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Overdue Update on My Fantasies

Either this blog title is clickbait or it’s sending people screaming and hiding. I’m okay with both.

The intent behind it is to share the latest book status. Fantasy is especially fitting since I’m writing a book titled, “The Goblin Queen.” It’s the next book in The Serpent’s War series, but I have to say this one is nothing like the two that came before. As I’ve said before, I enjoyed writing those books, but it was more work and less fun. This one has been nothing but fun, both when I write and when I’m not writing but thinking about it. It takes me back to the first series, Blades of Leander, and I can’t wait for people to read it! In fact, thinking about this book has gotten me through a lot of treadmill time while warming up or cooling down on my workout days (I run a mile before and after lifting).

Recently the story has expanded quite a bit. I originally intended only to follow Grishna (new main character), Garrick, Carson, Namitus, Aleena, Celos, and Gildor in their quest to investigate and attempt to foil the plans of the Order of the Dragon as they build their army. Inspiration and far reaching plans have launched a few more subplots though, enough to draw Alto, Patrina, Jethallin, Mordrim, Karthor, and Kar into the mix.

And wow have the characters grown and changed. Here’s just a sample of what’s come to pass:

  • Jethallin went from her role as a homeless young mother in Shazamir to the High Warden of the forests of the Kingdom of Altonia. Jennaca, her daughter, is doing well and getting into all sorts of trouble, by the way.
  • Kar has apprentices that are contributing to his mad scheme of mastering the air by piloting the experimental airships he’s creating. So far the injuries have been minor…
  • Karthor has been granted the title of High Priest of the Altonia branch of the church of Leander. His liberal beliefs have caused disturbances amongst those entrenched in the church’s ranks, but the number of faithful in Altonia is growing faster than any temple or missionary in the history of Saint Leander’s worship.
  • Aleena and Celos have been wed! Ahem, excuse me, that’s Dame Aleena Lyonsbane and Sir Celos Lyonsbane. Even though Celos can’t let a chance slip by to try and one up Moonshine, Aleena’s unicorn companion.
  • Patrina and Alto are soon to welcome an heir to the throne, and Patrina can’t wait to be able to fit into her armor again.
  • Mordrim has been named dwarven ambassador to Altonia, though his duties often keep him traveling and unable to enjoy the rewards of the work he has done.

 

The bad guys have changed too. The Order of the Dragon has learned from their setbacks and explore new ways to exert their will on the peoples of the world of Kroth. The first key to their success was in obtaining the help of a half-breed, which they’ve done in enlisting Lariki the half-dragon to be the general of their armies. Next they must eliminate their biggest threat if they hope to succeed – the Kingdom of Altonia and its champions must be destroyed.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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The Pen is Mighty Because of the Sword

I’m asked all the time where I come up with all my ideas for stories. Partly because I’ve got a ton of them – after all, that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much lately, I’ve been writing hard on new books (Voidhawk – Broken Shards, the 7th book in the series and a tie in to the Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series) and helping my wife out with her Claimed by the Beast books. I tell people I’ve always been writing and always been coming up with ideas. People, places, things – all the essentials for writing.

Then this weekend happened. My wife had a bachelor party to throw this weekend and I stayed home with the kids. Ages almost 8 and 5.5. They both love telling stories and making things up (more than just the ones where they try to get out of trouble), so I figured – what the heck, let’s try something different. I did some research since I lost all my original books years and years ago and found out that a brand spanking new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons was being released. Better yet, the 110 page core intro book was available as a free download!

Well, I downloaded and read through it to see what the changes were since the editions I enjoyed playing (first and second, 3, 3.5, and 4 were all too complicated and took away from the spirit of the game, in my opinion). 5th Edition seems geared to go back a little and make it more fun and less complicated. I hope. Then I reached the end of the book and realized there was no monsters, no DM guidelines, and nothing else of much help.

So another Internet search led me to packing the kids up and heading to a hobby / comics store a few miles away to pick up the starter kit and sets of dice for each kid. That included an adventure, some pre-rolled characters, and some generic monsters. It’s a long cry from something a real campaign can be developed out of, but it’s a start.

That day we began the adventure. We didn’t get far beyond an initial encounter. It got my daughter (the almost 8 year old) excited and my son uncertain and possibly freaked out. It also helped him focus on his basic math skills. The next day after my wife got home she joined the adventure and we finished the first milestone. Woohoo!

