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What is Needed Part 6

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Author’s Note: This is the conclusion of Part 2 of the prequel blog serial entitled “What is Needed”. Click on these links to read Part 1, Part 2 (first section)Part 2 (Conclusion), Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga). The events of the blog series pre-date those of The Bow of Destiny by several hundred years but include several long-lived characters who appear in the forthcoming novel. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent.

What is Needed (Part 6)

by P. H. Solomon

The sun dangled between corona-rimmed clouds and the snow-capped peaks of the Grey Spires. Golden light bathed the path ahead of the three furtive shapes.

Troll-wolves howled and Hastra slipped into the shade between trees with Zelma and Howart. If only they could avoid the pursuit one last time. The Tower was just ahead if she remembered correctly. She pinched her lower lip and peeked along the old road.

Zelma’s breath puffed mist. “Is it still clear?”

Howart loomed in the shadow of the trees. “They aren’t as close as yesterday.”

“They make enough noise to scare everything for miles. But I don’t see any scouts so let’s go.” Hastra eased out of hiding onto the overgrown road and her two companions followed.

Her stomach rumbled but Hastra dared not call for a halt so she ate bread from her bag. Two weeks and the food’s still good though it was hard. She kicked a root and stumbled but Zelma steadied her.

At the head of the long rise Hastra spied the pile of weathered stone named the Old Tower. Where Withlings used to go to see and hear instruction or speak rituals. Now it was the dead end of the trap Kregen sprung around them. They staggered over the path against wind that snapped and swirled across the end of the headland that thrust into the booming sea.

Horns and Troll-wolves howled. Much closer now. “We must hurry now, sister.”

Zelma shivered as she walked, her eyes wide.

Hastra brushed hair from her face. Was she cold or afraid? The edifice loomed out of the gloom of dusk in the east. Distant lightning flashed across the Bay of Storms from the east and lit the roofless tower-top. It defied wind and weather. Gusts tugged at the low scrub-trees scattered around its feet. This isolated end of nowhere might be the end of them. If only Eloch…

The travelers hurried into the shadow of the Old Tower and took refuge from the blasts in a shallow alcove. Snippets of howling and horns broke through the roar of wind. Their pursuers were coming now. There was no escape. Hastra hugged herself but still shivered. “Now what?”

“I don’t know except go up.” Howart steadied himself with a trembling hand on the stone. He leaned against the wall, slid into a crouch and laid his head on scratched arms folded over his knees. A ragged sigh escaped from his thin lips. “Just need to rest a while.”

Hastra peered along the road. They were all spent and bound to die. She touched the death wound from which she’d risen. “What is needed is given.”

Horn blasts floated on the wind.

Zelma’s lips quivered and dark circles ringed her eyes above pale skin. Sprigs of her hair waved from beneath her gray hood. “They’re coming now.”

Hastra nodded. Even Zelma’s hair seemed faded. “They’ve found our scent. We can’t stay here long. If we are needed atop the tower then let’s climb.”

Soft sobs escaped from Zelma. “Then what?”

Hastra embraced her sister. “We’ll pray, Zelma. All will be well in the end. We’re here for a reason just because we’re still breathing when we should be weeks dead.”

Zelma forced a thin smile through her tears. “It will never be the same as it was, but perhaps we’ll see better atop the tower.”

Zelma’s hair fell across her face as she touched Howart’s head. The Grendonese man remained still. “He’s fallen asleep.”

Hastra’s head whipped around at the close sound of horns. “Trolls are near. It’s time.”

Zelma jumped and Howart started.

The gaunt man stood. “We must go and seek Eloch’s guidance.”

They scurried from the alcove and climbed the stairwell that wound around the tower’s girth. Wind flailed the surviving Withlings and the storm thundered in the bay as they fought for each ascending step. They ignored their weariness as horns sounded closer.

Hastra staggered. Surely they had time. She thrust her hands before her and pulled for the next step as rain pattered the stone.

Horns sounded closer along with hounds baying, clear and constant, as the din of pursuit carried over the wind. They grappled their way to the top and knelt with their cloaks twisting in the violent wind.

Snarls announced the arrival of trolls. The troll-wolves howled. Kregen’s voice rose in the wind. “Quickly, take them.”

Hastra raised her eyebrows to Howart and Zelma. There was fear on their faces. If only they could meditate in all the din. “Pretend it’s the Hall of Silence.”

