The Eagle and the Lion

Ah yes, Mr I’m-in-charge himself.

The Avian area commander is not well-liked by many of the Predgarians in Steiron. If we set aside his personal dislike for Captain Golden Lion, the arrogant and somewhat vain man is overly-officious, a bit of a stickler for formality and protocol and just down-right irritating to be around.

That aside, he’s not really a bad person, and that’s why he’s such a pain in the neck. Martial Eagle is a Predgarian and does his job well. A warrior without a colour to his name, he shouldn’t be underestimated in battle and never is. His affinity for the proud eagle is easily discernable upon the battlefield and his double-edged, dual short swords and mid-class armour make for faster movement than the average eagle warrior.

The man has an extensive history, joining the Order in Siftine and transferring to Steiron a few years later. A competent and reliable warrior, he worked in both North and East Sectors before becoming official Second to the then current captain of West Sector.

When the position of captain opened in West it was fully expected that Eagle would get the job, but it was instead filled by a new Predgarian, barely a year out of training.

Though the young warrior Lion had earned a gold medallion and had received personal training from the general himself, many thought this decision premature.

Martial Eagle was obviously amongst them and spoke out against the captain every chance he got. Golden Lion had no choice in the end but to have Eagle transferred to a different unit. Out of each other’s hair, that should’ve been the end of it but by the end of the next two years, Martial Eagle was promoted to area commander – a position above Golden Lion.

After the initial gloating period (which went on far too long) Lion and everyone else settled into the change, accepting the fact that though Martial Eagle was a very definite ass, he’d probably do well in the position.

Alas it was not to be. Martial Eagle still takes every chance he gets to annoy Lion, trying to get a rise out of him and the warriors under the captain’s command, hoping for the day he can hand in a substantial complaint, give a scathing report to the council of the general’s shining star of a student.

When all’s said and done though, Martial Eagle will still be sat behind his desk running numbers and reading reports while Lion enjoys fighting the Red Jackal out on the streets…which is not on Lion’s list of things to do that fateful morning when he gets caught up in the messy scenario Karen and Jackal are creating.

At this point Lion can’t really be called a new captain anymore. He’s been in the job a good eight years. He’s a conscientious leader, taking care of his duties and the warriors under his care – his warriors would most likely say he pays a little too much attention.

Golden Lion is very mindful of the fact he is the youngest warrior – in any of the five Orders – to be given command of a unit.

Completing his training at sixteen he was given his first ever assignment in Joinstohm. Before that year had quite finished General Jaguar decided to trial him in West Sector Steiron, which led to the awkward seventeen year-old setting up permanent residence there.

Lion’s careful nature, his desire to not screw up, has made it extremely difficult for Martial Eagle to find anything to fault him on in the last six years.

The most the area commander can do is poke fun at the tiny flaws in Lion’s writing style in his reports.

In Jackal’s Gambit, Lion is thrust into the action, finding the Dakkonin scarce and two civilians, namely Karen and Jay in mortal danger.

Meeting Karen Fireirro will be both the best and worst thing which could happen to him. Now with new knowledge of the Sarpiens he cannot ignore and people in danger, Lion will have no choice but to act.

He will have to make hard decisions, ones against orders, ones which might get his unit killed, ones which will lead him to a direct confrontation with the Red Jackal.

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Grey Wolf

So continuing with the Canine theme, this week I’m going to tell you about the Grey Wolf.

You may have already met him if you’ve been digging into Jackal’s Gambit. So now let’s delve into this thoughtful, moralistic and occasionally over-pious man.

Heralding from the great continent of Oldeiria in the north, Wolf is no stranger to warm climates, large reptiles and cannibalistic plantation. He did not start out life as a Predgarian though. Born to one of the numerous jungle villages, he decided to leave home like some enterprising villagers did, to increase the wealth and prestige of his home.

The village dwellers are prone to this, some going to work on the Aljurian estates to the east. Others brave the ocean trip and venture into Unicia and sometimes even beyond.

Very often they will spend years in their chosen professions, sending what they can back to their village.

Wolf’s family trade had been in medicine, but as a young man he discovered that south of the great mountains, people looked to the Unicians for all their healing needs.

