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Thursday 26 August 2021

The Devoted Trilogy - Character Art Portrait Compliation

Character portraits of The Devoted trilogy, 2021.

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snippets, deleted scenes, beta-reading opportunities and artist collaborations!

Rathen Koraaz

Salus, Keliceran

Aria Koraaz

Inquisitor Garon Brack

Petra Dalin

Anthis Karth

Eyila, of the Ikaheka


Friday 6 August 2021

The Power of Music

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

     Sixteen months is too long for a full-scale war over pride. Especially when both rulers have only the most tenuous adoration of their people to begin with.
     A single misplaced ermine pelt had started it; ever since, the kings of Adelaare and Venvalk had been blinded by their blood haze, and it seemed neither sundial nor moth-eaten purse would drag anything to a rational close.
     With no sign of relenting on either side, their people were suffering sorely. Trade was dwindling, loved ones had been lost, homes had been ransacked; the nation struggled just to smile, and a nation without the will to thrive was a nation defeated. Battles may still play out, but the war had already been lost - and when both sides were falling side by side into the same trap, there could be no winner.
     Something had to end it, and fast.

     In the town of Sparling, these words were on everyone's lips, but followed always by the fateful question: "what can we do?" A single pebble may start an avalanche, but what good was it if no one was around to get caught in it? No one ever looked their way; they were insignificant. Sparling was a resource, nothing more. It, like so many others, produced the necessities for war - weapons, armour and horse shoes, flour, meat, wood, but little else. No ideas, no arts, no fine things worth paying attention to. All things for use by the military, or to pay for it. Revenue of one kind or another. That was all.
     And the people themselves, though they were among the workers and traders the nation depended on, were worth nothing. Hardship, poverty, misery; the crowns decided that their subjects' wellbeing didn't matter, so long as they were alive.
     And so, far too often, warlords overlooked that one final, crucial detail in their campaigns: war needed the people's support. Without it, the nation would crumble from within long before its walls were broken from without - and, for better or worse, the anger born of  oppression and worthlessness was the quickest way to rouse a broken spirit.
     But Sparling wasn't quite there yet. No one had quite reached breaking point, and the hope that someone else would do something first was still floating through the gutters.
     However, though anger might be the quickest way to rouse a broken spirit, there were other methods - slower perhaps, but effective.
     And on one August evening, one came right to them.

