Trevor H. Cooley Author of the Bowl of Souls Series.

Author Archives: Trevor Cooley

Book Title Announcement and Cool Reader Story

Hey folks, it has been awhile. Things are slow down here on the farm, but I do have some updates.

First, I still don’t have internet here after a month of waiting. Charter Internet is the only game in town for true high speed internet and they are dragging their feet getting the installation done. As my new house is too far from the road for a standard installation, they have to change out a power pole and dig a new line in. They aren’t very good at communicating, saying only “We’ll let you know when we are ready to begin construction.” It’s a royal pain for a family who uses the internet for its lifeblood.

The good news, however, is that this hasn’t stopped me from starting on the next book. This brings me to my announcement.

The title for The Jharro Grove Saga, Book Two will be: Protector of the Grove

This book returns Justan and Co. to the lead characters in the story as Justan and Jhonate go to Malaroo to confront her father, while Tarah Woodblade and Djeri’s story takes them to Coal’s Keep to drum up support to help them rescue the rogue horse.

Estimated release date is early summer, June or July.

In other news, I recently heard from a reader in German with a request. His daughter had translated the prologue of Eye of the Moonrat into German and wanted to publish her translation in her school newspaper. I was touched by the request and gave her permission. Yesterday I received an email from him. The school newspaper had come out and he sent me pictures of the pages.

german prologue

Eotm Proloue German2

photo2

Thank you, Thomas. Tell your daughter I love it!

April Update

Hey folks, it may have only been a few weeks but it seems like much longer since my last post.

I’m currently writing this post from my parent’s house using my father’s computer. My family and I moved two days after Tarah Woodblade’s release. We have been in Tennessee since the 15th of March but we have not had internet service. We bought some farmland and the internet provider out here says it may be a few more weeks until they can get the cable out to our house. As a result I’ve had a strange sort of disconnect with the book’s release and for the first time I feel like I don’t really have my finger on the pulse of how the book has been received.

I have driven into town from time to time to update Facebook from my phone (also terrible reception at my new house but that should be fixed when the internet is up too) and I have checked the numbers as well, but it isn’t the same as my daily communication with readers.

At any rate, I have started on the second book in the Jharro Grove Saga and I am having fun getting back into the mind of Justan and Co. I hope to release this book early this summer at this point and now that the move craziness is over I should be able to keep on schedule.

I’ll update you when I have new info like the new book title and so forth. In the meantime please leave comments or reach me through the contact button and tell me what you think of the new book. Also please leave reviews on Amazon. Reviews truly are the lifeblood of Kindle sales.

Also I thought I’d tell you about someone I met here locally. She is the author of the Advent Mage Cycle and her name is Honor Raconteur.  I was quite surprised to meet a fellow fantasy author out here and we have had some interesting conversations. She is an independent author as well and we have similar stories as to how we got where we are.

I haven’t had a chance to read any of her work yet, but it is well reviewed. Have any of you read any of her books?

Thanks to you all for reading!

 

Tarah Woodblade is now Available

Hey, Folks. It’s time.

Tarah Woodblade is now available on Amazon for Kindle!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IXGQVDS

TarahWoodblade-ebook

As in the past, this book will be exclusive to Amazon for the first three months and will be released to Nook, Apple, etc, after that. But why wait? If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can still read it. Download the free Kindle app for PC, Android, Ipod, Tablet, or whatever. The ebook is just 3.99.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Please sound off in the comments below as you by it. Also please leave a review and don’t hesitate to tell me what you thought in the comments or using the contact button at the top of the site.

Thanks so much everybody for your patience. This book was truly a labor of love and I know you’ll love it too.

Trevor

Tarah Woodblade release imminent! Like tomorrow imminent!

(Update: I just submitted the book to Amazon. It should be available in a few hours!)

Hey, folks. I just finished writing the epilogue. I am planning to do some final polishing and post it to Amazon tonight. That means it should be available on Kindle tomorrow at some point.

I will post an update to the blog the moment I post it. In the meantime, I have added the new map for Tarah Woodblade to the map page.

Also I thought I would show you the cover before and after. I think you guys should see what a great job Renu did transforming the image.

I wanted the cover to be Tarah squatting by some tracks in a winter forest scene, her face mostly hidden.

This is what she started with.

before photo

You can see the beautiful leather work and more by Nancy Sirois here www.lagueuse.com

I wanted the armor to be more practical, covering more of her skin, and I also wanted it to be gray like moonrat leather would be. Then she added some distressing affects and changed the fur to be the same texture as the moonrat on her previous covers. She also added in Tarah’s staff and a bow and quiver. After some lighting effects, she came out with the amazing cover you see here.

TarahWoodblade-ebook

Tarah Woodblade chapter 3 and update!

Well, folks, it’s crunch time.  It”s getting more and more stressfull here in Cooleyland with our big move coming up. I’m doing the writing while my wife is doing the packing and that has led to all types of fun times for all involved. The good news is Tarah is coming soon, (just weeks away).

In the meantime I thought I would post one last preview chapter for you guys to chew on. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know in the comments section below.

In case you missed them, read chapter one HERE and chapter two HERE.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

Tarah raised her arms, signaling a halt. The nobles jerked back on their reins, causing one of the horses to give out a nervous whinny. The trolls stopped their swaying and sniffed the air, saliva dripping from their open mouths. Luckily their eyesight was poor and the wind was blowing in Tarah’s favor. Like all common trolls they were tall and thin, with long wicked claws and large mouths full of razor-like teeth. Their skin had a greenish tint and extruded a glistening slime that had pooled on the ground around them.

Trolls are hard to kill, warned Tarah’s papa. Best to avoid them whenever possible.

“I know,” Tarah whispered, a shiver of fear rising up her back. Unfortunately, the creatures were standing in the middle of the road. She pulled her bow from its place over her shoulder and turned to Derbich. “Keep your voices low. They haven’t noticed us yet. Do any of you have a way to make fire quickly? Magic fire starters?”

“No.” Derbich answered, his eyes concerned.

“What are those things?” Bertwise whispered.

“Trolls,” Tarah said, but kept her focus on Derbich. “How bad do you need to be at the Mage School today?”

“Let’s go back to Sampo, Derbich,” Anna said, her voice a bit too loud. One of the trolls cocked its head and took a few steps in their direction. “We can come back tomorrow with armed guards.”

“Be silent, Anna.” Derbich turned a frown at Tarah. “I would much rather be there this evening, Miss Woodblade. That’s why I paid your man more than the standard guild rate.”

Tarah’s lips tightened. So her suspicions were right. She would have a nice chat with Bander when she got back to Sampo. “I can take you around ‘em. There is a ravine not far off the road. We’ll have to lead the horses.”

“I demand we go back to Sampo!” Anna protested. “I am NOT traipsing through the underbrush with creatures around!”

The trolls screeched at the sound of her upraised voice and began to run towards them. Tarah swore. “You three stay where you are. Don’t run unless they get past me.”

The trolls were coming fast. She would only have time for one shot and she had to make it count. Tarah reached back to her quiver and ran her fingers quickly over the fletchings, selecting an arrow she knew was steel-tipped. Gathering her concentration, she drew the arrow back and fired.

The arrow struck the lead troll between the eyes and drove deep into its skull. Tarah nodded in satisfaction as it tumbled to the ground. The other troll ran on heedless of its downed companion, its claws outstretched. Tarah dropped her bow and ran to meet it, her red staff in hand.

A troll fights without strategy, her papa said. Hunger is the only thought in its head. It’ll charge and swipe with its claws, trying to pull you in and bite you.

Yeah-yeah. Thanks a lot, Tarah replied. She was scared enough without the reminder. The thing was at least a foot taller than she was and by the way it barreled towards her Tarah knew that standing toe-to-toe with it wasn’t going to work.

Soon it was almost on her. Tarah darted to the side, just under it’s wicked claws, and swung her staff down low, using it’s momentum against it. Her staff cracked it across the shins and the troll fell forward.

It crashed to the ground so hard that Tarah heard the snap of breaking ribs, but the troll scrambled to its feet, heedless of pain, and turned to face her. Tarah planted her feet and the end of her staff met its face, striking it across the upper jaw and nose. The troll stumbled backwards as blood, teeth, and slime flew from its mouth.

For most creatures, such a horrendous blow would have ended the fight, but Tarah didn’t dare let up. Before the troll could right itself, she shifted her hands on her staff and swung again, her weight distributed perfectly to lend the blow as much power as possible. The staff struck its temple, shattering its skull.

The troll fell convulsing and Tarah struck again. Three more times, she bashed its skull, softening it up. Then, when its movements had stopped, she pulled an arrow from her quiver and stabbed through its fractured skull, pinning it to the ground.

Breathing heavily, she turned to see if the other troll was back up yet. When she saw that it hadn’t moved, she let out a sigh of relief and turned to face her clients.

Anne was staring at her, wide-eyed, her hand raised to her mouth in horror. Derbich gazed at her with respect, one eyebrow raised. Bertwise, on the other hand, wore an eager grin.

“That was amazing!” the young noble said and spurred his horse forward to get a closer look at the downed troll. Tarah raised her hand and opened her mouth to tell him to stop, but she was too late. As his horse lunged forward, she heard a loud snap.

“No!” she cried and rushed past the confused boy. A lump rose in her throat as she picked up her bow from the ground where she had dropped it. The impact of the horse’s hoof had split the wood down the middle. She glared at the boy. “You see what you did?”

“I’m sorry,” Bertwise said, confused by her reaction.

“Don’t worry, Miss Woodblade,” said Derbich. “We’ll buy you a new one.”

“M-my papa made it for me,” she said, her lips quivering. “It’s . . . not replaceable.”