Realising he would need to expand his horizons, he travelled to Steiron, where he put his knowledge of plants to a different use. There were not many in the wealthy city which knew about Oldeiran flora, and he soon found a key place in landscaping for the Steiron Council.

It was here, after several years of plying his trade, where things changed for him. Whilst planting a large Guromba tree in South Sector town centre, he had the bad luck of being singled out by a Sarpien.

He never did find out if the villain was there to kill or capture him, but thankfully the Blue Dingo was on hand to save him.

After this event, Wolf spent a few weeks soul-searching and visiting the altar to the Light at the Predgarian Temple in Central Sector. The teachings of the Lumarium, which told of the guiding Light, Sorin and his representatives on Courin, the Unicians, were not a million miles from the cultural teachings he had grown up with.

The rays of the sun, giving life and health to all around them could surely also be a guiding force against the sclithe?

It seemed to Wolf that the Unicians had picked up on what his people had known in their blood for centuries but had somehow managed to translate the goodwill and wisdom of the divine into a language to be understood by men.

This, coupled with the gratitude to the Predgarian which had saved his life, is what made up his mind. He decided he wished to become a Predgarian and serve the people and the Light, just as the Blue Dingo did.

First though, there was a tiny hurdle he had to overcome. It was a known fact that anyone could come take the tests to become a Predgarian, but he knew he was bound to fail without having at least some minor knowledge in martial arts.

Wolf knew nothing of the ancient Unician art, and when he looked into it, found it quite daunting. Avian, Feline and Canine were the three most common, and he chose to focus on these after watching a brief video displaying the lesser known Insecta, Reptile, a very strange technique called Aquatic and the two styles which were now a dying breed, Equi and Bovine.

Wolf found even Feline and Avian a daunting task, considering all those high kicks and jumps out of his league. He decided to focus entirely on Canine and soon found it suited him well.

After a few months of intensive training, he felt he had enough to try the tests. He failed. However, Blue Dingo recognised him and taking him to one side, offered to help with his training in his spare time. Wolf did not fail his second attempt three months later.

Grey Wolf served in South Sector for a couple of years before transferring to West. He became a reliable member of the team and a year after Golden Lion became the unit’s new captain, was named Lion’s second.

Grey Wolf is now a loyal Predgarian, valued for his down to earth state of mind and dedication to the protection of the people of Courin.

Next week we will hop over to Central Sector and visit the Predgarian Area Commander, Martial Eagle.

Blue Dingo

So Jackal’s Gambit is now live. Hope you’re enjoying it. Rest assured, as you sit there devouring your way through the world of Courin and delving into Karen and Jay’s plight, I am toiling away at book two.

But I’m afraid I can’t say too much about that at the moment, so I’m going to fill the time talking about something else – or in this case someone else.

The character Blue Dingo holds a special place in my heart. He’s mentioned in the very front of the book Jackal’s Gambit before the story even starts.

In the first book his role is quite minor, but don’t forget him, for he’ll be popping up quite often.

Dingo represents a steady and unwavering soul, someone who isn’t always the main focus, who isn’t the best warrior of them all or the most powerful, but who is always there.

He’ll always be there when things get bad, he’ll always show up to the fight, no matter the odds. Why? Because he’s needed, because it’s the right thing to do, because he cares.

In case you hadn’t caught it yet, the inspiration for this Predgarian came from someone I actually know. I began the project of Predgarians over ten years ago, and my dearest friend has been with me every step of the way.

They’ve been with me through the good and bad – through the shining moments and really, really awful story ideas.

The character of Blue Dingo sometimes fills a much-needed gap when things get a bit too serious, when I need to lighten the mood. Overall though, he is a steady, competent warrior not to be underestimated.

He’s been a member of the Predgarian Order for over thirty years and has served in places such as Sharan, Kian and the jungles of Oldeiria prior to being assigned in Steiron. He’s even had cause to serve in the Shamix Forest (those damn griffins.)

Now a member of the South Sector unit in Steiron, his duties until recently have been somewhat mundane. South has always been the quietest of the Sectors, being mostly nothing but residential with a meagre excuse for a town centre. Protecting such a place had once been a walk in the park.

