Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tresair



Drayden watched the raven-haired actor watching his coffee, then answered, “It was proven to me that you’re honest and, in spite of any past comments I may have made, nothing at all like the elevated citizens I am used to dealing with.”
Elarien’s brow furrowed to suggest confusion.  He did not look up from his cup.
Drayden reached into his coat pocket and produced the crumpled draft.  He slid it across the table, into Elarien’s line of sight.  “I learned just how serious you were about all of this.  And that’s why I can’t let you give up like you didn’t when your grandmother tried to stop you before.”
“It was different before.  They were employees of my grandmother, who only sympathized with my dilemma.  Perhaps they only humored me.  At any rate, I did not expect much from them and, as uncharitable as this seems, I did not fear for their positions with my family nor for their reputations as researchers.”
“Perhaps you sensed their dishonesty,” Drayden suggested.  “They did not even set foot in Raventide, according to Magistrate Derrisher, whom they would have been directed to had they gone to the town.  They didn’t even try.”
“Delisandra didn’t give them the chance.”
“And she isn’t giving you a chance,” Drayden replied.
“To do what?”
“To live.”
Elarien looked up.  His eyebrows twitched together, then slowly lifted as he seemed to read into Drayden’s gaze.  Drayden wondered what he might have been trying to say with that gaze himself.  Maybe he had finally tired of Elarien’s lack of hope, his lack of confidence in everything except his heritage and his art.  Depressed elitist actors were depressing.  Of course, Elarien didn’t really seem elitist, not with words or action, but he did carry an exalted air about him; an accident of birth that blossomed more than blemished where this particular noble was concerned.  And Delisandra Fannael was crushing him.  Damn the woman; she had already cut him from the vine and closed him in a book, there to be pressed and preserved.  Beautifully dead.  Why couldn’t Elarien see that?  And what made Drayden so sure that he could?  It occurred to him that he might have been wrong, that Elarien might genuinely have been dying of some uncertain disease.  All the more reason that he should live now, while he could.  He wasn’t an invalid.  He was alive for the moment—the same as anyone else—and strong enough to do so much more than he and Delisandra would allow.   
“The rain is letting up,” someone noticed.
Drayden and Elarien both looked outside.  The clouds were giving way to a bruised blue sky.  Sheets of sunlight poured through, glistening with prismatic hues.  The Tresair Gardens were a majestic tapestry of refreshed color.  The paths, almost black with wetness, were begging to be walked. 
“I should be leaving,” Elarien informed in his typically quiet fashion.
Drayden glanced at Elarien and said, “So should I.”     

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From Raventide
Available from Raventide Books


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Sheng Fan



The relief that swept over Song Da-Xiao when she saw her advisor enter the throne room made it almost impossible for her to maintain her calm, stately mien.  She wanted to go to him.  She wanted to abandon the dais and all stationed dignity and throw her arms around him.  She could do nothing but sit upon the throne, holding her head high in spite of the weight of her headdress—she believed she would endure illness again just for the comfort of letting her hair down—as she looked upon her oath brother with the regal chill her role as Empress required of her.  To display her elation would be to demonstrate her weakness before the other officers of the court, several of which were present to witness Xu Liang’s return. 
They would only have confirmation to what everyone present already knew: that she relied too heavily on the Imperial Tutor.  They would view her tears of joy as feminine frailty and they would misinterpret her deep love for a girl’s petty desires.  As if she weren’t as human as the rest of them.  Sadly, it was in that misconception, that Xu Liang could be counted among his colleagues.  More and more he regarded her as a goddess—his divine ruler—and slowly, the kinship they had known in the years of her father’s rule slipped away.
If only Song Bao had lived.  The people loved him as they would never love her.  The Empire had felt at peace.  Song Da-Xiao’s world was so simple then and, as princess, how could she have been granted a more appropriate candidate for a husband than Xu Liang?  He was highly respected by the Emperor and had been her brother’s closest friend.  Surely, not even the wisest matchmaker could have denied such a union.  And now it seemed impossible.  Marriage wasn’t even discussed.  Since her ascension all her officers could talk about was politics, the faltering of the Five Kingdoms Resolution and now, the rising of the ancient Dragon Chaos, symbolized in the Empress’ own nightmares and in the nervousness of her people.  There was no time for love in Sheng Fan and no place for it in an Empress’ heart.
Xu Liang made that painfully clear as he bowed formally, speaking in tones of deference, and nothing more.  “Your Imperial Highness, I thank you for admitting me into your presence.”
Watching his long hair fall over his shoulders, Song Da-Xiao said, “Yes.  There has been much concern about your extended absence, Xu Liang.  You grace the court with your return.”  She gestured to the empty space on the dais to the left of her throne and added, “Please, resume your rightful place.  As of now you remain Imperial Tutor and Supreme Tactician in strategic command of my army.  I ask that you continue to serve me as such.”
Xu Liang straightened and gracefully approached the throne.  He bowed once more.  “My Empress, I shall serve you until death.”