Tarah Woodblade doesn’t cry. Tarah Woodblade doesn’t mourn. Not where she can be seen, Grampa Rolf reminded. Tarah swallowed her sorrow and swung the broken bow back over her shoulder.

“I insist,” Derbich said. “We can make an arrangement of some kind.”

Tarah shook her head, but felt an insistent nudge from her grampa and said, “We can settle up when we arrive at the Mage School. For now, I need to burn these things. Come on. Follow me.” She led them down the road and stopped them at the body of the first troll she had downed.

“It’s moving!” cried Bertwise.

The troll raised its head and began to push itself up from the ground. It opened its mouth and gurgled, releasing a rivulet of slime. Tarah could see the arrow slowly being pushed out of the wound as the creature’s brain healed. She swung her staff in a precise strike, smacking the end of the arrow and driving it back into the troll’s head. The steel arrowhead popped out through the back of its skull.

Anna yelped as the troll convulsed, then laid still. Tarah grabbed it by the leg. The troll’s skin was slick and rubbery and she fought a grimace off of her face as she began pulling it down the center of the road towards the second one.

“What are you doing?” Anne asked from atop her horse. “Let’s ride on.”

“We can’t, Madam Furley. They heal too quick. If we leave ‘em here, they’ll just attack the next person that comes down the road,” Tarah said, dragging the heavy troll past their horses.

Bertwise didn’t believe it. “How can it heal an arrow through the brain?”

“They don’t have much to heal,” Tarah replied.

“Troll brains are simple, Berty,” Derbich explained. “All they think about is eating. Besides, even if you cut their head off, they’ll just grow a new one and walk around as if nothing happened.”

“And the head you cut off will grow another body if you let it,” Tarah added, grunting as she pulled its body on top of its friend. “Once saw a troll cut into ten pieces. Two weeks later, came back to find ten trolls.” That was actually one of her papa’s stories, but Grampa Rolf would say telling tales was a good idea, whether the story was true or not. That’s how you grew your legend.

“The best thing you can do is leave something stuck through its brain until you can burn it,” Tarah continued. She looked down at the troll whose head she had smashed. The bones of its skull were already re-forming. She set down her pack and reached into the front pocket for her flint and steel. “Now hold tight while I set these things on fire.”

“Right there in the middle of the road?” Bertwise asked.

“Don’t want to burn down the forest,” Tarah said.

“I don’t like standing around here,” Anne complained. “What if there are more of those things around?”

“This won’t take long,” Tarah said through gritted teeth. If these people weren’t clients she would have chewed the woman’s ear off. Instead she kept her voice even.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Derbich said. “Trolls burn quite quickly. Their slime is flammable.”

“How efficient of them,” Anne grumbled.

Tarah turned her back on the woman and struck her flint against the steel, sending sparks onto the trolls’ glistening bodies. It only took a few strikes before there was a soft whoosh. The flames came up so suddenly that the horses shied away.

The trolls began to squirm as the fire ate into them and one of them jerked spasmodically, sending strings of burning slime across the road. One string landed on a slime trail the trolls had left earlier and Tarah rushed over as fire began to spread. She was able to kick dirt over the trail to stop the flame’s spread just before it reached a pool of slime at the forest’s edge.

“See, lady?” Tarah said. “That’s why I wanted ‘em in the middle of the road. Who knows how long they’ve been in the place leaving their slimy tracks every. . .”

Tarah’s voice trailed off. She walked to the edge of the road and crouched down. “No way,” she mumbled to herself, gazing at several slime-covered impressions in the ground. Their pattern was quite distinct.

“Do we really need to wait around here until those things stop burning?” Anne said.

“Just a minute longer,” Tara said. She opened her pack and reached deep inside to pull out a piece of folded parchment. She opened it and compared the ink drawings on the page to the impressions in the ground. They matched perfectly.

Gripping her staff tightly, she tucked the parchment under her arm and reached down with her free hand to touch the tracks. A deep hunger flashed through her mind and she snatched her hand back, frowning slightly. She couldn’t sense the mind of the creature that had left the track. The troll slime was in the way. She sat back on her haunches and looked at the piece of parchment again, her brow furrowed.

“Miss Woodblade? Is there a problem?” Derbich asked. The man’s voice was tinged with concern.

She shook her head and tucked the parchment back into her pack, then stood and turned to face them. “It’s nothing of importance, sir. We should move on.” He raised an eyebrow but nodded and Tarah added, “I’ll pick up the pace. We’ll still make it by dark if we hurry.”

She started on down the road towards the Mage School at a brisk jog, leaving the smoldering remains of the trolls, and the curious tracks, behind. The nobles had to urge their horses into a trot to keep up. To Tarah’s relief, they kept a slight distance, giving her time to mull things over.

When the drawing of the strange tracks had been given to her, Tarah had scoffed at the idea that such a creature existed. But now she had seen real proof. The tracks had belonged to a large beast with the front end of an ape and the rear end of a great cat.

She could feel her grampa’s smile. There was a lot of money to be made if she could track that beast down. Too bad the tracks had been so old. From the state of them, they had been left in the mud two rains ago and from the looks of the forest around, it hadn’t rained in quite some time. She bit her lip. The creature could be anywhere by now.

Tarah Woodblade doesn’t turn down an opportunity to make coin, Grampa Rolf reminded.

It’s too much of a stretch, grampa, she replied. Still, it was a lot of coin. She shrugged the thoughts away. She could worry about that later. The most important thing at the moment was to deliver the nobles to the Mage School.

Tarah kept up her pace and soon she was breathing heavily. She shook her head, refusing to slow. Three months of hiding had weakened her. Tarah Woodblade didn’t get winded. Not after a mile run. Besides at this speed, none of the nobles had bothered to speak with her.

The enormous Rune Tower loomed ahead and she ran on, her eyes taking in the scars of war all around her. The fighting had been heavy along this last section of road. Trees were broken, many of them charred, and huge sections of the forest had been torn up. Tarah didn’t let guilt touch her this time. This had been the result of battling with magic. Surely there was nothing one person could have done to help.

Tarah’s legs were burning by the time the walls of the Mage School came into view. She slowed to a walk, her jaw dropping. The walls had shrunk.

The walls used to be a marvel. Raised by powerful earth wizards, they had been fifty-feet-high and made of a single sheet of black rock and used to hang out overhead far above the ground, giving the oppressive feeling that they could collapse on her at any moment. Now, though they were made of the same black rock, the walls were maybe twenty-feet-tall at most. Tarah swallowed as she thought of the sheer amount of power that would have been necessary to bring those walls down.

The Furleys hadn’t seen the walls in their previous state. Anna gave out an awed gasp and Bertwise hooted in excitement. They urged their horses forward and soon passed Tarah in their rush to get to the gates.

Derbich let them race ahead, slowing down as he came next to her. “I must talk to the wizards, but I would like to speak with you afterwards if you don’t mind waiting, Miss Woodblade.”

Without thinking, she nodded and he hurried to catch up to his wife who was already at the front gate speaking to a guard and gesturing excitedly. Tarah walked on, watching as he caught up to them and calmed his wife. Before she reached them, another guard came from inside the wall and ushered the family through. They didn’t look back.

Tarah stopped and grit her teeth in consternation. Why had she agreed to wait? There was nothing to do outside but stand in the dirt and they could be gone for hours.

She looked up at the darkening sky. Surely there was no real need to stay. The Furleys had already paid the guild. If she started back to Sampo now she would be back at the Tracker’s Friend to throttle Bander by midnight.

She turned around, intending to do just that when she heard her papa’s voice chastening her, Be responsible, Tarah. If you see something dangerous in the woods, you got to warn folks.

Her shoulders slouched and she mumbled, “I know, papa.” Tarah looked back at the guards standing by the gate. There were two, one standing on either side of the wide gate, and both were looking her way. She headed towards one of them. He was a big man wearing a breast plate and carrying a spear.

“Hey you!” Tarah said and the man’s eyes widened in surprise. His face was weathered and a long scar wrinkled one cheek. “You in charge here?”

“Me? No. I’m just a student,” he said with a voice Tarah found high for a man his size.

“You’re a student?” she said, puzzled. “At the Mage School?”

A hesitant smile appeared on the man’s lips. “Naw. At the Battle Academy, Ma’am.”

“What’s an academy student doing standing guard at the Mage School?”

His smile faltered. “It’s a big place. Everybody helps with guard duty.”

Tarah frowned. The academy didn’t send students on guard assignments. More had changed than she’d thought. “I don’t have time to talk to a student. Where’s your guard captain?”

“Uh . . .” The student took a few steps back from the wall and looked towards the top of the wall. “Jerry!”

A helmeted head appeared at the top of the wall and peered down at them as it shouted back, “What?”

“This . . . lady wants to talk to someone in charge!” the student replied.

The person on the wall let out a sigh. “I’m coming down!”

A few moments later a guard dressed in full polished platemail walked from inside the gate, his helmet held under one arm. He was short, perhaps a full foot shorter than Tarah, but he had a wide-bodied frame. His shoulders were as wide as a man half again his size and his arms were huge. He approached them and Tarah realized from his stride that he was a dwarf. She hadn’t noticed right away because, unlike other dwarves she’d seen, his hair and beard were cropped short and neat. It reminded her of the way her papa kept his beard trimmed.

The student saluted him but the dwarf just scowled. “You call me captain when you’re on duty, kid,” the dwarf snapped. “And my name’s ‘Djeri’, not ‘Jerry’. understand?”

The man’s face reddened. “Yes, sir.”

Tarah found it strange to see such a young-looking dwarf addressing that grizzled man as ‘kid’. But then again the races with blood magic lived a long time. For all she knew, he could be hundreds of years old.

