Cover Reveal #3

J Caleb Design did it again! Another amazing cover! I’m more and more impressed with each cover Jake makes.

This cover posed some challenges regarding certain details but Jake was once again able to condense a particular scene down to its true essence. There are specific details that he captured and preserved, but I won’t spoil them. You can discover them when you read the book!

Dragon King eCover

The Dragon King will be available for your reading pleasure on July 21st! Until then, The Path of the Synthesizer and The Island of Kvorga are available to order at your favorite independent bookstore. They are also available in ebook on several different platforms.

Happy reading!

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POV #3: Javen

Batting third, and the last of my primary point-of-view (POV) characters in The Island of Kvorga: the second son of Danavin… Javen Thornhill.

I won’t say a whole lot by way of introducing Javen except to say that he is very much a character of conflict.

All characters, whether primary POVs or secondary POVs, antagonists or protagonists, good or bad, are to one degree or another, characters of conflict. Would there be a story if there was no conflict? Yolken’s conflict continues to get fleshed out in this sequel to The Path of the Synthesizer. So does Hadie’s. In The Island of Kvorga, their personal conflicts force them to travel down paths they don’t want to go down. Neither wish to be where they are or where they’re going. They just want things to be back to normal. Yolken, you will find, often wishes he can just go home. Almost annoyingly. But Javen… He ends up exactly where he wants to be and yet he is not free of conflict. And whereas Yolken faced a difficult decision at the end of The Path of the Synthesizer–a decision that potentially forever altered the path forward for his life–Javen finds himself facing a similar decision in The Island of Kvorga.

I won’t say anymore. Perhaps I’ve said too much. I don’t want to spoil the story after all.

With that I invite you to enjoy Javen’s opening scene in The Island of Kvorga.

Happy reading!

Javen’s eyes opened and he stared blankly at the wooden planks above him. He sobbed in relief—the nightmare was finally over. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such a vivid dream. Over and over Astora died any number of horrible deaths. Despite his efforts, he was never able to save her. He was always one step too slow. For a moment he thought only of the rough wood over his head. Then, all too quickly, images of Astora’s lifeless body flooded his mind: her pleading eyes; the way she choked on her own blood as she gasped for breath; the horrible wound on her neck. He tried to push them away, but they continued to haunt him even though he was awake, as vivid dreams sometimes do. Then he realized he wasn’t looking at the ceiling of the carriage Dorlan gave him back in Matis.

He tried to sit up, but his body protested. He became acutely aware of the aches in what felt like every muscle in his body. Worse, his head pounded as if he’d spent all night drinking Yolken’s strong ale, and his hands and forearms itched. Slowly, he was able to coax his legs onto the well-worn planks of the floor and sat up. He scratched at his arms and weakly said, “Hadie?

His head pounded so he squeezed his eyes closed and pressed the palms of both his hands into his skull, just above his temples. He tried to remember what he’d spent the previous night doing, but he had no recollection of drinking. When the throbbing eventually abated, he opened his eyes and looked around.

He was alone in a small room. The floor and walls were of the same wood as the ceiling. An unlit oil lantern swung from the ceiling. There was a small desk against the wall to his right and an armoire to his left. He rose slowly to his feet and realized he was naked. He stumbled over to the armoire, which had clumps of grapes and vines carved throughout the wood. Inside hung three shirts and three pairs of pants, none of which belonged to him. They all swayed slightly on their hangers. Javen looked at them curiously, then the floor heaved beneath him.

Javen shoved the armoire doors closed and held onto the knobs. What in the world? he thought as he tried to steady himself. Am I on a ship? He had never been on a ship before, but he could think of no other explanation for why the floor beneath him might be moving. The floor lurched and threw him backward. He held onto the knobs and his momentum pulled the doors open. He fully expected to pull the armoire down on top of himself, but it didn’t fall—it held his weight as he pulled against it. As he held on, arms outstretched, he noticed that the pigmentation of his hands and forearms didn’t match the rest of his arms. They were pale, like they were after a winter of wearing coats.

What in Draego’s Fire?

When he regained his balance he carefully stepped back over to the bed. The floor lurched again, forcing him to grab the wooden bed frame. He climbed onto the mattress and looked out the round window above the bed.


Except for hazy mountains way off in the distance, water was all he could see in both directions.

He was definitely on a boat.

“What in Draego’s Fire,” he said, sitting back down on the bed. Had he drunk so much he just couldn’t remember getting on a boat? That would explain his pounding headache. But he was nowhere near water. The caravan was still days away from Portstown, which was the nearest body of water. And where was Hadie? He struggled to remember the last thing he’d done, but the only thing he could remember was… Astora.

It started coming back to him.




He remembered Drenan emotionlessly drawing a knife across Astora’s throat. Drenan told him to heal her. But he couldn’t use his gift. And Drenan knew that. Javen remembered begging Drenan to save her life while he tried to stop the blood flow. But Drenan had goaded him instead. “Your brother, when confronted with a dying girl, used the gift that was his birthright and healed her. Are you telling me he is better than you?” Javen remembered Astora’s eyes pleading for help as she struggled to breathe. He remembered watching her life slip away and then Drenan callously walking away, telling him to return the next day for another lesson. And after that… he couldn’t remember.

But the images of Astora overwhelmed him. As he scratched at his hands, a familiar feeling that accompanied too much drinking caused him to slide off the bed. He doubled over on the wood flooring and vomited. More and more he was beginning to think he had tried to drink away his grief. For a while, he didn’t move. He just stared at the mess on the floor, spitting in it occasionally as his mouth filled with saliva, and tried not to think of Astora.

Javen wiped his mouth on the back of his hand when the nausea passed. He went back to the armoire and selected a shirt and a pair of pants. When he was dressed, he went to the door and tested the knob. It turned. He cracked the door open and peered out into a narrow, dimly lit hallway. He pushed it open further and saw another door directly across from him. The door was open, so he stepped across the hallway and peered in. At least a dozen rope hammocks hung from the ceiling. There were also barrels in each corner as well as several small wooden chests. There was a third door at the end of the hall. It appeared statelier than the coarse doors leading into the other rooms and was adorned with the same carved grapes and elaborate vines as the armoire. At the opposite end of the hallway was a steep and well-worn staircase.

Javen decided to go up above and turned toward the stairs. He held his hands out to both sides, using the opposing walls to brace himself against the roiling of the ship, while he made his way down the short hallway. When he took his first step up the steep stairs, he heard a voice call out from behind him, “Master Javen! You’re awake!” He turned to face a dark-haired man tying a sash around a plush white robe. He recognized the man as the other regent traveling in Dorlan’s caravan: Devin.

“Where are we?” Javen said.

“Two days’ sail from Portstown,” Devin said.

Devin walked the length of the hall with his hands tucked into the front pockets of his robe. Unlike Javen, he didn’t rely on the walls for balance. He was as sure-footed on the ship as Javen was on land.

“Where are we going?” Javen said. His hands and arms felt like ants were crawling over them. He tried to resist the urge to scratch at them but couldn’t.

