NAVIGATION ASSISTANCE

Hello Readers!

Lately I’ve been linking you like crazy to a couple of ongoing things. For ease of use, I’m going to put them all here at the top of this blog.

  • Fire in the Blood Giveaway! Enter to win free books and more! Next prize level unlocks at 300 entries, and current standing is 163. Runs through October 11th.
  • Fire in the Blood Esigning!Want a signed copy without the gamble but can’t make it to one of the signings? You can order one from this website through the end of November.
  • Extra Life 2014!: Make me roleplay to help sick and injured children. Benefits Seattle Children’t Hospital.
  • Fire in the Blood Release Events!: Signings! Online events! A kickass release party that’s open to all!  Are you excited yet?!
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FIRE IN THE BLOOD Excerpt: The Princess and the Tiefling

There are now just 25 days until Fire in the Blood comes out. (Are you excited? I’m excited. Although I’m also getting to feel impatient.) Just like with The Adversary, i’m pleased to present to you a series of excerpts to get you ready for the big show. This time, instead of introducing you to the characters, I’m going to introduce you to what’s happening.

Starting with the Palace, Princess Raedra of Cormyr, and my favorite tiefling.

If you’ve read the sample chapter up at wizards.com, you’ve gotten a glimpse of Raedra already, through Brin’s eyes. This is the woman he proposed to in Havilar’s absence, seeking to forestall terrible, political things. Here, she meets Farideh, who’s just done her an enormous good turn.

***

At last Devora stopped and opened a door in another wall, the carving of a rampant owlbear over it illuminated by the light of her globe. Ilstan nudged Farideh through the passage and into a small sitting room beyond. There were no windows to it, but a fire had been built up in the hearth, and small silver globes hung from the walls.

“Sit,” Ilstan said, gesturing at the padded furniture. “Would you care for a small drink?”

“No,” Farideh said, still standing. She looked up at the painting hanging over the fireplace, an elaborate portrait of two women standing on either side of a sleeping lion—one dark-haired and holding a sheaf of grain, one blond and cradling a sword.

“It’s not a very good painting,” Ilstan admitted. “Bit . . . modern.”

“How long will we wait?”

Ilstan shrugged. “As long as it takes. You should sit.”

Farideh stayed where she was, considering the painting, until she heard the click of a latch behind her. She turned and found the Princess of Cormyr staring at her.

“Well met,” she said. “Thank you for coming.” She pushed a loose curl of blond hair back behind one ear.

“You say that as if I had a choice,” Farideh replied. “How can I help you?”

Raedra studied her without bothering to hide it. “I received your note. How did your agent get into the palace?”

Farideh shook her head. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I just knew if anyone could manage to get you that information, it was him. Did you find her? Was I right?”

“Yes.”?Farideh cursed to herself. “I’m sorry, Your Highness. I hoped I’d imagined it.” Raedra came a little closer now, into the circle of furniture placed beside the fireplace. “What is it you thought you’d imagined?” she asked. “How did you spot her?”

“It’s a skill I have,” Farideh said carefully. Ilstan and Raedra both watched her, still as statues, clearly unsatisfied with that thin explanation. “It’s like a spell,” Farideh went on. “I can . . . see the state of mortal souls.”

Raedra looked back at Ilstan, who was frowning. “Is that a spell?” she asked.

“Not one I’m familiar with, Your Highness,” he admitted. “But she isn’t a wizard, remember.”

“Of course.” Raedra turned back to Farideh. “A warlock.” The princess folded her hands neatly over her skirt. “Aubrin said you were trapped. In Baator.”

“In the Nine Hells.”

Raedra arched one sleek brow. “That is what I said.” She gazed at Farideh as if waiting for her to retort, then refolded her hands. “I suppose it was very terrible.” “Yes,” Farideh said, though not in the way she’d meant. Sairché had trapped them in such a way that she saw none of the Hells themselves—every horror came of the absence, the seven and a half years that life on Faerûn had gone on without them.

“And of course it’s none of your fault,” she said, one delicate hand flicking the idea away, as if anything could be so simple. “You just happened to end up enmeshed with devils, as one does.”

“It’s none of my sister’s fault,” Farideh said evenly.