“Alright, Yerd, back to your post,” the dwarf said in dismissal and turned his eyes on Tarah. He raised one trimmed eyebrow at her armor and red staff, then met her gaze. His eyes were green. She’d never seen a dwarf with green eyes. “And what can I help you with?”

“You’re the guard captain?” she asked.

“No. Riveren the Unbending is in a meeting right now,” the dwarf said, his voice a deep baritone. “But I’m one of his sub-captains. You can speak to me.”

So Riveren was still in charge. The ‘Unbending’ moniker was new, but at least someone she knew had survived the war. “Okay, captain. I wanted to tell you that you guys have problems. We ran into trolls on the road here from Sampo.”

The dwarf didn’t look surprised. “How far from here?”

“About half way,” Tarah said. “There were two of ‘em.”

“Two trolls,” Djeri said, nodding. “Thanks for telling me. I’ll send some men down to take care of them.”

“Those trolls are dead,” she replied. “I burned ‘em and left ‘em in the middle of the road. The reason I’m warning you about ‘em is because there could be more. There was a lot of slime in the forest around the area. I had folks to guide so I wasn’t able to stay around and count tracks.”

“You killed them?” The dwarf looked her over again, his face thoughtful.

“Tarah Woodblade won’t be slowed down by a couple trolls.”

Djeri smiled. “You’re Tarah Woodblade? The hero of Pinewood?”

“I am,” she said and though she injected pride into her voice, something about the dwarf made her feel a little guilty saying it. “But I’m not from Pinewood itself.”

“I heard about you.” He gave her a respectful nod. “Most people thought you were dead, but the Pinewood folks said you were too tough to die. Where have you been?”

“It’s a long story,” she said quickly. “And it’s getting late. I really need to get heading back. I just wanted to warn you before I left.”

“Come on. There’s no need for you to leave just yet. Not when it’s just getting dark,” the dwarf replied and Tarah wondered where he was from. She had never met a dwarf that sounded so . . . human. “Why don’t you stay here for the night? Dinner’s just starting back at the barracks and there is a guest house open that you can sleep in.”

“I-I don’t know.”

“I insist,” he said with an encouraging grin. “Listen, the food here might not be dwarvish, but it’s way better than the turd soup they serve at the inns in Sampo. And I hear the beds at the houses are really nice.”

“Well . . .” Tarah hesitated. A bed sounded wonderful, but Tarah really didn’t want to spend the evening trying to explain where she’d been during the war.

Djeri took her hesitation as a yes. “Good. Yerd! Send a message to Wizard Beehn that we have a guest.” The big man nodded and ran through the gate. Djeri put an arm around her shoulder and urged her inside. “Thanks for warning me about the road. I’ll tell Riveren about it as soon as he gets out of the meeting. I’m sure we’ll send a patrol out at first light.”

Tarah sighed in acceptance and allowed him to lead her through the gate. The view inside the walls was pretty much the way she remembered it. The main road continued through vast manicured lawns to a cluster of class buildings and a clock tower at the center of the school. The enormous Rune Tower rose up behind it all, stretching endlessly into the sky.

That was the home of the wizards, the home of the Bowl of Souls, and more importantly to Tarah, the home of the greatest library in Dremaldria. Tarah had never been inside, but her mother had told her tales of it. She had always dreamed of roaming the library, reading the tales of the great adventurers of days gone by. But the wizards would never let someone like her in there.

Djeri paused to let her take it in, but he didn’t stop talking. “I’m sorry you had to deal with those trolls. We’ve had difficulty keeping the area clear. Ewzad Vriil and the moonrat mother left a lot of turds behind for us to deal with.”

Djeri led her to the left, away from the main road and towards the guard barracks. This area was much bigger than Tarah remembered. There were two new buildings and several neat rows of tents spread in the grass beyond.

As they came closer, Tarah could see men milling about as they came on and off the wall and heard the sound of sparring coming from the training grounds behind the buildings. “You seem to have a lot more guards than before,” she observed.

“Most of the men you see are students,” Djeri said with a shake of his head. “The majority of the graduates are either out on assignments or helping with the rebuild so our forces are stretched pretty thin. The wizards are letting us teach the students here until the new academy is complete.” The dwarf brought her to the largest of the buildings and Tarah caught the first scent of the food being served. “There’s so many of us here right now that the Mage School set us up our own dining hall. We’ve found it best to keep our students separate from theirs as much as possible.”

Tarah’s mouth watered and she realized she had hardly eaten all day. They entered a wide and open dining hall packed with tables and the clamor of talking men. At the back of the room, several servers wearing white aprons were standing behind tables laden with food, dishing it onto plates for the guards.

“The food line’s right here,” Djeri said, taking her to a group of men that were waiting to have their plates filled. “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to leave you here. I have other duties to attend to.”

Tarah frowned. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Just get your food and sit anywhere. No one will give you trouble,” he assured her. “I’ll tell Riveren you are here. I’m sure he’ll want to talk to you. One of us will return to show you to your guest house in a little while.”

The dwarf patted her shoulder and left and Tarah’s anxiety rose. As she watched the dwarf walk out the front door, she had to force the frown from her face. She replaced it with an expression of confidence and waited for her turn at the food, ignoring the curious stares of the men all around the room.

Her palms were sweating by the time one of the workers placed a large plate in her hands. She turned her attention on the food and gave nods to the workers as they piled various meats and vegetables on her plate. Each dish looked like a delicacy to her, covered with herbs and cooked to perfection. The last worker topped her plate with a large yeasty roll and Tarah stepped away eager to get started.

Now the question was where to sit. There wasn’t a completely empty table in the whole hall and the number of men watching her had increased. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she looked around the room and Tarah finally selected an empty spot on a table along the back wall.

There were four other men at the table, but none of them were looking her way. She sat at the end farthest from the men, setting her pack down next to her so that no one would try to sit there. The four men must have just finished a long shift, because they barely glanced at her with sleepy eyes before returning their gazes to their plates.

Watch and learn, Tarah. Watch and learn, said her papa’s voice and Grampa Rolf agreed. The best salesman is observant. Keep your eyes and ears open in every situation. You never know what opportunities may arise.

She didn’t care about opportunities in this place, but Tarah tried to listen to the conversations at the tables around her. Then she took her first bite and their advice was forgotten.

These academy men ate like kings. The roast beef was covered with gravy and fell apart in her mouth, the ham was smoked to perfection, and the roast duck had a sweet and slightly nutty flavor that made her wish she had the whole bird on her plate. The roll was soft and buttery, but the food that impressed her the most was a strange vegetable she had never tasted before. It was yellow in color and looked like a mix of tomato and squash, but had a smooth texture and a peppery tang to it.

As she ate, the weariness left her body and she realized that these academy men weren’t eating like kings. They were eating like elves. There was magic in this food. She felt like she could run all the way back to Sampo without stopping.

She was sopping up the last bit of gravy from her plate when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She looked up to see a guard in bulky plate armor standing beside her.

“You Tarah Woodblade?” asked a female voice.

“Yeah,” Tarah responded hesitantly.

The guard took off her helmet and Tarah saw a pretty face and a head of short-cropped blond hair. A horizontal line of black paint covered the guard’s face from nose to eyebrow. “I’m Kathy. Djeri asked me to take you to your guest house.”

“The dwarf sent you?” Tarah stood to find that this woman was almost as tall as she was and by the size of her plate armor, Tarah knew she must be very strong.

“He asked me,” the woman clarified. “Djeri’s a friend, but he’s not my boss. He was called into a meeting or he would have come himself.”

Tarah picked her pack up off of the bench beside her and shook her head as she shrugged it on. “You academy guards sure have a lot of meetings.”

Kathy smiled. “That’s what happens when you’re posted at the Mage School. Wizards love to talk. Come on. Follow me.”

They left the dining hall and walked back across the main road to the far side of the gates where a row of small houses stood. There were horses tied in front of one house and Tarah saw Derbich Furley standing next to them talking to a woman wearing mage robes. Tarah’s shoulder’s slumped. She had been hoping they would be staying somewhere else.

“This’ll be your place,” Kathy said, pointing to the house nearest the gate. She handed Tarah a key. “The wizards keep the place clean. We eat at dawn, but there’s always food in the dining hall, so you can sleep in if you want.”

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep at all after that meal,” Tarah said. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like eating that food every day.”

Kathy gave a half chuckle. “Yeah, you feel amazing the first few times, but you get used to it after awhile. I hardly notice it anymore. Anyway, it was nice meeting you.”

“And you,” Tarah replied. The woman nodded, then turned and walked back towards the barracks.

Tarah glanced quickly over at Derbich and was relieved to see he was still talking to the mage. She hurried over to the door of the small house and unlocked it, hoping to get inside before he noticed her.

“Miss Woodblade!” Derbich called and Tarah winced. He said one last thing to the mage before jogging over to talk to her.

Tarah frowned inwardly, but said in what she assumed was a polite tone, “Hello, sir.”

“So you are settling in, then?” he asked.

“I’ll be staying the night,” she said. “But I plan on leaving in the morning.”

“Ah, we may be here a week or so,” he said, looking slightly disappointed. “Would you consider staying and escorting us back?”

There was nothing she could think of that she wanted to do less. “Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got other things I need to do back home.”

“Ah, I understand.” Derbich hesitated a moment. “Miss Woodblade, I feel I must apologize for my family’s behavior.”

Tarah blinked in surprise. “Not at all. They were, uh . . . fine, sir.”

Derbich shook his head. “Nonsense, I know how horrible they were. I must ask you to forgive them. They are out of their element. You see my wife is, shall we say, sheltered. This trip is her first time out of Razbeck. In fact, it’s her first time to journey anywhere outside the city by any means other than coach. As for Bertwise,” He let out a regretful sigh. “I’ve tried to imbue that boy with common sense, but the noble court has corrupted him. I’m hoping life at the school will be good for him. Perhaps the wizards will teach him some humility.”

