One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…
Although the author of several local histories, and numerous articles on the topics of American and military history, antiques and collectibles, Henderson’s first love is fiction. Her work in the museum and history fields enables a special insight into creating fantasy worlds. The descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer, her writing reflects the contrasts of her heritage as well as that of her Gemini sign. Her stories cross genres from historical westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of romantic fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster Novels. In her books, she invites you to join her on travels through the stars, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination.
Pounding his fist on the door, the guard yelled, “Hey, Cszabo, I have a gift for you.” He held up a short length of rope with a noose on each side. “Here’s gold appropriate for your new rank and ship. If your vessel isn’t pleasing, you can always use your new mark of rank to hang yourself from the yardarm.” Laughing, he tossed the rope into the room and slammed the door closed.
The wick in the thin slab of wax tilted. The last spark flickered out, plunging the room into complete darkness. Curses learned at the wharves escaped Iol’s tight lips. If the guards had provided a full-size candle it would have lasted most of the day. However, they had only stuck a short stub on the narrow board near the ceiling that served as sconce. And the uneven candle tilted with the slightest vibration.
The fragile hope that Faeld would be able to gather support to overturn the verdict vanished before the first cold meal. Whispers the guards meant for him to hear made it clear the councilman’s hold on his position as Third Seat was tenuous. No release would be coming from that direction. “Nor from the Bard Guild,” he growled. A message sneaked in from Conall stated their petitions were rejected. In fact, only his rank and the fact he had four senior journeymen with him, prevented the master from a physical assault.
Darkness of the soul—as well as that of the body—surrounded Iol in a cocoon as tight as a coffin. Only the thought of Pelra forced him to his feet. He pictured his lover, only to quash it. While she had not been accused of treason to her trading house, for the act of requesting permission to be handfasted to Iol, she was under house arrest, pending transport to the distant post. “The post which would be her assignment, her home, for the rest of her life,” Iol swore.
Three circuits of the walls reset the map of the room in his mind. A deep breath to center himself, he sank into a crouch alongside the door. Any chance of escape would be of his own making. He glanced up where he knew light from the candle should have been. If I can’t see, then the guards can’t see me. And I mean to take advantage of it.
A muffled footstep offered the possibility to escape. Rising slightly from his crouch, Iol tightened his grip on the nooses and jerked the rope taut. Let it be Leod, he prayed. One step inside the door is all I need.
The door opened.
The rope snugged around the intruder’s neck.
The hoarse grunt told of the newcomer’s identity. Bolte? What is my crewman doing here? He is supposed to be at his new assignment. The guard’s made sure I knew the ship sailed on the eve’s tide.
Before the thought finished, Iol loosened the garrote and freed his captive. A glance out the door revealed no stone-faced guards, just an empty hall.
“I’m here to get you out,” Bolte whispered. “Third Seat disagreed with the house’s ruling, but couldn’t override it.” Iol sensed rather than saw the youth’s thin shoulders shrug beneath the dark shirt. “He couldn’t come himself, but he has a plan to get you out of Stratven. And Third of Pirri arranged for Pelra to do the same. Follow me.”
Another look outside showed no sign of the guards. Iol, his breath held, followed his former apprentice. Step after step, they moved in near silence. Bolte stopped and leaned against a wall. Just one doorway remained between them and freedom. Laughter came from inside.
“The guards are celebrating,” Bolte said in Iol’s ear, “with a special something in their wine.”
As he spoke, one voice after another faded until only snores could be heard.
Bolte pushed ahead, and with a tug, opened the tack room door. Cold night air chilled Iol’s skin. “Not long now, sir,” the youth said. “Horses are around the corner, and there are warm clothes in the saddle bags.”
Slipping between two rails, Iol let go a breath held too long. A horse’s snort froze him mid-step. Two heartbeats of wait revealed no danger. He turned to the youth standing beside him. “Thank you, Bolte. You’ve done enough this day. Go back to your ship before anyone misses you.”
The determined look on the boy’s face signaled disobedience.
Iol softened his tone. “One of us losing our rank today is enough.” He held out his hand. At first, he thought the youth would reject the offer, but with a nod he clasped Iol’s forearm in the grip of equals. Releasing his hand, Iol stepped back and saluted. A moment later, Bolte returned it. Spinning on his heel, he raced into the night.
Street after street, Iol walked the horses. Every few steps he paused and listened for signs of pursuit.
Note of the author
What history and time may conceal sometimes refuses to stay lost in memory. Windmaster Legend reveals the story behind the legend of the star-crossed lovers, Iol of the House of Cszabo and Pelra of the House of Pirri.
Fate conspired to keep Iol and Pelra apart. He loves the sea and wants his own ship. She hates the deep blue and has worked too hard to allow her dreams to be sidetracked by the lure of magic. Despite a beautiful woman on his arm every night, Leod wanted the one he couldn’t have—Pelra. His kin on the ruling council provided him the power to fulfill his desires, or to ruin those who refused him.
Exiled to distant posts, given impossible challenges, and subject to Leod’s machinations, Iol and Pelra only have the hope of a future together to sustain them. But can their love survive the accusation of witchcraft?
If you’d like to get in touch, you can find Helen B. Henderson on social media:
Helen B. Henderson entered Dragon Destiny, the first book of the Dragshi Chronicles. into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover:
You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!