Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age – Charles E. Yallowitz on ‘Food and Drink’ @cyallowitz

Dear friends and readers,

It is always difficult for a blogger to find a blog post worthy of the grand finale of the year. This year, however, it was an easy choice for me. As you may all know, Charles E. Yallowitz published the last book in his Legends of Windemere series, Warlord of the Forgotten Age, on December 21, 2017. His guest post covers the topic Food and Drink – a highly suitable topic for the last day of the year 2017. Please join me in a warm welcome to Charles:

Thank you to Karen for offering to host my guest post and being a part of the promotion for Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. This is the last book of my 15-volume fantasy adventure series, so I’m hoping to have it go out with a bang. I’ve been looking back at this personal adventure and found one odd that repeatedly comes up in my writing: Food and Drink. My characters seem to always have something to snack on or sip at when they’re talking unless it’s on the road. People ask me why I keep including this and I guess now is as good a time as any to come up with some reason.

  1. Might as well get the confession one out of the way. I’m either eating while writing or pushing through a scene to get to lunch. At the very least, I have a bottle of seltzer that I keep chugging from. You know how they tell you not to go grocery shopping when hungry? Well, it seems I have the same reaction when writing on a barely full stomach.
  2. Like many people, I grew up in a house where meal times were when you discussed things. If it wasn’t time for a meal then you and your friends had a fast food joint involved in the daily adventure. Maybe you just hung out at home and made sure there were snacks and drinks. My point is that for many people interactions in real life has a ‘food/drink’ factor. This can range from making a plan to track down the ice cream man to putting out the ‘good cheese’ for guests. There’s no reason that fictional worlds shouldn’t have this aspect of reality.
  3. Favorite foods and drink are a staple of being a three-dimensional character along with any other quirks. On the opposite end of the spectrum is if they hate a food or have an allergy. We tend to overlook them because they rarely make an impact on the overall story, but they can be essential to making a character relatable. For example, Delvin Cunningham in Legends of Windemere loves coffee. He has been drinking it since his second appearance and even went out of his way to buy a collection of ‘coffee rings’. This is a set of enchanted rings where each one has a different flavor and he can mentally determine the temperature. At some points, he pours the drink directly into his mouth, which helps make this a memorable quirk of the character.
  4. On a larger scale, you can reveal parts of a culture or region with food. More fruits and vegetables than meat shows where agriculture is. Local delicacies can show if a people enjoy spicy food, dishes that others find gross, or a total lack of spices. It’s like in the real world where one of the first things we think about when it comes to many cultures and countries is the food. If I say Jew, you might think Matzah Ball Soup. Japanese sushi, Italian pasta, Germany sausage, Irish beer, and the list keeps going, so you can create the same for a fictional world. If you’re using Earth then this is simply something to keep in mind.
  5. Characters have to eat. Seriously, you have no idea how often I see readers asking when characters eat and go to the bathroom. At least the dining thing is clean enough to show without feeling sick.
  6. Tone can be set by having a meal because the food and drink can be used as atmosphere. Whether I do it consciously or not, I’ve used them to set a specific stage. Consider three of the most common drinks in fiction, especially fantasy. Water is casual and can show a moment where simplicity is more important than taste. Ale tends to be found in taverns where guards are let down and there is a casual friendliness to the scene. Finally, wine denotes a fancy event and raises the expectation for manners and etiquette.
  7. To be completely honest, I find food and drink actions to be some of the easiest ones to interject into scenes. People will naturally stop talking to take a drink or eat some food without losing too much of a step in a conversation. We probably all know somebody who will take their time drinking in order to gather their thoughts. These bring about a much more visual picture than using nothing more than facial expressions and voice tone. Also, I write adventures that require my characters be on the move, so food and drink are top of the supply list.

Again, a big thanks to Karen for hosting me while I promote Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. Hope to see people in the comments and please feel free to check out the finale.

Author Bio & Social Media

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Website

All cover art done by JASON PEDERSEN

Catch the rest of the LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE on Amazon!


Dear friends and readers,

thank you for reading my blog in 2017.

I am looking forward to seeing you again in 2018.  🙂

Happy New Year!

Peace, coffee, and a cheesecake.  🍀🍀🍀

Advertisements

Recommended Christmas read 2017: Kima by A. H. Amin #BookRecommendation @AA_psychs

Dear friends and readers,

this book recommendation is not your average Christmas read. On Christmas Eve of 1928, a herd of false killer whales are found beached on the South African shore. And on that day, two young children meet Kima, an old woman who tells them a story. It is not a long book, its 140 pages are filled with captivating plot lines that make for a wonderful reading journey; reading this book means time well spent.

