the news. Stephen smiled for a moment before lifting his hands for silence.

“With this pending marriage, the kingdoms of Thuringia and East Thuringia will be forever joined in bonds of brotherhood, and we shall grow together to soar like the Thuringian eagle with the strength of the East Thuringian boar. May God look with favor on this union. Minstrel! Music!”

The sounds of the psaltery once again filled the hall as Hubert pulled Phillip towards his mother. Many lords and ladies began to make their way towards him to congratulate him on the announcement. After what seemed ages of uncomfortable conversations with adults he did not know, Phillip was finally given a reprieve when attention shifted backed towards Stephen.

A funny looking man came striding forward clothed in the yellow of East Thuringia. With a high pitched but firm voice, the steward called out the name of one of the lords. At the sound of his name, the lord came forward and pledged some portion of his harvest to the king. When that was over, the steward called another lord who did similar. This continued for some time with each lord pledging some service or commitment of resources.

This display meant nothing to Phillip and he found his mind wandering. He needed to remember to ask his mother what a “betrothal” was. It seemed important. Maybe it had to do with his father’s and Stephen’s friendship. The two had been close for years. Phillip had to stifle a chuckle when remembering one of Hubert’s stories of a childhood adventure. Maybe that was what a betrothal was, a chance to grow up and have adventures with Rose.

The young prince was pulled from his thoughts by the announcement of the Thuringian fairies. Twelve women came floating past the doors of the hall and towards Stephen. Phillip’s eyes lit up at the sight of them. His nurse had told him stories of the fairies who lived deep in the Thuringian forest. Those stories had fueled his young imagination, but it was completely different to see them in person. Each fairy glowed with a soft light and bright colors. It was like watching a rainbow move across the hall.

The entire hall drew to a respectful silence at their approach. Even though the Christian God held dominance over religion, the old ways were still strong. As young as he was, even Phillip knew better than to make a lot of noise or squirm too much Not that he could if he wanted to. He was enthralled by the appearance of the fairies, so much so that he was not paying attention to the gifts that they were offering the baby princess. All he was aware of was each fairy gliding up to the princess and a gentle glow surrounding the baby before being replaced by the next in line.

The blue glow of the final fairy began to fade as she stepped back. Just then, a sudden wind burst through the doors of the hall. As it swirled around the walls, the fires in the hall flickered and roared angrily. A clap of thunder caused Phillip’s hands to shoot to his ears and his eyes to squeeze shut. When he opened them again, the hall was dark save for a faint green glow in the center of the hall. The light grew in intensity to reveal a tall, pale woman standing in its aura. She was clad in a dress as black as midnight and seemed to tower over everyone else in the hall. On her shoulder rested a raven, its head cocked to the side as it observed the lords and ladies.

“My my. What a fine gathering you have here tonight Stephen.”

“T..Tebofe.” Stephen stood rigid on the dais as he stared at the newcomer. “No! Stop!”

Two guards came running from the back of the hall with their spears leveled at the woman in black. She smoothly lifted her arm and flicked her wrist towards the charging men, causing them to fly back through the air and crash into the far wall with a sickening thud. The woman, meanwhile, let a pout appear on her red lips. “Stephen. I am disappointed at my welcome. First, I do not receive an invitation to such an important night. Then you have your guards attack me?”

“It is not like that Tebofe.” There was a slight tremor in Stephen’s voice. He took a step back and lifted his arm as if to protect himself, his hand trembling in the air in front of him. “We would never disrespect you in such a way.”

“I see.” Her pout turned to a smirk as she watched the king. While she had never moved from the center of the room, her presence seemed to close on the dais. “My invitation must simply have been lost then.” At last, she moved forward, swaying with all the grace of a serpent as she approached the cradle. “What a beautiful child. I think I know the gift I shall offer her.”

“Please Tebofe, you do not need to do that.” The color was gradually draining from Stephen’s face.

“Nonsense. I must.” Tebofe straightened and turned her head towards Stephen. “You deliberately ignore me and attempt to keep me from your celebration while allowing my sisters to attend. Your guards charge at me like I am a common thief. I must repay your actions in kind.” As she spoke, each word became colder and more clipped. Stretching a skeletal hand over the crib, Tebofe and Rose were surrounded by a black aura.

“Your daughter will grow to be a fine woman with all the grace and beauty promised by my sisters. When her beauty has ripened and she has reached the age of eighteen, on that night she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die.” Tebofe let out a laugh at the look on the king’s face. “Do not worry my dear Stephen. I am not without my mercy. She will be untouched by the ravages of time. Her beauty will be preserved forever.”

The dark fairy laughed again as the black aura grew. The laugh filled the hall, mingling with the caw of her raven. The shadows grew to surround her before disappearing suddenly. The fires and torches sprang back to life, but Tebofe was no longer in the hall.

Silence lasted for several seconds before erupting into a loud commotion. Stephen began shouting orders to his guard while the attending lords began to call for their personal troops. Phillip was startled by his mother shaking him by the shoulders. He had not moved the entire time, but he was covered in sweat. His breath was short and ragged. His mother grabbed him by the arm and dragged him from the hall and back towards their rooms.

