The Fireborn Road – In progress

I’m currently having a few days ‘writing holiday’ trying to finish the first draft of The Fireborn Road. I usually write in youth hostels, and this time I’m at Totter’s Backpacker’s Hostel in Caernarfon. It’s brilliant, and even though I booked a dorm bed I seem to have the room to myself tonight – and a real bed not a bunk!  Not bad for less than £20 a night. Watch this space for sneak-peeks and excerpts.

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The Fireborn Road: Under Construction

I’m currently working on the next installement in the Black River Chr10363792_717834221671554_5418496076232081864_nonicles. At the moment, I’m supposed to be writing a battle scene – something I could live without – and it’s fighting back. So here’s a snippet of it for you to enjoy.

“On the other side of the melee, the wizards were having a field day. Bert was flinging bolt after bolt of magical charge at the creature in front of him, whilst Bobang had snatched up Jocelyn’s discarded ladle and was beating it anywhere he could reach, screaming about his ruined dinner.”

Ballentini’s Caravan (sneak peek 2 – The Fireborn Road)

Mr Ballentini was as unprepossessing as the tavern in which he had arranged to meet the adventurers. The name Ballentini had conjured a certain image in Derek’s mind of a large ebullient man with massive flaring nostrils and a rich, resonant voice. He had hoped for the fumes of inexpensive liquor on his breath as his voluminous chortle echoed around the room. Instead of a picturesque bonviveur, Derek was now sitting opposite the dullest man he had ever encountered. Mr Horace Ballentini was gaunt, but not to the point of being interesting and he had one of the biggest noses Derek had encountered in a long time. Apart from that, he was completely average in appearance – short light brown hair, mildly weather-beaten skin, hazel eyes and a slightly miserable mouth. On top of this complete lack of distinction, he also had the most monotonous voice Derek had ever heard. In fact, Derek was struggling not to fall asleep just listening to him detailing the terms of travel.
Morwenna and Iona, who had a tendency to act like naughty school girls when given half the chance, were sitting either side of him snorting into their mugs of ale. Derek had given up trying to silence them with school-masterly type glares because they only made things worse. Luckily, it appeared that Horace Ballentini was completely oblivious to their rudeness. He just continued to explain the caveats under which the caravan would not protect them from flood, fire, bandits, demons and acts of assorted deities.
The Mages, Adarius and Reet were sitting at a separate table a little way away because there had been no other space. Bobang was sitting on a stool with one foot balanced delicately on top of the other so that as little of himself was in contact with the floor as possible and a look on his flabby face that suggested he was only putting his buttocks in contact with the seat because he didn’t want to waste the magic of conjuring himself a shelf to sit on. He had left the construct outside the tavern guarding everyone’s bags. Bert was teaching Reet how to play a game that was apparently very big in Alendria. As it wasn’t dissimilar from draughts, Reet was winning and Bert was taking this in good spirits. Adarius was looking on at the whole affair with the same gently bemused expression he had been wearing since they left Aberddu. He had at least put his coin back into his shirt pocket. Tollie and Sylas, who were somewhat subdued from their earlier escapades, had decided it was probably more politic if they sequestered themselves in a nook by the fireplace, hoods pulled well up, faces down. They still hadn’t let on about what had led to the incident with the militia.
Derek gathered them all together half an hour later and with a lack-lustre smile opened his mouth to explain the arrangements.
“Now, the plan is this,” he said, but that was as far as he got before he was rudely interrupted by Bobang, who let out an effected snort and said in a voice clearly used to its own way,
“I hope you’re not about to suggest that we spend the night here.” It might have been possible to fill a word with more disdain that he had put into ‘here’ but it would have taken quite some effort and possibly a funnel. Derek, who had a well-deserved reputation as one of the most even-tempered Guild Masters in Adventuring history, produced an irked snort and closed his eyes.
“Funnily enough Professor,” he said quietly with a satisfied half-smile, “I wasn’t.”

