Tag Archives: Fire-Rider excerpt

Fire-Rider: Best-Laid Plans?

Here’s a draft passage from an upcoming installment in the Fire-Rider series. Enjoy!

An excerpt from the latest in the Fire-Rider science fiction series

…Around the courtyard and stone buildings below…

Lieze and Jag Bova stood in the window of their upstairs bedroom, watching Deke and Mandeh play hide and seek with a couple of the neighbors’ kids around the courtyard and stone outbuildings below. Erysa and Ada had gone to the village marketplace to shop and socialize. Bova held his wife in his arms and smiled, contented for the first time in several months.

Now that things were quiet and the two had renewed their acquaintance in every way, Bova saw an opportunity to bring up an idea that had been rolling around in his mind for some time.

Erysa and Ada had gone to the market...

Erysa and Ada had gone to the market…

“Erysa is changing so fast,” he said. “She’s grown into a young woman just while I’ve been gone.”

Lieze murmured a soft chuckle. “She gets prettier every day,” she agreed. “Mother and I saddled her with Deke during the harvest and still had to keep an eye on her to be sure no flirting went on.”

Bova laughed. “It’s hard to impress the boys with your pesty little brother underfoot.”

“Isn’t it a shame?” Lieze said.

Portrait of a beautiful young girl with decorative flowers in h

…hard to impress the boys with your pesty little brother underfoot.

“Have you thought that it might be time to arrange a husband for her?”

She glanced sharply at Bova. “Has my mother been talking to you about that already?”

“What? No,” Bova said, surprised. “Ada thinks it’s time for Erysa to marry, does she?”

“She’s brought the subject up.”

Excellent woman, Bova thought: he wouldn’t have to plow new ground. “So…what do you think of the idea?” he asked.

“She’s a little young,” Lieze replied.

“Maybe. But it’s not too soon to start thinking about it, do you expect?”

“I suppose not,” said Lieze. “Why? Do you have someone in mind?”

Bova steered Lieze to the window seat, and, with a gesture, invited her to sit down, then settled on the padded bench beside her. He cleared his throat. “I do have a thought, yes,” he said.

“Do tell!”

“Well, in the field this summer I built a pretty strong link with Kaybrel Kubna of Moor Lek. And you know, with Rik gone and his son two or three years short of taking over as our kubna, an alliance with Moor Lek wouldn’t be a bad thing for the House of Rozebek.

“What would you think about approaching Maire about choosing Elyse as a sister wife?”

Lieze was quiet for what seemed to Bova like a long time.

Kaybrel FireRider

…A pretty lively grandfather.

“Kaybrel,” she said.


“Are you serious?”

“Why not?”

She shot him a look that told him he was on the losing end of this exchange. “In the first place, Kay is old enough to be your father. Do you really want to marry your daughter to a man who could be her grandfather?”

“Well. He’s a pretty lively grandfather.”

“No doubt. But he’s still an old man. She could find herself a widow before her second child is born.”

“She’d be well taken care of, though,” Bova said. If she were widowed after she had a child of the kubna’s, she would not remarry until his offspring were grown or settled elsewhere. Neither would Kay’s kubnath, Maire. Between the two of them, they would live handsomely on the income from an entire cowndee’s splits. Plus of course Maire was collecting from Silba Lek, too.

Woman of Okan

Okan kubnath…good because she’s absolutely fierce.

“I’m sure,” Lieze countered. “And that brings us to the next point: I don’t want my eldest daughter to play second fiddle to someone like Maire Kubnath of Silba Lek and Moor Lek. She would fade right into the shrubbery.

“Besides, everyone knows Maire can be difficult. It would take a far more headstrong eighteen-year-old than our Lieze to hold her own against that one.”

“No one has ever complained that she’s not a good kubnath,” Bova remarked.

“She’s a good kubnath because she’s absolutely fierce! You know that.”

He smiled. “Yes. Well, she’s a match for Kaybrel in that way.”