If you enjoy folk and mystery tales, heart-warming characters, as well as stories providing food for thought – this is definitely a book for you.

The plot:

Christmas Eve 1928 gave birth to a yearly phenomenon in South Africa. A herd of false killer whales were found beached upon the shore. It has also given birth to the story of two young children who meet an old woman named Kima. Kima somehow knows why this has happened, but that’s not all she knows. The children, Alex and Alice, realize that there is more to this woman than what meets the eye, and ear. She will reveal to them a tale, a mysterious story she claims was passed on to her by a mythical Black Seagull.

Derived from both historic tales and figures, Kima is a fictional character portrayed in a way that makes her become real.

My teaser:

She gazed at the small child and she saw her feelings through the little girl’s gestures; it was the same way she had felt when she had looked at the birds earlier that day. Alice met the same eyes that were inspecting her. Noticing the odd way the old woman was looking at her, she stopped biting her nails.

‘It’s not your fault child’ the old woman said.

‘Don’t worry, Kima can tell.’

My review:  Kima by A. H. Amin

Buy links:


Peace, dear friends and readers. I hope you enjoy this wonderful book as much as I did (and still do).  🍀

 

Wormwood by Larry Enmon #BookReview @LarryEnmon

 

The author sent me an ARC of this book (mobi format) in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Plot
(by Goodreads)

A twisty & darkly compelling read you won’t be able to put down.

In Dallas, Texas, Katrina Wallace goes missing. As the mayor’s daughter, her kidnapping triggers mounting political pressure and forces the Chief of Police to put two senior detectives on the case. Rob Soliz and Frank Pierce have done the impossible in the past, but their methods are unconventional.

The only evidence at the scene is a Bible found in the girl’s car and soon Frank and Rob find themselves involved in a disturbing investigation shrouded by Bible prophecy, doomsday cults, and murder.

Is Katrina still alive? And what exactly is Wormwood?

As the trail leads them into the woods of rural East Texas, Frank must deal with his lingering religious doubts and solve the case. His worst fears will be realised when he must discover the ugly truth about Wormwood. But he and Rob will have to get out alive to tell the story…

Genre(s): Books > Crime, Thriller & Mystery
> Mystery > International Mystery & Crime
> Thrillers > Crime
> Mystery
Series: n.a.
Length: 318 pages
Release date: 2017-11-01

 

Teaser


…She’d scheduled things she’d already missed. Only taken the bare necessities for a weekend stay.

Something unplanned had happened.

‘What?’ Rob asked.

Frank meandered back into the living area. ‘Everybody has it all wrong,’ he whispered. He gazed at Rob. ‘She’s not hiding. Someone took her.’


My Opinion

This book comprises several plot lines covering the abducted mayor’s daughter Katrina, as well as the assigned detectives.

With Wormwood, Larry Enmon has created a well elaborated story focussed on the leading detectives; Katrina as the victim is an intense second plot line. It was easy to get into the story (sometimes too close for comfort) while trying to solve the case with Frank and Rob. The main characters are complex, believable with all their flaws; the other characters are of sufficient depth – according to their relevance. Larry Enmon created a thrilling story that kept me glued to my Kindle; the plot offers food for thought on a serious topic. The story proceeds at a steady pace, leading the reader on a dark journey; it comprises some chilling turns, and has a good flow.

This is a book for you if you like thrilling stories, well elaborated plots with believable and intense characters, and stories that trigger deep thinking.

Recommended.

In brief:

Cover ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Writing ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Plot ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Characters ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Mood Suspenseful
Pace Steady
POV Third person – past tense
Language 😳
Violence 😳
Sexual content 😳 – 😡

 

About the author

Larry Enmon retired from the U.S. Secret Service and started writing. During his career he acted as liaison between the USSS and FBI, working in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.  He received special training from the FBI and CIA in weapons of mass destruction.

For relaxation, and to get away from the city, he likes spending time at his ranch in rural Eastern Texas. With 200+ acres, private shooting range, a 2½ acre pond, and miles of woodland trails to explore on four-wheelers and RTVs, it’s the perfect getaway.

He swims four miles a week, holds a Divemaster rating with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and has a black belt in Tang Soo Do karate.  He is married with two children and lives in Tarrant County, TX.

