short story

WAR TORN: A Free Anthology in 7 Realms of Fantasy

Did you like my fantasy/romance serial, The Arranged Marriage? If you haven’t read it, it’s available in seven parts on this blog. Here’s a link to Part 1. For fans of The Arranged Marriage, or of my novels Unintended or Uncharted, which are set in the same world, there’s good news! I’ve written another short story called Unmoored and it’s set to appear in the free anthology, War Tornalong with 6 other fantasy stories by six other fantastic fantasy writers!

War Torn is FREE and available for pre-order now (everywhere you order ebooks, including google, amazon, pronoun and our store), though it launches August 1st. But if you’d like to get your hands on it before then all you have to do is subscribe to Mirror World’s mailing list. I’ll be sending out early release e-books to all of our subscribers as a thank you for being a part of the family and sticking with us this long.

So click here and enter your email to subscribe for your FREE ADVANCE COPY!!

Without further ado, here’s the cover and a bit about what you’ll find in War Torn:

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Seven international authors, reflecting diverse styles from across the fantasy genre, bring you seven short stories that explore the theme, War Torn.

Ambushed by Angela Stevens
(Contemporary Fantasy/ Dark Fantasy) 
When the Black Walker Warriors are ambushed by the Clizyati, a vicious battle ensues. Caught up in its midst is Kanga, the Warrior’s latest recruit. Fighting for his life, Kanga knows whatever the outcome, this may well be the last battle in a war that has raged since the dawn of time.
But when the dust settles, victory and defeat pay the same price.

The Praetorian byD.P Joynes
(Dark Fantasy, Magical Realism, Medical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Time Travel) 
“Flies. Flies everywhere. In blood…” Artorius, the commanding officer of a Roman army, loves the taste of battle, but he hates the stench of blood. Blood gives rise to flies, which he cannot control. And neither can the Time Witch. Despite all her magical powers, the Witch has no control over the actions of living creatures, so she’ll try every time-tested tactic to tempt the Commander, to get Artorius to do her bidding. But his future self has other plans.

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett
(Fantasy Adventure)
Renaud Laurent is a gambler and a sailor taking life as it comes and living only for his next drink. Then, on one fateful night in his favorite port town, civil war threatens and he finds himself having to choose between saving his own hide or risking himself for the sake of a stranger.

The City That Fell by K.L Dimago
(Fantasy Romance)
Keturah has always excelled in magic skills and dreams of becoming a member of court in the city of Lucenskath beneath the leader of Nefeiah, Elias, who has led an era of peace and prosperity. But when she is befriended and wooed by Lucas, a fellow student, she learns of a plot to overthrow Elias and his magic council. Keturah must choose between her love of Lucas and her trust in Elias and decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice.

A Touch Of Magic by Lisa White
(Magical Realism, Paranormal Romance)
Plastic surgeon Jessie Inglewood is staunchly anti-natural medicine. Sure, the owner of the local health food store is sexy, but there’s no way she’s going to the “dark side” and dating a natural health hippy! No, she’s seen a lot of ridiculous things in her clinic over the years, and as far as she’s concerned, holistic nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and crystal waving energy healers are all the same: unethical quacks and charlatans peddling false hope to the vulnerable. Jessie’s very comfortable with her judgement… until a woman in white appears at her clinic one night and gives her an extraordinary gift – the ability to heal people. Jessie has a choice to make: keep giving hands-on miracles to people or give up her gift so she can have her old life back – the one where her colleagues don’t view her as one of the quacks she used to criticize.

The Fortress by Lorel Clayton 
(Fantasy/ Steampunk)
No one is infallible, but some people cannot afford to be wrong, not when lives are at stake. In this story from the world of Eva Thorne, visit The Fortress, where a line in the sand has been drawn to keep the living safe from the god of death. Meet the man who guards that line.

Paid In Blood by Tiger Hebert
(Dark Epic Fantasy)
Harlyx, a wealthy and quite possibly mad old man is wanted for treason after stealing a powerful artifact. His hired hand, Alduran, now finds himself on the run with the crazy old man as a king’s army hunts them down. Alduran isn’t so sure that their flight across the desert sands won’t get them killed, but if he’s learned one thing about old Harlyx, it’s that his mysterious knack for avoiding calamity is at its greatest as the noose draws tightest. It’s a mystery Alduran is ready to explore. Besides, the pay is right.

 

 

The Arranged Marriage – Part 7 (Finale!)

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Also, check out the novels set in the same world: Unintended and Uncharted.

***

Cielle was out of her hiding spot in a flash and in no time at all, she rolled to her feet.

