And Castle Blanchefort has fallen!
Lord Kabyl has lost everything: his wife, his kin, his family fortune, and his home. Castle Blanchefort, once a safe haven, is overrun with enemies seeking his blood.
In what follows, he must join forces with ancient enemies and with people who do not exist. He must treat with sinister, possibly untrustworthy gods and barter away his soul for urgently needed arcane help or face certain death at the hands of forgotten tyrants and their machinations from a bygone age.
And, how can a strange science known as Mentralysis, practiced in secret in the hidden places of the League, hold the key to ultimate victory?
What should have been obvious to Lord Kabyl from the start at last becomes crystal clear: Foolish is he who dares possess the Ultimate Object, for misery shall be his only reward.
Ren Garcia is a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Texas native who grew up in western Ohio. He has been writing since before he could write, often scribbling alien lingo on any available wall or floor with assorted crayons. He attended The Ohio State University and majored in English Literature. Ren has been an avid lover of anything surreal since childhood, he also has a passion for caving, urban archeology and architecture. His highly imaginative "League of Elder" book series is published by Loconeal Publishing
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From: Part 2, Chapter 9: 1000 Charahil Park
She fell into a fitful sort of sleep. Kay stood and looked at the abundance of things all around. A market this large should have a proprietor or two. Perhaps they could summon help.
"Hello!" he called out into the hollow air. "Can someone help us?"
He received no reply. "Watch Laika, please," he said to King and Wafted down to the floor past the iron fence. He saw a sales counter in the distance and hurried there. He didn’t have time to appreciate any of the wonders placed on the shelving as he passed. He saw a case full of confectionery, all in inviting colors. He smelled the aroma of pie and frosted cakes, hard candies, chocolates, assorted fruit and baked goods and a long chilled case of ice cream in endless pastel colors. It smelled so good. It cleared the remnants of The Jones’ grenade from his nose.
As he neared the counter, he passed a number of statues, some in the shape of giant-sized cats of various species and some in the shape of seal-like aquatic mammals: a walrus, a furry seal pup and a sea lion. Standing tall over the statues was a slender human female sculpture in an alluring gown carved in the act of sighing: head back, mouth slightly open, and a demure hand pressed to her cheek. Her face was partially hidden by a large pair of protruding goggles, rather like Sam’s goggles from Hoban, only these were much larger and more protruding.
This statue …
He stopped dead in his tracks. He had seen it before, in Gods Temple, and in the Mystery Library where she had carried the large book. Now, here she was right in front of him. This time, she carried no book in her slender arms.
He reached the counter. Nobody was present. There was a stack of business cards in a clamshell that caught Kay’s attention. The cards read:
1000 CARAHIL PARK GIFT SHOP152
Where fun and mystery are where you find them.
He held the card and took heart. He had heard that Carahil maintained a wondrous shop of sorts where he allowed those who pleased him to roam about and have whatever they wanted. The store was full of Carahil’s charm and light: Oh, to be a child here.
If any could save Laika, it was Carahil.
"Carahil!" he called out. "It is I, Kay! Carahil, I have urgent need of you!"
His voice echoed in the giant space. Kay stood there holding the card. "Carahil!"
An alluring voice from behind him spoke. He felt breath on his ear. "Something you like?"
Kay whirled around. Standing there was a thin female, on the tallish side, wearing a fine teal gown of extraordinary quality. She reminded Kay of his aunt, Lady Poe: her figure and turn of the cheekwas similar, along with her complexion, her lean upright body and her head of boy-short platinum blonde hair. Her shoulders and line of the neck were the same, only she was more cut, more provocative than Lady Poe. She wore an elaborate pair of telescoping silver goggles that obscured her eyes and much of her face above her nose. The lenses glowed with ethereal purple light.
Here stood the statue, given life at last.
She leaned in and encroached on his personal space, giving him no room. Kay tried to gauge her age, but it was impossible; sometimes she seemed like a little girl fresh with life, other times she gave the impression of great age and wisdom. She carried with her a fierce presence, an invasive, aggressive sort of quality that Kay found off-putting. Though she looked rather like Lady Poe, she acted nothing like her.
"Who are you, please?" he asked.
She adjusted her goggles and spoke, carefully articulating her words. "My name is Atha."
Kay searched his memory for the name, certain it had great significance, but couldn’t recall it. "I’m sorry, I don’t know the name. We saw you in Gods Temple, did we not, and again in the library?"
