Occasionally on Tuesday, I like to share something that I make that's yummy, preferably healthy, and easy to make during a long day of writing. Today I'm featuring what has to be the world's best stuffed bell peppers. Now, I know stuffed peppers usually aren't anything to get very excited about, but these are, for one reason: bacon.
Yes, these stuffed peppers have bacon in them. And almost everything is better with bacon. These aren't necessarily easy, though since I'm only feeding the two of us (or three of us, when our younger son is home from college), I use my trick of cooking half the batch the day I make it and freezing the other half for another day. And even if it isn't easy, it's totally worth it.
Here's the original recipe, from AllRecipes Magazine. Go look at it, then come back and I'll tell you what I do differently. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/77194/bolognese-stuffed-bell-peppers/
Okay, you're back. First off, I found that the filling works for 4 whole medium-size bell peppers, or 8 half peppers sliced lengthwise, not 6 whole/12 half. When I'm dividing the batch, I put half the filling into 4 pepper halves, or 2 peppers, and freeze the other half of the filling in a freezer zipper bag. (When you freeze and cook another time, the rice does get a little mushy, but let's be honest. You're not eating this for the rice, you're eating it for the bacon.) I don't stuff the other peppers until the day of cooking. I like to get a combination of different color peppers; red and gold or orange are my favorites, because they're tasty and it makes a pretty and colorful presentation. Blanch the pepper halves in boiling water for about 30 - 60 seconds; this will help them cook better in the oven.
Also, the original recipe says you can use pancetta or bacon. I skip the fancy stuff and just use bacon. I figure one bacon strip per whole pepper (or four strips for the whole batch, to make filling for four peppers/8 halves). Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt anything if you throw in an extra strip :-D
On to the vegetables: I increase the minced carrots to about 1/4 c., skip the celery because gross, and also add about 1/4 cup finely diced bell peppers (green or red is my preference) and the same amount of finely diced zucchini. So along with the pepper halves that hold the whole thing, you're getting a bunch of good veggies. You could also add finely chopped spinach if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not, but if you are, that's ok. I won't judge you.
Prepared marinara sauce: I just get the Kroger store brand. It's good. You could get fancy and expensive here, but there's really no need to.
The recipe also calls for red wine, which I skip because I don't usually cook with it, and for heavy cream, which honestly seems like overkill when you're also using bacon and parmesan cheese in the filling. This recipe is rich enough without it (I can usually only eat one pepper half, or maybe one and a half, but not two) and it adds about a zillion calories. Use it if you want, but I don't.
Like I said, this is kind of a lot of work, but you can divide the recipe (or double it) and freeze half, so it's two meals for only a little more work than one. With so many vegetables, you don't need to make an extra salad or anything. I just get some bake-at-home french bread and throw it in the oven while the peppers bake, and there's dinner.
Finally surfacing for air after recovering from getting For the Wildings ready to release and diving into the next projects on the list. It's still hard to believe that Daughter of the Wildings is complete and published (except for the paperback; I've just started working on that). It started as just an experiment about 4 1/2 years ago, then that one book turned into a 5-book series, then 6 books, and turned into a story that I felt absolutely compelled, driven, to publish. There was a time, a little over two years ago, when I was honestly afraid I might not live to finish it, but the problem turned out to be relatively mild and self-correcting and *knock on wood* I hope I won't have any more similar problems for the foreseeable future. I do need to try to get back to the better health habits I was working on before.
Anyway. So, yeah, Daughter of the Wildings, the project of my heart, my obsession for the last few years, is out there now, and it's time to move on to other things. Next up is The Source-Fixer (still trying to think of a different title, and not having much luck). I'm nearly done with the triage phase of the first big revision. This book started out as a project I abandoned many years ago, then I figured out how to finish it and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2014. Now that I'm reading through it, I'm seeing things I love about it and also some major issues. Nothing unfixable, though.
I've also initiated the process of getting cover art for Source-Fixer and Heir of Tanaris, and a new cover for Chosen of Azara. Since these are all set in the same world, I want to re-brand Chosen with a cover to match the other two books. I love getting new cover art, and I'm so excited to see how these are going to look!
In other news, as a result of my commitment to write 1000 words a day/250,000 words this year, I have a bunch of short stories waiting to be published. I'll be releasing the first collection of five soon (finishing up the final edits on them). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get the collection for free :)
And also, as part of writing 1000 words a day, I now find myself nearly 7500 words into book 2 of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. I finished the draft of book 1, then was wondering how to get to the next major plot point in the series story arc, and realized what I needed was a range war! So I did some reading up on range wars in the Old West, and book 2 just kind of came together. Daughter of the Wildings may be finished, but I'm not done with the world or the characters quite yet.