Hastra shut her eyes and raised her hands. What is needed is given and she needed focus. She ignored the troll boots scraping on the steps. She breathed and reached for practiced calm. “Move in me, O Eloch.” She exhaled. Welcome warmth bloomed at the edge of her awareness and she waited rather than reach for it in conscious thought. Warmth swallowed her fear and grief.

Hastra’s eyes blinked open and shut as her usual trembling at the presence of Eloch took hold. Her arms shook and her body quaked. Zelma and Howart undulated like grass in the wind.

The clouds spun into a whirlwind that detached from main storm and churned toward the tower. Hastra closed her eyes. Calm as a sleeping babe. Indecipherable words erupted from her mouth.

The wind rumbled and drowned the clamor of troll horns and hounds. Hastra’s body stilled with the wind and her eyes opened. Light glowed in the spinning gust. They were protected from our enemy. Her arms dropped to her sides. She fell over and stared at the shape moving amid the light and whirlwind.

Beyond the silence within the whirlwind, Kregen cringed at the stairwell. He stretched out his arms and shouted unheard words. He shook his fist with a grimace and fled.

“You have come as children in need. Will you serve on?” The voice suffused Hastra with the rich whisper of peace and inexorable power.

Kregen’s offer rose with the flash of the knife. Hastra smiled as tears spilled from her eyes. “I will serve.” Zelma and Howart answered the same.

“Zelma Vorcinni, should you choose to follow, to you shall be given the task of protecting for long years that which shall come to you in time. You shall want for nothing, not even companionship in desolate places.”

“Howart Balto, should you choose to follow, to you shall be given the task of hiding against chaos what shall come to you after a while. No power of time or change shall pierce the bulwark about you in the midst of confusion.”

“Hastra Vorcinni, should you choose to go, to you shall be given the task of labor against innumerable foes, yet you shall find rest and plenty in the midst of want and danger.”

“And now, my children reach to me if you will come and be comforted and healed…”

At Eloch’s urging, the three Withlings stretched out their hands as one.

The whirlwind fell away.

Hastra rose on one elbow amid a grass covered field at dusk. “Zelma? Howart?” She sat alone with her bag that held her food and the Book of Prophecies.

End of Part 6

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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12 Things I Learned About Blogging This Year

Calendar1. Be consistent – most veteran bloggers advise new bloggers to be consistent and post regularly. I’ve learned this lesson well. I was inconsistent with my content but when I committed to the blog it started growing. Part of the reason is that the more content you have the more visits you get.

2. Work ahead – I’ve found that the more I work ahead the less stressful blogging is. If I’ve got several posts scheduled then I seem to churn out more content ahead of time. Also, in working ahead you may have several ideas in the works but you may find that the content just doesn’t work for some reason and you have time to replace it with something else.

3. Write your ideas down – if you are working ahead then you can keep writing your new ideas down. I use Scrivener to plan and write my posts. This way my ideas – good or bad – are in a central location where I can write them as necessary.

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

4. Double-check your schedule – several times I’ve found my posts weren’t published as I planned. I use the scheduler in WordPress but a few times I’ve left a post in draft mode by accident. Verify your scheduled posts are actually in the hopper and not waiting in line for publication. There’s nothing worse than losing several hours of a day for the post – or worse yet having tweeted something that hasn’t been released.

5. Make sure you’re using correct forms – I thought I was using a good “Follow this site” form but it wasn’t correct for my needs. I had much greater success getting email followers with my current form.

6. Anything can be a topic – I learned to keep my eyes open for any stray thought, headline or other piece of information for blog post ideas. A stormy topic may be just the thing for your blog as well as something many people use. If you learned something you can bet other people may be informed by it. Just don’t think it’s been written about and doesn’t need to be re-hashed. Your followers may not have read that information so your new learning curve may be helpful. Also, you can link to other sources as a way of sharing additional information. Look for ways to give you opinion about an issue and you may find that you have more followers – even if they disagree.

7. Don’t worry about what you don’t know – I hesitated about blogging because I was uncertain about the whole activity. I didn’t know that much and couldn’t gage how well I could do it. If you are a writer, it’s a great way to consistently produce words and an opportunity to…

8. Keep learning – by blogging you will learn more about blogging. You will learn more about SEO, attracting visitors with relevant topics and linking to other blogs. Likewise, you will learn about sharing ideas through interviews, hosting guest posts and book tours. Also you find…

Businessman Speaking Through Megaphone9. It builds creativity – by blogging often you will find that it sparks your creativity. You begin to write frequently so your mind generates ideas with greater frequency which also…

10. It enhances writing confidence – those old newspaper writers never had trouble with writer’s block. They churned out their content and went to the next story. Over time, they developed consummate confidence in their writing ability such that they wrote without much thought. If they chose to write a book, they did it. Start blogging and you’ll find there’s little time to tolerate a block. This very blog is one such example. I was looking for an idea for this day and it just popped into my head. I’ve written the content to this point in less than twenty minutes.