“The feeling will pass. It’s a side effect from the healing.”

“What healing?”

“And we’re going to Onta.”

“Where’s Hadie? Why are you taking me to Onta?”

“Come, join me in my quarters. There’s plenty of time for questions, Master Javen. But for now, let’s get you something to eat. I’m sure you’re famished.”

The mention of food made Javen painfully aware of the fact that he was indeed hungry. He followed Devin back down the hall and into the room at the end, again using the walls for balance.

The room was considerably larger and much brighter than the other two. There were large windows on both sides of the room, as well as at the back. In addition to all the windows, on the back wall was a pair of open side-by-side doors that led out to a small balcony. A chandelier was mounted in the middle of the ceiling with about two dozen small, unlit lanterns hanging from it. Elaborate moldings encircled the room, adorned with the same carven grapes and vines as the door, and each corner featured an ornate column carved from thick logs. As he stepped further into the room, he noticed the furniture was much more elaborate as well. Everything—the armoire, the cabinets, the desk—was larger and elaborately engraved. Then the table dividing the room captured his attention.

Javen pulled back one of the many chairs surrounding the table and looked at the platters of food. One of them was piled with various fruits—apples, oranges, sliced melon, and strawberries—and the other held a small pig. As hungry as he was, he couldn’t help but notice the curiously dark, almost black, wood of the table. He ran his hand across it, then noticed that the rest of the furniture in the room was made of the same material.

“Made from the finest wood in the empire,” Devin said.

“What is it?” Javen said. He’d never seen anything like it before.

“It’s made from the giant Kvorgan spruce. It’s rare, and rather difficult to procure.”

“It’s very nice,” Javen said, running his fingers over the grains of the dark wood.

“Help yourself to anything on the table.”

Javen picked up a plate, which had a grape motif encircling the perimeter, heaped it with slices of pork, then filled the remaining space with fruit. He set the plate down, then inspected two decanters and a matching ewer sitting next to the platters. The decanters contained wine and the ewer, water. He chose the water.

When Javen sat down to eat, Devin sat on a large, curved couch set in the corner of the room. Javen picked up a green apple and bit into it. Its tartness exploded in his mouth, washing away the taste of bile. Before he got halfway through the apple, movement out of the corner of his eye drew his attention. He nearly choked on the apple when he saw it was a half-naked woman entering from the balcony. She had dark hair and olive-colored skin. Her hands were clasped at her belly and her arms supported a robe that hung openly around her waist, fully exposing her chest. Javen recognized her from Lonely Oak, and from their stay at the Blue Mountain in Matis: Karina, Devin’s wife. He tried not to stare, but his eyes were drawn to her breasts like a moth to a lantern. Hadie would be furious if she knew.

“Greeting, Master Javen,” Karina said as she walked up to him. “I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to wake.”

Javen averted his eyes, looked at his plate of food, and scratched at his arms.

“Rise and greet a lady properly,” Karina said.

Javen looked over at Devin in question. Devin gestured toward Karina with a wave of his hand. Javen hesitantly pushed his chair back and stood, even though he didn’t know the proper way to greet a half-naked lady. He awkwardly turned toward her but kept his eyes on his plate. Karina stepped closer and pressed her body against his. She cupped his chin and turned his head to face her. Then she wrapped her arms around him—one around his back, the other behind his head—and kissed him on the mouth. Javen was beside himself, but with her hands pulling him in as they were, and not wanting to forcefully shove her away, he was powerless to refuse. He felt like he was in one of Hadie’s books.

When Karina finally pulled away, she said, “Caring for you as I have these past couple of days has made me anxious for you to awaken. I’m glad you finally have.” She turned and walked around the table toward the couch, leaving Javen staring after her blankly. She sat next to Devin and crossed her legs.

The two strange individuals began speaking too quietly for Javen to hear so he awkwardly returned to his seat. When it became evident to him that they were done talking with him, he picked up the apple and took another bite. That was really weird, he thought. She’s his wife. Were the stories in Lovers true?

When he finished a second plate and set his fork down, Devin said, “Pour yourself some wine and join us on the couch.”

Javen wiped his mouth with a napkin, then filled a wide crystal glass with wine from one of the decanters. Devin and Karina were sitting together on one side of the curved couch, so he sat on the other side. He ignored the feeling of ants crawling on his arms as best he could.

“Do you know who we are?”

Javen nodded. “Devin and Karina Drake.”

“Dorlan told me you were familiar with the family.”

“My aunt made sure we knew who the Blessed were.”

“Knowledge is a valuable asset,” Devin said.

At the thought of his aunt, Javen felt pangs of remorse. He frowned and looked down at the wine glass he was holding in his lap.

“Dorlan told me what happened. My deepest apologies, Javen.” Devin held his own wine glass up in Javen’s direction and said, “To your aunt.” Javen looked up and Devin took a drink.

Javen took a drink as well. “I wish she didn’t have to die. My parents, either.”

“Justice is often painful. But let us not dwell on the past,” Devin said. “My wife and I were just—”

“Where’s Hadie?” Javen said, regretting interrupting Devin the moment he spoke. Drenan would have berated him, if not worse, for being impertinent.

“Gone,” Devin said, seemingly undisturbed by the interruption.

Gone? Gone where?

“This ‘Hadie’ you speak of—was the woman with you in the caravan?” Karina said.

“Yes,” Javen said. “What happened to her?”

“She was a pretty lass. There were several nights I thought about inviting the two of you to spend the night in our carriage, but Devin said it was improper.”

“Because you’re married!”

“Actually, it was because you were not under his command. That’s changed now, though, hasn’t it?”

“So they’re true?”

“Is what true?”

“The books Hadie read.”

“What books are those?” Karina said with a wink.

Javen blushed and looked at Devin.

“Please,” Karina said. “I truly am curious.”

Javen looked back at Karina and said, “The Lovers of Onta.”

“Ah, yes.” Karina placed her hand on Devin’s thigh and said, “We’re familiar with Rongin’s work. What did you think?”


“I hope for nothing less.”

“I think half the reason Hadie insisted on reading them to me was that she enjoyed how much they embarrassed me.” Javen tried to keep his eyes on Karina’s. It was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do.

“Why? Are you not experienced in the art of proper bedding?”

“Proper bedding!” Javen exclaimed. This really was too much. He looked away from them, feeling his face warming. He couldn’t take any more of Karina’s overt display. He took a deep drink of his wine.

“Well,” Karina said, standing, “it sounds as though you gentlemen have a lot to discuss, so I’ll leave you to speak in private. But worry not, Master Javen, I’ll be just out on the balcony.” Any confusion he might have had about what she meant was gone when she bent over in front of him and leaned in until her mouth touched his ear. With nowhere to avert his eyes, he squeezed them shut. “Perhaps one day Rongin will write a Lovers featuring the two of us,” she whispered into his ear. Javen’s eyes popped open in complete disbelief, but her breasts were mere inches from his face, so he immediately closed them again. She kissed him on the mouth, then said, “See you soon, Master Javen.”

