excerpt

The White Arrow Arrives in Hardcover

It’s been a busy few months in more ways than one. Now The White Arrow arrives on Amazon in hardcover.

TWA HCThe week-long celebration begins for The White Arrow now available in hardcover. Part of the festivities includes the e-book on Kindle Countdown at 99 cents!

This novel is the concluding title of The Bow of Hart Saga. Some readers may remember the original kernel of the series began some thirty years ago. Oddly enough, this book was written from beginning to end in about three weeks (and it’s the highest rated one of the series). Writing Arrow was a whirlwind effort that surprised me. When me editor returned it, she told it had nothing major to address. That news freaked me out for about two weeks since it’s not supposed to happen off a first draft.

I got over the right and published the book after completing the final touches. It’s done very well since then so I’m glad it’s out in so many formats along with the rest of the series.

With all that being said, here’s a excerpt from the book:


Athson scrabbled at loose stone. His head ached and spun, even lying down. Not the head injury again. But sweat drenched his brow, and Spark lay nearby at a fire that danced. Athson groaned and thrust a blanket from his body. He burned and shivered at the same time. How did that happen? He got to his hands and knees on hard rock, and his head spun anew. Darkness surrounded the fire, but his groan echoed. A cave? He held his head. What had happened? There was the Funnel and his scramble through the storm afterward.

The trapper. Athson lifted his head. Where was he?

“Spark, what’s going on?” The mountain hound stirred and sighed, his gaze toward the mouth of the cave.

AthsonAthson squinted. Snow blanketed the heaths outside the cave. There was his mule and the tack for it. He needed to find his mother. Mother? That was right, they had her captive in Rok. His father…

He choked back a sob at the memory. He’d finally found him, and now he was dead, killed by Corgren while trying to save Athson. And there was Limbreth, gone over the side of the Funnel.

Athson watched Spark a moment. “Did you get her?”

Spark wagged his tail.

Athson looked away. The mountain hound had done more than he had. Shame rose with sour bile in his stomach. How could he have failed her? The wrong choice. Corgren had goaded him into that worthless shot into the wind. The Bow of Hart lay nearby, and he spat at it. Could he have even made the shot to save Limbreth with it? No telling after that poor choice.

But now he needed to find his mother. He’d leave the bow, but he could still bargain with the useless artifact. He cast around, half-blind in his fever, for all his things. He dragged them over near the mule before he collapsed. Athson rolled over and found Spark lying next to him. Maybe he’d fainted. He closed his eyes as weariness dragged at his arms.

Athson scrambled away from the kobold in the dark amid the howls of trolls hunting the night. Too late he remembered the edge of the Funnel and fell. He slid along a steep slope.

Limbreth fell too, her cry as sharp as that eagle when he’d met Zelma. He might catch Limbreth. No, she was gone. She fell at a different place.

Athson couldn’t stop himself. He slipped into darkness and landed on a ledge. He bounced with a grunt and almost rolled into the darkened depths where the Deep Run gushed. He found a rough crack on the ledge and held it so he could scramble farther onto it. His breath came in rasping gasps.

Light waved above him. Trolls sought him, and he pushed away from the edge and slithered backward into a small hole of darkness. A little cave. He lay there until light glowed from far away and grew brighter until he saw a dog. Spark! The dog was friendly and nudged him farther into the little cave, where he lay down beside Athson and warmed him.

Later, the dog tugged Athson to his feet, and he walked beside the glowing animal, deeper into the cave.

Athson groaned. Spark had leapt after Limbreth but couldn’t save her. But the mountain hound had saved Athson that night when he fell on a ledge. He got to his feet. Had Limbreth fallen on a ledge? No, he hadn’t seen one below the Altar of the Trolls. He ground his teeth and gripped his pounding head. Sweat drenched his clothing from the fever. When had he caught a fever? It came on him after leaving the Funnel.

He grabbed his pack and leaned against the mule awhile. Just load your things and go find your mother. If he could stand. Athson fumbled with the tack for the mule.

sparkSpark nudged at his legs and whimpered.

“Stop. None of that. I need to go.”

He squinted over the mule’s back at the storm. It was getting dark outside already. He ran his hand through his sweat-soaked hair, coughed, and shuddered before he fell on the hard rock of the cave’s natural floor.

Spark stood on his chest.