Last month I planted some vegetables in my new raised gardening box. Let's check in on how my little green things are doing:
A reminder: if you read For the Wildings, don't forget to go to the link at the end of the book to download a free Silas and Lainie short story, "A Good Example"! The story has major spoilers for the book, so don't read it before you finish For the Wildings :)
Finally, since it's Music Monday, I'll leave you with the video of Insomnia from Kamelot's album Haven.
We're 2/3 of the way through March, so I guess it's time for a mid-month progress report (which started out as a look back/look ahead at the start of each month. Schedules are not really my thing.). I've mainly been working on edits to For the Wildings, the 6th and last book of Daughter of the Wildings, and now, finally, I'm on to the final proofreads. Looking at a release date the week of March 28. To make sure you don't miss the announcement (and the special limited-time introductory price), go on over to the sidebar or to my email signup page and sign up for my email alerts. No spam, and I won't share your info, and you can get information about new releases and special offers, and maybe even a freebie once in a while!
I'm also working on edits to a Silas and Lainie short story, "A Good Example", set the summer after the events of For the Wildings. It'll be available as a free bonus for people who read For the Wildings. You don't want to read it without reading book 6, since it contains major spoilers for the book!
Being up to my eyeballs in edits for this book I really want to get out, I've slacked off a little on writing new words every day. I'm going to have to work a little harder to meet my word count goal for this month, but I did finish the first draft of the first book of the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings! It's going to be a while before any of this sees the light of day, though.
Coming up next, I'll be starting on revision of The Source-Fixer (working title, though I might end up keeping it since I'm having trouble thinking of something better). This novel is a return to Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, where magic comes from Sources, which are natural features like caves, trees, springs, and so on. Kaniev, the main character, has the job of repairing them when things go wrong, but some problems are harder to fix than others!
I've also got a new collection of short stories just about ready to release, probably in April (they're all done and edited, but the final proofread and putting the book together got shuffled to the side while I finish For the Wildings). Email subscribers will have the opportunity to get this for free.
As for reading, again, that's been taking second place to getting the book finished, though I'm still on track for my goal of 30 books for the year. I'll get caught up with the reading roundups again soon.
And, finally, a new project: we got a raised gardening box put in our back yard, and I planted some seeds! Snow peas, mixed lettuce, and broccoli. I'm terrible at growing things, but there's good soil in this box and it's on the watering system so I don't even have to remember to water the plants, so we'll see if this works. Hopefully stuff will start to grow (besides weeds; it seems like weeds are the only things that like to grow around here!), and I'll post photos of the progress. Here's the first one, of my garden right after I planted the seeds:
So, watch for For the Wildings coming soon, and with any luck my next garden picture will have little green sprouty things in it!
So according to my new blogging framework, Tuesdays are for Tasty Tuesday, where, sporadically, I will share things I like to cook that are good on busy days, like on a long day of writing, and other things I like. I don't actually like to cook, so these are things that are easy and tasty enough to be worth the trouble. Normally on Wednesday I would do an Author Spotlight, but I was late getting interview questions out to this week's author, so that will be later this week. Which just goes to show the futlity of blogging schedules, but at least I have prompts for writing posts more often.
For the first Tasty Tuesday feature, on Wednesday, here's probably my favorite easy dinner to make, Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup. I originally got the recipe from AllRecipes Magazine. I love this magazine, and it's interesting because most paper magazines have gone all or partly digital, but AllRecipes started as a website and branched out into a paper magazine. Which I like because I'm a messy cook and I'd rather spill on that than on my Kindle Fire or my laptop :-P
Here's the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/89539/slow-cooker-chicken-tortilla-soup/
You start with a 10 oz. can of red enchilada sauce (here's a place where you can heat the recipe up or down by choosing mild, medium, or hot sauce), a 15 oz. can of tomatoes (I use crushed because I don't like pieces of cooked tomato in my food), and I also add a 15 oz. can of black beans, drained. Add frozen or canned corn, spices (another place where you can heat the recipe up or down; I don't use the cilantro), and chicken. The recipe calls for cooked shredded chicken breast, but I use uncooked boneless skinless breasts. You want about a pound total. They cook in the soup, which gives it a better flavor, then before serving you take them out, shred the meat, and put it back in the crockpot. The recipe also calls for a 14 oz. can of chicken broth and 2 cups of water, but I use 4 cups of chicken broth for a richer flavor. If you want a vegetarian recipe, double up on the corn and black beans, leave out the chicken, and use vegetable broth.
