A New Book Coming

As Matticus mentioned in a post of his, we (along with Arden and Ethan) have a new book coming out. It is a collection of seven fantasy stories all set in the same world. For some of my longtime readers, the first story may look familiar. After all, I first published it on this blog about five years ago. It was called Sceptre of Chaos. 

Now, the version of the story in the book is different than what appeared on this here blog. It’s been edited (which I didn’t do before posting the chapters) and I’ve added things. While the core remains the same, there’s more to it.

I’ve since taken down the original. After all, I don’t want to give away everything from the first story. I’m not going to be completely stingy, though. Below, you’ll find the first two chapters of Sceptre of Chaos as they originally appeared here. If you like it, and want to continue reading, please pick up a copy of the book once it’s been released. I’ll be posting the links to purchase the book when it’s available.

Enjoy!


 

The cold hands of death closed around his throat and began to squeeze. Every instinct in his body was telling him to fight, but his head was telling him how useless it would be. There was no way he would ever break the grip. Besides, his attacker would be expecting him to fight, and he knew from experience that doing what his attacker expects is not usually a good thing. So, in defiance, he sat back, waiting. 

Just as spots were beginning to form in his vision, the hands released him. Air rushed back into his lungs as he drew deep, gasping breaths. It was many moments before he gained his composure. When he finally did, he looked into the eyes of his attacker and saw that the anger that caused the outburst was still there. He prepared himself for another attack, but it never came. 

Instead, his attacker asked, “How long have you been my High Priest?” 

“Nine years, my Queen,” Fragiel answered. 

“Fool,” she shouted, the voice echoing in his head. With a thought, she lifted him off the ground and threw him into the wall behind him. “Any mortal woman can be made queen. I am a GODDESS! You shall address me as such.” 

Fragiel briefly considered reminding his goddess that, the last time they spoke, it was her that requested that he call her ‘Queen’, but he discarded it after he regained the senses that had been knocked loose when he hit the wall. “Yes, my Goddess,” was all that he replied. 

“What was the first command I gave you nine years ago, when I made you my High Priest?” 

“That even though the sceptre of Accura, your sceptre, cannot be handled by any except for those blessed by you, I should still guard it with my life.” 

“And where is the sceptre now?” 

“On the stand I had made for it, over…” 

Fragiel found himself pointing to an empty stand. The sceptre was gone! He couldn’t believe it. How had he not noticed it was missing before now? 

“Tell me the name of the priest that has betrayed you, my Goddess,” he exclaimed. “I will gladly make him pay for what he did to you!” 

“I have looked into the souls of all those who have sworn their loyalty to me. None of them is responsible for this,” Accura said, her voice trailing off at the end, lost in thought. Suddenly, she snapped out of it, furiously. “Besides, I will not be doing your work for you! You were the one who lost the sceptre. You will be the one who finds it. Is that understood?” 

“Yes, my Goddess.” 

“One last thing before I go, my High Priest. Until you recover that which you have lost, I will no longer be granting any of your prayers.” 

“How will I be able to find the sceptre without your blessings?” 

“Figure it out yourself,” her voice screeched so loudly in his head that he inadvertently covered his ears and closed his eyes. 

When he opened his eyes back up, he stood alone. Looking down at the floor, he wondered how in the world he was going to do what he was asked. 

********** 

Fragiel looked out the window at the capital city of Qyooniba. The view from his bedroom window at the temple had not changed much in the nine years he had lived there. That angered him. It angered him almost as much as having to live in this city in the first place. He would not have tolerated living here for this long except that his goddess had told him to do it. Not because she wanted him to be there, but because she needed him to be there. 

In the time right before he moved there, the city of Qyooniba was in trouble. Its citizens were on the verge of rioting in the streets. The followers of each of the seven deities fought over which church should be ruling the city. In the end, the gods themselves stepped in and prevented the people from tearing their homes down. 

The Seven enacted a compromise that decreed that each deity would have a temple within the city. Each of the temples would have a High Priest. A council, comprised of the seven High Priests, would then rule over the city, with all decisions being made by a majority vote. All of the gods agreed to this compromise, except for one: Accura, goddess of chaos. She argued that by imposing rules on her, and her followers, that the other gods were taking away her power and denying her faithful their free will. Eventually, she was forced to give up the fight, as she had no hope to win against all six of the others. 

