Monday, September 30, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 90

< Chapter 89                                                                                                   Chapter 91 >

King Rat attacks David from behind!


As I walked away from the craven rat king, I looked at Callan.  A smile began to spread across her lips and the fear in her eyes began to fade.  Then the fear rushed back intoher eyes.  She pointed over my shoulder.


Pushed to the limit by on-again, off-again Boosting, my body was slow and sluggish as I spun around.  I saw Martin, suffering from blood loss and exhaustion, just reacting.  We were both going to be too slow.

To the side, the Great One and his trogs stood still and watched.  By their customs, this fight belonged to me.  They would not interfere.

I saw King Rat step toward me.  The dagger in his hand was already descending.  If I had a split second more, I could dodge the blade.  But I seemed to have used up the last of my spare seconds.

There was a blur of movement between my attacker and me.  King Rat screamed as a knife was thrust into his wrist.  His hand spasmed and the dagger meant for my heart fell to the floor.  Shock flooded King Rat's face and he fell away from the small figure between us.  A knife hilt protruded just below King Rat's rib cage, pointing up into his heart.

"Leave my family alone!" Milo snarled, the sweet kid I knew so well replaced by the kid forced to survive on the city streets..

Callan swept past me and pulled Milo into a tight embrace.  Then I reached out and joined her.

"So, family?" I asked.

"Um, I meant to say friends."  Milo didn't meet my eyes.

Callan snorted.  "No you didn't.  And you are family, Milo!"

Milo looked up, tears glistening in his eyes.  "Really?"

"Yeah, really," I said.  "Now let's go home."

The rat king is dead, but can our heroes just walk away?  Find out in Chapter 91, coming Wednesday!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 89

< Chapter 88                                                                                                   Chapter 90 >

David prepares for a duel with King Rat!


Men began moving away from King Rat before Martin's orders finished echoing around the tammar pit.  The rat king spun left and right looking for support from someone, anyone.  There was none to be found.

Whatever happened in the duel, King Rat was finished.  He had been shown to be too weak to be allowed to keep his throne.  Did David realize that?

"He's already lost everything, David," I said.  "Don't expect rational behavior from him."

Giving me a tired smile and a nod, David turned away and descended the stairs to the floor of the pit.  We all followed, spreading out around the wall of the pit and staying far from the surviving tammar.

"Let's get this over with," David said, stalking to the center of the circle.

King Rat roared in frustration and anger.  Sword held high, he charged at David!

Suddenly, David changed.  His movements became more graceful, quicker.  His straightened as if his weariness was washed away before my eyes.  As I have done so many times in the past, I prayed this Boost would not be the one which killed him.

David blocked King Rat's attack then kicked him in the backside as he ran past.  The king's eyes blazed at the insult.

King Rat spun, swinging his sword in a wide arc.  David ducked under the swing and slashed King Rat's sword arm.  As King Rat's sword dropped to the floor, David slugged the king across the jaw with his sword pommel.  King Rat collapsed, cringing at David's feet.

David shook his head in disgust.  "You're too pathetic to kill."

As weariness settled on him again, David turned his back on King Rat and walked toward me.  Behind him, King Rat rose, a dagger raised to plunge into David's unprotected back!

It appears David has dropped Boost.  Without it, can he react in time to save himself?  Find out in Chapter 90, coming Monday!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 88

< Chapter 87                                                                                                   Chapter 89 >
David has challenge King Rat to a duel!


One of the crossbowmen had quicker reactions than the others.  He grabbed his crossbow and tried to bring it to bear on me.

The Great One charged past me and rammed his spear straight through the man.  Placing his foot on the dying man's chest, he pulled his spear free.  The first two feet of spear were coated in crimson.  Glaring at the remaining crossbowmen, the Great One swung his spear around to menace them.

Eyes wide, the men stopped fumbling for their weapons, raised their hands, and backed away.

"Don't give up, you cowards!"  King Rat waved his sword toward us.  "Attack them!  Defend your king!"

The crossbowmen ignored the order but half a dozen guards drew swords and charged up the stairs toward us.  With a blood-curdling yell, the Great One led his warriors in a charge to meet them.

The trogs outnumbered the guards two to one.  The trogs simply surrounded the guards and closed in.  At my side, Callan paled but watched with resolution.

Seeing me open my mouth to end the slaughter, she said, "These men watched and cheered the slaughter in the tammar pit months ago.  At least the guards had weapons and a choice.  That's more than the tammar's victims had."

She was right and this was her culture.  I kept my expression impassive and spoke only after the screams had stopped.

"Does anyone else wish to die while King Rat watches from a safe distance?"  I waved my hand toward the trogs.  "If you'd rather not face my allies then throw down your weapons.  Any who surrender will be spared."

All around the tammar pit, weapons clattered to the floor.

"Smart move, rats," Martin called.  "Now clear the pit for a duel to the death between David and your king!"

Can David, tired and bleeding from a dozen minor wounds, defeat the well-rested King Rat in single combat?  Find out in Chapter 89, coming Friday!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 87

< Chapter 86                                                                                                   Chapter 88 >

David and his small force go in search of King Rat!


Following the map of the tunnels I'd recorded with my implant these last few days, I led the way toward the entrance to the tammar pit.  If King Rat wasn't there, I was pretty sure we'd find someone who knew where to find him.