“I’m not sure the wizards have any,” Tarah replied.

Derbich chuckled. “Well, at least this talent of his means he won’t be taking over the family lands when I am gone. His younger sister is much more of a leader.”

“I see.” Tarah nodded in understanding. People with magic talent weren‘t allowed to rule. It was a law established by the prophet long ago and the Mage School itself enforced it. “Well, I wish your family well.” She turned to head into the house, but the man cleared his throat.

“Wait, I still need to settle up with you,” he said.

“Settle up?” Tarah said, unsure what he meant.

“Yes, I paid your man earlier, but there is the matter of your broken bow to attend to.”

Tarah had been trying not to think about it. “I’ve told you it isn’t replaceable.”

“Surely there’s something I can do to help,” he insisted.

Tarah had the urge to yell at him. What was he going to do, bring her papa back from the dead to make her another bow? But at her grampa’s silent urging, she said instead, “What do you propose?”

“I’ve been thinking on that.” Derbich pulled a coin purse out of his coat pocket and fished around inside. “I know that the bow was an heirloom, but perhaps this will help.”

Tarah frowned slightly. “Even if you gave me a handful of gold pieces, it won’t buy me a bow better than I can make myself.”

Derbich’s brow furrowed and he placed four gold pieces in her hand. “I don’t know about a handful, but this should at least help with material costs.”

Tarah swallowed. That was more than she had expected. “It will help. Thank you, sir.”

Derbich gave her a calculating look. “But you saved our lives today. So perhaps I can offer you something better.”

“Better than gold?” she asked.

“How about steady employment?” he suggested.

“What do you mean by steady?” Tarah asked.

“As long as you wanted it,” he said. “From what I saw at your guild house, it seems the Sampo Guidesmen have come under hard times. Come work for me. House Furley may not be the highest house in Razbeck, but I could use someone with your talents. I can provide you with steady work and good pay.”

“Leave the guild?” If she had been asked the day before, she would have been tempted to take it. “I . . . appreciate the offer, sir, but-.”

“It is a standing offer.” Derbich reached back into his purse and pulled out a type of coin Tarah had not seen before. It was slightly larger than a standard gold piece. The outer portion was made of silver while a golden disk sat in the center. “This is a Furley House mark. If you are ever in the City of Beck, come to my estates. Show this to the house guards and they will let you in to see me.”

Never close a door, Grampa Rolf said. Any business contact is a good business contact.

“Thank you, sir,” Tarah said. She took the coin and deposited it along with the gold in her pocket. “I will think on it.”

He patted her shoulder. “That’s all I can ask. Now, I must wish you a good evening. I hope we can do business together again.”

Tarah considered his proposal as he walked away. A steady job with a noble house? There could be worse ways to live. It was the kind of life her papa would have wanted for her. But that would mean leaving Dremaldria for good. It would also mean dealing with people every day. Tarah shuddered and turned back towards the cottage door.

She stepped inside to find a tidy living space. The arrangements were nicer than any inn she had ever stayed at. There was a central area with a table, two chairs, and a small cupboard and two identical bedrooms sat at either side of the space. A vase of fresh flowers sat in each room, filling the house with a fresh scent.

Tarah picked one of the bedrooms and threw her pack down just inside the doorway. She glanced at the intricate pattern on the quilt covering the bed. The wizards sure did their best to make the place inviting to their guests. Tarah frowned. This place made her feel like even more of a fraud.

She sighed as she unlaced and removed her armor. The sweaty stench of her underclothes made her wince. Tarah used the washbasin by the bed to clean up as best as she could and pulled a somewhat cleaner set of underclothes from her pack. Oh how she wished she were home. To have clean clothes and sleep in her own bed would have been so nice. She pulled back the quilt on the bed and looked at the clean white sheets, sure that there wouldn’t be much sleep for her here. Then she sat on the bed.

Tarah let out a sigh of a different kind. This was no straw mattress like at the inns she frequented. It wasn’t even stuffed with cotton like the mattress at home. She laid back into the luxuriant softness and smiled as she pulled the silky quilt over her. This had to be stuffed with down of some sort, though she couldn’t imagine what kind of bird had feathers that soft. And the pillow . . . she rubbed her head into it and smiled at the faintly floral scent. No she wasn’t sleeping tonight. This was far too comfortable to miss by indulging in something as ordinary as sleep.

She was snoring softly within minutes.

(End of chapter 3)

Tarah Woodblade chapter two

Howdy, folks!

As promised, here is chapter two of Tarah Woodblade. If you missed chapter one, check it out HERE.

I am back hard at work getting the book finished so you can read the rest. Please enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Trevor H. Cooley

 

TarahWoodblade-ebook

 

 

Chapter Two

“The hero?” Tarah mumbled in shock as she glanced at the cheering men in disbelief. What was this about? Tarah was unable to keep the surprise off her face as Bander led her to the bar.

The tavern wench gave her a wide grin and handed her an ale-filled tankard. “Wow, Tarah Woodblade. So good to meet you.”

Tarah simply frowned at her and looked back to Bander. “What’s this about? Where is everyone? Where’s Milt?”

“The war hit the guild hard, Tarah,” Bander said, the smile sliding from his face. “Tolbo and Zeem are dead. They were killed by Vriil’s men while trying to get folks out of the city. Gerrat the Owl and Jared are still missing. We think they’re dead. Heck, we thought you were dead until just now. Everyone else is out on jobs including Milt. He had to come out of retirement until we can get more members in. He hired Sara here in the meantime.”

Tarah’s frown deepened and she looked down at the frothy ale in her tankard. So that was it? Their ranks were decimated so they were willing to overlook her cowardice?  She heard her grampa’s voice excitedly telling her that this was an opportunity. Yet she felt her guilt swell. These men hadn’t exactly been her friends, but what if she had stayed and fought instead of running away? Could she have somehow done something to save them?

“But at least you’re back,” Bander said, a reassuring smile on his face. He slapped her back. “Why, with Tarah Woodblade as a member, we’ll be just fine.”

Tarah knew she should be relieved, yet her unease grew. This was too good to be true. This had to be a set up. Bander was acting too nice. Bander was never nice.

She slammed her tankard on the bar and grabbed the front of his shirt, jerking him close. “What are you up to? Patting my back? Talking nice to me? Usually all I get from you is, ‘Hey, Ugly’.”

Bander’s face reddened and he looked away. “I-um. I’m sorry about that. You didn’t deserve it and . . . that was before.”

“Before what?” she said with a glower.

“Before I learned about you,” he said, then lowered his voice and gave her an apologetic glance. “Listen, I admit that I used to think you were just a braggart. Then, once I saw you in action, I was a bit jealous that you were a better tracker than me.”

Tarah’s eyebrows rose and she let go of him. Bander the Nose admitting she was better than him? He had been the guild’s best tracker before she’d come along.

He straightened his shirt and cleared his throat. “But hey, that was before I heard what you did during the war.”

“And what did you hear?” she asked. Surely this was where his ridicule would begin.

“Well,” he said. “The rumors started spreading around right after the war ended, and at first I didn’t believe it, but I just got back from a trip guiding some of the Pinewood refugees home and the stories they told . . .”

Tarah steeled herself for the punchline, expecting him to bust out with a laugh and call her a coward to her face.

“I gotta say, that was some amazing stuff you pulled,” he said with an amazed shake of his head. “Guiding fifty villagers to safety? In the dark? In the middle of a full-on invasion by the moonrat witch? I never could’ve done it.”

“Fifty?” Where had he gotten that number? That night was a blur to her, but surely there hadn’t been that many.

“Was it more than that?” The same awed smile she had seen on Bander’s face when she first entered the inn reappeared. “All I can say is wow. You really are a hero.”

Tarah cocked her head at him in surprise. The man actually sounded genuine. She didn’t know how to respond at first, but then Grampa Rolf’s training took affect.

Tarah cleared her throat. “Fifty does seem like a small number. But then again, that was a crazy night. I would’ve saved more if I hadn’t been so busy fighting monsters off so the others could escape.”

Bander laughed. “That’s what they said you were doing. Unbelievable! I mean that’s the kind of thing you hear about the academy greats, but you’re a woodsman. One of us!” He lifted his tankard to her and raised his voice. “Here’s to Tarah Woodblade! Making the Sampo Guidesmen proud!”

The common room erupted in shouts of agreement as everyone lifted their tankards. Tarah blinked and took a drink along with them. Usually she hated ale, and the ale at the Tracker’s Friend was fouler than most, but she barely noticed the bitterness. When she slammed her tankard back down on the bar, she noticed it was half empty. The tavern wench promptly filled it back to the brim.

Tarah couldn’t believe her good fortune. That night in Pinewood had been over six months ago, just before the war hit the Sampo area. She was relieved that Bander hadn’t asked where she’d been since.

“So,” Bander said, putting his own tankard down and smiling at her. “Where have you been? Most of us thought you were probably dead.”

Tarah repressed a wince and lifted her tankard to her lips again while she thought of how to answer. She had intended to come clean about running away, but the situation had changed. She took a few swallows and realized that the ale was less bitter than usual. This didn’t seem like Milt’s regular recipe.

Don’t get drunk, warned her papa’s voice in the back of her head. Grampa Rolf’s voice agreed. Drinking ain’t for you. When you’re in a tavern, let the others get tipsy. Tarah Woodblade keeps her mind open for opportunities.

That’s what I’m doing, she replied and set the drink down. “I nearly did die, Bander.” She needed to distract him from his question. “Uh, got in a bit of a rumble on the way here, in fact. Ran into some bandits on the edge of the Mage Woods.”

