This is a short story I wrote as a background on one of the characters. This is only a tease, the first 1,100 words. If enough people are interested, I will make the completed story available for free on smashwords. And maybe put some other short stories set in this world out as well... while you wait for the novel.
By Mari L Miniatt
It was a nice day to take a break from the march. The minstrels had gathered together after getting their tents set up, and started a dice game. But nature called and Grail had to take a break. He heard someone sob, Grail buttoned his pants. He leaned so he could see around the tree. Sitting by the stream on a fallen log, the newest mage had her head down. Her body shook. The warm day would not have caused a chill.
He knew about her. A new recruit. Schooled somewhere in one of the southern countries. He had been close enough to the mage corp to have notice her before. She hadn't complained once, she kept her mouth shut. They had been on the march for seven days, not once did she act like any of the other mages. She kept her distance from them too.
That's why I noticed her, Grail thought.
“Recruit,” Grail said.
She wiped her eyes, using her robe. “Sir.”
“Novice... Sorry what was your name?” Grail asked.
“Morvana Van Rijn.”
“Van Rijn? Royalty?”
She shook her head. “Our family lost our lands generations ago. Royal only in name.”
“May I?” Grail asked. He motioned to the log.
Morvana moved over. He sat down, moving his bagpipe so it didn't hit her.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Fine, sir.” Her lower lip trembled.
Grail took off his hat, wiping his black hair away from his face. “I know you are not assigned to me, but that doesn't bother me. If you need to see a superior officer about anything. I'm more approachable than the stuck up ones.”
She gave him a small smile. “Thank you, but this is something I have to take care of myself.” She stood. “Thank you for asking.”
Morvana pulled her hood over her head and headed back to the camp. Grail watched her leave. He heard someone walking in the brush toward him.
“How long are you going to be?” The voice belonged to his friend Reggie.
Grail opened his sweet root pipe bag. “A few more minutes.”
Reggie leaned against a nearby tree. “You’re holding up the game.”
Grail lit his pipe. He blew the smoke away from Reggie. “What do you know of that new mage, Morvana?”
Grail chuckled. “Other than that.”
“She came with a recommendation from Captain Coyle.”
“Did she now?” Grail smiled. “That is impressive. He rarely hands those out.”
“That is why Van Philip put her with us and not with the new recruits.” Reggie gave him a knowing look. “You have your eye on her, don't you?”
“She was distraught, but wouldn't tell me why.”
“Talk to Mattias, he's in the mage corps.”
“I think I will.”
“How many of the women in this squad have you bedded already?”
Grail shook his head. “One, none of your business. And two, my interest in her has nothing to do with that.”
“You are an ass, Reggie.” Grail stood up. “The only reason I got those women, is because they were crying over how you treated them.”
Reggie shook his head. “Let's go finish that game.”
Grail walked back with him to the camp, finishing his pipe. The musicians had gathered in the behind the cook’s tent to play dice. The smell of dinner cooking drifted through the trees. In the circle of minstrels, Leon threw the dice on the ground.
“Damn.” he pointed to Grail. “Good you're back. I have to win my pay back.”
“Like you could.” Grail sat down on the ground. He grabbed the dice and tossed them. They landed. “Not today.”
“Pult.” Leon spit.
Grail and Reggie laughed.
Leon threw the dice. He grunted when they landed. Then he stood and walked away. Another musician took his place. Someone shouted. Grail picked up the dice and shook them. A noise like meat sizzling on a fire, but much louder, made Grail turn to look. A young mage hung upside down in mid-air. Morvana held her staff out in front of her. She moved the staff and the mage bounced in the air. Reggie chuckled.
“What the fenn?” Leon asked.
Grail walked over to the mage camp. Other soldiers came closer, forming a ring around the tents. Mages rarely fought amongst themselves, this was unusual. Mattias, the commander of the mages, ran over to the camp.
He shouted. Morvana lowered her staff. The suspended mage grunted as he hit the soft dirt. Mattias pointed to his tent and ordered Morvana to meet him there.
“What do you think all that is about?” Reggie asked.
Grail shrugged. “Lets find out.”
They walked over to the mage camp. The one that had landed on the ground, glared at them as they approached.
“Learning to fly?” Reggie asked.
“Go beat your drum somewhere else,” the mage said.
Grail sighed. Another arrogant one, he thought. Why do so many of these mages have sticks up their asses.
“I will beat my drum,” Reggie grinned. “On your head.”
“Now, now, Reg,” Grail said, smiling. “I think he needs a refresher in spotting a superior officer.” Grail pointed to the rank insignia on his shoulder. “Recognize this? Color Sergeant. Out ranks you.”
The mage brushed the dirt off his robe. “Doesn't matter, when I get out of here, I will go home to my estate and employ someone like you to clean my horse barn.”
Reggie grabbed Grail's arm. Grail snorted. “Really? First you have to get out of here, puck. Do you think we are marching because we like the view?”
“The civil war is over, we are at peace,” the mage said. “Nothing is going to happen.”
“Your name.” Reggie commanded.
The mage scoffed.
“Your name, you worthless pile of kop!”
For a brief moment, the arrogance had been replaced by fear in the mage's eyes. “James D'Abor.”
Grail and Reggie shared a glance.
“D'Abor?” Grail asked. “No wonder you didn't want to give your name. How do you like working for the people your family lost to?”
James eyes narrowed. “It’s in the past.”
“Leave it there.” Grail crossed his arms. “So why did that other mage hang you upside down?”
“What sort of misunderstanding?”
“Grail. Reggie. What are you doing here?” Mattias asked. He placed himself between them and James. Morvana stood to the side, glaring at James.
“We saw there was some trouble-” Reggie said.
“It's been dealt with.” Mattias motioned Morvana to stay. “But I am glad you are here. I want to send a small squad ahead.”
“Reason?” Grail asked.
“A little look around, that’s all. I was hoping you would go. The musicians rarely go on these trips. Besides I think Morvana could do with a bit of time away from the army's main body.”
Grail tried not to smile when he saw Morvana’s surprised look on her face. “I'll do it,” he said.
Reggie chuckled. Grail stomped on his foot.
“Good,” Mattias said. “Come to my tent for a briefing. You will be leaving after supper.”
He turned. Morvana glanced at James, then followed Mattias.
by Mari Miniatt