The landscape has begun to change over the last year and a half unfortunately, with the rise of a new Sarpien general in West Sector – none other than the Red Jackal.

Known for his brutality and ambition, it wasn’t long before South Sector started to feel the nasty little ripples he was creating. The arrival of such a high-profile Sarpien also stirred up the nest, making South Sector’s local nuisance, a blue sclithe named Sharglin, become more active.

Normally, such things would not be the concern of Predgarians, but with the Dakkonin stretched thin in recent years, many units found themselves dealing with problems they wouldn’t normally.

Blue Dingo is unfortunately acquainted with the infamous general, having crossed paths with him in Sharan over ten years previous. He does not hold any desire for vengeance, knowing it would most likely be a death sentence, but wouldn’t mind another stab at the Sarpien Canine warrior.

He’ll be getting his wish, several times over in the coming books.

I’ll be visiting several characters from Jackal’s Gambit as the weeks go on, Blue Dingo was but the first. I felt he was a fitting character to begin with.

Do remember, my Q&A for Predgarians takes place tomorrow between 7-8pm. You can find me on Twitter. Tag questions with #AskArdron and I’ll be sure to see them.

Till next time.

Flip-Side of the Coin

With Jackal’s Gambit going on sale in just a few days, I can’t help feeling a tense excitement. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Before you can get your hands on it though, there is another blog post. Today I want to talk a little about the antagonist, the Red Jackal.

Now I’ve mentioned him before. He’s featured in the blog about Sarpiens. He’s been mentioned in the short story based in Joinstohm. Jackal has an extensive history. He’s shown up in several different locations, and each time has always made the news.

He’s known for his brutality, his willingness to kill and on occasion raze towns to the ground. Never mistake his actions for boredom or frivolity however. The Red Jackal has a keen mind and is always calculating, always looking beyond the moment and is excellent at pre-empting his enemies.

The Red Jackal is no mere Sarpien. He has risen to general and proven his right to lead the frightening hordes owned by the sclithe. He is a man other Sarpiens fear. General Red Jackal is a man other Sarpiens point to as an example of acceptable Sarpien behaviour, a role model.

This is the man Karen Fireirro decides to annoy in Jackal’s Gambit, which is not the best decision ever. This is not the only mistake Karen will make, but it’s perhaps the biggest.

Jackal is in the middle of a very important project when he runs into Karen. A project on which a lot hinges, and one of those things might very well be his career. Sarpiens unable to keep their sclithe happy tend to have their careers and lives cut short.

Karen is very much a nuisance, but not a threat. Despite this, Jackal is still a Sarpien, and he is still the Bloodrunner. He has a reputation to protect. His answer to her meddling in his affairs will be as brutal as at any other time…or will it?

Jackal’s decisions during this book will shape the story. He may well regret some of those decisions.

He considers Karen nothing more than a splinter, perhaps a thorn in the foot, slowing him down, delaying the inevitable. But given the chance, she might just become something more, something he can’t ignore – the flip-side of the coin.

Don’t forget, Jackal’s Gambit is available to buy on Amazon from the 1st September. You’ll be able to purchase it in ebook or paperback form. So why not grab a copy and tell me what you think?

Unfortunately, the Q&A this Thursday has had to be pushed back to next week on the 8th. But it is still going to happen and who knows, perhaps it will give a couple of you time to eat your way through the book and inspire some interesting questions.

Till next time, happy reading.

Predgarains Begins

So we’ve almost arrived. In just over two weeks, a couple of things will happen. The first is that Predgarians begins, starting with Jackal’s Gambit. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the story begins.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Christine, isn’t that the same thing? You’re right up to a point. Jackal’s Gambit is indeed a story, but the tale, the journey which you will embark on travels far beyond the end of this one book.

I’ve surely hinted at this from the very beginnings of the tour though? Would I have shown you so many places on Courin in the weeks gone by if the entire tale was limited to a single event on the map?

But enough of that for now. I think it is enough to know that Jackal’s Gambit is far from the end of this project.

So let’s talk about Jackal’s Gambit specifically, shall we? After all, it’s this particular tales’ time to shine.

Firstly, let me remind you of what’s coming. Here is the blurb you will find on the back of the book.