Bander frowned. “Vriil’s men?”

“That’s what I figure. They looked the type,” she replied.

“We’ve had problems with them ever since the war ended. I hoped they would just go back to wherever it is they came from, but lots of them have been hanging around the area, harassing folks.” His frown deepened. “Did you leave them alive?”

She looked away. “Tarah Woodblade does what she has to.”

He nodded approvingly. “Good riddance. I hope the whole lot get themselves killed. The academy’s been sending out patrols, but thousands of those dirt-eaters ran off after their leader was killed. The jail’s full of them.”

“So the academy is still around,” Tarah said. “I’d heard rumors that they were destroyed.”

Bander shook his head. “Well, the academy itself was destroyed. But everybody got out before it blew up. Where have you been? I thought everybody knew that.”

Tarah’s face reddened and she came up with something quick. “After what happened in Pinewood I had moonrats and monsters chasing me all the way to the border.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted it. Stupid! That story left too many holes. Before Bander could process what she’d said, she added. “You know, those bandits I ran into had something on ‘em.”

Tarah slid the polished sword from the ugly sheath at her waist and set it on the bar top in front of him. “It looks like a magic blade of some kind to me. Is anyone looking for swords lost on the battlefield?”

Bander’s brow furrowed as he looked at the runed surface of the blade. He ran a finger along one of the runes and let out a low whistle. “Yeah, I’d say you’re right. I don’t know what it does, but I can always tell when something’s got magic in it. It has a certain glow to it, you know? As far as lost swords, we don’t have any jobs posted about any. You could take it to the academy post down at the Mage School and see if anyone recognizes it.”

“I was hoping to head home.” Tarah hadn’t seen her house since running away and she was worried that something might have happened to it.

“I heard one guy say a guard gave him five gold for a fancy spear he found,” Bander added.

“Five?” Tarah’s brow furrowed. That was a more than decent finder’s fee. The best reward she’d had was two gold and that was the day she had tracked and returned the mayor’s prized pony.

“You know what, if you wanted to head to the Mage School, you could also make some extra money on the side,” Bander said. He gestured to the wench. “Sara, can you hand me that job? The one that I posted this morning?”

“Sure, love,” Sara said and headed over to the job board on the far side of the bar.

Tarah gave Bander a disapproving look. “Love?”

“That’s . . . that’s just what she calls everyone.” Bander laughed nervously. “Hey, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m a married man.”

“Most of you are married. That’s why Milt never hired any serving wenches before,” Tarah said shaking her head as the buxom wench returned, paper in hand. “I’m surprised he did it now.”

“You want anything else, love?” Sarah said, slamming the paper on the bar top and giving Tarah a flat look. Evidently she had overheard.

Tarah ignored her and picked up the paper. She glanced at it and looked back at Bander. “A guide job? Just taking a family to the Mage School?”

“A couple and their son,” Bander replied. “They think he has magic talent and want to take him to the school to get checked out.”

“That’s more like guard work than guide work,” Tarah said. Most people didn’t bother to hire a guide from Sampo to the Mage School. It was a well traveled road, impossible to get lost on. It had been a few years since the last time she escorted anyone there. “Is the road still that dangerous three months after the war?”

“Of course not,” said Bander. “And I told them that. But they’re insistent and paid up front. I was going to do it myself, but I really shouldn’t leave. Milt asked me to stay behind and watch the place until he or one of the other senior members got back.”

“I don’t know.” Tarah rubbed her face. She really wanted to check on her house and heading to the Mage School would delay her return a day or two. Tarah thought about the drawing sitting in her pack and realized she had a third reason to head to the school. It was possible that there were three ways to make money in that short trip . . . Grampa would never forgive her if she passed up a deal like that.

Bander smiled urgingly. “Come on. They paid full guild rate. This little job will net you five silver dremals. That’s good money. I’ve never known you to turn down work.”

“You’re right,” she said, stepping back from the bar. “Tarah Woodblade doesn’t turn down a good job. I’ll do it.”

“Good,” Bander said. “They’re staying at the Birch Inn. And they want to leave right away.”

“I can read the instructions, Bander,” Tarah replied, shaking the paper at him before tucking it into her waistband.

He nodded, his smile fading and Tarah realized that she was acting incredibly rude. Bander usually deserved such treatment, but not today. Besides, Tarah Woodblade was stern. Not rude. She cleared her throat.

“Thanks for the job, Bander. And, uh, for being nice.” Tarah lifted her tankard from the bar and raised her voice as she turned to the sparsely filled hall. “To Sampo and the Guidesman Guild!”

Bander smiled again as shouts of agreement echoed through the hall. This time Tarah only allowed herself one swallow of ale. She slammed the tankard onto the bar and forced herself to give the tavern wench a nod of thanks, then headed for the door.

After the dark confines of the guild hall, the light of mid-day stung her eyes but Tarah blinked away the discomfort and strode down the street with a slight smile on her face. That had gone better than she could have imagined. No one knew what she had done. Tarah Woodblade was bigger than ever.

Once again she noted the stares of the passers by, but this time she recognized them as stares of awe. She gave a slight nod to each of these admirers and for a time she allowed herself to enjoy the looks. It was good to feel the hero. Tarah turned down a side street, hoping to make a stop before picking up her clients.

Her steps slowed as the burned-out facade of Ollie’s Bookstore came into view. She stopped in front of the once familiar entrance, one hand rising to her open mouth. Through gaping holes in the building’s outer walls, she could see blackened timbers and the ashy remains of books.

She stepped back and looked around. It seemed that the fire had been started in the bookstore itself. The stores on either side of the building had been freshly repainted as if they had only sustained minor damage, but there were no signs that Ollie’s place was being rebuilt.

Tarah swallowed and she hurried on, eager to put the building far behind her. She wondered what Ollie had done to anger the occupying forces. Had they burned it as an example to others? Ollie’s had been her favorite bookstore in Sampo and she knew that if Ollie was still alive, his store wouldn’t be sitting like that.

Someone in the crowd called her name as she walked past, but Tarah didn’t acknowledge him. She couldn’t. The feeling of guilt had come rushing back. The people of Sampo may not know what she had done, but Tarah did.

Back straight! Tarah Woodblade doesn’t slouch, Grampa Rolf reminded her and Tarah realized that she had lost her composure. She straightened her back and wiped away the tears that had begun to well in her eyes. That’s better. Tarah Woodblade doesn’t cry. Tarah Woodblade is tough as iron. Tarah Woodblade is confident. Tarah Woodblade fears nothing.

Tarah nodded and continued towards the Birch Inn. Though she was grateful for her grampa’s support, she couldn’t shake the guilt that gnawed on her. Her face impassive, she whispered quietly, “But I ran. People died and I wasn’t here.”

People die all the time, Grampa Rolf said. You can’t be responsible for other people. Worry about taking care of yourself first.

You can’t save everyone, her papa’s voice agreed.

Tarah didn’t reply. This time their assurances sounded hollow. She might not have saved everyone, but she may have been able to save Ollie.

The Birch Inn had the reputation of a middle-quality establishment, but it aspired to higher clientele. The boards that covered the building were white washed and the wooden roof tiles painted red. A stable boy stood out front to take horses and a greeter wearing only mildly stained finery stood at the front door.

Tarah didn’t want to go inside. The stench of whisky and cleaning solvents that came from the common room was too strong. She motioned to the greeter and handed him the job posting, telling him that she was there to pick up the family.

She didn’t have to wait long. A few moments later, the door burst open and a boy burst through the doors. He had light brown hair and freckles along with the gawky thin body of a young teen. He looked around excitedly and was followed shortly by a flustered-looking overweight woman. She wore a fur cloak that seemed much too heavy for the fall temperatures.

“Berty!” she called. “Never go running off alone. Especially in an uncouth foreign town!”

“But mom, one of the Sampo Guidesmen are here for us! I’m perfectly safe,” the boy whined.

The woman glanced around. “I don’t see anyone.”

Tarah cleared her throat and the woman swung around to face her. “I’m Tarah Woodblade of the Sampo Guidesmen Guild. I’m here to take you to the Mage School.”

The boy’s face fell. “A lady?”

The woman’s brow furrowed in concern. “There may be a mistake.”

“I promise you there’s not,” Tarah replied with a good natured smile. Usually this sort of reaction put her on edge, but after the events of the day she found it almost refreshing. This was the attitude she had been trained to deal with. “I’m the best guide in the guild.”

The door opened again behind the woman and a tall man with graying hair and a thin mustache stepped out, the job sheet in hand. The woman clutched his arm. “Derbich, dear. This ‘woman’ claims to be our guild guide.”

He turned his gaze on Tarah, one eyebrow raised. “Don’t worry, Anna, the young man inside told me she’s quite good.” He handed her the paper. “I am Derbich Furley of Razbeck. This is my wife, Anna, and son, Bertwise. I have signed the document and I believe all is in order.”

From the fine look of their clothing and the way Derbich had introduced himself, Tarah surmised that these people were minor nobility. Or at least they wanted to be seen as such. She hadn’t heard of house Furley, but Razbeck politics weren’t her specialty. Tarah looked at his signature on the paper, then nodded before folding it and tucking it away. “Very good. You ready to leave right away?”

“Are you sure, dear?” the woman said to her husband, distrust on her face. “She looks . . . uncouth.”

Don’t show anger, but be firm, Grampa Rolf’s voice said. Increase your client’s confidence.

“Tarah Woodblade is never ‘uncouth’.” Tarah replied, keeping her expression neutral. “As for my appearance, I’ve been on the road for a long time and had to fight off beasts and bandits on the way. I would’ve stopped to clean myself up, but I was told you were eager to get to the Mage School.”