Atha laughed. "Of course you did." She came in close and lifted her arms as if she wished to embrace and possibly kiss him. Kay sidestepped to his right and created some space.
"Are you the proprietor of this store, Lady Atha?"
"My father is," she replied.
"And who is that?"
She laughed. "Why, Carahil, silly."
Kay was thunderstruck. "Carahil is your father?"
"Yes, of course."
Kay looked her over. Carahil was a newly minted ‘god’; therefore his children would also be gods and goddesses. Atha had a vast presence about her, she could possibly be a goddess, but he assumed Carahil’s daughter, if ever he had one, would be different somehow; more like Carahil himself, perhaps. Tattooed at the end of her left collarbone was the tiny glittering image of a resplendent seal—Carahil himself.
As if reading his thoughts, she answered. "Were you expecting a daughter of Carahil to be a little animal of some sort? We can be whatever we want. I could be an animal if I wanted."
"Then why aren’t you?"
"Because I like being a human … so few expectations come with this form. Come, I’ll prove it you." She held out her hand.
"My friend is dying. If you are Carahil’s daughter, can you help her?"
Atha smiled and adjusted her goggles again. "The Haitathe, you mean? I find it odd that a Vith should care so much for his ancient enemy."
"Laika is not my enemy."
"That remains to be seen. Come, I’ve things to show you. I promise she’ll not die for the time being." She held out her hand, impatient for Kay to take it. He glanced at the island and Laika’s still form at the top, along with the audience of seals gazing up at her from below. King’s shiny bird eyes blinked back at him from the rail. Tentatively, he took Atha’s hand and she led him away through the rows. The selection of odd neatly-shelved items was bewildering. "Where is Carahil?" Kay asked.
Atha led him to an aisle lined with toys in colorful boxes. Her grip was soft, but strong at the same time. "He’s far away. In Gods Temple, you asked for help and I heard you. Here I am. I stayed near just for you."
"Phillip and Sarah asked for Carahil."
"Sorry. You got me instead."
"And you are Carahil’s daughter?" Kay asked again.
Atha ignored his question. She released Kay’s hand and browsed the vast collection of items on the shelves. She leaned down
and pointed at a box. "Ah, here! Come see."
She pointed at a child’s doll in a duraplas box. It was a foot-high effigy of Atha as a young girl, wearing a complicated gown and a crooked little smile. The doll’s platinum blonde hair style was the same; the eye-obscuring goggles were there as well. Bold labeling on the box read:
THE CHILDREN OF CARAHIL SERIES:
ATHA OF THE QUEST, YOUNGEST DAUGHTER OF CARAHIL AND MABSORNATH
GODDESS OF OCCASIONAL CHAOS
Kay stood there looking at the labeling and was somewhat stunned. Atha laughed and covered the last line with her hand. "Don’t worry about that last part," she said. "I’m harmless."
Kay looked over the myriad other boxes on the shelf and was amazed by what he saw. There was a doll of his mother, Countess Sygillis, complete with gown, red hair and Shadowmark, and also one of his father, Captain Davage, in his Fleet uniform. There was Sarah and Phillip, Thomasina in her green and brown armor, Magistrate Kilos in her black suit and ...
He pulled a box off the shelf. There was a doll of himself, purple-haired and green-eyed, and another box, this time with Sam, bone white and jet black holding her orange Anuian Jar. And another with Laika, uninjured, standing tall wearing a miniature belt dangling with duraplas weapons.
Laika, nearby. Dying.
Atha once again read his thoughts.
"The wonders available here are not to be taken lightly. Nothing is beyond reach or out-of-the question here. If there’s any place your Haitathe friend can be saved, you’ve found it." Atha took his hand and pulled him down the aisle. They reached an area profuse with toy doll houses of various sizes, some quite large and complex. Situated amid the doll houses was a large and rather complicated doll in a clear duraplas package. It read, in splashy lettering:
QUEEN GHOME—WOMAN OF A THOUSAND FACES
Kay picked it up. It was big, nearly covering his full arm-length. In the center of the package was a doll in roughly female proportions. The doll had no face, just a smooth blank spot where a face should be. It had no hands, feet, hair or breasts. Surrounding the doll were dozens and dozens of masklike faces with different colors and styles of hair. There were also hands in various alien configurations, feet, scaly wings, tails and other odd accessories.
"This is the enemy, the one who has stolen my Ne-Countess’ face. The process she uses to achieve this is not understood," Kay said.
"It’s understood by me. It’s all there on the package, if you look carefully," Atha answered.
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