“Lt. Gwendolyn” by Eve Ventrue

LT. GWENDOLYN, LADY OF PRENTISS is rather an enigma. Hailing from the Zenon region of Kana, ladies are expected to be smiling and demure and rather tiny in stature: the classical, tea-drinking Zenon-Girl that prospective gentlemen seek in earnest. The daughters of Prentiss, however, do not quite fit that mold. They are on the tallish side, usually in the upper five foot range, sometimes passing six feet. Gwendolyn was easily that, and also had a solid, rather husky frame. Gwen also was encumbered with a bad reputation around Zenon: a Black Widow, bad temper, sharp tongue. Why … she acted like a Vith woman.

Indeed, Gwen did have a bit of trouble with her temper. Her uncle of the Cone side of the family, Derlith, was fond of his niece and helped her channel her aggressions in constructive ways. He got her into contact sports: boxing, sambo, grappling–all things Zenon-girls was not expected to do. Gwen’s size and solidity helped to excel in those sports and Uncle Derlith took her to compete in tournaments every year on Onaris. She has a slight limp from a broken ankle suffered in one of those tournaments when she refused to submit from a sunk-in ankle-lock. Gwen also, unlike her sisters, mastered the FEDULA, the LosCapricos weapon of the Prentiss Household. She was quite deadly with it.

Lt. Gwendolyn wearing a Fleet Tremblar Uniform (note, the rapier-like FEDULA at her hip) –painting by Eve Ventrue

Gwen also had a good head on her shoulders. Instead of hoping to marry young, Gwen enrolled at the University of Arden and received an “E” degree in Stellar Engineering. Her Uncle Derlith, an Admiral of the 3rd Stellar Fleet, helped her secure a command chair on the Demophalon John, a scouting vessel. Gwen’s temperament did not suit her well to the rigors of command and she was considered a harsh and unreasonable disciplinarian and was roundly disliked by her crew: the “Grizzly Bear”, they called her in hushed tones.

There was a darkness that seemed to hang over Gwen growing up. She had an aunt on her mother’s Cone side of the family who terrified her. Darkness seemed to walk with the woman, and when she came to Prentiss for a visit, Gwen often hid. Even the lurid sound of her voice scared Gwen. Through the vents in the manor, Gwen could hear her aunt frequently talking about some woman to the east whom she despised and cursed. She even hated her son, a boy named Stenstrom whom she hoped to torment.

And, eventually, her aunt would call for Gwen. “GWENDOLYN… COME HERE!!” rang out in her thoughts. Dreading each step, Gwen would come down the stairs and enter the parlor where her aunt and darkness waited.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue

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In what she thought would be the opening notes for the symphony of the rest of her life, the great Nether Day Ball in the city of Feren turned out to be one of the last.

“Lady Vendra of Cone” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Vendra of Cone, the fourth daughter of the prosperous Remnath House of Cone was well-loved by her family and had many friends. Thin and doe-eyed, she took such joy and care in anything she set her mind to. She was a very smiling young lady wearing the colorful Cone gowns with rare grace and charm. She was very unlike her eldest sister, Sephla, who was rather catty and argumentative and who had the social reputation as a hair-puller. Her father, Milius, was an importer/exporter of rare goods and often took Vendra with him. She marvelled at the great Fleet ships her father often shadowed for protection and often spoke in dreamy notes of wishing to marry a handsome Fleet officer some day.

When she came of age, her mother persuaded her to join the Posts. For a small initial fee, one could leave a letter in a general Fleet Posthole and any Fleet member who was looking to have a pen pal could respond and strike up a rapport. Vendra thoughtfully penned her letter and submitted it. She got many responses, though most she rejected. One, however, stood out. Lord Stenstrom of Belmont, a young Com officer aboard the Fleet Webber Amazing had answered her post. Vendra liked his simple wit and fine penmanship and decided to answer his reply. They soon, via correspondence, struck up a healthy friendship. With each exchange of letters, Vendra was more and more convinced that Lord Stenstrom was the man for her.

When all of the Cone daughters, except for Sephla who was on the BANNED list, were invited to the much-anticipated Nether Day Ball in Feren, Vendra immediately penned Lord Stenstrom a note and entreated him to accompany her.

She promised it would be an evening neither would ever forget.

Though she reserved final judgement until she met him in person, Vendra felt herself losing her heart to Lord Stenstrom, and when she saw him at last tall and handsome in his Fleet uniform, that was all–she was in love. They took an introductory swirl across the ballroom floor, every step a wonder. She tingled at his touch. They were such a fine pairing. After the dance, Vendra excused herself and Stenstrom went to get her a glass of punch. She gathered her friends and pulled them aside. She could barely speak she was so excited.
Lord Stenstrom.
Lord Stenstrom!
Everything she hoped he’d be.
Tall.
Handsome.
A fine Zenon House.
Perfect.
“In love. I’m in love,” she told her friends, breathless, and they clapped and congratulated her.

In later years, as she sat in a daze in her dreary convent room on the nightmarish world of Carina 7, she would reflect back on that fateful moment, standing amid her friends, speaking so freely of the new love growing in her heart. She would reflect back on the great mistake she made letting Stenstrom go, of parting with him. She should have stayed and gotten punch with him.

