family

I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert

It doesn't matter whether you have kids - you will enjoy this book. Karen Alpert is the author of a popular blog, Baby Sideburns, and she brings the same conversational humor to her book. That being said, if you don't like harsh language, you might not find it as funny as I did (but if you don't like harsh language, you could probably have figured that out from the title).

It's a very short read but that fit it really well. A number of times I interrupted my husband to read parts to him, and I was forbidden from reading it in bed because my giggling kept him awake. (Sorry, love!)

Right in the middle of the book is one chapter dedicated to a serious topic: postpartum depression. Alpert doesn't go too in-depth, but she tells a short and very personal story about her own realization of just how drastically your life can change once you have a child. It was only three pages, but that was the part that stuck with me the most.

Overall: 5 stars. It's fun, it's quick, and it still manages to give you good advice.

Giveaway: Help for the Haunted

I have a brand new copy of Help for the Haunted by John Searles that is just waiting to live in one of your home libraries! If you would like to enter my giveaway contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what is the worst book you have ever read. (Please don't read into that question as a reflection on Help for the Haunted - seriously, I am trying to start a collection of bad books to read.) I will pick a winner at random from all the entrants (which book you "recommend" does not affect your chance of winning) and once I have a winner, I will let them know.

You don't have to pay for shipping or anything. You will, however, need to provide me with an address to which I can send you your new book! (I will arrange this with the winner - I don't think anyone wants to post their address on a public website. :) )

Want a quick, spoiler-free review before you enter?

My thoughts: 3 stars. Possibly 3.5. I liked the main character quite a bit. The book is 1st person POV and Sylvie has some really interesting insights. The flow of the story worked fairly well, once I got into the groove of the more conversational, flowing-thought narrative Sylvie often presented. I laughed at the Dot incident and have officially decided I will never name a child Penny because it is now entirely too creepy. Overall the book felt like it was trying to be a mystery while wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about Sylvie, which would have been great except that it didn't quite deliver. Still, the ending was good - it was just something I literally could not have figured out based on the rest of the book, which defeats the "mystery" aspect, I think. I'd pin this as part coming-of-age, part thriller narrative.

I hope you give me good "worst books ever" and that you all enjoy Help for the Haunted - looking forward to mailing this straight-from-the-printing-press copy to someone! :) And if you don't win, there may still be time to enter the sweepstakes giveaway on Searles' website.

 

As always, I receive no compensation from author or publisher for any reviews, publications, etc. related to any ARCs. My opinions are wholly my own.

 

 

Trivia Corner:

“It was all imaginary, anyway – not real. It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another.” - Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I read this book in grade school and loved it. It's a children's story, told by a young girl living in Denmark, during WWII. I've read and re-read this book numerous times - I know it was the best assignment I can ever remember.

Next up: "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."

Pre-order Book, Enter Sweepstakes

One of the Advanced Reader Copies I received from William Morrow publishing is John Searles' book Help for the Haunted. Currently, he is hosting a sweepstakes where, when you pre-order Help for the Haunted and fill out the form on his website, you are entered to win tickets to the Broadway production of Matilda. (The book is due to be released on September 17, 2013.) I just finished reading Help for the Haunted last night and will put up a special review post soon so that those of you wanting some more information can get it. Short version: I give it 3 stars for an overall good story with a really solid main character, but with a slow beginning and an ending that left me a little disappointed but not unhappy that I'd read it.

If you don't know the story of Matilda, you are missing out. I grew up with that movie and I would love to see it on Broadway! Matilda is a young girl who loves books so much she takes her wagon to the library with her (something I tried to convince my mother to let me do). She's also a genius with more than your average genius-born gifts. But she also has a horrible family and a horrible principal/headmistress and has to rally her friends and classmates together to save their sweet teacher and themselves. It's a story about how being a little weird isn't a bad thing, about how the choices we make affect the people around us; it's the story of how children can grow up to be better than their parents, not trapped in that same crappy life.

John Searles says this about his book and Matilda: Matilda and Help for the Haunted are each stories about a young girl who loves books, is smart beyond her years, and must rely on her intelligence and curiosity in order to set things right in her world.”

 

As always, I receive no compensation from author or publisher for any reviews, publications, etc. related to any ARCs. My opinions are wholly my own.

 

Trivia Corner:

“I make cherries jubilee and I volunteer for dragons and I conjugate Latin verbs – or at least I would if anyone would let me!” is from Dealing with Dragons, the first book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. I absolutely love these books. My sister and I actually made our own audiobooks of these, taking turns lying on the floor in front of a tape recorder, reading into the microphone, and then listening to the tapes at night when we were supposed to be going to sleep. I think I still have those tapes somewhere...

Up next: "It was all imaginary, anyway - not real. It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another."

Screams in the Red Rain

How has it been so long since my last post? Shame... But here's some quick tidbits of cool info going on in my writing/reading world, followed by another character sketch I wrote for my time travel story. (The other sketch for the character named Millie can be found here.) - I set a reading goal for myself this year: finish 365 books before midnight, Dec. 31. Bonus points if they are all first-time-reads. So far, I'm only 1 book behind schedule. (Want to see what books I've read and check out some reviews? Look me up on Goodreads.) (Interested in other fun shenanigans my brain decided? Check out and sign up for my other blog, RealmwalkerWriting!)

- I have a list of literary agents who are looking for work by new authors or my genre and will be submitting queries and such to them very soon.

- When I go to the library on Monday to pick up a book that's being held for me, I will have to pay my first-ever fine for having a book too damaged to return. Sadly, my puppy found a way to get onto my dining table while I was out getting groceries, and slightly mangled The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. Sad. At least I got to finish reading it, though.

- Two of my friends recently had me over for dinner and decided we would watch My Little Pony. I later went home and read Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. Consequently, I had Applejack from My Little Pony narrating this book set in post-Civil War Texas - extra funny when the zombies showed up. :)

Enjoy the character sketch!

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My first thought was, it’s raining. But that didn’t make much sense – I was in my house. How could it be raining in my house? My second thought, that the roof had a leak, didn’t make sense, either. No self-respecting builder would have a leaky roof on a house he built.

But I was lying on the floor, on the soft rugs covering the hard wood, and I knew there were drips of water on my face. Had I been crying? No. Besides, if I had been crying, the drips wouldn’t have hit me from the ceiling – they wouldn’t have startled me awake.

Well, lying there wondering wasn’t going to solve the mystery. If I wanted to figure out why it was raining in the house, I’d have to open my eyes. I expected to see one of my siblings – probably my younger brother – standing over me, holding a glass of water and giggling at me.

