The Last Hockey Fight by Nate Friedman is here!

There is nothing better than a good Hockey Book. This goes doubly for Nate Friedman’s new Canadian Classic ‘The Last Hockey Fight’. The story’s hero, Billy ‘The Bruiser’ Fenton, has had a legendary career as every hockey fan’s favourite player. Billy is a Hockey League enforcer for his hometown team, The Windsor Punch. Gaining momentum for his team, defending his fellow players, and entertaining the fans every game is his job and he takes that responsibility seriously.

Billy has overcome a lot of things throughout his career but this season is sure to bring some big surprises. First among them is the announcement that the Hockey Commissioner has decided to take fighting out of Hockey. Will the players be able to adapt? Will ‘The Bruiser’ still have a place in the game he loves most? Will The Windsor Punch still have a shot at winning the prestigious Hockey Cup? Find the answers to these questions and more in… The Last Hockey Fight.

LastHockeyFightCovefont

The Last Hockey Fight is available in ebook and paperback form wherever books are sold. You can get them from our online store, where all proceeds from the ebook will go to the Make-A-Wish Canada. Here are the links:

Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/juvenile/products/the-last-hockey-fight-paperback

Ebook: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/juvenile/products/the-last-hockey-fight-ebook

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Hockey-Fight-Nate-Friedman-ebook/dp/B078X1HV5Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519054992&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Last+Hockey+Fight+by+Nate+Friedman

Author Bio Pic

Nate Friedman
A writer from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Nate graduated from the Kinesiology program at the University of Windsor. His education has fuelled a keen interest in how people think and what drives them to be their best. Comedy is his firstlove and his desire to be creative has directed him towards writing children’s literature. He enjoys reading to his nephews, two of his biggest fans.
Advertisements

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett – Part 5 of 6

Find Part 1 here

Sure enough, there was a brawl on the street ahead of him. Patrons of The Crow’s Nest, including his friend Dagan, were out on the street en masse, caught in a one-sided fist fight with a bunch of armed soldiers. The fight was one-sided only because the other side was using swords, not fists.

Renaud grabbed the nearest soldier to him by the plume on his ridiculous-looking helmet. Catching the man completely off guard, Renaud was able to knock him over and relieve him of his pointy metal stick. Launching himself onto the next man, he pummeled that one with his fists, striking any place he could reach.

It didn’t take long for the invading army to realize they had a madman in their midst. Renaud fought with abandon, breaking noses, biting fingers, and kneeing the stupidest of men in the balls. Didn’t your fathers ever teach you to guard your stones? He made a mental note to teach his own son that very lesson as soon as he got home.

Renaud was an unstoppable force, until several of his victims began to recover and he found himself in the middle of a pile-up. He took a foot to his ribcage, a knee to his left kidney, and an elbow in the eye before Dagan and some of the others were able to come to his rescue, pulling him free of his attackers and leaving them to wrestle one another.

“Thanks, man.” Renaud clapped Dagan on the shoulder. “I owe you one.”

Dagan grinned, one of his front teeth missing. “How ‘bout you give me a posting on that new ship of yours and we’ll call it even?”

My ship! He belatedly recalled that he was Captain of his own ship now. That’s right! I don’t have to stay for this. I can be out on the water and away from Ismera before this civil war, or whatever this is, gets any worse.

Though something about what was happening rubbed Renaud the wrong way. Turrellin declared itself as neutral in the conflict between the King and those who want to dethrone him. Why would Vance Chappelle attack his own people?

Suddenly eager to return to his ship and sail home to Saegard, where the world made sense, Renaud found himself looking back toward The Crow’s Nest. He watched as the barkeep, Ginny, tossed a pot full of boiling hot stew in the face of one soldier before retreating within the inn and shutting the solid oak door tightly behind her. She’ll be okay, Renaud realized, and I’m right, this isn’t my fight.

“Dagan,” he held a hand out to his red-headed friend, “you’ve got yourself a deal. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Aye, aye, Captain!”

Renaud and Dagan made their way down the hill much faster than Renaud had initially run up it, despite the stitch in Renaud’s side and his rapidly swelling eye. Once his feet were firmly on the docks, though, Renaud felt his pain and worry melt away to be replaced with a sense of duty and purpose. He was a Captain now, and his ship and crew were waiting for him to lead them safely out of here.

He was within shouting distance of The Clover when his eyes happened to notice something out of place on the lift, way up at the top of the cliff edge. Is that a person?

“Why are you stopping?” Dagan demanded. “That’s yours there, with the four-leaf clover, right?”