Two hours later, as Iona cracked the reigns of her wagon and gently easied the cart out into the caravan, she was still chuckling under her breath. Bobang was wearing the same sour scowl that had slipped over his features sometime earlier, when Derek had explained that they wouldn’t be spending the night anywhere. Or at least, anywhere that contained a bed, a fireplace or even a privy. Apparently, the caravan need to leave post-haste, so they were going to have to travel over-night to make up some miles. He was even less pleased when he had discovered that they would be travelling with the livestock.
Tollie, Sylas, Derek and Iona had volunteered to take turns driving and the others had been offered seats in the lap of luxury – amongst the sheep and goats. Reet and Adarius had climbed into the back of Derek’s cart without a word. Morwenna had let out a joyful squeal, clapped Bert soundly on the back, said cheerfully,
“Sheep, excellent! Better than chickens believe me Berty,” hiked up her skirt and scrambled into Iona’s cart. “Come on, give me your hand.” Bert, who seemed to be treating the whole trip as a delightful cultural exchange, held out both hands and with little dignity crawled into the cart with Morwenna’s help. She installed in one corner, and he adjusted his hat. Morwenna turned back to Bobang and said,
“Come on then, prof. You’re next.”

The Fireborn Road: Chapter 1 (a sneak peak)

The ballroom glowed with soft, golden light from the thousand floating glass lanterns that hovered, in a complex pattern a few feet from the ornately vaulted ceiling. Dozens of mirrors around the walls and ceiling reflected the magical light, amplifying it and enfolding everyone in a rich, warm blanket. Along the whole length of the room a white clothed table groaned with the weight of delicacies piled high on silver salvers and arranged around the centre piece of the whole roasted boar. Fresh white roses, the Queen’s favourite, stood amongst the food in exquisite designs. Liveried footmen with blank expressions were poised with bottles of the finest vintages and cordials of exotic fruits. A twenty seven piece orchestra, composed of some of the most gifted musicians in all Albion, played a lively reel. The music swelled and tumbled carrying the dancers with it as they spun and trotted through the intricate steps of the set. The women, bejewelled and pink faced in their tightly corseted fine silks, smiled demurely at the dashing military captains and the elegantly suited politicians whose arms they graced. The young queen, a vision in eau de nil, charmed her partners with her beauty, warmth and wit. It was a perfect tableau of the restrained and civilised opulence of Royal Albion.
From his place at one end of the gargantuan buffet table, Derek watched with lacklustre attention. He could just about see Iona in the centre of the crowded floor, paying polite attention to a tall and handsome Colonel, who in spite of his apparent poise continued to tread on her feet. He yawned languidly, without covering his mouth and reached out for a small pastry thing that looked quite tasty. As the light of the chandeliers twinkled and glinted from the black jet fluting on Iona’s hair piece, he shoved the whole thing into his mouth and chewed vigorously. He could tell from the fixed smile on Iona’s face that the gentleman with whom she was dancing was both an ungainly dancer and a bore. The little fold of a grimace that appeared momentarily on her otherwise serene countenance every time he trod on her foot was perhaps the most entertaining part of the evening so far. In fact, all the amusement he had garnered from this ridiculous occasion had been from watching Iona parading herself around as though she had been born Albion nobility and everyone else falling for it.
Lady Iona, the Dowager Duchess of Pringle was quite a name amongst minor Albion nobility and the diplomatic corps. Little was known publicly in Albion of Iona’s beginnings, and as far as Derek, who knew the whole sordid tale could tell, this was very much to her credit. She had been an adventurer of no significant standing when she had married the guildmaster, a renegade Albion Duke, Dakarn Pringle III and that far her credentials were unimpeachable. The fact that she clearly knew how to dress and behave had never been questioned by the aristocracy. They were not aware how she had come by her stunning grasp on Albion etiquette and how it differed from social convention in other countries. They had not spent enough time with her to find out that she could be surprisingly violent and extremely blunt.
It was only when the stories of her exploits during the Summer of Fire and the following years had begun to filter through the court had she become a source of intrigue in her own right. The foolish women of the Queen’s court were enamoured with the romance of a brave and elegant widow who set aside her grief and the comforts of her rank in the pursuit of Justice, and Iona did not disappoint them. At one point, she had become a tea-parlour heroine and would have remained so had she been prepared to make house calls. The fact that Iona had never set eyes on her Dukedom, nor experienced the so-called comforts of a noble life was so far beside the point it was not considered. Certainly, none of the fawning politicians and simpering débutantes who sought her attentions realised that she was nothing more than a grubby parvenu from the Elven Territories with one eye on Frisia and one hand in the pocket of anyone who could buy her a controlling share of Aberddu. The Dowager Duchess of Pringle was a construction that the Bard’s Guild would have been proud of, a real piece of performance art and one Derek never tired of watching.