The War Within – Chapter 3: The King’s Council

~~ 3 ~~

The King’s Council

 

“Your Grace, there have been rumors of Derkelyngs growing increasingly closer to our borders. Our people are frightened, and it is making all our men nervous,” Victor said as he sat around the advisers’ table. Alexander sat at the head of the table, surrounded by all the men he trusted with not only with matters of his kingdom, but with his very life.

Victor was not only the head of his arm, but he was the king’s right hand. Arthur, the elder adviser who had been his own father’s right hand, sat to his left. The older man had been Alexander’s teacher and guard growing up, and he held Arthur’s advice in high regard. Mandorth, an exiled donchen who had more than proven himself over the years sat at the other end of the table, the man’s silvery-blue eyes staring at all of them with the heaviness that only came from a creature who had known nothing but hardships most of his life. Beside him sat Isaac, a man who had once been Victor’s own right hand during battle. After a blade to the back had nearly killed him, the now nearly crippled man sat upon his advising council, keeping record of everything they had learned about their kingdom and its enemies.

Alexander sat quietly listening to the four men speaking amongst themselves, debating as to the kingdom’s next move. After hearing them go round and round about sending me to the outer boundaries of Aziza, Alexander had heard enough.

“Gentlemen,” he said as the four men quieted down and turned to him. “I will hear no more speak of sending troops we do not have to defend against something which could very well be nothing more than idle gossip by the shepherds and the farmers.” He picked up his glass of wine and took a long swallow, eyeing his advisers over the rim of his glass. “The Naferia will come looking for their jewel, of that we can be certain. They are desperate to see their kingdom and that of Shondross united under one coat of arms. If they discover her here then there will be war here. We cannot risk sending soldiers to chase after spirits and Jinn. They are needed here.”

His four advisers sat quietly, their eyes darting about as they glanced at each other uncomfortably. Several seconds passed before Victor cleared his throat. “Your Grace, our noblemen to the north swear the Derkelyngs have crossed into their lands. Just this past week Sir Gregory’s household lost every farm animal they owned. Slaughtered, huge chunks of meat taken from their bodies. His lands were practically awash in the blood of horses and sheep.”

Alexander held up his hand. “I will hear no more of this, understand?”

“Alexander,” Victor said as he rose from his seat, slamming his hands down upon the wooden table. “I understand what you are trying to accomplish, and I understand we need to be on the ready. But we cannot very well expect our men to fight if we cannot take all threats to their livelihood seriously. They are frightened. To ignore their concerns would be much more consequential than sending a few hundred men to the outer realm to ensure our borders are properly secure, I’m sure you would agree.”

The king sat staring hard at his right hand. As much as he hated sending more of his men out knowing a potential war loomed on the horizon, he couldn’t afford to have any of his people doubting his sanity or ability to rule the kingdoms. Finally he nodded. “You are right as always, Victor. I will leave the matter in your capable hands.”

Victor bowed his head. “Thank you, Your Grace. I will see to it immediately.”

The king’s eyes shifted to the rest of his council. “Now, can we get back to the matter at hand?” he asked as he leveled his gaze upon them all.

“Your Grace, exactly what are your intentions for the young jewel of Naferia?” Mandorth asked, his silvery-blue eyes moving back to his king.

“I’m afraid you are going to have to be more specific in your questions, Mandorth.”

The donchen straightened up in his chair, his fingers tinkering with the glass of wine to his left. “I am asking what you plan to do with the woman, Your Grace. Is she to be killed, ransomed, maybe use her as a bargaining chip? Are you to take her safely back to Naferia as a conquering hero, putting them forever in your debt for returning their missing jewel?”

The king eyed them all closely. “I honestly have not made a decision on what to do with her. I admit, I had thought of sending her head back to her father and fiancé in a wooden box, but I believe she is much more valuable alive than dead. I could return her, but once she is wed to Monduro, Naferia and Shondross will be united. No matter how grateful they are to me for returning their jewel, their combined armies could still very well destroy Aziza and all who lay within it. I cannot risk it.”