Though there were many of Accura’s followers that had been serving her longer, Fragiel had only been her priest for two years, the goddess chose him to be her High Priest. She told him it was because his father had been a soldier and brought him up in a strict military manner, making him used to a scheduled life. Fragiel always suspected that there was more to it, but he knew his goddess would never tell him. 

A knock on the door interrupted his reverie. Parshal, one of the temple acolytes, opened the door and walked in. Normally, Fragiel would have chastised the man for entering without permission. Since he was anxiously awaiting the news Parshal was supposed to have gathered, he decided that he would wait. 

“I’ve finished my interrogation of my fellow acolytes and the temple staff, High Priest Fragiel,” Parshal announced. 

Fragiel waited for the man to continue, but he didn’t. “What did you find out,” he snapped. 

“Nobody saw anything out of the ordinary except for the two cooks. They reported that they saw two strange dwarves exiting out through the kitchen. The dwarves, according to the cooks, wore the symbol of The House of Hond.” 

Fragiel shook his head. The House of Hond was a dwarven clan notorious for being mercenaries. Two years ago, he had been part of the council vote to banish them from the city. Since the mercenary band was good at creating havoc, he voted for them to be allowed to remain, but he had been the only one. 

Turning back to Parshal, he asked, “You were part of the city guard before you joined the temple, correct?” 

“Yes, High Priest.” 

“What do you make of this situation?” 

“Either The House of Hond is not as good as their reputation says they are, or someone is trying to frame them for the theft. Either way, it is our only lead, and it should be followed.” 

Fragiel had been thinking the same thing. He was also thinking that Parshal would probably be useful to him on the road. After ordering his acolyte to pack for the road, he pulled him aside. “Go to Main Street Inn. Ask the bartender there to send me his finest Mishaken wine as soon as possible. We’ll leave when it arrives.” 

“Are you sure it’s wise to wait on a bottle of wine, High Priest?” 

“It could be the difference between life and death. Now, go to the inn and get back here immediately to pack. We’ll need to be ready.” 

An hour later, Parshal returned from his tasks. In that time, two new explanations for why the House of Hond had let themselves be known had popped into Fragiel’s head. Both of them were a lot more frightening than either The House of Hond being lazy or them being framed. It could also be that The House of Hond had information that made them believe that Fragiel, and his church, were no threat to them, or that The House of Hond let themselves be seen to draw Fragiel into a trap. Either way it was not good for him. 

This line of thinking had him in a foul mood. His mood was not improved by Parshal, who was walking the grounds with his High Priest. Parshal, to Fragiel’s dismay, tried to fill the silences with small talk, but would also question Fragiel’s insistence that they wait for the package from the inn. 

“Are you sure we have to wait for this wine,” Parshal asked once again. 

The High Priest had finally had enough. “By our goddess, I swear if you ask me that one more time, acolyte, I will decapitate you and ask Accura to smite your headless corpse.” 

Suddenly, Fragiel felt cold steel against his neck. He immediately froze. “That’s not very nice, priest. You should learn to play better with others.” 

 

A Class Act

When I was first asked to participate in this NaBloPoMo extravaganza, I was told that it would mean that more people would come and read my posts. While I welcome all new readers regardless of when they pop their heads into my little corner of the blogosphere, I feel that any new readers might feel left out.

After all, any new reader of this blog wouldn’t know about the amazing book written by Matt (of The Matticus Kingdom) and I. They wouldn’t know that the amazing book could be purchased by clicking either of the links on my Buy My Book tab. And I would hate for them to feel left out.

Now, some people out there may take advantage of any new readers that they may attract and try to pimp their wares on the first day of NaBloPoMo, but I’m much classier than that.

I waited until the second day.

A Thank You To All

As you know, Matticus and I just finished up a story in which we saved his Kingdom from sparkly vampires. Along the way, we ran into many of our fellow bloggers. These are all amazing people. Not only did they make the writing process fun, they were also very good sports about the whole thing.

There are a few of our fellow bloggers who we would like to give extra special thanks to:

First and foremost, we’d like to thank Goldfish for agreeing to be our villain. Every good story needs a good villain, and you were the best, my fishy friend.

We’d also like to give thanks to Faithhopechocolate, who took the time to write her own story about the happenings in the Kingdom. Your adventure is a welcome addition to the Kingdom’s legends.

