Down for the Count

I apologize for the lack of a fantasy-related post today. Over the weekend everyone in my family came down with a nasty stomach bug… and we are still recuperating – everyone is on the mend, but it is so far a long, sloooow process. I hope to be back later this week with more fantasy-fun for you, but I also have to start working on some things for the Minstrel’s Call release next week, and I’m a little strapped for time since I just lost a whole weekend.

Thank you for your understanding.

 

~ jenelle

Ring of Fire

February Fantasy Month Banner

Here is my short story for this month’s short story challenge! I had a lot of fun writing this little story! I hope you enjoy reading it.

“Getting across the lava fields was the easy part. What I had not accounted for was….” 

Additional challenge – use all of the following words in your story in some way: glint, breathe, request, fortunate, effulgence, bubbling, book, harbinger

Ring of Fire

by

Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

I stared down at the roiling river of lava bubbling just beneath my feet as I balanced on the slippery rock, poised to leap to the next. Almost there. One more jump. I paused, forcing myself to breathe evenly, carefully, as I measured the distance and the strength needed to make the leap to safety. As I closed my eyes, my mind drifted back a few days…

“The ring is located here,” my brother said, slamming his finger down onto the open page of the book he held spread across his lap.

I peered down at the page with furrowed skepticism. The map was faded, and part of the page was missing, no doubt ripped out by some ravenous creature during my brother’s daring escape to extricate the book from its hiding place. It had been lost for centuries, but my brother was the premier archeologist and treasure-hunter of our time. It wasn’t his judgment I distrusted, but the accuracy of the map he’d found.

“But, Jack,” I protested, “this map doesn’t even come close to matching any landmarks we know of.”

His expression took on a triumphal smugness. “Any landmarks still standing today,” he crowed. “But look at this!”

He whipped out another map, this one crackling with age, and though his movements were expansive, his fingers were deft and careful as he unrolled it. Laying it on the table, he placed the book next to the ancient map and started pointing at various key features. It was like watching a master piecing together a puzzle. As he pointed to different features, understanding began to dawn and I grinned at him.

“You know something?” I said. “I think you might be on to something!”

And that was how I ended up in this predicament. Once we had ascertained the location of the treasure, it had been a small matter of outfitting our small expedition and setting off for the slopes of Mount Merapi. Upon arriving, I offered to scout ahead on our route and see what I could discover.

I opened my eyes and jumped, landing safely on the other side of the small river of boiling rock. I swiped a hand across my forehead and stared into the massive cave I had been making my way towards. Two orbs of light glittered out at me from within and my heart stopped.

Getting across the lava fields had been easy. But what I had not accounted for was the monster waiting for me on the other side.

He stared at me expectantly, his eyes twin high-beams in the misty night air. I blinked against their sudden effulgence, nearly stumbling backwards into the molten river I had just avoided. I was fortunate enough to catch myself, but I dropped into a low crouch, my heart resuming its activity with an increased rat-a-tat-tat as it hammered against my ribcage.

“Good evening, little one,” the creature bared his teeth in a terrible smile. “And what brings you to my lovely home here within the depths of Mount Merapi?”

It occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn’t tell him I was searching for treasure. Everything I’d ever heard or read about encountering enormous creatures of this sort warned me against such folly.

“G-good evening. I wanted to climb a volcano, that’s all,” I stammered as politely as I could.

“Strange,” the monster mused. “Most of the tourists who come to climb the volcano make their way up toward the top. I have been undisturbed here for many years. Tell me, do they still even believe in beasts such as I out there in the world?”

I did not want to hurt his feelings, but I also did not wish to lie to this monstrous creature. “I fear that most people do not,” I replied. “Though many wish your kind were real.”

“Truly?” the beast’s low growl sounded wistful. Then his eyes glinted with cunning. “Perhaps it is time for me to show them what they have been missing.” He rose to his feet and his massive size filled the mouth of the cavern. It was then that I saw him truly. His front legs were massive and muscular and ended in enormous talons like a bird’s, but so very much bigger. His leonine body was covered in something that looked like feathers, but glinted in the moonlight like jewels. His face was narrow and sharp. To say that its head and face resembled an eagle’s would be to liken a moth to a great jet, simply because both can fly, but I had nothing better to compare it to.