Jackal's Gambit Blurb

 

So after reading this, and some of the other snippets about characters which may or may not appear in the book, one thing should be glaringly obvious – Jackal’s not a nice guy.

So why does he get his name on the front of the book? The answer is, of course…that you’ll have to read it and find out.

I know, I know, I’m an awful person.

The scene is set in the city of Steiron, and you’ll find you have little time to wonder about the Red Jackal and his influence on the title, because you’ll be too busy getting to know the protagonist, Karen Fireirro.

You could say I’ve been protecting her thus far. I’ve not said much about her up to now. In fact, the only time I’ve dragged her from the book was during a character interview for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

Karen drives the story forwards in a way none of my other characters can. She’s not your typical heroine and you may find yourself flipping between liking her, being filled with curiosity over her story and even disliking her.

That’s fine though. As I said, Karen is far from the average heroine, and I’m sorry to inform you that if you’re looking for someone to shine like a star whilst saving the day and everyone around them – then you’d best look elsewhere.

Karen struggles to save herself half the time, never mind anyone around her, but everyone starts somewhere.

I’ll leave it there for now. Next week, I’ll address the other side of the coin. Jackal’s Gambit wouldn’t be much of a story without Karen Fireirro, there wouldn’t be any reason for her to force her way through the pages of the book. However, she’d have no reason to if Jackal wasn’t there creating the scene in the first place.

Jackal’s Gambit becomes available on Amazon on the 1st September – don’t miss it! You won’t regret it, I promise.

Before that however, you will find me on Twitter, where on Thursday 31st I will be answering any questions about my new book between 7 and 8pm (BST).

Life in the Orders

The Blue Dingo opened his eyes slowly, smiling contentedly up at his bedroom ceiling. He was looking forward to today, an entire day to himself – he didn’t even have night duty.

Yawning mightily as he stretched, he pulled himself out of bed and picked up the comb from his bedside drawer, quickly running it through his thick shoulder-length hair. He momentarily studied his reflection in the wall mirror on his way to find clothes. His black hair and short beard still had no hint of grey in them.

He wouldn’t say he was vain, but dreaded the day when it happened. He wasn’t a young warrior anymore, despite his youthful face. He’d been a Predgarian for a good thirty-five years. Dingo knew that as long as he had his medallion, he would remain young for a long time yet, but he still got paranoid about it.

He pulled on a pair of worn jeans and a black hooded sweater before reaching for his heavy boots. Leaving his room he jogged down the corridor and then the stairs. He’d just get a bit of breakfast before heading out for the day.

He hummed to himself contentedly when he reached the kitchen, looking about for cereal. He grimaced, Magpie had bought those weird corn misshapes again. Taking a bowl from the cupboard he poured some of the cheap cereal into it while opening the fridge door with his other hand.

His eyes scanned the bottles. Magpie’s mixed juice, Gecko’s bottled water, Swallow’s low-fat milk…

He scowled at the neat scrawl across the bottle. “Green Swallow’s milk, don’t touch.”

The woman was a nightmare. Still, he wasn’t going to let her ruin his day so took out the regular milk, determined not to think about her anymore.

‘Dingo,’ a voice greeted from behind him.

Dingo glanced back as he poured milk on his corn shapes. Captain Grey Owl stood in the kitchen doorway. His sandy hair was as unkempt as usual and his narrow face sported that familiar harried, over-worked cast.

‘I was wondering-’

‘No,’ Dingo cut him off, placing the milk back in the fridge.

‘If you wouldn’t-’

‘No,’ Dingo dug a spoon out of the kitchen draw and began to chomp on his breakfast.

‘Mind nipping-’

‘No.’

‘Swallow to Central Sector.’

Dingo glared at him, chewing aggressively. ‘No.’

‘It’s important she gets there quickly.’

Dingo’s grey eyes remained hard.

‘And you do have a hopper.’

‘It’s my day off.’

‘I know, but it won’t take you long.’

‘How about I give you the keys, and you can fly her majesty to Central.’

‘Dingo,’ Owl chided but the beginnings of a smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. ‘You know I’m clumsy at landings.’

Dingo grinned at him.

‘Anyway, I’m going to be too busy – I am covering your shift today.’