Javen breathed a sigh of relief when she walked away. She refilled her wine glass at the table, then sauntered back out onto the balcony.

“I suppose you’re wondering what happened to your arms and why you’re on a boat sailing for Onta,” Devin said, continuing their conversation as if what had just happened was perfectly normal.

Javen tore his attention from the open doors Karina had walked through. He looked back to Devin and nodded.

“Dorlan has placed you into my care.”

“I thought I was under Drenan’s care?”

“You were. However, after what happened, Dorlan saw fit to transfer your care to me.”

Javen thought about the sole horrifying time he’d met with Drenan for a lesson. The unsettling feeling in his stomach started building again, so he quickly changed the subject. “What happened to Hadie? Where is she?”

“You need not concern yourself with her.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that she’s gone.”

“She left?” Javen said. Suddenly, he was afraid she’d heard what happened and didn’t want to be with him anymore.

“It was never Dorlan’s intention for her to be with you in the first place. So he sent her away.”

“What do you mean he ‘didn’t intend for her to be with me’?”

“Drenan was sent back to Lonely Oak to retrieve whomever it was that had Synthesized. You were obviously of interest, but why he went out of the way to bring her along as well, he has yet to say. Knowing my brother, his plans for her were likely similar to those for that other lass.”

Javen cringed at the thought. Even though he hadn’t originally planned on seeing Hadie for any longer than the time she stayed in Lonely Oak, he had grown attached to her. “Doesn’t it matter what I might want?”

“Apparently, according to Drenan, she is the disgraced daughter of a Silk. A regent would never associate with the likes of her. You’ll find that there are many more suitable choices once we arrive in Onta.”

Javen hadn’t realized that. He wondered why she never mentioned her parents were Silks. “But I’m not a regent.”

“Presently, no.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that if you’re training is successful, I will escort you to Kyinth to meet the emperor.”

Javen stared at Devin in disbelief. Was he dreaming? He couldn’t even begin to explain what was happening to him. First, waking on a ship headed for Onta, not knowing how he got there; then the weird way Karina had acted; and now this. He had so many questions but didn’t know where to start. So he simply said, “Why?”

“You succeeded in accessing your gift,” Devin said. “So he wants to meet you.”

Javen stared at Devin, dumbfounded. “I Synthesized?”

“Let’s just say that you came into your ability… explosively. Which explains the new skin on your arms.”

Devin explained to Javen the events that had taken place over the last several days—specifically Javen’s response to Drenan killing Astora, and why he didn’t remember anything that happened after.

“But I still don’t understand why the emperor would want to meet me,” Javen said.

“Your father was a rebel, but he was also a powerful Synthesizer. Naturally, the son of such a person would pique the curiosity of His Blessed Highness.”

“But what would he want to have to do with me? I always thought the Regency dealt swift punishment to anyone associated with the rebels.”

“Were you associated with the Order?” Devin said.


“Then there you have it.”

“So then what does the emperor want with me?”

“As the head of the empire, Drakonias is the only one with the authority to elevate someone to the status of regent.”

Javen’s eyes went wide.

“Don’t be so surprised,” Devin continued. “That’s how it’s been done since the beginning of the empire. If you wish to become a regent, then you must stand before Drakonias.”

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POV #2: Hadie

Batting second: Hadie Morrigan.

If you’ll recall, Hadie is from the Southern Realm. She was traveling north, having decided to flee the growing environmental destabilization of the south, when she met Javen in Lonely Oak. When the Regency apprehended Javen after Yolken healed Issa, they nabbed Hadie as well. Once the dust settled, Hadie probably could have left and no one would have cared, but she chose to stay with Javen. Not only did she choose to stay with Javen, but she chose to stay in my story. As I said in the previous post, I originally didn’t have much planned for her. But Javen needed a distraction when he saw Yolken with Kaylan, so there you go. But she wasn’t satisfied with being a distraction. And she wasn’t satisfied being a side character. She wriggled her way into being one of my main point-of-view (POV) characters. And whereas I had a plan for Yolken and Javen’s story arcs, I didn’t have one for Hadie.

I don’t talk with my characters, but if I did, I imagine my conversation with Hadie about her decision to not leave my story like I had planned would have gone something like this:

“Well… if you don’t want to leave, what is it you want to do?” I asked her.

Hadie stared at me icily.

“What?” I said. “Are you mad that I said you were just supposed to be a distraction?”


“What then?”

“I’m mad that you let Drenan brutally kill an innocent woman and you’re not doing anything about it.”

“Wait… how do you… you’re not supposed to know that yet. And what makes you think I’m not planning on holding him accountable?”

“Well, it certainly doesn’t look like you’re doing anything to me. Javen is off to Onta to do Draego knows what–and don’t think I don’t have an idea…” She held up one of her volumes of Lovers of Onta she’d bought in Matis. “And Drenan is headed back to the comforts of his palace in Hantlo.”

“Again, how do you know that? No one has told you what Drenan or Javen are doing yet.”

“How I know isn’t what we’re discussing.”

“Right… Well, if it makes you feel better, the book isn’t over yet.” (At the time of this conversation, there was only supposed to be one book.)

Hadie folded her arms across her chest and said, “It doesn’t.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. You’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else.”


“No? No what?”

“No, I’m not going to wait and see.”

“Okay… What are you going to do?”

Hadie smiled slyly.

Draego’s Fire, I thought, growing a little nervous. I fidgeted in my seat and said, “What?”

“I’ll tell you exactly what I want to do.”

She then proceeded to lay out her plan. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how the rest of that conversation might have gone if it had happened because then it’d spoil it for you.

What actually happened was when Hadie refused to leave I went through my normal fitful creative process, with her help, of course, to see what I could come up for her.

What ensues in The Island of Kvorga is just the beginning of what we came up with. And although her story forward isn’t the most savory, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

To set the scene a little, Dorlan’s caravan has just arrived in Portstown, the northernmost city in the Southern Realm. Drenan tore the unconscious Javen, whom Hadie had been tending to for the past few days, from her grasp and humiliated her, leaving her with an ominous threat.

Now, without further ado, please enjoy her opening scene in The Island of Kvorga:

Hadie curled up in a ball on the bed she had shared with Javen and wept uncontrollably. Her crying dampened the sounds of the fishing town outside the carriage. She loved him. And the moment she had realized it, he’d been taken away. Worse, there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.

Drenan’s forceful ogling of her made her feel dirty and sick to her stomach. His words echoed in her head: “If I ever see you again, I promise that I will do more than simply look at you.” She pulled her thin silk robe tightly around herself and tried not to think about how she had hung suspended in the air, unable to move. She readjusted it for fear that part of her might still be visible.

“Ma’am,” a tender voice said, “it’s time to go.”

Hadie opened her eyes and looked over her shoulder. Rennie stood at the foot of the bed, her body visible through her servant’s garb.

“I’ve brought your clothes,” Rennie said. She placed Hadie’s folded clothes on the bed. “The teamsters need to move the carriages and stable the horses for the night.”