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles 

From Five Kingdoms, forthcoming sequel to Six Celestial Swords
Available from Raventide Books


Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Raventide



Raventide didn’t come into view until he’d almost reached it.  The clearing of the mist as one neared offered a continuation of tall trees joined by gaunt buildings.  Clusters of unclean whitewashed stone with black detail huddled amid the towering growths, connected by slim, once white paths that wended gently through and around patches of chill-bitten green.  Sunlight stabbed through the low clouds, illuminating a grave emptiness.  Drayden thought that he heard a dog barking over the clomp of the horse’s hooves and the turning of the carriage’s wheels, but he was unable to spot the animal or anyone who may have claimed to be its master. 
Lofty families used to live here once, Drayden reminded himself as he was unable to picture it.  He found himself searching the outer reaches for any houses of conspicuous size, like the Raventide Manor surely would have been.  There were plenty of large houses, three and four stories high with small towers and sizable plots of land separating them from their neighbors, all of them looking scarcely lived in, but for some reason none of them seemed to stand out as the estate where a man and almost his entire extended family were brutally slain.  Drayden felt morbid and juvenile for looking and promptly ceased his visual search.  He didn’t have time to explore the unsolved mysteries of the mainland anyway.  He was looking for an office, a funeral parlor, a silversmith, a jeweler, something beyond the bleak abandonment currently laid out before him.

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From Raventide
Available from Raventide Books 


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Qusqos Quilla



Qusqos Quilla, like Curopuno’s Tomb was built in a basin, a waterfall basin.  The forest surrounded the open area on all sides, seeming to spill down into the natural bowl, which was nearly halved by the flow of a river Raya had called the Arechala.  The temple itself had been erected in the rock face to either side of the considerable fall.  Extensions of it scattered the clearing below.  Even as the sun was setting its residents were actively about, moving as if in preparation for something.  Llehren had a fair guess as to what.
He followed his unintentionally acquired entourage down a broad staircase, which seemed both natural and manmade, from one level of the Wetwood down to another.  The wide stone steps were severely overgrown, but still discernible against the foliage that draped the walls of the basin.  There was no railing, but Llehren was in no danger of falling, even as he stopped very near to the edge midway down to look over the falls and the nearly ordered arrangement of openings--doors and windows, he presumed, though they did not appear quite so functional as that--scattered to either side of the cascading water.  Several of the portals were beginning to light from within as the sun dropped beneath the horizon. 
            A twinge of veneration befell Llehren.  It was quickly followed with a pang of answerability.  This was wrong.  He was not their king.

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From King of Moon, a novel of Dryth
Forthcoming from Raventide Books


Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Potomaya



Llehren stalked toward the draped opening and pushed aside the thin veil to look upon a sun-drenched balcony over what appeared to be endless layers of green.  A forest—an enormous one—which spanned thicker and longer in every visible direction than he ever imagined the Iylphen did or even could.  The trees and foliage were nothing like any he had ever seen before, all of it twisted and entangled, connected so tightly it seemed impossible to think any light at all could penetrate the canopy and yet somehow, it thrived.  He had never seen a green so lush, so strangely vibrant. 
It was so evenly knit, the branches and vines, that he couldn’t be sure if the variations in height were hills or simply areas of taller trees.  The noises were different as well, not normal of the birds and other woodland animals he was accustomed to at home.  There were strange, almost melodic caws and peculiar wispy coos the likes of which he had no comparison for, not to mention the un-birdlike howls and chatters that resounded from all around.  The air was thick as well, damp and hot, like the most humid summer afternoon.

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From King of Moon, a novel of Dryth
Forthcoming from Raventide Books 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Oakhurst



Adele observed the desolate neighborhood slipping by from the back seat of the car that had been waiting outside the library for her and the others.  She was the only one left to take advantage.  Clearly, Calver had underestimated Lijima’s pet.  Yoshiro was no mere puppet.  She was surprised that Yoshiro’s men hadn’t targeted the vehicle first and disabled it or killed the driver.  Just the thought of having to walk back to Oakhurst made Adele uneasy.  The shuttle terminals were difficult to get to in Elysium and the shuttles themselves were unreliable, stopped frequently once into Oakhurst by barricades formed of dilapidated tunnels or of debris piled up by the area’s most desperate residents, who were looking to trap victims.  The clear routes didn’t cover enough blocks to be useful and a stop near a manmade blockage could be lethal, even to one of Staciel’s own.  Before much longer the lines would avoid the area altogether, following routes that passed over or around the district instead.
Though Oakhurst was by far the worst area of Darkside, its eerie abandonment made it the perfect home for Staciel.  He was like a ghost in some ways; haunting what he touched, never standing in clear view.  He was an enigma to many and invisible to most, a force in his own right.  He was what they needed and a random bout of righteousness from Kabuki Town’s criminal aristocracy wasn’t going to stop him.  It would barely delay him.
The car stopped, drawing Adele out of her thoughts.  It had begun to rain.  


Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From Darkside
Available from Raventide Books


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for New Kyoto



The rain had stopped by the time Yoshiro reached the shrine.  The surrounding forest was steeped in blackness, but hanging lanterns lit the stairs that wound through it.  The depth of the shadows made the open gateway at the top look ominous, a skeletal figure crouched over the path, forbidding the unwelcome. 
Am I unwelcome?
Yoshiro stood at the base of the stairs for a long moment to rest on that thought, and then started up them, resenting the moment he’d taken.  

Copyright ©  T.A. Miles

From Darkside
Available from Raventide Books