Snowflakes and Swordplay

How’s your Christmas week been? Hope you had a good one! Not very yule like here in Georgia. Storms raging outside, rain drenching fields, lightning blazing silver through the gloom. Booming thunder, pets scurrying nervously under the bed. Ouch. A touch unseasonal, but hey – define normal during these tumultuous times. Here’s a whimsical moment to lift you away from the hectic holidays whirl. A dream of snowflakes and swordplay. A ponder. Or a winter’s wander, if you like.

As snow settles, you walk through woods, an owl watches you pass. You see shapes, hints of movement through the murk. You pass a stream that gurgles and splashes washing rocks strewn with weed. An otter dives for cover. What’s that? A lantern gleaming gold in the distance.

Who is there?

The lantern fades, flickers, vanishes. You walk on quicker, excited, and yet … Wary. You’re not alone in the deep wood. Your spine tingles. The lantern glow appears to your left. A woman’s face stares back at you as lightning rips through trees. She vanishes as the black returns. You call out, rushing. Who was she and what did she want? You reach the spot where she had stood. No one there. The owl settles and watches you from a branch. But I saw her …

What if we are never alone? Could there be other dimensions than our own? Mirror worlds and places? Other planes and levels where people like us, and animals, many beings, live out their lives alongside ours, like two faces inside a mirror never meeting. Linked by the ley lines and dusky pathways threading the universe within and without.

There are places I’ve been where I’ve felt this connection. Wayland’s Smithy on the Ridgeway, an ancient bridal path in Wiltshire, England, was one such. Uncanny vibe. The crows were broody in the wintry-bare ash trees, the cold barrow stones empty and dark. Eery Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex is another. A circle of beech trees high on the South Downs. No birdsong. So quiet up there. A feeling of disquiet pervades the atmosphere within the woody ring. A hill fort. There are dark tales, rumors. A gateway to another place? Dare you imagine? Climb the hill and listen to the shouting silence? Can you feel their presence, those others? Watching and waiting from different realms. Could these places hide time portals, dimension gates?

What happens if something breaks through?

Let’s imagine a cosmic player tangles the world thread, allowing those outside our confines to enter. What would follow? Chaos and discovery? Death and rebirth? War? Everything is out there all the time. There is no ending or beginning in the majesty of space. Time itself is a confine created by the need for rules. Where would we be without rules?

My ongoing sub-series journeyman focuses on these ambiguous concepts. Our lost hero, Sir Garland, finds himself caught between worlds, trapped inside time itself. His only choice, keep moving, and don’t question. Stop the raging thoughts from unravelling his mind, as unworldly demons tear upon him.

The Voyage of Carlo Sarfe is the second thread in this new Legends of Ansu twist. With Corin, I wanted to focus on unruly behavior – rebels, warriors, heroism, quests. A Celtic vibe with customary fantasy tropes, but with added spice, scrappy violence, and caustic wit. The Berserker Trilogy was born of my fascination of Norse sagas and masterworks by Poul Anderson, and Stephan Grundy, but with an added Oriental side as culture-clashing continents collide in war. The Journeyman series lies even closer to my heart. Asking questions of why we are here, where we’re heading. And for what purpose? If you’re curious, I’ve shared another excerpt below.

Great. But that’s convoluted, you say. Too damn deep. Give me swordplay, not dreamflakes. How about a good old Sword & Sorcery yarn?

And you’d be right. That’s why I’m working on two new series, Journeyman and Slayer.

If you’ve read any Legends of Ansu books (Thank You, you’re fabulous.) You will know my focus on strong character interaction amidst solid world-building. Having recently completed the Berserker Trilogy, I left a few characters stranded in the battle for Ta Shen. One of these reprobates survived against all odds.