“Cut it out, Spark. Let me up. I have to find her.” Athson tried to push the mountain hound away but finally lay still by the mule, which stared at him and flicked its tail. He groaned and covered his face at his sudden tears. Why had he let her fall like that? He was no good. He let his father and Limbreth die. He sobbed until he fell asleep.

Someone gripped Athson and pulled him into a sitting position. His eyes fluttered. He found strength in his limp neck and lifted his head. The indistinct face of the trapper hovered in his blurred vision.

“Not you again.”


Here’s more about The White Arrow: Book 3 of The Bow of Hart Saga

Haunted by his past. Hunted in the present. Tossed like an arrow in the wind.

Book Cover III b

Bound to prophecy, his destiny balanced on an arrow’s tip.

With the Bow of Hart in hand, Athson is hunted by his enemies. His mistakes haunt him as much as his past.

Hastra the Withling reveals Eloch will send an arrow for the bow. Magdronu plots to thwart the prophecy as his trolls attack Auguron City.

But when the arrow arrives, it is from an unexpected source and lands in unforeseen hands. Events twist like an arrow in flight.

Can Athson overcome his past and use the Bow of Hart as intended? The archer and the bow await the coming arrow…

Find The White Arrow at Amazon


About the Author:

IMG_4154-EditMulti retailer Bestselling Author, Fantasia Reviews Book of the Year Author 2017 & 2018

U. S. author, P. H. Solomon grew up with a love of books including fantasy. Always interested in odd details, history and the world around him, P. H. has found an outlet in writing where he mixes a wide range of interests from the regular world, history and anthropology into his fantasy books.

His epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga, brought a fresh viewpoint to the genre where magic, myth and mysticism mingle. Described by readers as a “mixture of the classic fantasy past with new ideas.”

Trading Knives (0.1)

What is Needed (0.2)

The Bow of Destiny #1

An Arrow Against the Wind #2

The White Arrow #3

The latest series, The Cursed Mage Case Files is a mash-up of classic Sherlock Holmes, The Dresden Files and Harry Potter into a unique fantasy world where magic is both an arcane practice and a technological power to be harnessed. Join Mandlefred Mandeheim and Wishton Ackford as they team up to investigate magical mysteries.

The Order of the Dark Rose #1

The Unseen Hand #2 (upcoming)

The Nine Jewel Heist #3 (upcoming)

More books:

Curses Dark and Foul

The Black Bag

See the entire book catalog at P. H. Solomon’s Amazon Author Page.

Find more about P. H. Solomon as well as articles and research notes, plus a free stories, at https://www.PHSolomon.com

An Arrow Against the Wind Arrives in Hardcover

An Arrow Against the Wind gets another release day in hardcover!

AAATW HCThe hardcover release of An Arrow Against the Wind adds to the fun of the week with the book. This second book of The Bow of Hart Saga started over as part of The Bow of Destiny, except under the original title, An Arrow Into the Wind. Once I seriously re-started the project some years ago, I determined it needed both a revision as well as a split of the content. The result was The Bow of Destiny and part of the the content moving into An Arrow Against the Wind. This second novel was both a revision and a new work. It took some effort to merge the old with the new but it worked out in the end. Here’s a commentary about the book as well as additional information:

Within The Bow of Destiny, Athson struggles with grief both old and new as well as his uncertainty from his PTSD-like fits which seem to have resolved in some ways. However, he’s never quite sure of himself and doesn’t always trust his own awareness. He’s equally suspicious and doubtful of the quest. Within all of these difficulties, Athson is stuck in a spiraling struggle with his outlook on the adventure.

But, with the sudden shift of reality, his mood shifts from one of grief to that of a determination to seek answers to his life as well as help those around him. Without sharing any spoilers, Athson needs to find more than the Bow of Hart and isn’t willing to just follow Hastra’s lead in the matter. However, he is seeking to help others and himself though he doesn’t know how to go about it. He just unwilling to follow a course that he doesn’t believe will achieve his goals.

Athson sets out on his own to accomplish his new goals, determined not to remain a grieving victim. Hastra and Gweld slowly turn his attention back to the Bow of Hart as a way of accomplishing his goals. Their reasoning is that the Bow of Hart is the key to the problems that confront Athson who slowly comes around to the idea. However, he still wants to do things his way regardless.

