I’m excited to announce that as of this morning, In the Enemy’s Service is available from Amazon.com!  Click here to order the Kindle version of this young adult action/adventure fantasy novel for just $2.99.  You can buy the paperback here for $9.99.  It is also available in other formats such as Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo here.

Below is the prologue to whet your appetite.  Enjoy!  Please tell your friends!


Anya stared glumly at her plate.  The little half-eaten mound of cabbage seemed to stare back at her, mocking her hunger.  She took her time finishing her final bite of bread with its thin scraping of butter, trying to make it last.

“Can’t we have something else, Father?” she begged, poking at the cabbage with her fork.  “How about dessert?  I could make us a pie.”

From across the table, her older brother Arvalon chuckled scornfully.  “With what?  There’s no fruit in the house, and we’re out of sugar anyway.”

“And we need the last of the flour for tomorrow’s bread,” their father reminded them.  “I’m sorry.  I know you’re hungry, but just finish up your vegetables for now.  I’ll get paid tomorrow when that customer comes to pick up the lanterns he ordered.  Then next week we’re taking another load of tea to Malorn, and if it sells well we’ll be fine for a while.  In the meantime, we just have to tighten our belts a little.  These things happen.”

Anya nibbled at her cabbage, resisting the urge to make a face.  In spite of what her father had said, she couldn’t remember money ever having been this tight before.  Father was a merchant, and although their family wasn’t rich, they had always had what they needed.  But for some reason, everything seemed to have been going wrong with his business this summer.  Customers had inexplicably cancelled orders, suppliers had been out of the items he wanted, goods he had bought in other towns to sell had spoiled or been damaged or stolen along the way.  For weeks now, Father had worn a worried expression nearly all the time, and lately he had been spending every evening poring over the account books in his study.  He hadn’t bought meat for the table in over a fortnight, and supper portions had been growing smaller and smaller.  Now Anya and Arvalon were starting to grow worried too.  What would happen if their family’s bad luck continued?  Father refused to beg from the neighbors, and none of their relatives lived close by.  Surely the three of them wouldn’t actually starve.  Such things didn’t happen to people in real life.  Did they? 

When a knock sounded on the front door, Anya jumped up to answer it.  Customers and business associates often stopped by in the evenings, so perhaps it was good news.  Maybe someone wanted to place an order.

A young boy was waiting on the step.  “Sorry to interrupt your supper,” he apologized when Anya let him into the dining room.  “My father sent me to say he won’t be needing those lanterns after all.” 

The three of them stared at him dismay.  “Why not?” Arvalon demanded.  “We brought them all the way from Wistra.”  Anya knew that her brother had loaded the cart himself, padding the boxes carefully with straw so none of the valuable glass lanterns would break on the way.  Father was training him to be a merchant too, and he took the job seriously.

The boy shrugged.  “Father got some from someone else at a better price.  Thanks anyway.”

When the door had shut behind him, a discouraged silence settled over the family.  Arvalon was the first to break it.  “What are we going to do now?”

Their father sighed.  “Take the lanterns to the market, I suppose.  Maybe Porlim can help me sell at least some of them.”  He pushed back his chair and began pacing back and forth distractedly.  “Why does this keep happening?  I was counting on that sale.  I haven’t even paid for them yet, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to now.”

“Which means we’ll owe interest,” Arvalon grumbled.  “And those Wistran glassmakers never allow returns.”

And what about buying food? Anya wondered.  She knew exactly how much money was left in the savings box Father kept under his bed, because she had borrowed the little key from his desk drawer and checked that morning when he thought she was getting ready for school.  One silver coin and three coppers.  That was all.  She nibbled worriedly on her thumbnail, wondering what they would do when the coins were gone.

