Ladies and gentlemen, exclusively on yours truly’s The World of Thomerion blog page, here is the opening chapter of the initial draft for my second interactive novel, to be titled The Gate to Thomerion.  The following work is Copyright (c) 2018 by Daniel J. Heck and may not be reposted, redistributed, or sold without expressed written permission from the author.  You can expect this novel to be available via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace by winter of this year.

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Just inside Noblehorn, two-thirds of the way down a castle’s hall and four doors past the hanging banners of various royal houses, three men sit at a nearly-cleared feast table, one of them begrudgingly.

Duke Ethias Mudd had consumed the meal set out for him in stony silence, but waited a mere instant thereafter to breathe his ultimatum: “The residents of Noblehorn have put up with this for long enough.  Until the eastern steppe is returned, the sanctions will continue.”  He casts a fiery glare through a silver-rimmed monocle at an elf across from him.

“Until you contribute your share to the royal fund,” the elf counters with folded hands, “the steppe will remain under close military watch, including the garnishment of ten percent of all economic activity that passes along the main roads.  You know full well who the instigator here is.”

You hear none of it, as your hands fidget with an amulet depicting the god of the sun.  Daydreams flood your mind, most prevalent among them the image of the half-elf Titania Vermouth, former mayoress of the port town of Sungaze.  Her rescue plays itself over and over again within you; you felt the thrill of the fight even as your knees buckled at the sight of her beauty, those six years ago.

“How do we solve this impasse, sir priest?”

You think you hear something vague in the background, as your glazed eyes cast an empty look at the floor.  A young servant takes away your plates and refills your water, but you do not drink.

“Bartleby!”  The duke’s agitated baritone pierces the air.  You shake your head and glance about.

“It was, my liege,” you say, “merely a… minor preoccupation.”

Mudd’s brows furrow.  “Be preoccupied with royal business.”

“Yes, my liege.”

“Now, we asked you a question.  How do we solve this impasse?”

You pause, and bite your lip.  The silence stretches on, and the duke and elf leader exchange wary glances.

“Well…” you sputter, “well, ah… perhaps if we requested the assistance of King Wyver…”

“He has already been consulted on the issue, and has deferred involvement.”

“Or, a compromise could be reached.  Scale back the military presence to just enough personnel to collect the garnishments.”

The elf mumbles, “That possibility has been discussed.  Before the meal arrived.  Mudd, is this the best you can provide as a mediator?”

Mudd wrings his hands and shifts in his seat.  “He did make the arrangements for us to meet here in the first place.  You must understand that…”

The elf stands; his chair grates against the stone floor.  “I mustn’t understand anything.  We will resume talks when you make clear that you are dedicated to improving the situation.”  He tucks a volume under his arm and marches toward the exit.

Mudd calls after him, “Now, wait just a minute…”  The elf is now gone.

The duke wheels toward you, red-faced, and flails his hands about.  “Do you mind explaining what could be so important?”

You begin to back away, when an idea strikes you.  You extend a hand, gaze straight into the duke’s eyes and recite some mystical words.

“Oh, no, not that magic again,” he counters, “Bartleby, you do this to me every time…”  Despite his will, Mudd’s tone drifts into calmer territory, the furrows in his brow disappear and his eyelids flutter.

“And doesn’t it feel better when I do?” You keep your hand held outward, feeling the charm energy extend into your employer.

He nods slowly.  After a few more moments, when you are certain he won’t throttle you, you let the spell expire.

The duke clears his throat, approaches and says, “Bartleby, I know you are capable of better.  You’ve served Ambrosinia well thus far and that’s why I’m not firing you.  But just know that we must do what we can to rectify this, and that means no distractions.  Understood?”

“Absolutely, my liege.”

At that moment, a blond boy bursts through the door.  He shouts, “Urgent message for one Bartleby, servant of the church of the sun!”  He yanks a scroll from his pack and shoves it in your face.  You and the duke exchange dubious glances.  The moment you grip the paper, the boy dashes out of the room and further into town.  You open it, and read:

Come to Whitetail as soon as you can.  I need you.  It’s about your godfather Fedwick, and it’s important.

                                                            Titania

 What do you do?

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