Connect with the author:

Please take a look at my statement on reading in My train of thoughts on …reading.  Now I am asking you.  🙂

My questions for you bibliophiles:
What about you?  What did you think about Wormwood?  Or – if you did not yet read Wormwood – are you now interested in reading it yourself?

I am looking forward to reading your comments.  🙂


 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

10 Statements – Sybrina Durant

 

I’m Sybrina … Just one of millions of wannabe author/singer/songwriters out there but I hope, after reading or hearing my books and songs, you’ll think my contributions to the world have as much value as any other famous artist out there today.

Fame is all in being in the right place at the right time but at least with the internet and venues like this, all of us have opportunities to share our creativity with the world. I’m so happy that I am able to share my works with you. That is awesome!

The books I’ve written span a wide range between illustrated picture books, coloring books and YA novels to technical and how-to books. If you’re so inclined you can read a little bit about the inspiration for each one below.

My latest effort is The Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm. It is a book I started writing 30 something years ago and never finished. At the time, it was meant to be an epic fantasy along the lines of novels written by Tolkien, Piers Anthony, Ursula K. Le Guin and other amazing fantasy writers. I’ve pulled out my notes, dusted off the outline and began rewriting and expanding upon the 50 pages I had began. This story is now available as an Illustrated Book for teens and older readers in full color and in black and white, too. The black and white version is a “Read and Color” book. Read a chapter, then color the following pages. How fun is that? There is also a picture book for pre-schoolers called Unicorns From Unimaise – The Magical Metal-Horn Trobe. A longer version of the chapter book will soon be available as an Illustrated Novel with a companion glossary called, The Marbryn Compendium. All of the fantastic fantasy illustrations are by Dasguptarts. There is also a companion coloring/character description book, edited by Calyie Martin. It will introduce potential readers to the myriad of characters, places and things in the story.

 

Find me…

Amazon Author Central –
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B009K3WGMS

YouTube (Book Trailers) –
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLybqF-7D4W3FTbEZF_rZ45b7A1xJdubni

Facebook –
https://www.facebook.com/The-Blue-Unicorns-Journey-To-Osm-794155627353303/

Google+ –
https://plus.google.com/u/0/102965665530138163417

Instagram –
https://www.instagram.com/sybrinablueunicorn/

Twitter –
https://twitter.com/Sybrina_spt

Pinterest –
https://www.pinterest.com/sybrinad/boards/

Zazzle –
https://www.zazzle.com/collections/journey_to_osm-119557554153312638

Website –
http://www.sybrinablueunicornbook.com/ and
http://www.sybrinablueunicornbook.com/index_Blue_Unicorn_Book_Reviews.htm

Goodreads –
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6455676.Sybrina_Durant

 

My personal mottoes:

“Help yourself.” – More on that in statement 10.
“Just Do It!” – I always loved that Nike commercial. I’m sure it motivated lots of people in a multitude of ways.
“Teach a child a task in a fun way and they will remember it forever.”

 

