With all that's been going on, I haven't had as much time to blog, write, or really do much of anything. But I have managed to squeeze in a few hours of editing and proofing here and there, so The Door to Justice is still tentatively on schedule for a early to mid September release. I'm hoping that I'll have some free time at camp while the kids are out marching to do some more work on it, as it really does need a good coat of polish before I'm ready to release it to the world!
Since I've got a lot to do tomorrow, I am going to post my Sample Sunday for this week just a tad early. It's from one of the early chapters of The Door to Justice, but it's an exciting scene, and it shows us another side of our funny little wizard, Pomander. It's been sparsely edited... so I apologize for any typos you may find! The final release will, of course, be polished to a bright shine! Enjoy, and don't forget to keep an eye out for The Door to Justice this fall!
“I must hold out the hope that this war can be won with words, not battles,” said Pomander. He sighed. “Although I’m afraid a battle or two may be in store before all this is finished.”
“So what’s our first step?” said Ryan. “What do we do right now, this second?”
“We give Fred time to gain control of herself, and then we go talk to Magus and his rebels.”
“I have control of myself,” said Fred grimly, pulling away from Ryan. Her voice sounded strange, and her eyes glowed brightly. “Let’s go.”
“Fred,” said Ryan quickly. “Are you sure? Give yourself a little time…”
“I’ve had enough time. I want to know exactly what happened to my son, and who’s responsible. And then, I want them to pay.” She clenched her fists, and the glow behind her eyes intensified. “Let’s get on with it.”
“As you wish, Fred,” said Pomander. “I want you to know, I am sorry for your loss. I will make sure his death was not meaningless.”
Fred glared at the little man in anger, but said nothing.
“Yes, well,” said Pomander quickly. “Let’s go speak with Magus.”
They found the rebel leader in the central chamber speaking with one of the technicians manning the monitoring systems. He glanced up at their approach, taking note of Fred’s determined expression.
“So are you ready to discuss strategy?” he said.
“We’re ready to discuss the problems here, and how best to resolve them,” replied Pomander.
“Then our next move is to mobilize,” said Magus. “With you here to help us, and the Gatehouse champion in our ranks, we can take this fight to the next level. We’ll be able to organize, and finally get some things accomplished!”
“Magus, there is no need for this war,” said Pomander. “The Conclave has gone down the wrong path, but they were once a force for good. I’m certain they can be so again.”
“Don’t be foolish, Pomander!” said Magus, angry once again. “This is a war, just as before! We must fight!”
“We must not fight, or we play directly into the hands of the Crowley and his minions! What would it accomplish to win this petty war, if the forces of the Unnamed come in after and destroy us all?”
The events of the next few minutes were chaotic. The main door burst open and a huge man rushed in. The man’s bare chest was covered with scars, and his face was gleeful.
“Magus!” he cried, his voice sounding like rocks grating against each other. “The scouts are back! There’s news!”
Magus rushed to the man. “Armstrong! What news?”
“It’s him!” shouted Wes. “He killed Jack!”
Fred instantly pushed past the others, her normally kind face screwed into a snarl of hatred. The wind began to whip around her, and the glow in her eyes grew to a blinding light. Flashes of electricity sprang from the electronic equipment to her outstretched fingertips, beginning to burn away her street clothes and reveal the garish costume Pomander had insisted she wear beneath. She flung out her hand, lightning flashing from her palm to strike the scarred man. The wind whipped fiercely, and he was flung against the wall. He continued to be wracked by lightning as Fred furiously attacked, a scream of rage torn from her throat.
“Wait!” shouted Magus. “Stop! He’s one of us!” When Fred didn’t react, he threw out his arm, crimson tendrils of light shooting from his palm to wrap around Fred. She cried out in anguish when they touched her bare skin, and smoke rose as her clothes were almost instantly incinerated, but the costume beneath seemed to be proof against the ropes of energy.
“No!” shouted Wes. “You’ll kill her!” Quickly chanting a spell, he cast a shield over his aunt, the blue dome severing the red beams. The shield also blocked Fred’s attacks, and the scarred man fell to the floor with a crash. He was up in an instant, springing toward Fred with a roar. He was stopped by the shield and began raining blows on it furiously. Wes pulled back his arm and cast a fireball at the man.