“I do not think the world is ready for you to return!” Terror made my voice rise to a high-pitched squeak.

The creature rumbled, the underside of his chest beginning to glow, like heated metal in a blacksmith’s forge. He took a step out of his cavern, unfurling his great, feathery wings. They stretched out on either side of him like massive sails on an ancient schooner. His breath wafted across my face, hot and dry. It was reminiscent of standing before an enormous bonfire. Beneath his mighty talons, the stones of the mountain crumbled and cracked, and steam hissed up suddenly like geysers being released from their stony prisons. His form loomed black above me, blotting out the stars that had begun to wink into existence, like the harbinger of the end of time. Cold terror gripped me in its skeletal hands as I stared up at the massive figure. His serpentine tail with a bundle of spikes at the end lashed above his head like a cowboy’s lasso. I stepped back, aghast, I had not expected the creature to be so immense.

“You came to steal my treasure!” The creature roared, his voice pounding into my head like the beating hooves of horses rumbling around a racetrack. “Admit it! You are a thief, come to steal what is MINE!” Flames burst from the creature’s mouth and scorched the earth in front of me.

I froze. It breathes fire? Shock coursed through me. None of the legends had said anything about an ability to breathe fire… though now that I considered it, the fact that the creature lived in the heart of a volcano probably should have been a clue.

Rocks bounced down the mountain, splashing into the little rivulets of fire. I cowered.

But then, amidst the thunder and fury, I heard a small chime.

I straightened and threw the creature a saucy grin. “You are wrong,” I said calmly, raising my voice.

He blinked at me, taken aback. “I did not come to steal your treasure. I came to distract you. He,” I pointed into the cavern, “came to steal your treasure.”

Quicker than breathing, my brother soared out of the cave, riding his patented personal flier. He swooped towards me with a grin.

“Come on, Mary!” he shouted.

I leaped onto the back of the flier and we zoomed high into the night sky. The monster jumped into the air after us, his massive, sharp beak opening hungrily, but then he fell back to the ground. With terrible anger the gryphon screamed, belching flame into the air. The volcano below trembled and quivered, ash and sparks spewing from its mouth.

“You were right, Jack!” I cried gleefully. “He hasn’t flown in so long, the muscles in his wings must have atrophied! Did you get it?”

Jack grinned over his shoulder and gave a nod. “I got it.” He handed me a small satchel and I peeked inside. The fiery orange jewel gleamed up at me with an inner fire. I grinned, but resisted the urge to throw a gloating comment over my shoulder.

We soared through the night, making it home just before dawn. Giggling, we threw ourselves onto the couch to survey our newest acquisition. I slipped the ring onto my finger and held it up to the window. The first rays of sunshine slanted through the window and lit up the gemstone like a living flame.

“Do you think it’s magical, like the stories say?” I asked.

Jack opened his mouth to answer, but before he could say anything, another voice intruded.

“Jack! Mary!” Our mother stood in the door, hands on hips.

We looked up at her, brimming with the excitement of our latest heist, wanting to regale her with our daring deeds, but she held up a hand.

“Before you tell me what’s going on, I have one request,” she said. “Please pick up the couch cushions and put them back where they belong. Then come on into the kitchen, lunch is ready.”

~ jenelle

Fantasy Orphan

February Fantasy Month Banner

Well hello there, I would like to thank you for stopping by today. I am pleased to be here.

Where is Jenelle, you ask?

She’s letting me take over her blog today. Oh! I’m sorry. Allow me to introduce myself.

I am Fantasy Orphan.

You’ve probably heard of me… especially if you like to read fantasy. You’ve read some of my stories. You’ve rooted for me, heard about my painful back-story, perhaps you’ve even shed tears for me. As you know, I am an important part of many fantasy stories. I’m often the protagonist, the unlikely hero, the one who rises up and overcomes the shadow and tragedy of my past.

At some point in my past… my author thought it was important that I lose my family. I didn’t like it, but what could I do? This loss of family made me vulnerable in some way that was necessary to the story, and it also freed up my author from needing to answer any questions about where my parents were and why they let me go off on such dangerous adventures. I hadn’t got any parents, and thus was left to fend for myself and get into all sorts of trouble whenever I wanted.

