Jeanne Owens, author

Blog about author Jeanne Owens and her writing


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The Dognapped Princess (Chronicles of Riss excerpt)

I’ve decided to share an excerpt from one of the stories that can be found in my Chronicles of Riss story collection (available as e-book from Amazon and other sites). Hope you enjoy it. I had fun writing it and have been playing around with the idea of doing something similar some time (a fantasy Nancy Drew-ish series of stories or novels).


I was sitting at a back table in Eli’s Tavern in Westover, eating a delicious bowl of lamb stew, when they walked in. I spotted them out of the corner of my eye as I was taking a bite of stew. Two people stood in the tavern’s doorway, looking around the room. One of them was a tall, skinny young man about my age of sixteen years. He had a pock-marked face framed by greasy black hair and wore the plain clothes of a houseboy. He also seemed to me to be rather nervous, like he really didn’t want to be there. The other person was a plump, middle-aged brunette woman richly dressed in a red silk dress and fur-trimmed traveling cloak. Instead of nervousness, I picked up a sense of anxiousness from her, as if she was desperate for something. The duo spotted me, and made their way toward my table. I continued to eat as I watched them approach. I knew what they wanted. They wanted what everyone who comes to me while I’m eating wants – my help as a problem-solving sorceress-for-hire.

“I’m terribly sorry to bother you while you’re at lunch, Miss Marissa,” said the woman as she and the young man sat down across from me. The young man kept his head down, not bothering to look at me or his companion. “However, I am in desperate need of your help.”

See? I told you.

“Naturally,” I said as I set my spoon aside and brushed cobalt blue hair out of my eyes. “So, what can I do for you?”

“My baby is missing and I want you to find her and bring her back.”

“Your baby? Well, sure, I could find her for you. But isn’t this a situation more appropriate for the city constables to handle?”

The lady shook her head emphatically. “No, no, no. I can’t get them involved. The letter expressly said not to.”

My brow wrinkled slightly in suspicion. “Letter? What are you talking about? I thought you said she was missing.”

“She is. She’s been stolen.” The lady reached into a pocket of her cloak and pulled out a folded slip of parchment, which she held out to me. “Here. This should explain things somewhat. I received it this morning.”

Curious, I took the note and read it. Here is what it said:

If you want your precious Princess back, deliver 1,500 gold pieces at noon tomorrow to the

abandoned warehouse down by the docks. I will return Princess to you then. Do not go to the

authorities. If you do, Princess will die.

Sounds like a fairly standard ransom letter, I thought, so I doubt we’re dealing with a criminal mastermind here. There was one thing in the letter that stood out to me, though. “Princess?” I asked.

“Yes,” the lady answered. “That is her call name. Her full registered name for showing is Lysa’s Little Snow Princess.”

“Call name?” I repeated in confusion. “Registered name? Showing?” Then I realized what she was saying. “Wait a minute. Are we talking about a dog?!”

“Yes. My baby, Princess, is a champion show dog. She has won multiple Best In Show awards. She’s entered in the annual Westover Dog Show that is scheduled for tomorrow night. Please, Miss Marissa, get my Princess back!”

“I don’t know. I’ve never looked for missing pets before.”

“Please? I need my Princess back. I don’t want to pay the ransom, but I will if I have to. But if I have to pay to get my baby back, I’d rather pay you, Miss Marissa, than the villain who took my Princess. I’m even willing to pay you the ransom price.”

My eyes lit up at the though of 1,500 gold pieces, but I kept my voice neutral as I answered. “Well, I do like animals, so I guess I can find her for you, ma’am. So, could you tell me everything that’s happened so far? But would you mind starting with why you felt it was alright to come to me if the ransom note didn’t want you to go to the authorities?”

“My husband suggested I go to you, after I showed him the letter. He said that you had just returned last night from a mission for the Lords of Westover, and that he doubted anyone else in the city knew you were back yet, not even the ransomer.”

“True. I was on a job for them, and I did get back very late last night. But how did your husband know that?”

“My husband is one of the Lords, of course. Lord Abarond.”

My eyes widened a little in shock. What?! I thought. That rotund, bald, mustachioed annoyance is actually married?!

