Monday, March 19, 2012

Moving the Blog

The time has come to move to greener pastures. So I will no longer be updating this site. You can go directly to my website to get the latest and greatest. I'll maintain this blog feed there, but eventually it'll go all the way of the  earth.

Thanks for following me here and I look forward to seeing you at my new home.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mirror Song: Chapter Three

Queyanna was already inspecting the horses when Rhiona approached the group.

Rhiona sensed the horse’s apprehension. She reached out to him and gently stroked his face. Her inner-song also reached out and touched his. The notes blended in a song of tranquility, where the meadows were green and the grasses sweet. It soothed the beast. Within moments, the gelding relaxed under her touch.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw that Queyanna was doing the same thing to a cream drafts hitched to the wagon. Her daughter also had the gift to speak with horses, a long standing tradition in their family. She felt pride at knowing her daughter was so proficient at it, maybe even more so than her.

Rhiona noticed Ean watching them, though mostly watching her. She showed him her back as she joined Queyanna in soothing the other horses. The rest of the Fostering Group continued to pack the wagon and tie their bags to their respective saddles.

Once everyone was ready, Rhiona offered a few words. “We are about to embark on a new mission, one more dangerous than previously thought.” A brief glance at Ean was enough to explain why. “The people of this world do not realize the threat they pose on themselves and their world as they stretch the limits of their Order and Chaos magics. It will be up to us to teach them to curve their appetite for one or the other to achieve a balance. In that, I hope they will understand the benefits and let go of their traditions to embrace new ones. We must be their example in everything we do. Our inner-song must be strong that they may blend with theirs to show them a better way to live. In so doing, we will release their dependence on such corrosive magic-practices that they may become something more. Hopefully, this will entice them to accept their greatest potential as a people and a world and embrace Transcendence. Doing this will cause us to expand our own measure and grow stronger in Harmony.”

She looked at the younger faces surrounding her—those who had only a few missions under their belt versus those only beginning their calling as a soldier of Harmony. There was so much potential in each of them, just as there was potential for this world to achieve Transcendence. “I won’t lie to you and tell you this will be easy. In fact, it will try you more than anything else ever has. But the rewards when your charges accept harmony into their lives will outweigh everything else. You will experience a fullness of heart and know your struggles and trials were well worth the effort. So prepare yourselves for the challenges ahead, but never lose hope. Keep your eyes focused to the skies and remember you are part of a great universal consciousness. You are one with Harmony.”

The little speech seemed to bolster the Fostering Group’s mood, as she had hoped. Such speeches were common when embarking on a new mission, but not always effective. Thankfully, this one was.

Ean stood nearby with arms crossed. Despite putting him on the spot during the speech, he was gracious enough to help her up onto the wagon bench. However, he gave her backside a good smack before it hit the seat, which caught the attention of several people in the Fostering Group.

She scowled up at him.

He jumped down and walked away with a smirk.

The edge to her anger faded when she watched him help the other men load the last items onto the wagon. Under the blazing sun, he began to sweat immediately which made his tunic cling to his muscular form. She found herself envying that tunic.

Queyanna wiped her forehead with her handkerchief and mounted an elegant brown.

He climbed over to the wagon bench and grabbed the reins. “It’s not as comfortable as a coach, but I have plenty of water and the cooler prairie lands are not far.”

Rhiona edged over in the bench to give him room, feeling like a young maiden once more. The glance he gave her told her he was looking forward to this as well.

Their brief reverie was interrupted when Queyanna injected, “I’ll drive.”

Before either Rhiona or Ean could object, her daughter was off the brown and stepping onto the wagon. Rhiona had hoped that after all these years her daughter would accept their relationship. Clearly, she had not and it wasn’t just because it was against the rules. Queyanna didn’t approve of Ean.

Queyanna handed him the reins to the brown. “You can ride this one, Scout.

Irritation punctuated each inflection of his words when he replied, “Yes, Admiral.” He jumped down and mounted the brown.

Queyanna did love her uncle, but there was the past she wouldn’t let go of. Rhiona didn’t understand why her daughter held onto the past with such determination. Queyanna’s father had done terrible things to both of them, but that didn’t mean her daughter was defined by it. There was so much potential there, but Queyanna didn’t see it. Like her father, she was a perfectionist. Failure wasn’t an option.

Rhiona regularly reminded Queyanna to be patient and kind to herself. These were traits important to have if she were to ever become an ambassador like her. But it didn’t seem to matter. Her daughter had her own way of doing things, things that got her into trouble. Rhiona tried not to think of that, as well as the intergalactic professorship she had forfeited in order to save Queyanna from a terrible situation that changed both of their lives. She didn’t mind helping her daughter, but her life seemed like one long string of sacrifices where she got the short end of the stick.

Ean’s expression was stoic, but under that reserve she could see the regret. He adored Queyanna, had spoiled her when she was a child, and gave her all his attention whenever he was at home between missions. And she seemed to adore her uncle as well. There were even times when all was quiet and the three of them sat together under the stars that their inner-songs blended so well one would think they were a family and that Ean was the patriarch. But sadly, he wasn’t. That time of bliss ended abruptly too, when Markham appeared and saw how close his brother had gotten to his family. His jealousy tore the family apart and further scarred Ean who then withdrew from society and gave himself entirely to his work to the point of being a recluse.

