Silverfish: Chapter 19

“A decrypted intelligence core.”  Mateo stared at Anson.

“A hundred years from now, when kids are learning about this war in history class…”  Anson folded his arms.  “Jerin and his boys are going to have a full paragraph dedicated to them.”

“Not unless we get it through the barricade.”  Mateo swallowed.  “Holy shit.” He exhaled.  “How are they?”

“Doc kept Lukas breathing.  He’s still too messed up to leave the infirmary, but Doc said he’ll make it.”  Anson sighed, then twitched his shoulder.  “Doc can’t promise a full recovery without more supplies.”

“And Yasir?”  Mateo raised an eyebrow.

“Pushed the limits on the shield, but came through without complications.”  Anson let his arms fall to his sides.  “Captain…”

“If we stay out here, we are going to die.  And cost Palindor the best shot it has had since this war began.”  Mateo nodded, then turned to look out the viewport.  “I know.  And I am very open to suggestions on how to get past that barricade.”

“I’ll toss it out to the crew.”  Anson squared his shoulders.  “See if any of them get a sudden burst of genius.”



Silverfish: Chapter 18

Mateo stepped into the office attached to the infirmary, and frowned.  It was empty.  “Captain?”

The voice behind him made him start.  “Doc.”  He looked around the infirmary.  “I could have sworn you weren’t in here a moment ago.”

Jakob sighed, then held up a scanner.  “I was just recalibrating one of the operating tables.”  He shook his head, then gestured at the leftmost one.  “Again.”

“It’s malfunctioning?”  He walked over to see the open display.  “What’s wrong with it?”

“Standard wear and tear.  Unfortunately, the correct parts are not available.”  Jakob set the scanner down on top of the table, then began closing it back up.  “If we could refrain from having more than six crewmembers seriously injured at once, I would greatly appreciate it.”

“Yeah.”  Mateo nodded.  “Me too.”  He shrugged.  “I was just checking in, doing an informal inspection.”  He looked down at the operating table.  “Guess you just answered my question.”

“I am certain you are receiving the same answer in every department.  We are running low on both critical supplies and methods of working around those needs.”  Jakob shook his head before looking around the infirmary.  “This style of ship was not intended for long term missions.”  When Mateo glanced at him, Jakob gave him a half smile.  “Commander Anson has provided me with military training manuals and readings.  It is not the most scintillating reading material I have ever been assigned, however we both felt it was important I have the knowledge expected of an officer.”

“Anson is usually right about that kind of thing.”  He sighed.  “We are going to have to make planetfall soon, one way or another.  Check the local systems and note any planets we don’t have the proper innocul…”  He trailed off as Jakob handed him a datapad, then smiled.  “And in the proper format too.  You’re getting the hang of this.”


Stone and Fire: Chapter 40

He strode into the room and narrowed his eyes at his brother.  Liam’s face took on a resigned expression, and he sighed.  Jurgen just nodded.

Then he punched his brother in the face.  Liam staggered backward, landing on the rug in front of the fire.  “You fucking promised.”  Jurgen stared down at him.  “You son of …”  He pointed.  “You promised.”

“I did.”  Liam wiped at the blood on his face.

“Then why the fuck did Mother say whoever brought a keystone back to Darodelf first?”  He shook his head.  When Liam didn’t respond, Jurgen reached down, caught him by the front of the tunic, and hauled him back to his feet.  “You had me bring it to Diantha…”  He glared.  “In.  Darodelf.”

“Yes.”  Liam looked down, then wiped at his face again.

“You promised.”  Jurgen shook him.

“Yes, Jurgen, I did.”  Liam’s head came up, and his eyes locked onto Jurgen’s.  Jurgen took a startled step back as he felt a chill go down his spine.  “But nothing in that promise stops me from trying everything I can to save you both.”  His eyes seemed to glow.  “You’re my brothers, Jurgen.”

Jurgen let his hands fall to his sides.  He clenched his fists and took a few deep breaths before looking up at his brother again.  “I don’t intend to stand meekly by while someone kills me.  What happens?”

“Phillip waits in ambush.”  Liam picked up a potion that had been sitting on the mantle and took a drink.  “Rutger has no interest in killing Rien, but Phillip would rather not risk Rien complicating things if he can help it.  If you don’t show for the ambush…”

“He goes after Rien instead.”  Jurgen nodded.  Then he squared his shoulders.  “Only Rien won’t be forewarned and prepared.”  He walked over, grabbed a map off the table, and shoved it into Liam’s chest.  “You know where Phillip will be, so…”  He saw pain in his brother’s eyes, and sighed.  “And you thought of that already.”