He wasn’t there. No one was. I felt another drip and looked up at the ceiling, but with the late hour and the fireplace too far away, I couldn’t see. Sighing, I stood and grabbed one of the candles from the dining table. Mother would be annoyed that I disturbed her decorations, but I would put it back and just pray she didn’t notice. Mother always liked to have things perfect for the holidays, especially for Christmas. The tree, with its own decorations of carefully hand-carved ornaments, painted by my siblings and me as we had grown throughout the years. The garlands of evergreen boughs tied together with silk ribbon – expensive, Father said. Pretty, Mother said, and worth the money to ready our house for the coming of the Baby Jesus. It’s funny… I never saw him actually show up. With only a few days left before Christmas Day, the area beneath the tree was stuffed with presents wrapped in shiny paper, bright scraps of cloth, or tucked away inside pouches that Mother and I had sewn new for this year. Our stockings were hanging over the fireplace, just like always. I had stitched the names on them myself this time, instead of having to follow Mother’s patterns. From this far away, I couldn’t read them, but I knew they were there and I smiled nonetheless.

Even holding the candle up toward the ceiling didn’t help much. We had a big house, and the ceiling was too far away. I looked around, but since I didn’t see anyone, I decided to chance it and climbed up onto the table, my bare feet stepping carefully around the other candles and the fragile manger scene that decorated the tabletop. I held the candle up again…

…and screamed.

I was right. It was raining inside. Only it wasn’t water… it was blood.

Where was my family? My brother, my sister, my mother and father? Whose blood was this, leeching down from the roof? I looked down at myself and had to clap my hand to my mouth to keep from screaming again. I was covered in drops of sticky blood. I had been lying on the floor for a long time… had I slept through some terrible nightmare?

No… Now that I was awake, filled with adrenaline, I could feel the pounding in my head. I hadn’t fallen asleep. I’d been attacked.

I jumped down from the table, making the manger scene rattle. “Mother!” I yelled. “Where are you?” I was terrified. Where was everyone? Had they run away, thinking I was dead?

The rest blurred together in my memory, too much to take in so fast. Somewhere, out of the darkness, a hand snaked out and grabbed my arm, pulling me in. I began to scream when a second hand quickly covered my mouth. My nose caught the scent of soap and lavender and I realized these were my mother’s hands. I remember her whispering to me in a frightened voice. We had to get out, she said. They were still very near, and they would not let us leave alive. I asked about my siblings in a whisper crushed by my own emotion, and my mother’s choked-back sobs were answer enough.

Most unluckily, the flickering light of my candle lit up a sliver of the room for a moment and I saw a flash of what had happened to my siblings. They were not dead. They had been murdered, brutally and savagely killed and tossed aside like garbage. I was angry and scared… and then I was sick, all over the floor of Mother’s closet where we were hiding. I had never seen a dead body before.

Mother and I made it out of that house. We had to climb out onto the roof because we could see dark shapes blocking the stairs leading down to the first floor and to safety. I could tell Mother was scared. I had not told Mother about the blood-rain in the dining room. I hoped I was wrong, but I thought I knew whose it must be, if Mother and I were here and my siblings were still inside.

Mother did not look. She did not know to look. I think if she had known, she never would have left, and we both would have died. Instead she let down the escape ladder my father had built into the roof, in case there was ever a fire, and began to climb down. She called for me to come after, but her voice was small and far away. I was caught, stunned and terrified, by the scene on the roof.

My father was dead, that was certain. Whoever had attacked us had made it clear that he was not able to protect his house or his family. Spikes, like the big ones they used down at the railroads, gleamed red in my eyes. My stomach heaved again even as I ran over to him and grabbed the slick iron with both hands,  begging my father to get up. I don’t know why. I knew he couldn’t hear me. I knew.

My mother called again, frantically, and I heard her. I jumped to the ladder and slid down the sides, getting splinters in my hands. Mother grabbed me and dragged me along behind her, running as fast as she could away from that house. I was running, too, but my legs were too slow to keep up with her, so I mostly stumbled and slowed her down.

I don’t know how long we ran. I remember looking back and seeing the black shadows moving around that house, hearing voices that faded away as my panic overtook them and turned them into howls of demons. We finally stopped, what seemed to be miles and miles away, and collapsed, panting hard and trying to uncramp our exhausted lungs and limbs.

Mother looked at me. You look a mess, she said, attempting to smile, but instead she began to cry. I felt a mess. Blood, vomit, sweat all clung to my clothes, splinters dug into my hands. It didn’t matter. Mother wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close, crying low sobs that rattled the soul to hear them. I buried my face in her shoulder. This time it was raining inside, and leaking out through my eyes as tears that soaked my mother’s clothes. Why did it happen? I remember asking her through my hiccups, trying to control myself and failing miserably.

My mother pulled away a little so she could look at me. Cupping her hands around my face, she smiled. It was a real smile, even though her eyes were so sad. She didn’t know, she said, but she was thankful that she still, at least, had me, and I had her. We were not alone.

I cried again. My mother frowned and brushed the tears away, making them mix with the blood on my cheeks and leave sticky trails behind. She said she understood, and she knew it would be hard, but we would get through it. God always had a reason, and he was watching over us.

I looked up at my mother and asked a question that had been burning in my heart for all the years I could remember: Was this my punishment because I was different?

I had always felt responsible for everything when I realized I was different. When my brother was born, I knew he was not like me. When my sister was born, I knew she was like my brother. Like Mother and Father. Not like me.

My mother gripped my hands tightly in her own and pressed them to her heart. She looked at me and told me to listen very closely, that I must never forget what she was about to tell me. I was different, I was special. I had power inside of me. God would never give His child such a gift and then punish her for having it. I had this power, and I should remember to always, always, do good with it. Use it to honor her. Use it to honor my family. Use it to honor God.

I felt safe there, with my mother, sitting beneath the trees. She had told me that I was not the reason we were alone now. It had been a cruel act of violence, but it had been random. There was nothing we could have done.

Lies.

Although my mother did not know it, the fear I had harbored since I had been a child, the fear that my difference, this “power,” would bring pain to my family, had come true. Those shadow-men had been after me, and it cost my brother, my sister, and my father their lives, and my mother her husband and her children.

I left my mother with some family friends who promised to take care of her. We did not explain everything, only the bare facts – that we had been victims of a terrible crime and were all that was left of our family. I left. My mother begged me not to go, but I could not bear to stay. This power, whatever it was, had killed my family. I would not let it hurt her, too – not any more than it already had.