“You get off of her, you… you pig!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, brandishing the dagger she didn’t even remember pulling out of her bosom.

Branton slowly, blearily raised his face from Larissa’s chest, his lazy drunken gaze widening at the sight of her. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded.

“Your arch nemesis!” Cielle proclaimed, hardly thinking now as she dived forward, dagger out before her.

She was aiming for his exposed genitalia, but at the last second, Branton found the presence of mind to at least roll partially out of the way. The dagger dove fully into the flesh of his leg right through the thick leather of his pants, which he hadn’t bothered to fully remove prior to attempting to mount his victim.

Branton screamed, the pain shocking him very efficiently out of his inebriated state as Larissa, now free from her new husband’s weight, scrambled to get herself out of the bed. Shocked by what she’d done, even if it was sort her intention in coming here, Cielle backed up slowly, her eyes trained on the screaming Lord and the way his blood pooled darkly around the hilt of her brother’s silver dagger protruding from his leg.

“I’m sorry…” Cielle whispered into the Lord’s screams, feeling at a loss.

“Don’t be!” Larissa told her forcefully, propelling herself from the bed and slamming bodily into Cielle.

Cielle was slow to register that Larissa was now in her arms, just like she’d intended. “Larissa, I…” She began.

“I love you,” Larissa exclaimed, against all of Cielle’s expectations, before her soft lips fell upon Cielle’s searchingly, demandingly.

Cielle gave into the moment, let her lips melt into Larissa’s, let her tongue explore this taste of freedom. It was over too quickly as Larissa pulled away. “What about him?”

Cielle struggled to bring Lord Branton back into focus past the haze of bliss her mind had become. In the interim the Lord’s screaming had fallen silent and he was watching them, his jaw open a little. His loosened pants showed clearly his arousal. Cielle immediately felt her anger return.

“We leave him,” she stated forcefully. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

“But where would we go? What would we do? My family…”

“Doesn’t deserve you either,” Cielle cut her off, her anger seething. “They…they sold you to him!”

Larissa’s head lowered in sadness or in pain, Cielle didn’t know. Maybe it was shame, either way, Larissa knew as well as Cielle did that there would be no returning back to the Arbor House after this.

“I…” Larissa began, “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” Cielle told her. “It’s you and me against the world now, Larissa. I’ll keep you safe…” She turned her attention back to Branton who licked his lips, watching them, his drunken stupor having fallen back over him somewhat now that the immediate danger had passed. “Starting now.”

Cielle advanced on Branton like one might advance on a rattlesnake. She knew he was dangerous and she knew what he wanted from her… from them both. She darted inwards and her hand grasped the cool hilt of her brother’s dagger just as Branton’s hand clamped warmly down on her wrist. She had only a split second to escape him, she knew. Grimacing, she twisted the handle of the dagger and Branton let go of her, crying out in additional pain. She used that moment to jump back, well out of his reach, grab Larissa’s hand and head straight for the window.

There she grabbed hold of the makeshift ladder she’d constructed from Branton’s spare shirts and sheets she’d found in the armoire and carefully helped Larissa over the sill of the open window. “There, just like the treehouse back at the D’Arbonne House,” she coaxed Larissa through her uneasiness, “just slide down slowly and don’t let go. I’ll be right behind you.”

Her heart pounding fiercely with exhilaration, or perhaps just the sudden absence of fear, Cielle made one last visual sweep of the room. Spotting a thick looking brocade robe, she snatched it up, hoping to use it to cover the flimsy nightgown the servants had dressed Larissa in. Robe in hand, she swung herself over the window ledge and made quick and sure-footed work of  following her best friend and the love of her life out the window and down to the balcony below.

Behind them, through the open window, Lord Branton’s wails of anguish continued long after they’d found their way out of the castle’s thick walls, but it didn’t matter. They were free and they were together and right now, that was all either of them cared about.

The end.

***

Thanks for reading!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, find it here. Also, this story is set in the world of Ismera, the same as both of my latest novels, Unintended and Uncharted, which you can find in our bookstore.  Cyril’s even a character in Unintended!

***

Cielle was not going to miss her best friend’s wedding, not for anything. Even if that fat lord paid me a thousand gold Wellish ingots, he couldn’t get me to stay away! And the Arbors don’t even have the money to bribe me with….

Hey, there’s a plan! I bet the Arbors don’t want it getting out that they need this marriage for financial reasons. They’re supposed to be an old and powerful house with lots of money to back it up. All I have to do is…

“Hey, grasshopper, look alive!” Her brother elbowed her more sharply than he probably intended, causing her to wince and rub the part of her arm he’d struck while shooting daggers at him out of her piercing blue eyes.