Gujun the Slayer will star in a new spin-off series called … guess what? Slayer. 🙂 The renegade assassin finds himself hunted by the new emperor in Shen, the entire Cardalan Republic, plus vengeful Vendeli warrior priests, and mercenaries paid to kill him. Worst of all is the Dreamslayer, Arraleen Caze, the Vendel spymaster’s daughter. More than anyone, she wants Gujun the Slayer dead. And what Arraleen wants, she gets. So expect a playoff between two lethal assassins in a dizzy dance of death. Dreamslayer will be on sale this spring.

More on that soon.

Can Carlo Find Gol Before It Sinks Below The Waves?
Back to Journeyman Book 2. An Excerpt.

Following on from The Emerald Queen and also out this spring. Yep, it’s going to be a busy one! FYI, you can pre-order The Voyage of Carlo Sarfe here: https://bit.ly/ScimitarDude Pre-order your copy at a bargain price: $1.99 only. Jumps to $4.99 once on sale. 🙂 Below is the snippet I promised.

The Hunted

Carlo cursed and staggered onto the ridge of stone, where the stream met the rock slide. Beyond that, a dark pond seeped into murky, weed-covered banks, its coal-black surface cloaked by dead looking bulrushes. The water stank and clogged his nostrils. He looked around, saw a track skirting the right side of the pond. 

He could make out what looked to be steps of stone winding up into the low-hanging cloud above. Perhaps he could get above the cloud and mist if he climbed those stairs? The hills’ crowns had been clear when last he’d seen them from the Arabella, the rain having passed.

He took the track, skirting the rancid water. Stopped again, hearing a shrill call to his right. Carlo blinked and saw a large black bird settle on a nearby tree. A raven. It watched him in silence. He shook his head and moved on, following the track toward the broken steps. These he took two at a time, pausing often and peering up through the gloom. The weariness was draining him, and he felt a compelling urge to give up this climb and rest in the bracken framing the edges of the steps.

I’m tired, that’s all.

It must be the rank atmosphere in this place. Perhaps something large had died in that pond and was decomposing. Carlo wiped sweat from his face. He regretted coming here, but determined to make the visit worthwhile. If he could get high enough, the air would be fresher. There would be prey up there. With all this water, there had to be. Once he could see, he’d whistle Stogi and the girl. He didn’t want them to choke on the pond’s foul fumes. He hoped they were having more luck, maybe Tai Pei had found her rabbits?

He forced a smile to his lips. I’ll turn this day around yet.

A soft sound to his right. Laughter? He heard it again. 

Someone’s watching.

And a third time. An ironic chuckle, as though a hidden eavesdropper had heard his thoughts, as if he’d uttered them out loud.

Damn this.

 Carlo slid the scimitar free of its scabbard. He circled slowly, gazing back down the steps. He could no longer see the pond or stream. Neither could he see the ocean beyond, the steamy fret having gotten so thick. 

There was movement below. He was certain of it this time. A vague, shapeless figure was inching up the steps towards him. Carlo felt an overwhelming sense of dread as his gaze remained fixed on the apparition. Stogi had been right. They should never have come here. 

It was rising slowly like smoke, its form shifting and changing, until he saw what looked to be a man with the face of a boar, a single horn protruding.

Carlo forced movement into his trembling legs and turned, started climbing, as swiftly as he could, up through the mist. He didn’t stop or look back, but sensed whatever it was closing the gap behind him.

He could hear a hissing sound like the venting of a kettle. The creature’s breath? The pig thing was gaining on him fast. Carlo broke into a panicked run. He reached a crest and tripped, as the loose stones rolled under his feet.

He sprawled on his face, tried to roll and lift the sword, but something hard struck his back and pinned him on the spot.

“We have him,” a dry hollow voice said, and Carlo blacked out as the steel-shod boot struck the back of his head.

What to expect Next Month

Slayer: A New Ansu Sub-Series Starts Next Spring

The first Gujun excerpt.

Some news on audiobooks and another Corin misadventure. Perhaps something on myth and legends too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these random scribbles on swords and shenanigans, daydreams and winter. I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

I wish you the very best for 2022! It’s going to get better next year, my cat told me. 🙂 Stay Strong! Be Healthy and Happy!

Better Days Are Coming.

JWW

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