And somewhere along the way I realized something. This wasn’t what started my love of creating and writing, but it helped a lot. More than a lot, it was essential to helping me figure out a lot of how to come up with ideas and make them complete and well rounded. After all, since my first time playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 11 years old I quickly became the dungeon master. No, there’s no whips and leather outfits involved, it means the guy (or girl) that runs the game. In my case, I usually created my own worlds and adventures to put my victims— er, friends— through.

So, genre and characters aside, I learned how to tell a story because I used to fantasize about using swords and sorcery to battle dragons and rescue maidens. My kids are enjoying the game so far (the girl loves it and the boy is coming around, especially when he was responsible for putting some serious hurt down on the leader of the bad guys). I suspect the colorful descriptions I’m giving, especially when battling feral wolves, goblins, and bloodthirsty bugbears, helps make it more fun for them too. Oh, and the family that slays together, stays together. 😉

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

It’s Time for Some Payback!

February 16, 2013 Leave a comment

No tricks and no fancy play on words today. This post is about the release of my latest novel, Silver Dragon. I’ve blogged about it a few times but now it’s finally here. Silver Dragon is the third book in my Blades of Leander Series (Child of Fate and Victim of Fate preceded it). It picks up the story immediately after Alto has buried his fallen loved ones and follows him on his path of revenge.

Rather than waste time trying to drop teasers without spoiling the story, here’s the blurb, cover, and links. If you enjoy an epic fantasy that has a little bit of everything in it, head on over and pick it up.

Alto’s hands are stained with the blood of the fallen. The only justice he can find must be had by the blade, but the path of vengeance shows him that he is but a pawn in a far more dangerous game. Sarya’s plans reach far beyond anything the young warrior could imagine and require a sacrifice from him greater than he can give.

Alto must make fear his ally if he is to lead his companions into the dragon’s lair with any hope of saving the woman he loves and the two nations he calls home.

Silver Dragon, book 3 in the Blades of Leander fantasy series by Jason Halstead

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble (coming soon)

iTunes (coming soon)

Kobo

Smashwords

Sony (coming soon)

Print (coming soon)

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

You’ve Got to Have a Reason

February 6, 2013 1 comment

And I’ve got plenty to share. I’m talking about reasons why my next book, Silver Dragon, is going to blow your socks off. Seriously, it will rock. I’m biased, I get that, but this thing has just about everything going for it. For example…

Love interest? Check…and then some. There’s a bit of a love triangle going on that’s been building up over the past two books.

Action? Um, yeah. We’re not just talking manly action either, this is the stuff of ballads going on. Everything from men fighting men to men fighting monsters. And let’s not forget the armies crashing together while giant-hurled boulders bounce off mountainsides and wreak havoc on the soldiers below.

Revenge? For those who’ve read the prior two books you know there’s got to be a vengeance factor. It’s a doozy too, life altering, even.

Fantasy? Of course it’s got fantasy. In the most fantastic of ways. There’s dragons, knights, wizards, sorcery, priests, dwarves, barbarians, giants, and so much more!

Characters? Of course it has characters, but these aren’t the video game stereotypes of barbarian, fighter, sorcerer, and cleric. These are people that may not be real, but you won’t be able to convince yourself of that. They have feelings. They have goals. They have a sense of humor. They have likes and dislikes. They live and they breathe and they can be hurt, both inside and out. You will like these characters. They could be your friend and your neighbor – granted, you’d have to live in the dark ages on another world, but let’s not get hung up on details.

Did I miss anything? How about fun? I had a hell of a great time writing this book. There were days, and I mean a lot of them, where I put in 8,000 to 10,000 or more words on this story because I just couldn’t stop. It’s riveting and it pulls you along on a roller coaster of adventure and excitement. Mix in some romance and angst, maybe a little jealousy and confusion, and it’s quite honestly amazing. Sure, there’s the occasional cheese involved but it’s tasteful and it reminds me of life in so many ways. All in all, writing Silver Dragons was some of the most fun I’ve had as a writer, and that’s guaranteed to translate into even more fun as a reader.

I mentioned words. Lots of them. All told the book is over 105,000 words. That, by definition, makes this an epic story. Epic length and it definitely contains epic fantasy content. I’m super excited to get this out as soon as the cover art and my editor is finished with it, and I promise that fantasy readers out there should be just as excited to get their hands on it. I’ll announce it here and to my newsletter members as soon as it’s available, but keep your eye out for it mid to late February.