Between the events of The Bow of Destiny and An Arrow Against the Wind, there’s a definite progression for Athson. In the first book, he’s struggling with his own pathos and malady about which he believes himself to be merely a bystander as events happen to him. By the end, he’s willing to take a stand for himself and others, rising out of his inward struggles.

An Arrow Against the Wind shows how Athson begins to grow as he takes action against the forces set against him. His actions are imperfect but he has skills as a ranger that he can use to further his goals. He believes he’s still making good decision, a belief revealed in the opening scene of The Bow of Destiny when he makes a choice while hunting. But as Athson progresses he will be presented with tougher choices and the question remains if he’s truly able to make a difficult decision by parsing out more than what he wants at a moment, but what is best for others as well. His choices lie between his own goals and the needs of others. He wants to help but what is the best way? He’s growing out of the malaise of years and into an active participant in this life because the Bow of Hart and the prophesy surrounding it require him to grow and make tough choices.

Excerpt

Here’s an excerpt where Athson discusses his options with Limbreth regarding some choices and the Bow of Hart:

Later, they shared time during their watches as they walked a circuit of their camp. Spark trailed them.

“Let’s just leave and go ourselves. They’re slowing us down. They’ll keep me from doing what I have to do.” Athson stared into the silent night, his tone hushed. Time was wasting. Each night the moon phase progressed. His gut clenched. “It’s not their decision.”

“Athson, they mean well and understand your feelings.” She paused, hefting a sword. “But there are the bigger issues of the prophecy. Hastra knew her risks and has for years.”

They paused by the mules, and Athson patted one on its side. “But I can’t abandon my father and mother again.” He turned to Limbreth and grasped her shoulders. “I’ve lived well with the elves while they’ve suffered. I can’t just run off and forget them.”

She leaned forward, her forehead touching his. “I know. It’s not easy. Maybe an answer will present itself.”

His voice rose in challenge, and he stepped back. “Like what? I’m trapped. They are trapped in Corgren’s clutches.”

Limbreth gazed toward their sleeping companions and back to Athson. “Quiet, you’ll wake the others. I don’t know what will happen, and neither do you. But I’ll go through it with you.” She took his hand and came closer. “I’m here now. For you. So are the others.”

Athson shrugged. Was her support just words? She had a suitor waiting for her. Somewhere. “What if the others scout out Corgren? I find the bow while they sneak my father away. Then, then…” Then what? His mother died?

Limbreth lowered her face. “What about your mother?” She sighed. “Tough questions and no answers. Yet.”

Athson paced away and back. “Well, just get some sleep. We push on before the moon.”

A falling star streaked across the sky. Athson remembered a similar sight in his vision at Eagle’s Aerie. The arrow Eloch prepared. He frowned at the sparkling sky. The inheritance lay in his pack. The same words written on the will. He needed an arrow?

“That was beautiful.”

“Yes.” Athson managed. “There’s supposed to be an arrow.”

Still watching the sky, Limbreth frowned. “What arrow?”

“It’s in the prophecy.” He thumbed over his shoulder toward camp. “It’s in that will I got. I don’t know where that is. I remember something. A falling star like a smoking arrow from back at Eagle’s Aerie. But if it’s not with the Bow of Hart I don’t know what to do to find it. But if I did, I’d have something to fight back with. Maybe.”

“Perhaps, but at least we’ll know if it’s there, and maybe we can ask Howart, if he’s there…” She lifted her arms to his shoulders and stepped closer, her eyes still to the sky. “Then we’ll decide. You know we’ll do something based on all that information. There’s an answer, Athson. It’s not hopeless.”

He scowled a moment then realized her tone held encouragement. “Thanks.” He held her a while under the stars as the time slipped past him.


Here’s more about An Arrow Against the Wind: Book 2 of The Bow of Hart Saga

Haunted by his past. Hunted in the present. Tossed like an arrow in the wind.

AAATW SMAthson discovered the unexpected during the search for The Bow of Hart. Yet the prophesied weapon remains hidden. Mysteries discovered during the quest draw him deeper into the peril. The flames of vengeance surge in his thoughts with new revelations.

Can he escape the traps of his enemies?

The dragon’s reach endangers even Athson’s companions in unexpected ways. His enemy wants the bow but his mentor claims it must be used according to prophesy. With each turn of the search for the bow, long-hidden secrets surface and Athson must find the bow or risk losing those dear to him. When the dragon gains an upper hand with the abduction of Limbreth, Athson is torn between destiny and desire.