She should have never let him go.

In her excitement, she forgot about her sister, Lady Sephla, and all the enemies she had rolling about Kana. She forgot about the social game on Kana, the one-upmanship, the tawdry little ploys ladies played upon each other.

“Lady Jubilee” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Sephla had enemies everywhere, and they had ears as well. It never occurred to Vendra that one of those enemies heard every word she said, of childish love, of beating hearts. It never occurred to her that one of those enemies would dare humiliate her in her sister’s place.

When she returned to the ballroom floor, she couldn’t find Lord Stenstrom anywhere. Where had he gone? She smiled as she checked the nooks and corners.

Where could he be?

And then she saw him, out on the dance floor with some silver-haired girl Vendra had never seen before. She tried to get his attention, to pull him away from the intruder, but she could not. That woman was nailed to him, eyes locked, feet in step. Eventually, arm-in-arm, they left the floor and vanished, probably retreating to some quiet alcove or terrace, the silver-haired girl taking what should have been hers.

She would later learn that silver-haired girl was Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, one of her sister’s most heated rivals.

The anger, the rage, the broken heart. It was too much. She threw all her colorful Cone gowns out her window, put on an ugly gray suit, and threw herself out as well. She survived her suicide attempt and went mad. Her family, not knowing what to do with her, committed Vendra to a convent on Carina 7 where they heard she would receive the best of care.

As her family departed in their transport, the dames of the convent converged on her room and slammed the door behind them.

“We have things to teach you, Lady Vendra,” they said, eager. “Wondrous things …”

–Lady Vendra of Cone appears in LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue

“Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol” by Eve Ventrue

Lord Stenstrom of Belmont-South Tyrol is the main character of the upcoming LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire.

“Bel” is a very different sort of fellow from his predecessors, Captain Davage and Lord Kabyl.

He is of mixed Zenon and Esther/Tyrol heritage and is the youngest of thirty Belmont children (and the only male). Though the Zenons are potent in the Gifts, his Esther blood has robbed him of Gifts of the Mind. His mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, taught him the ways of Tyrol Sorcery, which consists of mundane learning, such as herbal lore, chemistry, Sleight of Hand and lock-picking. It also covers more arcane subjects: Demonology, Cabalism, alchemy and sympathetic magic. He is said to be able to Walk in the Shadows, passing unseen. Bel carries two LosCapricos Weapons: The NTH’s of his father’s line, and the MARZABLE from his mother’s. The NTH’s are a mystical set of pistols that can kill anything: living, dead, undead, machine and intangible.The MARZABLE is a potent dagger that mystically replenishes itself. With the MARZABLE, he can never be completely disarmed.

“Bel” by Carol Phillips

Bel gave his heart early on to Lady Lillian of Gamboa, a talented artist from the east. Lilly was very strong-willed and helped guide Bel as he grew into young man-hood. Unfortunately, Lilly would not commit herself to Bel and insisted they share a “cooling off” period lasting five years. During that time, he ended up having a number of affairs with: Lady Alitrix of Zama, Grand Dame Miranda of Rosell, Crewman Kaly of Figg, and Christiana of Z-Encarr. He has also participated in the Sisters’ Program over thirty times. He is said to possess the rare Pel Programmability.

He wears a long green coat formerly worn by members of the Hoban Royal Navy. Within his “HRN” he places many bits of his arcane equipment. The HRN appears to have certain mystical properties of its own, as the coat never shows wear or damage and always keeps Bel perfectly comfortable no matter how cold or hot it is.

Bel is also a well-known eccentric, wearing his HRN coat, his Vith triangle hat and a small mask, which nobody quite knows what to make of. He also never joined the Fleet, though his Programmability is high and his Father, Stenstrom the Older is a long-standing Warbird captain. Instead Bel became a Fleet Paymaster: essentially a clerk and shipboard civilian.

Bel, if anything, is a man of many secrets.

LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire will be out July, 2012 from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

My good friend Denise Verrico has just launched the fourth book in her Immortyl Revolution series, the Servant of the Goddess.

From the ashes of the first battle of the Immortyl Revolution, vampires Mia Disantini and Kurt Eisen set out to build a new Immortyl society. Trouble arrives in the person of Cedric MacKinnon, a runaway adept of the ancient arts, who brings tidings of upheaval at the chief elder’s court that threatens everything Mia and Kurt have accomplished. Mia finds it hard to resist when Cedric pledges his service and tempts her with the legendary skills he learned as an Immortyl courtesan. Facing opposition from both within and out, Mia begins to doubt Kurt is up to the task of leading their followers to his vision of an Immortyl Utopia. Torn between her loyalty to Kurt and Cedric’s insistence that she is the earthly manifestation of the Goddess Durga and destined to lead, Mia confronts the greatest challenge of her life.

Denise’s Immortyl Revolution Amazon page

Forget the fairytale vampire romance…
Mia Disantini thought she found the man of her dreams, but is trapped in a nightmare from which she can’t wake up.