11. Link your site to as many social media channels as you can – I’ve linked my blog to send tweets and Google+ announcements. I also have my blog linked to my Author Page on Goodreads. There are any number of ways to do this with apps depending on how your hosted. I’m currently limited by being free hosted on WordPress but you can bet when I grow my site into self-hosting or more customized on WordPress I will link my blog in as many ways as I can find. The word of mouth is incredible. I have readers who link my posts over various forms of curation like Rebel Mouse or topical sites built on writer.ly.

12. Schedule social media communication – I use Hootsuite.com for scheduling my tweets about my blog as well as other announcements. Since I use a free account at the moment I’m limited with how many social media channels I use but do make use of them. I also schedule my posts to my Facebook page. I tweet my posts numerous times a day. Why? With a growing number of followers all over the world people won’t see just one or two tweets due to varying schedules so I must tweet multiple times a day. Likewise, I tweet some of my most popular posts regularly as well as keep my newer posts in my feeds for up to a week. People are busy so give them a chance to find your content.

Available at Amazon, Smashwords and All Major E-Book Vendors!

Available at Amazon, Smashwords and All Major E-Book Vendors!

What lessons have you learned from blogging? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Clip art licensed from Microsoft Office.

What is Needed, Part 5

 

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Author’s Note: This is the conclusion of Part 2 of the prequel blog serial entitled “What is Needed”. Click on these links to read Part 1, Part 2 (first section)Part 2 (Conclusion), Part 3 and Part 4 This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga). The events of the blog series pre-date those of The Bow of Destiny by several hundred years but include several long-lived characters who appear in the forthcoming novel. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent.

 

What is Needed (Part 5)

by P. H. Solomon

Their chains clanked and scraped the stone floor as the three of them shifted.

Zelma’s resolve slipped into weeping while she clung to Hastra’s hand. “How are we alive?”

“I don’t know.” Hastra touched her blood-stained dress and the hole where the Kregen stabbed her. She ran her finger along the line of her mortal wound but found no blood. Best not probe that further. She withdrew her hand and squeezed Zelma’s with the other.

Howart cleared throat. “It’s the prophecy. We live because of it.”

“Why not the others then?” Hastra chewed her lower lip.

Beyond Zelma, Howart’s chains rattled. “What is needed is given.”

Hastra mumbled the response with Zelma. “But what has been given besides life? We are chained in darkness and useless here.”

“We must wait and see.”

“Perhaps.” He had a better grasp of the moment than she. They might be waiting for the rats to chew them to the bone. She shuddered. Did my heart beat? Would she live through the pain of rat bites? She squeezed Zelma’s hand again. Best not mention anything to her.

The time passed and Hastra dozed. She awoke to rat’s fur brushing her ankle. She kicked with both feet. The rat squealed and it pattered away.

Zelma gasped at Hastra’s commotion. “What’s that?”

“Nothing, just woke from a dream.”

“I heard something running on the floor.”

Hastra jumped as Howart’s deeper voice boomed in the silence. “There are rats in here.”

Zelma’s chains rattled as she pulled her feet closer.

After that Hastra sat awake and waited for the rat to return. Teeth gnawed on boards in the darkness and matched her hunger pangs. At least she still got hungry. She rubbed her raw wound inside her dress. Better than the alternative.

Later, the door’s lock snicked open and woke Hastra. Light shined around the edges of the door. Trolls with food or they’ll drag us before Kregen again. It wasn’t a flickering torch. She stirred and her leg-irons scraped the floor. A rat squealed as it scrabbled away.

Howart and Zelma woke with groans as the door opened. Hastra squinted at the glow and her eyes watered. A silhouette stepped into the doorway. Her chains clicked and fell open. She gasped as the figure with the wide-brimmed hat waved them to the door.

Zelma leaned close grasped Hastra’s arm. “What’s going on? Who’s that?”

Hastra patted her sister’s trembling hand and opened her mouth to speak. The hat – he’s the one who healed me. “I think we should follow.”