Queyanna’s chiding voice cut through her thoughts, speaking in her mind. “Mama, this is the last place you and Uncle Ean should be reminiscing. Her expression remained impassive, but the tone of her thoughts to her mother cut deep. “Someone is bound to have noticed the portal-jump variance, and I don’t want our hosts suspecting any romantic ties between you and Uncle Ean. They will claim subterfuge, like Gelone.” 

Rhiona felt her face flush. “Gelone was the direct result of a corrupt politician wanting to use Harmony Magic to gain an advantage over his rival. It had nothing to do with my relationship with Ean.”

Queyanna argued, “We can’t afford another mistake, Mama. This Fostering Group is already getting too much flack for our low effective rate. If we don’t return with a Recommendation for Transcendence for this planet, my days as a Fosterer will be over and your reputation will be in a sink hole.”

Rhiona shot Queyanna a glare. “You think I don’t know that? I wasn’t just hatched yesterday.” Her daughter was about to say something, but stopped her by declaring, “We better move on before we experience more discord from the warring factions.”

Ean nodded, nudged his horse and took the lead.

The entire entourage rode across red rocky terrain where the dirt was dry and hard for hours. Canyon after canyon, it all looked the same. Rhiona had never liked the desert, unlike Ean who found it fascinating. It amazed her how they could be such opposites and yet love each other so passionately.

The sun bore down on her, enough that her robes became a second skin. The red rocks and sand eventually gave way to sage and prairie grasses. When they reached a stream, they stopped.

Ean dismounted and then helped Rhiona down. He handed her a clean handkerchief, which she made good use of around her neck and on her face.

The rest of the Fostering Group took the opportunity to let their horses drink from the stream and to spread out some food for lunch.

Rhiona handed the handkerchief back to Ean. “Thank you.”

He winked and untied his canteen that he then handed to her. “Drink this.”

She also hadn’t noticed how dry her mouth had gotten. Gladly, she accepted the canteen and took several long pulls of the clean harmonized water. Even as it touched her lips, she felt her body renewed. “How is it that you know what I need exactly when I need it?”

With a lopsided smile, he leaned close and whispered, “Because I take care of my baby.”

His bravado made her chuckle. She handed him the canteen, which he accepted and drank from as well. Watching him retie the canteen to his saddle, she realized he was right. He had always taken care of her. Even when he wasn’t around he made sure she was cared for. She might feel lonely for him or resented the fact he loved his work at times more than her, but he almost never failed to be there when she needed him. Almost. The one time she needed him most, he was gone. But it was her fault, after all. She was the one who had abandoned him first. A question burned in her mind, one she had to voice. “Why did I ever let you go?”

The question caught him off guard. He paused at the saddle, thought for a bit and then asked in a low voice, “Does it matter now?” He rested his hand on the saddle and turned to her. “I could blame my brother for going to the High Council to petition them to switch our link from me to him, but I won’t. I could blame the Council for trying to manipulate me into giving up my work with technology without magic, but I won’t. I could even blame you for not believing in me, but I won’t. The truth is it doesn’t matter anymore. Our souls merged once, and I still carry that with me, but that is in the past.”

Her eyes burned. Didn’t he realize she did believe in him now? “So all this flirting is just a passing fancy?” Bitterly, she added, “You know what? Don’t answer that.”

She turned to walk away, but he grabbed her hand and pulled her close, completely disregarding protocols. Typical Ean.

“It’s more than that and you know it,” he said for only her to hear. “I love you, that hasn’t changed. What I meant was that I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future.”

“And what future is that?” She looked up at him, afraid of the answer but needing it anyway. 

His features softened as he touched her face. “A future where no one will ever question my claim to you and you will be mine and only mine.”

The blatant declaration was shocking and insolent, as well as exciting. “Truly? This is what you wish for?” she whispered.

His fingers ran along her jaw to her lips. He leaned closer, his eyes half closed, as though preparing for a kiss. He stopped short of her mouth and breathed, “Yes.”

She could almost taste him through that warm rush of air, even feel his tongue probing and exploring her mouth. She wanted it, needed it. 

“Ambassador Rhiona!” Queyanna called from the wagon. “Whenever you’re ready, we can depart.”

The intrusion broke the trance. It angered Rhiona enough that she was ready to quit the mission, drag Ean back home to have her way with him and scream ‘to hell’ with her daughter’s objections.

Just then another rippling set of discordant flats undulated through the ground, this time stronger. Then they heard the screeching sharps filling the air with such intensity that the world seemed to lurch back and forth. The crashing of magic from Order probes and Chaos scries threatened to pummel the Fostering Group with discord. These magics were being sent by the warring factions to investigate the magic rifts caused by the Fostering Group’s portal-jump into this world. With each passing, excruciating moment, Rhiona felt her body weaken. Her legs gave out under her and she grabbed for Ean’s tunic.

A single Chaos scry was easy enough to contend with, as it wasn’t as invasive as an Order probe, but together they were destructive to the point that a Harmonic could go mad.