Hadie sat up and wiped her tears with the palms of her hands. She started to slip the silk robe off but stopped, feeling uncharacteristically modest. “Do you mind?” When Rennie turned around, she finished disrobing, then donned the folded shirt. The thicker material was instantly uncomfortable in the hot, wet air. She was sweating before she even had her pants on. “All right,” she said. Rennie turned back around. “I’m afraid the effort you made to clean them for me will be quickly undone.”

Hadie looked down at the coins Drenan had thrown onto the bed. She scooped them up, then took Rennie by the hand and placed them in her palm. “Thank you for all you’ve done for us,” she said.

“I can’t, ma’am,” Rennie said, jerking her hand back and letting the coins fall to the floor. “I have no need of money.” She bowed and hastily moved toward the door. Before exiting she turned back and said, “Hadie?”

Hadie looked up, surprised to hear her name. “Yes?”

“I found out what happened.”


“One of the whores… no. I should go. I’ll get in trouble if I say—”

“Rennie,” Hadie said, hurrying over to the woman. She placed her hand on Rennie’s shoulder and said, “You don’t have to worry about me saying anything to Drenan.”

Rennie nodded. “One of the whores leaving his carriage told me.”

“What did she say?”

“She was terrified.”

“Terrified? Why?”

“Because he told her what he did to the lass.”

Hadie waited patiently for Rennie to continue. Finally she prompted her, “Please, Rennie, tell me what happened.”

“He was having trouble, so—”


“Javen. Javen was having trouble…”

Hadie nodded in understanding. Javen had been frustrated because he hadn’t been able to use his gift. His lessons had been with Dorlan, but when Dorlan got too busy for Javen’s lesson, he sent Javen to Drenan. The very thought of having lessons with Drenan, the man who only days earlier had killed his aunt, had made Javen sick to the stomach.

“…so he cut her throat. I’m sorry, ma’am, I can’t remember her name.”

“Astora,” Hadie said, then she covered her mouth with a hand. The thought of Javen having to witness, for the second time, Drenan murdering someone he cared about made her feel nauseated. She felt nothing but contempt for the regent.

Rennie nodded again. “He cut Astora’s throat to make Javen heal her, but he couldn’t. And then he attacked him.”

“Drenan attacked Javen?”

“No. Javen attacked Drenan. Drenan wanted Dorlan to hang him, but Dorlan wouldn’t.”

“But what happened to Javen?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t know,” Rennie said. “Hadie?”

“Yes?” Hadie said, looking at Rennie.

“I’m sorry.”

Hadie nodded. “Come with me, Rennie. We’ll go somewhere where he can’t hurt either of us.”

“I can’t, ma’am.” Rennie looked down at her feet.

“You can’t stay.” Hadie placed her hand on Rennie’s shoulder again. “He’s dangerous.”

“He’ll kill me.” Rennie locked eyes with Hadie, then opened the door. “I’m sorry,” she said before hastily leaving.

“Rennie!” Hadie called after her, but she was gone. Hadie stared blankly at the door, her mind numb. Then she screamed in anguish—for Astora and for Javen.

She looked at the coins on the ground and reluctantly picked them up. Everything she owned had been left behind in Lonely Oak when an armored soldier burst into her room and snatched her away. As much as she hated to take the coins, she had nothing and would need to replace her belongings. Gripping the coins tightly in her hand, she left the bedroom where she had spent the majority of the last three days tending to Javen, who had lain unconscious after doing the Dragon knows what.

The sun was disappearing below the blue waters of the Kvorgan Sea when she stepped out of the carriage. Its reddish color reflected off the water. Some called the phenomenon ‘the blood river,’ because it resembled a river of blood flowing from the sun to the shore. She’d always thought it was beautiful. Growing up, her mother used to tell her that her own beauty diminished that of the setting sun. But she didn’t feel the joy she’d once felt when she watched the sun set behind the sea. Instead, she felt more like the weatherworn and ramshackle buildings that cluttered the docks below.

Hadie closed her eyes. Even though it stank of dead fish, she took a deep breath of the wet air. It had only been a couple of months since she’d left the south, vowing to herself that she would never return. The continuously deteriorating conditions, devastating cyclones, droughts, and fires had left much of the south uninhabitable, and the Regency—the Blessed of the Dragon—weren’t doing anything about it. She had been shielded from most of the trouble plaguing the realm for the last several years because she was fortunate enough to live in Hantlo. Her parents were wealthy—her father a Silk—and there were always plenty of Blessed to clean up when a cyclone swept through. But she’d decided that she didn’t want to be around when they lost control—and she was convinced that they would lose control eventually. It was inevitable. So, she had packed only a few changes of clothes and what belongings could fit into her bag and left, joining the steady stream of southerners heading north.

But now, breathing in Portstown’s unpleasant aroma, she was back.

“Greetings, lass,” Lyoll said, appearing from around the front end of the carriage. He walked over to stand beside her and frowned. “What’s the matter?”

Hadie wiped her eyes again and said, “Drenan took Javen away.”

“I wondered as much when I saw the soldier carrying him naked as the day his mother gave birth. Where’d they take him?”

“I don’t know. Doesn’t matter anyhow.”

“What do you mean?”

“Drenan threatened to hurt me if he ever saw me again.”

“And Master Javen had no say in this?”

“How could he? He’s been unconscious since the day he used his gift.”

“‘Tis a real shame,” Lyoll said. “I’ve really enjoyed your company.” After a moment of awkward silence he added, “What now?”

Hadie shrugged her shoulders.

“Care to share one last meal?”

“I’m not hungry,” Hadie said.

“Sometimes a stomach full of food does wonders to help heal a broken heart, lass. Especially if you combine it with drink. And I know just the place. See those steps over there?” Lyoll pointed down the road. “Third ones down?”


“Meet me there in half an hour. I need to tend to the horses and carriages, then we’ll feast on a meal worthy of the Blessed.”

“Fine. So long as there aren’t actually any scales there,” Hadie said, using a term she hadn’t used in a long time. Her father had taught her to respect the Blessed and whipped her until she couldn’t sit when he’d caught her using it as a lass.

“Hah! You needn’t worry about running into any of ’em down there,” Lyoll said. “Don’t go down to the docks ’til I arrive. Looks like a few ships have recently come in, so there’s bound to be salts looking to spread some legs.”

“I won’t,” Hadie said.

Lyoll returned to his work and Hadie walked around the back end of the carriage to survey the buildings lining the street. She needed to find somewhere to stay for the night. A few buildings down was a small inn called the Land Maiden. She’d stayed there when she had come through Portstown before so, without wasting time looking for anything else, she made up her mind.

Hadie stepped through the front door of the tall, skinny building wedged between a pub and a cobbler. The ground floor was small and square and had a spiral, wrought-iron staircase at the back wall. Hadie naturally gravitated toward quaint inns like this one, as opposed to more boisterous ones such as the Oak, in Lonely Oak. She liked this one because each floor had only two rooms—one that faced the street, and one in the back—and they were protected by a thick door with three different locks. It wasn’t the cheapest bed in town, but the extra money was worth it for the added security. The price also scared away most of the drunk sailors who roamed the streets at night looking to spend their hard-earned wages on women and drink rather than on lodging. She walked over to the long counter on the side that ran the length of the room.