***

Memory fades with time. All these events happened so long ago, I cannot remember much. I cannot remember the sound of my mother’s voice, my father’s face, or my sibling’s laughs. I cannot remember the town in which we lived, nor even the country, anymore. I cannot remember my family’s names… I cannot even remember my own name.

I can remember my scream, when I first saw the blood-rain oozing through the ceiling. I can remember the shadow-men darting around that house.

I can remember because I still see them, I still hear them, in my dreams, sometimes… and it always ends the same way: I am running around that house, trying to catch the shadow-men and see who it is that has murdered my family. I lock eyes with one of them through the darkness, and it is as though he can see me through my own dreams, from within my own mind.

I do not wake screaming anymore. One grows used to such nightmares, when one has them for so many years. But the unsettling feeling never grows dim, and I fear that one day, soon, all that will remain of my memory are those soul-piercing eyes and a child’s scream as blood rains down.

Ill Omen

A look back to the coronation of King Fawlen and the beginning of the end of Kallizar's old life.  

 

“And now, we must complete the ceremony for which so many have gathered to see,” Prophet Zahn continued. “You have passed your third and final test; you have shown yourself to be a humble and compassionate man, gentle and wise beyond the boundaries of the royal line.”

Mikael approached both Fawlen and Seriah. “Kneel, my brother,” Mikael said, “that you may be given what is yours.” He drew his sword, the glinting blade catching the sunlight and throwing it across the waiting crowd in green flickers.

Trembling very slightly, Fawlen lowered himself to his knees before his brother.

The edge of Mikael’s sword came down on Fawlen’s left shoulder. “The nation of Fyan cries out for a new king!” His voice was steady but his eyes were bright with emotion. “You have proven yourself, before this country and this court, that you are ready and worthy to answer this call!”

The entire courtyard watched with unblinking eyes, tense with excitement. This was the moment – the new king was about to be crowned!

The members of the court watched wide-eyed as well, but their tension was borne of sudden panic. Instead of lifting his sword and finishing the ceremony, Mikael had pressed down on the blade. It had bitten into Fawlen’s shoulder and a small patch of dark red was blossoming onto Fawlen’s clothes.

Kallizar looked around rapidly, checking the extent of the situation. Hirom had not yet noticed anything amiss, thank the gods. Seriah had – her knuckles were white where she gripped the arms of her chair. But she seemed torn between stopping Mikael by force and staying still so as not to alert the crowd.

For a split second, Kallizar met Mahlíz’ eyes. He looked stunned.

Fawlen looked much the same. Shock was all over his face, and pain beneath that… but whether from his wounded shoulder or from his brother’s actions, Kallizar couldn’t tell.

Kallizar looked to Mikael, her heart trying to beat itself free of her ribcage. What was he doing? Why in Lillith’s name would he attack Fawlen? A sudden, terrible thought entered her mind. Mikael… have you lied all this time?

A sharp, almost electric sensation hit her a second later, and Kallizar realized what must be going on. A quick glance at Mahlíz told her he had figured it out as well. Someone had thrown a spell on Mikael’s sword, and from the look of things, the prince couldn’t do anything to stop it. The muscles in his arm bulged as he strained to lift the blade, and sweat was starting to trickle down his worried face.

Mahlíz’ magic swirled onto the scene, soft blue hues to Kallizar’s vision. It wrapped around the prince’s sword and smothered the offending spell, choking it out until nothing remained.

Mikael must have felt the pressure fading because his face relaxed and he adjusted his grip so the blade would not go flying over his head.

Kallizar scoured the crowd for the guilty Sorcerer, but she could not sense anyone with that magic. Nor did she see anyone who looked particularly guilty, or surprised, or disappointed. The magical signature dissipated as Mahlíz’ magic destroyed the last of the spell, but Kallizar wouldn’t soon forget that feeling. It was all she had to figure out who – and how. Something was off about that signature… it was too scrambled, too confused, to have been natural magic. Someone had been meddling.

That thought made Kallizar extremely uncomfortable. Tainted magic came as the result of dark experiments, indeed.

ABCs from EUD

No plot spoilers, just a few names that might not have been mentioned yet. Enjoy! A is for the After - the place all souls must go at the moment of death.

B is for Blood - it's important in more ways than one.

C is for Cade - Kallizar's loyal servant and friend.

D is for D'arrynt - Kallizar's home town.

E is for Enladi - the ocean that separates Fyan and Varaeti from the next closest countries of Fyan and Patal. And E is for Even unto Death, the first book in the trilogy.

F is for Fyan - Kallizar's home country and the setting for most of EUD.

G is for Gharot - the Patalian emissary.

H is for Hirom - son of King Fawlen and Queen Seriah, and the Crown Prince of Fyan.

I is for Itamn - a village in the northernmost region of Fyan.

J is for Jarrin - younger brother of Li'ra and the youngest of Kallizar's servants.

K is for Kallizar - the Honored Sorcerer of Fyan, an eccentric and honorable woman and the star of the Immortal Flames.

L is for Lubek - the huge country to the northeast that is trying to acquire a Sorcerer from Fyan for themselves.

M is for Mahliz - the Court Sorcerer of Fyan and a powerfully loyal man. And M is for Mikael, Commander General of the Fyanish military and Prince of Fyan.

N is for No'om - another of the tiny villages up north in Fyan.

O is for Olimon - a small town about a day's ride from Xuun, with very good house wine.

P is for Pirate - Pirates are common in the Fisian Sea, living in the island cities known collectively as the Free Ports.

Q is for Queen - The rules of Fyan dictate that there must always be a ruler from the royal bloodline, but whether that is the king or queen is irrelevant. Daughters, nieces, and sometimes sisters have been named Crown Princess and have inherited the rights of Queendom upon the old monarch's death.

R is for Rosa - the wife of Mikael and one-time friend of Kallizar. She is the only person to live on the South Wing of the Palace (with the royalty) without being a member of the High Court.

S is for Seriah - current queen of Fyan runs much of the less-glamorous aspects of maintaining a country because she has a good head for the complex paperwork.

T is for Tan'jeht - a poison deadly to Sorcerers because of its magic-destroying attributes.

U is for Uther - a friend of Kallizar's in Varaeti.

V is for Varaeti - the country across the Fisian Sea from Fyan. Once connected as a single island, the now two separate island nations have gone from friends and allies to enemies barely holding on to a dying cease fire.

W is for Worship - Worship is an essential part of life. The Prophets of Ri'hannon and Lillith are well-respected and protected in Fyan, and they can hear the voices of the gods and use boons from the gods to do miraculous things that even magic cannot replicate.

X is for Xuun - the capital of Fyan and the location of the Palace, as well as the national trading headquarters.