Ean held her against him firmly, his feet rooted to the ground. Somehow he had managed to learn how to survive such onslaughts virtually unscathed.

There was the slightest of adjustments in her inner-song, something she hadn’t done herself.

She looked up at his face where the strain of his efforts was plainly evident. Even so, he remained in control and through him she was able to withstand the rest with no further negative effect.

The music she heard within was familiar, patient and gentle, yet unyielding. It was a portion of Ean’s inner-song, masculine and true. And it strengthened hers to where she could stand on her own again. Looking around to the others in the group, she realized they too had been touched by his inner-song and were staring at him with dismay.

She turned back to him and blinked. “How…”

He bent down and kissed her passionately in answer.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mirror Song: Chapter Two

Rhiona’s eyes scanned the desert landscape. She didn’t know quite what to make of it. Most of the vegetation was dying. There was an element of beauty hidden beneath the sands, as though a verdant paradise had been locked away.

She heard the sharp notes of the landscape’s music, along with the flat notes rumbling deep in the earth. The chords swelling in the sky competed with the thunderous drums below. The sound grated against her nerves, yet through the discord there was promise. Each set of chords was good, strong and vibrant. With a little help, the earth and heavens could align and generate a magnificent symphony.

It was as Ean had mentioned in his report—Printia had potential for Harmony. The question remained whether the people were ready.

There was no discernible path to civilization from where she stood. For all practical purposes, they were in the middle of nowhere. There was no reception, no entourage, and no opposition. This was discouraging. If this world was as eager for Harmony as Ean had reported, there should have been more interest than this. Instead, there was only sand and rock.

The group was sitting at the bottom of a wide canyon. Only a dried riverbed offered some direction to follow.

Rhiona coughed. Her throat was getting dry in this wasteland and the discord in the world wasn’t helping matters either. It was irritating her Inner-Song, the music unique within all beings, forcing her to consciously harmonize within to keep from becoming as discordant as this world.

Rhiona turned to Ean who was standing next to Queyanna. When he saw her, a lopsided smile formed on his lips. There was a contemptuous reply in her expression, one that held no smile. The longing was still there—the need to feel his arms around her and kissing her softly as he had years ago. But she could not indulge in such frivolity. She was on a mission, both sacred and practical. Still, that mouth of his… The things he used to do with it still made her hunger.

His smile widened. The man knew what she was thinking. Damn him! She could hide nothing from him, especially her desire.

Her eyes moved away from him with casual indifference. She knew what that look would do to him and she relished how it tortured him. He wanted her as badly as she wanted him and she was going to make him suffer, just as he was torturing her with that knowing gleam in his eyes.

Ean was the only man she had ever truly loved. Had her office been that of a simple sergeant, she would have foregone propriety and kissed him on the spot. Perhaps she should shock him by doing it anyway, and shock the entire group while she was at it. But she was an Ambassador. Such gestures of impropriety were forbidden. Then again, she wasn’t much for playing it by the rules. Of course, that’s what got her in trouble in the first place. And her daughter, Queyanna, had inherited her rebellious nature. Given all that had happened to her in recent years, it was best that Rhiona display nothing but the best example for her. Giving into temptation never served either of them.

Rhiona approached Ean.

He bowed with an effortless sweep, reached for her hand and pressed his lips to it.

She managed to maintain an implacable expression, though her mind went wild imaging where that mouth could be.

“Welcome to Printia, Ambassador Rhiona,” he offered in a deep baritone voice. His thumb stroked the back of her hand.

She inclined her head in a proper greeting. “Thank you, Scout.” Her inner-chords betrayed her for only a second, releasing a light series of notes that blended with his Inner-Song, revealing their mutual affection. She cleared her throat while taking control of her faculties once more and pulled away. “Where is everyone? Why isn’t there a receiving party?”

He rested his hands behind him. “As I mentioned to your daughter, the Admiral, the mounts and wagon are beyond those rocks here.” He indicated a nearby ridge. “It was thought best to keep this as quiet as possible, given Bryhton’s recent actions against Lenkinar in their subversion efforts. This spot was chosen as the best portal site, where no one would think to travel.”

Rhiona saw that Queyanna was leading the group down the dried riverbed. When she turned back to Ean, his face was but a few inches from hers. She did not move as he leaned close to her ear and whispered, “Shall we join them or would you prefer to remain here for a time?”

The feel of his breath against her skin and the warmth of his body so close to her brought her back to the moment he first kissed her. Back then, they had been surrounded by pine trees and stood at the crest of rocks near a waterfall. He had made her beg for the kiss. And she recalled how desperately she had begged him.

Her eyes were watching his lips, feeling the inexhaustible need rising within. They were so close, she thought. So close that all she had to do was lean over and their lips would meet. How she had relished that kiss when he had given it to her. It was long and sensual, teasing and provocative, hungry yet controlled. Heavens, how she wanted him to kiss her now as he had then!

“Yes,” she breathed.

A mischievous grin formed on his lips. His voice was low and sensual. “Yes what, Baby?”