The short, bald innkeeper emerged from a door at the end of the counter. “Need a room?”

“Yes, please,” Hadie said.

“Quarter drake.”

Hadie retrieved a drake from her pocket and set it on the table.

The innkeeper scooped up the gold coin and said, “Be right back.”

“Keep it,” Hadie said, “in case I decide to stay more than one night.”

The innkeeper handed her a key and said, “Fifth floor, front side.”

Without any belongings, she had no need to climb the spiral stairs to her room before meeting Lyoll, so she left and made her way down the road to the set of stairs Lyoll had indicated. The number eleven was branded into the wood.

Heeding Lyoll’s warning, she waited at the top of the long weatherworn steps until he arrived. The road was busy with people going about their business. She received an occasional lewd comment from rough-looking, sun-darkened men as she waited, but that was the extent of it. With so many witnesses, most wouldn’t risk being thrown into a cell and spoiling their first night back on land. So long as they weren’t coming from Drenan, she could handle comments and leering eyes. The docks, however, were another story. There the watchful eyes were much less caring, and there were plenty of places to have one’s way with an unwilling partner.

While she waited for Lyoll, she did her best to distract herself from thinking about Javen by looking down at the docks that stretched up and down the length of the road. There were at least two dozen, most of which were lined with various types of ships and boathouses with rusted roofs. The majority of the boats were grimy fishing vessels with small masts and trawling nets affixed to rods sticking up haphazardly, but there were a few larger ships—with tall masts, the kind she knew were meant to sail across the sea—moored at the ends of some of the docks. The largest of them flew a green flag with a large clump of purple grapes in the middle—the official emblem of the Onta Province.

“Greetings, lass,” Lyoll said over her shoulder. “You find your appetite yet? Cause I’m famished.”

Hadie shrugged but followed Lyoll down the worn stairs to the sloped walkway.

“Where’s Ganip?” she said.

“Ah, well…” Lyoll said over his shoulder.

Lyoll didn’t have to say it, but Hadie knew. Ganip was young and they had been on the road for a while…

The walkway led down to the floating dock. They passed several fishing boats that reeked of their day’s catch. The end of the long floating walkway came to a T, and Lyoll turned left. They passed several boathouses and ended up at a larger building at the end of the dock. There were large glassless windows on both sides of the door, each with a heavy canvas cover tightly rolled up at the top. Hadie looked through the windows and saw people sitting at tables, eating. A floating pub, she thought.

Lyoll stepped over the gap between the dock and pub, and onto a small landing. He opened the door and held it for Hadie. As she hopped onto the landing, Lyoll said, “The best fish in town.”

The building lacked interior walls. A thick man wearing a greasy apron worked at a stove at the center of the building. The stove had a large metal vent over it which trapped the smoke. A square bar surrounded the stove and tables filled the rest of the room. A barkeep greeted them when they walked up to the bar.

“What’ll it be?”

“Ale and fish,” Lyoll said.

The barkeep retrieved two steins that hung from pegs in the ceiling. When he set the full steins before them, Hadie pulled a gold drake from her pocket. Lyoll covered her hand with his and quickly placed a few copper coins on the bar instead.

Hadie took a stein and, when it arrived, a plate of food. They searched the pub for an empty table but, not finding one inside, eventually went to the back of the building, which was entirely open to the sea. Like the windows at the front and along the sides, there was heavy canvases rolled up tightly by the ceiling to cover the opening when need be. An uncovered deck continued out past the end of the building, also jammed with tables. Lyoll found an open one in the back corner.

When Hadie sat across from Lyoll, he leaned over the table and whispered, “This isn’t the sort of place to go around flashing gold. Things like that rarely go unnoticed. Unless you want to find a knife in your ribs, you’d do well to exchange it for smaller coin.”

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Hadie said. She knew better than that. She looked down at her basket, filled with battered fish and sliced potatoes fried in grease. As good as it looked, she didn’t feel especially hungry. Instead, she lifted the stein and drank deeply of whatever it contained. While Lyoll devoured his own food, she downed what turned out to be decent-tasting ale—nothing compared to what Javen’s brother made, but still quite good.

“You need to eat if you don’t want that drink going straight to your head, lass.”

“I’m not hungry.”

With a concerned look on his face, Lyoll placed a copper coin on the table and said, “Here.”

“Thanks,” Hadie said as she scooped up the coin. She walked back into the pub and got two more steins. She began to feel the drink’s effect; having drank herself sick several times, she begrudgingly heeded Lyoll’s advice and forced herself to eat.

Lyoll licked his fingers when his basket was empty and nodded approvingly when Hadie started into hers. “You’d be hard pressed to find better fish than right here, lass. Freshest in Portstown, it is; straight from the boat.”

“If it’s so good,” Hadie said, staring blankly over at the water still visible in the fading light, “then why are you so sure there wouldn’t be Blessed here?”

“Look around ya; no Blessed would set foot in this area. Not out of fear for their safety, but out of pride. Imagine the Blessed mingling with the likes of smelly salts!”

“Didn’t I see Devin’s ship moored here, though?”

“Yes, but did you notice the dock it was moored to was separate from all the rest of ’em?”


“Separate from the riffraff.”

They sat in silence while Hadie ate and Lyoll downed the contents of his second stein.

“Another?” Lyoll said when Hadie finished.

Hadie nodded, so Lyoll went to the bar and retrieved another round.

“Why do you do it?” Hadie said when he returned.

“Do what?”

“Work for them.”

“The money’s good.”

“They pay you?” she said, thinking about Rennie refusing the drakes.

“Aye. We teamsters aren’t the same as the servant caste. I do what I do not because that’s what I born into, or even out of any loyalty to them—I do it for the money.”

“Do you like it? Traveling all the time?”

“Aye. I get to see the world!” Lyoll said, raising his stein. His smile turned to a frown when Hadie didn’t respond to his enthusiasm. Instead, he awkwardly took a drink. “What now, then?”

Hadie didn’t offer an immediate reply. She didn’t know the answer herself. Instead, she looked silently across the water at the darkening horizon. “When I made the decision to leave Hantlo, I swore I would never return to the south. Yet, less than three months after leaving, I find myself in the south again. Do I return home, disgraced, to my parents? Or do I turn around and head north again? My reasons for leaving certainly haven’t changed.”

“Why did you leave?” Lyoll said.

“I don’t want to be around when the Regency loses control.”

“Then why would you return? Turn north. Start fresh again. If the money wasn’t so good driving horses for the Regency, I’d head north as well.”

“Aren’t you afraid to be around when the south inevitably collapses?” Hadie said.

“I can look after myself.”

Hadie thought about the wisdom in what Lyoll said. With the way things were in the south, going north again really would be the wisest decision. However, what she really wanted to know was where they were taking Javen. They’re most likely taking him to Hantlo, she thought. Drenan’s threat was real, but so was her love for Javen. She knew she couldn’t abandon him so easily. As much as she hated the thought, she realized the only path for her was to return home. “I can’t give up on Javen,” she said.