And at that, Raedra looked away. “You have my gratitude. Whatever it is you have done, you’ve uncovered a traitor none of my customary precautions revealed. Without your . . . talents,” she said carefully, “there is every chance I would be ransomed or enchanted. Or dead. How may I repay you?”

Farideh hesitated, long enough that Raedra smiled uneasily. “Please do me the kindness of not saying ‘Break your betrothal to Lord Crownsilver.’ You may wish it, but it is a more complex affair than you realize.”

“If I wanted that,” Farideh said, “I could have left the Sharran in your midst.”

Raedra narrowed her eyes. “Quite right. But you must name something.” Farideh considered. If anyone could order the return of Brin’s servants, it was Raedra . . . but as much as that should be what she asked for, the thought of losing the privacy that the solitude afforded her sent a pang of grief through her. Or perhaps it was the thought of losing Lorcan—he couldn’t come around with servants crowding the tallhouse.

“Gold?” Raedra suggested. “Jewels? A writ to adventure?”

“Someone tried to kidnap Havilar,” Farideh said. “Three times now. The last time they thought I was her.”

Raedra colored. “How unfortunate.”

“Was it you?”

“Absolutely not. That’s a coward’s act.”

“Would you find out who it was,” Farideh asked, “and get them to stop? That’s what I want.”?Raedra considered her, so long and so boldly that Farideh had to look away.

“That’s what you’re due,” she said finally, “as a guest in Cormyr. Now, what do you want for your assistance?”

“I don’t need anything else.”

Raedra’s mouth tightened. “Tell me your name again.”

“Farideh.”

“Farideh,” she said, sitting down in the needlepoint chair, “if you were attacked in Lord Crownsilver’s home or holdings, that’s not merely about you. That is an attack on Lord Crownsilver, and by association, an attack against me. What will people say if they were to find out? They’d assume that it was my doing, an act of jealousy—a tremendously sloppy act of jealousy. Even if I didn’t see it as my duty to the laws of Cormyr to sort out whatever villain has gotten it into their mind to insert themselves into Aubrin’s and my personal affairs, I see it as a personal affront, and it will be dealt with. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.”

Which meant that Ilstan hadn’t, Farideh thought. “You’re welcome,” Farideh said. “Do you know who it might be?”

“I have a very good guess.” Raedra smoothed her skirts again. “Now if you don’t tell me something I can do to even the scales, I shall choose the least practical piece of jewelry I own and bequeath it to you, whether you like it or not.”

Farideh smiled, unable to help it, and thought a moment. “I don’t have the easiest time getting to the markets for food. People don’t like bargaining with a tiefling, and I end up short. Can you have someone bring me food? I’d pay for it—”

“Someone will be by the tallhouse tomorrow morning with an assortment of items. Please tell them if there’s anything specific you require then, and it will be taken care of in the next delivery.” She hesitated. “You saved my life.”

“I’m glad,” Farideh said, unsure of what Raedra was waiting for her to say.

“Would you do it? Now?” Raedra asked. “Your spell, I mean. Can you tell me what you see in me?”

“I can’t see much,” Farideh said. “And I don’t know what a lot of what I do see means.”

“Still.” Raedra refolded her hands. “I’d like to know.”?Farideh glanced at the war wizard in the corner, once.?The powers didn’t pain her as much when she called them herself, but still the sensation of thin claws sliding through the back of her skull and into her brain made her flinch. When she opened her eyes again, the lights of Raedra’s soul bloomed in the darkness, like the aftereffects of staring into the sun.

“What do you see?” she asked.

“Purple,” Farideh said. “Flashes of gold. A vein of scarlet.”

“Shadows?”

“Everyone has shadows,” Farideh said. “But there are shadows and there are Shar’s marks. You don’t have any more or less than most people.” But this time there was something else, something new—the sureness that Raedra wasn’t going to corrupt easily. The shadows made a softness around the red vein, as if beneath the shape of her soul was a bruised patch, a reminder of a time when she’d been a much sweeter prize for a devil. There was no digging at that bruise now—the gold flashes armored it. If a devil wanted her, it would take time. Effort. You’d have to lay something drastic in the balance.

Raedra was watching her as if waiting for an answer. “I’m sorry, what?” Farideh asked.