“I’m sorry for neglecting to introduce myself earlier, Miss Marissa,” she continued. “My name is Lysa, and I’m the wife of Lord Abarond. The young man with me is our houseboy, Dirk. He also helps me take care of Princess.”

Dirk continued to look at the table, not even bothering to acknowledge Lysa’s introduction.

“All right,” I said. “So, what exactly happened to Princess?”

“Well, Dirk had taken Princess out for a walk late yesterday afternoon. When he returned, it was well into the evening. Princess was not with him, and he seemed a little upset. When I asked him what was wrong and where Princess was, he said she’d been taken.” Lysa paused to see if Dirk would say anything, but he just continued to stare at the table, so she continued the story. “According to Dirk, someone came up behind him and hit him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. He was only dazed for a couple of moments, but by the time he came to and got up, he saw Princess being carried by a someone running down the street in a hooded black cloak. They turned down a street, and Dirk gave chase, but by the time he got there, they had disappeared. Dirk searched until it got dark, but he wasn’t able to find them or anyone who had seen them. So he came back to tell me what had happened. By then it was too late to keep searching, so we decided to look again in the morning, in the meantime hoping that Princess might find a way to escape and come home on her own. But this morning, I found that ransom note waiting for me instead of Princess. I showed it to my husband, who suggested I come to you for help. And so here I am, Miss Marissa, asking for your help.”

I thought over her story for a couple of minutes while I ate. “Do you have any idea who might have taken her?” I finally asked.

“No,” Lysa answered. “No idea.”

“How about any dog show rivals? You said Princess is a multiple champion, and she’s entered in the show here tomorrow. Maybe a competitor took her to get her out of their way.”

“But the note said that if I pay them at noon, I’d get her back. And the show isn’t until six in the evening…”
“It’s very possible that whoever took her only said that to get your money, and they actually have no intention of returning Princess to you, even if you pay.”

“It is? Then you have to find her, Miss Marissa! Please!”

“Don’t worry. I’ll find her. I promise. Now, what about any dog show rivals? Given the timing of the incident, it’s highly possible one of them took her, and I’d like to start by investigating them.”

Lysa thought for a minute, then hesitantly answered, “I hate to think that someone could hold a grudge against me and Princess enough to do something like this. But if you think it might be someone in the dog show, well, there are two people who come to mind, whom I’ve had arguments with at the last couple of shows. I suppose it’s possible one of them might have been more angry with me than I thought.”

“Who are they, and do you happen to know where I can find them?”

“Alfred Jemmson, who is staying at an inn on the east side of the city, I believe, and Myra Alistar, wife of Noel Alistar, the prominent merchant.”

I nodded. “I know of him. So his wife shows dogs, huh? All right. I’ll begin investigating after I finish eating, and will let you know what I find out as soon as possible.”

Lysa nodded. “Thank you, Miss Marissa. I really appreciate your helping me.”

“Oh, one other thing. What does Princess look like?”

“She is a small dog, about the size of a house cat, with long white fur, black eyes and nose, and a pink collar studded with diamonds.”

“Okay. Thank you. I’ll let you know something soon.”

Lysa stood up, and Dirk followed suit. I’d almost forgotten he was there, he’d been so quiet. “Thank you, again, Miss Marissa,” Lysa said. “I look forward to hearing what you find out.”

And with that, she and Dirk left. I finished my bowl of stew, which had grown cool by then but which still tasted good, and then left as well to start looking for the purloined pooch, Princess.



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Kismet and Tell Sampling

I don’t recall if I’ve shared a sampling of my one published fantasy book, Kismet and Tell, or not. If I have, it’s been a good long while and I’ve gained a lot more followers since then. So I thought I’d share a sample with you all. In the meantime, I’m still working on getting the “prequel” short story collection out. Hopefully I’ll have it ready for you all soon.

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I awoke with a groan. My head felt as if someone had lodged a battleaxe in it, it hurt so much. I decided to try a Healing spell to get rid of the headache, but my hands wouldn’t move up to my head. Why? Belatedly, I realized my predicament. Someone had tied me to a stake on the shore of the clearing’s lake. What the…? I struggled against the ropes tying my hands behind the stake. Nope, too tight. I couldn’t budge them. I could barely move my numb fingers and feel the tingling sensation of circulation loss.