Catching sight of her expression, Father stopped pacing.  “Don’t worry, Anya.  And don’t bite your nails.  Look at us, acting as though there’s no hope.  Things will turn out all right.”  He smiled, but it was what Anya had learned to recognize as his just for the children smile.  He wasn’t really feeling cheerful.  “Times are hard right now, but we’ll get through this.”  Father looked around the room.  “Why, we have lots of things in here that we barely use.  If we have to, we’ll just do a little housecleaning and get rid of a few of them.  Someone would probably pay good money for the silver candlestick, for example.”

“But that was Mother’s,” Anya protested.  She had never actually known her mother, who had died ten years ago, when Anya was a baby.  Mother’s special possessions were all they had left of her, and it felt disloyal to think of selling them.  Surely things weren’t that bad yet.

Four coins in the money box.  Yes, perhaps things were that bad.

Father retreated to his study to look over the accounts again, leaving his children to do their evening chores.  Arvalon headed out to the stable to feed their two horses while Anya cleared the table, filled a bucket from the pump out back, and started washing dishes.

“That was the last of the hay,” Arvalon reported grimly, stomping back in and scraping the mud off his shoes.

Anya stared at her brother in alarm.  How did horses tighten their belts?  Maybe they could tighten their saddle girths.

At that moment there was another knock on the door.  She and Arvalon looked at each other, neither eager to answer it this time.  Could someone be bringing them more bad news?

“I’ll get it,” Anya finally volunteered when it didn’t appear that anyone else was going to.  Drying her hands on the dish towel, she crossed the dining room and opened the front door.

A man she had never seen before stood there, holding a flat leather case like the one Father sometimes used for carrying sheets of parchment.  “Good evening,” he greeted her with a smile.  “I’m here to see Karro.  Is he available?”

Anya turned to call her father, but he was already hurrying out of his study toward them.  “Oh.  It’s you.  Well, come in.”  He didn’t sound particularly happy about it, Anya thought, as the stranger wiped his feet on the mat and stepped inside.  Actually, he seemed downright uncomfortable.  Did he owe this man money, perhaps? 

Father ushered the stranger into his study and closed the door behind them.  An instant later the lock clicked, and Anya and Arvalon turned to each other in surprise.  Their father had never locked them out before.  Even important meetings usually took place in the sitting room, with tea or coffee and snacks for all.  Arvalon, who was fifteen and would be a full partner in the business later that year when he finished school, was often invited to join in.  Anya had seldom been interested in their discussions, preferring to practice her sewing or read a book, but Father normally didn’t mind if she sat with them and munched the snacks while she did it.  So why was he locking the door now?

Beside her, Arvalon grinned.  “You want to hear what they’re saying?”


“I know a trick.  I’ll show you.”  Darting into the kitchen, he took two of the wooden cups she had just finished washing from the drain board and handed one to her.  With a conspiratorial wink, he tiptoed to the study and set the mouth of his softly against the closed door, pressing his ear to the cup’s flat base.

Anya watched him doubtfully.  “Are you sure we should be doing this?”

Arvalon frowned and put a finger to his lips.  His expression was already distant as he listened, and Anya’s curiosity got the better of her.  She placed her cup against the door beside his and pressed her ear against it.  To her surprise, she could hear faint but distinct voices from the room beyond.

“So, have you thought over my offer?” the stranger asked.

“Yes,” their father replied, “but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.  I want to know more.”

“You know all you need to,” the man assured him.  “I’m prepared to pay you right now if you’re ready to show me what I’ve asked.  And I have eleven potential customers just waiting to be put in touch with you from Mosra, Timenka, Drall, Sazellia, and here in Almar.  Oh, and I know an innkeeper who’s looking to buy a number of glass lanterns to replace the torches he’s been using.  You wouldn’t happen to have any in stock at the moment, would you?”

Anya and Arvalon exchanged surprised glances.  “How do you know about that?” their father demanded, obviously equally surprised.

His guest chuckled.  “I make it my business to know such things.  And speaking of business, are you interested or not?  I have their orders with me now, and I’ll send messages out to each of the eleven first thing in the morning if you’re ready to settle this tonight.”