But wait, you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? What is Silver Dragon and what previous books did I mention? Well you don’t have to read the other books first but I strongly recommend it. It’ll just make the story that much better. The Blades of Leander series begins with Child of Fate then continues into Victim of Fate. Silver Dragon is the third book, but it’s not the end. There will be more, another promise I plan on keeping.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

The Price of Success

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

This unusual blog title isn’t nearly as insidious as it may seem. Far from it, in fact! I’m announcing the release of Victim of Fate, book two in my Blades of Leander fantasy series. Victim of Fate follows Child of Fate and continues to tell the story of Alto and his companions. I want to avoid giving any spoilers but I will say that it follows in the tradition of many sequels in that it’s a darker book with some very low points for the main characters. Rather than babble on about it, I’ll offer up the blurb, cover, and the links that I have for it. Look for it and the first book in the series, Child of Fate, at your favorite ebook retailer or Amazon / Createspace, for the print version. I’m hoping to finish book three in the series, The Broken Path, soon! I’m almost 25,000 words into it after only five days of writing.

Life has gotten boring for the heroes of Highpeak. The monsters in the mountains have disappeared and even the bandits harassing caravans are looking to easier pickings. Relegated to finding work rescuing lost maidens from enchanted forests, Alto becomes separated from his friends and is soon lost in a darkness of sorcery and corruption.

The young warrior’s old foes return and this time they’ve come looking for him. For every action, good or bad, there is a consequence. Alto will discover the cost of his actions and then he must find a way to pay for them.

Victim of Fate, a fantasy novel by Jason Halstead

Book 2 in the Blades of Leander series, by Jason Halstead

Victim of Fate on Amazon

Victim of Fate on Amazon UK

Victim of Fate on Barnes and Noble

Victim of Fate on Kobo

Victim of Fate on Smashwords

Victim of Fate in print

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

The Betrayal Continues

Here is the next part of Betrayal’s Hands, officially title, “Chapter 1”. It’s rather long for a blog post but I wanted to get as much in as possible to make sense. Enjoy it and stay tuned for next weeks addition!

Chapter 1

 

Annalyse woke to a bucket of dirty water being dumped on her face. She coughed and tried to wipe it out of her eyes. Her hands were bound, however, and she realized she had no idea what had happened to her since the chariot went down. A throbbing ache at her left temple alluded to a violent reason for her memory loss.

“Listen up you scum!” A deep male voice growled from her right side. As Anna began to focus, she could see the owner of the voice standing upon a rough wooden platform before them. He was dressed in the trappings of Aradmath nobility. He was accompanied by several warriors, further testimony to his rank.

“I am King’s Baron Makan dep Nathmar, and all of you northern beasts belong to me!” He raged, spittle flying from narrow, cruel lips, as he shrieked at them. “My soldiers captured you in your pathetic attempt to surround the great armies of Aradmath, and for your treachery to Our Kingdom, I should have you all executed!”

His hard eyes grew more narrow as a thought occurred to him. “As a matter of fact,” he rasped, “I believe I’ll do just that with a few of you, as an example of just how worthless you are,” Makan paced up and down the platform, eyeing up the prisoners. Each and every one of them able to do so glared up at him, the seething hatred in their eyes aimed at him and everything he professed to stand for.

“That one, that and that” Makan said, pointing to the three random prisoners that were unfortunate enough to have caught his eye. He chuckled, an insane little sound, and smacked his meaty hands together, “Yes, I do believe I will enjoy this. Squashing bugs.” He grinned again, drawing more antagonism from the ranks of captives.

“Leave them be, pig!” Anna shouted, struggling valiantly to rise to her feet.

A hulking guard stepped to her side and casually punched her in the face. He followed it up with a growl, “Silence! Hold your tongue bitch, or I’ll have it cut out!”

“Wait,” Makan said, marching over to get a closer look at her. Anna raised her head and glared at him, blood running freely from her broken nose and split lip.

“Who are you that you think you can speak to a King’s Baron that way?” He demanded.

“Annalyse Promus, Captain of these honorable soldiers!” Anna spat blood in Makan’s general direction, hoping to draw his rage against her.

“You have spirit, wench, something I’ll not tolerate in my slaves. Perhaps I should have you killed as well,” Makan said, eying her and considering his options.

“No, I have a better idea. Bring her up here, Guard.” He grinned again, gesturing to the makeshift stage his men had build for the executions.