But Athson seeks his own path.

Will he falter like an arrow against the wind?

Find An Arrow Against the Wind at Amazon


About the Author:

IMG_4154-EditMulti retailer Bestselling Author, Fantasia Reviews Book of the Year Author 2017 & 2018

U. S. author, P. H. Solomon grew up with a love of books including fantasy. Always interested in odd details, history and the world around him, P. H. has found an outlet in writing where he mixes a wide range of interests from the regular world, history and anthropology into his fantasy books.

His epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga, brought a fresh viewpoint to the genre where magic, myth and mysticism mingle. Described by readers as a “mixture of the classic fantasy past with new ideas.”

Trading Knives (0.1)

What is Needed (0.2)

The Bow of Destiny #1

An Arrow Against the Wind #2

The White Arrow #3

The latest series, The Cursed Mage Case Files is a mash-up of classic Sherlock Holmes, The Dresden Files and Harry Potter into a unique fantasy world where magic is both an arcane practice and a technological power to be harnessed. Join Mandlefred Mandeheim and Wishton Ackford as they team up to investigate magical mysteries.

The Order of the Dark Rose #1

The Unseen Hand #2 (upcoming)

The Nine Jewel Heist #3 (upcoming)

More books:

Curses Dark and Foul

The Black Bag

See the entire book catalog at P. H. Solomon’s Amazon Author Page.

Find more about P. H. Solomon as well as articles and research notes, plus a free stories, at https://www.PHSolomon.com

Excerpt Reveal: The Order of the Dark Rose

Good morning everyone! I hope you had a nice long weekend. I delayed my Monday post until today because of the holiday. Here’s another fun reveal day about my upcoming novel, The Order of the Dark Rose. This is still under revision but I felt it time to share it now. Artwork for the novel is still pending but it should arrive soon. So it’s a good day to share an excerpt.

Just a quick note: the book is organized a little differently so the title, The Disgraced Sniffer, is a case so the book is divided into parts. The sub-title is more like a chapter. I’ll get deeper into the book organization in another post but this should suffice for the moment. Here’s the except:

The Cursed Mage Case Files, Book 1

The Order of the Dark Rose

By P. H. Solomon

The Disgraced Sniffer

Proposition from a Stranger

Speaking with a wall never entered my mind when I rolled out of my cot that morning. Fate twisted around oddities as I strolled along the street, its name forgotten to me now. Oddities. I once knew such things like I knew magic. Everyone did. We used it in our technology. Commonplace wonders excited everyone, but few know it. Five years after talking to the strangest oddity, I know that I don’t know magic.

My desperation gripped me at the time, the door of another writing house job having been shut in my face – quite literally. I leaned against a wall and tipped my hat over my face.

“Excuse me, but could you step aside?”

The voice spoke from the wall. I jumped aside and gaped as I face the brick wall of a building like any other in Cal Rindon.

“Hey, just lean back a step either way. Don’t look so surprised, act natural. I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.” The wall spoke to me in a most casual way, the tone intelligent and alert.

“I must’ve drunk too much of something fermented incorrectly.” With a rub of my neck, I shoved my hands in my pants pockets and took a stride.

A hand grabbed my shoulder. “Hold on. You can stay. You were just leaning on me and blocked my view.”

A glance at my shoulder and I tensed to spring. The wall grew a brick-colored hand that grasped me tightly. My heart surged.

“Don’t make a scene. Calm down. Just step aside.” The arm, also brick-like and attached to the hand, pulled me aside.

I stumbled aside with a sudden numbness in my thoughts. A wall talked to me and then grabbed me. What had I imbibed the night before that? My off behavior certainly lost me that job. “Who? What are you?”

“A man like you. Haven’t you seen magic? You know, illusion?” The hand let go me and smoothed the wrinkles from my coat. “Anyway, I didn’t mean to startle you. I just need a clear view.”

“Uh, of what?”

The hand withdrew into the wall. Magic? It ran the trams and lit rooms these days. But illusion? Someone part of a wall? “That private post over there, across the street. Someone might come today that I want know more about.”

“Who are you?”

The wall sighed. “Hold on. Follow me over to that basement stairwell.”

A glance in either direction revealed the sight of the suggested destination. I hesitated.