See, if I’d had parents, they would have loved me too much to let me do anything so dangerous as run off with Old Ben to save the galaxy from the evil Empire (even my aunt and uncle in that case were too strict… so my author killed them off, too!) I wouldn’t have gone haring off on a wild adventure with Gandalf to liberate the Dwarven homeland from Smaug if I’d had those pesky family ties keeping me stable and sensibly AT HOME! (I was a responsible adult for a while while I raised my nephew, but, being a fantasy orphan myself, I knew how important it was to give him some space, so the moment he came of age, I exited, stage right, and gave Frodo the room he needed to find his own adventure without any parental oversight). I probably wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble at Hogwarts if I’d come from a good wizarding family, either. You can find me easily. I run rampant through nearly every Disney retelling of various fairy tales. In many stories, the loss of my parents often determines my station in life, gives me the courage to rise up in the face of overwhelming odds, or at the very least it prompts me to seek vengeance for their loss.

In any case, as I was saying, my not having a family is most convenient for the author…. I mean, it allows for so many interesting twists and turns in my story.

I’m free of obligations that come with having a family.

I get away with things I wouldn’t necessarily get away with if I had parents.

I can always have an existential crisis if I suddenly discover that one of my parents is, in fact, still alive!!! I don’t even know how I’ll react to that!

It also allows me to have a heritage or family tree that I am completely ignorant of… and then the sky is the limit! I can go from a poor pick-pocket dreaming of seeing the interior of the palace to heir to the throne in the course of my story!

So, that’s who I am. Thanks for letting me tell you a bit about myself. I think I hear Jenelle returning and… I… should get going. Keep an eye out for me in all your favorite stories, and when you meet me there, please have pity for those of us whose parents our authors have so blithely killed with nary a worry nor care.

Adieu!

P.S. Please ignore the signature at the end of this post… Jenelle didn’t write this, I just used her stationery.

~ jenelle

Minstrel’s Call Cover Reveal

February Fantasy Month Banner

I have something truly special to share with you today, dear Reader! Today, I want to introduce you to my cover artist and show you a little glimpse behind the scenes into the tremendous effort that goes into putting these book covers together. So, without further ado, let me introduce: Angelina Walker, my cover artist!

And now, the time has come.

In approximately two weeks, Minstrel’s Call is releasing.

And that means, that it is HIGH TIME I showed you all what it will look like!

But first, what is this book about?

Because I’m mean like that.


 

War threatens. The game board is set. But the Minstrel is missing…

Advancing his growing power, the Dread Prince breaks free of his prison and brings a faction of dragons under his control, stirring unrest and hatred in the newly united kingdoms of Tellurae Aquaous.

When the dragon wards of Kallayohm are targeted in a ruthless attack, the High King travels there to administer justice. But the trial results in a crippling blow that leaves him reeling.

On the heels of defeat, an unexpected message from the erstwhile Minstrel arrives, pleading with his friends for rescue. Together, the High King and his companions must follow the fragile trail, braving peril and darkness that will test the measure of them all…


This cover, my friends, is another absolutely brilliant work of art by Angelina Walker. I have no qualms telling you that it is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE of the four covers she has done for me (and I love the previous three dearly!) These watercolor paintings are so precious and gorgeous, and I am in awe of her talent… and of the fact that she taught herself how to paint with watercolor because my husband mentioned in passing that he liked the style of another artist who works primarily in watercolors.

Okay, have I made you wait long enough?

Behold!

Minstrel's Call Cover

The book is now available for pre-order! If you take advantage of the pre-order, you’ll get the special sale price of just 99 cents. This special price is only good through the release date of February 28th.

And don’t forget to add the book to your Goodreads TBR shelf!


I can’t resist showing you the entire painting without the text. Because every one of these paintings is not just a cover, but a complete work of art. Way back in 2010 when we started talking about these covers, the one thing we knew for certain was that we wanted the artwork to wrap around the entire book, and every one of these covers has something interesting on the back cover as well as the front.

Little bit of “behind the page” info, this is also why there is no “blurb” text on the backs of the books, but rather snuggled inside on the very first page of each book – because with King’s Warrior I simply couldn’t bear to cover up the dragon with a text-box. It started a tradition, and I enjoy the uniqueness it lends to holding the physical copies.

Minstrel's Call_CoverArt

~ jenelle