Last in this category, but certainly not least, is another blogger who was awesome enough to play our other big villain: Jaded. You certainly kept us on our toes, my dear.

Next, we’d like to thank all of the bloggers who were gracious enough to take part in our silliness. Our story wouldn’t have been the same without the  33 grams of awesome provided by (in order of appearance):

Finally, we’d like to thank everyone who read our story. A story, no matter how good, is nothing without an audience, and you are the best audience a couple of silly kingdom savers could ask for. We really hope you enjoyed the story and wish for you to come back for our next project, whatever that may be.

Revis and Matticus Save The Kingdom Chapter 32

While Matticus had Goldfish distracted with his attack, Revis ran to retrieve his thrown daggers. Just as he closed his hand around the hilt of his second one, he heard Matticus cry out. He looked over in time to see the Jester slump to the ground. Whatever had happened between the two also threw Goldfish backwards.

She landed hard on her back, the air blasted from her lungs. Revis rushed towards her. He knew he had to get to her before she recovered and put her defenses back up. The Knight swung both daggers at her head, hilt first, hoping to knock the sorceress out.

By this time, Goldfish had regained enough of her wits to see the attacks coming and tried to block it. One dagger was deflected enough that it missed her head, although the blade did cut her arm. The other dagger’s hilt struck her just above the temple, but her blocking attempt had slowed the strike down enough that it didn’t render her unconscious.

Just as Revis had started swinging his daggers a second time, the sorceress spoke a word that sounded like gibberish to the Knight. Suddenly, he was flung away from her by some unseen force. He hit the floor just before he hit the wall and managed to roll enough to avoid some of the damage.

The two combatants rose from the ground at the same time, eyeing each other all the way.

“You are no match for me, Knight,” Goldfish spat.  The pain in her head quickly faded away and the wound on her arm closed as her magic returned her to full health, and speaking the necessary words, she rose from the ground to hover menacingly over the Jester.  “Together, you might have managed to get the better of me.  Alone you have no chance.  Give up now and I’ll let your family live.”

Revis seethed, but said nothing.  His eyes darted around the room looking for something, anything, he could use to his advantage.  He needed to find a weakness in her defenses.  He needed another distraction to catch her off guard so he could strike again.  But, his rational thoughts were fading as anger at the threat to his family slowly consumed him.

Time was running short.  He knew that Goldfish was probably already working on casting the spell that would either take his or Matticus’ life.  Thinking of the Jester he let his eyes fall to where Matticus lay on the ground, where he was surprised to see the Jester’s eyes open.  When their gazes met, Matticus winked at him, and Revis found his smile.  His anger cooled and his mind cleared.

“I think I’m more than capable of defeating you, merwitch.”

“Let’s put that claim to the test,” she laughed. Without taking her eyes off of Revis, she waved her hand in the Jester’s direction. Matticus slowly began to rise off the ground. After he was levitating a couple of feet in the air, Goldfish snapped her hand towards the doorway. The Jester flew out into the hall, the doors closing behind him.

Once his feet were on solid ground again, Matticus ran to the door. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the doors to budge. Cursing, he turned around, trying to figure out a way to get back into the room.

As he did, the Jester saw that he was not the only one that the sorceress threw out into the hall. Jaded was right in front of him. She was awake now, and, from the look on her face, she was very angry.

“When I first started helping Goldfish,” Jaded began, “I was only doing it because she told me to. Now that I’ve tasted some of the power she wields, I refuse to go back to the way it was. If you want your Kingdom back, you’ll have to take it from me. And, this time, you don’t have your Knight to save you.”

Matticus drew his sword, spoke the words to spark its flame to life, and replied coolly, “And you don’t have the sorceress protecting you this time either.  You are no longer a vampire.  You are mortal.  I am not as clueless as I usually appear.  Do you think the Queen would have married me otherwise?  Do you think the people of the Kingdom would have put up with me if I was nothing but silliness all the time?  Think on that very carefully, Jaded.”

In response she snarled and glared, but she knew that the menace behind those actions was gone.  She lacked the strength of her prior vampire self.  Her fangs no longer held any threat or power.  The realization that she probably she turn and walk away incensed her into action.  In blind fury she rushed the Jester, her hands reaching for his neck, wanting to tear him limb from limb like she could have done easily before the Knight’s potion “cured” her.

