Monday, December 8, 2014

Magic doesn't solve everything by Blaine D. Arden

In the world of the Fifth Son, every person--not counting Llyskel--possesses magic to some degree. From boiling water for tea to turning on the lights at night, spells are used for every day chores. On top of that, every person performs magic while they work as well, whether it's curing leather or fighting the enemy.

But energy isn't limitless. Small spells--like the abovementioned boiling water--barely don't cost much at all, but the specialised spells need more. The harder the spells, the longer they are maintained, the more energy they cost.

While this applies to every profession, the consequences of energy drain are more severe for the soldiers of the King's Guards. As wonderful as it would be to slay the enemy with magic alone, it's just not possible. The risk of running out of energy during a battle is too big, and would only lead to disaster, to defeat.

That is why soldiers aren't merely trained in magical combat, they are trained in physical combat as well. They start out learning to hold their own in old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat, and work their way up to using ordinary non-magical weapons like short blades, sticks, and swords. Of course, physical training serves a dual purpose; it's a good way to stay fit and work on one's endurance.

As for their battle magic... To help channel their magic for aim and precision, all soldiers have a gun-like, copper weapon called a shooter. That isn't to say soldiers can't perform these spells without the aim of a shooter, but a shooter helps them be more accurate at a distance. And while shooters can be used at any distance, battle field spells are mostly used for ranged attacks.

The Giveaway:
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of The Fifth Son in format of choice (epub/mobi/pdf)

The Fifth Son by Blaine D. Arden
cover by Simoné -
illustrations by Yana Goya

A prince without power
In a land where magic is commonplace, Prince Llyskel has none. He can’t command spells, he has never been taught to fight, and as the fifth son of the King, he will never rule. Everyone believes he’s a weakling, most of all himself.
Powerlessness is Llyskel’s problem-and his pleasure. In his secret fantasies, the prince dreams of nothing more than finding himself helpless at another man’s hands… particularly the hands of Captain Ariv of the Guards.
Then Ariv makes Llyskel’s dream a reality, and as the powerless prince surrenders to the soldier’s desire, he finds his own true strength at last. But a web of royal politics is closing around Llyskel, threatening to tear him from his lover, and it will take all his newfound courage to escape…