     "Ooh!" A child gasped from her perch in a tree at the edge of the neighbouring woods, and thrust a short finger out towards the road. "Daddy! Look! Jesters!"
     "What are you saying now, Melie?" Her father grumbled, and looked up from the fence he was fixing to peer off along to the distance. He stiffened a moment later. "Travellers?"
     Then a melody drifted through the golden dusk.
     "Oh! Oh! Daddy, listen! Such happy music! Can we go see?! Please?!"
     "Melie, go warn the guards."
     But she had already scrambled down the trunk and run off towards the road.
     The troupe of musicians and actors were welcomed reluctantly into the town, and everyone gathered about them defensively in the square, waiting for the first request of food they couldn't spare, or a bed they refused to. But no such burdens came. The troupe had begun a skit the moment they stepped through the gates, and joy radiated from them like heat from the sun. Their comedies, bright costumes, rainbows squeezed from fiddles, accordians and tambourines were their own contribution to the war effort, they'd announced, with the promise that they'd transformed the spirit of every town and village they'd tickled their strings in.
     The locals remained sceptical, but the troupe played on with unflinching mirth, and, as the evening wore on, their promise proved true. There was at last some kind of cheer trickling its way through the streets, and for the first time in months, the town of Sparling smiled. Japes and laughter filled the square, while music seeped through windows and stirred up even the sewers. Smiths set their work aside, thieves left the shadows, and farmers drifted in from their fields. Life glowed again.
     But as far as their promise held, as was the nature of joy, it couldn't last forever. When the moon shone and the performances came to a close, the town slipped back into melancholy, stirred into longing rather than action, and the troupe, apparently satisfied, moved on to cross another townstead off their map. One evening of revelry wasn't enough to transform Sparling's spirit after all.
     And one of them could see that more clearly than the rest.
     "Come along, Ilse," the red harlequin told the flutist as they moved back out through the gates, hoisting her patched and fraying bag higher over her shoulder, "we've a ways still to go tonight if we're going to keep to the schedule - unless of course you plan on walking there backwards?"
     Ilse flashed her a smile. "I don't. But..." The flutist's eyes pulled back to the town. "It wasn't enough..."
     A hand came to rest on her shoulder. "Some people need more," the harlequin told her softly. "Sometimes music, sometimes just time. It'll sink in. We touched them deep enough, you'll see."
     "I know..." But Ilse still didn't turn away.
     A sigh soon rose from behind her, and the hand slipped from her shoulder. "Fine," the harlequin grumbled. "Catch up with us when you're satisfied, all right?"
     "Good." The harlequin cast Ilse's grin a cocked smile of her own. "We need you and your pipe!"
     And so, while the rest of the troupe moved on to keep trying to spread the cheer, the flutist stayed, paid generously for a room in the most impoverished inn, and played her music beside the town's clogged fountain from the first chirp of the dawn. And again, the grim town revelled.
     But it was different this time. Somehow, her music had power. Alone, unsullied by the tints and shapes of the others, it shone and sang in vibrant golds and lilacs, and the sunlight itself seemed to swirl and gather with every trill. The colours and rhythms moved them just as she'd hoped they would, deeper than the whole troupe had, and they danced and laughed the whole day away, thrown into movement like cheerful puppets on golden strings.
     Children jumped and played around the well, young women smiled and giggled around a forgotten Maypole, young men showed off their strength by the masonry, married couples danced and spun through the gardens, and every voice sang out together whenever a familiar tune came by.
     Chores were discarded, arguments forgotten, even the rumble of stomachs went blissfully unnoticed. Fear and helplessness no longer sat in the corners of their minds. They escaped the shadows fully, and spirits lightened in the sun.
     The flutist smiled behind her pipe. This time, she would reach them.
     As evening set in, the children splashed buckets from the well, soaking themselves and others, and threw the buns they'd forgotten to eat. As the sun faded, young men ran and climbed across crates and wagons, and as the moon rose, young women splashed in the puddles.
     The adults weren't far behind them.
     Well-water rained, muddying the ground, quenching the forges, ruining the smithies' work.
     Lanterns swayed, knocked by the slipping dancers, sending stray flames skittering towards the store houses.
     Carts were smashed and horses fled.
     Pigeon coups blazed when the store house fires grew.
     The wells clogged with people falling in.
     Fields burned, cattle bellowed and stampeded through fences.
     The forest smoked, seethed and crackled.
     Revenue was lost.
     And still Sparling danced.
     The townsfolk smiled, grasping one another, swapping partners, hands on hands, hands on hips, hands on necks, hands wrenching heads, snapping necks, laughing all the while.
     Bodies fell, broken, drowned and burned.
     And the flutist rose and walked away, smiling impishly behind that enchanting pipe, and Sparling burned down merrily behind her.

This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2021 Kim Wedlock

Sunday 1 August 2021

Veysuul Release Day!


     It's release day, and the end of The Devoted trilogy! It's been a very, very long journey, and while I'm sad to reach the end, I also find myself surprisingly satisfied. There's nothing at all that I feel I've left unfinished; everything is as it should be. Veysuul is the ending I wanted the trilogy to have.

     Veysuul is currently available as paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited, and Kindle versions can be read via the free Kindle app, downloadable on all tablets, smarthphones, laptops and computers. I do plan to expand distribution at a later date!

     Naturally, release day was a celebration, and involved many sweets! I baked and decorated a black & gold cake (chocolate fudge cake, golden white chocolate ganache, black cocoa buttercream, golden modelling chocolate), and The Cake Baroness made these wonderful biscuits inspired by the book cover! A wonderful and sickly time was had by all, and very well-deserved.

     I've made hardbacks available to patrons for purchase at print price, should they want them, and I still plan to have more goodies for them by the end of the year, finances permitting. If you're interested, head over to my Patreon page and pledge $1-$3 a month, and get extra benefits like WIP snippets, news on my next book long before anyone else, and, for the time being, exclusive access to the origin stories of every lead character from The Devoted!

Thank you all so much for your support over the years, it truly means a great deal. I hope you'll stick around for future stories! I already have my next book in mind, and a duology after that! There's plenty still to come!