“You will kill her then?” a soft voice asked. Alexander turned to look at Arthur who had been sitting silent the whole time.

Alexander paused. “Nonsense,” he finally said after several moments.

“Then you shall send her back to her family? Demand a spot of land for your port as your reward?”

Alexander watched Arthur’s hands as he continued to fidget with his glass of wine. “No, I do not believe I will.”

“And why not?” Mandorth asked.

The king rubbed his hand against his chin. “Let’s say for a moment that I do give her back, and by some miracle she does not tell them it was I who had her stolen. Let’s say Antiguiss and his queen are so happy to have her back he agrees to reward me. And let’s further say, for the sake of argument, he agrees to my proposition to give me the piece of land I require to create a port. What is to stop him from forbidding me passage to the land? What is to stop him from attacking a year from now, five years from now?”

“So force him to sign a treaty,” Victor said as he helped himself to another glass of wine.

“Another treaty?” Alexander asked as he shifted his weight in his chair to stare at his right hand. “He already refuses to sign the one I asked which would allow me to buy the land and give us safe passage through his kingdom. I hardly see how having his jewel back would stop him from attacking us the first chance he gets.” He paused again. “All of this would be for naught.”

“Then exactly would Your Grace suggest?” Isaac asked, feeling himself growing weary of the entire conversation. “Kill her or trade her. That seems to be the only two logical conclusions. Make a decision and let’s be done with it.”

Alexander was silent for several minutes as his council grew restless in their seats. “No. No, I do not believe those are the only choices.” He raised his head, his dark eyes looking to Victor.

“Then pray tell, Your Grace, what is it you are proposing?” Victor asked.

“Exactly,” Alexander said as he raised an eyebrow. “I will wed the jewel of Naferia.”

The council of advisers became still, the silence so heavy within the room it was nearly tangible. Suddenly the silent room erupted into chatter as everyone began speaking at once.

“Are you mad?” Victor asked, his jaw practically on the table beside his glass.

“Surely you are not saying what I feel you are implying, son. This is madness!” Isaac said, his face equally shocked and disgusted.

“It is unheard of in Aziza!” Mandorth bellowed above them all.

They continued on for a few seconds, each one’s voice growing louder as their discord intensified. Finally Alexander slammed his fist down onto the table. “Enough!” Everyone settled down, Victor taking his seat again as Alexander eyed them all. “I have few choices here, My Lords. I cannot kill her for that will surely evoke a war. As much as I love a good battle, I am not so eager to rip my kingdom apart unless I have absolutely no choice. Sending her back and claiming myself as the hero has no guarantees of a reward, a treaty, or the adherence to the old treaty or a new one. But marriage,” he said as he got up from his chair and began pacing the floor. “Now, marriage is an entirely different contract. Antiguiss would not dare raise an army against his daughter’s husband if she were the Queen.”

“How can you be so sure, Alex?” Victor asked as he watched his young sovereign moving around the room. “King Antiguiss betrothed his only daughter to a goblin just to unite their kingdoms in the event he needs an ally against you. I hardly think he would rush to congratulate you. I’d rather think both he and the kingdom of Shondross would be so outraged they would fall upon us like the Hounds of Hell.”

Alexander halted in his spin around the room, staring unseeing at a painting across from the table. He appeared to inspect the work of art with great interest, but in reality his mind was a churning whirlwind, going down the various outcomes of each avenue should he pursue it. “No, I don’t think so. Killing her is certainly not on the table. That would definitely have both kingdoms atop us in a matter of weeks. I can’t risk sending her back and having her tell them it was actually I who kidnapped her in the first place. But if I were to make her my queen and offer her dowry to Shondross, have her claim to have fallen in love with me, then there is no way her father would raise an army against me. Goblins only care for wealth, expanding their empire and hoarding more gold. It was my understanding Calista’s dowry was worth over one hundred pounds of gold and silver.”