“I walked the web a thousand times.  I called upon Wendel and his knights, and Solsthriem broke apart into civil war.  I hired mercenaries.  I tried to handle it myself.”  Liam looked away, resting his head on the mantle.  His voice broke on the words.  “I can’t watch you die again, Jurgen.”

“Hey…”  He caught Liam’s arm, then pulled him into a hug.  “What happens next isn’t your choice, Liam.  Whatever Mikaere believes, you are not a god.”  He felt Liam shake, and tightened his arms.  “For almost thirty years, I’ve had faith in you, my brother.  Have faith in me.”

“I do.”  Liam nodded.

“Look out for Rien.”  He patted Liam’s back, then managed a small smile.  “I hate admitting this, but uh…”  He shrugged.  “He needs all the help he can get.”

“I have…”  Liam drew back, then nodded.  “I’ll make sure Jochem gets him some of the help he needs.”

“If we don’t see each other again, I…”  Jurgen smiled, then patted Liam’s cheek.  “I’ll be down at the water’s edge, with drinks, and we will sail upon the storm.”


Stone and Fire: Chapter 39

“He’s doing fine, Liam.”  Jurgen folded his arms and glared.  “He’s been reading up on irrigation and even talked with her about an aqueduct.”

“On the holding that provides his supply of ale.”  Liam sighed.  “I’d hoped…”

“You’d hoped what, Liam?”  Jurgen exhaled.  “That Rien would snap his fingers and solve all our problems?”  He shook his head.  “You’re not stupid.”

“I could argue that point.”  Liam leaned on the stone wall, staring out the window at where Rien was practicing in the combat circle.  His voice sounded a little grudging when he spoke again.  “He inherited his father’s fighting ability, at least.”

“You think that’s impressive?”  Jurgen laughed.  “A couple days ago he took out three of those guys blindfolded.”

Liam blinked before turning toward him.  “Rien fights blindfolded?”

“Sure does.”  Jurgen grinned.  “I’ve been teaching him.  He’s better than I am now.”

“Since when do you fight blindfolded?”  Liam raised an eyebrow.

“Since I saw you do it.”  Jurgen patted his brother’s shoulder.  “Figured if you could learn to do it, couldn’t be that hard.”

“You learned…”  Liam gave him a strange look.  “You learned how to fight while blindfolded?”

“And it was a pain in the ass.”  Jurgen nodded.  “I went through Wendel’s entire library, couldn’t find a single book on the technique.  Pretty much had to make it up myself.”  He twitched a shoulder.  “Where’d you learn it?”

“Jurgen…”  Liam stared at him for a moment.  “I have Asrael’s Sight.”

“I…”  Jurgen trailed off.  “You weren’t fighting me without being able to see?”  Liam gave a tiny shake of his head.  “You were watching the entire fight in your mind?”  Liam gave a small nod.  “You were cheating?”  Liam’s lips twitched.  Jurgen took a deep breath.  “I’m going to give you a five second head start, and then I’m tossing you in the…”  He didn’t finish getting the words out before Liam turned and broke into a run.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 38

He jumped down the last of the stairs, landing with a loud thump.  Just to be sure, he reached up and set the lantern swinging, making it rattle.  He also kicked a barrel and counted to thirty in his head.  Then, and only then, did he open the door to Mikaere’s chamber.  The young man was sitting up in the bed, the blanket mostly to the side covering a lump that was moving slightly with each breath.  “I’m heading ashore to discuss the new sails.”  And Adaeze hadn’t permitted him to go ashore without Mikaere’s blades since Diantha had told her about the assassination attempts.

“Yes, Aihuroa.”  Mikaere slid out of the bed and reached for his leggings.  The lump beneath the blankets moved just a little.

“I’ll meet you on deck.”  He tried not to look at the blanket.  “I’m going to go look for my sister.”  Liam turned and headed back the way he’d come.  He stopped when he got to the deck, then began counting in his head.

A minute later, Ama came up the stairs behind him.  She was dressed, though her hair was still tousled as messy.  “We just going to keep pretending —” He shot her a glare, and she snickered.  “You know, it’s going to be hilarious when Mbali —”

“Stop talking.”  Liam folded his arms but couldn’t quite stop himself from wincing.