10 statements
  1. A typical (work) day begins with… writing or marketing my books for 30 minutes to an hour each morning before I go off to my 10 hour a day “real job” at an engineering company. Twelve hours later I arrive back home and jump right back on my computer to write or promote the different books that I am involved with. Many authors find themselves in the exact same circumstances these days because until book sales pay the bills, you have to make a living. It would be great if writing was the only task I came home to but marketing and promoting is key to any kind of success with books these days. If it wasn’t for social media and other writers who are willing to share their personal blog space to introduce their readers to other authors and their books, it would be very difficult to let many people know we even exist.
  2. I lose track of time when I am researching for nuggets of gold on the internet. I start out with good intentions to stick with a particular subject but one thread of information leads to the next and before I know it I’m way off track from my original thought. For the Blue Unicorn, I’ve documented most of my research to use for a future  book-length glossary. The “MarBryn Compendium” will be published  simultaneously with the expanded full-length novel version of the blue unicorn story.
  3. I have always… wanted my name to be remembered fondly by masses of future generations. LOL  I’m laughing but I’m not really kidding. When it comes right down to it, don’t we all???
  4. I have never… thought of so many ways to offer one story to the public before the “Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm Illustrated Book” for teens and older readers came to life.  My original intention was to only make it available in full color but I was completely unaware that so many full color pages would make the printing cost exorbitant. I was particularly devastated when I found out how much the 188 page illustrated book was going to cost customers. That dilemma led me to the bright idea of having all of the illustrations reworked in black and white. The incredibly talented artist, Sudipta Dasgupta, and his team created what look like old fairy tale woodcuts. Those pictures remind me of the days when I was reading The Wizard of Oz books and daydreaming about faraway lands populated with fantastic creatures. I’m happy to say that my idea paid off because printing the black and white version of this book costs 1/3 the price of the full color. That price reduction puts it within the realm of most reader’s pocket books. Plus I now have the added benefit of promoting it as a “Read and Color” book. Read a chapter, then color the following pictures. What’s more fun than that? The story is also available in audio book form on most of the online audio book websites. I love how the narrator, Troy Hudson, brought the characters to vibrant life. There’s also a children’s storybook version titled “Unicorns From Unimaise – The Magical Metal-Horned Tribe”. It is meant to introduce little ones to the 12 member unicorn tribe and the land of MarBryn (where the story takes place). Soon, I’ll be publishing an expanded full-length adult fantasy version of the blue unicorn tale along with the companion “glossary” book, “The MarBryn Compendium”. Last but not least, unicorn lovers can find lots of book related unicorn bling on zazzle.com – just search for Journey to Osm to see nearly 100 items featuring pictures from the book. More will be coming in the future.
  5. Home means to me… the place where I can concentrate on the people I love and my books. Writing of course, is my favorite thing. Marketing is actually a close second. I wish I could devote more time to both.
  6. I am inspired by… others who work hard to achieve their life goals. I am especially inspired by people who think out of the box to accomplish their dreams.
  7. I would like to meet… Piers Anthony, author of the Xanth fantasy series. It was his books that first ignited my interest in intelligent colorful unicorns and in my use of word play in the blue unicorn story. In fact, even if I could never actually meet him, I’d like to at least go back 15 years or so ago and join his online newsletter. Little did I know, he was already expounding upon the virtues of self-publishing when Createspace and Kindle came into existence. CreateSpace (Print On Demand) was founded in 2002 and was acquired by Amazon in 2005. The first Kindle was released in 2007. I can’t help wondering – If I had only known then, what I know now, how much further ahead would I be today? A lot can happen in 10 to 15 years. Createspace, Amazon and Kindle are certainly testaments to that.
  8. My worst character trait… Depression hits me hard sometimes. I think feeling insecure or unsure after one defeat or another is a trait that many creative people have in common.  We let our perceived failures get us down and we listen to those voices inside (and sometimes outside) saying, “Why bother?” or “You’re not good enough!”or “No one is ever going to care…” and a million other negative thought demons. Sometimes, it’s hard to make yourself try just ONE MORE TIME..
  9. My best character trait… I’m glad this was the next question so that I can tell you, luckily, I don’t stay down long. I try to learn from whatever knocked me down and try to avoid doing that again. I’m an eternal optimist…a glass half full type of person. I can’t help but try just one more time.
  10. The best advice I was given… ”Help Yourself” – In fact, I wrote a song with that philosophy many years ago. It starts like this – “The best place to find a helping hand is on the end of your own arm. Success can be at your command if you believe in number one. Help yourself and you will go far. Believe in your capacity to reach the highest star. Think of all the possibilities to make your dreams reality. Nobody can do for you what you can do for yourself.” You can listen to the song here if you wish – http://www.phrasethesaurus.com/index_Help_Yourself_Publish_Book.htm. That attitude has been my motivation for whatever I may try to achieve in life. To me, it doesn’t matter if you know everything you need to know to start doing something. Just think of what you want to do and then find a way to do it through research and other means of learning. That’s how I started with my self-publishing journey. I wrote a book that I wanted to make available to anyone who might want to read it. I quickly learned that competition for the attention of potential readers was immense. And the possibility of finding a traditional publisher was so far out in the cosmos that only a select few would ever attain that lofty aspiration. So, I decided that the self-publishing route was my best option because at least that way, I could reach those in my immediate sphere of influence. I went through a lot of trials and errors but I’ve gathered and catalogued all the information I came across as I went along. I even eventually put it all in a book to help other authors easily do what it took me a long time to figure out. I titled that book “Help Yourself – Learn To Produce, Publish and Promote Your Book On Your Own”. The best thing about this particular book for other potential authors is that half of it shows how to do most of those three things absolutely free.

 

The Blue Unicorn’s Journey to Osm

“The metal horned unicorns are doomed!” That’s what Lauda Lead Horn wailed when she first saw the tribe’s new savior. OK, so his horn was not metal … and he did not have a magic power … and he was really a puny little runt. But doomed? Were things really that bad?