“I said what are you looking at?”

Farideh shrugged. “I get the impression you’re not someone people ought to underestimate.”

Raedra raised an eyebrow. “From purple, gold, red, and shadows?”

“And from talking to you,” Farideh said.

Raedra stood, as if she meant to end the meeting, but she stopped, pursed her lips. “Would you sit with my retinue? Make sure you don’t see anything else among them, or the maids or . . .” She shook her head. “I’d be very grateful. It would only be a few hours and I’d compensate you properly.”

“Highness?” Ilstan said. “I’ve already made certain of the others. You’re in no danger.”

Raedra didn’t look back at him. “I would be sure. Between the two of you, I think that’s possible. Ilstan will come back for you in seven days,” she said to Farideh. “The mourning will be over and I’ll have a good reason to have such a gathering. And no one will wonder at a new face.”

 

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Extra Life 2014

Dear Friends, Family, Fans, and Random Internet People,

It’s that time of year again!

Usually I use Dungeons & Dragons to write books, but for the Dungeons & Dragons R&D’s 2014 Extra Life drive I’ll be using it to raise money the Children’s Miracle Network and Seattle Children’s Hospital, helping them treat thousands of children each year, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

To donate, click here.

What the what now? How do you raise money playing D&D?
The game is 25-hours long, all run by the same DM, and it will be broadcast on D&D’s Twitch channel, so you can tune in and watch what happens (and maybe score some nice prizes). That also gives you the opportunity to affect gameplay with your donations.

Like how?
Well, for starters, you can affect the characters people play. Some of my teammates are selling the right to name their character or decide what race they should be for donations. Last year, I played as Havilar. This year, I’m taking votes. Your donation can gain a vote for a variety of characters, listed here

Oh my god–you’ll play as Lorcan?
It’s for the children. Every donation goes toward unlocking threshold goals too. For example if I raise $600, I’ll release a never-before-seen scene featuring the characters from The God Catcher. If I raise $1000, my character gets a free resurrection.

And if I raise my goal of $1800, I’m giving away a cool replica of Lorcan’s scourge pendant.

Hmm…that sounds cool and all. But I’d rather make sure you TPK have a lot of fun playing D&D by loading you up with monsters.
*Sigh.* You can also buy monsters by donating to the DM, Greg Bilsland.

Okay…hypothetically let’s say I want to make a donation, but I have no idea at all who these characters are. 
You don’t have to vote. Your donations are still welcome, Grandpa.

But if it helps, I’ll be posting little excerpts to orient you. Like this one for the first option, Oota:

***

Gray morning light rushed into the cell Dahl spent the night in, wrenching his pupils wide. He flinched as the headache that had been pounding harder and harder since his flask ran dry surged up behind his eyeballs.

“Get up,” a man said. “Oota says she’ll see you now.”

When Dahl didn’t get up fast enough, the man—a big human fellow— hauled him to his feet and out the door. A second man—a half-orc—wrapped a rope around Dahl’s wrists, tying them behind his back.

They didn’t go far—down the road a ways, every step guarded by a third man and a woman sweeping the cross-paths. A door opened, and the men pushed him through it. He blinked as his eyes readjusted to the gloom.

It looked as if the villagers had torn down one of the huts to make a courtyard, and what thatch they could reclaim had been built over the space, sheltering it from the weather. Dahl was dropped in the middle of the muddy space, facing a hut whose front wall was missing and a mountain of a man standing there.

Not a man, he corrected himself. A half-orc. A half-orc woman in men’s clothing, her dark hair cropped short, her bosom crushed into a hide chestplate. She was taller than Dahl by a head and a half and outweighed him, surely, by himself again. One parent’s blood had claimed her brutish features, her massive frame. But the cleverness in the single black eye that watched him struggle to his feet was something a human would gladly claim.

A shiver ran down Dahl’s back: Oota, and she was no one to trifle with, he was certain of that. A gesture and the big man untied Dahl—he knew as well as Oota did that it would be suicide to try anything.

“People tell me,” Oota said, “you’ve been asking how to find me. People tell me,” she continued stepping down from her dais, “you’ve been asking a lot of questions. Stirring people up. Making them worry.” She stopped in front of him. “I don’t like my people to worry.”