I craned my head around the sides of the stake, looking for Fiore. I found him to my left, tied to a stake as well and unconscious. His shirtsleeves were torn, and he had some cuts and bruises on his face and arms. On what I could see of them, anyway. His head drooped, his chin lying against his chest, and his ponytail of flame-red hair hung down his right side. And his sword was back in its sheath on his back.

I called out to him, trying to wake him up. After my fifth call of his name, he finally came around with a groan. The first thing he did, once he realized his dilemma, was to try to free his hands – which he couldn’t do, to my great disappointment.

Riss?” he called out. I heard worry and helplessness in his voice, along with a tinge of hope.

Over here.”

He turned his head to look at me, and the expression of hope on his face disappeared. “Oh, great. He tied you up, too.”

He? Fiore, what happened?”

Well…”

He started to tell me, but at that moment the person responsible for our being trussed up materialized before us. Actually, I shouldn’t say person, because it was in fact a Demon, and a really ugly one at that. It towered over us, as tall as the surrounding trees. Its brown skin looked like tree bark. The afternoon sun glinted off the row of bony spikes growing from its spine.

That explains the sneak attack,” I observed wryly. Demons have the ability to attack this realm from the Spirit Realm, before they’ve taken on a full physical presence here. “But what do you want with us? Why attack us? We have no quarrel with you.”

Its three ruby red eyes stared at us, unblinking. It spoke in a deep voice that resonated in the clearing, but its fanged mouth did not move. “Lord Yangul ordered it. I’m glad you finally woke up. It wouldn’t be any fun to kill you in your sleep.”

Kill us? Why would Yangul want us dead?”

Actually, Marissa Cobalt, he only wants you dead.” It pointed at me with one of its sharp claws. “Your friend there is just an added bonus.”

Ok, so why would Yangul want me dead?”

Does it matter? You’ll be dead as soon as the lake dragon wakes up for dinner.”

If I’m going to be dead soon, why don’t you tell me anyway? Consider it my last request.”

Well, if you must know, Lord Yangul doesn’t want the prophecy to be fulfilled. Now shut up and die like a good girl.”

Whoa! Hold on! Wait just a minute! Prophecy? What prophecy? And what do I have to do with it? I opened my mouth to ask the Demon to explain what it meant, but Fiore chimed in with his own question.

You’re going to feed us to a lake dragon?” he asked. “Why not use your Demon powers and kill us quickly?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. If my hands had been free, I would have covered my face in them. Sheez, I thought. Could he be any more naïve? He seemed to have totally missed the important point. But then again, his question was valid. Why wouldn’t the Demon use its powers to get rid of me quickly?

Because watching you being eaten by a lake dragon would be much more entertaining,” the Demon answered. “Dragon, awaken!” Then it vanished.

The lake began to churn, and a whirlpool formed in the center of it. We struggled to loosen our bonds, but to no avail. After a couple of moments, a blue dragon’s head and neck appeared above the surface of the whirlpool. Slowly, the huge reptilian head moved towards us, and as it did, more of the dragon’s blue body surfaced. We watched in terrified silence for a moment. Then Fiore spoke.

Riss, what are we going to do? We can’t fight a dragon like this.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll get us out of here. I’ve got a plan.”

Good. At least one of us does.” He looked at the dragon again. “Well, whatever you’re going to do, Riss, do it now. That dragon’s getting closer and it looks very hungry. And I really don’t want to be dragon food.”

In total agreement with that idea, I closed my eyes and mentally activated the amplification magic of the emerald on my gold circlet. I pictured the runes for a Teleportation spell, modified slightly to allow me to take Fiore along with me. Thankfully, we were close to each other and only our arms were tied up. I stuck my left leg out towards Fiore. “Fiore,” I called out, “stick out your leg and touch mine. Hurry!” He did so, then I quickly chanted the incantation and activated the spell with a cry of “Teleport!”

A blinding white light surrounded us. When it faded away, we found ourselves standing, unbound, on the street outside the inn we had stayed at the night before.


