Chapter 8 Excerpts

In the below, Lord Culnor gets on Jaspar's case about being too down on himself:

“Sayn Cerupeen, boy, but you need to learn to tell a story better,” is the first thing that Culnor says, when I finish.  "There’s a horrible tentacle monster, and you spend all this mopey time talkng about how sad it was for those elves to meet you.  Do you realize, Jaspar, that you are never the hero in your own stories?  Your father would disapprove.”

I snort.  “You and my father were the only heroes in any story I've ever known.  Everybody else has just been... people.”

He laughs.  “You think your father and I were some kind of heroes?  Piffle!  We wrote the stories, boy, think about it!  Hardly going to say, ‘and right there, facing that dragon, I pissed myself in terror,’ am I?”

“You pissed yourself?”

“No!” he bellows.  “Well, yes, lots of times, but alcohol was involved.  My point is, spice it up some.  None of that whiny stuff about deciding to let your partner die!  You saved her!  You killed the monster!  Be the hero!”

“It was luck,” I counter, slumping.  “By all rights, she ought to be so much dust right now.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he says.  He looks me in the eye.  “Do you think I look back on my years of adventures and remember all the times I got lucky?  No!  I remember the times I got filthy rich, had throngs of people adoring me, and diddled some princess!”

“So you do remember the times you got lucky,” I snicker.

“Not. All. Of. Them.”

Later, Culnor sets Jaspar up for a meeting that will change his life:

Culnor claps me on the shoulder and laughs.  “You’re right, boy -- it’s all certainly made you dreary, if not crazy.  You need to unwind.”  Then his eye gets that twinkle that I’ve come to dread, the one that spurred old Mernick Fellthorn on so many adventures and earned Culnor his long succession of wives.  Anyone else would welcome it, but he’s too much like a second father to me for that look to mean anything but trouble.

“You need the Lady of Mysteries,” he proclaims.

I groan in protest, but he’s already at the table, scribbling something on a piece of paper.  “For God’s sake, Culnor, really?” I ask.  “Lousy or not, I’m a priest... and you want to hire me a prostitute?”

He drops his pen with a flourish, all smiles under his whiskers.  He looks like a giant schoolboy, giddy, though he can’t help but take a moment to lecture me.  “She’s not a prostitute, Jaspar.  She’s need made flesh.  She doesn’t leave you with a fuzzy feeling and an itch that starts three weeks later.  She fills you up where you’re broken.”

He shakes his head.  “Maybe she won’t even sleep with you.  Don’t get me wrong, I hope that she sleeps with you; you’ll be much less grouchy.  But when she comes for you, she’ll fix you, plain and simple.  I assure you.”

The tone in his voice catches me, the way he promises it.  Clearly he’s seen her himself, but he’s not just remembering lusty bouts between the sheets.  He certainly doesn’t defend any of his wives that way.  She’ll fix you.

My voice catches in my throat as I try to protest again.

“Ashara,” he whispers into his hands, which are cupped around the piece of paper.  “Ashara.  Ashara.”

The paper flares up with an indigo flame, and is consumed.  I stare after it, blinking.

“That’s it?”

He keeps grinning.  “It’s done, boy.  Enjoy her.”

“You just wrote something on a piece of paper, said her name three times, and that’s that?”  I shake my head.

“I didn’t just write anything.  It had a lot of zeroes on it.”

I can’t help but laugh.  “Great, so you bought me a high-class hooker for Frostmath.  I’m still just getting you another cravat.”