“Yeah,” Renaud answered somewhat distractedly. “You go on. I’ll catch up.”

Dagan shrugged and resumed his forward motion, but Renaud’s eyes were glued on the lift far above. At this distance and in the failing light the form he saw was a small lump. It could be a pile of supplies with a tarp over it, but when it moved Renaud knew better. It’s a child, he realized with a sharp intake of breath.

He watched as a small white hand, stark against the dark fabric of the cloak the child was wearing, darted out to grip the lever that would activate the lift. Renaud’s breath caught in his throat. The lift usually has operators to run and monitor it. What is she doing?

Renaud couldn’t explain how he knew, but he had a sinking feeling in his gut that told him the small child who now had both hands on the lever and was pulling as hard as she could was the girl he’d seen this morning; the one with the bouncy dark hair and perfect young, happy parents.

As he watched, the lift mechanism gave way and the lift plummeted.

***

Subscribe or come back next week for the final installment of this short story!! 

And last but not least… Karen Koski and The Gimmal Ring!

Hello everyone! For the past month, we’ve been introducing some new authors and our upcoming new releases for 2018 and we’ve got just one more introduction to do!

If you’ve missed any of the others, here they are: 
Nate Friedman – The Last Hockey Fight (Pre-order now!)
Sandra Unerman – Ghosts and Exiles
Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred – Mirror’s Deceit
HL Carpenter – The Ghost in the Gardens
Regan W. H. Macaulay – Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast
Karen McCreedy – Unreachable Skies

IMG_1857

And now introducing another Windsor native… Karen Koski! 

By day, Karen Koski works for the Fire Service. By night, she writes stories set in magical Windsor and Essex County, Ontario where she was born and raised. Karen’s love of a good mystery inspired her to become a licensed Private Investigator. She is intrigued by anything that is not what it appears to be. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading her friends tea leaves and dragging them along on her adventures.  Karen resides in Windsor, Ontario with her ever patient husband, her two beautiful daughters and a spoiled, red Doberman.

We’re so excited to have Karen Koski join the Mirror World Family and we’re looking forward to bringing you her debut novel for middle grade readers: The Gimmal Ring. We don’t have an exact release date for The Gimmal Ring yet, but here’s a quick description to hook you on it:

Gwendolyn Gimmal desperately wants an invitation to the mysterious Gimmal Gala where her family’s coveted ring is bestowed upon new inductees.  She wants the ring and she wants it bad!  Not that she particularly likes bling, but because she knows it will unlock exciting secrets and reveal what she believes will be her true life’s path. Her younger brother, Gage, also wants to attend the party, but mostly for the food.

After finding her way into the hidden gala, Gwen learns that The Gimmal Ring is not only a piece of jewellery, but also a secret society of people. Things go awry when their parents are kidnapped from the Gala and held for ransom. Gwen, and her three sidekicks, must solve the clues and find the hidden formula the kidnappers have demanded, by midnight, or they will never see their family again.

Subscribe to this blog to be kept informed on the developments of this and all our upcoming titles! Or join our newsletter! Thanks for reading.

 

Unmoored – Part 4 of 6 – by Justine Alley Dowsett

Catch up by reading from the beginning. Here’s part 1. This is the prequel to Uncharted by J.A. Dowsett and M. Damodred. Find Uncharted in ebook and paperback form wherever books are sold. Then keep reading… 

He’d just washed and was having supper served to him that evening in his new Captain’s Quarters by his new cook, when one of the shipyard’s staff came for him. “Is the Captain aboard?”

“I’m the Captain.” Renaud grinned at the chance to name himself as such.

“I’ve been sent to let you know that your paint is dry enough that you’re free to go.”

“Splendid.” Renaud got to his feet, taking a piece of hard tack with him out onto the deck.
The ship was moored inside the shipyard, but with the torches all lit and the last of the light outside, it was bright enough within. He crossed the gangplank to solid ground and backed up enough to get a look at the painter’s handiwork.

The Clover? What is this? He blinked repeatedly, but the green four-leafed clover and the English name also painted in green stayed the same as if to mock him. “Excuse me,” he grabbed hold of the messenger, “what’s this supposed to be? Some kind of joke?”

“No, sir!” the young man said. “We painted it just as you said, only it took us some time to translate what you meant when you said a…a ‘trefle’?” he garbled the French word.

Le Roi du Trefle!” Renaud exclaimed. “The King of Clubs! As in poker? As in the card that won me this ship!”