He turned suddenly, his dark eyes scanning the room. “The answer is quite simple, really. The goblins are loyal to whichever kingdom can give them the most wealth. While Naferia is most certainly wealthy, Antiguiss has slowly depleted his supplies over the years to Shondross, his whole reason behind bargaining his one and only daughter to the prince of that realm. Her betrothal guarantees Shondross will fight for them from now until the end of time, even if Naferia can no longer pay them to do so. Losing Calista means Shondross no longer owes any loyalty to them.”

“And you think giving them the jewel’s dowry will buy their loyalty?” Victor asked, feeling his own mind churning with all the implications his young king was bringing to light.

Alexander turned to him. “Yes, and why not? Her dowry is enough to buy this kingdom three times over. I shall give the goblin king a tenth of the dowry each year, for the next decade, and the same amount for an additional two years. I will also agree to a betrothal between our first born and whichever prince or princess of Shondross of the king’s choosing. This will bind our kingdoms together just as it would have Naferia and Shondross.”

“And what about Naferia?” Victor asked. “How do you intend to keep them from forming some sort of alliance with Shondross? They still Monduro’s little sister, and the queen is pregnant yet again.”

“I shall promise my first eligible daughter to Calliander, thus uniting all our kingdoms.”

“Your Grace, are you sure this is wise?” Isaac asked, his eyes troubled.

Alexander slowly nodded his head as he sat back at the head of the table. “Aye. It is the only choice the kingdom has right now. I cannot risk freeing Calista, and killing her would bring the wrath of both kingdoms upon our heads. There is no other choice but to unit our kingdoms, once and for all.”

Victor poured himself another glass of wine. “Well, then, it has been settled. It looks like we shall be having a royal wedding this fall.” He raised his glass. “To the King and his new bride. May you be fruitful and multiply.”

“Long live the King and Queen,” Isaac said as he raised his glass.

One by one, the rest of the King’s Council raised their glasses. “To the King and Queen!” they all shouted.

“To my bride-to-be,” Alexander said as he raised his own glass. “May this union be blessed by the Transcenders and all the gods they hold dear.”

The War Within – Chapter 2: The Jewel of Naferia

 

 

 

The War Within

Nicola C. Matthews

~~ 2 ~~

The Jewel of Naferia

 

copyright 2017 Nicola C. Matthews All Rights Reserved

Calista Vasco hissed around the soggy scrap of cloth still lodged in her mouth. One of the guards hit her between her shoulder blades with the handle of his energy sword, nearly knocking the small fairy off her feet. She stumbled, unable to right herself with the canvas bag still obstructing her view.

Angus, the older of the two guards, grabbed hold of her arm, steading her on her feet as his counterpart shackled her right leg to a ten-foot length of iron chain. Instantly her former screams of frustration became shrieks of pain, her body jerking violently. The two men stared at her in bewildered concern, not quite sure if something was actually wrong with her or if it were all merely an act, a desperate attempt at escape.

She began stomping her feet, frantically trying to rid herself of the chain. Her actions caused the two men to take notice of the angry red burn marks popping up everywhere the chain touched her fragile, ivory-colored skin.

Angus smacked the younger man in the back of his head. “You were supposed to wrap her ankle before you put the chains on her. Don’t you know anything about fairies, you simpleton?”

The younger man, Thomas, hunched his shoulders as he squatted down, cowering in fear. “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t realize.”

“Aren’t they teaching you anything these days?” Angus asked as he held onto the screaming girl. “Fairies are allergic to iron. See how’s it burning her skin?”

Thomas nodded his head fiercely, but did not move.

“Take the chain off of her, you fool!” Angus bellowed, causing Thomas to flinch before he threw himself onto the floor.

The door to the room swung open, admitting Alexander into the fray. He took one look at Calista screaming in pain before his temper immediately flared. “For the love of the Transcenders, why is that woman screaming?” he asked as his long legs took him across the room in just a few short seconds.