There was a long silence.  Then their father sighed.  “Three more of my regular customers cancelled their orders this week.  Four, counting the lanterns this evening.  I don’t understand why that’s been happening to me so much lately; I mean, I’m not doing anything different.  I’ve been working as hard as I always have, but everything keeps going wrong, and now the bills are piling up.  I must admit it’s a tempting offer.  But what are you going to do with the information?”

The stranger chuckled again.  “A friend of mine wants to know, that’s all.  What does it matter to you?  A few marks with a pen, and your financial worries are over.  Oh, and if it would make you feel any better, we never had this conversation.”

There was another long silence, and then Anya heard her father say, “Fine.  Let me see it.”  There was a crackly noise, like parchment being spread out, and a few moments later her father sighed again.  “Well, there you go.”

She heard the jingle of coins; rather a lot of coins, from the sound of it.  Were they silver?  Gold?  Surely no one would be paying for something that sounded this important in mere copper.  Anya grinned, imagining steak and mashed potatoes on the menu for next week.  Roast chicken with gravy.  Peach pie.  Apple tarts.  Vanilla pudding.  Lemonade.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the stranger announced, and Arvalon jumped aside, dragging Anya with him into the kitchen an instant before the study door opened.  They heard Father escort his guest out of the house before he returned to the study briefly and then to his bedroom.  Putting the money away, Anya guessed.

“What do you suppose Father did to get all that?” Arvalon wondered in a low voice.

Anya couldn’t imagine.  “I don’t know, but who cares?  We’re not poor anymore!”

They both turned around as Father joined them in the kitchen, wearing his just for the children smile once again.  “Who wants to go out to supper?”

“But we just finished supper,” Arvalon pointed out, puzzled.  “Father, who was that man?”

“A new customer who paid in advance,” Father replied dismissively.  “You call what we had supper?  I’m still starving.  Come on, get your coats and we’ll go find ourselves a real meal.  How about that place by the beach that serves grilled shrimp?  On the way over we’ll see if the bakery is still open and pick up something for dessert.”

“Hooray!”  Anya ran for her room, delighted at the prospect of a proper meal and the end of belt-tightening season.  But as she yanked her light summer coat out of the closet, she couldn’t help but wonder why Father didn’t want them to know the details of this arrangement.  He had never been secretive about his work before.

When she returned to the dining room, her father was already waiting, his own coat over his arm.  He didn’t see her coming as he leaned against the doorjamb, staring down at the floor.  There was no question about it, his expression was troubled.  But he looked up quickly as his son and daughter entered the room, and Anya knew the smile he put on was artificial once again as he beamed at them from the doorway.  “Everything is going to be all right now.  Our troubles are over.  Let’s go celebrate!”

Click here for information about Prince of Alasia, the first book in the series.

Here’s the first chapter of my first book, Prince of Alasia.  Take a look (or direct your friends over to take a look) and see what you think!

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Prince of Alasia (kindle version)

Prince of Alasia (paperback version)

Prince of Alasia
Chapter 1
Jaymin knew he would never forget that terrible night.

He was sound asleep in his room in the palace when Erik, his youngest bodyguard and closest friend, shook him abruptly awake.

“Jaymin! Jaymin, wake up! Something awful is happening,” Erik had hissed in a frantic whisper.

Groggy and disoriented, Jaymin sat up in bed, clutching the heavy woolen blankets to his chest. For a split second he couldn’t understand what Erik was talking about, and then from somewhere in another part of the palace he heard muffled shouts and the metallic clash of swords.

Swords? In the palace? Suddenly wide awake, Jaymin shoved back the blankets and sprang out of bed, fumbling in the chilly near-darkness for his clothes. The fire in the grate across the room had died down to glowing embers, and at this time of year the air had a bite to it, even indoors. He shivered as he snatched up the garments a servant had laid out for him the evening before.