As soon as he said it, Renaud realized where he’d went wrong. He’d been half-asleep and all the way drunk when he’d given his instructions to the shipyard worker this morning. It, therefore, stood to reason that he’d reverted to his native French.

“I’m…sorry, sir…” the young man stammered.

Renaud laughed, his anger dissipating as quickly as it had formed, and he clapped the young worker on the shoulder. “Never mind! It’s luck that won me this ship, so luck should name it. My lucky Clover.” He laughed again, shaking his head at the absurd coincidence.

“Glad you like it, sir.” The young man smiled before scampering off, leaving Renaud staring with pride at his newly-christened ship.

It’ll do perfectly.

***

Renaud was overseeing the relocation of The Clover from the docks, as the shipyard’s workers and his own meager crew worked together to clear the shipyard’s gates, when the first sounds of trouble came to his ears.

He turned around to look back along the dock, toward the town of Turrellin. The sun was setting on a cloudy day, but there were too many lights and far too much commotion for an average evening in the small port town. As he watched, a ripple of panic seemed to pass through the people he could see, emanating from somewhere beyond his visual range.

“You got this?” he called out to the shipyard worker who seemed the most likely to be in charge of the operation. Getting a nod in return, Renaud tossed the rope he was holding to the nearest sailor and made the leap from boat to dock without waiting for it to be secured. It was foolish, but he felt on high alert, like he was on open water and feeling one hell of a storm coming his way.

Renaud started for Turrellin, but the plague-like emotion that had infected the small but prosperous town didn’t take long to reach the docks, and soon people were darting every which way around him. He stopped someone at random by the simple expedient of grabbing hold of their arm. “What’s going on?”

“It’s King Vance the Usurper!” the young man in his grasp exclaimed, lost to panic. “Turrellin is under attack!”

Renaud felt the world beneath his feet give way and the warm breeze off the water left him suddenly chilled. My luck’s about to run out, I think.

He looked up at the town. He was near enough now that he could see the light from various torches bobbing up and down and hear the clash of weapons between those attacking and those trying to defend their homes. Shops and businesses lined the road that sloped upwards from the dock to the cliff edge, and at the top of the hill overlooking it all was The Crow’s Nest.

Damn. Renaud realized he was running again before he’d actually decided to do so. His gait slowed considerably going uphill, and he soon became aware of the fact he was the only person running uphill, as opposed to down toward the waiting ships. This shouldn’t be my fight, but that’s my bar you’re attacking!

Introducing… Karen McCreedy and Unreachable Skies!

Our family is growing again!

Last week, we announced HL Carpenter and their upcoming middle grade paranormal adventure, The Ghost in the Gardens. Before that we told you all about the upcoming third installment in J.A. Dowsett and M. Damodred’s Mirror World Series, Mirror’s Deceit and of course, Sandra Unerman’s quasi-sequel to Spellhaven, Ghost and Exiles. And we can’t forget Nate Friedman’s The Last Hockey Fight (which you can pre-order here.)

This week, it’s all about another new addition: Karen McCreedy!

Karen McCreedyBrought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she works at the University of Chichester.

She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’. In 2009, her essay on ‘British Propaganda Films of the Second World War’ was published in ‘Under Fire: A Century of War Movies’ (Ian Allen Publishing).

She has also written a number of online articles and reviews for The Geek Girl Project (www.geekgirlproject.com), as their British correspondent.

Karen has had short stories published in anthologies by Fiction Brigade (2012, e-book), Zharmae Publishing (‘RealLies’, 2013), Audio Arcadia (‘On Another Plane’, 2015), Luna Station Publishing (‘Luna Station Quarterly’ December 2015), Horrified Press (‘Killer Tracks’ and ‘Waiting’, both 2015; and ‘Crossroads’, 2016), and Reflex Fiction (‘Voicemail’, published online 2017). She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.

Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel. And we’re pleased to be the ones to publish it!

Unreachable Skies will be the first in a planned trilogy about Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer on a planet where it is normal to fly. In this first novel, Zarda finds she is ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of a plague that has resulted in wingless hatchlings. Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.

Unreachable Skies is an adult speculative fiction novel. Not full fantasy or science-fiction, it lies on the cusp. We were blown away by it while reading submissions and we know you will be too! Subscribe to this blog or our newsletter to be kept up to date on our progress with this new release and all the others!

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett – Part 3 (of 6)

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2, in case you missed them. Here’s more about me. Or, keep reading… 

Renaud exited The Crow’s Nest as the sun was coming up with his pockets a fair bit heavier, but the real prize was still waiting for him down at the docks.