“Sorry, Your Grace, but Thomas here didn’t wrap her ankle before applying the shackle. He’ll have her fixed up in no time,” Angus said as he bowed before his king.

Thomas made no move to help the woman or to move from his spot from the floor. Alexander grabbed hold of the screaming fairy and jerked her away from Angus. “Just take the shackle off of her already, Angus. She’s giving me a splitting headache with all this screaming,” he said as Calista’s screams became high-pitched wails which were like daggers to the inside of his skull.

Angus immediately set to doing his king’s bidding, removing the shackle from the woman whose screams slowly subsided to a mere whimper as soon as the iron was removed from her skin. The mottled, angry-looking burns slowly healed right before them, sending the fairy’s health level shooting from a steady decreasing 65% back to 90%. Angus then took a length of cloth and wrapped it around the fairy’s ankle, replacing the shackle and ensuring it was secured to the metal ring embedded in the stone floor.

Alexander made certain her hands were still bound securely behind her back before he finally ventured to remove the rough sack still enshrouding her head. Having never seen Calista before, Alexander’s eyes drank in the sight of her once the bag was removed.

He had always been told fairies were beautiful creatures, but the photos he had seen in his story books as a child did not compare to the creature in his arms. Her hair was long, a deep shade of mahogany in stark contrast against her alabaster skin. Even with it tangled and matted around her head and shoulders, it was still softer than the softest silk and glittered in the late afternoon sun streaming through the nearby small oval-shaped window. Her eyes were almond shaped and bluer than the ocean, fringed in long, reddish-brown lashes.

Alexander’s eyes roamed freely over the woman, takin in her slender, delicate build, the small, slightly flared hips and rounded cleavage barely visible in the stained green gown she wore. She had given his men quite the chase, leading them through thick underbrush and across savage rocks before they were finally able to subdue her. Calista’s dress was streaked with mud, leaves clinging to the frayed edges, twigs stuck in her tangled hair, and her bare feet bore the marks of multiple scratches from the briars she had lead them all through. There was no denying she was a lovely creature, but her beauty served him no purpose. He was only interested in what having her as a hostage could do in terms of increasing his land holdings throughout the Naferia kingdom.

He released her suddenly, his too-thin lips pulled down in a frown as he moved quickly away from the woman. She stumbled back, her arms still behind her back and her mouth still stuffed with the soggy rag. She tried speaking around the gag, but her words were completely incoherent.

“Sire, does she really need that gag in her mouth at all times?” Angus asked, eyeing the woman warily before he took a few steps away from her. Something about the woman made his skin crawl. Maybe it was the fact she could easily level their entire castle if she wanted to. Or at least that’s what he had been told as a child.

Alexander turned back to stare thoughtfully at the fairy for a few seconds. “For now –yes. I need to speak with the Drucynd Councilmen, and I will mention this. We’ve all been told stories about fairies and how they can use their magic, but I fear it is just stories told to children to frighten us. I want hard facts as to what she can and cannot do before I remove her gag or her restraints,” he said before turning sharply on his heel. “Get her fresh bedding, make sure she’s comfortable. Until I can consult with the Councilmen, that gag is not to be removed, not even to eat, understand?”

Angus opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it. He personally felt better knowing she couldn’t conjure up some evil Earth demon to eat them all while they slept. “Yes, Sire,” he said instead, holding the door open as his king exited the room.

“You two listen to me, and listen well,” Alexander said as he turned to face his two men as they locked the door. “No one is to know she is here. The fewer people who know of her existence the better it is for all. She does not leave, she is not to be seen under any circumstances. Lanett will be bringing food for her each day. No one is allowed inside this room aside from myself and my advisers. Do you understand?”

Angus and Thomas nodded their heads, answering quickly, “Yes, Your Grace.”

Alexander stared at the two of them for a second, his dark brown eyes boring into theirs to make certain they understood how important it was. Satisfied they would not speak a word of their captive under any circumstances, he left the two of them to guard the door, leaving the jewel of Naferia under their careful watch.

