I'm showcasing two of her books today on Fresh Pot of Tea, Tower of Bones and Forbidden Road.
…“But here, I have not told you the special thing - My childhood nurse, a woman with, shall we say an ‘earthy’ past, long ago told me a small secret gate lies hidden in the garden wall beneath the Rose Tower, which some now call the Tower of Bones.” Edwin started on hearing the tower which figured so prominently in his dreams named. “It is a very dark garden when there is no moon and once this gate was quite useful for ‘private trysts’.
“Consider this - If a maid’s clandestine lover could find the gate useful for secret trysting, why then a thief could easily enter or leave, should they wish - but only on a moon-dark night. You will see why when you get there.” He looked over at a table full of traveling merchants and their guards, and then leaned forward as if talking to his closest friends. “I tell you this knowing it is safe with you, and you will carry it either to the grave or to his Holiness, which ever you see first!”
Jaxon leaned back and tossed a money pouch to Friedr, who accepted it with some confusion. The huge warrior’s face cleared up as he felt the contents of the pouch, and he tucked it into his shirt with a knowing smile.
“I will take the horse, and thank you for offering it to me,” Jaxon said as he stood up, automatically casting a wary eye around the room. “It is good to do business with you. The Mercenaries of Arlen stand ready in case of need, at the usual price of course. The Temple has only to call.” With that said he flipped a coin to the bartender and walked out into the night, followed by his guards.
“What was that all about?” asked Edwin, speaking in a whisper. “I don’t remember us having a horse to sell. We need our pack-ponies.”
“Don’t be so wool-headed, farm-boy,” whispered Aeolyn, who only caught the last of the conversation. “There are others, not of Arlen in this room tonight. It was a cover for what is really in the little money pouch. Come on Friedr, what is in the little bag?”
“I would guess it is a key of some sort,” suggested Christoph quietly, smiling faintly. “Perhaps it is the key to a gate beneath a certain tower?”
“Why does the land change so radically here?” Zan finally asked Edwin. “This is the worst road I’ve ever seen!”
“Tauron’s poison is nearly at the door,” replied Edwin, wondering what was bothering Zan. “It’s a mere fifty leagues away from the gap now. I thought you understood. We’ll be in Tauron’s Mal Evol in three days.”
“I knew it on one level, but I guess I didn’t understand what it meant,” replied Zan, feeling temporarily dismayed by the grim reality of the landscape. “I guess I was thinking of the adventure, not the reality. I was thinking it’d be like Aelfrid Firesword, all fun and adventure, with no worry.”
“Actually, Aelfrid Firesword’s life must’ve been terribly difficult,” said Edwin, walking next to Zan. “Think about it. He was forced to kill his closest friend who’d become a rogue mage and gone over to Tauron. Can you imagine how you’d feel if, say, I went over to Tauron? How would you protect the people of Neveyah from me? What would you do?”
“I never thought about that aspect of the story,” Zan admitted. “Making those sorts of decisions, having to kill someone you love in order to protect others you love, I can’t imagine what that was like for Aelfrid.” He sighed. “But I’d do it, if I was forced to. I think it’d kill me, though.”
“I know.” Edwin clasped Zan’s shoulder. “Daryk was the most famous of the Dark-Mages, but most people don’t know he fought desperately against Tauron’s minions at Aelfrid’s side when the two of them first came into their powers. He worshipped Aeos, and loved Neveyah with all his heart. It never occurred to either Aelfrid or Daryk he would ever fall to Tauron, but there was no Temple, and no vows to protect him from Tauron’s blandishments. There was no college to teach young mages how to use their magic, so they had to learn how to control the build-up of chi and avoid the madness by gaining apprenticeships to older mages. Daryk was lured away from their kind master by a mindbender who was under Tauron’s spell. It was because of Aelfrid’s grief over the loss of the man who’d been closer than a brother, and his struggle to save the other mages still loyal to Aeos that Aeoven and the Temple exist today. Without Aelfrid we wouldn’t have the augmentations allowing us access to greater chi reserves, nor would we bind ourselves to the Goddess with the vows. It must’ve been a terribly hard time to live through.”
“I see what you mean,” admitted Zan. “As a kid I read all the stories, and just thought it was all good against evil, romance and happy endings. But maybe it’s just the way the bards tell it.”
Edwin laughed. “It wouldn’t be a good story if it was all dirt, bug bites and poor sanitary conditions now, would it?”