Ama just laughed.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 37

She stared a moment at the willowy, dark-skinned young woman.  The girl was taller than the Ilael, with long legs that had leaped the gap between the longboat and the dock with ease.  The girl grinned, and Diantha laughed softly.  “Mbali.”

“Chieftess Valyk.’  She turned to catch hold of the rope, so the boat could be tied to the dock.  Her eyes danced as she turned again.  “Mine aunt, we come bringing trade.

“You…”  Diantha gave a small shake of her head.  Mbali was taller than her own daughters.  Tears threatened.  “You grew up.”  She exhaled.  “You weren’t supposed to do that.”  She opened her arms.

Mbali stepped inside to return the hug.  Then she gave Diantha an apologetic look.  “I sail on The Wayward Dolphin.  Mama and Papa —”

“Sailed south for a moot.”  Diantha nodded.  “I got the letter.  We have barrels of ice peppers and a selection of carved rubies.”

“We have salt.”  Mbali jerked her head at the ship.

“Oh, I could kiss your father.”  Diantha laughed softly.  “We sent Clan Gorit running with their tails between their legs, but their little stampede did result in our stores getting swamped.”

“Papa made sure we have enough to resupply you.”  Mbali handed over the manifest.  “We also brought silk, glass from Sahit, and a cage of songbirds for the twins.”

“Is the Wayward Dolphin your ship then?”  Diantha took the manifest from her and handed over the parchment Torin had prepared.  A quick scan of the manifest showed there was once again no need to doubt Liam.  Everything was exactly as she would have requested.

“I’ll not be fifteen for a moon yet.”  Mbali shook her head.  “I sail with Captain Tendai, under the flag of Admiral Uduak.”  Mbali leaned forward.  “But the Captain is letting me handle a lot of the trading so…”  Her smile was eager.

“Soon.”  Diantha offered the manifest back.  “I want everything, but you knew that already.”

“Your offer is fair…”  Mbali handed the list back.  “But you knew that already.”  She tucked the list into her pouch, then took a deep breath and looked up at Diantha with a huge smile.

Diantha blinked, then put her hands over her mouth as her own face broke into a smile.  She’d been waiting for this news every time she heard from Liam or his family.  They knew a son was coming, but Liam had refused to peek ahead to tell them when the boy would arrive.  “When?”

“Papa said if we continue the run as requested, we’ll make it to the islands in time.”  Mbali spread her hands.  “They are going to name him Enu, after Mama’s brother.”

“Enu.”  Diantha had heard the story from Jurgen.  “It’s a good name.”


War: Chapter 11

Abigail stared for a moment.  Aside from both being very good looking men, there was no resemblance at all between the blond newcomer and Khait.  “I…”  She turned toward the others, and she noted the professor had gone pale.  “Uh…”

Professor Kravitz staggered a little, and Magda guided him to a chair.  The professor immediately started taking deep breaths while Magda looked at him in confusion.  “I’m not sure what just…”  Magda glanced at the blond man.  “Explain?”

“It’s uh…”  The blond man sighed.  “I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s…”  Khait slowly nodded and then stepped back before swallowing.  “You remember me.”

“Yes and no.”  The blond man gave him a gentle smile.  “Enough to know you’re my little brother.”  He smoothed the front of Khait’s shirt.  “Usariel.”

“Little…”  Things clicked, and then it was her turn to stagger.  She caught herself, then took a couple deep breaths.

Khait turned toward her and took her hand, pulling her a little closer before putting an arm around her waist.  “This is my girlfriend, Abigail.”

“Are you okay, Tomer?”  Magda was patting the professor’s back as he kept taking deep breaths.  He shook his head, his eyes wide.  Abigail couldn’t really blame him.

“It’s nice to meet you.”  The blond man held out a hand, and she took it.  His handshake was firm.  “I’m Gabriel.”

“Nice to…”  If Khait hadn’t had his arm around her, she might have ended up on the ground.  No wonder the professor was freaking out.  Khait’s brother was…  No.  Usariel’s brother was…  She swallowed.  “Gabriel.”  Then she looked at Khait.  “Gabriel?”

“Yes.”  Khait was smiling.  It slowly faded as he gave her a concerned look, then his eyes widened.  “Oh.  Shit.”  He turned back toward Gabriel.  “You.  What are you doing here?  How are you here?  Why are you here?  You shouldn’t be here.  All the seals are intact.  It’s against the rules for you to be here.”