The remaining two days were a blur. Phillip was rarely allowed to leave his room and never without a guard when he did. Several times, he went into his parents’ room only for them to suddenly stop their conversation. He did not understand all of what he heard, but the young prince did hear that the Princess Rose had disappeared following Tebofe’s curse. The following night, Phillip saw a great fire started in the courtyard from his window. No one would explain what the fire was for, but soldiers continually arrived at the castle with wagons to toss more things on it.

The fire was still raging on their final morning in the castle. As Phillip sat in the back of the carriage, he watched the thick, black cloud of smoke drift high up towards the heavens. Long after the castle was out of sight, Phillip could still see the smoke slithering up like a snake in the morning light.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 007 – A Wizard’s Duel

Two wizards meet in a forest clearing and challenge each other to a duel. Thrill as they display their power and seek to gain the upper hand. Will raw strength succeed or will cunning conquer?

“A wizard’s duel?” Orpheus raised a brow in surprise and intrigue, a small smile playing across his lips. “What a fascinating thought. Rules?”

“Elemental based att-”

“Boo! Booooring.” Orpheus chuckled the look on Maliek’s face at being interrupted.  “Come now Maliek. Don’t frown so.” A sigh escaped from Orpheus’ lips. “Fine. Fine. Elemental it is. Really, you Mariesian mages need more creativity.”

Just as Orpheus finished, Maliek stabbed the ground with his staff. The earth shook and rumbled beneath Orpheus’ feet, and he was forced to reach out to a nearby tree for support. Before he could fully regain himself, Maliek slashed upwards with his staff. A blade of air burst from the staff’s path, causing the tree to explode.

Orpheus dove out of the way, rolling into a kneel. Splinters and bark rained down around him. He saw the blur of Maliek’s staff as another blade of air shot towards him. He did not dive away this time but clapped his hands together at the last moment, catching the airwave. With a twist of the wrists, he turned the wave and flung it up into the sky.

Bringing his arms down, Orpheus directed a bolt of lightning towards Maliek. The larger wizard shielded his eyes from the blinding light while spinning his staff to scatter the bolt’s power. Orpheus took advantage of the momentary distraction to rise. A spinning of the finger caused a wind to swirl about Maliek, surrounding him with a thin layer of dirt and leaves. With a snap, Orpheus called forth a clap of thunder.

The clearing was filled with a deafening sound as wind and thunder mixed. As suddenly as it began, the noises stopped, and all was silent. Maliek stood alone in the silence. His vision was still spotty from the lightning and his hearing muffled from the thunder. Cursing, he spun about as he searched for his opponent.

Movement behind a tree caught his eye, and Maliek thrust his staff towards it. Instead of the flame flying from the end of his staff, Maliek’s instrument exploded in his hands. The ground beneath his feet rose in the air and tilted, spilling him to the ground below. Vines rose from the exposed earth to bind his wrists and hold him fast to the ground.

“I yield.” The surrender was more a growl from the large wizard.

“Poor Maliek,” Orpheus said as he stepped from behind a tree. “Always thinking that your magic flows from your weapon. A flaw in the thoughts of the Mariesians.” The vines binding Maliek retreated and Orpheus offered the man a hand up. “Come on now. It is time for lunch.”

Maliek took the hand and rose with a grunt. “You owe me a new staff.”

“Of course, of course.” Orpheus smiled. “I was thinking mutton stew. I’ve been wanting to try the mutton stew at that new tavern near the academy.” With a flick of the wrist, Orpheus opened a gateway to the city gates. “You’re buying by the way. Victor’s rights and all.”

Maliek’s growl was a halfhearted attempt to keep from smiling as he shoved Orpheus through the gateway.

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Flash Fiction Friday 004 – The Coming of Spring

Spring is a magical time, especially for fairies. But Fionia has a special challenge ahead of her. How will her work hold up against February? #fantasy #flashfiction #flashfictionfriday #fairy #spring

Spring was the best time in a fairy’s life. The ability to flit around in the early morning sun and spread the blossoming flowers. Fionia loved helping the flowers to blossom.

And so it was Fionia found herself fluttering about the open meadows on a late February morning. The sun was barely rising in the east, shooting golden beams of light down towards her and her work. A rainbow sparkle trailed along behind her, and where it fell, blooms of red and orange would spring up.

Fionia spent several hours flying back and forth through the meadow. At noon, she found the shade of a nearby tree to rest and admire her work. Nearly every inch of the meadow was covered in little flowers. The sight caused the fairy to smile to herself.

Fionia was so confident with her work that morning that she decided that a nap was in order. As she pay under the shade of the tree, she dreamt of a world of color. A soft music filled the air, causing the vibrant hues to explode forth. Soon, Fionia’s dreams were a neon saturated light show.

The sun was near the western horizon by the time Fionia woke. She rose on thin legs and stretched delicate arms high above her head with a yawn. The sky was a blaze with pinks and purples, contrasting nicely with her red and orange meadow. In the distance, a white haze began to creep along the edges of the meadow.

Fionia frowned at the haze. It crept further into her meadow, passing over her flowers and causing them shrivel. It was night frost that was settling over the coming night. Unfortunately, it was just not spring enough yet for the flowers to last.

With a huff and a kick at the dirt, Fionia took flight and gave the meadow once last glance. Her frustration eased as she flew home. Just as her mood was evaporating, this frost will disappear in the morning and she will be able to make the flowers bloom again.