The sound of footsteps touched my ear, heading for the stairs, then paused. “Well, aren’t you coming?” Shoe-soles clomping on the pavement resumed.

I followed, dragging my on worn shoes along the sidewalk and followed the walking wall. Curiosity gripped my imagination at the thought of taking a walk with a wall, gaining a new friend. Surely, something affected my mind that morning.

Shoes scuffed on the steps and stopped at the bottom of the stairwell. Or so I thought in my addled state of mind. A leg distended from the wall, followed by the rest of a body. I beheld a vagrant slouched in the basement stairwell of a nameless building beneath the slate gray sky in the crisp chill of late Fall that pierced my overcoat and clothing with a sudden gust of wind.

With a frown, I turned away as my face heated with embarrassment and leaned my back against the wall. I sighed as I glanced over the want-ads for writers, my singular talent being words. But both women and the writing houses wanted little to do with a pitiful fellow such as I. Best I look for a job. The paper rattled in my hands as the wind whispered along the street and stirred the actual mists rising from the sewers, mists that half and secure the streets at times. The vagrant played some trick on me, threw his voice or knew some minor beguiling spell. But I knew nothing of magic in that degree. Not that day.

“You looking for a job?” The voice of the beggar in the stairwell sounded clear in the crisp air. Not drunk and that was a wonder. Same voice

“Yes, if you must know. How’d you guess?” My back to the vagrant, I half turned my head to my shoulder as I addressed him. “How did you do that? And why?”

“Heard your stomach grumble from half a block away. And you leaned on me. No trick, at least, nothing aimed your way.”

“Hah! Did you now?” I pressed a hand to my stomach. That loud? My legs wobbled a bit since I’d only eaten a few meager bites of gruel at a charity line that morning. That last fruitless effort at a job left my stomach emptier still with my coin running thin. I sighed. A few more day jobs to earn scant coin appealed only for the food and a barren room in the building full of grasping laborers who drank, gambled their wages and brawled half the night. It was a wonder I was still alive. I carried all my needful possessions on my person regardless, since I often found my door ajar in the room searched for valuables. “What are you doing, then, if not trying to pick pockets from hiding in whatever illusion spell you used? You didn’t hear my stomach and you know nothing about me.”

“Your pants are crisply pressed but the cuffs are worn. Your shoes are shined with a thin coat of spit-and-ink. You carry your belongings in your pockets as if always on the move.” The vagrant stirred in the stairwell behind me.

Who was this odd street cat? He noticed everything about me in the spare moments I’d paused near his perch. “What of it, then?” I rolled my paper, slapped it in my other hand and turned to leave for my next stop. A position undoubtedly filled. Honestly, did I smell so much? I checked my clothing.

A jingle caught my attention from the stairwell. “I’ve a bit of corn for an easy job if you’ve a mind for it. Simple. Easy. Enough to fill your belly for a week or so.”

My consideration of the vagrant’s small purse consisted of a snatch-and-run, so low were my spirits to consider theft in that moment. But the thought skipped my mind as I peered at the figure hunched below me. Behind the smudges of dirt on his hands and face lay a keen face, hidden from casual inspection. Without a doubt, the downcast mien hid far more than a passing glance might discern about this man.

He jingled his purse again. “It’s a simple job and a sharp fellow such as yourself can perform it without trouble.”

I crossed my arms and assumed an air of command which one tried to take with street dwellers. My own stomach rumbled and betrayed my play for control of the situation. “Where’d you get that money? Steal it from someone?” I turned to go to my next employment possibility.

“Suit yourself. I’ll find another man for the job. Hope you eat tonight.” The muffled jingle of coin ceased behind me.

I drew to a sudden halt and wheeled toward him. Best hear him out. The stop for the job would wait. Likely filled anyway. “What you want done and how much?”

“I’m man with long sideburns and wearing a black overcoat will arrive in a few minutes at that private post – shop. You’ll wait in that alley until I give the signal, then you will stroll into the shop.” He lifted a finger. “Mind you, stroll into the shop.”

“Yes, stroll in, then what? Attempt a robbery? I hardly think that wise with a witness. I’m not up for illegalities.” I wasn’t interested in crime, regardless of my stray thought mere moments earlier at the noise of clinking coin. My eyes strayed along the street. The chance of a good meal for several days sounded better than starving on the street. I wasn’t close to that. Yet. I did need the money.