Hearing the familiar endearment after so many years brought the ache back in her chest. At one time she had hated him calling her that, but now she couldn’t imagine living without hearing it. The man was insufferable, knew how to tempt her, but he wasn’t a fool either. He knew as well as she did that they couldn’t afford breaking the rules. Not now, especially given all that had happened to Queyanna. And neither of them dared talk about that openly either. 

Ean was more than a scout in harmonic society. He was a respected medic, renowned for his cures even for the most discordant patients. He used to travel often throughout the universe lecturing on herbs and other medicinal therapies. As a professional, he earned a long list of commendations for his work in particularly discordant planets. His reputation led him to receive the highest honor a Harmonic could hope for—the Song of Valor. Yet, despite such notoriety, he had chosen this job over more lucrative and illustrious positions in The High Seat, which was the central government of all harmonic civilization.

She wanted to believe he did it to be near her, but he had kept his distance from her for a very long time…until now. It was curious that he suddenly had an interest in her again, given his adamant wish that they not work together again. But he had requested her specifically for this assignment. What was he planning? Revenge?  If so, could she blame him given what she had done to him years ago?

Rhiona shook her head. “No…I mean…yes…we should follow them.” And quickly she started towards the Fostering Group.

Ean followed easily, his legs moving as though she weren’t racing towards the group.

She cleared her throat and congratulated herself for managing a professional tone as she said, “I am most intrigued by the mention of the balance mages in your report. Why aren’t we working with them?”

Ean offered his arm to her. “The terrain is rough through here. It would be best if you allowed me to assist you.”

She hesitated a moment, pondering the wisdom of touching him again, but then accepted it.

The gleam returned to his eyes as he walked with her like a dignitary escorting his consort. “To answer your question, I would have invited the balance mages if I knew where to look. Unfortunately, they have remained aloof with the rest of the world. And perhaps, it is better for them. There are rumors that they reside in an island south of Tervelvan, but the waters to travel there are traitorous. Those who have ventured there are not heard from again.

She stopped, aghast. “Do you suspect foul play?”

His brows wrinkled in thought. “I don’t think so. There is magic involved, of that I am sure. However, given the geological history of that area I would suspect something natural over something deliberate or nefarious. It could be a triangular anomaly, as we’ve seen in other worlds.”

“That could be why they settled there, using it as a natural defense in order to remain hidden,” she thought aloud.

He nodded. “That is what I surmised.”

Her eyes idly traced the shape of his lips, realizing too late the effect it was having on her. She watched as the corner of his mouth curled into that incorrigible lopsided grin again. When the tip of his tongue ran along his upper lip, she practically melted into his arms.

He chuckled, clearly relishing her torment.

Her eyes narrowed at him. She wanted to punch him in the face as much as she wanted to kiss him. Instead, she spun around and marched around the bend of rocks.

Behind her, Ean laughed openly.

Below in a canyon was a small team of horses hitched to a long wagon. Approximately, half a score of horses were nearby, tied to various blackened gnarled trees. There was a young man offering water to one of the mounts. The fair young man looked to be in his late teens, his face dotted with freckles. Despite the youthful appearance, there was intelligence in his expression.

The fostering group was approaching the young man when suddenly a tremor erupted from the east, bearing the heavy flat notes of chaos.

It brought Rhiona to her knees, making every bone in her body vibrate with pain.

In that instant, a gust of wind slashed across the sky above with a sound of screeching sharps.

She covered her ears, but nothing could spare her the onslaught of violent discord that followed.

Both the earth and the skies shook from the clashing of magic between order and chaos, felt by the Harmonics as waves of earthquakes that shook them down to their bones. They all fell as Rhiona had, struggling against the pain that undulated through them from the two warring magics.

Surprisingly, Ean stood not far from her with his legs spread apart, riding the tremors as though his feet were rooted deep into the earth.

When the shaking ebbed, he scooped her up into his arms and helped her to her feet. He kept his arms around her to steady her and gently brushed the dirt off her cheeks with his fingers. “I’ve got you, Baby.”

She met his gaze, horrified. “What was that?”

“The war between Lenkinar and Bryhton has escalated,” he said as he brushed the dirt off her robe. “The order and chaos mages send powerful spells against one another in an effort to weaken one another’s forces.”

She pushed his hand away. “They’ll destroy this planet if they keep that up!”

He helped her get her footing back and stepped away. “I know.”

“You should have mentioned this in your report, Ean,” she chided.

His jaw tightened. “I have reason to believe it can be stopped.”

Rhiona closed her eyes, trying to regain some harmony despite being so jarred by the experience and by Ean’s antics. It took a minute, but she removed the discord from within her and brought some semblance of harmony back to her Inner-Song. Afterwards, she turned to him and ordered, “You will not keep secrets from me, scout. If the council had known this they would not have approved these intervention measures.”

He hooked his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Rules and regulations. That’s all you ever think about, not the people involved or the potential lost. You haven’t changed a bit.”

Those words pierced like a knife. He wasn’t talking about her devotion to protocol. This was about what she had done to him years ago, how she had ruined him with a simple declaration. But she wouldn’t have done it if he had followed the rules. That was his problem. The man lived to go against the grain, to find new ways to bend the rules and get away with it. In her youth, she thought it was exciting until she had to try to find a place in his wild life.