“Beasts and bandits?” the boy said, his eagerness reappearing.

“We are pleased to have your services,” the man said, ignoring his wife’s concerned look. “The stable boy should be bringing our horses around any moment.”

“Good,” Tarah said. “I’ll have you there by nightfall.”

The stable boy came from the back of the inn a short time later leading three horses that were laden for travel. They looked to have come a long way. Tarah saw a flash of silver as Derbich tossed a coin at the stable boy.

“Hey lady, don’t you have a horse?” Bertwise asked as he mounted his own.

“Not for this trip,” Tarah replied and looked to his father. “The roads will be pretty congested until we get out of town. Keep close.”

She led them to the main square where all the major streets joined and took them down the Mage School road. Several people in the crowd waved at her and she nodded back at them. Tarah hoped that the family was seeing the interaction. Perhaps the respect the crowd was giving her would ease the woman’s mind.

Like the Grandriver Road, this one had also been recently maintained. Tarah kept a swift pace and as the family followed behind, she mulled the day’s events. The sight of Ollie’s shop kept coming up in her mind. If she had stayed in Dremaldria, would she have saved him?

What you should be wondering about is your pay, Grampa Rolf suggested.

That was true. Derbich had tossed the stable boy a silver piece as a tip. These people would have paid better than guild rate. Was Bander ripping her off? Normally that wouldn’t have surprised her, but after the way he had acted in the guild hall . . . She shook her head. Perhaps not much had changed after all.

Tarah pushed the thoughts away. There was no use worrying about it now. She focused on the road ahead, noting the various scars in the landscape that told of the battles fought along the way.

The family kept to themselves for the first two hours and Tarah enjoyed the quiet. Then the boy rode up to Tarah’s side. He brought the horse uncomfortably close to her so that he could speak without his parents hearing.

“So why do you wear that ragged armor?” he said. “Momma says it doesn’t even look functional.”

“It works fine, thank you.” She was well aware that it needed repair, but there was nothing she could do about it until she got home. “It stopped a throwing knife just this morning.”

Bertwise wrinkled his nose at her in disbelief. “Why is your staff painted red?”

“It’s not paint. It’s a rare type of wood.” She paused for effect. “Dipped in the blood of many monsters.”

“No way,” he said in awe. He reached out. “Can I see it?”

“No,” she said and continued to walk forward, her eyes moving back to the woods around them. There was something in the air. A strange scent.

“Okay, fine,” the boy said, his voice oozing irritation. He sounded like someone who wasn’t used to being refused. “What happened to your nose?”

Tarah was quickly remembering just how much she hated teenage boys. She let out a calming breath. “I got in a fist fight with a giant.”

“Right,” the boy said in disbelief. “Looks like you lost.”

“Tarah Woodblade doesn’t lose.” She gave him a wicked grin. “The giant might have bent my nose, but I took off its head.”

The boy snorted, but she saw a hint of belief in his eyes. “Is that a true story?”

“My stories are always true,” Tarah lied. Her stories were only partially true. “What about you? Why do your parent’s think you have magic?”

“I was real mad at my mother one day and I don’t know how I did it, but the wall in my bedroom turned to mud and melted,” the boy said, his voice proud.

Tarah nodded. She could believe it. A picture formed in her mind of Bertwise throwing a rich-boy tantrum and melting a wall. Papa had told her that magic could do strange things when its power was first awakened.

“And that’s not all,” Bertwise added. “Mom thinks I got that new spirit magic stuff too.”

“Never heard of it,” Tarah said. She suppressed a frown and jogged forward a bit, looking into the bushes to the side of the road. Something was bothering her about the area and she wasn’t sure what it was.

Berty pulled up next to her again “Yeah, spirit magic is a kind of magic no one knew existed before. The Mage School just announced it a few months ago.” He gave her a proud grin. “And I have it. Mom says I’ll be one of the most important students at the school.”

“And what does this new magic of yours do?” she asked.

“I can read a person’s mind,” he said confidently.

“Oh really?” Tarah closed her eyes briefly, extending her other senses. She didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. What was it about the road that was bothering her? “What am I thinking then?”

“Well, I can’t tell unless I’m touching someone,” Bertwise said. “Actually it works best if I put my head against their chest.”

Tarah snorted. “Well that ain’t happening.”

“I don’t want to put my face against your nasty armor!” The boy said, his face red. “I was just saying my magic works best that way.”

“Right. I’m sure that line works great with the maids in your castle,” Tarah said.

“Look, if you don’t believe me, just let me hold your hand,” he said. She snorted again and he blinked. “I mean, grip your hand. Sometimes I can tell what people are thinking even from that.”

“I don’t think so,” Tarah said.

“Come on,” the boy said. He leaned out of his saddle stretching one hand out to her. “Let me prove it.”

She glanced back at his parents but they were deep in conversation, looking at each other. She sighed and moved her staff to her left hand and reached up to him.

The moment the boy grasped her fingers, she felt a strange tugging sensation and the boy’s eyes widened. Tarah jerked her hand back. “What was that?”

“You’re frightened,” Bertwise said in surprise.

“Tarah Woodblade fears nothing,” she replied coolly, but her heart was thundering. What did he see?

“No. You act tough, but inside . . . you’re afraid of everything.” A grin spread across his face. “Dad, you hired us a coward!”

“Don’t be stupid, boy! I-.” Tarah caught a whiff of that strange scent again and this time she identified it. She swallowed.

“You what?” he said.

“Shh!” Tarah said, one finger to her lips. “Stop your horse.” She waited for the boy’s parents to catch up.

“What were you two talking about?” the woman asked.

“We need to pick up the pace,” Tarah said. “I think there’s danger nearby.”

“On this road? Don’t be ridiculous,” Anne replied.

Derbich wasn’t as foolish. “What is it?” he asked, his eyes focused.

Tarah knew better than to tell them, especially the woman. It was okay for a guide to make people wary; a wary client stayed close and obeyed. But scaring clients was a no-no. Scared people do stupid things. “Just keep close, but don’t ride past me unless I tell you to.”

Derbich nodded and Tarah ran ahead and the family urged their horses into a trot, keeping close to her. The smell grew stronger as they went and Tarah’s concern grew.

“Please don’t let there be more than one,” she whispered.

They came around a bend in the road and Tarah saw them. Standing in the middle of the road swaying slowly were two trolls.

 

(End of chapter)

Tarah Woodblade Cover and Release News

Hey folks. I am sorry to announce that there has been a delay in the release of Tarah Woodblade.

Some unexpected life “Stuff” happened, including the need for my family to spend three weeks away from our current home while we looked at property in another state. It was all very exciting, but as a result, Tarah Woodblade isn’t yet finished. I am back at work on it now and I promise to keep you abreast of the situation both here and on the Facebook Page.

The plan is for me to get the book finished before we take possession of the new house. This would mean a new release date at the end of February or early March at the latest. As an apology for the delay, I will post the second chapter of Tarah Woodblade some time in the next few days.

In the meantime I am happy to reveal the cover art for the book. Renu, as usual, did a fabulous job.

TarahWoodblade-ebook

Here is the back cover blurb:

A BOWL OF SOULS NOVEL

The war is over, but there is a void of power that must be filled and no shortage of men eager to fill it.

Tarah Woodblade was the best guide and tracker in the land, but she ran away from the war. She returns to Dremaldria expecting to be labeled a coward, but instead finds herself lauded as a hero. It seems a hero is needed too, because someone is hunting rogue horses . . .

Thank you and once again, keep checking back for chapter two!

Trevor H. Cooley

Moonrat Saga package deals in time for Xmas!

Hey folks!

Do you need help with some last minute Christmas shopping? I’m here for you. Do you have someone that you have been trying to convince to buy my books? I got your back.

Today I am releasing the complete Moonrat Saga for kindle purchase. It comes in two parts for 7.49 each (Thanks to Amazon’s Kindle policies, I can’t put all six books in one large compendium.)

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Part One includes Eye of the Moonrat, Messenger of the Dark Prophet, and Hunt of the Bandham.

To give it to someone for Christmas, just click on the little image that says: “Give as a Gift”. You can have it sent right to their Kindle.

www.amazon.com/Moonrat-Saga-Part-Bowl-Souls-ebook/dp/B00HEVCTJ8

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Part Two includes Hilt’s Pride, The War of Stardeon, and Mother of the Moonrat.

http://www.amazon.com/Moonrat-Saga-Part-Bowl-Souls-ebook/dp/B00HFDID6S

Buying the two sets will save you three dollars (US) over the cost of buying all six books individually, so it’s a good way to go. Please tell your friends, tell your enemies, and tell your frenemies.

Remember, Tarah Woodblade comes out late January. Read the first chapter HERE

Thanks so much and Merry Christmas!

Trevor H. Cooley

P.S. Click Here for a personal message. (Joke)

 

A Preview Chapter of Tarah Woodblade!!

Howdy folks!

Merry Christmas to all and as a gift to you, here is the first chapter of the second Bowl of Souls series.

The series title will be: The Jharro Grove Saga and book one as you know is Tarah Woodblade.

I am really enjoying writing this book and getting to know Tarah and I hope you will too. Please feel free to use the comment section and let me know what you think.

My plan is to release Tarah Woodblade sometime towards the end of January so keep checking back for updates!

 

 

Chapter One

 

“You got money on ya?” asked one of the scruffy men, an evil gleam in his eye.

Tarah fought down her nerves and breathed in the situation using all the training her papa and grampa had given her. She sensed three men altogether, but the two standing in front of her were the immediate threat. They were unshaven and filthy and wore cast-off armor that had been badly damaged and messily repaired. She couldn’t see the third man, but she could hear him shifting his feet behind the bushes.