The Jester saw her coming and had plenty of time to end her, but he took pity on her instead.  He knew that they had changed her life irrevocably.  They hadn’t meant to, and she might have deserved some sort of punishment for her role in the plot to overthrow the kingdom, but he wasn’t sure taking her life was the right thing to do.  As she reached him, Matticus sidestepped and used his right boot to trip Jaded.  Her momentum sent her sprawling head first into the magically locked door, once again, knocking her unconscious.

Time was not on his side. He knew he needed to act quickly. Looking around, he tried to find something to tie Jaded up with. They couldn’t afford for her to keep causing them problems. After extinguishing the blade, he used his sword to cut strips out of a nearby rug. It was one he had never liked anyways, so he didn’t feel too bad about it when he used the strips to bind Jaded’s hands and feet together. Then, remembering that Goldfish had said that Jaded possessed magic items, he took all of the jewelry off her and stuffed it into one of his pouches.

Now, all he had to do was find a way back into the throne room. All of the doors were magically locked, but there was still one hope. Right after his wedding to the Queen, she had shown him a secret passageway that connected to it. She had shown it to him in case they were ever attacked there. It was meant to be used as an escape tunnel. He was using it invade the room.

Matticus ran down the hallway that would take him to the secret passage. Because he was rushing, he neglected to keep his noise to a minimum. It ended up almost costing him when two sparkly vampire guards came around a corner in front of him.  They were poorly trained as swordsmen, however, and the Jester cut them down so quickly that he barely had to break stride. Making his way through corridors that only he and his wife knew, he quickly came to the doorway that led to his destination. First, he uncovered an eyehole and looked to see what was happening in the room.

From what he could see, it appeared that Goldfish and Revis had yet to start fighting.  She remained hovering by the throne and the knight hadn’t moved either.  They seemed to be waiting for the other to make the first move and perhaps be open for a counter-attack.  Beads of sweat appeared on both their brows as the seconds passed.  It was look on his Knight’s face that finally clued Matticus in to the reality that the fighting had already begun.  Goldfish must have engaged Revis in some sort of mental battle and the Knight was slowly losing.  His features were growing pained.  His face had drained of color.

As quietly, and as quickly as he could, the Jester eased open the hidden doorway and slipped into the throne room.  He needed to sneak up behind Goldfish and knock her unconscious before she noticed him.  He hoped that Revis could hold out long enough for him to cross the space.  He took his first step into the room, the sorceresses eyes snapped onto him with red rage, and Revis cried out in pain.

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 30

“Get out of my wife’s chair,” Matticus seethed.  His right hand reached for his sword, but Revis grabbed his arm before the steel could clear the sheath.

“I quite like it here,” Jaded quipped, flashing her now human teeth in a twisted grin, “I think I’ll stay.”

The sight of of someone other than The Queen sitting on the throne was so disturbing to the Jester that he began to fight against his Knight’s grip.  He wanted to free himself so he could tear Jaded apart and while he could hear Revis whispering furtively into his ear to calm down because it was likely a trap, the words meant nothing to him.  Matticus was lost to his rage.

Revis considered knocking his liege upside his royal head, but wasn’t sure he’d be able to strike swift enough if he let the Jester loose before Matticus was out of his reach.  So, instead, needing to to do something to snap Matticus out of his vengeance fueled state, Revis stomped on the Jester’s foot as hard as he could manage given the circumstances.

Matticus howled in pain.  Jaded howled in laughter.  And, as the Jester hopped around on one foot, cursing, and cradling his sore foot in his hands, Revis turned his full attention to Jaded, “You are no longer a threat to us.  Give us your sorcerer and we’ll let you live.”

“Just because I’m not a vampire anymore, that doesn’t mean I’m not a threat!”

Jaded blew them a kiss. For a nanosecond, it made Revis smile because he and his wife had recently taught their daughter to do it. It was so cute when his baby girl did it. When Jaded did it, however, it was not cute.

As she blew into her hand, a giant ball of fire erupted from her palm. Matticus stopped his cursing and stared open-mouthed at the oncoming conflagration. Something hit him from the side, sending him flying out of the flame’s path. He watched helplessly as Revis, who had been the thing that pushed him out of the way, disappeared in the middle of the fireball.