The guard untied the harsh ropes from her wrists and ankles and dragged her up the stairs and onto the platform. Although her hands and feet were nearly numb from lack of circulation, she fought to make his job difficult. When he tried to strike her again, she ducked the blow and brought her joined hands into the side of his head. The heavy guard stumbled forward and Anna was on him like a cat, scrambling to pull his heavy sword free from its sheath.

Before she could fully commandeer the weapon, another guard had his hand atop hers. His other arm wrapped around her neck and pulled her to him, choking her. Anna managed to sink her teeth into his forearm, drawing blood and causing him to curse. The first guard had recovered and tapped her smartly on the head with the pommel of his dagger. Stunned, Anna went limp and fell to the ground.

“Yes, you definitely need to be broken,” Makan muttered, listening the cheering her soldiers were giving her from their bonds.

“Bind her to that pole,” Makan ordered pointing to a thick wooden beam that stood as a support for the hangman’s noose that hung over head.

Still stunned and unable to comprehend, Anna was dragged over to the timber and lashed to it. She was given no freedom of movement and scarcely enough slack to breathe. Her head hung low from the concussion but another bucket of scummy water flung upon her helped rouse her. She lifted her head up, eyes squinting from the pain in her head, and turned her venomous gaze upon Makan.

“Watch and learn, you foolish female,” Makan said to her, gesturing as three struggling Nordlamar warriors were led onto the deck and secured in various devices.

The first one, a grizzled old woman named Gretta, a pureblood northlander, struggled and spit on the guards who held her. They tied her kneeling and chest down to a stump, with her head laid across it. The second was a man by the name of Marcus, someone Anna had always been able to rely upon for his cool head in battle and keen aim with a spear. His head was placed in the noose and his feet upon another, smaller block of wood. The final prisoner was Valus, the young lad whose eyes were filled with fear.

Upon seeing Valus being tied to another headman’s block, Anna’s blue eyes grew wide and the blood of fury rushed to her face. “Leave him be, he’s just a boy!”

One of the guards standing next to her slapped her, hard. Her ears rung from the blow, but she used to pain to focus herself. Makan stepped over to Valus and looked down at him.

“Old enough to fight for the treacherous barbarians, old enough to die like one.” Makan laughed bitterly, “I’ve a daughter that looks to be his age,” he commented casually, “but I know enough to keep her safe from harm and on the winning side. She sides with those that the gods favor!”

The guards around cheered and saluted Makan as he smiled triumphantly. “Besides,” Makan continued. “You barbarians let your women fight with your men, another sign of your blasphemy and the disfavor of the Gods. The younger we can kill you beasts, the less chance you have to breed more!”

More cheering ensued. Anna struggled at her ropes, tearing at her skin where it rubbed her raw. She refused to relent, despite of the futility of her efforts. Her eyes were locked with those of Valus, who saw her actions and smiled.

Anna stopped, shocked by his expression. Valus’ smile reached his eyes and the fear left them. He nodded as much as his positioning would allow, letting her know all was well. He would meet his death with honor.

“What, has the fight been taken from you already?” Baron Makan said, looking at her and sneering. “The priests are right, you women truly are without souls to be cowed so easily!”

His insult was answered with appreciative laughter from his underlings. Anna kept her eyes locked on Valus then slowly turned her head to behold her captor.

“No,” she said when the laughter had died down. “I was admiring how much of a man that boy is, more than you will ever be.”

Makan’s cheeks flushed with anger and he clenched his fists. Angrily he held his hand up to stop the guard beside her from punching her again, then turned to the three captives and, one by one, made the gestures that started the execution in motion.

Gretta’s head rolled across the deck, severed by an axe, and was joined in bare moments by Valus’. Only valiant Marcus took some time to die, twisting and jerking from the rope that slowly strangled him after the guard had kicked the log out from under his feet.

When Marcus was finally still, Makan turned back to Anna and saw the rage in her expression. “Good, I was hoping you had some fight left in you,” he told her.

“Untie her and strip her, then tie her where the boy was,” Makan demanded.

Anna’s eyes narrowed, but she had no choice as she was approached by three of the heavyset guards. Her soldiers cried out in despair, but were silenced in as heavy-handed a manner as possible. In moments, her clothing was torn and shredded and laying on the wooden planks around her, Captain Annalyse Promus was tied to the same battered stump where Valus had lain only moments ago. Her cheek was laying in his blood, the coppery scent of it rising to her nose and nearly causing her, a seasoned veteran, to retch from anger and fear.