I really am the luckiest man to have sailed across the Ismeran Channel! Renaud exulted. What a night!

He stopped by the bucket of a ship he’d ridden here on to pick up his things and tell his former Captain that he never wanted to see his liver-spotted face again, then he set off for the mooring labelled C-2 to greet his new baby.

And there she was, a two-masted brig. She was small for a warship, but far more grand than the Ismeran Lord had made her out to be, despite her obvious age and faded paint job. From the moment he laid eyes on her, Renaud was in love.

What is that it says on the side? La Giovanna? No way I’m letting my baby have a prissy Italian name. I’ll have to get that fixed right quick. Renaud patted the coins in his pocket. Should be enough here for a coat of paint, eh?

Grinning widely, Renaud set off with purpose toward the shipyard at the end of the dock. At the mouth of the wide opening, he stopped. The lift, he found himself staring at the marvel of modern invention fastened to the cliffside, it’s about to go up.

Sure enough, the lift had three people standing on it. A woman, elegant in a white dress with lace that flapped like a sail in the wind and a matching wide-brimmed hat she had to hold in place to keep from blowing away. A man – her husband, Renaud assumed – a tall, thin gentleman wore freshly pressed grey pants and a pristine white shirt under a grey vest. His dark ash-coloured hair matched that of their daughter, who stood beside them, except hers was long and wavy down her back, and bounced when she moved. She turned to look up at her father, with a wide smile on her young features that was both happy and trusting.

Now, that’s what real luck looks like. Though the sight of them made him acutely aware of his own unwashed state and the smell of sour ale that wafted from him, it also made him nostalgic and yearn for his home across the Channel in Saegard.

She can’t be more than ten, but she reminds me of my own boy. I remember when my son used to look at me like that. Now, at thirteen, I can’t do anything right in his eyes. His thoughts inevitably returned to his new acquisition. Maybe I’ll take him out when I get back home. If that ship doesn’t impress him, I don’t know what will.

He watched the lift soar upwards with the young family against the backdrop of the cliff face and felt his spirits rise with it. That boat’ll fix everything. No more serving with the unwashed masses under unfeeling Captains. Having a ship of my own means I’ll have guaranteed work. Maybe I’ll even get a commission and join the Navy. Ha! Wouldn’t that be a sight!

Capitaine Laurent, I like the sound of that. The smile back on his face, he strode into the shipyard with confidence.

He was soon led to the appropriate man for the job he needed doing. He showed the man the paperwork Christian had signed over, rumpled and wine-stained though it was, and paid him upfront for the paint job and renaming of the vessel. With that taken care of, he walked back to his new ship, boarded it, and proceeded to fire its old Captain.

“If any of the rest of you want to stay on,” he announced to the small crew once he had them assembled, “you’re welcome to, but this ship is bound for Saegard where it will make a new home port!”

Most of the sailors left, but a few stayed on, and he greeted them warmly. The cook, a woman named Dot, simply stated, “I go where the ship goes, Cap’n or no Cap’n.”

“Very well then.” Renaud surveyed his new domain and found it to his satisfaction. He finished his inspection in the Captain’s Quarters where he promptly fell asleep.

Check back next week for Part 4 or subscribe to be notified when we post next! 

Of course, We can’t forget Mixter Twizzle!

We’re announcing 2018’s upcoming new releases:
The Last Hockey Fight by Nate Friedman is now available for pre-order and launches February 17, 2018!
Ghosts and Exiles by Sandra Unerman is coming April 17, 2018!
Mirror’s Deceit by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred is coming May 17, 2018.
The Ghost in the Gardens by HL Carpenter is coming June 17, 2018!

And we have more announcements coming… but this week we wanted to remind you that Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast by Regan Macaulay is also coming soon!

We had a few delays, but Mixter Twizzle should be joining us sometime in 2018. We’ll announce the official launch date as soon as we have one. For now, though we’d like to announce that a new illustrator has joined the team. Her name is Wei Lu. She also goes by Lulu, and here’s a sample of her work:

MTB

You can see her portfolio here. We look forward to seeing what she comes up with for the rest of Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast and we hope you’re looking forward to this one too! Subscribe to this blog, or to our newsletter to be kept up to date!

rhcmacaulay-headshot

 

Regan writes novels, short stories, children’s literature and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film and television. She is an animal enthusiast as well, which led her to become a certified canine (and feline) massage therapist. https://reganwhmacaulay.weebly.com

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett – Part 2 (of 6)

Part one of this short story is here. If you want to know more about the author, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the novel Uncharted for which this is a prequel to, click here. Otherwise, read on!