This makes way too much for just the two of us, so what I do is I divide the batch in half (before adding broth) and put half in the slow cooker and the other half in a freezer storage bag and freeze it. Only add the broth when you put it in the crockpot. Also, use two bay leaves, one in the batch you cook now and one in the freezer batch. And tadaa, two dinners for the work of one!
Cooks on low in about 6 hours. I put it together at lunchtime, and it's ready by the time we eat dinner at 6:30.
To serve: the recipe tells you how to make your own tortilla chips, but that kinda negates the point of an easy dinner, so I just use bagged chips from the store. Serve up the soup, crumble tortilla chips into it, and top with shredded cheese, sour cream, lime slices (as per the picture), whatever Mexican food toppings you like. Yummy and easy (and it tastes great the next day!)
The lack of blog posts means I've been working hard lately. Here's an update:
In January, I wrote 27,123 words and so far this month I've written 10,303 for a total of 37,426, which has me on track to write over 290,000 words this year. My goal for the year is 250,000, so I'm way ahead of where I need to be for that. I committed to writing 1000 words of new fiction a day, and with the exception of a day off here and there to think of more stuff to write, I've been sticking to that.
Among those words are a bunch of short stories, which I'll be taking the best of and putting into collections for release. Subscribers to my email alerts will have the opportunity to get them for free, so if you haven't signed up yet, make sure you do!
I also wrote a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories, a warm and fuzzy holiday piece set between books 3 and 4, and one that comes after the end of book 6. That one will be a freebie for people who finish book 6; I just need to figure out how to set that up.
Speaking of book 6, I'm nearly done with this editing pass on For the Wildings. After this will be a few clean-up passes and the proofreading. I'm thinking it will be out late in March (it's a long book, a good bit longer than the others in the series, so it just takes longer to edit). To make sure you don't miss out on the release and the limited-time special price, sign up for my email alerts.
I guess I'm pushing the email signups. That's the best way to make sure you find out when I have a new book out (and to get in on the new release price that I run for only a few days) and also to find out about other special deals and promotions. And don't worry, I won't spam you or share your info.
Also, I just released a box set of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song. The regular price is $8.99, which is the equivalent of a dollar off each book, or 25% off the total regular price. So if you haven't read these, you can get the set of three for a discount off the regular price of buying the books separately. Or you can wait for price drops and promotions, which will happen but I don't know when or how often. It's available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit | DriveThruFiction (bundle of separate books)
And just this week, I started the draft of the first book in the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings! Don't get too excited yet, it's going to be a while before this is ready to come out, but it is happening. I'm still not solid on the outline of the whole series, but yesterday I was asking myself, "What are the absolute worst things that can happen in this series?" and had a brilliant idea :D I love it when a new project suddenly starts to take shape like that.
So, lots of editing, on For the Wildings and the short stories from my 1000 word a day commitment, and some fun new writing.
So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:
For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.
After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).
Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.
So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.
In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.
I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.
And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.
And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.
So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.
On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.
As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.
That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!
And now, back to work.
Well, so the second half of December just blew right by me. We went out of town the weekend before Christmas, for an early Christmas with our son and his family in their new house, then I came home with the worst cold I've had in years and was basically on survival mode through Christmas and the end of the year. Finally getting better, though the gunk is going to be hanging around for a while.
The result is that it's been more than two weeks since my last post and I haven't been around much on TweetFace either, so this is to assure anyone who's interested that yes, I'm still around and still working on the books. The revision of For the Wildings is progressing, slower than it might have been because I've committed to also writing new stuff every day, but it's coming along. Still can't say when it'll be released; it's up over 70,000 words now, by far the longest book of the series, and I've got several phases of editing left to go. I want to make it as good as I can, and I think (hope!) it'll be worth the wait.
Before going on with my goals and plans for this year, I wanted to take stock of what I accomplished last year. I published 4 novels (books 2-5 of Daughter of the Wildings), wrote 1 (Heir of Tanaris), and also wrote a couple of short stories. Late in October, I recommitted to writing new words every day, and ended the year with a total word count of 85,772. Heir of Tanaris was most of that, clocking in at 80, 272, the longest novel I've written in quite some time (longer than any of the Daughter of the Wildings books). One of the stories I wrote (Rescue From Suburbia) is here for you to read; the other, I'm saving to be published in a collection. For the seventh year in a row, I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, finishing November with 52,844 words written on Heir of Tanaris.