Y is for Year - at the beginning of EUD, the year is 1078 A.R. Kallizar is 90 years old.

Z is for Zahn - High Prophet Zahn is the head of a temple in Xuun that is dedicated to both gods. He is a quiet and devout man who will not hesitate to help someone - regardless of that person's worldly affiliations.

For Her Brother's Sake

Here's a character intro for a story I'm writing about time travel. She is one of the three main characters. So far I have the main characters and the world build/rules hashed out, and I'm just filling out character sketches to get a feel for the story. Danny was awesome. Annoying as hell sometimes, but always there when it really counted. That’s what big brothers were for, right? Like the time when I was five, and we were climbing trees in the backyard. Dad told us not to but we did anyway – like we gave a damn what “Dad” said, even back then. And when I fell out of the tree and broke my arm, Danny scooped me up and took me in to the ER or wherever, but he teased me about my crying the whole way there. Or when I was fourteen and had my first boyfriend ever – although calling him a real boyfriend now seems like a real joke… honestly, no one can seriously date at fourteen. You’re so confused about too much stuff, like starting high school and being one of the “young adults” of the world, and finally getting privileges from your parents (if you’re lucky), and learning to drive, and figuring out just what the hell it means to actually be mature (and meet other people who are just as “mature” as you are).

Anyway, the point was, when we broke up, Danny listened to my sob story and then promptly told me I was just being an angsty teen and that sooner or later I’d better get a grip on myself and realize that there were better people in the world than scumbags like that who would dump me for some sleaze. Later, I saw my ex with a black eye. I laughed at him and thought about kicking him in the shin, but decided not to (not because I was too mature… because my teacher was standing about four feet away from us and I probably would have ended up with a detention).

Yeah, Danny was awesome. He was the golden child of the family. My parents loved “their Daniel”: he was all A’s in school, played center on the soccer team in high school and got a full ride to college. Strong, handsome, smart, and just great. Girls couldn’t get enough of him, but he never dated anyone, that I know of. He knew they were all just shallow, sleazy girls who wanted a piece of the stardom. Danny was better than that.

He was better than anyone I had ever known… he was the only one who ever acted like they really loved me. I was the “oops” child, and my parents always regretted not having an abortion. Danny was twelve when I was born, so he was always looking out for me. Mom and Dad never cared about what I did – they just didn’t want to hear about all my screw-ups. So when I broke my arm falling out of the tree, Danny said we had been playing at the park and he pushed me too hard and I fell. He knew he’d never get punished, no matter what… and especially not for something as trivial as breaking the oops child’s arm. And when I got into a fight (that I didn’t start) at middle school and the principle sent letters home to the parents, Danny got the mail and stole the letter so they wouldn’t find out and punish me.

He never, ever left me alone with them if he could help it. I even started staying at college with him when he moved away, because we were afraid of what Mom and Dad would do to me if I was always alone in the house with them. Danny told everyone I was his niece that he had adopted because her parents had died. Everyone there loved me… it was weird, but nice. I had a family of college guys, and they were cooler and way better of a family than my “real” parents had ever been.

And when the strange stuff started, Danny refused to look away. He said that no matter what, he was going to stick by me. He wasn’t some crummy shithead like Mom or Dad who would dump me on the street because of some weird-ass vibe I had. He was going to try and help figure out what was going on… no matter how creepy it felt.

I was so glad to know that. The strange vibe, the “feeling” that had been surrounding me had been getting more and more potent, and it was starting to creep out some of the other guys. I remember one of them, Mike, I think his name was, coming by Danny’s room and saying, “Dude, you’ve got some major psycho thing going on here. What are you doing?”

Danny’s answer was that he was just tired and cranky because of some project or other he hadn’t gotten done yet that was due soon. Mike seemed to believe him. But as soon as he left, Danny closed his door and sat down next to me. “Millie,” he said, using his nickname for me (my real name was Amelia), “do you know what’s going on? What’s with this ‘Danger’ aura you’re sending off all the time?”

I had no clue. Apparently, I was surrounded by this feeling, this aura, that I was dangerous, and everyone else was picking up on it. I was nervous – what if I got Danny in trouble? Or if I got kicked out? I’d have to go back and live with Mom and Dad – and I sure as hell didn’t want to do that.

Danny didn’t get in trouble. I didn’t get kicked out. But I still had to go back to the house, because I couldn’t live at the college anymore. Danny was out late one night, at a party for one of his friends, and there was a party crash by one of the city’s local gangs. There weren’t very many of them, but they had been drinking… and they had guns. Danny took a bullet for the girl who had been having the party. She called an ambulance, but he bled out before they could save him.

The gang got busted and arrested by the cops, but I didn’t care. Danny was dead.

The girl came to see me. She was cute – pretty, even – and had puffy red eyes. She told me what Danny had done, how he had saved her life, and that she was really sorry for me. She offered to do what she could to help me, but there wasn’t anything to be done. She wasn’t going to be able to take care of me. Danny had been a part-time student and a part-time worker so he could earn enough money to take care of me. This girl wouldn’t be able to do that. I could tell just by looking at her. Plus, it wouldn’t be long before my “dangerous” vibe kicked in and scared her off, anyway.

I thanked her and left. Looking back on it now, I wonder if she and Danny were dating, after all… the way she talked about him, she seemed like she really cared about him, and that he was important to her. And I guess she must have been important to him, too, since he took a bullet for her and died for her.

Mom and Dad were pissed. They were shocked, of course, and totally upset and grieving that their son had died, but mostly they were pissed at me. They blamed me for Danny’s death. If I hadn’t been with him, he would still be alive. Why didn’t I use my freakish power and save his life? I was useless, completely useless. What a waste of a child. They couldn’t believe that their genes had made something so grossly pathetic and worthless. I should have died instead. Why hadn’t I died and let Danny live? I couldn’t even have done the only useful thing possible and traded myself for him?

Then they started to come after me with more than just words – and the words hurt bad enough. Mom got the first slap in, right across the face. I was a little surprised that she could hit that hard. I think that’s what caught me off guard for Dad’s turn. He landed a solid punch to my nose, breaking it on impact. It bled everywhere, making them yell and scream even more about how I was ruining the carpet and my clothes, never bothering to appreciate all the things I had before I just ruined them all with my useless, worthless self. As though I purposely kept the blood flowing, just to piss them off.

Of course, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I decided to get a little revenge. I blew my nose into my hands and wiped the blood all over the front of Mom’s sweater.

Damn, but it felt so good.