“Money? Why, are you beggars?” Tarah asked, arching one eyebrow coolly. This wasn’t good. These men were likely leftovers from the war. They wore swords, but didn’t move like trained soldiers so that meant they were probably Ewzad Vriil’s men.

“Beggars?” said the man, frowning. He wore a leather half-helm and his eyes were as yellow as his teeth.

“You asked for money,” she reminded. Tarah forced her body to remain relaxed. She planted her quarterstaff in the ground casually as if it were no more than a walking stick, but she knew that it was imposing. The wood was red as blood and the runes carved into it suggested unknown magic. “Strange. I wasn’t expecting any beggars this far from Sampo. I didn’t bother to bring any coppers to throw to you.”

The man’s sneer turned into a snarl and he drew his sword. The weapon was a longsword and of a much higher quality than she had noticed before. The pommel was worn and dirty but the blade was polished and there were a series of runes impressed along its length. It could have magic. “Does a beggar carry a sword like this?”

Tarah’s hand tightened slightly on her staff, but otherwise she didn’t allow any of her anxiety to show. She just wanted to get to Sampo. Why couldn’t they have been bears? She could handle three bears. Wild beasts were predictable. It was men she had difficulty dealing with.

“So not beggars.” She shrugged and rubbed her chin, giving them a look that suggested mild curiosity. All the while she kept her ears open for sounds of an arrow being drawn from the bushes. “Maybe you’re tax collectors then? Funny, you don’t smell like tax collectors.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said the second man. He had a thinning mop of greasy hair that had probably been blond once. A cruel scar ran across his forehead. He laughed, but Tarah noted that his laugh was forced. He wasn’t as confident as the first man. “We’re tax men. Here to collect our fees.”

“You accept broken bones as payment?” she asked, giving him a bored look. Tarah twirled her quarterstaff with her right hand and planted it in the ground again. Inwardly she calculated how long it would take her to get to the man in the bushes. She hadn’t heard the creak of a bow being pulled back, but he could be readying a throwing weapon.

“You? Break our bones?” said the man with the fancy sword. He wasn’t as impressed by her act. “You’re big for a girl maybe, but no match for us.” He looked her up and down. “Least you sound like a girl. Wouldn’t know it by looking at you.”

Tarah’s jaw clenched. She knew what she looked like well enough. She was indeed tall for a woman, and her frame was more muscular than feminine, especially in her armor. At least he hadn’t made fun of her face yet.

“Ugly though,” the man continued with a snort. He looked at the thin-haired man. “What do you think, Hal? This a girl?”

Tarah’s hand tightened on her staff further, her arm muscles stiffening. She didn’t like that his words bothered her. She should have been used to the ridicule by now. She had always been plain, even as a child, and that was before the fight that bent her nose. Still, being called ugly always riled her up. She refused to let her feelings show and forced a yawn instead.

The first man’s flippant attitude had put his friend at ease. Hal smiled. “Hard to tell what she is under that leather armor of hers, Eddy. It looks nasty. What’s it made of? Dirty dog hides?”

“Moonrats,” Tarah replied and both men’s eyes widened as they looked at it closer. These men were a bit thick. Most recognized it right away. The dead gray color of the fur was one giveaway. Not to mention the moonrat tails that hung at her waistline, the shriveled hands on the ends of the tails were still intact. “They ain’t good eating so I had to do something with ‘em.”

The men took a step back. Moonrats were feared, especially as their numbers had grown during the war. But the shock on Eddy’s face didn’t last long. His sneer returned. “I know who you are. You’re Tarah Woodblade aren’t you? That hero?”

The sarcasm in the man’s voice shook her. She knew just how little of a hero she was. She had come back to face her actions and had been expecting the ridicule, but to hear it from this bandit . . . She made herself give her grampa’s teachings one last chance.

“That’s right,” she said confidently.

“Too bad. See, we got a special hero tax,” Eddy said. “Give us your money and weapons and we’ll let you leave . . . unmolested.”

“Unmolested?” Tarah sighed, shaking her head. “If you know who I am and you’re determined to be bandits, I guess I’ve got no choice.”

She shrugged the small pack she carried off of her shoulders. She set it onto the ground next to her, then removed her bow and quiver and laid them on top of it. Eddy grinned, thinking he had cowed her, but Tarah gripped her red staff in both hands and assumed an attack posture.

She gave him a menacing grin of her own. “I’m glad you decided not to be beggars. See, Tarah Woodblade doesn’t kill beggars. But I have been thinking of making my next set of armor out of bandit skin.”

Hal took two more steps back, his face white, but Eddy’s smile broadened. “You know, by what I seen, moonrat skin is pretty thin. I bet it makes a terrible armor.”

The man gave a slight nod and there was a rustle in the bushes. Before Tarah could turn, she felt a thump in her back. It had been a throwing knife after all. She heard the blade fall to the leafy ground. Eddy had been right about the thickness of moonrat skin. That was why her grampa had reinforced the leather with treated fiber mesh. Luckily the blade hadn’t hit a seam.

Tarah turned and ran for the bushes. The hidden man stood up in surprise and drew his sword. Tarah leapt and swung her staff down at his head. The man was able to bring his sword up in time to block, but the strength of her swing, assisted by her staff’s weighted core, slammed the man’s sword blade into his forehead and he crumpled to the ground.

Tarah didn’t have time to wonder if he was dead. She heard a roar behind her and twisted around to find Eddy bearing down on her, his polished longsword swinging. She swung one end of her staff up under the blade, knocking it high. Its keen edge missed her head by inches and she brought the other end of her staff down low, catching the side of Eddy’s right knee.

There was a faint popping sound and the knee bent in a way it shouldn’t have, but the man didn’t even wince. He spun around on his left leg, swinging his sword in a heavy two-handed slash. She blocked the attack, but the strength of the blow quivered through the wood.

Tarah’s eyes widened as she saw his face. Eddy’s mouth was twisted in a snarl, his eyes burning with anger. In her experience, most bandits gave up after a blow to the knee, but this man fought like a berserker. She had seen that same look in the eyes of her papa when he fought. Could this man have been one of them?

The thought slowed her reaction time and she didn’t make a counterstrike. He spun again, bringing his sword around at her other side, but as he swung, he shifted his weight to his right knee. His leg gave way and he stumbled to the side, crying out in pain.  Tarah took a step back, letting the blade cleave the air where she had been standing. He fell to his side.

No, she told herself, this man wasn’t like her papa. He fought with rage, but not with skill. Her eyes darted towards his companion, but Hal wasn’t attacking. He was backing away, fear in his eyes. She gave him her best glower and he turned and ran. She took a deep breath and looked back to Eddy.

“Do you consider your knee payment enough?” she asked. “Or do I need to keep breaking you?”

“I’ll kill you!” he shouted and tried to climb back to his feet.

“I wouldn’t do that,” she warned. “You got some torn ligaments. You try to fight on that knee and you could do permanent damage.”

He roared and stabbed his sword into the ground to help him push to his feet. He stood, heavily favoring his right leg, and pulled the sword back out of the ground. She shook her head. She was no longer afraid, but she was still unsure how to deal with him. She thought on it as he limped towards her.

Her papa wouldn’t show mercy to a bandit. He’d say it’s best to kill the man. That way he could never be a threat to her or anyone else. Grampa Rolf would say leaving dead bodies behind was to be avoided. It would be better to knock him unconscious and take his sword; teach him a lesson.

Eddy reared back and as he swung his sword at her again she made her decision.

She swung one end of her staff up, knocking his attack to the side, and brought the other end around, connecting with the side of his knee again. This time the joint gave way completely. He screamed but refused to fall, she twirled her staff and connected with a blow to the back to his head that silenced him and dropped him to the ground.

She stood over his unconscious form and frowned. Why had she seen her papa in this man? They were nothing alike.

Tarah crouched beside him and removed his leather half-helm. She felt the wound behind his head and nodded. The helm had done its job as she had hoped and his skull was intact. She hadn’t killed him like her papa would have done, but with that knee, the man wouldn’t be accosting people in the woods again.

She pulled the sword belt and sheath from Eddy’s waist and glanced at the sword still clutched in his hand. Now that she looked at it, she could tell that the sheath didn’t match the blade. Likely the blade had been stolen and Eddy had just found a sheath it fit in.

Tarah pried the hilt from his fingers and her breath caught as a brief vision passed through her mind. There was an intense battle. Men were falling everywhere, some of them on fire, some even melting. Eddy was terrified. He saw the sword’s shining blade laying on the bloodied earth and picked it up as he ran . . .

Tarah blinked the thoughts away and shivered. She didn’t usually see visions like that unless she was tracking. She looked over the blade closely, impressed by its workmanship. Too bad it was of no real use for her. Her papa had taught her a bit of bladework, but she wasn’t a swordsman. She slid the runed blade back into the man’s ugly sheath and belted it around her waist. She would take it back to town with her and see if there was a reward. Surely a runed blade like this was worth something to someone. Maybe people were looking for it.

She took a deep breath and headed back to the bushes where she had struck the man who threw the knife. She winced as she peered over his unmoving body. The blade of his sword was wedged in his skull. She reached down and felt his neck but there was no pulse.

Tara shivered. This wasn’t the first man she’d killed, but she hadn’t killed many. Papa had told her that there would be times when killing was necessary. Grampa had taught her that if she was smart, she shouldn’t have to.

“Grampa, your way didn’t work this time!” she grumbled aloud. She knew what he would have said. ‘Come on, Tarah, you know there are no guarantees. Even the best salesman in the known lands can’t dissuade a man determined to die’. They’d had that conversation the first time she’d been forced to kill a man.