“Poker’s a Lord’s game,” Dagan sneered as he turned his seat over to the stranger. “Do you even know how to play, Renaud?”

“How hard can it be?” Renaud demanded jovially, noting the barest of smiles on the face of his new opponent. “Watch and learn, Dagan, watch and learn.”

The newcomer busied himself shuffling the cards he fished out of his pocket, but Ginny was quick to put a stop to that. “We don’t allow people a chance to cheat here, mister.” The round-bottomed barkeep slid a fresh deck of playing cards onto the table. “You use house cards or you take your game elsewhere. This is a reputable establishment.”

The man scowled but didn’t hesitate in swapping his own cards for those provided to him. That’s why I love coming to this place. Gives everyone a fair shake. Renaud watched the man shuffle again and deal the cards out, keeping a close eye out for foul play. Hmm, he either wasn’t planning on cheating in the first place, or he’s all set to rely on his skill as a poker player to best me. Either way, that means he’s going to be a challenge, and I’m already what, three drinks in? Four?

I’ll just have to make my new friend catch up!

They played for a couple of hours, Renaud plying his newfound friend with drinks while drinking less and less himself. Dagan watched for the first hour, but thankfully wandered away when neither side was making much headway against the other. Renaud wasn’t daunted, however. He still had winnings left to bid, and as it turned out, it didn’t take ‘Lord’ Christian Vellaire long to lose himself to liquor.

“An Ismeran Lord, eh?” Renaud clarified. “What brings you to the Crow’s Nest? I thought lord-types usually stayed up at the big house on the hill.”

“Turrell Manor? Not my style, friend,” Christian replied. “I just came from the Casino in Wilkesport.”

“All the way from Welland?” Renaud exclaimed. “That’s a long trip, but it does explain how you’re so good at poker!”

Renaud had learned from his wife, a minor Ismeran noble herself, but there was no sense in telling his opponent that.

“Yeah,” Christian slurred. “I won a boat my last night there. Decided to take her up the coast, but I don’t know the first thing about sailing!” He laughed. “Cost me more to hire a Captain than it did to win the damn thing.”

A boat. Renaud sat up straight at the word. Does he mean a ship? A real ship?

“Oh?” Renaud aimed for nonchalance and fell just shy of it. “What kind of boat?”

“Oh, you know,” Christian shuffled and dealt the next hand as he spoke. “One of those tall ships. Not very large, but a proper boat and not a fishing vessel, I made sure of that!”

Renaud put his hands flat on top of the other man’s cards before he could pick them up. “If it’s a Captain you’re looking for…” he said with all hint of triviality gone.

Christian narrowed his eyes shrewdly, despite the large quantity of drink he’d consumed. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll bet my boat against everything you’ve got left there; winner keeps all.”

“Are you serious?!” Renaud looked down at his pile of winnings, which really had grown somewhat since he’d started playing against Christian and hadn’t been inconsequential to start with. Still, it paled in comparison to what a real ship would cost him.

“As a sword through the heart,” Christian told him. “You see, the real reason I wanted that boat was a fast trip out of Southern Ismera. Things are heating up down there, with Vance Chappelle struggling to hold the throne he stole. I didn’t want to get conscripted, or killed,” he added with a conspiratorial wink, “by either side.”

“So you came to Turrellin, which has declared neutrality,” Renaud finished for him.

“That’s right,” Christian nodded, “and now I’ve got no reason to be paying to dock, nor man, a boat I have no intention of using again. So,” he moved Renaud’s hands away from his cards so he could pick them up, “you win this next hand, and the tub’s all yours.”

Come back next week (or subscribe to this blog) for part 3!

Introducing HL Carpenter and The Ghost in the Gardens, coming June 2018.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been introducing our 2018 line up of new authors and new books. First, we talked about Nate Friedman’s upcoming children’s book, The Last Hockey Fight, which you can pre-order now! Then we told you about Sandra Unerman’s upcoming Ghosts and Exiles, which will be available in April. Then there’s the third in the Mirror World series by J.A. Dowsett and M. Damodred, Mirror’s Deceit, coming in May.

Now, we’re pleased to announce that a new co-writing author team has joined Mirror World Publishing. Please join me in welcoming:

HLC-Logo-2017-2-cropped-Custom

HL Carpenter is a Florida-based mother/daughter duo. The Carpenters are multi-genre authors of family-friendly fiction. Their published works include middle grade/young adult novels, middle grade/young adult fantasy novellas and novelettes, a futuristic speculative novella, and a satirical short story. You can find out more about their collected works on their website: https://www.hlcarpenter.com/

The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity.