The second punch to the stomach felt significantly less good. Dad stood over me where I’d fallen, winded, looking like his eyes were about to pop from rage. Behind him, I heard a drawer rattle. We were in the kitchen. “Here, honey,” I heard Mom say. “Use this, and finish the brat. I can’t stand the look of her anymore. The murdering, worthless bitch.”

She gave Dad one of the long, sharp, carving knives that you only ever see in horror movies. Dad stepped on my foot, pinning me down. He had this crazy smile on his face, like he was about to kill a fly that had landed on the wall.

I couldn’t scream; there was too much blood and I choked, instead. I put my arms up over my face, although it was a useless move because I couldn’t shield all the soft spots at the same time. I don’t know what was going through my head… something to the effect of Oh God, I’m gonna die. I don’t want to die. I’m gonna die. If I die, will I see Danny? At least I’ll be rid of these guys… I don’t want to die!

Dad swung the knife down…

…It shattered just above my face.

To say that it scared the shit out of all of us would be an understatement.

Mom stared. Dad kept driving the broken knife down towards me like some kind of deranged robot, but his fist kept hitting the air and stopping like it had hit a brick wall. I watched, frozen, my heart beating so fast I thought for sure it was going to break my ribs and beat right out of my chest. I do remember my thoughts then.

What. The Hell. Just. Happened.

I recovered from the shock first. I think it was my survival instincts kicking in (or possibly kicking me in the face). I screamed as menacingly as I could, waving my bloody hands in Dad’s face. It had the desired effect: he stepped back quickly, and my foot was free. I rolled to my feet and sprinted out the door. Behind me, I heard my mom screaming for me to get back here, and then for Dad to follow me and finish me off.

Bitch. I hated her then, and I still hate her now. Makes my power get all hot inside just thinking about her. Of course, back then, I had no idea what was going on. I reacted out of instinct. Protect myself, or die. Now I know how to use my power. I still give off that dangerous vibe, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Frankly, I don’t care. If people don’t like me, then they won’t get close enough to me to be able to hurt me, either. And since I seem dangerous, I’m not too likely to get jumped, either. And even if I did, I know how to take care of myself now.

The reason that the knife shattered was because I had thrown up a shield, using the air around me and hardening it until nothing could get through to me. If someone attacked me now, I could use another one of those shields, or I could make the air take on any shape I wanted… a rope to tie them up, a knife to attack them, or anything else that could come to mind. I bet it would be really freaky to get tied up by an invisible rope… or to get cut up by an invisible knife.

I want to try it, just to see. But I’m not a monster. I am not Mom and Dad. I’m not about to go out of my way to attack someone just because I can, and I sure as hell am not going to start a fight just to have an excuse to beat someone up.

I was raised better than that. Thanks to Danny, I am a decent person… even though something about my power screams to the world that I’m dangerous. Well, I guess I am dangerous, but only if you go after someone I care about. Which would only be me, at this point, since Danny’s already gone.

Thanks, Danny, for raising me to be better than scum like Mom or Dad, for showing me that I’m worth something. Thanks for teaching me how to survive in this shitty world. Thanks for helping me understand that there’s more to people than first impressions and first feelings. Thanks for telling me that I was loved. You saved me from a lot of shit, Danny, taking me away from Mom and Dad. But you saved me from even worse by loving me even though I was different. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you… but I will do my best to live a life you’d be proud of, so that when I see you again, I can tell you, and you won’t be disappointed.

God, I miss you, Danny.

Trivia Answers

If you want to try to fill this out before reading the answers, Fun Facts: Trivia Style! has questions only. 

Choose from the following characters featured in Fawlen, Seriah, Hirom, Mikael, Rosa, Mahliz, Kallizar, Cade, Li'ra, Jarrin

1. Kallizar, Fawlen, and Mikael were known as the Terrible Trio in their younger days because of their constant pranks.

2. Hirom thinks of Kallizar as a best friend, but idolizes Fawlen.

3. Kallizar and Mikael are excellent dancers and got most of their practice atop tavern tables.

4. Mikael has taught several people swordsmanship. Hirom is the best pupil, and Kallizar is the worst.

5. Mahliz' childhood dream was to become a member of the King's Guard.

6. Jarrin's secret wish is to visit Patal.

7. Li'ra's favorite pastime is gardening.

8. Rosa lives in the Palace but is not a member of the High Court.

9. Only Fawlen is bilingual, knowing Fyanish and Vaerish.

10. Hirom has never been out of Xuun.

11. Fawlen learned one of Kallizar's secrets by accident and is quite shocked by it.

12. Mahliz has set fire to multiple streets, fallen in love at least twice, survived a shipwreck, and has become the stuff of legend.

13. Kallizar has done all the same things as #12, except for the shipwreck.

14. Mahliz and Kallizar both thrive off attention - just not each other's.

15. Cade's math skills are as good as Seriah's, despite not having any formal training.

16. Of the above people, only Hirom, Kallizar, and Cade are the only child of their parents.

17. An injury put an end to Seriah's dreams of a large family.

18. Li'ra and Mikael both have a fierce desire to protect, especially their younger siblings.

19. Rosa and Kallizar used to be quite close, but have drifted apart over the years.

20. Kallizar's two favorite places are in the deep woods and on the open sea.

Lost and Love

I got lost. Not just a little lost, pull-over-at-the-gas-station-for-directions lost.

Very, very lost.

My life kidnapped me back in March and just now dumped me back on Earth. Hence the long gap between updates. However, during that time I was able to work on a few things (several, actually, but only a few that pertain to writing/reading/creative stuff) - which means I can start posting again!

...Assuming I can reset my password. I'm writing this in Word at the moment, waiting for the confirmation email to show up in my Inbox so I can get logged on. Hopefully my life won't decide to kidnap that, too...

 

In the spirit of last week, during which time I attended a cousin's wedding, I have a new question: What is the fiction book that best captures the feeling of a new marriage? I'm talking about all the preparation, dealing with unhappy or unsupportive friends/family, the excitement, the nerves, and the rush of wedding-induced insanity often labeled bliss. :) Are there any characters that you remember standing out because of how they dealt with a marriage (their own or someone else's)?

And maybe I'll throw this one in, too, since it's waiting not-so-patiently: Is there a character that "in your other life, you'd like to marry"?

I'll start off the answer to the last question - When I was little, I was convinced that I would grow up and marry Robin Hood (the fox from the Disney film). I still love him. Luckily, my husband (who is not Robin Hood) accepts this. :)

Fun Facts: Trivia Style!

How well do you know the characters of Even Unto Death? See if you can figure out which statement goes with which character! Post your guesses in the comments and look for answers in an upcoming post!