She looked down at the corpse and shook her head. She refused to feel guilty. It wasn’t her fault the man didn’t know how to block a staff blow. Still, she couldn’t avoid a bit of sadness as she checked his pockets for coins. Grampa had taught her not to waste an opportunity to make money.

The man didn’t have much, just a few silver pieces. His sword was rusty and plain, but the brace of throwing daggers he wore across his chest was in good condition. There were slots for five knives and the four remaining blades were oiled and had a decent balance. She took the brace and walked back to retrieve the knife that he had thrown at her earlier.

She lifted her pack from the ground where she had left it and pulled out a notebook. She tore a scrap of paper from the back page and scribbled a note on it, then walked back to Eddy’s unconscious form and tucked it into his pocket. She didn’t know if the man could read, but she felt it was sound advice. The note simply said: Become a farmer. Sincerely, Tarah Woodblade.

There was no reason to stay any longer. The third man had run, but for all she knew, he could have gone for help. Tarah collected her things and headed on through the trees. She followed Hal’s tracks for a few minutes just to be sure. He was headed north and east, out of the woods and into the plains. She didn’t think it likely that a large group of bandits would be confident enough to camp this close to Sampo and the Mage School, but if there was such a group, it was probably best to find out so she could warn people.

She crouched and gripped her red staff tightly as she touched a few of the tracks. As she did so, a series of images flashed through her mind. They weren’t strong visions like the one she had seen when touching the sword, but more like brief emotional glimpses. Hal was afraid of her. He was determined to leave the area. He didn’t expect the other two men to survive. His intention was to keep running.

She sat back on her haunches. It didn’t seem like he was going for help. She could keep tracking him and learn more as she went, but in reality, she knew he wasn’t a threat. Following him further was appealing only because it would help her delay her return.

Tarah turned and looked up through a clearing in the trees. In the far distance, she could barely make out the tip of the Rune Tower disappearing into the clouds. She knew exactly where she was. A few hours of hard walking and she would arrive in Sampo. She felt trepidation rise within her, but she grit her teeth and quelled it. She’d hidden away long enough. It was time to face her actions and pick up the pieces.

She walked through the fall leaves to the northeast until the trees gave way to vast grassy plains. The grasses were waist high and yellow and Tarah kept her practiced senses open for signs of hidden creatures. A short time later, she avoided a wasp mound that was hidden in the tall grass. This time of year they were dormant, but many people had learned the hard way that they could still be riled if you put a foot through their nest.

A grin played across her lips. She had tracked and guided people through these plains many times and the dangers were as familiar to her as the trails around her woodland home. After so long being away, she found them comforting.

She climbed a large grassy hill, knowing that she would be able to see the city when she reached the top, but when she crested it her smile faded. The familiar skyline of Sampo sat in the distance but, between the hill where she stood and the city, the landscape had changed.

The plains on this side of Sampo should have continued all the way to the city’s edge, interrupted only by the occasional road and a few small farmsteads. Now the plains were gone; burned away or churned underfoot. This was where Ewzad Vriil’s army had camped during the war.

Tarah swallowed as the anxiety she had been feeling for the last several months crept back into her chest. She tried to remind herself that there was nothing she could have done to change things. The good people had won without her help, but there was one fact she couldn’t avoid. Dremaldria had been forever changed by the war and while everyone else had fought, she had run away.

She hiked down the hill and made her way across a stretch of blackened earth to the Grandriver Road. This was the main route from Sampo to the great city of Gladstone at Dremaldria’s southern border and to her relief, there were still signs of constant use. She reached down to feel the tracks, but it was impossible to make sense of the jumble of emotions that filled her mind. Too many people traveled this road.

Tarah continued towards the city, glad to see that the last mile or so of the road had been leveled and the ruts filled in. This told her that the people of Sampo were getting back to life as normal. The final stretch was well-trafficked and had even been graveled.

As she neared the outskirts, she passed a large merchant caravan headed south. A dozen guards rode with it, Battle Academy soldiers by the look of them. That was a good sign. Perhaps the rumors of the Battle Academy’s destruction during the war had been false after all. If so, the region wasn’t as bad off as she had feared.

Sampo was the third largest city in Dremaldria, its streets sprawling over several miles. It was a major trade hub for the kingdom, sitting on the junction of the roads to Dremald, the Battle Academy, the Mage School, Malaroo, and Razbeck. As a result, the city was populated by a variety of races and cultures. This was immediately evident in the hodgepodge of buildings that lined its broad streets.

Tarah’s anxiety deepened as she approached. She had been in Sampo hundreds of times, but she had never been comfortable in the city. There were far too many people. She preferred the peace of the countryside. The city was blanketed with the dull roar of human activity.

The scars the war left on the city were evident the moment she walked in. Some of the buildings were fire blackened and many of the windows were boarded up. But the city was fast recovering. Building crews were hard at work repairing the damage and their hammerings and chiselings were drowned out by the calls of the merchants and hawkers that lined the road.

With this many people, she should have been able to pass through with some sort of anonymity, but her armor and red staff marked her too well. She saw stares from many in the crowd and a few even pointed. Tarah swallowed. Evidently news of her cowardice had spread.

She felt like cringing and running away, but she shoved those feelings down and called upon the litany her grampa had taught her. She was Tarah Woodblade. Tarah Woodblade didn’t cringe. She kept her back straight, shoulders up, her face calm and collected, and walked with purposeful strides, staff in hand, keeping her eyes forward and ignoring the passers by.

Her destination was on the northernmost side of the city and it would have been much faster to take side routes, but she stuck to the main streets. To take the quieter path could be seen as hiding from her shame and that would be counterproductive. Grampa Rolf would have told her to start rebuilding her reputation right away. Let the word spread that she had returned. The people may have heard Tarah Woodblade was a coward, but those that saw her now would have a hard time believing it. Or so she hoped.

Despite her outward show of confidence, her guilt weighed on her and all the looks she was getting made things worse. By the time her destination came into view the stress of it all had given her a throbbing headache. Lines of pain crept from the base of her neck up across the back of her head.

The Tracker’s Friend was a two story tavern and inn. To Tarah’s relief it looked to have survived the war with little damage. This was the place she stayed in Sampo when she had to remain in the city for awhile. It was also the official guild hall for the Sampo Guidesman Guild.

Tarah stepped up to the door, smelling the familiar scent of ale and wine that emanated from within. She reached for the door handle and saw that her hand was shaking. She tightened her hand on the handle and took a deep breath to steady herself.

The other guild members would be waiting inside. It would be up to them if she were to be kicked out. She was the best tracker among them. The problem was that few of them had wanted to let her join in the first place.

The Sampo Guidesman Guild was the premier tracker and guide guild in the region. Eastern Dremaldria was a dangerous place. The academy patrols kept the goblinoid population down, but even the main roads weren’t safe to travel alone. For people who couldn’t afford to pay for academy guards to escort them through hazardous areas, the guild was the next best thing. Most of Tarah’s jobs had come from the guild. If they dropped her, the task of rebuilding her reputation would be close to impossible.

Tarah pushed the door open and stepped inside. The common room of The Tracker’s Friend was rugged, but clean. The proprietor, Sly Milt, was a guild member himself, though retired. He kept the central area and bar well lit so as to be inviting to potential clients and unlike most taverns in Sampo, the place was free of tobacco smoke. Milt never liked the stuff.

Usually the place was full of patrons and guildsmen, but it seemed strangely quiet. Most of the tables were empty and Milt wasn’t at the counter. Instead there was a buxom woman in a clean white apron cleaning out tankards. Tarah frowned. Milt had never hired a tavern wench before. He felt they were a distraction.

Tarah looked around the room, gauging to see if she had any supporters present. No one looked up at her entrance, but the few men she recognized were just townsfolk. None of them were guild members. Had the war decimated the ranks of the guild?

“Why it’s Tarah Woodblade,” said a surprised voice to her left.

Tarah swore under her breath at having overlooked the man. It was Bander the Nose. He was one of her biggest detractors and, in Tarah’s opinion, a real jerk.

Bander wore a wide grin under his bulbous nose as he stood from his table by the door. “Holy hell, girl. We weren’t sure you were alive.”

“Yet here I am,” she replied, her expression giving away nothing.

“Well come on over to the bar. I’ll buy you a drink!” he replied loudly and everyone in the common room looked her way.

Tarah had to force her jaw not to drop. Bander never bought drinks. This was bad. He was smiling too hard. He was setting her up.

Bander turned and raised his tankard to the room. “Hey, everybody! It’s Tarah the Hero! She’s returned!” There was a loud shout of approval and men all around the room raised their tankards and called her name.

 

(Continue reading with Chapter Two HERE)

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December Bowl of Souls update

Hey, folks, December is here already. It’s unbelievable how quickly this year has flown by.

Let me start by thanking all of you who bought the books. This summer I was able to quit my day job and begin writing full time and I was able to finally finish the storyline I’ve been working on for over twelve years. So far the experiment is working. October and November were the two biggest months I’ve had yet as far as book sales.

These blogs are always tough for me. I’m wary of giving out updates because it’s so easy for stumbling blocks to come up in the writing process and slow releases and things. That being said, there is some news I think is safe to relay.

I’m hard at work on Tarah Woodblade and I think you guys are going to love her. She is not your typical fantasy heroine and that makes her very interesting to write. If you guys are nice, I might even post the first chapter of the book here in a few weeks as a Christmas gift to you.

As far as the release date, it looks to be some time mid January or so. I’ll keep you up to date here on the site as we draw closer.

2014 will be a big year. I’ll be able to write much faster now and I plan on putting out 3-4 books. .

If you guys have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below or even use the contact button at the top of the page. Thanks,

Trevor H. Cooley