“Hardly that. You wait for the man to do his business. Make note of what he does and says. Once he’s finished, ask for a package for Mr. Blickens. The clerk will have it. I’ll meet you around the corner there.” The stranger pointed for the next corner in the direction I had originally intended. He spread his hands, palms up. “See? Simple. Three silvers for your time and trouble and the information about the man.”

“Who is this man? Why do you want to know about him?” A few people, bundled against the cold, strolled by and my odd benefactor slouched deeper into the stairwell.

After they passed, he looked me in the eye. “No questions. Not here. If you’re in, then head for that alley. He’ll be along in a few minutes.”

I crossed my arms again and tapped a foot. It could be trouble and more of that I didn’t need. “What’s in the package?”

He shrugged. “Useless trinkets.”

“I see.” Now I lifted a finger in warning. “There better not be city guards waiting around that corner or in the shop. I’ll tell them about you fast.”

Now it was the stranger’s turn to chuckle. “You can be sure I’m not with them, nor have anything to do with what interests them. They’ll not help me in this matter.”

I opened my mouth with more questions.

The vagrant forestalled me with a wave of his hand and the purse in his grasp. “I’m in disguise. That man might recognize me anyway. But I need the information. Are you in? If not, I’ll wait for another day.”

I clenched and unclenched my jaw a moment. “You have the claim ticket?”

He reached between the bars of the handrail and handed me that parcel identifier. I took the slip of paper and headed for the alley indicated and stood with my shoulder braced against the corner, out of sight of the street. The paper scrounged earlier in the morning hid my lower face without blocking the view of my accomplice. If this went wrong, I’d disappear down the alley without possibility of recognition. Without enough money for a tram ride or a maged steam-carriage, I’d have to walk fast and take other alleys but I didn’t intend to be caught in an illicit scheme. Months of living in my rat-infested building left me with plenty of tales of witnessed crimes committed by teams of tricksters.

My eyes strayed to the page headline: Sniffers Still in Turmoil after Accident. I scanned the article a moment until motion grabbed my attention. My newfound accomplice signaled from deep in his hole, his face barely visible but his hands pointed along the street, though no doubt hidden from view of his marked man.

I sighed and stepped onto the sidewalk and affected my best casual stroll past a tailor’s shop, then a cobbler before I reached the private post shop. I glanced at the ticket, then at the address as if confirming my location. With a nod to myself, I opened the door to the clang of a bell and entered into a small room with the counter. Various supplies and flowers which a man wishing to buy for a lady’s favor or to affix to his lapel lay in easy reach for waiting package claimants. I queued behind my man and waited for the others ahead of him to conclude their business. He did indeed wear a dark overcoat and his lamb-chop sideburns stood out from his ears distinctly. I observed his salt-and-pepper hair between his collar and his rounder hat.

So fixated was I on the stranger, I almost missed listening to the clerk as he waited on him. “How may I help you today?”

The clerk a balding man with reading glasses on the end of his bulbous nose, brushed loose hair along the side of his head and flicked his gaze at me as I strode to the counter and feigned interest in the flowers. Among the variety within the floral display was that of a rose so dark as to be almost black.

“You have a package for me, I believe.” The voice of my marked man sounded deep in the suddenly quiet little front room and carried what struck me as dangerous confidence. Besides his bushy sideburns, his pale, shaved face bore unremarkable features: a common nose, eyes dark but not piercing, his chin neither protruding nor recessed. Likewise, his cheeks appeared none too prominent nor his lips neither full nor thin. One would never remember him from a crowd. He tilted his head toward me slightly, as if to hide his plainness in embarrassment.

“Yes, your ticket, please.” The clerk wiggled his fingers in anticipation over his running list of ticket numbers that matched to his temporary bins in the backroom. He flashed a quick smile my way as if to instruct me to patience for his service.

I shifted my eyes to my own business as my mark slid a ticket onto the counter. Except it wasn’t a ticket and my averted gaze almost missed it entirely: a card with a darkened image printed on it.

The clerk covered the offered image so quickly I never glimpsed it. The balding man’s face paled in a sudden sheen of perspiration which gleamed on his head in the light of maged lamps. He ducked his head and his hands trembled as he turned from the counter. “I’ll just be a moment.” His throat worked as he swallowed and he ducked into the backroom.