Dingo growled around another mouthful of cereal. ‘Fine, but then I’m out of here.’

‘Don’t forget to come back this afternoon.’

‘What?’

‘You promised Gecko you’d practice with him, did you forget?’

‘No,’ Dingo denied. He ignored Owl’s knowing grin. ‘Fine,’ he said again. ‘Anything else? Need some shopping, want me to spy on the Dakkonin?’

‘Well, we are a bit low on milk.’

‘Arrgh.’

Owl chuckled and turned. ‘Enjoy your time off.’

Dingo could still hear his captain laughing to himself as he moved off up the corridor to his office.

He decided to get this over and done with quickly so ate his breakfast in record time and went back upstairs to speak with his least favourite person.

Dingo gave Swallow’s bedroom door a polite knock. The tall woman opened it a few moments later.

He noticed she looked fresh, her straight brown hair recently washed. Glancing down at her smart grey trousers and pretty white blouse, she seemed ready to head over to Central Sector, but Dingo knew Swallow always dressed smart anyway.

Her chin lifted, one eyebrow rising in an imperious query.

‘Owl wants me to fly you to Central.’

Swallow nodded. ‘Excellent, I must be at the temple immediately.’

‘Let’s go then,’ Dingo replied with his best affable tone.

He turned away. Hearing Swallow follow after him, he didn’t bother to look back but led the way downstairs and to the narrow passage which led out into the garage connected to the Predgarian Centre.

Dingo smiled up at the hopper. Looking at the green-painted vehicle always made him happy. He stepped up to it, laying one hand on the recognition pad on its side.

The hatch next to the broad wing began to open, the ramp extending downwards. Dingo could hear Swallow’s foot tapping impatiently but held in his sigh.

He jogged up the ramp and into the main section, the space taken up by six seats, three on each side, complete with belts. Dingo proceeded to the cockpit, belting himself into one of the two navigation helms.

Swallow joined him in the other. He’d have preferred for her to take a seat behind, but wasn’t going to make an issue of it. After ensuring the ramp had risen once more and the hatch was closed, he flicked some switches and got everything running.

He glanced over at the fellow Predgarian, deciding he should try to be civil. ‘So how come you need to be at the Temple this morning?’

His teeth clenched hearing her sniff.

‘I have many students, Blue Dingo, you know that. Gecko is not the only young warrior I teach in Steiron.’

‘Right.’ He flicked on the upward thrusters, allowing the hopper to hover slightly above the cement floor before beginning to punch the co-ordinates into his mapping screen.

‘Green Gecko is a shame, I’m afraid he will never reach his full potential.’

Dingo’s fingers slowed on the small number pad before him. ‘Why do you say that? He’s young, he’s got years ahead of him yet.’

‘Yes,’ Swallow agreed with a sigh. ‘But he is not transferring the things he is taught onto the field. I fear he will never excel while under the influence of such mediocre role models.’

Dingo’s fingers froze completely for a moment. His jaw clenched but forced himself to stay focused on the screen. He’d finished the sequence so hit the activation switch, initiating the hop to Central Sector.

He paid little attention to the familiar shifting sensation, or the strange, eerily silent whiteness that enveloped everything for several seconds. Even when they appeared in the sky over the buildings of Central, he barely looked at them.

Gecko was his partner, there was no one who saw the young man in the field more than he did. Dingo knew Swallow was not referring to Grey Owl, Red Kite or her own partner, Magpie. She was talking about him.

Dingo remained silent and didn’t speak to her again during the flight. Let her think whatever she wanted. He knew his own worth, and Gecko’s. He was good at his job and so was his partner.

He tried to put the brief conversation out of his mind, but as usual, Swallow had cast a shadow without even trying.

Life on the Streets

Red strutted down Elson Road, the pock-marked, in much need of repair tarmac divided the Torron Estate from the old warehouse district. Humming to himself, the dark-skinned man glanced around for anyone who might be watching before stopping by a small silver car parked flush against the curb.

He paused, checking in the car’s side-mirror his dyed crimson dreadlocks and long brown coat, covering his simple faded jeans and green t-shirt.