Normal was not in his sphere of existence. Their passion had been great, but the nights alone wondering where he was and waiting for years with no word left her depressed and dejected. In the end, she chose what she thought was the right thing for both of them. She had no idea that instead it would almost destroy him.

She gestured to her team who were still struggling from the after effects of the earthquakes. “What of them? Do they not count as ‘people’ too or are they to be fodder for your whims?”

He lifted his hand. “Enough. I will not argue with you.”

“You will follow my orders, scout,” she stated tersely. “This is my mission and only I am the representative of Harmonic society to these people. You will report all facts you have gathered about this planet to me. Do I make myself clear?”

He looked at her squarely as anger smoldered in his eyes. “Yes, Ambassador. Shall I make arrangement for your return to Adrane?”

Adrane was the capital planet of the Harmonic Galactic Society and the first place she would want to go to report his behavior and have him removed from his job. He was testing her to see how far she would take this little battle. It wouldn’t be the first time she met with The High Seat to report against him.

As much as she wanted to remind him who was in charge, she also loved him still. Very much. She shook her head. “I will lead the efforts to introduce Harmony into Lenkinar’s society, but they must prove themselves worthy of it. It is clear this world has not been prepared adequately for the conversion. Which means I will not only have to do part of your job teaching them about harmony, I will have to find ways to guide them away from using order magic with such reckless abandon.”

He stepped closer to her, the discord of his anger reaching into her trying to take control of her Inner-Song. “I will introduce you to Lenkinar’s society and you will follow my lead before you make any judgment against them. I have lived among them. I know their ways. You do not. I have good reason to believe that Printia can be saved and already explained all that needs to be known to The High Seat. They agreed with my assessment that Printia has the potential of becoming part of Harmonic civilization. You don’t have to believe me, but you do have your orders by The High Seat to work closely with me. If you meddle in Lenkinar’s affairs and attempt to sabotage or disrupt their development in harmony, I can and will have you removed from this assignment. Do I make myself clear?”

Ean rarely got this angry or excited about anything. Whatever caused him to be so vehement in his defense meant it was important. That she couldn’t deny him. However, if he wasn’t so damn close to her grandmother, the High Priestess in The High Seat, she would have cut him down to size. Her grandmother adored Ean and truly believed he was the one who would sire the prophesied Promised One who would bring harmony to the universe. But Rhiona ended that opportunity when she rejected Ean and took his brother as her mate.

Rather than fight, she replied, “Quite.”

A weary chuckle escaped his lips. “You are still such a prima donna.”

She felt the rush of discordant chords of anger flush her face. “And you’re still a lecherous brute.”

He leaned close to her and winked. “Only with you, Baby.”

“I will not dignify that with a response,” she growled.

He grinned. “You already have.” Again, he winked.

That bastard!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mirror Song: Chapter One

The brilliance of harmony burst open into infinite points of light dotting the expanse of darkness. Much of the universe unfolded before Queyanna, like the birth of something within her, realized and formed in a swelling of music that came from the deep. The music was familiar to her. She had sung with its choruses many times before. There were parts of those chords contained in her inner-song, the sweeping movements that revealed the essence of her being.

It has been sung that the maxim of all existence is held within each note, each brush of a chord, reaching into humanity. To those who can hear, song is the substance of the universe. She thought about that, thought about the beings out there, out at each point before her, waiting for the music to touch them. She could hear the music that formed each solar system, its unique series of chords in spectrums of sound that rang throughout the universe, revealing each system’s course and promise. She had visited many of these planets—some remote, some well known. Then there were those that were still a wilderness. She was eager for these in particular, eager to see what symphony would unfold.

There had been much to plan, much to prepare for the long journey to a tiny planet in the farthest reaches. It had a particular kind of liveliness in its music that declared its place in the universe. She didn’t remember seeing it before, but the enthusiasm to know who lived there, to hear their songs, made her eager to go. She had never considered any other vocation than fostering planets into harmony. Harmony was a very extensive kind of magic, a science that required much study and understanding, and she loved being one of those who taught it.

The High Priestess told her once that she was tall among the Great Ones of harmony, having sung her own mix of notes that had already touched many lives. Queyanna had laughed, and thought it strange.

The High Priestess was her great-grandmother. Queyanna was born third in the line of the Promised Ones, who had been prophesied to bring harmony to every corner of the universe. Having the title proffered many opportunities to Queyanna, including the calling of admiral to her mother’s fostering group. It was a wonderful privilege, most of the time.

She was an independent soul, much like her mother, a Horse Charmer who rode the free herds that roamed near her home. The winds knew her name, and had carried her song to the ends of the planets she had visited.

None questioned her fortitude held in her hazel eyes that demonstrated her resolution. They were eyes that had seen much, eyes that had known the bitterness of pain and the elation of achievement, eyes that had cowered in shame and rose in triumph, eyes that held a deep secret.