I hate when he calls me that! She fumed silently. We’re not kids anymore, Cyril…

Identical blue eyes looked guilelessly back at her, before Cyril grinned, knowing just how to get under her skin. “What?” He demanded. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss your first glance at the fat lord. Get in all your jibes while we’re still far enough away that he can’t hear you.”

From her vantage point at the small ship’s rail, Cielle scanned the port for which the land they were going to was named, trying to follow Cyril’s gaze. After a moment of searching she gave it up. “Okay, which one is he?”

“Uh, there,” Cyril gestured, “third noble in from the left. The one with all the gold tassels on his sleeves.”

Sure enough, Cielle spotted him and as her eyes locked on her new arch nemesis, she instantly felt one of her infamous pouts coming on. He’s not fat at all! Rich, yes, and a terrible dresser, but he’s actually kind of regal looking… Damn him!

“There, there.” Inexplicably she felt her twin’s hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay to feel jealous.”

Cielle’s jaw fell open as she rounded on Cyril. “Jealous? Jealous of…. of that?! Never!”

Cyril’s returning grin was full of mischief. Cielle felt a number of sets of eyes on her before she felt her fair skin heat to an uncomfortable shade of red. “He’s looking at me, isn’t he?” She questioned of Cyril through clenched teeth.

“They all are,” he answered mercilessly. “Nice first impression, Sis.”

***

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts, which you can leave in the comments below! Subscribe to this blog or check back next week for part 3~7!

Eye of the Storm – Part 2

I pushed away from them, trying not to look like I was fleeing, and soon found myself at the opposite end of the L-shaped bar. “What can I get you?” The bartender, a pudgy bearded man with an obvious beer-belly, questioned.    

“Uh, rum and coke,” I said the first drink combination my mind could supply and the man busied himself with the bottles in front of him.  

“It’s on me,” a new voice said to my left and I whipped my head around. “You look like you could use it.”

The man before me was hunched over the bar, his own drink, a straight shot of whiskey over ice by the looks of it sitting on the bar between his elbows. I narrowed my eyes at him, taking in his deliberately mussed mahogany-coloured hair and his matching dark five-o’clock shadow. His black collared shirt, slightly rumpled from wear, gave me the instant impression that he figured himself a ladies man, but was currently a little down on his luck in that regard. Great, so he’s slumming it…

“I can get my own drink, thanks,” I told him, not kindly.

My rum and coke arrived and a blue five dollar bill changed hands. My blue five dollar bill.

“Victor,” he said, before I could walk away.

“Sorry?” I asked, turning back to look at him, not sure I heard him right.

“My name is Victor,” he repeated. “You look like the kind of girl who wouldn’t accept a drink from a stranger. Now you know my name, so we’re no longer strangers.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, noncommittally, lifting my drink to him in salute. “Nice to meet you, Victor.”

Having dealt with the ‘local colour’, I was ready to return to Debbie and Paul, and face the music, but ‘Victor’ felt the need to stop me again. “You never gave me yours.”

I whirled again, more confused than ever. “Gave you my what?”

He smiled, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. So he’s not just dressing well, he’s got money. Or at least, his parents had enough to buy him braces as a kid. I snickered at the thought. “Your name,” he said, smiling wider now, thinking because I was laughing too that we must be sharing some kind of moment or something.

“Summer,” I told him. Certainly telling him my name can’t hurt anything, can it?

********** If you would like me to keep posting more of this story, please leave a comment below. If people keep commenting, I’ll keep writing! Thank you. Also, you can find part 1 here.************

Eye of the Storm, Part 1

Remember that opening I shared as an example of how openings are hard to write? (You can read about that here.) Well, with two books currently in the works, I have no plans to do anything about the sci-fi novella I started, so… I thought I would share it with you. If you like this opening bit, let me know in the comments below and I’ll keep posting every week or two so you can see where this story goes (and keep me motivated in writing it at the same time!)

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Chapter 1 – The Rain

The change came without warning, unless you count the rain. It pounded on the window of my battered Oldsmobile, demanding to be let in. I sighed, frustrated. So much for the Weather Network. Wrenching the rusted driver’s side door open, I was drenched in seconds. I scurried across the city parking lot, doing my damndest to avoid the worst of the puddles, though it hardly mattered now. The damage was done.

Inside the bar, the lighting was dim and yellow. Even so, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust.

“Summer!” Debbie ambushed me before I could so much as shake myself off like a dog after a swim. Her dry hair smelled like strawberries and stranded me somewhere between envious and nauseated. “You came!”