“There are other lads, you know. As pretty as you are, I’m sure you won’t be having trouble finding another,” Lyoll said. “So long as Javen remains in the hands of the Regency, attempting to reunite with him will be foolish.”

“I love him.”

“Ah.” Lyoll drank from his stein and said, “It’s still unwise, lass.”

“Haven’t you ever loved anyone, Lyoll?”

“Aye, I have.”

“Then you know that I can’t simply walk away from Javen. If I can find him, maybe I can convince him to break with the scales.”

Lyoll frowned across the table at her. “‘Tis foolish, you know.”

“I know,” she said. Maybe it was. But she couldn’t give up on Javen. She’d never loved anyone before.

“Then when you get to Hantlo, go see Sonja.”

“The whore?”


“Same difference.”

“They aren’t, actually. The madam—”

“I know the difference, Lyoll,” Hadie said. “Why should I go see her?”

“Everyone knows that the way into a man’s mind is through his trousers. Whores frequent the palace every day, so if you want to get information on what’s happening to Javen, Sonja will know.”

“Thanks,” Hadie said.

“If you have more than just that one drake, hang onto as much of it as you can. Information is never cheap—especially in the capital of the realm.”

Hadie appreciated Lyoll’s help: for the advice, for paying for their meal, and for enough drink that she would not have long to grieve her loss once she climbed into bed. He offered her his arm to steady herself as they made their way back up the dock, then escorted her back to the Land Maiden, and waited gallantly outside her room until she slid the bolts into place.

As Hadie lay on the prickly mattress and awaited the escape of sleep, she tried not to think about the road ahead of her—there would be plenty of time for that. Instead, she turned her mind to the fact that she would not wake up next to Javen. The thought brought tears to her eyes. She curled up into a ball on her bed and cried herself to sleep.

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POV #1: Yolken

The release of The Island of Kvorga, book two in The Blessed of the Dragon, is set for April 21, 2020! I thought it might be time for a few sneak peeks of what is in store for you. I’d like to preface this post with what I hope is obvious: there are spoilers in this post and those that follow. So, if you haven’t read The Path of the Synthesizer, please return once you have. 😁

In the lead up to the release of The Path of the Synthesizer, I shared the prologue and first chapter here on my website. If you haven’t read The Path of the Synthesizer yet and want to check it out, you can read the prologue here and the first chapter here. You can also download a preview on your favorite e-reader (Kindle, Apple, Kobo, & Nook) to get a taste of it before purchasing it. If you’re interested in reading the prologue to The Island of Kvorga, it can be found in the back of The Path of Synthesizer. 😉

I thought I’d do something slightly different for my sneak peeks of The Island of Kvorga.

The Path of the Synthesizer featured several point-of-view (POV) characters. However, the plot focused mainly on two of them: Yolken and Javen. The Island of Kvorga also features several different POVs but a third character wriggled their way into becoming a primary POV character. That character is Hadie.

When it comes to Hadie’s role in the story going forward, I’d like to borrow a thought from Javen that appears in his opening chapter of The Island of Kvorga: “though he hadn’t originally planned on seeing Hadie for any longer than the time she stayed in Lonely Oak, he had grown attached to her.”

This thought of Javen’s reflects my own feelings toward Hadie. She was originally meant to just be a distraction for Javen the night of the festival in Lonely Oak when he found Yolken and Kaylan together. But Hadie refused to be written out of the story. If that doesn’t make her a strong female character, I don’t know what does.

I am not a huge outliner of my stories. Except for establishing a few goalposts along the way–one at the beginning, a couple in the middle, and where the story ends–I’m more of what you call a pantser. Keeping my eyes on the goalposts, I let the story take me where it may. In other words, I write by the seat of my pants. So, since I didn’t originally have much in mind for Hadie, and she refused to exit stage left when she was supposed to, she sort of gets credit for writing her own story. I basically knew where Yolken and Javen’s storylines were going, but Hadie wasn’t supposed to be there. Her story evolved as it went. I won’t spoil it for you–Hadie should get to tell her own story, don’t you think? But I will say she employs rather… unsavory… techniques to accomplish her goals.

So the next few posts will be the opening chapters (or enough of a chapter to hopefully pique your interests) for my–now–three primary character POVs: Yolken, Hadie, and Javen. They will probably appear in that order because that is the order in which they occur in the book.

So, without further ado…

First up to bat: the former proprietor of the Thornhill Tavern, gifted brewer of ales, who in book one chose to take the path of the Synthesizer… Yolken Thornhill.


While the vast northern plains were still shrouded in the vestiges of night, the snow-covered peaks to the north began to shine. That light slowly crept down the mountains, revealing their grotesque, rocky, shadow-hidden sides. As the light worked its way down, the barren slopes eventually gave way to an abundance of life. To the south, just before it reached the valley floor, the light revealed leagues of cliffs. Their starkness was offset by the cascading water of the Mindon Falls, sparkling like a river of diamonds. Smoke from a growing fire billowed behind the falls.

When the sun finally crested the horizon and its light stretched across the grassy plains, the backs of the two weary travelers quickly began to warm. Yolken and Jax drew that warmth in, feeling it melt away their weariness. They took off running, sprinting through open fields at unnatural speed. They raced each other—Jax trying to prove his one hundred seventeen years of life hadn’t slowed him any, and Yolken not wanting to be beaten by, as Jax had taunted, an old man. The fun eventually ended—even those benefiting from the endurance-enhancing effects of Synthesis couldn’t sprint forever—and they settled into a more sustainable pace.

Yolken’s cloak flew out behind him as he ran. His mind raced as fast as his feet, shifting from thought to thought. He thought mostly about Kaylan. Ever since the night of the festival in Lonely Oak—even with everything that had happened—it had been hard to think of anything else. But he also thought a lot about Javen, and what it was going to take to free him from the Regency.

He had grown up believing the Regency were the Blessed of the Dragon. They were the Blessed of the Dragon. He’d stopped short of worshipping them like many of the residents of Lonely Oak did and had foregone the weekly visits to the Dragon Shrine that many made, but he respected them. They ruled Dradonia; all of it. The gift that the emperor, chancellors, and regents possessed set them apart from the rest of the world. Their rule was absolute, and uncontested because nobody could possibly hope to overpower them. And he was one Synthesizer—largely untrained—whose bloodline was nowhere near as pure as the Blessed’s. But he couldn’t abandon Javen to them—not after everything he’d learned. It was possible that everything Jax and Deborah had told him were the actual lies, but Kaylan believed them, so he would too. And if he was going to do anything to help his brother, he knew he needed their help.

His mind shifted to his forthcoming meeting with the Council. Jax had said very little about the Order of the Dragon and the Order’s leaders, the Council. All he’d really said was that Yolken would need their help. He knew almost nothing about the Order, and even less about the Council. But he did know that his father had been an integral part of the Order.