Well, things were pretty bad in the land of MarBryn. Magh, an evil sorcerer utilized unicorn horns and hooves to create his magical potions and spells. Those he used, to increase his power and to conquer everyone in his path. All of the unicorns from the Tribe of the Metal Horn were now gone … except for twelve survivors.

Before the blue unicorn was born, Numen told Alumna, the aluminum-horned oracle, that he had a plan to bring the tribe back home to Unimaise. His prophecy was, “Only the blue unicorn can join with the Moon-Star. Until then, no new unicorns will be born.” Blue was the last unicorn born. Twenty years later, his horn was still covered with a plain blue colored hide. There was not a glint of metal to be seen on it or his hooves. And he still didn’t have any magic. But he was no longer scrawny and he had his wits. Though no one else in the tribe thought he had a chance, Blue felt ready to make Magh pay for his evil deeds. And he went off to do it alone. That was Blue’s first mistake. If the entire tribe was not standing horn-tip to horn-tip at the proper time and the exact place to help usher the Moon-Star Spirit into Blue’s horn, he would die. Then, the rest of the tribe would really be doomed.

Readers will follow along two journey paths in this book. Blue is joined in his travels by his mentor Gaiso, the Stag and his friend, Girasol the Firebird as they try to find their way across a danger-filled MarBryn to Muzika Woods. The rest of Blue’s tribe is forced to follow another route due to Nix Nickle Horn’s unfortunate incident with a Manticore. Nix, the great unicorn defender must safely lead the way for Ghel, the Golden-Horned unicorn; Silubhra Silver Horn; Cornum the Brass-Horned unicorn; Steel Horned Style; Cuprum the Copper-Horned unicorn; Tin-Horned Tinam; Dr. Zinko; Iown the Iron-Horned unicorn and the others in an action packed adventure to their destination in Muzika Woods. Both journey paths converge there in the Nebulium Circle.

Print length:  236 pages

Published:  2017-03-02

Buy links: 

Ebook –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Plain-Ilustrations-ebook/dp/B06XD8KZVJ

Ebook (Looks like printed book) –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Illustrated-Book-ebook/dp/B06X416LGX

Audio book (Listen to free sample) –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Osm/dp/B071SDJQNW

Hardcover –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Osm/dp/1942740093

Softcover –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Osm-Illustrated/dp/1535127856

Black and White Print Book –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Black-White/dp/1543073514

Coloring Book –
https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Unicorns-Journey-Coloring-Book/dp/1537021842


Save

 

10 Statements – Saiswaroopa Iyer

 

 

Formerly an analyst with a Venture capital firm, Saiswaroopa’s interests include Startups, Economics, Carnatic Music, Philosophy, Politics, History and Literature of India. She won a state level gold medal from TTD in rendering Annamacharya Kritis. She holds an MBA from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

She currently lives in London and loves to read and write.

 

Find me…

Website:  https://saiswaroopa.com/
Twitter:   https://twitter.com/Sai_swaroopa
Amazon:  Saiswaroopa Iyer
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSaiswaroopa/
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14706559.Saiswaroopa_Iyer
 

My personal motto:

“To discover the lesser known characters and stories from Indian literature, history, scriptures and folklore and explore them as subjects of my future works.”

 

10 statements
  1. A typical (work) day begins with…  a cup of Chai! Creativity is hidden in the leaves of tea! 😀
  2. I lose track of time when I am with my mother or with a favourite book!
  3. I have always… been a just in time person. Believed I can figure out things on the go.
  4. I have never… planned very early (Now I know these are very relative statements. But there is a chance that things have been changing in the recent times).
  5. Home means to me… where my family is. I am what I am because of them.
  6. I am inspired by… those who are focused and positive.
  7. I would like to meet… self-made achievers. They always have actionable advice that respects my time and theirs.
  8. My worst character trait… impatience. Looking for results ‘too soon’ at times.
  9. My best character trait… optimism.
  10. The best advice I was given… (Will limit it to writing related advice)…”To believe in my characters guiding my story.”

 

Avishi

Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of Rig Veda
But forgotten to the memory of India
The Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement, but at a high cost.
Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

If stories about ancient India, especially those with strong women characters interest you, then Avishi is a story you must read!
Saiswaroopa Iyer is an IITian and Venture Capital professional turned author. Her début novel Abhaya, published in 2015, was a tale set in the Mahabharata period, exploring the legend of Narakasura Vadha. She likes to focus and expand on ancient Indian stories with strong female characters. She tweets @Sai_swaroopa.