“You killed Jack!” he screamed. Armstrong dodged the first fireball, but the second attack grazed his leg, and he collapsed with a howl of pain. Suddenly, Wes found himself lifted into the air, his arms pinned at his sides. More ropes of energy, green this time, extended from Magus’ palm to encircle the boy. Wes felt the magic begin to drain from him.
“Stop this!” shouted Magus. “I won’t let you harm my men!”
“He’s a murderer!” shouted Wes, struggling against his bonds. “He killed Jack!”
“ENOUGH!” thundered a booming voice, and everyone was flung backward by the sheer force of it. All eyes turned to Pomander, who was floating three feet off the floor, his eyes burning. His face had changed as well, all trace of the funny little man vanishing to be replaced by a vision of pure power.
“NO MORE!” The room fell suddenly silent, save for Armstrong’s howls of pain, and Pomander slowly settled to the floor. “We must not fight amongst ourselves!” he said forcefully. “We should not even be fighting against the Conclave! Our battle is not with one another, but with evil! We will sort this out with words, as men, not as beasts!” He strode to where Armstrong still lay writhing and laid a hand on the huge man’s shoulder. Armstrong’s anguished cries faded away. The skin around the terrible burn on his leg began to clear as the wound closed. Within moments, he was healed. Pomander then turned to Fred and Wes.
“His may have been the blow that took Jack, but this man cannot take the entire blame. The system here is at fault. We must prevail, or Jack’s death will have meant nothing, and more innocents will die.” He shook his head angrily. “If this fighting continues, this world will be ripe for conquering by the forces of the Unnamed!”
“What else would you have us do?” snarled Magus. “They take our people, our children, and brainwash them into willing, even happy, slaves! They keep the population under their heel with drugs and fear!”
“Then show them that things can be different!” said Pomander. “Show them what this world can truly become!”
“And what about the ones they’ve already captured? What about the people in the re-education camp who are tortured every day?”
Pomander frowned. “That is an atrocity,” he admitted. “But this… this disregard for innocent life does nothing to help your cause.”
“Magus,” said Armstrong suddenly. “That’s the news! The re-education camp! We have the location!”
Magus’ eyes lit up. “That’s it, then!” he said with a smile. “That’s the break we need!” He turned to Pomander. “If we can tear open this camp, we can free over a hundred metas who have been taken there for brainwashing. That will give us the advantage!”
“The advantage to do what?” asked Pomander. “To attack the Conclave directly? To escalate the war?”
“What else would you have us do?” Magus repeated in frustration. “It is the only way!”
“Why not use the extra numbers as a wedge to force the other side to negotiate?” asked Wes. “You can use the threat of force to get them to the bargaining table. I mean, even with a hundred new troops, you’re just closer to an even match-up. You won’t outnumber them.”
“Maybe not, but we’ll be stronger than we are now.”
“You don’t get it,” said Wes. “When you’re evenly matched, that’s supposed to make both sides more willing to talk. Like a cold war. Mutually assured destruction.”
Pomander turned to Magus. “Wes may have struck upon a course of action,” he said. “You will not win this war with the methods you’ve used thus far. Your best chance is for both sides to come together and reach an agreement.”
“The Conclave will never agree to negotiate,” said Magus. “They’ve had the entire world in their grip for too long.”
“The Conclave was founded on lofty ideals,” said Pomander. “Their purpose was always noble. They’ve simply lost their way.”
Magus pursed his lips thoughtfully. “We haven’t got the resources to bring them to the table,” he said. “We would need something drastic to force them to listen to us.” He looked at Wes appraisingly. “The boy is right. The added numbers might be just enough to tip the scales.”
Pomander bit his lip, thinking the idea through. “All right,” he said. “I can see some merit to this. But if you want our help, your methods must undergo considerable alterations.” He glared at Magus. “Innocent lives, even those supposedly empty lives of the oppressed populace, are sacred. Everything in our power must be done to protect them.”
Magus scowled. “There is always collateral damage in any battle.”
“Not anymore. You people are supposed to be the heroes. You all have great power, and if you use it, it must be for the benefit of the people. We must do all we can to protect them.”
Magus set his jaw and nodded. “We will do what we can.”
“In that case,” said Pomander, his expression returning to that of a mischievous little man once again, “let’s start planning a jailbreak!”