“Of course,” I mumbled. “You said it was important.”

Nodding, Debbie pulled back. “Come on. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

This is it, I realized, I’m finally going to meet the new boyfriend Debbie has been going on and on about. Despite this guy being the subject matter of all our conversations over the past few weeks, I really knew very little about him. I think she said his name was Paul…

“Well, if it isn’t Summer Green!”

Wait… Paul? As in Paul Sheffield? It was him, in the flesh. The very, very attractive flesh. Oh, god, what am I thinking. He’s Debbie’s boyfriend now… Not my highschool fantasy crush.

“Paul!” I didn’t manage much more than awkwardly saying his name before my nerves shut down my vocal cords. Leaning on a barstool, his elbow up on the bar, Paul was as drool-worthy as he’d ever been. Maybe more so. It had been years since I last saw him, but I remembered the day clearly. It had played in my mind over and over again to remind me of just how pathetic I was. Our last of of high school, Paul had left his group of much cooler friends to come over and give me a goodbye hug and I was so shocked I’d garbled any useful words that could have come out of my mouth in that instant. He’d walked away, a confused and sympathetic expression on his face and I just waved awkwardly and let him leave, instead of being suave and asking him to hang out over the summer like I’d planned.

In my fantasy, that summer would have led to a fabulous romance. In reality, I spent that summer working in a greasy 50’s themed diner, which was where I’d met Debbie. We were as opposite as people get, but somewhere along the line we became inseparable.

Speaking of Debbie, she’d managed to fit herself under Paul’s muscular right arm, her thin frame fitting far better there than my plumper one could have managed. She was looking up into his clear blue eyes, her own green ones twinkling. My slight envy from earlier came back with the same ferocity as the storm raging outside the building, developing into full blown jealousy.

“Paul and I are getting married!” Debbie exclaimed, looking to me for my reaction.

My eyes widened and my breathing became laboured. Face with them both and their sickening perfection, I suddenly became very much aware of my bedraggled and water-logged appearance. The nice white top I’d chosen for a night out with Debbie had been soaked through and was likely showing off my breasts, not to advantage like I’d planned, but more in an indecent sort of way. And my jeans, once form-fitting in a comfortable sort of way now just stuck to me in places where I’d rather they didn’t. I took a subconscious step back from the scene before me, wanting to be anywhere but here, but was stopped by a combination of the squashing sound my sneakers made and Debbie’s sudden frown as she began to realize I didn’t share her elation.

“That’s…great…” I tried to save face and failed.

Debbie pouted. “I know it seems unexpected and sudden,” she allowed, “but it makes sense when you think about it. Paul’s a dual citizen and is living and working in Michigan. If I want to be able to move in with him, we’ve got to get married. It’s just part of the immigration process.”

Whoa, immigrating? ‘Just part of the process…?’ I know Debbie moves fast, but holy hell.

I kept my thoughts to myself. “No, I’m sorry, I’m happy for you. I was just caught off guard, that’s all.”

Debbie beamed, assuaged. Paul smiled, that oh-so-cute lopsided smile of his that used to make me weak in the knees. Now it just made my stomach do uncomfortable flip-flops. “I get it,” he said. “You’re Debbie’s best friend, so it would stand to reason that you’d want to get to know the man she’s going to marry. Lucky for us, you and I go way back.”

“Yeah, lucky…” I mumbled. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to go get myself a drink.”

***

Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to continue sharing this story and if I get enough comments, I’ll put part two up on Thursday, next week! Thanks for reading.

Short Fiction: The Queen’s Intent

My husband snores. Some nights are worse than others. On one bad night in particular, I found my thoughts growing darker and darker as I lay there next to him unable to do much more than grit my teeth against the sounds he was making. Forced out of my bed, I found that Murandy (who’s bedroom is next to ours) had already given up trying to sleep and was out on the couch watching Netflix. That spot taken, I disappeared into the writing room. Here’s what I came up with:Pirates3

The Queen’s Intent

by Justine Alley Dowsett

The Queen lay still next to her sleeping husband, contemplating his murder.

A pillow… Her first thought was naturally drawn from her environment. There were many pillows in the royal bedchamber; some tassled and some not, but all expertly constructed of costly fabric. No, too simple.

Strangulation? She questioned, raising a blonde brow over hazel eyes. Too obvious, and too much room for error.

With every wheezing rattle that marked another intake of breath, her thoughts grew darker. A twist of the neck? Elegant, maybe, but a little out of my reach, physically speaking, and there’s no use trusting a servant or a guard to the task.