All Kindle – All the Time

If you have a KU subscription, I have great news! I have enrolled all of my books into the KU program for the summer. That’s right, for the next three months you can enjoy any and all of your Nicola favorites on Kindle for FREE with the KU program. What will be your first read?

The War Within: ~ 1 ~ The Warring Kingdoms

TWW ebook Mock 1

 

The War Within

by Nicola C. Matthews

~~ 1 ~~ :

The Warring Kingdoms

a foreword:

This novel is being posted without any edits or rewrites. The final product will most likely deviate slightly from the words and storyline on this website.

***

“Sire, are you sure you want to do this? If this plan backfires then both Naferia and Shondross could come after us, rather than fighting each other.”

King Alexander Argent of the Aziza realm glanced over at the head of his guards, Victor, the man he had known since he was a toddler and trusted above all others. The older man was standing a few feet away, his aging and slightly wrinkled face looking haggard and drawn. Alexander’s dark brown eyes flickered to the small, writhing figure on the ground, trussed up by the hands and feet, a canvas bag over her head and a gag wrapped securely around her mouth. She was thrashing madly about on straw covered floor, her screams muffled by the wadded piece of rag stuffed into her mouth.

“I fully understand what it is I’m doing, old friend,” Alexander said. “I accepted King Antiguiss’ rejections of the extended treaty between Aziza and Naferia with the utmost of grace. I sent him gifts in thanks for meeting with me as is the custom. As far as he is concerned, I still do not know he bargained off his own daughter to Prince Monduro of Shondross in order to seal the alliance between their realms. It will look like Antiguiss has changed his mind about the arranged marriage, nothing more. It’s a clear slap to the face of Monduro and his family. It will be viewed as such, and it is enough to bring friction between the two kingdoms. And with the two of them at each other’s throats, I will finally have the upper hand.”

The small figure on the floor began thrashing around again, screaming around her gag, no doubt trying to cast some type of spell which would render all of them into slimy toads. The guard standing directly behind the young fairy kicked her hard in the back with the toe of his boot. The fairy let out a stifled moan of pain before growing still.

“Take her to the tower,” Alexander said as he turned to leave the stables. “Make certain her hands are always kept bound behind her, in iron. Never let your guard down around her, understand? The last thing you want is to allow her to cast a spell upon your person. We have more than enough garden slugs as it is.”

The two guards bowed to him as he passed, giving a curt, “Yes, Sire!” as they did so. Alexander quickly left the stables, intent upon getting some food into his stomach before his health levels reached critical levels.

He pulled out his magic scroll, checking the stats of his kingdom. Their food stores were holding steady at nearly 100%, the treasury at one million cren, the army closer to 85%. It was cause for concern. He would need to consult with the Drucynd Council soon to see if the Transcenders would favor him on his quest. He was sure there must be some way to trade out the food stores or cren to strengthen and expand his slowly dwindling army.

He nearly stumbled into one of his valets as he entered his quarters, the man hastily getting out of his way before bowing and apologizing. Alexander paid him no attention as he studied the scroll. With winter coming up, he would need to send more workers to the fields to increase their food stores, especially if he were able to come to some sort of agreement with the Transcenders to extend and grow his army.

“Sire, would you like us to prepare a hot bath before you dine?” Henry, his personal valet, asked him as he sat upon a nearby chair. Alexander merely nodded as he lifted his leg, his eyes still glued to his scroll as Henry removed the king’s heavy boots.

Alexander mumbled a half-hearted thanks to the maid who brought in a tray heavily laden with meats, cheeses, fruit, and a pitcher of wine. He continued to study his scroll, mentally going through all the calculations and steps required to bring his kingdom back to 100% across the board.

He reached out mindlessly and speared a piece of fruit, chewing it slowly as he studied. Within a few short minutes he had consumed everything on the tray, feeling his own strength and vitality immediately restored. Feeling much better, he placed his scroll back into his desk before moving to the bathing room, a bronze tub of steaming hot water awaiting him. His mind was a flurry of activity as he went over his plan, step-by-step, going over every possible scenario to find weaknesses in his plot and fix them before his enemies had a chance to exploit it for their own gain.