“Hurry,” Erik whispered urgently, yanking a coat on over his night clothes and gliding over to listen by the door. Outside, the sounds of swords and shouting were growing louder.

Why hasn’t anyone come to tell me what’s happening?Jaymin wondered, tugging his tunic over his head. Where were the guards who always patrolled the corridor at night? “Guards!” he called out just in case, raising his voice as he jammed his feet into his shoes. “Guards?”

“Shh!” Erik hissed, gesturing frantically at him to be quiet, his ear still glued to the crack by the door. There was no other response.

Suddenly Erik leaped back, and the next instant the door flew open, making Jaymin jump. Erik slid instantly into position, slipping into a defensive half-crouch with both hands in front of him, ready for action. He had no weapon, but he needed none. Erik was an expert in unarmed combat, and although he was just a boy, his skills made him the perfect bodyguard for the young prince.

Those skills were not needed now, however. Into the room swept Sir Edmend, a loyal member of the king’s Council of Advisors. He, too, wore only a coat over his night clothes, and his graying hair stuck out in all directions. He was followed closely by a nervous-looking young guard with a drawn sword, his blue and white uniform damp with sweat in spite of the night’s chill.

“Your Highness!” Sir Edmend, out of breath and looking anxious but relieved, hurried up to Jaymin as Erik slid silently aside. “Thank goodness you’re still safe – I thought for certain they’d be in here before now. Quick, come with us.”

“Don’t worry, your Highness, I’ll protect you,” the guard added proudly, flourishing his sword with a dramatic flair. Though Jaymin couldn’t recall his name, he recognized the young man as the newest member of the palace guard. He had taken the oath of allegiance only last week, and was full of that enthusiasm and eagerness for action that new guards often displayed.

“What’s happening?” Jaymin demanded, as he and Erik followed Sir Edmend through the bedroom door, half-running to keep up with his swift strides. The guard paused to quietly pull the door shut and then hurried after them, boots thudding in a staccato rhythm on the hard stone floor. “Where are we going?”

“This way.” Without answering the first question, the old advisor led them rapidly down the wide hallway, strangely deserted, though from just around the corner they could hear shouts and screams and crashing noises, as if doors were being broken down. His heart pounding with excitement and confusion, Jaymin hastened after Sir Edmend away from the sounds, following him into a smaller hallway used mainly by servants. The alarming noises grew fainter as the four of them hurried down back staircases and little used corridors, lit only by the occasional smoky lamp and by moonlight streaming through the windows. Now and again they passed frightened servants scurrying about, but aside from the young man behind him, Jaymin didn’t see a single guard anywhere. Had they all deserted? Been killed? Left their posts to go fight whoever was breaking down the doors? Or were the guards themselves the ones causing all the commotion?

From somewhere ahead and to the left came the bang of a door being flung open, and bellowing voices and heavy footsteps burst forth, startlingly close. Sir Edmend stopped in his tracks so abruptly that the others nearly plowed into him. Jaymin grabbed Erik’s arm for balance as the guard bumped into them both, almost knocking them over. They all glanced around frantically for somewhere to hide as the shouting voices drew nearer.

“In here!” Erik whispered, yanking open the door of a closet on their left and pushing Jaymin inside. The others crowded in after him, stumbling against mops and brooms and bundles of dusting rags as they squeezed into the tiny space. Jaymin knocked his head on a shelf in the closet’s dim interior as Sir Edmend backed in against him, trying to pull the door shut. But the little closet was not designed to hold four people, and the door wouldn’t quite close. They all held their breath and watched through the crack as half a dozen soldiers charged by brandishing swords and torches, shadows fleeing before them and sweeping after as they passed. Jaymin was hardly surprised, at this point, to see that their uniforms were not the familiar blue and white livery of the palace guard, nor the dark green of the Alasian army, but wine-red and black.

“They’re Malornians, aren’t they?” he guessed, frowning in confusion, after the shouting had faded and Sir Edmend had finally sighed with relief and let the door swing open.