As far as reading, on Goodreads I set a goal to read 25 books and ended up reading 62! Ok, some of them were stories and short novels/novellas, but others were very long. I've got one more mega Reading Roundup post to do for last year's reading; lots of good books to recommend!
So that's the look back at 2015; time to go write now. Next up: what's coming in 2016! Some cool stuff and new directions.
Time for a look at where I've been and where I'm going. For NaNoWriMo in November, I wrote nearly 54,000 words of Heir of Tanaris (the book formerly knows as The Healing Tree; I love it when I finally think of a decent title!). It still isn't finished; I'm guessing the first draft is going to end up around 80,000 words, by far the longest novel I've written in a while. The characters and plot continue to grow and change on me; the synopsis I've posted is already obsolete. I like to plan and outline my books and develop my characters ahead of time, but once I'm immersed in the story and my subconscious takes over, things can go in very different directions. I'm plugging along with finished the draft at a thousand words a day (usually more; that's my minimum). I'm hoping to finish it by the end of December, but with Christmas bearing down quickly, that might not happen.
I'm also working on major revisions to For the Wildings, the 6th and final book of Daughter of the Wildings. It's much longer than the other books in the series and between work on Heir and Christmas stuff, the revision isn't going real fast, but I am making daily progress on it. Still no good idea of when it'll be released.
And those two things are taking pretty much all of my brain power these days. I'm still reading a lot with the little that's left, so I'll do another reading roundup soon.
The plan for 2016: continue writing 1000 words a day on novels, short stories, writing exercises that may or may not turn into stories, whatever. I went a long time without writing anything new, and got rusty on it. Also, after the release of For the Wildings in the first part of the year, the next books on the list for release will be The Source-Fixer (still looking for a decent title for that one) and Heir of Tanaris, and also the Tales from Azara collection. I'll probably post a few of those here for free. Beyond that, my very first novel ever and its sequel are waiting for evaluation and revision, and I'm working out ideas for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings and also for a sequel to Urdaisunia.
That should keep me out of trouble for a while.
I've blogged before about my revision process, which came from Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel course. Five months of gut- and brain-wrenching work that teaches you how to take your novel draft apart, identify what works and what doesn't and why, and how to fix what doesn't work and make your novel into the book you wanted to write. I took HTRYN using Urdaisunia as my project, and took what was a frightening frankendraft patchwork of old and new writing and turned it into a novel I was proud to release. Whether you want to self-publish or pursue traditional publishing, whether or not you plan to hire an editor, no matter how many creative writing classes you may (or may not) have taken, I believe it's the best $285 you can spend on your writing, hands down. The course was closed for a while, while the site was being rebuilt, but now registration is open again through Tuesday, December 16. Holly will only be opening registration once a year, or twice if there's enough interest, so if you want to take How To Revise Your Novel, now's the time to consider signing up.
Here's more about it from Holly Lisle:
For the next seven days, UNTIL 11:59 PM EST on TUESDAY, Dec. 15, you can register for the class that has been teaching writers how turn rough, lumpy, awkward, and sometimes just outright BROKEN first drafts into professional-quality fiction since Nov. 23, 2009.
The links are my affiliate links, and I get a commission on sign ups, but that isn't why I recommend HTRYN. I recommend it because it did amazing things for my books and my writing and revision skills, and if you put in the work, you'll get a lot out of it too, skills that you can apply to all your writing now and in the future. So go check it out :)
Wow, we're into the middle of November, and I realized I haven't been updating much. So here's what's going on: I'm planning the next big revision of For the Wildings, book 6 of Daughter of the Wildings. I do this revision to fix major issues that have come up since the first big revision, either things pointed out by the test readers or things that have changed over the course of the series, or just mistakes I missed the last time around. After this comes a few rounds of fixing up, fine-tuning, and editing before the book is ready to go. Still can't say when For the Wildings will be ready for release; sometime in February, as a rough guess. It's longer than the other books, and with the holidays coming up I won't be able to put as many hours in.
I've also been reading a lot, and sometime soon I'll be putting up a monster Reading Roundup post. Tons of great books to recommend!
Finally, being November, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've done it and "won" it (I actually prefer to think of it as completing the challenge, since everyone who validates 50,000 words written in November is a winner) every year since 2009, and this year looks like it'll be no exception. I'm writing The Healing Tree (working title), an old unfinished novel set in the same world as Chosen of Azara, that I decided to take another run at since the characters wouldn't leave me alone and I love the idea of it. I used this awesome outling guide, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker (pants - writing term, for writing without an outline or "by the seat of your pants") to plan it all the way through, and so far it's going pretty well. As of today, I'm at 28,165 words, out of a target of 50,000. The actual novel is probably going to be much longer.