“And yet, here I am.”  Gabriel shrugged.  “When it is time for me to know more, I will.  For now…”  He nodded to Khait, then glanced over at the others.  “Is the professor alright?”

“Really not sure.”  Magda exhaled.  Then she took a deep breath.  “So…”  She glanced from Gabriel to Khait and back again.  “The name isn’t a coincidence.  You’re actually Gabriel.”

“I thought you knew that already.”  Gabriel raised an eyebrow at her.

“Yeah, but like knowing a pan is hot versus actually putting your hand down on it…”  Magda sighed, then patted Professor Kravitz’s shoulder.  “It’s already, Tomer.  He is definitely one of the good guys.”

“Khait…”  Professor Kravitz looked up at him hopefully.  “Can you perhaps do that thing again where you make me not remember certain events?”


War: Chapter 10

“Your power is…”  Tomer raised an eyebrow at Stephan.  “Complete immunity to magic?”

“We are still figuring it out.”  Stephan shrugged.  “I haven’t figured out how to even control it, and at least one dragon has proved able to bypass it.”

“Dragons.”  Tomer exhaled.  “Still wrapping my brain around that.”  He glanced up at Magda.  “Khait said there are currently nine?”

“There are, though as far as I know I’ve only met two.  Ryuu and Tia.”  Magda chuckled.  “Ryuu and I had a fling, back in the 18th century.”

“I should have asked Khait for more of his stash.”  Tomer laughed softly, then glanced again at Stephan.  “My friend, I think I rather envy you.”

“We’ve only heard what happened in San Francisco from Laura’s viewpoint, Professor.”  Stephan leaned forward.  “I know asking you if anything unusual happened is kind of an odd question, considering —”

“No, I get what you mean.”  He took a deep breath.  “I spoke with Adam privately.”

“What did he tell you?”  Magda raised an eyebrow.

“Enough that…”  Tomer exhaled.  “Enough that invoking his name was enough to convince me to help you.  As for the rest, it was indeed a private conversation and if he’d wanted Laura or Erilon to know I’ve no doubt he’d have spoken in front of them.”

“Yeah.”  Magda leaned back.  “Yeah, I get that.”

“May I ask how it is you first encountered Adam?”  Tomer raised an eyebrow.

“Well, uh…”  Stephan laughed awkwardly.  “He told me some bad jokes then his partner kicked me in the head.”  He straightened.  “He didn’t have a choice there.  As soon as he did have a choice, he risked a hell of a lot to help us and…”  He glanced at Magda.

“Adam saved Ash.  I owe him for that.”  Magda glanced at the door.  Ash was around college students, people his own age.  He was being quiet, but he was making some effort to interact.  The professor had learned of Ash’s interest in geology and had introduced him to one of the students who specialized in dating rock samples and dirt layers and the conversation had quickly lost her entirely.

“He saved me.”  Tomer nodded.  “I owe him for that.”  He hesitated.  “And I will note this.  Save when dealing with vampires, each time Adam fought he opted for nonlethal combat.  He may call himself a killer, Magda, but I do not believe that characterization is wholly accurate.”


War: Chapter 9

He saw Laura sitting on the couch, then tossed the shopping bag onto her lap.  “Picked you up a new jacket.”  Michaels headed toward the kitchen, then grabbed a soda out of the fridge.

Laura took the jacket out of the bag, then made a squealing sound before trying it on.  The jacket was hooded, with straps in the front and a sort of corset tie in the back.  Erilon assured him it was very fashionable at the moment.  “Oh my god, I love it!”  She spun around, making the tails of the jacket swirl out like a skirt.  Then she came to a stop, and started shifting nervously.

“Laura?”  Michaels raised an eyebrow.  “Something wrong.”

“No.”  Her voice was soft, then she brightened a little.  “Oh, Diana called.  She said if you don’t mind, she’s free this weekend.  I told her to drop on by.”

It was possible having his reporter girlfriend over right now wasn’t the best possible idea, but then again, he didn’t get to spend anywhere near as much time with her as he liked.  Plus Laura still needed a couple things for the trip and she and Diana loved going shopping together.  “I’ll pick up some wine.”  When Laura didn’t respond, he looked up at her again.  “Laura…”

“Michaels I…”  She swallowed.  “Okay, this is weird and it’s weird but I want to try something, okay, just to…”  She took a deep breath.  “Can I try something?  I just want to see, okay, if…”  She trailed off again.