They were loyal enough and to her, not to him. Noblesse guards to honour the heiress of the Noblesse House. No matter that he was the King and she his wife, it was the Noblesse name that mattered and the blood of the ancient noble house ran through her veins, not his. Their marriage had been one of convenience and subterfuge; a way for the Noblesse heiress to marry while keeping the family name alive and take control of Ismer in the process.

No, it wasn’t that Aganetha Noblesse did not trust her loyal guardsmen, it was simply that involving them threatened her most cardinal rule. Three people can keep a secret, she reminded herself, if, and only if, the other two are dead.

Not to mention the fact that it would be so inconvenient to have to dispose of a guardsman as well as her buffoon of a husband.

It will have to be the knife, she decided. There is simply no other way to be absolutely certain that the job is done to my satisfaction.

“Lionel.” With an exaggerated motion, the fair-haired Queen of Ismer shook her husband, the King, awake and found herself growing quickly annoyed at how long it took him to rouse to her summons. I could have easily done it while he slept and he would have been none the wiser.

“Lionel!” She shook him again, more sharply this time.

“What! What is it?”

“I think I heard something, over there by the balcony window.” She did her best to sound frightened.

“It’s likely nothing,” he responded, already rolling back over to resume his nightly imitation of a badly tuned Wellish horn.

“No,” she protested, “I swear it was something. A rattle perhaps, or the click of a latch.”

“Alert the guards, then,” he instructed, determined as usual to make her despise him further by being as obstinate as he possibly could.

She flopped onto her back with a sigh. “You’re right,” she whispered, after waiting until he’d drifted enough to take in a breath and ready his fog-horn once more. “It’s probably nothing.” She waited again, sure of her timing now. “Only…”

“What is it?” he demanded and she silently exulted, a grin blanketing her perfect features in the darkness. I have him now!

“Well, I’d sleep much better if I knew what was out there…”

“You want me to go and check.” It wasn’t a question.

“If you would.” Her response wasn’t a request.

“Fine.”

With a noise that was half-sigh, half-grunt, Lionel Noblesse hauled himself out of their four-poster bed in a reluctant fashion. His dark brown hair was tousled and his back bent just enough with laziness that his long white nightshirt swept the carpets that covered the cold stone floor. He circled around the wide bed frame to head for the far balcony window she’d indicated with a quick gesture of her head.

This gave her just enough time to reach for the dagger she kept in her night table drawer.

This is perfect, she thought, internally grinning, if he looks back, he’ll only think me scared and wanting to defend myself. He has no clue that he is one that needs defending.

She stood and plastered a frightened look on her face, so there would be no possibility of error. He reached the balcony door and swung it open, pushing aside the white silk curtains to peer out.

“See,” he called back to her, speaking in a conversational tone, meant to set her at ease. “There’s nothing out there.”

“I know,” she told him, standing much closer to him than he expected her to be as he turned around. She could see the surprise in his eyes at her nearness and the sudden strength of her expression in the pale moonlight. She wasn’t frightened now, nor nervous.

She was eager. Determined. Confident. Free.

Surprise was the last expression she saw on her husband’s face as she drove her curved dagger into his soft belly and upwards, under his ribcage. She had to do a thorough job; she knew she’d only get one shot at this.

“Guards!” She shrieked at the top of her lungs the moment she saw the life go out of his eyes and he started to topple.

They came rushing in at her call, without a moment’s hesitation. I’ll have to commend them for their quick response, she made a mental note before correcting herself. No, I’ll have to punish them instead. They did let their King be killed right under their own noses after all…

“Assassins!” She told them, tears of triumph meant to look like grief streaking down her face and sparkling on her cheeks as they caught the light of the guards’ torches. “I was asleep… they must have stolen my dagger from the nightstand there,” she pointed, “and used it…” She faked a sob. “I woke then, but they fled out through the balcony door…”

All the evidence in the room fit the very plausible scenario she painted for them, save for the lack of visible assassins, but her loyal guards had no reason to doubt her grief-stricken words and the Noblesse House did have its enemies…other noble houses and powerful families that were nearby or in residence that she would be sure to blame for this.

It was a measure of her self-discipline that she was able to keep her expression contorted in grief, when what she really wanted to do was grin in triumphant glee.

I’m free and for the rest of this night and each night thereafter, I will sleep in peace!

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The Queen’s Intent is a glimpse into the history of Ismera, the setting for Unintended by Murandy Damodred and myself. Unintended, a Shakespearian style romantic comedy about good intentions launches August 17th, 2015. Subscribe to this blog to keep up with information as it becomes available, or subscribe to our mailing list at www.mirrorworldpublishing.com

 

My apologies to Robert Dowsett, especially for making him edit this!