“No,” he yelled at the empty space that once contained his friend.

The sound of Jaded’s laughter snapped him out of his grief. He replaced it with rage. Her desecration of the Queen’s throne was bad enough. This pushed him over the edge. Matticus went to unsheathe his sword, but found that it was no longer there.

It must have fallen out when I hit the ground, he thought. That didn’t bother him. With the amount of rage he had built up now, he felt that he was more than capable of ending Jaded’s life with his bare hands.

The unarmed Jester rushed the throne, his berserk anger lending him speed he would not normally possess.  Jaded’s cackling faded, along with the pounding of his boots, as his racing heart thumped louder and louder in his chest.  Her face twisted, her eyes nearly closed, head thrown back, and jaw agape in laughter, Jaded seemed unfazed by the Jester’s approach.  He reached for her, his hands contorted into talons that sought her neck, sought to end her life in a crushing grip.

Running into the magical barrier felt like running into a brick wall.  All the momentum Matticus had built up rippled through his bones as he slammed to a crunching halt.  The look of delight on Jaded’s face kept his anger ramped up, though, which kept the resulting pain mostly at bay.  Despite being immobilized by the spell, the Jester continued to attempt to push forward.  A few more inches and his hands would wrap around her windpipe.  A few more inches and he maniacal laughter would be silenced forever.

But, the spell held, and Matticus couldn’t get any closer to her no matter how hard he struggled against the magic.  Jaded’s smile seemed to widen as she ceased her cackle, drew a wicked looking dagger from a sheath at her waist and brought it up to Matticus’ throat.

The sound of metal ringing suddenly filled the room. Matticus risked a glance and saw that the dagger had dropped out of Jaded’s hand. She was still smiling, but her eyes were wide. A spot of red appeared on her side, growing slowly.

Whatever magic had been holding Matticus back collapsed. His hands wrapped around her throat just in time to keep her from falling over. He laid her down on the floor just as her eyes rolled up into her head and she lost consciousness. Only one thing could’ve done that, the Jester thought. “You shouldn’t have killed her,” he said to the room, with a smile on his face.

“She’ll live,” came the reply, as Revis reappeared.

“How did you survive the fireball?”

“I don’t know,” The Knight answered, handing Matticus his sword. “This got caught in the straps of my armor when I pushed you. I guess the fire magic of the sword protected me from the flames.”

“Wait. Isn’t that how Bruenor survived his fall on the fiery dragon’s back? With Drizzt’s sword?”

“Quit telling people where I’m stealing my ideas from! Besides, only a few people would probably have gotten that reference if you didn’t point it out.”

“Hell, I made the reference, and I don’t ‘get it.’  I think your secret is safe.”

“Whatever.”

“Right, no matter, it was still very lucky,” Matticus glanced over his knight to make sure he was in fact okay.  All he got in response was a raised eyebrow.  When the Jester was satisfied that Revis hadn’t been harmed, he changed the subject, “Where do you Jaded got the magic from?  I didn’t know that sorcerers could transfer their abilities to someone else?”

Revis glanced down at Jaded before replying, “It was probably just a ruse.  A trick to make us think that Jaded had somehow learned magic in the months since we last fought and captured her.  Or…”

“Or?”  Matticus queried.

“Or,” Revis replied with a heavy sigh, “the sorcerer is far more powerful than I believed possible.”

“I do so love how you always have good news for me.”

Revis said nothing, but the glare he threw in his Jesterness’ direction spoke volumes.

Matticus averted his eyes, and nudged Jaded with the toe of his right boot.  “Guess we aren’t going to get much out of her right now.  Got any ideas on what we should do next?”

“Well, you could go directly to the source,” came a voice from behind the throne.

Matticus and Revis looked to see the cloaked figure of the sorcerer float out from concealment. The fact that the sorcerer never touched the ground unnerved the Jester a little bit. “Go to the source,” Matticus laughed. “Are you offering to tell us everything?”

Now, it was the sorcerer’s turn to laugh. “Not everything. After all, I’m not an old Bond villain. I’m keeping some of my secrets. I will tell you the answer to the question you just asked, though: how Jaded got magic.”

“Oh, do tell,” Revis muttered sarcastically.

Ignoring the tone of the knight’s voice, the sorcerer answered, “She gets her magic the same way your Knight does, Jester. She uses magical items. They were just trinkets that I had laying around. Jaded thought they’d be fun, so I let her have them.”