Satisfied and still humming his off-key tune, he crossed over and in amongst the first of the mucky and mostly abandoned warehouses. He glanced up at them in disgust, West Sector’s industrial couldn’t keep up the pace against North and Central, and almost the entire district had fallen into disuse.

The undesirable and unmentionable fact of otherwise wealthy West Sector, Red grinned.

His gait became more purposeful, dropping his easy-going swagger. Red pulled out a phone from his coat pocket and got to work.

‘Yo,’ he spoke into it after dialling the first of the numbers on his to-do list that day. Red didn’t need to say anything other than his greeting, they would know it was him.

‘Red, heheh, you’re early.’

Red rolled his eyes, he knew what that meant. ‘Zan, this’ll be the third time you ain’t paid me on time.’

‘I know, man, I know – something’s come up.’

‘Listen up, Zan, ya know how many critters are linin’ up for mah work? I got city officials, mean street gangs, damn man, I even got Caban on the line – don’t be messin’ with me.’

‘I’m sorry, Red, I just-’

‘Forget it, man. No money, no info, that’s the way it works.’

‘Red, I need that information.’

‘Well, I’ve got it, when yer ready to pay up, ya know how to find me.’

Red hung up and shook his head. He started to dial the next number.

‘Yo.’

‘Red, about time, I’ve been waiting. Did you manage to get in?’

‘Course, it’s me. I got some good stuff. Question is – what ya willing to pay fer it?’

The man on the other end snorted. ‘I know your prices, Red, you’re not cheap. I’ve got something new in, thought maybe we could trade in something other than money.’

‘Depends what ya got.’

‘Iridescents.’

‘Specifics.’

‘Garnet, pearl and rainbow.’

‘Garnet’s worthless on this world,’ Red countered. ‘Pearl’s cheap and rainbow’s manufactured.’

Red’s customer gave a heavy sigh.

‘Should’ve known you’d know your stuff on alien gemstones. Fine, how about the azure?’

‘Depends. You got teardrop azure?’

There was a lengthy pause. ‘Yes.’

Red grinned, this was like pulling teeth. ‘Then you gotta deal. Five of those and we’re good.’

‘Five?’

‘Yahah.’

There was another hefty sigh. ‘Fine.’

Red grinned again. ‘Ya know where to leave it. Once I have em keep an eye on yer mail.’

Red hung up. At least that one had been more productive. Five teardrop azure iridescents could get him a lot of money. He might be able to lay off the jobs for a few months with an income like that.

Still, he needed to tie his other contracts up so began dialling the next number. His fingers stilled on the number pad, his eyes lifting slightly as a shadow passed by overhead.

He looked up just in time to see the medallion warrior gaining height and speed on his huge grey wings.

Red squinted, trying to make them out. The twin suns of Courin glinted off light-coloured armour briefly and then the warrior was lost to sight.

The warrior could’ve been anyone, but this close to the warehouses, and flying upwards from the ground – Red guessed it must’ve been a Sarpien.

He put his phone away as he continued to watch the sky. He judged that the warrior was heading to the other side of town. Red shrugged, not his problem.

He decided to take a look around though, didn’t want to walk into a Sarp while on the phone.

Red was glad he did when he turned the corner and walked straight into two men. Red stumbled backwards. One wore black leather and way too many knives, the other was positively huge with pallid white skin and a very thin covering of brown hair on his head.

‘Get out of our way,’ the shorter of the two growled.

‘Pologies,’ Red murmured, nodding his head respectfully as he passed them by.

The two men disappeared around the corner and Red allowed himself to fall back against the nearest wall, exhaling with relief.

‘Yeah, nice one, Red,’ he spoke to himself. ‘Just wander into two Sarps, no probs.’

As his head turned in the direction the two Sarpiens had disappeared, his mind raced. One of those had been the Praying Mantis. Dangerous. He thought back to the Avian he’d seen in the sky. That’d make three Sarps, all heading out at the same time.

Red’s eyes narrowed. What was going on here? He decided to abandon the rest of his calls for now. It could be bad news for him and a lot of people in Steiron if the Sarps were getting frisky.

Maybe he should do a bit of snooping, see if he couldn’t find out what they were up to.

 

Coming 1st September – Predgarians: Jackal’s Gambit. Find out what Jackal and his Sarpiens are up to in West Sector.