Choose from the following: Fawlen, Seriah, Hirom, Mikael, Rosa, Mahliz, Kallizar, Cade, Li'ra, Jarrin

1. _____, _____, and _____ were known as the Terrible Trio in their younger days because of their constant pranks.

2. _____ thinks of _____ as a best friend, but idolizes _____.

3. _____ and _____ are excellent dancers and got most of their practice atop tavern tables.

4. _____ has taught several people swordsmanship. _____ is the best pupil, and _____ is the worst.

5. _____'s childhood dream was to become a member of the King's Guard.

6. _____'s secret wish is to visit Patal.

7. _____'s favorite pastime is gardening.

8. _____ lives in the Palace but is not a member of the High Court.

9. Only _____ is bilingual, knowing Fyanish and Vaerish.

10. _____ has never been out of Xuun.

11. _____ learned one of _____'s secrets by accident and is quite shocked by it.

12. _____ has set fire to multiple streets, fallen in love at least twice, survived a shipwreck, and has become the stuff of legend.

13. _____ has done all the same things as #12, except for the shipwreck.

14. _____ and _____ both thrive off attention - just not each other's.

15. _____'s math skills are as good as _____'s, despite not having any formal training.

16. Of the above people, only _____, _____, and _____ are the only child of their parents.

17. An injury put an end to _____'s dreams of a large family.

18. _____ and _____ both have a fierce desire to protect, especially their younger siblings.

19. _____ and _____ used to be quite close, but have drifted apart over the years.

20. _____'s two favorite places are in the deep woods and on the open sea.

Jasper and Hime Mini-Feature

The previous post, Kitten and Mousie, mentioned my two cats - Jasper and Hime. I thought it might be nice if I gave them a little introduction, now that they're famous (and not related to any of the famous lolcats).

Jasper is the bigger one. He's about four years old, I think, and loves to play with people's toes (especially when they are wiggling under a blanket). His favorite cat toy is a fuzzy beetle stuffed with catnip. He also loves catnip in general and will lay on it whenever we sprinkle some on the scratch-pad for him.

Hime is just over one year old. Her name means "princess" in Japanese and is pronounced "HE-may". She is convinced that the walls are merely sideways floors and is constantly attempting to shift gravity to walk on them (so far no luck). Hobbies include hiding chapstick, pouncing on speakerphone-enabled cell phones, sleeping on ankles, and playing with big sparkly balls.

Both cats remind my husband and me constantly that we live here because of their good natures, and that we are only here to serve... and to sleep on. And for cuddles. And for the purchasing of new toys such as the beanbag. And for assistance in wall exploration.

Kitten and Mousie

Here's a fun little story I wrote while watching my at-the-time kitten, Jasper.  

I crouch down as far as I can, flattening my little self to the floor. My tail twitches just a tiny bit as I stare at my prey. A growl rumbles in my throat. Time to die, Mousie! I pounce on the green, fluffy toy, batting it around with my little paws, flipping it up in the air, catching it with my teeth…

Once, I miss the catch, and it hits me on the nose. I hiss. Mean Mousie! I swat at it; it goes sliding away across the slippery floor and manages to hide under the big oven. No! The Mousie cannot hide from me! I stick my paw under the oven, claws extended, trying to hook the long fur, but I can’t reach it. I yowl at it, thinking that maybe the toy will listen to my warnings and show itself. When nothing happens, I reach out again. Maybe my other arm will be longer? But no, I still can’t reach it.

Well, time for plan B, then. If I can’t reach it by myself, I’ll get that big dog to do it for me. I call for him, but Raven is too busy being petted by Mom to answer. I try again, using all my cute kitten skills to get Raven away from the cuddles. It works! He’s eager to come in and investigate my problem. When I show him the crack the Mousie slid through, Raven paws at it a few times before giving up. Wimp! I meow after him as he returns to the couch, and his nap.

I flop down onto the kitchen floor. This is frustrating. I want that Mousie! Wait, maybe Mom can get it for me… I run into the family room and jump up onto her lap, stepping over the big, hot laptop that’s in my way. Any other time, I would amuse myself by seeing how many of those little buttons I could press before Mom shoos me away, but I am on a mission this time. The Mousie will be mine. I rub my nose against Mom’s chin and meow in her ear, trying to get her attention. It works, but too well, I think. “Jasper, get off,” she says before pushing me aside. I bat at her hand with my paw, but with no claws. Mom doesn’t like my claws, for some reason. I try to tell her what’s wrong, but she doesn’t listen. She’s too busy. Fine. I’ll just leave, then, I say, and jump back down to the floor, my little tail held as high as I can make it to show her how annoyed I am. Trotting back into the kitchen, I sit down in front of the oven and stare at the crack. The Mousie is down there, I know, staring back at me with its black plastic eyes. Some day, I will be big enough to reach it… and then I will leave its big, fluffy tail on Mom’s pillow, to show her what a good kitten I am. I hunker down, still staring. If that Mousie comes out, I’ll be ready.

 

In case you're curious, Jasper is still like this. He is now about four years old and has taught the latest edition of the family, Hime (who is one year old), the same tricks. Cats are so wonderful... :)

Excerpt from EUD, Chapter 1!

This is a small excerpt from the rough draft of book 1: Even Unto Death, chapter 1. Let me know what you think! I'm excited to be sharing this with you all! The story so far: Kallizar has arrived at the Palace to celebrate birthdays (Prince Hirom's and her own) with the royal family and the Court Sorcerer Mahliz. During the dinner, Hirom asks Kallizar to tell him more about herself. She dodges the question by exchanging birthday presents instead.

Hirom had fallen asleep about an hour after the dinner had finished. Kallizar carried the boy back to his rooms, the little green dragon gliding along beside them.

Gently, she laid him on the bed and pulled the blanket up over his sleeping form. The dragon fluttered down beside him and flapped its wings once before curling up beside the boy.

Kallizar sat on the edge of the bed, thinking. Her eyes watched the boy’s chest rise and fall in the calm motions of sleep, but her mind was far from Xuun. She closed her eyes and heard the quiet sounds of the Prince’s breathing instead as the waves of the tide, made distant by time and memories.

“I was born in a little town called D’arrynt,” she said softly. “My father was a carpenter and my mother was a weaver. I spent most of my time in my father’s shop… although I’m pretty sure the sawdust had it out for me.”

Bright sun in a hot workshop. The scritch-scratch sound of Father’s tools on wood. Dust dancing in the breezes, tickling my nose. A sneeze violent enough to throw me off my chair. My head hits the floor and the tears come. A shadow passes over me and my father’s hands lift me up. Soothing murmurs as he brushes me clean and wipes my face dry.

