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Book Previews - Veil of Darkness
Book One of The Earthsoul Prophecies

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    “Good idea,” Jase said, pulling out his mother’s list and handing it to Zander. “You soldier types are supposed to be the good guys.”
    “Yeah, I know. But the townsfolk down there don’t have a very high opinion of us right now. It never ceases to amaze me how a few bad ones can give the whole garrison a bad name.”
    “What are you going to do about it?”
    “When I find out who they are, I’ll relieve them of their duty and send them away without pay.”
    “Kind of harsh, don’t you think?”
    “Not at all. Tension has been mounting along the Riaki border near Capena, and General Crompton fears it might escalate to the point of conflict. If there is going to be a war, it might be a good idea to have the general public rooting for us.”
    When Zander finished putting together Brysia’s list, he helped Jase and Daris carry the things out to the wagon. Jase handed him several gold coins and smiled. “Keep the change, Zander,” he told him, patting the older man on the shoulder. “And make sure the venison gets to those who need it most.”
    “Sure thing, Jase,” Zander replied. “And thanks. Say hello to your mother for me.”
    “I’ll do that.”
    Jase climbed into the wagon and looked down at Daris. “Are you up for a drink?” he asked. “I’m buying.”
    “You said the magic words,” he replied.
    “Great. We can work out the details of your trip to Seston.”
    Daris climbed into the wagon, and Jase urged A’shan forward. Tossing his head angrily, the big black snorted with disgust but finally complied.
    The Lazy Gentleman lay at the southernmost end of town, directly across the road from its counterpart, The Cobblestone Inn. Both were owned by Fadus Murra, the lazy gentleman for whom the tavern was named. A jovial fellow whose width nearly equaled his height, Fadus spent most of his time at the inn sitting in the common room or out on the porch where he would strike up conversations with anyone willing to talk to him. His jolly, almost fatherly manner inspired the kind of trust that often made those staying at his inn talk freely, often telling more than they intended. If one needed to know what was happening in Omer Forest, one needed only talk to Fadus. He often knew more than the King’s intelligence personnel, and he usually knew it first.
    As they reached the tavern, Jase looked across the street and found Fadus sitting on the porch talking to a man and woman who appeared to be Zekan. Fadus saw him and waved. The couple followed Fadus’ gaze, and Jase saw that he had been right. There was no mistaking the thick, blonde hair and brown eyes of Kelsa’s seafaring neighbors to the south.
    Jase turned to Daris, “Maybe you should talk to Fadus before you leave for Seston. He might know something about what’s going on down there.”
    “Good idea,” Daris said, jumping down from the wagon. “I’ve often wondered if we should sign him up with Kelsan Intelligence. He gets more information from a smile and a How do ya do? than I could with a full interrogation.”
    “I’ve thought about it,” Jase said, pulling open the tavern door. “But I like Fadus the way he is. I’m afraid Kelsan Intelligence would ruin him.”
    They took a table against the wall and sat down. A moment later Tana Murra, Fadus’ daughter, came over to wait on them. Practically raised in the tavern, she had started serving tables at age ten. Now at nineteen, she very literally ran the place. A few years back, many of the tavern’s patrons, overawed by Tana’s beauty, began referring to the tavern as The Pretty Maiden, and Jase had overheard Fadus say he liked the name so much that he was going to rename it and give it to Tana as a wedding present as soon as she found a husband.
    First-time visitors to The Lazy Gentleman were surprised to find such a young woman in charge, but they soon found out that Tana could handle any who might be looking for more than a drink. The last man who had pinched her bottom, a merchant from some southern village, had gotten off easy with only a couple of broken fingers. The incident before that had involved two mercenary-looking types. One had received a broken nose, the other a concussion that had left him unconscious for three days. They, like most of the fool men who tried something, had been deceived by her fragile, doll-like appearance.
    Jase knew better. Tana may look like she was made of porcelain, but she was as hard as iron and as agile as a cat. She had whipped him so many times in wrestling matches when they were younger that he had lost count. He could probably beat her now that they were grown, but it would be tough. And she had ways of cheating now that had been nonexistent a few years ago. She knew what effect her body had on him, and she used it to her advantage.
    That shapely figure stopped in front of their table, and he found his eyes wandering more than he liked. Heat flashed across his cheeks, and he forced his eyes to hers. Con’Jithar! But it wasn’t fair for her to be so well-put-together. It made concentrating on anything else extremely difficult.

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