“You make it sound as if I were specifically harassing your folk,” Dahl said, “when I was asking everybody I found. Half-orcs, humans, elves . . .” His throbbing eyes had settled enough to see that in the dimmer corners where the firelight didn’t touch, there were scores more watching—humans and half-orcs . . . and dwarves, and half-elves, a tiefling, a pair of dragonborn. All Oota’s charges. Dahl cursed.

“You rule this place?” Dahl asked, trying again.

“I run it,” Oota said. “The parts that matter. There’s a difference.” She stooped so that their faces were nearly level—still too far for him to reach— and said softly, “One which you should appreciate, whoever you are. If I ruled this place, I’d have executed you already.”

She straightened. “First Tharra tells me she clashed with a man about your height and description, wearing one of the guard’s uniforms. Tells me I need eyes and hands ready, because someone else has a fool idea about serving the wizard and it might cost us in the end.”

“Are you going to wait for my end of it?” Dahl asked.

Oota chuckled. “What is it you think we’re doing here, son?”

Dahl tried to think of an answer. None made any more sense than “a farm for Chosen.” He saw Tharra ease in a side door, Oota’s guardsmen watching. He was caught—another mission falling apart. Time to be honest, he thought, and see what happens.

“My name is Dahl Peredur,” he said. “I was taken by accident, brought to this place with another. I stole the uniform to escape the fortress. And then I stole these clothes when I realized walking around in that uniform gets me punched. I’m not with the wizard, I don’t know the wizard. I’m just trying to figure out what in all the Hells and farther planes is going on so I can get word out to the proper people and maybe—maybe—save you all.”

“How soon?” Tharra asked from the shadows.

Oota shot her a dirty look. “What makes you think we need saving?”
“Look, you’re not military—the children make that clear,” Dahl said. “You’re not a village—you have almost no way of feeding yourselves beyond the rations and the gardens, and I haven’t found a drop of bloody liquor in this whole town. That wall says this is a prison—a war camp—but I can’t figure out what it is you’ve done to deserve that. You clearly weren’t here before. If you’re displaced, then no one has good intelligence on what Shade is doing. What is it?”

Oota gave him a toothy smile. “We like to say ‘the misfortune of being blessed.’ ” The crowd tittered.

Dahl bit back his frustration. “What does that even mean? You’re all being so damned cryptic—I can help you.” He looked over at Tharra and rolled his right sleeve up past the elbow. He rubbed his forearm, as if it were bothering him, and muttered under his breath, “Vivex prujedj.” Under his fingers, a harp and moon sigil burned up through the skin, shining blue with hidden magic before fading to a normal, indigo tattoo. He moved his hand to his wrist, so that Tharra could see the mark.

“You have something to say, Goodman Peredur,” Oota said, “you need to speak up.”

“I’m on your side,” Dahl said to Tharra. “What do I need to do to convince you of that?”

Oota laughed once, as if he’d made a weak jest. “Hamdir,” she said, and one of the human guards stood. “Our guest complains he’s thirsty. Get him a flagon of the wizard’s finest.” She looked to Tharra. “Unless you object?” she said, all false compliance.

Tharra stared at Dahl. “It’s the only way to be sure.” Dahl’s stomach knotted.

Behind Oota, the guard poured a measure of dark liquid into a plain flagon, then an equal measure of water. He held the flagon as far from his body as possible as he carried it to Oota, but Tharra intervened and took the vessel from him.

“Who do you intend to share the vision?” she asked.
Oota lifted her chin. “Do you imply I can’t?”
Tharra gave her a look of disappointment. “When did we become enemies,Oota? Of course that’s not what I mean.” She looked into the mug. “I’m offering to do it myself. Take the headache off your hands,” she added with a friendly smile. “You’ve too much to do.”

Oota watched her, guarded. “We’re not enemies,” she said, somewhat warily. As if she were saying it as much for the crowd’s benefit as Tharra’s. “We are good friends and allies. But why,” she added, slyer, “are you offering yourself?”

Tharra considered Dahl again. “Well, I did give him that bruise. I like to know I’m right. Or at least, take my lumps if I’m wrong.”

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