     The field was doused in sunlight, drifting dry sand, and sweaty soldiers practising their swordplay and stick fighting. I managed to find a spot in the shade, away from the blowing sand. I started with a bit of sketching first. The soldiers closest to me fought with sticks-long ones, short ones, single and double. I sketched their poses, their hits, their misses, feeling the ground tremble beneath me as the practising became more aggressive. By the time I finished the last of my sketches, my throat was dry, despite sitting away from the sand-blowing wind, and my voice was scratchy as I asked Neia for some water. The soldiers, while sweaty, hardly seemed tired. Training was far from over.
     I put a canvas on my easel and looked around the field, sipping my water, searching for an appealing object to paint. Captain Ariv wasn't training, himself; he was supervising a group on the other side of the field in hand-to-hand combat. Still, I could not help staring at him and the way his skin glistened in the sunshine.
     "Ogling the men, Llyskel? Seems like you found the perfect spot for it."
     Kalnor stood behind me, long blond hair falling in his eyes as he looked down at me.
     "Kalnor. Good to see you." I smiled at him and patted the ground. "Sit. You can join me for a moment, can't you? I'm sure your siblings won't mind."
     "If it means ogling my beloved Endyrr a little longer, I'm game." Kalnor sat down beside me. "My siblings be damned."
     We both gazed across the field, to where Endyrr swung his long stick about with ease, holding off his attacker, while explaining his moves to his group.
      Kalnor sighed. "I could watch him at this all day."
      I looked from Endyrr to Kalnor and knew I had my model. It had been a while since I had painted any of my brothers. I was about to tell him when a high-pitched screaming interrupted our conversation. We both turned our heads to the row of orrin bushes across from the entrance in the garden wall. I didn't see Sirr or Inau, but Neia had already raised a shield to block any stray magic coming from my frustrated little niece, who must have escaped her mother. I smiled at Neia, mouthing my thanks, and hoped Sirr was still within the inner walls and nowhere near the training fields.
      "How long has Sirr been volatile?" Kalnor asked.
      "About a week, I think." A long week in which I hadn't even caught a glimpse of her. She usually enticed me to play marbles with her at least once a day, or joined me as I painted, creating her own art with her colouring sticks or old brushes I saved for her. "She already hurt two of the kitchen staff because they weren't shielding themselves properly."
      "So, you're allowed nowhere near her, I take it?"
     "I'm not allowed anywhere near the annex at the west wall, which is where Danen and Inau have moved for the time being. And Sirr is not allowed in the castle or past that row of orin bushes. I guess it's a fair trade-off."
     "Nothing as dangerous as a child coming into their powers. Mother said I nearly burnt the house down."
     I still remembered the look on my parents' faces when they realised I would never come into my powers. I envied Sirr, tantrums and all. And I missed playing with her.
      As I turned back to the training field. Endyrr's group had moved closer and switched to swords. Perfect. No doubt Kalnor would very much like to have a painting of Endyrr with his sword in his workshop.
     Kalnor got up and dusted off his leather work tunic and trousers. "If I want to meet Endyrr for dinner tonight, I'd best get back to work."
     I nodded and wished him well, never taking my eyes off Endyrr. I grabbed my brush and my palette and studied the way he moved, the way he raised his brow when his opponent made a mistake, the way he held his shield. I barely noticed I had started the first lines even before I decided on the pose. Endyrr moving around made it difficult to choose, but when I found a pose I liked, it didn't matter that he wouldn't stand still. Once I had that image in my head, the painting would almost paint itself. I copied the pose of Endyrr with his sword slightly raised, shield hip high, and his face in full sunlight. Maybe I could surprise Kalnor by delivering the painting to his workshop later this week. I enjoyed walking into town, even with Neia trailing after me.
     Sirr's screaming stopped at last. I turned my head to check on Neia, who slumped as she released her shield. She immediately started a relaxation exercise, because holding up a shield for that long took its toll. I sighed. Neia was just doing her job, and I often treated her as if she was unwanted. Maybe she would like a painting of her own.
     The ground shook as something hit it with a loud thump, and I turned back to watch the soldiers. The soldier training with Endyrr had gone down. I would paint Neia another day. Today was Endyrr's turn.
     Endyrr leaned on his sword, panting, but only until the next soldier took his place before him. This one attacked at once, and then ducked behind Endyrr. How he could even sense where his opponent was, I had no idea, but Endyrr did not have any trouble fighting him off and forcing him back.
     By the time I moved on to sketching the background, Endyrr had long stopped fighting and was now merely instructing his soldiers as they practised their moves. I put my tools down for a moment and gratefully took the water Neia handed me, gulping it down as I searched the field for a moment, but Captain Ariv was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he had taken his soldiers on a run.
     "Kalnor will no doubt love the pose."
     Captain Ariv's voice washed over me, and I was glad to have drained my cup already, I would have ruined the painting otherwise.
      He looked down into my face with that wide grin plastered on. "I'm sorry, Your Highness. I didn't mean to startle you."
     I narrowed my eyes. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was doing it on purpose, but I refused to show he got to me. "Kalnor will see it every day, once I hang it in his workshop."
      "He'll never get any work done."
     I couldn't help but smile. "Or it might make him work faster, knowing the original is waiting to dine with him."
      "True, Your Highness, very true."
     No matter how gorgeous Ariv looked in my paintings, it didn't compare to seeing him standing in the shade, glistening with sweat and sand-dust after a hard day's work. I would never leave my gallery if I had him in there with me, looking as he did now.
      Ariv leaned over my shoulder, and I caught his scent of sweat, sand, and clove oil. I sat on my hands. It was all I could do not to pull him into my lap.
     "I can't wait to see what it looks like with a proper background." And with that, Ariv turned and walked away.
Some questions for the readers. The only battle spells I mention in the Fifth Son are the stunning spell and shielding. What sort of spells do you think would be useful in battle? Also, Ariv's favourite weapons are the short blades or sticks, depending on his mood. What would your favourite weapons be?

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Blaine D. Arden is a purple-haired, forty-something author of gay & trans* romance mixed with fantasy, mystery, and magic who sings her way through life in platform boots.

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