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A Goddess Awakens, Chapter 14

Well, I spent a few hours this afternoon writing, and about 1200 words later, I finally finished the chapter I’ve been working on.  I’ll share a sample here for you all. If you’d like to read it all, it’s available on my AuthorsDen page here, as it’s available for leaving feedback on. Previous chapters can also be found there.

 

excerpt of Chapter 14:

 

 

Anju lay curled up beside the door of the small cabin, his gaze roving around the room as he tried to fall asleep. The room was sparse of furniture, with only a small table at the far end of the room, and a couple of cots, one on either side of the room. There was no window, and the only source of light was an old, shielded lantern hanging down from the middle of the ceiling on a rusting chain. On the table lay Althea’s and Loren’s weapons, and the book Wren had risked her life to bring them. Anju remembered that after they had boarded the ship that morning and had gotten settled in their rooms, Loren had tried a few times to see if he could read any part of the book, but with no luck. He’d tossed the book roughly onto the table while muttering that he just could not recognize enough words to make any sense of it.

Anju also recalled how they had spent the first part of the day wandering around the ship, learning their way around, watching the sailors at work, and enjoying the scenery. But as the day wore on, they had found that there was really nothing for them to do, so they had retired to their rooms after supping with the captain at his invitation. Anju’s tail wagged slightly as he remembered how delicious the scraps of meat Loren had slipped him at the dinner table had been.

When Althea and Loren had returned to their cabin after dinner, Althea had lain down on her cot and drifted off to sleep while Loren had taken another try at reading the book for a little while before giving up and going to sleep himself. Anju had then curled up by the door to keep guard and watch over them.

Slowly, the wolf’s eyes closed.

A small sound from Althea’s direction made Anju’s ears twitch, and he opened his eyes and turned his head slightly to look. He saw Althea moaning softly and tossing lightly in her sleep.

Anju heaved a small sigh and was about to close his eyes again when Althea suddenly sat up. His ears pricked and he watched intently as she got up from her cot and walked over to the little table. To the wolf, her movements seemed just a little stiff, as if they were not quite natural, and though her eyes were open she did not appear to be fully awake, like she was not aware of what she was doing. Anju’s pale blue eyes narrowed and he watched her movements closely.

Althea looked over the items on the table, frowned at the book, then picked up one of Loren’s narrow-bladed knives and unsheathed it. Then she went over to Loren’s cot and stood beside it. She stared at Loren’s prone body for a moment, then slowly lifted the knife over his chest.

Anju leapt to his feet and growled.

Loren’s eyes snapped open at the sound, and he grabbed Althea’s wrist and twisted before he fully realized what was happening. The knife fell from Althea’s hand and to the side of the cot.

Althea gasped from the pain of the elf’s rough grip on her wrist. Then she blinked and looked down at her friend.“Loren?” she asked, confusion coloring her voice. “What’s going on? What am I doing over here?” Her gaze drifted to the knife on the cot, not far from her hand, and her eyes widened and the color left her face as she understood.

 


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Thank you! Enjoy your sample

Wow! I’ve already picked up a few followers. Thank you for choosing to follow me. I hope to keep fairly active on this blog. I may not post every day, but I’ll try to post fairly regularly. I’ve been playing around on here for the past couple days, getting this page set up. I tweaked my “about” profile a little today. I think I’m fairly happy with how this page looks, for now at least. So I suppose I should return my focus to working on my book some more.  As a thank you, I’ll share a snippet of the book I’m working on. You’re welcome to share your thoughts on it.  (Note: I retain all rights to the fragment I’m posting)

(Excerpt from Chapter 12 of A Goddess Awakens)

Once Wren returned the flask to the bag, she stood up and chanted a quick spell. The resulting brief flash of light startled a squirrel rummaging in some nearby underbrush and sent it scurrying up the nearest tree to chatter in alarm. When the light faded, Wren’s human form had been replaced by a falcon.

The bird stretched its wings, flapped them a couple of times, then launched itself into the air.

Leaving the small forest clearing where she had stopped to rest, Wren flew south, following a well-traveled dirt road toward Maarkess. She stayed high up in the sky to avoid detection, in case she had been followed from the temple, although she had not noticed anyone following her.