“I’ve never found him especially fierce,” she said.

“Only on horseback, maybe.”

She smiled briefly. “He’s a great warrior. But a warrior and a chosen man are two different things. Not very many men are as good as you are at both.”

“That may be so, or not,” he said. He leaned over and kissed her cheek, feeling his wooly blond beard brush against her sweet, soft skin. “But I wish you’d think it over. Will you consider it?”

“I will,” she replied. “But I have another idea, one that could do what you have in mind and also give our daughter a shot at a happy life.”

“You don’t think she’d be happy with Kaybrel?”

Fallon Mayr of Chene Wells

Fallon Mayr of Cheyne Wells

“She might be. But how about this: What if we were to have her choose Fallon of Cheyne Wells this spring?”

“Fal?” Bova was nonplussed. The thought had never entered his mind.

“Sure. Fal and Kay are peas from the same pod. No one is closer to Kay than Fal—well, no man, anyway. They’re so tightly allied that a match with Cheyne Wells would be a match with Moor Lek. And Fal will live long enough to father several children and be there until they’re grown. God willing.”

It was Bova’s turn to fall silent. At length he reflected, “It’s pretty remote up there, halfway to the edge of the godforsaken ice fields. That’s probably why no one has chosen him since his first wife and kids died.”

“That’s so,” she said. “But she loves horses. Fallon has enough of those to keep her amused for the rest of her life. And she could manage our farmlands this very day—I’ve taken care to teach her all she needs to know, and then some. She’ll make a perfect rancher’s partner, and a very fine mayreth. She’s been brought up to be mayreth, Bova.”

“Hmh.” He turned the possibility over in his mind.

“You understand,” he said after a moment, “Fallon has a lady friend in Lek Doe.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?” He nodded. “Well, no doubt he’s not alone in that,” she remarked.

“You can be sure Kaybrel doesn’t. The kubnath would never put up with any shenanigans like that.”

She laughed softly. “She probably doesn’t have to. I’m sure his oats are already sown.”

“One never knows with that one. He’s a surprise a day.”

“Be that as it may, a pretty young bride can be a mighty distraction. If she marries Fal this spring, he’ll be daydreaming about getting back to her all summer.”

“I daydream about getting back to you every summer,” he said. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed his way up her arm to the nape of her neck. She shivered, sighed, and melted into his arms.

A kiss or two later, Bova glanced up. “Oh, God,” he said. “Yonder come the women young and old.” Ada and Erysa were entering the courtyard below, driving a small carriage behind a single pony.

“Oh, dear. Can we pretend we didn’t notice?”

“We’d better get out of the window, then.” He took her hand and, like shadows, the two ghosted into an upstairs guest bedroom.

Home from the market

Home from the market

Earlier Riffs on Fire-Rider

Escape into the Mountains
Women Warriors of the North
Kay’s Regrets

Images: DepositPhotos
The stone courtyard and buildings. ©Kistryn Malgorzata
Village market. © Nata48
Erysa. © Diana83
Fallon. © v-strelok

Image: Shutterstock
Okan kubnath. Jozef Klopacka

Short story: An excerpt from the latest installment in the Fire-Rider science fiction book series.

What and Where Is Lek Doe???

LOL! When I posted Book 13, Lek Doe, on Amazon, that august purveyor’s system first assumed I must have misspelled the title. “What?” it marveled. “You mean Led Doe?”

How about “Lead Doe“?

Assured that the spelling was intended, it then decided I was writing in Japanese. It asked if I wouldn’t please like a machine-generated translation of the title!

Well, of course, who on this side of the Great Lacuna ever heard of Lek Doe, eh?

Lek Doe is a trading center high in the Sehrra Muns. It’s situated next to a deep, clear, pristine lake that fills the crater of an ancient volcano. And it sits atop the crumbled ruins of the all-but-forgotten Mercan city once called “Lake Tahoe.”