Print length:  388 pages

Published:  2017-08-12

Buy link eBooks:  books2read.com/u/ml5EW9


An Excerpt

“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”

“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard.

“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.

Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child.

“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded.

Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out.

The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them.

As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead.

General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”

“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door.

“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised.

The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy.

“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”

“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”

“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm.

The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”

Khela shrugged and changed the position of his weapon. “We are now going to the place.” He winked, stretching his hand in the direction. “Follow me, this is the only night we get to have some fun.”

Sukratu did not move. The place he knew implied the tavern where wine was served. “We cannot drink tonight, Khela. When do we have to report tomorrow? By sunrise?”

“You ask too many questions. The rest of us are there too!”

“That does not answer my question.”

“Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care to. The palace is paying for the wine. Are you coming or not?”

The last sentence sounded more like a threat than an invite. Sukratu had all the mind to give the youth a piece of his mind and storm back home. His daughter would be overjoyed to see him before she went to sleep. It gnawed at Sukratu’s heart every day to leave her under the care of Loha— the tramp who had begged him for shelter about six months ago and then became a part of his life. The girl liked him instantly and had begged Sukratu to let Loha live with them and he, despite his misgivings about the tramp’s origins and his unkempt appearance, could not refuse his only daughter. Over time, Sukratu felt grateful for Loha’s company. Now his daughter did not have to be all by herself every night. The guard’s home would have been unguarded if not for that stranger. Sukratu brushed aside these thoughts and had almost decided to go home when the thought of meeting other senior guards and clarifying the confusion struck him. He followed Khela’s lead, making no attempt to hide his displeasure.

When they reached the tavern, Sukratu to his dismay, found many of his brothers in arms deeply drunk. “When did they reach here and when did they…”

“Quite some time before. I just forgot to tell you in advance!”

Sukratu’s eyes scrutinized the men and women of the tavern who were serving wine to the guards. There were no other citizens or travellers in the tavern.

“Just for us, the whole night!” Khela said as if reading his thoughts, bringing him an earthen goblet.

The older guard accepted the goblet taking his first sip with a sense of foreboding.

“Where were you all the time, old friend?” The voice belonged to Tunga one of the senior guards in the platoon.

The grin on his friend’s face brought a smile to Sukratu’s lips. “Tunga, what is this about the sudden change in our guarding hours?”

“The King… that imbecile, has finally remembered that we are human too!” Tunga guffawed, emptying his goblet, waving vigorously at a woman of the tavern who obliged with a seductive wink.

She approached them, skilfully distributing her attention between both the men, winking at Tunga and pouting her lips at Sukratu. Her brows rose at Sukratu’s filled cup. “Don’t keep the Sura nor this Sundari waiting, my love…” Serving Tunga his wine, she placed her fingers upon Sukratu’s shoulders, digging her nails into his skin for a moment locking her gaze with his and turned around swiftly, letting her light upper garment rest on his face for a fleeting moment.

It was a wilful invitation and Sukratu knew it. His attention though was caught by the colour of the garment. The Indigo hued garment! All the women of the tavern wore clothes of the same colour. So did the woman he saw in General Ugra’s house! Was Ugra at home while the woman lied that he was at the palace? If the General and the whole platoon of the night guard were lying down drunk, who was minding the security of the King? Sukratu looked at the rest of the guards. No one seemed sober enough to talk. The only sober man Khela had disappeared!

“By the great Varuna!” Sukratu exclaimed aloud and rushed out, pushing the woman who tried to stop him away.

He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him.

That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life.

At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved.

The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.

“K… King…”

Something hit him on the head even before he could utter the name. Sukratu staggered, reeling at the impact, clutching at his long sword in a vain attempt to defend the next move.

“Finish him!” The General shout behind him.

Before he turned around, Sukratu felt the cold metal tear into his back. Lightning struck revealing the contours of the person. Khela! The javelin stabbed him again. Thunder drowned his screams. Falling to the ground with the weapon still stuck to his back, Sukratu lifted his sword and managed to slash Khela’s palm though the latter, unlike him was vigilant and alert. Crawling away from the menacing duo, knowing very well that he could not last more than a few moments, Sukratu’s thoughts, went to his innocent daughter. She would now languish as an orphan remaining in dark about the monsters who killed her father. Or would they kill her too?

Sukratu would never know.


Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save