“Same as me, you say? That’s very interesting. Tell me something…”

Without finishing his thought, Revis flew into motion faster than Matticus could register his movement. He turned his head in time to see the dagger that Revis had just thrown at the sorcerer’s face get deflected up. Revis’ blade missed the body, but got caught in the hood covering the sorcerer’s head. The knife’s momentum tore the cloak off, revealing the identity of the true mastermind behind the plot to overthrow the kingdom.

“It can’t be,” Matticus whispered as he looked at their tormentor: Goldfish.

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom Chapter 28

After they had spent precious time with their families, Matticus and Revis got back to work. They went over everything they had learned about what had happened while they were gone. Then, they went over it again. What they had learned was not much.

Jaded, and her sorcerer, had led an army of sparkly vampires to the castle. Without the leadership of the First Knight, the rest of the Kingdom’s warriors weren’t prepared to deal with the invaders. They put up a valiant defense, but were overmatched in the end. The Queen and Prince were flown out by Rara right before the castle fell.

Since then, the sparkly vampires had been slowly building up their numbers. Publically, the vampires had only replaced the army, and local law enforcement, with their own. Behind the scenes, however, they were moving their army around. When Grayson showed Revis a map showing where the vampires were repositioning their troops, he could only scratch his head. The movements made no sense at all.

“This is ridiculous,” Revis spat. “There is no reason at all to move soldiers to these locations.”

“What do we do,” Matticus asked.

Revis thought about it for a minute before answering. “The smart thing to do would be to figure out what she’s doing before we make any moves,” Revis began. “But, since this has taken way longer than it should, I say we just go confront Jaded and get this over with.”

“Direct assault?  Small chance of success?  Almost certain to mean our death?  What are we waiting for?” Matticus sarcastically rolled his eyes.

“That sounds familiar, did you steal that from a movie?”

“What’s a “movie?”

“Never mind, it doesn’t matter,” Revis sighed, exasperated, “Do you have any better ideas your Jesterness?”

Matticus slid his gaze over the map, studying the troop placements again, racking his brain to find some connection, some small clue, that made it all fit together into something that made sense.  But, in the end, he shook his head in defeat.  Either the vampires had no idea how to stratigcally place troops to run a kingdom or they were smarter than he cared to admit.

“Nope, you are right.  It’s time we finish this madness.  Let’s track down Jaded again, get her to divulge the whereabouts of the sorcerer and the details of their plan.  And then…”

Revis raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, sorry,” Matticus continued, “I should have finished that with a question mark.  And then…?  What are we going to do once we have all the information?  Neither of us can fight a sorcerer on our own.  We are going to need some help, right?”

“We already have your two friends and two dragons. How much more help do you think we’re going to need?”

“But….”

“Nonsense, Jester. We’ve got this covered.”

Matticus wanted to protest further, but Revis began going over the details of his plan. The more he listened to his Knight, the less he worried. Although, he still thought that they needed more people than they had. An army to help them defeat the vampires wasn’t going to appear out of nowhere, however.

Once he was finished going over his plan, Revis looked at each person, in turn, to make sure they understood their part in the upcoming attack. Deb, Dani, Grayson, and Rara all nodded their heads when it got to be their turn. Finally, it got to Matticus. He still wasn’t completely convinced that this was going to work, but they really didn’t have much of a choice at this point. His head nodded, as well.

With a nod of his own, Revis produced the ink bottle that made portals. He used the brush to cover the entire wall in front of them. Matticus was going to ask why he used so much of the ink, but then he realized that the dragons wouldn’t fit through the portal if Revis made the portal smaller. As soon as his Knight was finished, Matticus jumped through the portal, if only so Revis wouldn’t push him through again.

The laughter at his own cleverness died on his lips, though, as the Jester felt himself come through the other side but was immediately blinded by the thickest darkness he had ever encountered.  He waved his hand in front of his face, but couldn’t see it.  He rubbed his eyes and blinked to see if there was something covering his face, but there wasn’t.  He knew he should move to keep from getting knocked over by the rest of the group when they came through, but without knowing what was in front of him, he wasn’t sure if he should risk it.