In June of this year, HL Carpenter will be launching their newest middle grade adventure, The Ghost in the Gardens.

The Ghost in the Gardens is the story of ten-year-old Chrysantha Howe, who discovers a rare plant and gets caught up in a murder mystery. Chrys has plenty to be anxious about as summer vacation starts. A ghost has taken to inhabiting her dreams, she’s fighting with her best friend, and she has to share her coveted school-break project with The Nuisance Dalton Dyer. Hanging over all these problems is the unsolved mystery of her favorite teacher’s disappearance.

As the ghostly dreams take a too-real menacing turn and the arguments with her best friend erupt into serious conflict, Chrys discovers Dalton Dyer is hiding what could be a dangerous secret. And when the mystery of her favorite teacher’s disappearance veers toward a horrifying solution—one that implicates a family member—Chrys learns she’s been worrying far too much about the wrong things. With friendship and family at stake, she struggles to right her suddenly upended world.

We’re looking forward to this new release and we hope you are too! Subscribe to this blog, or join our mailing list to keep up with our progress!

Unmoored by J. A. Dowsett – Part 1 (of 6)

Welcome to another serial short story! This time I, Justine Alley Dowsett, am back with a prequel to my novel, Uncharted. This short story was previously featured in an anthology called War Torn, but that anthology is no longer available, so I thought I would share the story with you here. If you want to know more about me, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the novel Uncharted, click here. Otherwise, read on!

“Times go by turns, and chances change by course, From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.” —Robert Southwell

RED IN THE FACE, RENAUD Laurent stood in Turrellin’s only inn and slammed his cup down, splashing ale on the table’s checkered cloth. “I’ll bet any one of you here,” he slurred in his thick French accent, “that I’m the luckiest man ever to have crossed the Ismeran Channel!”

“Aww, sit down and put your money where your mouth is, Renaud!” His dicing companion, a red-headed Haldoram man, nudged the dicing cup toward him, taking a swig from his own ale cup and wiping his scruffy chin with the back of his hand. “All you do is talk.”

“Ginny, another round please,” Renaud called out after dribbling ale all over his thick curly beard, “I’m about to win all of Dagan’s coin.”

“If you lose this hand, I’ll buy the round,” Dagan countered, “and you can call me the luckiest man ever to have come to Turrellin!”

“No one’s luckier than our Lord and Lady Turrell!” One of the locals shouted, liquor bringing out their patriotism.

“I dare say!” Renaud agreed with a grin, scooping the dice up into his calloused hands. “Either way, Dagan, I’ll take that bet.”

He blew on the dice in his hands for emphasis, his blue eyes under his thick, brown brows, twinkling with more than just drink, before he let them fly onto the checkered cloth below and waited, holding his breath.

“Ha!” Dagan jeered. “That’s a win for me.”

Renaud studied the results of the dice closely, feigning shock. “Why, I believe you’re right, Dagan.” He lifted his head. “Ginny, I’ll have that ale now.”

“You’ve had more than your share,” Ginny called back, but that didn’t stop her from delivering another cup at Dagan’s expense, sashaying her ample bottom as she did so. Renaud grinned appreciatively.

Dagan scowled, seeming to realize he’d been played, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself. Seeing that he’d possibly overstayed his welcome, Renaud downed his first cup and started in on his second as he looked about for another dicing partner.

“Ah, well, I guess I better call it a night.” He wobbled slightly as he reached for his winnings. Not bad, he noted, mentally tallying them, my luck held out, though I should’ve bet less on that last round.

He turned around, ready to depart, only to find a lithe, dark-haired man staring intently at him. Renaud squinted at the newcomer. By his appearance, he was not a sailor like most of the patrons at The Crow’s Nest. His hair was greasy and pulled back into a loose tail at the nape of his neck, and his clothes were well-tailored and expensive looking, though they had clearly seen better days.

“Excuse me,” Renaud belched. “I was just leaving.”

“Luckiest man ever to have sailed across the Ismeran Channel, huh?” the man eyed the dice on the table. “Ever thought of playing a game with a bit more skill involved? Poker, by chance?”

Renaud looked down into his mostly full cup. “Well, it seems I’ve still got some left in me after all,” he drawled. “Why not?”

To be continued next week… (subscribe!)