The main problem I've run into with it is that Davreos, the male main character, is a very complicated character. I made some adjustments to him from how he was in the original version, but he keeps wanting to revert back to that instead of going with my changes. If I've learned one thing in 26 years of writing, it's that the characters are almost always right, so I've finally decided to just go with it.
Anyway, to give you a little taste of this new project (which will eventually be released for sale), here's the first scene. It's unedited, straight from my brain to my fingers, but I think it came out ok:
The wizard's screams died away in Davreos's ears. How could he still have the strength to scream so loudly? Davreos wondered. Or to even still be alive. Most of the enemies of the Empire or other subjects brought to Maikarsk's cavern for interrogation were dead by this point in their questioning. But somehow, that old man, nothing more than skin and bones and thin, ropy muscles even when he had first been brought to Maikarsk, had managed to survive this long and remain conscious enough to scream.
"Stubborn," the Inquisitress said, only a faint note of frustration and displeasure coloring her impassive voice. Davreos glanced at her, waiting for her next instructions. Her black robe, covering her from head to toe, hid all signs of femininity, all signs of individual identity, but her height, slenderness, and voice were unmistakeable. The Inquisitress's veiled face remained turned and bowed slightly towards the wizard where he was strapped to the table a little longer. Though her face was always veiled while she was acting in her duties, Davreos knew what she looked like behind the veil, and he could imagine the dark, tilted eyes narrowed in disapproval, the full lips frowning. "Useless," she said. "Finish him."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said.
"And," the Inquistress went on, "be sure to remove his Source-token before you dispose of his body. It might be useful."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said again.
The Inquisitress left the cavern. Davreos turned back to the wizard and prepared to lower the blade that would give the killing blow. Suddenly, the wizard's hand, which should have been bound with unbreakable chains to the table, seized the opening of Davreos's ragged tunic and pulled him down so that their faces nearly touched. Fear clenched Davreos's belly; how had the wizard's hand gotten loose? Had the bonds been insufficient? The Inquisitress would punish him if the wizard somehow got loose and escaped...
"I pity you," the wizard breathed against his face, his voice a nearly soundless tatter after all his screaming. "You could be so much more, so much better than this..."
Davreos froze. His heart nearly stopped. How did the wizard know of his most secret thoughts? Desires and ambitions that would see him tortured and killed this same way if the High Priest or the Inquisitress or, worst of all, Maikarsk itself became aware of them. He was a slave; that was his ordained role in life, and to hope for anything more was utterly impossible and forbidden.
"Silence," he said to the wizard, and pulled himself out of the old man's grip.
The wizard seized him again, this time grabbing his arm. He placed Davreos's hand on the small carved wooden pendant that hung from a chain around his neck, and folded Davreos's fingers around it. "Take this," he whispered.
Davreos had been ordered to take the Source-token anyway, which would contain power from whatever Source the wizard drew his power from, to sustain his magic while he was away from that Source. He pulled on it, intending to snap the chain, but instead, at his touch on the wooden pendant, power shocked up into him through his arm, warm and bright, with a golden-green glow that was more a feeling than a color. It filled him, the warmth and light almost unbearable in comparison to the power of Maikarsk he bore within him. It filled him until he thought he would burst; his jaw ached as his teeth gritted against the agony of it, biting back his own cries. He didn't dare make a sound; if he was weak against the subjects, he would be deemed useless and sent back to the worst jobs at the temple of Maikarsk. Finally the power seemed to gather itself and bury itself deep within him until it was no more than a faint glimmer.
He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed shut against the pain, and unclenched his hand from around the Source-token. Nothing but dust filled his hand. A cold bolt of horror pierced his chest; the Inquisitress had commanded him to take the token. But she was gone; perhaps he could tell her that the wizard had destroyed it himself.
Time to finish the job. He placed his hand on the blade again, then looked at the wizard. The old man's cloudy eyes stared sightlessly upward into the shadowy heights of the cavern, and his gnarled hand had fallen to lie limply at his side. He was dead, almost as though he had given up his life of his own volition. Davreos looked at the broken chain that had held the wizard's hand bound to the table. The wizard had had enough strength to break that chain and to hold on to his life until he chose to give it up. Why had he allowed himself to be taken prisoner at all, if he was that strong? Why had he surrendered his life instead of escaping? What had he hoped to accomplish with the useless sacrifice?
Stupid, he thought. The man had allowed himself to be defeated. Stupid and weak. Anyone that weak was worthy only of death.
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