She flew until late afternoon, then found a small clearing to take a brief rest in and eat a quick meal of more jerky and dried fruit washed down with a few swallows of water. Then she resumed her falcon form and took to the air again.

As dusk approached, she spotted something on the road a ways ahead of her. From her position, it looked like a bunch of ants on the road, but she knew it had to be a group of people, and they seemed to be moving rather quickly, most likely on horseback. Curious, she headed towards them while slowly drawing closer to the ground to get a better look.

As she got closer, she could see it was indeed a group of about a dozen men on horseback, riding single-file and at a brisk gallop. Wren flew a little ways ahead of them and alighted in a tree near the road so she could get a better look at them. As they drew near, she made note that they were soldiers dressed in armor, and their faces held looks of intense determination. She also picked up from them a sense that they were more than ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

Wren focused her attention on the lead rider, whom she assumed to be the leader of the group. He had dark hair sprinkled with spots of gray sticking out from a helmet with a long tail of white hair seemingly sprouting from the top of it. A short, neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard covered his craggy face, except for where a scar ran down his left cheek, from the corner of his eye to just above his chin. Unlike his fellow soldiers, though, this man had a look in his dark eyes that spoke of eager anticipation mixed with blood-lust. She did not like the look one bit, and felt very sorry for whomever the man’s target was.

Then Wren took notice of the second rider. Instead of armor, he wore a dark green priest’s robe with its cowl up to cover his head and face. Even with her sharp falcon eyes, she could not see his face clearly, though she got the impression that it was not human. The rider grasped the horse’s reins tightly with gloved hands, as if he was not comfortable riding the beast.

Wren had a bad feeling about the group and their presence on the road to Maarkess. So, as soon as they had gone a little ways passed her location, she flew after them, determined to find out more about them and their purpose.

Wren followed the group of soldiers until just after nightfall, when the lead soldier, the one with the scar on his face, called a halt and sent a couple of his subordinates to find a place to camp. Wren settled in a nearby tree to watch. The two soldiers returned a few minutes later and led the group into the forest. Wren followed them to a clearing not far from the road. She perched in a tree near the edge of the clearing, where she could watch them unobserved – all night, if need be.

The group tended to their horses before fixing a couple of small campfires, then split up between them for a quick meal. Afterward, some of the soldiers left the fires to lean up against trees to sleep. Others remained by the fires for a little while, sharing stories and flasks of what Wren assumed was liquor of some sort, before also retiring for the night.

The green-robed person, after tending to his horse, forsook a fireside meal and instead sat down beneath a tree at the very edge of the camp. Wren watched him for a while, but all he did was just sit. He kept the cowl of his robe up, so Wren could not tell if he slept, or just watched the camp.

The scarred soldier watched over his men for a while, then assigned a few of them to keep watch over the camp at intervals during the night. Then he also retired to a tree to rest. Wren could hardly believe her luck when he chose the tree right next to hers.

The young mage watched the camp for a couple of hours, then felt herself growing drowsy. With nothing interesting happening in the camp, she thought it was probably safe enough for her to take a quick nap. She was just about to tuck her head under a wing when the man with the scar stirred and began to mumble in his sleep. Curious, Wren watched him.

“At last,” he mumbled, his hand unconsciously reaching up to touch his scar. “You won’t escape me again, Lorenathalus. I will finally punish you, you filthy traitor.”

The man drifted back into sound sleep. Wren stared at him, confused by what she had just heard. He obviously held a deep, personal grudge against someone. Someone he considered a traitor. That was understandable enough. But the name he had said, Lorenathalus, had not sounded like a human name. Perhaps it was elvish, she mused. But why would this man being calling an elf a traitor? That made no sense to her.

Then a thought crossed her sleepy mind. She knew an elf. One who went by the name Loren. Could that be a shorted form of Lorenathalus? She was fairly certain it was. Which would mean…

Wren was not too sure what all it would mean, except that it probably was not good. But what she did know was that it meant Loren was in trouble. She rather liked Loren, based on what little she had seen and heard of him through the mirror, and she had to warn him and the others.

As quietly as she could, she flew from the clearing and back to the road, heading for Maarkess as quickly as she could.

In her hurry to leave, she did not notice the green-robed figure watch her leave.