His father’s friend swatted at a couple of brooms that had toppled over against him and gave a brusque nod as he peered both ways before stepping back out into the hall. “Yes, I think so. I don’t know how they got in, but there seem to be more of them than of our people in the palace now.”

“And outside in the city, too,” added the young guard grimly, pulling his boot out of the mop bucket it had been wedged in and ushering Jaymin out of the closet ahead of him. “Have you looked through a window lately? Almar seems to be swarming with Malornian soldiers. We have to get you away from here, your Highness.” A sudden volley of distant screams from the direction in which the soldiers had disappeared punctuated his words, and he glanced around nervously, gripping his sword hilt with white knuckles.

The four of them set off down the corridor once more, their steps even faster now. Jaymin tried to puzzle out what was happening as he followed Sir Edmend down another narrow staircase. Malornian soldiers in Alasia? Was this the beginning of a war? But why would the Malornians attack his kingdom? Alasia and Malorn had no official alliance, but they had gotten along peacefully for decades.

The neighboring kingdom had been ruled by King Kerman until his death several years ago, and was now under Kerman’s son, Prince Korram. Jaymin knew that Malornian law prevented the teenaged ruler from actually being crowned king until he turned eighteen, but he didn’t know much else about Korram. He had met the other prince only once, four years ago, but Jaymin would never have predicted Korram would someday send his army to attack Alasia for no apparent reason.

“Careful now,” Sir Edmend warned softly, motioning the little group to stand back as he paused before a door that stood ajar on the right, spilling torchlight into their corridor. “We have to get through the banquet hall here without being seen.” He leaned forward and peered in cautiously.

Jaymin could see the banquet hall in his mind. It was the largest room in the palace, with seating for over three hundred. Last night at supper it had been nearly full, but he knew it would be empty and bare now. They might be able to hide under the long wooden tables, he thought, if anyone came in before they got through. The room had five doors: this one, a matching one in the opposite wall, two small servants’ doorways leading to a kitchen, and the large double doors in the western wall, which always stood open to welcome guests on feast days.

Sir Edmend drew back and hastily stepped away from the door. “There are soldiers in there,” he whispered tersely. “Six of them. We’ll never get through.”

“Can’t we go a different way?” wondered the guard, casting anxious glances all around. “We can’t just wait here in the hallway. Someone’s sure to come along.”

He was obviously a little excited as well as scared, though he was trying hard to cover it, Jaymin thought. He looked young: probably no more than eighteen, and now facing a crisis his first week on the job. Jaymin would have to recommend that he receive a commendation for this later.

“There’s only one other way around, and it would take too long,” Sir Edmend groaned in frustration. “We have to get the prince out, and we have to do it now. They must be combing the palace for him already. It’s just a matter of time until….” He glanced at Jaymin and let his sentence trail off.

“But why –” Jaymin began, still confused.

“I know!” exclaimed the young guard in a sudden whisper, in his excitement probably not even realizing he had interrupted the prince. “We need a diversion. I know what to do.” Quickly but quietly, he pushed them all forward past the doorway, through which Jaymin caught a brief glimpse of tables and benches and a brightly tapestried wall, and stopped them just beyond the doorway, where the angle of the open door blocked their view into the room. Suddenly the guard seemed more nervous, his face paler than it had been a moment ago. “Wait here,” he breathed, shifting his sword from hand to hand as he wiped sweaty palms on his tunic. He paused, licked his lips, and glanced at Jaymin, looking as though he wanted to say something but couldn’t quite find the words. Then he forced a grin and bowed, straightened his shoulders, gripped his sword, and pulled the door wide open, stepping boldly around it out of their sight.

“This way, your Highness,” he exclaimed in a loud voice, and then stopped short. “Oh, no! There are soldiers in here! Quick, go the other way! I’ll be right behind you.” He turned and they could hear him sprinting back down the hallway in the direction from which they had come.