The thought of having traveled so far just to be trampled by either Rara or Grayson got his feet moving and he shuffled forward until his right boot caught on something and he fell forward with a grunt and a groan.  On his hands and knees, with what felt and tasted like dust swirling around his head, he yelled a warning over his shoulder, “Careful, something isn’t right here!”

A moment later he heard one of his companions come through the portal behind him and also call out in surprise and alarm.  Matticus shuffled forward in the dirt to make as much room as he could.

Revis was the last one through. He knew that the ink worked by transporting whoever walked through the portal to wherever they wanted to go. That meant that the dragons were going to be coming out somewhere else. The warning that Matticus had called out had come through the portal all garbled, so Revis didn’t know what he had said. It wasn’t until he felt the cold steel of a blade against his throat that he knew something besides the darkness was out of place.

“And who might you be,” the Knight asked his unseen assailant.

A voice from the darkness answered, “I am your worst nightmare.”

“No. Waking up without my penis is my worst nightmare.”

“OK, fine. Maybe I’m not your worst nightmare, but I am quite up there.”

While the assailant was talking, Revis was trying to think of a way out of his predicament. If there was light, he’d just turn himself invisible and use the confusion that created to get out. In the dark, however, that advantage was negated.  The Knight realized his best hope was to keep his would-be captor talking to give Matticus an opportunity to come to his rescue, so he quickly replied, “You aren’t my second worst nightmare either, that would be to lose my family.  And I’ve been living my third worst nightmare, spending weeks on end on the road with only the Jester for company.  So, really, where does that leave you?”

“Quit your yammering, Revis, or I’ll…”

Despite feeling the blade press more tightly against his throat, Revis cut off his attacker’s response, “Nowhere, if you think about it.  I mean, I’m already experienced my third worst nightmare, and you aren’t anywhere near that, so why don’t you ease up out of my face before something bad happens to you.”

“How dare you…  How can you possibly threaten me when I could kill you with a flick of my wrist?”

Despite the darkness, Revis shrugged, “If you were going to kill me, you would have already done it.”

The assailant began laughing, “Oh, no, poor misguided Knight, so confident in your abilities and your worth, all of this was just a distraction.  We are the bait to draw Matticus out, and once he is captured, I will kill you.”

 

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 26

“Attack?”  Steph’s eyes went wide with fear, “That can’t be!”

“The vampires must have gotten wise to the disappearing populace,” Revis replied.  “They probably sent out patrols to see if there were any groups camping outside the city walls.  That’s what I would have done.”

Steph shot Revis a death glare.

“What’s the plan,” Matticus whispered, trying to bring the focus back on their current problem.  “We have to go to their aide, right?”

Steph’s eyes went even wider.  She hadn’t ever considered leaving the small community she had been helping to build to their fate.  It troubled her greatly that such an idea would even be a consideration.  Her discomfort grew with each passing second it took the Knight to respond.

With a sigh, Revis shook himself out of his revelry and addressed Steph and Matticus.  “I’ll use my ring to get close to the camp and see what the situation is.  If there is a chance we can save what’s left I’ll come up with a plan and we can spring into action.  But…”

“There is no ‘but,'” Steph interjected firmly.  “We will help them.  Go ahead and see what you need to see, that’s fine.  I expect you to come up with a plan, though.  The First Knight needs to live up to his title right now.”

A look of profound sadness crossed his face as he replied, “I will do anything I can to rescue as many of them as possible, but I will not risk losing our chance to save the entire Kingdom in order to save a couple of people. I can’t jeopardize the lives of the many for the sake of the few. The job of First Knight is to serve the greater good. Sometimes that means making decisions that break your heart, but they have to be made anyways.”

Before she could offer a rebuttal, he turned himself invisible and started walking towards the camp. Steph debated telling Matticus her argument, but decided it could wait until Revis returned. The two of them waited in silence for  a number of minutes. Matticus managed to keep himself from jumping when the sounds of screaming came from the direction Revis walked. He put his hand on his sword, intending to go see what was happening.

“Don’t,” Steph advised, grabbing ahold of his shoulder. “You may cause more problems than you’d solve by going there.”

Out of the darkness, a woman came running. “Faithhopechocolate,” Steph exclaimed. “What happened?”

“No time,” the woman cried. “He needs your help.”