Practicality was paramount in everything she did, even in the arrangement of her long, wavy dark hair that was always kept in a braid. Let those women who wish to portray fragility have their hair ornaments, their baubles, she thought. Let them deceive their suitors with painted faces and flowing gowns, with their cunning acquiescence, hiding their manipulative natures, their utter discord. Queyanna was no such woman. She was a woman of lucidity, a woman of reason. She was proud and strong. She had walked the halls of powerful men, and met them squarely as an equal.

She was a woman of stature; a woman who knew that one day the Promise would be fulfilled. One day, worlds upon worlds would hear the song of harmony, all would sing their songs in one accord, and she would be there when it happened. Queyanna would be there to make sure every person’s song had an opportunity to be heard, that everyone would get a chance to add his or her unique set of chords. But that time had not yet come; the universe was still troubled with discord. She could see it in the flickering points.

The tiny planet had its own troubles. Its song was marred by the corrosive tendencies found on such magic worlds. Printia was a world split between order and chaos—a planet in a race against the inevitable, destruction or harmony.

She stood before the lush grasslands of the Embarking Zone, watching as the dots swirled until they coalesced into a haze. At the center, a misty point of light developed, and grew in a circular motion until it was a large luminous sphere that barely touched the ground. The wind from the sphere brushed the grasses, releasing their tinkling notes. Music filled the air with such sweetness and serenity that even the ancient oak and maple trees beyond chimed along with the trembling of their springtime leaves. The smells of lilacs and fruit blossoms mixed with the more predominant rose fragrances from bushes that dotted the vast compound in clusters, giving the sense of strings being gently caressed. Petals emitted delicate high notes that played fluid scales in time with the steady low melody of the earth. Pigeons cooed, larks sang, and robins called in exultant rapture. Bees were already buzzing from flower to flower, working in a systematic rhythm with the environment. Everything moved with the true clear notes of harmony, notes that echoed against the glittering granite walls of the naturally integrated superstructure behind, its own music adding breadth to the symphony. It was the planetary capital, home to the High Council, and the School for Cadets. The sun peaked from the tips of the nearby evergreen mountains to the east, adding warm flats to the music. Shadows willingly drew back like wisps of yawning fairies ready to slumber.

She turned to the couple singing. They were Linkers, the connective power between the home planet and other worlds. The couple’s song moved and drove the music in a duet that rose above all other sound. The song was one Queyanna knew well. At times, she would even sing quietly along. It had a bittersweet melody that always touched her deeply. It was an ordinary song, really. Common enough. With a steady movement, and only one key and one tempo change. Within the notes was the long nights of loneliness to come, the pang for the desire of a touch. It also held the elation of achievement, of the joy knowledge could bring. It was a portal-jump spell song.

Some portal-jump songs led to other places on the planet, those were merely a duet singing melody, and some even led to other dimensions, which required multiple voices singing complex rhythms and chords. This portal-jump song simply led to another world.

The luminosity of the sphere, and the music peaked at a forte. Mists inside the orb cleared to reveal a dry and arid landscape within. The key changed and the tempo slowed.

Next to Queyanna stood her mother, the Ambassador Rhiona. She was the epitome of grace and beauty. Few women possessed a greater command of the feminine spirit, as this woman did. She was almost a head shorter than Queyanna, but dwarfed her in strength of magic. Everything about her was harmonic. Down to her lithe hands and her warm brown eyes that held quiet understanding. Her innocent smile had softened even the most rigid hearts. She was the granddaughter of the High Priest and High Priestess, and second in the line of the Promised Ones. Queyanna glanced at her own masculine hands, noting the contrast to the supple hands beside hers. She moved her hands behind her, and bit back a sigh.

Rhiona turned and gently nodded to Queyanna to prepare for the portal-jump. Queyanna scanned the fostering group just behind the two women. In all, there were a total of fourteen individuals in the group. Each stood ready, wearing their tan uniforms and an array of weapons. At their feet were their large duffel bags, filled with items they would need for the mission ahead. Several individuals were doing some last minute reviewing of the planet’s cultural report that contained political, social, and cultural information. This was her mother’s group, a group that had had success on previous missions introducing harmony to other worlds. Now it was Printia’s turn.

The baldric sat comfortably over her shoulder. Queyanna’s fingers touched the familiar smooth wooden grip of the harmony-blade at her side. The cool sharp notes of the steel resonated with her, keyed to her inner-song. She was rather fond of her leaf-bladed sword, as she had forged it herself with the help of her great-grandfather.

As the winds grew from the opening portal, long chestnut tresses lifted into the air, forcing Queyanna to step aside to keep from swallowing them. Rhiona was the only one in the fostering group allowed the luxury of loose hair. Everyone else wore their hair in a braid or had it cut short for practical reasons.

As admiral, it was Queyanna’s duty to pass through the portal first. She waited and watched the orb until the figure of a man could be seen within. He walked to the center of the orb, and then waved. She recognized him; he was her father’s brother, Ean. She had called him Uncle Ean, as well as other things. Ean had been sent to Printia to scout any prospects, and ultimately was the one who had prepared the cultural report. She waved back.