Kurt Eisen makes a monstrous bargain to survive a Nazi concentration camp and begins to understand what a monster truly is.

Cedric MacKinnon was once a celebrated vampire courtesan. Now he’s a deadly assassin, who has cheated death too many times.

Annals of the Immortyls
A trio of Dark Urban Fantasy tales featuring characters from Denise Verrico’s Immortyl Revolution series

Click here to go to Denise’s website

copyright 2012, Denise Verrico

There are many ruins dotting the landscape of Kana, especially in the northern continent of Vithland where the remnants of old manors and castles litter the landscape. Most are forlorn and ill-trodden places, overgrown and generally best left avoided. One notable exception is the Ruins of Caroline sitting in the green lands of Hala near the Straights of Elder under the eye of the Sisters’ lighthouse. The ruins of the fallen manor are frequently visited. Inns and pubs nearby do a brisk trade of those travelers seeking to visit them. The locals frequently go to the ruins and tend to the grass and keep the footing level so that visitors unfamiliar with the terrain won’t hurt themselves.

“The Ruins of Caroline” by Carol Phillips

The House of Caroline was a Great House of Hala stock. Like most Halas, the Carolines were simple farmers and tillers of the land. They were well-liked, generally followers in the complicated social scheme of Kana instead of pacesetters. They had many friends across Kana. Caroline Maidens were known to be very beautiful. The Carolines were known to be quite tall for Halas, taller even than the Vith. The Sisterhood of Light diagnosed them with the early onset of Giantism.

The Carolines were one of twenty-five Great Houses to flee the League during the Great Betrayal in 000000AX and become Xaphans. Most of the other fleeing Houses were mal-contents and rabble-rousers: The Burgons, the Zary and Trimbles. The Carolines, however, were content league citizens–it was the House of Zary, a rather wayward House, that cooerced the Carolines to leave the League with them. So, broken-hearted, the Carolines boarded their ships and left their beloved manor by the sea behind.

The Carolines wandered the empty passes of Xaphan space for months. They were raided by several other Houses, including the House of Zary, who were starving in their transports. In danger of becoming extinct, the Carolines put out a distress call, which was answered by the League vessel Victor. With the Victor’s help, the Carolines settled on a gray world in the Tu Mervolin system.

There, the Carolines thrived, becoming Xaphans (technically, enemies of the League). The Carolines, however, always maintained friendly relations with the League and, during the Battle of Mirendra I, provided safe harbor for damaged League vessels, saving many lives. For their part in the battle, the Sisterhood of Light reinstated the House of Caroline’s familial patent in 003152AX, making them dual League/Xaphan citizens.

The abandoned Caroline Manor fell into ruins over the centuries, the grand estate tumbling down and blackening. The Lords of Hala went to the Sisters and demanded they be permitted to raze what was left of the manor and rebuild a new House there. Their request was denied and Caroline remained a ruin.

A Lady in the Ruins

6 ft 7 Melazarr of Caroline ended up in the Ruins a record 59 times (painting by Eve Ventrue)

An interesting legend and fad arose over the years regarding the Ruins of Caroline … as time and time again, the ruins were not completely abandoned.

The House of Caroline’s LosCapricos weapon is a strange garter-belt-like device called the VERY MARY. The VERY MARY, when worn by a Caroline maiden, will spirit her away from danger and return her to her ancestral holdings: the Ruins of Caroline near the sea in Kana. Over the centuries, Caroline maidens grew taller and taller and became more and more adventurous. Often times they found themselves in mortal peril, and many times they found themselves standing alone in the ruins under the Kanan moonlight. In 000272AX, Eon of Caroline was about to be sacrificed in Burgon and was saved by her VERY MARY. She wandered the ruins and, driven by cold and hunger, made her way into the countryside to locate shelter. She was met by Zal of Thompson, a lord from a nearby Great House and was welcomed into their home. Soon, Zal and Eon fell in love and he made her his lady. Eon was well-liked, and when word of how she arrived on Kana got out, gentlemen seeking a fine bride began venturing out into the ruins, hoping to encounter a Caroline maiden from nowhere as Zal had done.

The fad became popular and gentlemen from all over Kana and elsewhere flocked to Hala to take their turn sitting in the ruins under the moonlight. They brought with them flowers and candies, and gifts of jewelry. They wrote heartfelt letters and placed them by a remnant of masonry that became known as the Heartstone. The fad might have faded, as many often do, however, occasionally the gentlemen’s efforts were rewarded with success and the pratice perpetuated itself, eventully becoming a cottage industry in the region.

Carofabs

As with all things, there were those who sought to take advantage of such a quaint fad and turn it to their own ends. Such was the Carofab: a local lady who disguised herself as a Caroline. Kanan ladies became rather jealous of all those eligible men going to Caroline to seek romance. They developed a rather sophisticated spy network so that they could know exactly who was going to be sitting in the ruins and when. When a desired gentleman was slated to be out there, Kanan ladies hoping to catch his eye would dress themselves up as a Caroline and meet him there. Lady Constance of Belmont-South Tyrol did just such a thing and won a husband for her efforts.

copyright 2012 Ren Garcia