An affluent town straddling trade routes between north and south, Okan and Socalia, Lek Doe enforces a strict neutrality that prohibits hostilities among the many wanderers, traders, merchants, and soldiers who pass through its precincts. Arms must be set aside, harsh words are frowned upon, and fights are likely to land all participants in the hoosegow.

Its neutrality is one of the reasons the Okan and A′oan bands are force-marching their men through the mountains toward the town, trying to reach it as fast as they can. If they are being pursued (as some of the kubnas suspect is the case), the Espanyo enemy will have to stand down once the Hengliss are inside the town.

Lek Doe also embodies the highest point of culture in the world of the Great Lacuna. Locals are wealthy and as civilized as humans get during the deep ice age that has afflicted the globe. Kay and Tavi explore a town laid out like a huge medieval bazaar, filled with interesting and entertaining sights, always tempting with luxury goods and tasty foods cooked at roadside.

Marching, the men contemplate the glories that await them:

Down on the lower end of Pine Ridge Road, not too far from the lakeshore, stood a wooden shed that was one of Mitch’s favorite watering holes. The proprietor brewed six different kinds of custom potations, none of which was to be missed. Perhaps, he thought, he’d go there first, before he visited Liana’s [Mitch’s preferred house of ill repute], so as to be adequately lubricated. Later, maybe the horses. Or the dogs. These people would race anything. Once, in the downtown marketplace, Mitch had seen some guy taking bets on racing fleas. They seemed to have arenas for everything, too. Out on the Espanyo side, they had a bull arena, where slender, graceful, crazy young men confronted long-horned bulls, big angry brutes crazier than their challengers, and where horsemen from deep in Socalia—some even from Mezgo, they claimed—raced wild horses and bulls, and if you were as demented as they were, they’d let you lay down your money and ride against them. Charro, they called them.

Devey liked to go to the fights. At Doe, you could wager on bare-knuckle and gloved, wrestling and kicking, cocks and bears. He promised Porfi they would see a cockfight, and Porfi bragged to that effect in front of his friends. Devey also had his favorite cathouse, and he had about decided Porfi had reached an age when he could be introduced to ladies. He would make up his mind about that once he got to Doe.

Lhored considered cathouses far beneath his dignity. Instead, handsomely placed women came to him, when he so desired. For the prominent or the very wealthy, Lek Doe offered a type of woman who was less a prostitute than an entertainer. Some of these became mistresses or wives of favored clients. Others maintained independence, accrued considerable wealth, and retired to become proprietors of various small businesses, or simply to live out their lives in comfort. One, in particular, Lhored hoped would still be there to visit him.

Hardly a man in the company didn’t have similar thoughts, and more. On an earlier visit, Arden had learned he could rent a tiny sailing boat from the locals and let the breeze carry him over the water, the way he might ride a wind-driven ice skiff across a frozen Okan pond. He looked forward to trying that again.

Don’O had caught the finest fish he’d ever eaten in the cold, deep waters of Lek Doe. Big, too, it was, and a fighter. He intended to hook another one someday—maybe tomorrow would be the day. He knew, though, that he’d spend a fair amount of his time riding herd on Moor Lek’s young pups, trying to keep them from forking over every tahm they’d brought with them plus the clothes off their backs to the various hustlers and grifters who inhabited the streets.

He calculated: he’d spring at least two from the hoosegow. A dozen or more would have to be nursed through the consequences of having no clue how to handle their liquor. The whole idiot crew would think the cat-lady was real and the two-headed calf (or whatever marvel the sideshows that dotted the thoroughfares had to offer this summer) was worth paying to see. Three would pass out somewhere and come stumbling along, bedazed, hours after the troops had hit the road. Several would show up at the barracks-tent with hookers on their arms, and at least one fool would announce he was in love. His buddies would never manage to resist the pranks this invited. Silently, Don’O laughed at the Lek Doe antics he had gone through in the past. Had he ever been as dumb as these young kids?

And if some rustic from north or south would like to buy a lead doe, no doubt he can find one there.