Anticipation welled within her; a tense sort of excitement that made one forget what difficulties lay ahead. Each planet was unique, and offered its own blend of music that impressed her. She loved meeting new people, intelligent people who were the movers and shakers of a world, and discovering what motivated them. She had been fascinated by the tenacity of these individuals that struggled against so many odds. These men and women were their own symphony—their own motive power—and she had always felt the most at ease with them. This planet promised to be special, a combination of adventure and intellectual stimulation, according to her uncle’s report. It was the kind of planet Queyanna had hoped to foster since the beginning of her calling.

The time had come to for her to pass through the portal. She picked up her mother’s duffel and then her own. She sang a climatic transitioning spell under her breath, in order to acclimate her body to tolerate the higher temperatures at the location where they entered Printia. With deliberate care, she stepped towards the orb, already feeling the heat radiating from within it. This hot already, she thought. It was staggering to consider it, especially since it was still morning where her uncle stood.

As she crossed into Printia, the sound of the music from the couple warped until she emerged on the other side, where only the faintest melody could be heard. She surveyed the desert-like canyon that stretched out for miles in all directions. The orange wind-eroded formations that surrounded her offered a breathtaking contrast to the azure sky. Pungent smells of sage filled her nose, threatening to make her sneeze before her nose could finally adjust to the aromas. The same wind that swept the desert in a relentless, steady motion, made her braid whip about. She stood still, absorbing the music of the planet.

The flat notes of the desert rocks moved with an unbroken drone, as if it were reaching into the depths to find relief from anxiety. Violent sharps from the winds abraded against the flats with opposite purpose, its screeching sounds were arrogantly proud, rolling in a blatant gratification of its own. At times, the sharps and flats joined in a symphony that made one feel a sense of calm, a sense of progression towards an achievable triumph. But then it was gone before it could be reached, and the forces of music returned to their contest of ability, waging a battle that, had it form, would have been brutal indeed. The music was unbalanced, a combination of noise and drums that held no cohesion.

Queyanna could hear the off-key notes from the dying brush. Sage lay like skeletons scattered throughout the desolation of dirt, brittle remnants of what was once a vibrant valley. It became clear to her, as the dull screeching off-key sharps reverberated from the vegetation, the rocks, and the dirt, that the land was slowly dying, dying from order and chaos poisoning. A cracked and dried riverbed snaked around the nearby ridge, appearing like the shed skin of a reptile left to rot with the rest of the desert. She could hear the quiet moaning of chaos magic from the crusted sand that once sustained life.

The rocky ground was drenched in a liquid heat. Wallowing flats of chaos bulged and bubbled, exploding into licks of air that distorted the horizon. Down below, where earth and fire melded as one, chaos magic moved with reckless abandon, its monotonous thrums threatening to burst into the sky with blazing fury.

It wasn’t the evidence of order and chaos, but rather the extremity present that bothered her. It made her listen with anxiety.

Off-key sharps of order pealed from the west, screaming in a rage that struck her inner-chords like a hammer. She winced from the impact and the discordance it caused within her, clenching her teeth as she began shifting the notes of her inner-song, adding on-pitched notes where the threads of a chord had been ripped away, until finally she was back to some semblance of inner-harmony. She turned to her uncle with an incredulous expression. He offered a rueful smile, and then shrugged.

She approached Ean as the flats of chaos rumbled through the ground, quaking in a release of energy that this time plucked her inner-chords, shaking them until her inner-song wilted to discord once again. She blinked. It wasn’t possible, she thought to herself. How could a planet still exist with this much order and chaos? Quickly, she worked on harmonizing herself as the dust settled back to the ground. With this level of order and chaos, destruction would not be long in coming.

She thought that there was something peculiar about the corruption of the planet, as though the slow deterioration reached a certain point, and was stayed by some unknown force. It was a momentary notation, something she knew she would have to think about further later.

“Are you alright?” Ean asked with a lopsided smile that was the man’s signature.

Queyanna looked at him, realizing that she had forgotten he was there. “Yes, I think,” she said.

He chuckled, his eyes scanning the scene. “You’ll get used to it.”

Her eyes followed his. “Is it like this everywhere?”

“No, only here, in the Great Desert in Tervelvan. It’s much less violent in Lenkinar, where we are headed.” He glanced at her jacket, decorated by a single golden ring around the left cuff. “You’ve gone up in the universe.”

“I received my calling as admiral for Mama’s group nearly fifty years ago.” Queyanna turned back to him. He still had the sparkle for the love of life in his dark-blue eyes, the same attentive awareness in the muscles of his face. He wasn’t tall, nor was he short, however, his manner suggested a presence great and soaring, as to incite one to match it.

One side of his mouth inclined once more. He offered her a hug. She knew by the delay of his release that he had missed her. “I’ve been on this planet for almost seventy years, and have not seen you since I was at the cliff-house you and your mother share.” He stepped back, taking a good look at her. “It is good to see you, and to see what you’ve grown to be.” She could hear the pride in those words. He turned and swept his hand over the scene. “Welcome to Printia, Sunshine.”

Her eyes bore the gleam of a smile on an expressionless face. She remembered the name with a fondness from the days when she was a little girl, riding on his back as though he were a horse. “Thank you,” she said, her tone as serious as her uniform. “However, I would prefer if you refrained from calling me that in front of the fostering group.”

