Shadow on Concrete Wall

The Fifth Kingdom

This is the second book in an eight book fantasy series. It is now available for presale on Amazon. The publishing date is set for December 13th, 2022.

 
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On a medieval planet, Brodia has run away from her Zenii, Grand Wizard Preem. Alone, she strives to learn more magic as she helps the poor and disadvantaged citizens of Otanic. Brodia travels east toward the fifth kingdom, unaware that this now is the hunting ground for the psychotic killer who only wants to see her die.

On the road east, Brodia faces the Brotherhood who seek to burn her as a witch, and the King's Patrol, sent to strip her of her magic. Meanwhile, Wizard Preem remains trapped in the capital at the king's pleasure.

Click on cover to go to Amazon to request a pre-sale copy. 

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Tropical Leaves

The Fifth Kingdom

On the planet Vosj, in the fourth kingdom, Brodia would soon find herself tied to the top of a Brotherhood pyre.

However, a week before that day, she completed her work for the day in a rich farmer’s barn. Wearing her preferred men’s clothes and pear-green beret, she strode across the farmyard as the rain fell in big drops making small craters in the soft soil. Eleven-year-old Julani ran ahead, giggling as she tried to dodge the water droplets.

It was Brodia’s first day at this farm, but the farmer’s youngest daughter was already in hero-worship love with Brodia. She wasn’t sure if she liked this much attention. While the son, Habort, seemed just as infatuated, though she doubted it was hero-worship. The boy was two years younger than Brodia’s best friend, Hirin, who she’d left behind in Widemouth. Hobart followed her across the yard as if getting wet meant nothing to him. The air smelled fresh, lifting Brodia’s spirits as if the rain washed away her concerns about being abandoned by the man she loved.

The farmhouse was freshly painted in white with dark green window boxes under the kitchen’s windows. Julani pulled open the kitchen door painted in the same dark green. It afforded Brodia a glimpse of the kitchen as she approached the open door. The flash of pale yellow froze her steps. She quickly ducked to the side, out of sight of the men talking in the kitchen. Dressed as she was, it would be death to enter a room with a Daffodil.

Habort bumped into her accidentally. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I should dress better for dinner.”

“I’ll go with you,” he offered. But when Brodia suggested he could hold her hand while she went to the outhouse, the boy’s face turned red as he mumbled something before going into the kitchen.

Back in the barn by herself, Brodia pulled on her dark-blue dress with light-blue trim. It hid the blackened wand she carried in her belt. After stuffing her green beret under the straw, she strode back to the kitchen door. She couldn’t avoid meeting with the Brotherhood, but it still sent chills down her spine. She hated these kidnappers of young girls above all other men.

Inside the farm’s large kitchen, the farmer, Pavel, talked to a member of the Brotherhood Against Wizardry. Or a Daffodil to the many who despised them. With some luck, her blue dress disguise would hold.

This farm was more than a league west of the Longford Road from Big Oak and fifteen leagues from Kefnu. She had hoped it was far away from the areas the Brotherhood frequented. She dropped her gaze meekly before shuffling over to help the farmer’s wife at the firepit.

Besides the Daffodils, she also feared the King’s Patrol would arrest her for hurting a man in Kefnu. However, she had eliminated her greatest threat. Several days ago, she watched a barn burn to the ground and with it the life of the tall apprentice who was determined to not only kill young girls but also had made it a mission to kill Brodia. Twice they clashed; each time Brodia had survived the encounter, though she’d be a fool to claim she had been strong enough to defeat him on equal ground.

Pavel introduced the member of the Brotherhood as Brother Amar, who said he had camped his group in the west pasture. Brodia made a mental note to keep far away from that pasture. If the Brotherhood knew who she was, they would burn her alive.

Soon the evening meal was ready, so Brodia sat at the large kitchen table, where everyone sat according to their rank in the family. The father sat at the head with Habort opposite the Daffodil. Next came Klupio facing her little sister Julani. Last came Brodia, sitting next to Julani. The mother sat at the foot of the table, near the firepit. Brodia didn’t care much for the eldest daughter, who was convinced she already knew everything essential and was happy to remind Brodia of this fact several times during the day.

Klupio was in a heated exchange with her father about the marriage contract, while the Daffodil watched Klupio closely. To Brodia’s surprise, Klupio glanced at her twice as if asking for help in the argument. Klupio’s left hand rested palm-up on the table; she touched her thumb to the top pad of her little finger. It was the secret sign of the Fourth Daughters. Brodia considered herself a Defender of Vosj, one of only three people who could make that claim. As such, she knew it would be wrong to also belong to the Fourth Daughters, though she agreed with their philosophy that women had the right to choose their husbands.

As Brodia tried to join the conversation, the mother got up from the table to go to the firepit. “Brodia, can you help me with the roasted chicken?” she said over her shoulder. Brodia hurried to help slide the chicken off the spit onto the large metal serving plate. “I think I know who you are,” the mother whispered. “Be careful around Pa. He’s set in his ways. I’ll not see Klupio or Julani whipped because they want a better life.” Brodia nodded before taking the chicken to the table.

Brodia returned to her seat deep in thought over the fourteen-year-old. She was fast approaching marrying age. Brodia sympathized with Klupio’s feelings of helplessness. As father and daughter continued to argue under the watchful eyes of the Daffodil, Brodia made her decision.

“Klupio, you should listen to your father,” Brodia said. The Daffodil leaned forward to stare at her, but Brodia continued to give her advice. “A woman should bring in the money from a marriage contract; it’s their duty.”

Klupio glared at her, her face a mixture of betrayal and hatred. When the Daffodil turned his attention back to Klupio, Brodia placed her left hand, palm up, on the table, touching her thumb to the tip of her little finger. Klupio’s face changed to bewilderment, then a touch of understanding. Finally, she gave the slightest nod before telling her father she would follow the normal tradition of the marriage contract.

Pavel nodded toward Brodia, but Julani’s expression had changed to loathing toward Brodia. It was a necessary consequence. At least Brodia had stopped the battle between Klupio and her father for now. Soon she’d sit down with Klupio to help her find a better solution than just butting heads with her pa like two goats.

Brodia decided to change the subject of the dinnertime discussion. “Brother Amar, I heard rumors that the Western Strangler is dead. Is this true?”

“The story is that a farmer claimed to see him enter their barn during a thunderstorm. When lightning set the barn on fire, the killer was burned to death. A fitting end to a monster,” Brother Amar replied, happy to talk of matters that affected the realm instead of a small farming family’s internal strife. “However, we still await confirmation from the Palace.”

“Good, riddance” Pavel said. “I had feared for my daughters’ lives.”

Brodia listened to the ensuing conversation with half an ear. Her mind swirled around the idea that the killer’s death hadn’t been confirmed yet. The conversation at the head of the table evolved into the rumors of Harpin preparing to invade Otanic. Brodia knew these stories were true, but Brother Amar dismissed them as if indifferent, claiming Grand Wizard Preem would destroy them just as Sarn the Sage did once before.

Brodia wanted to scream at the Brother that Harpin also had a wizard and that Otanic wasn’t ready. She would like to say it was her duty to defend Otanic, to lay down her life, which was much more than he would ever do. But all she said was, “We all trust Wizard Preem will stop them.” However, the realization that people thought Otanic was safe gave her chills. Should I return to Kefnu? But, in the end she decided to leave it in Preem’s hands if she was wanted or not.