I tapped my foot with a sigh. “Seems a tad slow. Maybe a little peaked, don’t you think?”

The other fellow tipped his hat toward me in the barest of greeting. “Oh, I think he’s more of the skittish type.”

Silence followed between us as a clock ticked on the wall. I returned my attention to the various other merchandise until the clerk returned, his hands still atremble as he carried three flowers in a narrow vase. One was a bright red tulise, the second a yellow caranelle and the third none other than the deep crimson rose.

The deep voiced fellow received the flowers without a word.

“I say, what variety of rose is that? Never seen one like it before.” I spoke as the man turned and I got a good look at the vase and flowers.

My erstwhile employer’s mystery man turned to go without answering the question except with another tug of his hat and the thinnest of smiles. “Good day.” The flash of his dark eyes and his tone meant I should leave him alone. He left and strode away in the opposite direction from which he’d arrived at a quick clip.

“May I help you?” A flush spread across the clerk’s chubby cheeks.

I pointed to the nearby black roses that numbered less than a dozen at a guess. “What were these? Out of curiosity.” I offered a smile of the clerk peered at me in silence for several moments.

The clerk’s fingers drummed on his list of numbers. He cleared his throat. “Actually, they’re maringias, not a rose. A bit rare but I’ve a few clients who have me stock them for special requests. Not for sale, just show, you see?”

“Of course.” I edged along the counter away from the flowers and offered the ticket to earn my pay. “Here for a package.”

Stubby fingers snatched the ticket and the clerk frowned as he read the numbers through the glasses perched on the end of his short nose, then he glanced at me. “Expecting a different man for this one.”

With a lift of my chin, I answered, “I’m his agent.”

“Of course, not seen you before is all.”

Most people used younger men than I for their deliveries and pickups. I certainly didn’t look the part. “Well, I’m new to the job so I’m just getting around to some of the shops.”

“Certainly. Just be a moment.” The clerk consulted his list again and left the counter to me.

My gaze traveled along the list and spied only numbers. My eyelids narrowed. No names, so who was he expecting?

A moment later, the clerk returned with a small box marked with the handling instructions. “There you go. Anything else today?” He waved a hand at the flowers. “Perhaps a flower?”

“Not today. I’m afraid I must move along on my rounds.” I tipped my hat in farewell and exited the post shop, then casually strode toward my rendezvous with my secretive employer. After a short walk to the proscribed side-street, box in hand, I turned left at the corner, then almost halted at the sight before me. A man stood reading a paper near the alley entrance instead of the vagrant who hired me. I reached the alley and peeked along its dank length as several people strode past us. Perhaps he hid in another basement stairwell. I approached the nearest set of steps and found no one there. Befuddled, I glanced along the alley in both directions.

“There you are.” I turned to the familiar voice of the vagrant but beheld the face of the newspaper reading man.

My jaw worked at the change of appearance. No longer did my secretive employer wear a dingy, threadbare coat with stained shirt and patched-kneed trousers. Nor was his face smudged with ash any longer. Instead, he wore a proper suit of gray cloth and his face bore no marks of rough living. “But how did you…?” I pointed to his face and attire.

“Changed, of course.” He held his paper behind his back. “Best not to be recognized.” He glanced at the box in my hands and he pointed to it without touching the package. “You were given this?”

I glanced at the package in my hand and offered it to him, expecting my pay. “Yes.”

“That won’t do. Please follow me if you will.” He strode along the alley.

“But, what about –?”

“Quickly. You don’t want to be caught with that box in hand. Trust me.” The gray-suited man strode to the second basement stairwell and clattered down the length of steps where he whispered and thrust the door ajar. “In here.”

The End of the Excerpt from the upcoming Cursed Mage novel, The Order of the Dark Rose

Copyright 2020 by P. H. Solomon

That’s a revised opening excerpt from the book and I hope you found it interesting. As you can tell, Wish is used to common forms of magic but really has little experience with the more esoteric forms with which he’s presented. I’ll share more information about magic, its uses, the details and the perspectives about it in later posts. There’s much more to come about the book, the series and the world setting.

I also have plans to share more about the upcoming prequel, The Changeling Incident which should be an interesting read for everyone and is almost ready for a release in October.

Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt today. Please leave your reaction in the comments section. I’m also in the process of building some fan groups for all my books. If you’re interested, here are the links:

Goodreads: Marston’s Station

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