The War Within – a High Fantasy novel

TWW ebook Mock 1.jpg

In the coming months, I’ve decided to try my hand at something new. I’ve written one minor high-fantasy novel, Vindictus The Dark Lord. To date, it remains my best seller. I’ve always loved reading high fantasy novels, and have decided to dip my toes back into a mashup genre that I really love. I will be posting my upcoming release (tentatively) titled The War Within chapter by chapter right here on my website. I am mixing high-fantasy, possibly steampunk, romance, RPG (think WOW and D&D), and some action/adventure to the pot to see what I can come up with over the coming weeks. I’m not really sure what the future holds for this novel, but I do hope you will follow me on my journey into this exciting new realm.

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Hard Work Does Not Equal Success

We all love to hear success stories in the indie world. Nothing can give us all a sense of I can do this! like hearing about other authors who have been successful with their self-published books. However, I think it’s important for people to see the other side of things. It’s the side most of us see, are all-too-familiar with, but is also the side which authors are often chastised for sharing. I think it is important to keep what it’s really like to be an author in perspective while still overcoming adversity.

Late last year I was releasing my 9th book since 2011 and my 4th book to be released that year. I had a marketing plan in place, and for the two weeks leading up to my big release, I did everything anyone and everyone had ever suggested indie authors do to increase sales and get the word out about the impending release. I had three fabulous PAs who were posting several times a week each in FB groups, they were posting about my new book on their PR company’s websites and social media pages, entering me into contests, and setting up blog and podcast interviews. I did takeovers, one of my PAs put together a fabulous cover reveal party followed by a release party via FB. I blogged, I did a blog tour, I had my street team in place, I had a review team in place, I sent out my newsletter and asked other authors to include the release in their newsletter as well. The book was the third in an on-going series so I dropped the price of the first book down to just $0.99, dropped the price of the second book which had just released less than 9 months prior to just $1.99, and offered the new release for just $0.99, all in a bid to drive sales for the new release as well as the rest of the series. I took to social media and did contests, giveaways, played games. Anything anyone had ever said would help on release day I did, and then some. I even went so far as to take out Twitter ads.

The result? The day of release I had a whole 3 sales, and only had 7 sales of the book that week. In all honesty, I’ve given away more copies of that book to blogs, beta readers, and contest winners than I have ever sold. I can’t tell you how many blogs actually posted about the release as it was all set up through my PA. Out of the 6 beta readers and 6 members of my review team I had enlisted, I received feedback from one of the betas and not a single review from any of them. Despite so many people posting, tweeting, and trying to drum up interest in the release, readers just weren’t biting.

While I am extremely happy for those authors who seem to ooze success with minimal effort, I feel it’s important for authors to realize that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work or how much time, energy, and effort we put into something, sometimes success just isn’t in the cards. Hard work does not equal success. If all it took to hit it big was hard work, there would be la whole lot more NYT bestselling authors out there. I am a writer first, a business woman second. We struggle daily with trying to balance everything and it’s oftentimes crushing when we see so many authors succeeding when we have literally done everything in our power to get noticed and it just isn’t happening for us. While it can be devastating to see so many authors burning up the Amazon charts after we have busted our asses and have nothing to show for it, we should remember that we are so much more than just our sales. Sales, or a lack thereof, should not be a measure of our worth or our success as writers. So long as we love what we do, that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

I know a lot of you are struggling with sales, seeing your dreams slowly washing away with the tide, but just remember you are not alone. Don’t let your sales, or your lack of sales, define who you are. Those of us who write for the joy of spinning a great storyline will persevere. Just remember so long as you are doing what you love to do, nothing else really matters. Sales or no sales, you are still a writer at heart.

Taboo Tales Blog – Take a Walk on the Wild Side!

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