Jaymin held his breath, frozen in place beside Erik, as voices roared from inside the banquet hall. “Did you hear that? He’s got the prince with him! After them!” There was the crash of a bench overturning and the thud of boots pounding across the floor. Jaymin, Erik, and Sir Edmend shrank back as the soldiers poured through the doorway and turned left, running full tilt down the hall. Jaymin risked a quick glance around the door and caught a glimpse of the young guard disappearing around a corner, half a dozen red and black clad soldiers in hot pursuit, before Erik grabbed his arm and jerked him back out of sight again.

Sir Edmend drew a deep breath as the booted footsteps faded in the distance. “Well, he’s cleared the way and bought us a little time, and I hope he lives to tell of it. Now let’s go.” They hurried into the banquet hall, staying around the edge to avoid having to weave between tables, and darted through one of the smaller doors into a shadowy kitchen. Then it was out of the kitchen through a back entrance and down a dark corridor through which they felt their way to an even darker staircase, half stumbling down its narrow, creaky steps.

Finally, the trio arrived at a low door in the wall of a damp cellar somewhere below the palace kitchens. Sir Edmend fished out a jingling bunch of keys from his coat pocket and inserted one into the keyhole. It turned reluctantly, as though the lock had not been touched for years, and the door finally opened with a grinding creak. Jaymin peered in, seeing only a low, narrow hallway, or possibly a tunnel, stretching into musty-smelling black nothingness.

“It’s a secret exit,” explained Sir Edmend, gesturing for them to enter. “It will take us out into the forest on the other side of the hills.” He groped around on a shelf just inside the doorway. “There should be candles in here somewhere.…”

“But we can’t just leave the palace,” protested Jaymin, belatedly realizing that they had not come here to meet his parents and make some sort of plan or at least escape together, as he had assumed. “Not if everyone is in danger. We’ve got to stay and help. I should be fighting beside my father. Where are my parents, anyway?”

Sir Edmend did not reply. He wouldn’t meet Jaymin’s gaze. “Your parents would have wanted you to leave, your Highness,” he murmured. “There’s nothing you can do here.”

And then Jaymin knew. He drew in his breath, and the world seemed to reel about him. Erik caught his arm to steady him, and Sir Edmend placed a compassionate hand on his shoulder.

“No,” Jaymin heard himself whispering hoarsely. “It can’t be true. It can’t. No!”

This is the final interview I’ve done with characters from my second novel, In the Enemy’s Service, due out two weeks from tomorrow.  Take a look at the first one, the interview with Anya, to read why I’ve been interviewing people from my world and where I got the idea in the first place.

I’ve chosen a table in a dimly-lit corner of the tavern, from which I can keep an eye on the door.  Dannel sent word that he would meet me here, and I arrived early to pick out a spot where no one would overhear us.  But I’m surprised when he materializes noiselessly out of the shadows nearby.  I’ve been watching the door for the last ten minutes and didn’t see him come in. 
“You’re in my seat.”  He stands over me, smiling.  “Please move.”  Though his words are polite, something about the way he says them makes me shiver.  I quickly get up and take the chair on the opposite side of the table.

“So.  You wanted to talk to me?”

“Um, yes.”  I glance quickly down at the paper I’ve brought.  “I have a few questions, if you don’t mind.”

“By all means.”  He gestures expansively.  “I’ll be glad to give you whatever information you require.  That is, after all, my business.  But I’m sure you understand that I don’t work for free.”

I expected this, and have come prepared.  I place a silver coin on the table between us.  He raises an eyebrow at it doubtfully and then casts me a glance as though to say, Is that all my information is worth to you?  But he shrugs and pockets the coin without a word.

1. Do you like your job?  Why or why not?

Dannel chuckles.  “I love my job!  There’s nothing like the thrill of successful deception.  Of course, that’s only a small part of what I do.  I’m in the intelligence business, and deception is just one of the means I employ.  It’s quite fulfilling, negotiating for the best possible price and then delivering critical information, usually to desperate people.  But I offer other services too.  If you ever need anyone taken out of the way, for example, I’m sure we could work something out.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I assure him.  “Next question.”