“Kill me, you pig,” Anna taunted him. “Kill us all, else one of us will return and take the precious daughter you spoke of from you. Then we will torture and kill your wife, and then your other offspring. We’ll butcher every member of your honorless family until you alone remain alive, then we’ll come for you too.”

“Oh,” Makan replied, chuckling. His hands moved to his belt and he unclasped it. “I’ve no intentions of killing you, yet. First you need to be taught your place.”

Anna’s soldiers gasped in outrage and shock as Baron Makan moved behind her and proceeded with his intentions. She gritted her teeth and forced the tears from her eyes as he thrust into her brutally. His rape was savage and quick, and then he staggered away from her.

Unable to see him, Anna nevertheless spoke in a ragged voice, “That was pathetic, you pig! I would wager that your children aren’t even your own if that is the best that you can do.”

Makan’s cheeks flushed again at her crude insult. He considered beheading her himself for her impudence, but a better idea came to him instead. “Have your way with her, men, and keep her alive, but waste no energy being gentle with this heathen bitch!”

He watched for a short while as the guards took advantage of his generosity, one after another thrusting themselves into her broken body in every perverse way possible. He watched her until her pain and hatred began to fade from her face, being replaced by a blank stare. Laughing aloud, he turned to his other prisoners, who had long since been beaten into being quiet.

“Learn your lessons well, and perhaps you’ll live long enough to redeem yourselves in the eyes of King Doremath,” he told them. Then he laughed cruelly at the absurdity of his suggestion. He turned and left the field, heading to his tent.

* * * *

“My Lord, a carriage arrives from the south bearing your flag.”

Baron Makan looked at the messenger, a squire barely in his 14th summer. He squinted, annoyed at the interruption, but rose from his chair and followed the boy from the tent he used as his field office. Sure enough, in the distance he could make out his standard flying from a carriage that approached the camp. He saw a full squad of knights riding with it as well.

“Damnation,” he muttered, turning and heading back into his tent. “That fool woman has no business being out here.”

“My Lord?” The squire stammered, concerned.

Baron Makan looked at him, surprised to see him still there. “Nothing lad. Go about your duties, I’ll tend to my wife when she gets here.”

“No, wait,” he said, stopping the boy in mid salute. “Take this wretched wench of a slave and put her in a cage outside, just as she is.”

“Yes, Sire,” the boy said, not daring to doubt his leaders wisdom. He expected the slave to freeze, if she were imprisoned naked for very long. They were far to the north from their own warmer lands in the south, so far north that many of them remained chilled around the clock. He didn’t know how anyone could live in such cold weather.

He went to the woman and grabbed her about the arm. She rose woodenly and followed him as he took her out of the tent. Makan watched her go, his thoughts distant. What would his wife possibly be doing visiting them out here? His mind also went to the vow spoken by the slave girl that he had just banished from his tent; she’d said that his family would be killed one by one with himself saved for last. He shook his head. A slave’s empty threats, made by one both a savage and a liar and female at that!

Makan chuckled and finished writing the report on his victory over the savages. He put his mark upon it and gestured for one of his servants to fetch him more wine. He pulled out a fresh piece of parchment and sighed, then begin putting quill and ink to it, writing another report. Makan longed for the days of glory, when his father, King’s Baron Nathmar, had been in charge and he’d simply led his father’s men at arms into battle.

Baroness N’meria ap Makan held out a white gloved hand to the young squire who opened the carriage door for her. With his assistance, she stepped carefully down from the conveyance, mindful not to set a dainty booted foot into a puddle just outside the carriage door. Once both feet were solidly upon the ground, she gestured imperiously that her daughter, Lady T’leren be helped also to step down. Once both ladies were out of the carriage, the squire motioned for the driver to remove it from the center of the camp. Shooting him a disdainful look, the baroness took her daughter by the hand and, dragging her in her wake, moved gracefully to the tent flap. She stood impatiently, waiting for the squire to catch up and open the door, when her eye was drawn to movement just outside the field of her vision. Turning, she gasped in shock to see the heathen woman suspended in the cage. Her gloved hands moved quickly to cover her impressionable young daughter’s eyes, but not quickly enough. T’leren had had a good look at the naked, disheveled and bruised woman. The thing that really struck her, however was the eyes. They’d changed from a look of blankness, of uncaring, in a split second to a look of absolute hatred. The girl’s shiver had nothing to do with the cold.