He laughed. “Of course, Sun…I mean, Admiral.”

She shook her head, chuckling. A thought entered her mind. She frowned, her eyes searching. “Where are the wagon and horses?”

He pointed toward a small ridge. “There, on the other side. I have someone waiting with them.”

Queyanna nodded, and then gestured for the rest of the fostering group to pass through the portal. She and Ean watched as the group filed onto the planet, each one experiencing the environmental music much as she had.

Within the orb, back home, were families and friends that had gathered to see them off. One member of the fostering group had yet to enter Printia. It was the Linker, Sabia. Queyanna saw that tears were streaming down her face.

Sabia was tall, like all the Yuley people, with tan skin and thick muscular tone. The cropped, black hair fell barely above her shoulders. Usually, the woman had quite a formidable presence. However, now, there was a soft sadness to her appearance, one that touched all that watched her. Her consort, and fellow Linker, a man equally tall, stood before her, also with tears on his cheeks. The two looked into one another eyes as their mouths, fully open, sang the climax of the song. For that moment, Queyanna knew that more than just glances were exchanged. It was the intimate thoughts between lovers as well. Sabia reached out, and held up her palm to him. He reached out in like manner, pressing his palm on hers. Their fingers interlinked momentarily in a symbol of their union, and a parting gesture. She let her consort go, and touched his face one last time, before turning and stepping onto Printia. Queyanna put her hand on the tall soldier’s shoulder. Her dark-skinned hand met Queyanna’s, and the two lifelong friends stood gazing at the tall, burly Linker waving the circular gesture of harmony to his wife. She waved back, and then nodded. The bittersweet song of the portal-jump spell had finally reached the coda. The Linkers sang two notes that faded into a pianissimo and left the end open, summing the prodigious opportunities and the anxiety of what lay ahead. Then, the tranquil vision of Queyanna’s home world gently faded as the portal collapsed and the mists dissipated.

© 2012 by RM Brand.
Use, including copying, printing and/or distribution, without prior permission by author is prohibited.

Mirror Song: Prologue

"How cohesion occurs is not by accident or some ecological anomaly, but rather in the infinitesimal resonance of music that breathes life into all creatures, and gives value to the minerals. Air is not just air, but a suite of notes that move in tune with the rest of the universe. Even in the vacuum of the cosmos is held the faint notes of harmony that those who have ears to hear can feel and touch.

When order, the sharp notes of the harmonic spectrum, and chaos, the flat notes of the harmonic spectrum, are separated, a dialectic forms which causes each to contribute to destruction. In contrast, when order and chaos are united in harmony, the two magics contribute to creation.

We must learn to master the connective music within and without ourselves. Such mastery comes through training, and simply listening. Why can’t everyone hear these seemingly inaudible melodies? Not all are willing, and moreover, not all have the strength to hear and absorb the core values into themselves."

Introduction to Harmonics: Lesson Manual
Chapter 1 – The Basics of Harmonics
312 Edition

© 2012 by RM Brand.
Use, including copying, printing and/or distribution, without prior permission by author is prohibited.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cover Art for Book Three: Dawn of Justice

Just finalized the front cover for Dawn of Justice, book three in The Judge Chronicles. Edits are still underway, but we're getting closer to a release date, which I'll announce in the coming weeks.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Enter Another World: Feral Nature

Just released: Feral Nature, book #2 in The Judge Chronicles

Maria has finally made it to Jacob’s world, but things don’t go as smooth as she had hoped. Jacob is captured before she can step foot on his world. And when the time arrives, the Shaoque is unrelenting in his pursuit to capture her and use her against Jacob to obtain the Stones of Ornak. However, she won’t make things easy for the Shaoque. As she fights to stay alive, she learns to harness a power from a strange black weapon imbued with intuitive energy. But the cost is great. If the Shaoque does not get her, the magic eating her flesh away will.

Maria must use her wits, her knowledge and her ingenuity if she is to survive long enough to rescue the man she loves.

Get your copy today for only $3.99 for your Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and all other devices at Smashwords. Paperback edition will be coming soon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Shaman's Beacon On Sale!

Red Sage Publishing is selling The Shaman's Beacon at a 25% discount. Check it out here.

The Shaman's Beacon book trailer.

Also, I'm very proud to announce my involvement in a project with Christie Craig for her book trailer for Murder, Mayhem and Mama available through Barnes and Noble (for Nook). Watch the video below and be sure to post your thoughts and "Like" it if you, well, liked it.

Murder, Mayhem and Mama, by Christie Craig, book trailer.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Publishing Dates

Life has been a hectic, as I'm sure it has been for you too, and the holidays are upon us so I'm pushing the release date for Feral Nature January 20th and Dawn of Justice March 20th.

Be sure to check back in January and take advantage of the $.99 ebook sale on By Virtues' Design available now through Amazon (Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook) and Smashwords (all other formats).

You can find other great works of fiction from authors in my area right here, from the Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Big Announcement Coming!

Big news coming this week, one that includes a project I've been working on for a while. Another involves the next installment in The Judge Chronicles and where that's headed.

For now, pull up a chair and enjoy a nice cold one in a red Solo cup.