As Matticus and Steph hastened to follow Faithhopechocolate, the Jester was struck by the woman’s appearance.  She was wearing the stylings of the Order of the Holy Paraclete.  He had heard of the order but, as this was the first time he had ever met one of the sisters, he had presumed their numbers had dwindled away to nothing.

Her life of servitude had left her extremely strong and despite the stringency of her robes keeping her strides to a minimum, Matticus and Steph struggled to keep up with her.  The Jester was impressed.  He found her name very striking too.  Faith, hope, and chocolate, were three of his favorite things.

He knew he should be worried about his Knight, but Revis had managed to survive more than one harrowing situation in the past, it was one of the reasons Matticus had made him First Knight.  Beyond his loyalty to the kingdom, the man had an uncanny ability to find a way out of the worst scraps.  Plus, he had all those wonderful toys and tricks.  As much as he complained that he wanted to know where Revis had acquired everything he had stowed in his pack, Matticus trusted his Knight implicitly.

The closer they got to the camp, the thicker the smoke became. When they arrived, they found that there was a very large bonfire in the center of the camp, but the structures remained unharmed. From the other side of the fire, Revis stumbled into view. He fell to his knees, wobbled for a second, then finished his face-first fall to the ground.

Matticus and Steph rushed to his side. They rolled him onto his back. The entire front of his armor was covered with blood. His breathing was extremely rapid and his eyes were closed. “You better not die saving my people,” Steph muttered before turning to Faithhopechocolate and asking her questions.

The corner of Revis’ mouth turned up in the start of a smile, but it vanished so quickly that the Jester wasn’t sure whether or not he actually saw it. Deciding that he did, Matticus cuffed the side of his Knight’s head. “You jerk,” he yelled. “I was really worried about you.”

“Sorry,” Revis apologized, opening his eyes. Ignoring the look of pure hatred he was receiving from Steph, he continued, “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of getting Steph back. You just happened to be collateral damage.”

“What actually happened here?”

“I really did smell oil burning, but it was from this bonfire, not the buildings. They made it to burn the bodies of all the sparkly vampires they’ve killed. I just helped them put a couple in there. That’s where the blood came from.”

“Who protected them?” After Revis pointed at Faithhopechocolate, Matticus asked in disbelief, “You killed all of them?”

“Vampires don’t like crosses,” she explained.

“You just showed them crosses?”

“No, I hit them over the head with one.”

The Jester looked from Faithhopechocolate to Revis and back again, and then rolled his head back and belly laughed harder than he had in a long time.  Steph was not amused, but the Jester’s laughter was infectious and Revis joined in.  Sputtering between laughs, Matticus stated, “That must be one heck of a cross!”

Faithhopechocolate’s eyes beamed with love, “You better believe it!”

Steph stamped her foot in frustration, trying to snap the three of them out of their frivolity, “This is serious, though, if the vampires have sent out patrolling bands this far from the city, they must have known they were supposed to be looking for something, and when those patrols don’t make it back, they will send a larger force expecting trouble.  Well armed.  Prepared for whatever we can throw at them.”

The weight of Steph’s words couldn’t dampen the Jester’s mirth, he just kept picture sparkly vampire after sparkly vampire getting bashed over the head by a whole myriad of crosses.  In the back of his mind he made a mental note to make sure that some sort of weaponized cross was added to the armory when he made it home.

Revis had stopped laughing at that point. “Look, Steph,” he said, “you and Faithhopechocolate need to tell the people here to start getting everything ready for a road trip. They’re coming with us to Long Beach.”

“What about the people still left in Bruges,” Steph countered.

“I’m afraid they’re on their own for now.” Before Steph could argue any further, Revis continued, “I don’t like it any more than you do, but we can’t do anything for them.”

Reluctantly, Steph walked off to start giving orders to those in the camp. Matticus and Revis began refilling their own supplies, filling up on water and food. Halfway through their chore, a shout came from the outskirts of the camp. It was followed by another a few seconds later. The two men slumped their shoulders and shook their heads. They knew what was happening before Steph ran up to tell them.

“They’re attacking now,” she exclaimed. Revis and Matticus began reaching for their weapons. “No,” Steph stopped them. “You were right. You have bigger things to do. You two go. We’ll hold them off so you can get to Long Beach and stop these sparkly bastards for good.”

Matticus wanted to protest, but couldn’t. Revis had grabbed him and was pulling him away from the fight.