Dannel affects a look of surprise.  “You have more than one question?  You’ve only paid me for one answer.”

I sigh and take out a couple more coins, which he accepts with a courteous nod of thanks.

2. Do you have any friends?  Significant others?

“Of course not.  That would require trust, and I would never make the mistake of trusting anyone.”  Dannel glances around the tavern, his wary gaze confirming his words.

3. What is your idea of success?

“Infiltrating a target group, finding out exactly what I need to know while making them think they’re the ones I’m helping out, and convincing them to pay me for whatever I tell them I’m doing for them.  Then simply disappearing afterward; and – depending on the mission – they might never see me again before they feel my dagger between their shoulder blades.  And then returning to my grateful employer and getting paid even more to deliver the information I’ve learned, all the while planning the best time to sell him out to his enemies.”

I shudder, resolving to have nothing more to do with Dannel as soon as this interview is over.

4. What do you hate?

He doesn’t seem to have heard me, his eyes darting back and forth among the other patrons of the tavern.  I resist the urge to glance behind me to see who he’s watching.  Finally I realize why he hasn’t answered.  Counting the questions remaining on my sheet, I reach into my pocket and hand him eight more coins.  He counts them silently before sliding them into his own pocket.

“Stingy employers.”

5. What do you do in your spare time?

“Plan out the next job.  Design disguises.  Keep an eye on people and situations to see how I could use them for profit.”

“Surely you have some hobbies not related to work,” I press.

Dannel laughs.  “You’d never believe me if I told you, so let’s just leave it at that.”

6. What did you have for breakfast?

“Today?  Venison and fried potatoes at the Alasian army camp.  They’ve been on short rations since the Invasion, so there wasn’t much of it.  I bought some bread and fruit as soon as I got into Almar.”

7. Did you ever have a pet?  Describe it.

“No.  Pets mean attachment.”

8. Do you believe in luck? Why?

“Of course I do.  I make luck.  The ingredients are careful preparation and quick thinking.”

9. What is your favorite scent? Why?

He considers this for a moment.  “Skin paint.”

“Skin paint?” I echo. 

“It’s a handy mixture I designed,” Dannel explains.  “I use it to give myself scars or a tan or other features I need for disguises.  If I change the proportions a little, it works as hair dye too.”  He smiles.  “The scent of skin paint is the scent of danger, of excitement, of the thrill of a new mission and profit on the horizon.”

10. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen?


11. What is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you?

Dannel’s eyes grow distant.  “It was a long time ago, back near the beginning of my career.  I was working for a group of seafaring raiders; you know, the ones who attack coastal towns in those fast little ships, steal what they can, and then disappear among the rocky offshore islands.  They were paying me to help identify the best targets.  Long story short, the Alasian navy finally caught up with them, and there was a battle off the northwest coast.  I was on one of the raiders’ ships at the time; they were outnumbered, and we got boarded.  We all jumped overboard and tried to swim for shore, but most of us were caught and hauled on board one of the navy vessels.  It was winter, and I was wet and freezing and terrified I’d get killed or stuffed in a prison along with the raiders.  I was very young back then,” Dannel explains apologetically.  “But I managed to work it out in my favor.  I talked the captain into a deal, and ended up trading the location of their base for my freedom, a set of dry clothes, and ten gold coins.”  He sighs, remembering.  “I still regret not demanding twenty.”

I glance down at my list to double-check that that was the last question.  “Well, thank you, Dannel.  This has been most informative.  I appreciate –”  Wait.  I peer around, my eyes searching the shadows, but his chair is empty.  “Dannel?”  I twist in my own chair to examine the rest of the tavern, but of course there is no sign of him.  I feel my shoulder blades twitch nervously.  “Dannel?”

Click here to read my other character interviews.