Yolken itched to stop Jax and ask him to tell him more about the Order and the Council, but didn’t want to slow their pace. Now that they were going somewhere, he felt as though he was making progress—even if only a little bit—in his effort to rescue Javen. Hopefully, Jax didn’t expect him to go to the Council unprepared.

As they drew closer to Croff, the epicenter of trade in the Northern Realm, they avoided the growing number of farms. Eventually, it became unpractical and unsafe to continue, so Jax finally stopped. They stood on a small cart path leading south toward a distant farm.

“We’ll follow this to the highway,” Jax said as he set off walking. “And keep the sword out of sight.”

A grin grew on Yolken’s face when he saw Jax unscrew the cap of his water flask and use Yolken’s trick of gathering water out of the air to fill it. Yolken’s flask was running low as well, so he did the same.

“This close to the city, Synthesizing is much riskier,” Jax said, “so keep your Energy flows close to the ground. The higher you reach with your flows, the easier it’ll be for a Watcher to see you.”

Yolken heeded Jax’s warning, keeping his flows of Energy close to the ground as he reached for water. It made the process slower, but it wasn’t as though he was in a hurry. When his flask was full, he began channeling the Energy he was absorbing into the Harachin sword. He charged the sword slowly, remembering from his lessons that absorbing Energy from the sun distorts Energy’s natural flow. That, too, would be visible to Watchers. As he charged the sword, he realized how hot he was getting now that they weren’t running anymore. When he finished filling the sword, he unclasped his cloak from around his neck and took it off.

“What are you doing?” Jax said.

“It’s too hot.” Yolken laid the cloak on the ground, then unbuckled the sword from his belt. He wrapped the cloak around the sword, tying it into a neat bundle with the cloak’s chords. Then he threaded the sword belt through the cords, slung the belt over his shoulder, and put the pack in place on his back. “You should do the same.”

Jax ignored him and started down the path again.

After about half a league, they reached the highway. It was nestled alongside the Croff River.

“If we went that way,” Jax said, gesturing off to the right, “the highway would follow the river all the way to Mindon, where the Croff River joins the Mindon River. It’s a beautiful city.”

When they joined the highway, Yolken marveled at the steady stream of merchant wagons moving in the opposite direction. In just a matter of minutes, they passed as many wagons as visited Lonely Oak in any given week. And they kept streaming by.

Yolken couldn’t see the city yet, even when he peeked around the large wagon in front of him, hauling bales of barley. That didn’t stop his excitement from growing, however. And as the farms surrounding them grew closer together, the road became more crowded. He knew that they were getting very close. All thoughts of the Order and the Council evaporated from his mind, replaced by Kaylan. They had only been apart for a couple of weeks, but it felt like an eternity. He resisted the urge to run around and between the traffic. He was past ready to hold and kiss her again.

“I can tell you’re getting antsy,” Jax said, “but when in the open we must remain hidden. That is how the Order operates. That is how we survive.”

“We’d be there so much faster if we could just run,” Yolken said.

“But two men running when everyone else is walking would draw attention.”

“I know,” Yolken said. The fact didn’t stop him from wanting to run, though.

Two young girls popped out from behind a barley bale in the wagon in front of him and started waving at him. When he waved back, they giggled and ducked out of sight. As soon as they peeked back around the bale—one over the top and one on the side—he waved again. They shrieked and disappeared just as fast as they had appeared. The next time they peeked he pretended he didn’t see them, and they waved frantically to get his attention. When he eventually acknowledged them, they again shrieked, giggled, and ducked behind the bale. This went on for a while, proving to be the perfect distraction. Given the contents of the wagon, he guessed that they were sisters riding into the city with their pa to sell their crop. For all he knew, he could have bought grain grown by this farmer; a lot of the grain he had used for brewing came from Croff.

“Only a few more leagues,” Jax said.

They passed three more small villages nestled against the road. After the third one, Yolken stepped off the side of the road to get a look around the wagon. Sprawling buildings in the distance greeted him.

They had arrived at Croff.

The dusty road broadened as the buildings drew closer. Yolken and Jax passed through an arched gate, which Yolken found oddly out of place because there wasn’t an accompanying wall. At the gate, the dirt road became cobbled. The buildings at first resembled the one- to two-story brick buildings of Lonely Oak, but before they had walked very far into the sprawling city, the buildings had grown to several stories tall. Packed tightly together, they towered over the road, making Yolken feel small.

As they made their way into the city, they passed crossroad after crossroad. Lonely Oak only had one road; the rest of the town had been erected haphazardly around that road and the buildings that lined it. But Croff was definitely no Lonely Oak. It was the seat of the Croff Province, of which Lonely Oak was a part. It was also where Dalia, the provincial regent, lived. He wondered if he would see her mansion. It was somewhere in the city, he knew, visible behind its protective walls.

Jax walked deeper into the sea of buildings, then turned from the wide, cobbled road onto a crossroad paved with brick. The girls in the cart ahead of them waved frantically. Yolken waved back and blew them a kiss. Both girls screeched and collapsed onto bales. Yolken smiled as he followed Jax. He wondered if they would spend the rest of the morning arguing about which of them was going to marry him. At least he didn’t have to let them down by telling them that his heart was already set on someone else.

The thought of Kaylan quickened Yolken’s pulse. He had been thinking about her all morning, but now that they were in the same city, his anticipation grew. He continued following Jax as they made their way through the city, growing more excited with every step. And with every turn, he wondered how much further they had to go.

The deeper they moved into the city, the busier the streets became. Yolken had to work to not get separated from Jax. At the same time, he wanted to take in his surroundings, and he looked around as much as he could without taking his eyes off Jax for too long. The buildings were tall, and in most places there wasn’t room to pass between them. Many of them were completely connected. The different building materials were the only indication that they weren’t one large, long building.

Most of the people who crowded the streets didn’t seem any different from those in Lonely Oak. They ranged from the poor and decrepit to the finely dressed. As they walked, though, Yolken began noticing people wearing styles he didn’t recognize. They also passed a few soldiers wearing gray armor. Yolken looked at them with a new understanding. A large, rough-textured, oval piece covered their torsos, and the rest of the armor—arms, shoulders, backs, and leggings—were smaller oval-shaped plates. All of the plates, large and small, were dragon scales. Growing up he had always wondered about the armor worn by soldiers, guards, and the Blessed, never thinking it might actually be made from dragons slaughtered during Drakonias’ war. The idea that dragons were actually real, not just fabled creatures derived from the Great Dragon, still amazed him. Dragon scales protected dragons from Energy, so Yolken now understood why everyone associated with the Regency wore the armor.

Jax made another turn and they walked down a narrow street lined on both sides by skinny, two-story buildings. Each building had steps leading up to a small landing with a door. Except for variations in color, the buildings looked identical. Jax eventually climbed the steps of a brown building on the right, and Yolken followed him up. Jax attempted to open the door, but it was locked, so he knocked.