 

The sound of screams wakes me in the night. Shuddering ground makes me pull my legs up and wrap my arms around them, hugging them to my chest. Loud crashes and bright flashes, fire and smoke and terror. Laughing growls from coarse sailors as they move through the town. More screams, this time from voices I know. Mother! Father! Gone… Creaking wood above me and I dodge before the ignited beam hits my bed. A tumbling mess of arms and legs rushing out the door into the night. Tears streaming – I’m alone now.

No, not alone. One hand across my mouth, another over my eyes. Rough voices that don’t belong to the pirates. A second pair of hands grabs my wrists and binds them tightly. Cloth across my mouth as the hand is removed. Vision returns and I can see eyes above me even in the darkness. Red. The red-eyed demon.

 ***

Kallizar was sweating. Mentally, she berated herself for unlocking such old memories. They had no business in the present. But if the old fears were still hiding behind those doors, then there was no way she could explain to the young Prince what had happened. Too many secrets, she thought. I’m sorry, Hirom.

Leaning over, she kissed the sleeping Prince on the forehead before softly exiting the room.

Q&A With Mikael, Commander General

Commander General of the Fyanish military, Mikael, was kind enough to sit down for an interview. Realmwalker: Hello, Mikael! Thanks for agreeing to talk with me today.

Mikael: No problem - I'm happy to help. So, what did you want to know?

R: I've heard a lot of things about your sword. Is it really the symbol of the Commander General?

M: Not only that. This sword was commissioned for my by my father when I first became the Commander General, so it means a great deal to me. The green steel was imported from Patal, and here near the hilt you can see the engraving: "Mikael, Prince of Fyan - Commander General". The hilt has emeralds, which are the official gemstone of Fyan.

R: Amazing! Do any other ranked military members have specially-crafted swords?

M: A few of my Majors have weapons that are special-ordered. Major Brann has an axe made by one of the southern merchant Houses, and Major Nina has a sword she ordered from a Sorcerer she knows back in her hometown. Mostly, all the soldiers keep the standard-issue weapons, though.

R: How many people currently serve in the Fyanish military?

M: The captains - the leaders of individual squads - would know exact numbers better than I, but overall about 1/10 of Fyan's population is involved in the military at any given time.

R: Do you have many Sorcerers in active duty?

M: Oh yes. Lots of people assume that because Sorcerers use magic, they're useless with a weapon. Take Kallizar for example. (laughs) She's good with her staff, or a knife, but give her a sword... no threat there. But other Sorcerers have other skills - exactly like you'd expect from a large group of people. Mahliz is a good example of a Sorcerer with excellent skills in weaponry. He has swordsmanship skills that I would love to have in the military - but, he's the Court Sorcerer and is advisor to my brother, so I'm not about to steal him away. Most of the Sorcerers in the military are either stationed at one of our coastal forts to provide magic support to the other troops, or else a member of the naval forces where they can help give our ships an edge against the enemy's. Every Sorcerer in the military has gone through exactly the same training as everyone else to build up physical strength and weapon skills, and then they also have to pass a test to demonstrate their magical strength. That's tested by a group of at least five captain-level or higher soldiers who are also Sorcerers who can accurately assess the candidate's magical strength.

R: You don't have any influence on whether a Sorcerer joins the military, then?

M: I'm not a Sorcerer. Beyond knowing that magic is tied to blood, I don't have much knowledge of it. I'd much rather let the experts judge whether a candidate is likely to succeed in the military or bring half of the troop crashing down.

R: Now I have a few questions about the High Court...

M: Fire away.

R: Can you give me your opinion on the members of the High Court? What are they like when they aren't in the public view?

M: We're all a bunch of uptight obsessivists who work without sleep. (laughs) Well, Fawlen works a lot, but he's the King so that shouldn't be surprising. Seriah does a lot of work too, but I don't advise her very often, unless the city soldiers need to be called in to settle a House dispute. They're both pretty relaxed and fun, but I'm not sure I can be too objective when it comes to talking about my little brother and his wife. I don't see Mahliz very much, either. My guess would be he's either working some magic-study-something or else tormenting Kallizar a bit. (laughs) Kallizar is... a hard-working slacker? She definitely has her own agenda as far as magic research goes, but she's 100% committed to helping Fawlen and Seriah as much as she can. Even though she gets a bit stir-crazy when she's shut up in the Palace for more than a week or so. Well... she's always a bit crazy, but it's good. She keeps things interesting.

R: Anything else you'd like to say?

M: Come visit Xuun! Come join the world's best military! All right, really - if you get the chance, come visit. If you're interested, I'll set up a swordsmanship lesson with you. Or call in one of my captains who has a squad in for some training. Or maybe I'll send a call out to Mahliz and Kallizar and then hide in the hallway with you and watch them bicker. That never gets old.

Does anyone else have questions for Mikael? Who else would you like to see in an interview? The world's wide open, so take your pick - you might even get one of the Gods to chat for a bit.

Fun Facts: People

A gathering of random, interesting facts about some of the people in the world. Today's feature is the Fyanish royalty.   Did you know...

Mahliz is the oldest known Sorcerer at over 400 years old. He hates it when people mispronounce his name (it's Mah-LEASE, not "malice"). He is over seven feet tall and is a skilled swordsman, and had planned to join the King's Guard until being named Court Sorcerer by one of the Queens of Fyan (Fawlen's great-great-grandmother). Like Mikael, Mahliz is a fierce warrior and protector, and takes his solemn promise to serve the Crown very seriously.

Kallizar was given the title of Honored Sorcerer, a title so rare that its existence had been forgotten. Her favorite colors are red and black, with dark blue close behind. She is the daughter of a carpenter and a weaver. Kallizar considers Xuun her home, although she is often traveling to the many cities and towns scattered throughout Fyan. She enjoys drinking wine and dancing (often in the same evening) and holds the title of Master of the Ale in several taverns since magic in the blood drastically reduces the effects of alcohol. Kallizar's other side she keeps safely tucked away from the world. This is the side of quiet contemplation, mental puzzling, and bubbling curiosity that fuels her ever-growing collection of spells she has constructed.

Tijak was the king who gave Kallizar her title. Father of Mikael and Fawlen, Tijak was a kind but strict man who ensured the education of his sons and paid attention to their interests. When he was able, Tijak would join his sons in their sparring practice, or their studies of Fyanish politics and law. There he was able to both spend time with his sons and gauge their potential. It was this that led Tijak to name Fawlen the Crown Prince and let Mikael continue along the path to military greatness. His favorite food was bread dipped in honey. He died at the age of 72.

