Click to Enlarge

Shards of Dreams
Click one of the above links to purchase an eBook.

ISBN-10: 1-55404-134-1
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 224 Pages
Published: April 2004



GreatGoodFairPoor
Total Readers: 1

From inside the flap

Twenty-one tales of imagination and wonder ranging from the humorous to the adventurous to the tragic. Visit far-flung locales, journeying from ancient China to besieged fortresses to exotic alien landscapes, each inhabited by its own unique kind of miracles; psychic leeches, flying cities, paintings that spring to life, and mystical battles that span the aeons. Heroes and villains come in many forms with barbarians battling deranged tyrants, glamorous jewel thieves tackling ancient goddesses, eccentric inventors confronting foes that defy all scientific logic. Join these and others in their search for love, truth, identity, and redemption.

Shards of Dreams (Excerpt)


Contents


The Beauty of Detail
Long Distance Call
Rings
Brorn
The Siege of Huntlemaine
A Jealous Whisper of Scorned Love
The Master
Blood Rites
The Prince and the Foodboy
Mind Games
The Most Elusive Prey of All
Fast Food
Void
Blake and the Golden City
Standing Tall
The Astounding Case of the Lunar Lycanthrope
Masquerade
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
The Prince of Fables
Trickster
The Word According to St Martin





The Beauty Of Detail

The canvas seemed almost alive. 

Yonas applied deft strokes of his brush, gradually filling in the details of the portrait.  It was still at the stage that most artists would consider the preliminary sketch, with only the broadest of lines still requiring hours of attention before they were sculpted into a likeness of their subject.  Yet Yonas had somehow imbued even these rudimentary splashes with a vitality that seemed not just to match its subject but to surpass it.

In truth his model was not at her best due to her present circumstances.  Being incarcerated in a dungeon is never conducive to one’s attractiveness, or so Yonas would imagine.  He had never actually been in a dungeon before.  His long, lithe fingers, as delicate as the soft bristles on his brush, adjusted their grip, causing a minute change in the angle of his stroke and the pressure he applied.   Even in these early stages he needed the painting to be perfect.  Anything less would do a great disservice to both his reputation as an artist and to the subject he was painting.

Not to mention the fact that it could quite possibly get him killed.

So he showed her haughty brow, with furrows caused by a predisposition to scowling.  He also showed the way her chin looked stronger than it actually was, due to her constantly setting her jaw in a most pugnacious fashion.  The whole face was marred from its natural prettiness by a tightness to the features that removed any soft edges.  The formal hairstyle that pulled the auburn tresses back so they were under tight control, not even a single strand being allowed to take on a wayward angle, did nothing to alleviate the impression.

?It must be a terrible thing to have lost all your teeth at so young an age,? said Yonas.

His subject looked at him from where she sat on her cold, hard bench.  ?What makes you think I?ve lost all my teeth??

?I thought that was the reason you never smiled.  You didn?t want anyone to see your toothless gums.?

She sniffed imperiously.

?You really should try smiling.  It’s very little effort, and it’s virtually guaranteed to make you feel better.?  He beamed an exaggerated smile at her.  ’See??

She regarded him, unamused.  ?You have cabbage stuck in your teeth.?

Embarrassed, he turned away, his tongue running over his teeth; but he couldn?t detect the offending matter.  Grinning sheepishly, he pointed at her with his paintbrush as though daubing a spot of paint on an invisible canvas.  ?You were teasing me.?

?I was hoping to embarrass you into silence.?

?A wasted effort, I?m afraid.  My talent for chattering is second only to my talent for painting.  The only way to give your ears peace from my eternal prattling is to wrest control of the conversation from me and say something yourself.?

She drew herself up.  Although she remained seated, her regal bearing was such that she seemed to dwarf him.  ?I am the Princess Mirralee of the royal household of Cardania.  You shall address me as Your Highness and shall speak only when I give you leave.?

?Unfortunately, Your Highness, you are not in Cardania, and I am not one of your subjects.?  He added another stroke to the portrait.  ?Indeed, you are one of mine.?

?You really are the most infuriating wretch.?

?Actually, I believe that honour goes to Hert?le the Annoying who makes his living as a professional irritant, pestering moneyed travellers until they pay him to leave them be; however, I understand I hold the amateur title.?

Mirralee’s eyes narrowed.  He was sure she was about to deliver a crushing putdown when a key rattled in the lock and the door swung open.  Swung being something of an exaggeration, the heavy wood and metal slab barely inched along as two burly gaolers leaned their weight against it.

The door finally stood fully open, and the gaolers stepped to either side of the doorway.  Two guards followed them, their rapiers and flintlock pistols bouncing gently in the leather harnesses that held their weapons to their tunics.  Yonas caught a glimpse of more people standing outside, but he didn?t get a clear view because his attention was focused on the two who now entered the cell.

The first was King Henrionn?, a slight figure, still in his nineteenth year, his fine girlish features not yet defined by the weight of age and experience.

The second was altogether more imposing: Varn, King Henrionn?’s Vizier, had a lean, lupine visage; his grey hair and neatly trimmed beard resembling fur; his dark eyes intelligent, scheming.

?Your Highness,? squeaked Henrionn?, awkwardly performing the short bow used between two royals.

?Majesty,? replied Mirralee, showing him how it should be done.

Three pretty maids filed into the cell, carrying soap and brushes.  ?You may leave now, Yonas,? said the King.  ?It is time for Her Highness to undertake her ablutions.?

?If I may be of assistance, Your Highness,? said Yonas.  ?I can ensure your bathing leaves every inch of your skin pure and unblemished.  I have an artist’s keen eye.?

?A little too keen in this instance,? said Varn.

?Actually, there is a rarely used Cardanian custom which calls for a male attendant whilst bathing,? said Mirralee.  She turned to Yonas, ?Of course the attendant should first be made a eunuch.?

?I withdraw the offer.  And certain parts of my anatomy.?  Bowing to the attended nobles, Yonas collected his paints and canvas and exited the cell.

Outside four burly men struggled to carry a large wooden tub of soapy water.  Yonas tried not to laugh?all this trouble when it would be far easier to escort Mirralee to the royal bath chamber.  It was not as if she would have the opportunity to escape.

He glanced back into the cell.  King Henrionn? was exiting quickly, clearly flustered by the thought of soon-to-be-exposed female flesh.  Varn followed his measured stride gracefully, assuredly.

?A moment, Yonas,? said Varn.  ?What progress with the portrait??

?It is preceding nicely, Excellency.  But would it not be more practical to use the Princess’s royal seal to convince her father that you do indeed hold her??

?Your thoughts echo my own,? said Henrionn?.

Varn’s tone was smooth, amused and more than a little patronising.  ?The royal seal could be stolen.  But everyone knows that special paintings of the kind you are undertaking require the subject to be present for them to work.?

?Ah, yes, Your Excellency.  A good point.?  Yonas tried not to look too disappointed.  He had hoped that if Varn reflected upon the matter he might decide that the seal was indeed the better option; then Yonas wouldn?t have to visit the dungeons.  Although he never had to experience their most dreadful features firsthand, they still made him uneasy.

?Return here in an hour when Her Highness has completed her bath,? said Varn.

Yonas sighed.  ?Yes, Excellency.?

***