The door opened a crack and familiar green eyes peeked through. The door closed momentarily then flew open. Jax turned sideways when Kaylan burst out, letting her around him. She crashed into Yolken’s arms and he hugged her tightly, burying his face in her hair. He inhaled, breathing deeply of lilac.

“I’ve missed you so much!” Kaylan said into Yolken’s chest.

When she eventually looked at him, Yolken cupped her cheeks with his hands and kissed her.

Jax smirked at them, then stepped into the building.

When their kiss ended, Kaylan took Yolken by the hand and followed Jax through the open door.

Deborah was standing just inside. “Greetings! We weren’t expecting you so soon.”

“A Watcher found us,” Jax said crossly.

“Oh? That’s a shame.” Deborah’s tone was wry. “I know how much you prided yourself on that little retreat of yours.”

“I wouldn’t bring that up,” Yolken said with a grin. Drenan’s son had tracked them to the ravine where the safehouse was, forcing them to flee. Jax had been cross because of how much effort it took to build and supply—which involved a very unhappy mule—only to be discovered so quickly. “He’s still sore about it.”

“Please sit.” Deborah gestured to the couch and chairs. “I’m sure you’re tired. Give me just a moment and I’ll make tea and get you something to eat.”

Yolken followed Kaylan, who still led him by the hand, to the couch along the wall. He dropped his rolled-up cloak on the floor and sat wearily beside her. He wrapped one arm around her and held her hand with the other. She leaned her head against his shoulder.

Jax followed Deborah to the kitchen at the back end of the narrow house. Yolken heard him ask, “Were my plans well received?”

“Mostly,” Deborah said. “There are a few that will need some convincing but…”

As they moved through the long narrow house, Deborah’s voice trailed off until Yolken couldn’t hear her any longer. He was sure there would be plenty of time for them to discuss things, so he turned his attention to the only thing that mattered at the moment.

He let go of Kaylan’s hand and gently cupped her chin. He turned her face up toward his and kissed her again. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Me too,” Kaylan said. “I couldn’t believe it when I opened the door and saw Jax standing there. We weren’t expecting you for at least another month. In fact, we were just getting ready to go to the market when you knocked.”

“It’s been a crazy few days for sure,” Yolken said. He didn’t really want to discuss the details, have to verbalize his fight with Drenan’s son at the Mindon Falls or what happened to him, so he said, “This city is amazing, isn’t it?”

“Growing up in Lonely Oak, I never really thought about how big Croff actually is. I mean, I never thought of it as more than a dot on a map. Mammy says over a hundred thousand people live here!”

“A hundred thousand?” Yolken said. “Incredible.”

“And Mammy says Croff is nothing compared to Tieger or Kyinth.”

“That’s hard to believe. It didn’t take long before I got turned around. I don’t think I’d be able to find my way back out of the city if my life depended on it.”

“It’s pretty easy to find your way once you get used to it. Mammy says the center of the city is full of twists and turns, but out here in the newer parts, the streets are laid out where it’s pretty easy to find your way around. I hope I get the chance to show you around some.”

“Me too, but I’m hoping Jax will take me to the Council as soon as possible.”

“Well, if we do get the chance, you’ll love it. It’s so different here.”

Deborah carried a tray of tea into the room, set it down on the small table in the middle of the room, then returned to the kitchen.

“You want any?” Yolken asked Kaylan.

“No, thanks. I had some just before you arrived.”

Yolken leaned forward to reach the teapot. He poured himself a cup then sat back. He took a sip, anticipating the welcome relief the tea would provide from his tiredness. Deborah and Jax returned to the room, each carrying a plate with a bowl and a hunk of bread. Jax sat down and dug into his. Deborah waited for Yolken to set his tea down before handing him the plate she was holding. He inhaled the aroma of the bread, which was cool, but still fresh. Then he dipped it into the bowl of thick soup.

“So,” Deborah said after Jax and Yolken finished eating, “tell us what happened.”

“First, we need proper beverages,” Jax said. He stood and made his way back toward the kitchen.

“Are you implying that my tea isn’t good enough?” Deborah called after him.

Jax returned with a large jug and four round glasses. He set the glasses down on the table, then filled one with the contents of the jug and handed it to Yolken.

Ale was exactly what he needed, so Yolken happily accepted the glass. His eyes lit up when he took a drink. “Are you serious? You have my ale? Here?”

Jax smiled. “One must prepare for all possibilities.”

“You couldn’t possibly have known we would end up here,” Yolken protested, picking up one of the round glasses.

“No,” Jax said, “but I spend a lot of time in Croff. Might as well have decent ale while I’m here.”

“Seems like a lot of effort to me,” Yolken said.

“You have a gift, Yolken.”

“Speaking of the Regency…” Deborah interjected.

“Right,” Jax said, taking one of the glasses and sitting in a padded chair. “Seven days ago, a Watcher found us in the ravine. Well, found me. Yolken was working in the shed.”

Jax spent the next hour catching Deborah and Kaylan up on the events that had transpired at the cabin.

When Jax arrived at Yolken’s confrontation with the Watcher, Yolken said, “Can we not talk about that?” He was trying to think about the fight, which ended with the Watcher’s death, as little as possible. Kaylan comforted him with a hug.

“I’m sorry you had to experience that, dear,” Deborah said. “Things are progressing well, then?”

“They are,” Jax said. “I just wish we’d had more time to prepare before going before the Council. However, I think Yolken’s progress should be sufficient to convince them to accept our plan.”

“I still don’t get it,” Yolken said.


“Why should my abilities determine whether or not the Council helps me?”

“It might be hard to understand, I know, but the Order has a very specific purpose, and freeing prisoners is not one of them. The Regency does horrible things—we know that—but the Order simply does not have the ability to prevent it from happening, or to do anything about it when it does.”

“So you’re saying the Order will help me only because I might be of use to them?”

“You and Javen both,” Jax said. “I know it sounds harsh, but that’s the fact of the matter.”

“I don’t like it.”

“I understand how this sounds to you, Yolken,” Deborah said. “However, if you want to help your brother, this is truly the only way. There’s no one other than the Order who can stand up against the Regency. Unfortunately, the Order operates according to specific rules, and sometimes those rules prevent us from doing what’s right, or what we might want to do. This is not because we’re bad people, or indifferent—rather, the Order operates the way it does because we care.”

The conversation lulled and in the quiet that ensued, Yolken slowly wrapped his mind around the reality of the situation. He sipped his ale and Kaylan gently rubbed his arm and back. “What do I need to do to convince them to help?”

“They will only authorize help if they think you and Javen are of value to the Order,” Jax said. “So you must convince them that you are.”

“And if I don’t?”

“If you don’t, then you’ll likely never see your brother again.”

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Cover Reveal #2

I must once again hand it to Jake over at Jcalebdesign for creating another amazing cover for the Blessed of the Dragon series.

Behold, the official cover for The Island of Kvorga:



Island of Kvorga eCover

The official release date of The Island of Kvorga is: April 21, 2020

Mark your calendars! And I’ll be sure to communicate to you when it is available for pre-order! If you like, click the books tab to read a quick blurb about Kvorga!

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