Zashai was Tijak's wife. She married into the royal family from one of the highest-ranking noble families in Fyan. Zashai was a proud woman who always had a solemn, almost cold, look about her. She was a very capable ruler - and a very loving mother. Around her children, in her private life, Zashai was much more warm and friendly. She firmly believed in keeping public and private matters separate. Her sons were very important to her and she was the one who told Tijak that it was Fawlen who would make the better king. She had wanted a daughter as well, hoping to pass the Crown to her, but was proud of Fawlen for his willingness to become the Crown Prince. Zashai was a well-loved queen who died at the age of 51.

Fawlen is the newest King of Fyan. He met his wife Seriah through Kallizar, who arranged to have Seriah visit the Palace. He named his six year old son the next Crown Prince instead of waiting to see if another child would be better suited, because he knows Hirom will be his only child - Seriah cannot bear any more children. If he had not been named heir to the Crown, Fawlen would have joined one of the merchant Houses based in Xuun.

Seriah used to be a member of the House of Ven'oth - a wealthy merchant House based in the southern Fyanish town of Rhaana. She is extremely intelligent and had been in charge of the House's main finance accounts before becoming engaged to Fawlen. As Queen, she primarily helps with domestic disputes and regulates the merchant House trading. Seriah did not think Hirom would survive birth and gives frequent thanks to Ri'hannon (the God of Mercy) for her son's health.

Hirom is rambunctious and smart. He idolizes his father and thinks of Kallizar as his best friend. He is skilled at horseback riding and will often go on afternoon trips with his mother. Hirom has a very curious mind and loves to understand the how and why of things. His favorite subject to study is House politics, and he loves to dance.

Mikael knew from an early age that he did not want to be king. He thought about joining the King's Guard, but during his training grew to like the command positions better. Due to his strength and skill, he rose in the ranks, and his mind for strategy earned him the position of Commander General - with the King's approval, of course. Mikael prefers to fight with the sword, but he is more than capable with a variety of weaponry, including the crossbow, longbow, pike, and axe. He loves his family and misses them whenever he is away. Secretly, he has always wanted a bit of magic, just to understand Kallizar when she talks of it.

Rosa and Mikael have been married for fifteen years. She used to be the Lady of a mid-sized estate in the mid-eastern part of Fyan and originally came to the Palace for a party, at the invitation of Kallizar. She now tutors young nobles in the finer arts - especially Fyanish linguistics and historical documentation. Rosa is charming and kind. However, she harbors an inward dislike for Kallizar, feeling as though she owes the Sorcerer a debt for the invitation that led to her courtship and marriage to Mikael. Rosa's pastime of choice is baking.

Mara is the oldest of Mikael and Rosa's two children. She is twelve years old and is quickly advancing through her swordfighting training, apparently having inherited the skills of her father. Her goal is to join the King's Guard and be assigned to one of the royal family (which would mark her as one of the most experienced swordsmen in all of Fyan). When she's not practicing, Mara enjoys going to the Xuun markets with friends (children of some of the nobles in Xuun).

Garth is ten years old and wants nothing more than to be a scholar. His mother is teaching him some of the finer points to being a recordkeeper. Garth has an excellent memory and is able to remember entire conversations word for word. He will enroll in the School of Records next winter, provided he passes the entrance exam (to which end he has been studying for relentlessly for the past two years). Garth possesses a quiet attitude towards life which both amuses and confounds his father. He was already buried happily in his studies when Hirom grew old enough to want to play, so the two of them have never been close. Garth's favorite book is one written for him by Mahliz in which the broad history of Fyan during the course of Mahliz' lifetime is laid out. Mahliz is Garth's idol.

Not-So-Focused Introductions from the Crown Prince

(Guest writer today is Prince Hirom, son of Fawlen and Seriah. He's six.) Hi! I guess I'm supposed to talk about something specific, but there's so much to pick from that I couldn't decide! So I think I'll tell you about my family, because they're neat - and if you don't know them, how will you be able to say hi when you come to visit? My father is King Fawlen. He's really smart and a good king. Sometimes he gets upset when things don't go the way they're supposed to, but then he fixes it and it's all better. My mother helps him, too. She's Queen Seriah and she's really pretty. And smart, too. We go riding a lot and play in the gardens. I don't see Father much during the day, but he always comes to say good-night when I go to sleep. And we always go to service together, too. (Note: Hirom is referring to the worship service held in honor of the Gods: Lillith, God of Wrath, and Ri'hannon, God of Mercy.) Mikael is really neat, too. He's Father's brother and the Commander General, and sometimes he teaches me about fighting with swords instead of letting my regular teacher teach me. His sword is amazing - it's made of green steel from Patal and it has a special message engraved on it to say it's Mikael's. He let me hold it once and it was really heavy! I don't think I'll ever be able to use a sword that heavy. The one I use with my regular teacher is wooden most of the time. He says I'm doing pretty good with it, so I might be able to use the steel one more often - but it's still a lot lighter than Mikael's. Mikael's wife's name is Rosa. I don't see her much, but she's nice. I think she works with one of the big schools but I'm not sure. Her son probably knows, but I almost never see him. His name is Garth and he's older than me. His sister Mara is even older - she's training to be a member of the King's Guard, and Mikael even teaches her sometimes, which is really neat. Kallizar is family, too, even though she's not related to us. She was born a long time ago in a tiny little town in the south of Fyan. I wanted to visit it, but she said it got destroyed a long time ago by pirates. But she lives in the Palace now so that makes me happy. She even has the same birthday as me! Although when I turned five, she said she was turning ninety, so she's a lot older than me. But she'll live for a long time because of her magic, so she's not old or anything. She looks the same age as Father, and he's not that old. Mikael is the older brother and he's only in his thirties or something, so he's not even that old, either. My Kalli is just special. I get to call her Kalli, but no one else can. No one else calls her anything but Kallizar, or Honored Sorcerer. Well, Sorcerer Mahliz calls her 'young Sorcerer' which is funny, but I guess everyone is young to him because he's really old. Hundreds of years old, I think. That's a lot. But he's not really family. He lives in the Palace but he's an advisor. He was a lot closer to Grandfather Tijak. He's still pretty neat, though, and really nice to me. And he's really tall! Kalli is tall - really tall - but Mahliz is even a little taller, I think. Most people aren't very tall. Father and Mother and Mikael are the same height as everyone else (except me, but I'm only six!). But they're not little, either. Let's see... if Kalli is just over six feet tall, then most people are probably a few inches shorter than her... so maybe five and a half feet? I'm not sure - I'm not really good with height yet because I'm still short. Kalli says pretty soon I'll start growing more though! I guess that's everyone! Come visit us sometime soon!