He was trying to hide it, but Martin was on the edge of exhaustion. He'd lost a lot of blood and the fight we'd just finished had taken a lot of him.  Every other step, Martin's breath hissed quietly through clenched teeth.  He was in far more pain than his implant's analgesics could handle.  I had to get Martin back to Tristan for proper medical care.

Two men guarded the doors to the tammar pit.  When I came into sight, they readied their weapons.  One shouted, "He's-."

Then they saw the trogs padding along behind me.  Their eyes went wide and the talkative one screamed, "Trogs!"

The two guards bolted down another tunnel.  That made our entrance easier.

"Great One, have two of your warriors slam those doors open as I approach."

The big trog spoke and two trogs slipped past me to the doors.

"Callan, please walk at my left side and do that regal thing you do so well."  Callan came to my side, already assuming her court posture and countenance.  "Milo, please steady Martin.  It wouldn't do for him to collapse in the middle of our grand entrance!"

We resumed walking and, at my signal, the trogs threw open the doors.  The bang as the doors slammed open reverberated in the tammar pit.  Silence fell and all eyes turned our way.  The crossbowmen, my main worry, were lounging nearby, their weapons on the floor.

"King Rat!" I called.  "I challenge you to a duel to the death!"

Will King Rat accept the challenge?  After all he's been through, can David win?  Find out in Chapter 88, coming Wednesday!

Author's Note: I'm participating in a "blog hop" for authors writing young adult fiction.  While Scout's Honor and Scout's Oath weren't specifically written as YA literature, I think they are entirely appropriate for late elementary and middle school readers.  As part of the blog hop, each writer answers four questions about their work and then links to blogs from other YA authors.  Here are my answers.

What are you working on right now?  Scout's Oath, obviously, as well as rewrites of Scout's Honor.  In the rewrite, I abandon my self-imposed word limit for each chapter, expanding the test to better explain issues I could only touch on previously as well as introducing ideas I couldn't even consider with the word limit in place.  It's essentially the same story, just written more fully.  I also changed the ending quite a bit, so the novel no longer ends with a cliffhanger.  I'm also working on the rewrite for part 1 of Scout's Oath, which recycles a fair number of chapters dropped from the latest version of Scout's Honor.  I hope Scout's Honor will be out in ebook format within a few months.

How does Scout's Honor differ from other works in its genre?  It's a Sword & Planet / Planetary Romance story written in the 21st century yet also has language appropriate for younger readers and is free of sex scenes.

Why do you write what you do?  I have always loved Sword & Planet stories but they are out of vogue in the publishing world these days.  I've found a couple of recently published novels in the genre.  While I found the stories generally entertaining, they had language wildly inappropriate for younger readers and quite a lot of graphic sex.  In other words, I'm writing stories I would like to read.  If others enjoy my stories, all the better.  But I'm writing them for me.

How does your writing process work?  Writing process?  Wow, that probably would be a good thing to have!  Seriously, when I sit down to write a chapter I have a basic idea of what's going to happen.  If I have a better idea while writing the chapter, I head off in the new direction.  If I find myself unable to reach my expected chapter ending point within my self-imposed word count, I come up with a new cliffhanger ending, many times completely changing the direction of the action.  When I start the novel, I know where I am and where I want to be at the end.  I make the rest up as I go and get to be just as surprised as the readers as the story develops.

I'm supposed to link to three blogs at this point.  Unfortunately, I've only found two authors so far.  I'll add more links if I can find them.  Meanwhile, check out the links below!

Cedar Sanderson
Regina Doman

Friday, September 20, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 86

< Chapter 85                                                                                                   Chapter 87 >

Callan and David have been reunited, but is the adventure over?


David held me tightly, his scent overwhelming my senses and his body slick with sweat and blood.

"Is any of this blood yours, David?" I asked.

"None," he said, "or not much.  I just got a few scratches."

"Yes, your Wonder Boy is unharmed," drawled Martin from behind David.  "That's more than some of us can say."

I looked around my husband and gasped at the sight of Martin's mangled hand.  "We've got to take Martin to Tristan!  He's waiting on the Pauline not far from here."

I took David's hand and started back down the tunnel.  David did not come along with me.

"You and Milo take Martin to Tristan," David said.  "The trogs and I have to finish business down here."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"Remember, Callan, David swore to kill King Rat," Martin said.  "Something about making sure the city-states were free of the rat boy's influence.  You know, typical noble stuff like that.  What irks me is David thinks I'd let him do this alone just because a tammar scratched my hand."

"The right word is 'mauled,' Martin," David said.

"Whatever.  I came down here to get you," Martin said.  "I'm not leaving unless you come with me!"

"Fine," David sighed.  "Callan, you and Milo-"

"Don't you dare finish that sentence, David Rice!" I snapped.  "If you've got to kill this King Rat then let's go do it.  The sooner he's dead, the sooner we can go home!"

David met my gaze for a few seconds then said, "Right.  I'm getting tired of dark tunnels anyway."

Milo grinned and gave me a thumb's up.  The Great One chuffed, a sound I'd come to recognize as trog laughter.

David led us back down the tunnel to find and kill King Rat.

Does David have the energy left to fight a fresh King Rat?  Find out in Chapter 87, coming Monday!