Howart kicked his chains away. “Who is it? Why should we follow.”

“First, he’s got a light. Second, he let us loose and third, he healed my leg several months ago.” Hastra struggled to her feet and her knees wobbled.

The stranger moved into the passage beyond the room and the light faded as he walked away.

Howart stumbled to the door. “Hurry, he’s leaving.”

Hastra and Zelma leaned against each other and followed. They stepped into the hall as their rescuer turned a far corner. The three Withlings hobbled after the light past broken doors and intersecting passages that stretched into brooding darkness.

They arrived at the stairwell out of the lower cellar and Howart paused. “This isn’t the way out. It’s back up to Kregen and trolls. Should we risk it?”

Zelma climbed a few steps before she turned back. “Maybe they are gone and this man came to free us.”

Hastra followed her sister. “Stay in the dark but I think we have no other choice.”

They gained the upper cellar and drew near the stair to the keep when the noise of trolls echoed from above them.

Howart stretched his thin arm in the sisters way. “Still here. Where’s he leading us, back to them?”

The man’s light faded and then grew brighter. He waved to them. “Come, it’s safe. There’s food for you.”

Hastra shrugged to Howart and pushed past his out-flung arm. “Think how he set us free without keys. I’m following him. Anyway, he says there’s food.”

Hastra scurried on the stair and the other’s feet scuffed on the stone behind her. They needed the food soon. She’d faint without it. She touched the rent in her dress where Kregen’s knife-blade killed her. There were too many miracles in this since that moment.

The Withlings gained the main level and hustled after the man in the wide-brimmed hat. Lumps lay in the shadows of the unlit main hall.

Hastra’s gaze touched the hand at the moment Zelma gasped and wept. They’re dead, all the Withlings were dead. Fixed stares greeted Hastra wherever she whirled.

Zelma covered her mouth with her hands. Howart gaped and his eyes bulged from their deep hollows. They wound through the hacked bodies until they stood by the door to the dining hall where trolls hooted and snarled.

Their rescuer waved his arm into the room. “Eat, take what you need. When you finish I will show you out.”

Hastra whispered in spite of the din from the trolls. “But we’ll be seen. They’ll kill us.”

The man in the hat pointed to a table where no trolls sat. “I have everything you need prepared. Go on.”

She glanced at her companions and their doubtful expressions. He had set them free without keys. Hastra peeked into the dining hall. The trolls fought and laughed, their tusks and fangs flashed in the light. She’d run if they noticed her. She held her breath and stepped through the doorway.

The trolls never noticed her. Hastra lowered her head and scurried toward the table laden with food. Around her trolls howled their vile glee but none of them even glanced her way.

At the table Hastra snatched food without thinking and shoved it in her mouth. She chewed and groaned. Howart and Zelma joined her and they ate their fill. Howart found sacks into which they shoved the excess for provisions. They returned to the doorway and the man in the hat.

“Follow me.”

Hastra bent and cocked her head as their rescuer strode past her. She never quite saw his face. She hefted her bag and walked behind the sight of his brown coat and hat.

The man in the hat led them to the chapel. Benches and chairs lay overturned and they picked their way through the ruined room.

Their rescuer kicked a pile of broken wood and pointed to a leather-bound book lying spine up and open. He cocked his head to Hastra. “You must take this burden. Write the prophecy in it and all your visions.”

Hastra stumbled through the refuse, knelt and gathered the book to her breast. She blinked tears and nodded. She knew him now. She wiped her sorrow from her cheeks.

“Time to leave.” The man in the hat turned the wreckage. The three surviving Withlings trailed after him.

They followed out the front door but turned to a postern gate down the wall.

Hastra blinked under the gray sky and the brushed her hair across her face. She sucked in a long breath. Clean air. At the gate Hastra paused with her companions.

The man in the hat pushed the gate open. “Go to the old tower if you still serve as Withlings.”

They shuffled out the gate. Here the chill wind snapped their tattered cloaks and bit their faces. Hastra hobbled on the narrow trail beyond the walls of Withling’s Watch.

Zelma’s voice rang in the gusts. “He’s gone. Who was he?”

Hastra cocked her head at the gate and motioned to her sister and Howart. “Come, we’ve a mission to fulfill now. Maybe we’ll see him again.” It’s just us now. “What is needed is given.”

End of Part 5 (Part 6 will be re-posted on 12/20)

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.