“Okay.”  Michaels slowly nodded.  He shrugged.  “What is it you want to —”

“I like the coat.”  She took a deep breath, then looked up at him.  “Thanks, Dad.”

The drink fell out of his hand.  They’d done the formal adoption to ease the process of getting her into the university, but…  “Laura…”  His throat wouldn’t quite let him form any more words.

“It’s okay, right?”  She stared at him, blinking back tears.  “Cause it felt good but I…”  She wiped at her eyes.  “It’s okay, right?”

“Yeah.”  He spread his arms, then grunted as she threw herself into them for a hug.  “Yeah, it’s okay.”  He hugged her tightly until he felt her breathing go back to normal.  “You know this means I get to break out the no daughter of mine is leaving the house dressed like —”  He grunted when he felt her fist lightly connect with his ribs.

“Fine, but I’m breaking out the ‘you’re old’ card.”  She grinned up at him.

“You mean more than you already do?”  He tugged one of her braids.

“Thanks for the coat, Dad.”  She went up on her toes kiss his cheek, then grabbed the bag and headed toward her room.

Michaels swallowed, then went into the next room to grab a towel for the spilled drink.  He saw Gabriel entering.  Gabriel blinked at him, then raised an eyebrow.  Michaels swallowed again, then wiped at his eyes.  “Laura called me ‘Dad’.”

Gabriel’s face broke into a wide smile.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 36

Adaeze stretched, then glanced at her daughter.  Mbali was giggling.  “What?”

Mbali put a hand to her own forehead, then moved her hand to touch Adaeze’s forehead, then moved it back.  “I’m taller than you.”

“You don’t have to keep reminding me of that.”  Adaeze shook her head as Mbali started dancing her way across the deck.  She sent a mock glare up at her husband, then pointed at Mbali.  “Your fault.”  He was staring off the side of the ship, his gaze distant.  “Liam?”  She walked over and put her hand on his arm, making him jump.  “Liam, what’s wrong?”

“I…”  He gave a small shake of his head as the far away look left his eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”  She stared, feeling a chill go down her spin.  “Liam?”

“Your grandmother is dead.”  He met her eyes.  “My queen.”

“Oh.”  She stared at him, taking a few deep breaths.  Then she turned to the helm.  “Set course for the islands.”


Stone and Fire: Chapter 35

Petrus gave a gleeful shout before forming himself into a ball and splashing into the water with the other children.  Ama began splashing him as soon as he surfaced, and Petrus laughed as he retaliated.  Jurgen laughed, then glanced at where Adaeze was sitting.  “You know, I thought Liam’s ability to hold his breath was impressive.”  He glanced at the water.  “Aren’t you…”

“Wait.”  Adaeze shook her head.

He was squirming by the time Mbali finally surfaced, shooting out of the water almost the full length of her body and catching hold of one of the ropes to start pulling herself back onto the ship.  He couldn’t quite stop himself from giving a relieved chuckle.  “Aren’t you worried about those shark things?”

Adaeze rolled her eyes at him before giving a pointed look to where Liam was over on one of the small rocky outcroppings with Zuri and Mikaere, collecting something.  “No.”  She smiled at where Petrus and the other kids were moving onto the sandbar, whooping and hollering.  “Most Ilael vessels do not have so many children.  The risk is too great, so they grow up on the islands.”  She smiled.  “But there is no place in the world safer than the vessel upon which my husband sails.”

“I wish…”  He stopped himself before wishing aloud that he could have brought his other two brothers.  He sighed.  “I wish.”

“I know.”  Adaeze watched Mbali dive back into the water.  “I would like to send Mbali back with you.  To learn horses and mountains.  To learn that even though it is the sea to which we will return, we too take life from the land.”  She exhaled.  “And perhaps to learn from Diantha how to fight.”

Jurgen laughed, then looked out at the sandbar again.  Ama was showing Petrus how to spear fish.  “One day.”

“One day.”  Adaeze nodded.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 34

“No.”  Adaeze shook her head.

“Adaeze…”  Liam gave her a pleading look.

“You’re not going alone.”  She folded her arms.  “Efua and Mikaere will —”

She cut off as he dropped to his knees in front of her, then bowed forward until his forehead touched the top of her foot.  “Please.”

Her eyes closed, and she swallowed.  Then she nodded.  “Go.”