Their arrival at his tent flap having been anticipated, Makan sighed. He lingered long enough to be sure they’d experienced the cold before he bid them enter. His wife brushed in, pushing past the servants to stand glaring at him somewhat impatiently. Makan found himself preferring the sullen brooding of the slave girl, she’d at last finally been beaten and abused into her rightful place as his property. His wife, seemingly, would never accept such a role.

“What brings you to such a savage place, lovely N’meria?” Makan said while rising to his feet. He paused when he saw his daughter enter the tent behind her, his face flushing in anger, and again his mind flashed back to the vow made by the woman in the cage outside.

“Why have you brought our daughter to this place? At one time I believed you to have an ounce of common sense. I am finding this more and more unlikely! The battlefield is no place for women, you should return to your salon and your embroidery!” He raised his hand as though to strike her, and she flinched, just a bit, but enough to let him know that she had some fear of his anger. Lowering his hand, he turned away from her and muttered, “I’ll not waste my strength.”

Turning to the page who stood just inside the tent flap, he growled, “Alert the men, we will be returning to Duth Darek as soon as they can muster.” The boy scurried from the tent, hurrying to do his duty.

Shortly, one of the ranking warriors appeared at the tent. “What do you wish to do with the captives, M’lord?”

Makan took a moment to consider. “Load the cages on the wagons, we’ll take them back to the slave market and make some money from them. Prepare the brands, and we’ll make sure that this is a day they don’t soon forget.” The Baron laughed, a humorless cackle, totally devoid of human emotion.

“Lady, you will remain in this tent, and keep your daughter here also. I’ll not have you mixing with the common warriors, or the slaves. They are dangerous heathens, as like to take off your head as look at you twice.” With that the baron stalked out of the tent. His mind had moved beyond what had brought her in the first place.

* * * *

Anna watched with hatred burning in her eyes as the Baron walked out of the tent to the places where the prisoners were staked. His men were readying a single fire, piling on wood, making the embers glow hotter and hotter. One man brought out a strange metal contraption from one of the wagons. It appeared to be a cage of some sort with heavy leather straps on the back of it. The purpose of the object became somewhat clearer when the first of her remaining soldiers was grabbed by two Aradmath warriors, and the cage fitted over his head. The leather straps were buckled tightly to the post behind him, rendering him unable to move his head away from them. Anna frowned, wondering what new torture the Baron planned for them. Her breath caught in her throat, strangling a scream as one of the enemy warriors brought a red hot glowing brand from the fire and applied it to the still conscious soldier’s left cheek. The screams and the sickening smell of burning flesh caused spots to swim in front of her eyes. The cheering of the enemy locked into her heart a hatred of these creatures, a burning need to free herself so she could wreak vengeance upon them. Throwing herself at the bars of the cage, she screamed, a primal sound, ripped from her body by raw emotion.

Baroness N’meria and her daughter remained where the baron had left them, inside the tent. At the screaming, the baroness turned pale. She released her daughter’s hand, and sank down on the baron’s plank bed. The sudden scream from just outside the doorway drew T’leren. She moved, captivated towards the tent flap. Peering out, she saw the crazed heathen woman throwing herself at the bars of her cage, and wondered for a moment what she had done to be put in such a prison. The sight became too much for her, and she too joined her mother on the cot.

One by one, Anna watched as her remaining soldiers were branded with Aradmath’s ‘S’ for ‘slave’. The rope holding her cage was cut, and she fell as the cage hit the ground hard. Pulled from her prison by the two men, she was lashed to one of the posts, and for all her fighting, the cage was placed upon her head as well.

“Well, my little heathen, perhaps you have not yet resigned yourself to life as my property?” Anna looked up to see the leering face of Baron Makan. “This will be another step to breaking you…” He held out his hand and took the brand from one of his men. “I will personally deliver you into slavery, and it is by my hand that you are mine!” With that, he pressed the burning brand to Anna’s left cheek. She screamed hysterically with the pain for a moment, then blissfully passing into unconsciousness.

“I’d hoped for more screaming.” The Baron complained as Anna slipped from the waking world. “Load her cage onto the wagon. Deliver her to my private playground upon our return to the city, and have her bathed. Even I will only stoop so low.” The Baron laughed at his own crudity and went to collect his family for the return journey to Duth Darek.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.