Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Copyright © ALYSHA ELLIS, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Tybor folded his arms across his heavily muscled chest, spread his legs wide and ran his gaze over the slender young man in front of him. He let his lip curl into a sneer and turned to speak over his shoulder to the captain of the guard.
“I work with Dvalinn warriors, not weakling schoolboys.”
The captain stepped forward to stand next to the young man he’d brought down to Tybor’s rooms.
Huon’s an adult, Tybor, and he’s passed every assessment with flying colors.”
Tybor snorted and his voice, already deep, dropped even lower. “You called me away from a training session to discuss this? Look at him,” he scoffed. “He’s as lily-white and green as a snowdrop. A strong breeze would break him.”
The boy—Tybor refused to call him a man—lifted his head and their gazes met.
“I don’t have to be three feet wide across the shoulders to be strong. I can do anything you need me to do.”
Eyes narrowed, hands on hips, Tybor glared at the boy. Generations of hardened soldiers had quailed under that fierce look. The boy stared right back, blue eyes wide, his gaze open, hands clenched lightly by his sides.
“You’re supposed to be the best,” he said.
The captain nodded at Huon. “He is.” Then he turned back to Tybor. “Huon is unique among the Dvalinn. We need him and we need him battle ready.” He lifted one brow and asked, “Are you telling me you can’t do it?”
Dust and sweat stained Tybor’s combat pants. “I can train him. Whether he can handle it is a different matter.” He returned his attention to the boy. “If you work with me you will work harder than you ever have before. You will do whatever I tell you, whenever and however I tell you. No arguments, no questions, no rest. If you so much as falter, you’re done. Do you understand?”
The boy didn’t blink. “Yes.”
“Yes, sir,” Tybor snapped.
The boy hesitated.
“At once.”
”Yes, sir.” Although the words were correct, the edge of defiance the boy used robbed them of any deference or subservience. His shoulders remained square, firm and unmoving.
The captain touched his cap in a silent salute and left the room, pulling the door shut behind him.
Tybor took a step forward. He picked up the boy’s arm, pushed his baggy shirt up, wrapped his fingers around his forearm and squeezed. Silken ivory skin covered a layer of surprisingly firm muscle. The boy’s smooth flesh burned against Tybor’s hand. He released him and stepped back, resisting the urge to clutch his tingling palm to his chest.
“Do you understand what we do? What I do?”
The boy’s gaze sharpened and his eyes glittered. “You train Dvalinn warriors to go into the humans’ world, to destroy those who seek to obliterate our kind.”
Tybor nodded. “We are at war. And humans have weapons the Dvalinn cannot and will not use.”
For the first time uncertainty and confusion clouded the boy’s blue eyes. “Humans and the Dvalinn are from the same stock. How did we come to be at war?”
Tybor’s lips tightened. “Ask a historian. My job is to train warriors.”
The boy’s brows lifted. “Warriors who kill humans?”
Tybor shook his head. “We don’t kill all humans. Only Gatekeepers. Most surface dwellers don’t know we exist. But the Gatekeepers know. Know us and hate us and have sworn to kill as many of our kind as they can. Dvalinn warriors,” Tybor laced the word with the scorn he felt for the boy in front of him, “come here to learn the skills they need to stop them.”
“Have you trained many of them personally…sir?” This time the tacked-on word sounded more respectful, less of a challenge.
“Too many.” Pain he refused to give in to gripped Tybor. “Men—stronger, older, wiser than you will ever be. Each one trains for as long as it takes to perfect his abilities and send him out into the world to do battle.” Tybor poked a finger toward Huon’s narrow chest. “Most of them never return. This is not a job for the weak, when even the strong do not survive.”
“But you survived, sir. Your battles are legendary.” Color rose in Huon’s cheeks, flushing the ivory a delicate rose-pink.
Tybor’s breath stilled and he looked over the boy’s head. “Legendary because they happened so long ago. For almost five hundred years I have trained young men to do what I’m no longer permitted to.” He turned his back on Huon and picked up the envelope the captain had left on the bench seat of a weight-training machine. “I need to know your assignment, to see if it’s possible to get you even halfway ready.” He ran a finger under the flap of the envelope.
Huon stepped forward and stretched to look over Tybor’s shoulder.
Tybor spun around. His hand shot out, slamming the boy to the ground before he knew what was coming. Tybor hit hard, not caring if he hurt him. If he couldn’t cut it, better to know it now before he made a pretty, pale, useless corpse.
“You only move if and when I tell you to,” he growled. “Drag your ass back up and stand at attention.”
He glanced at the kid. Blood ran down his cheek from a cut over his forehead but he didn’t wipe it away or show any sign he’d noticed. This one might be worth the trouble of training.
“From this moment on, you don’t walk, eat, take a piss or breathe unless I give you the fucking order. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir.”
Tybor pulled out the papers and read. The printed words, clear and unambiguous, felt like lead weights on his shoulders.
The boy remained at attention, showing no sign of submission or fear. Maybe it would be better if he had. A coward wouldn’t last through Tybor’s harsh training regime, and if he couldn’t finish the training, he couldn’t be sent on the mission described in the papers Tybor clutched in his hand. He raised his eyes and studied the young man in front of him. From the moment the chief of staff had signed these orders, Huon—beautiful, reed-slender, confident Huon—had joined the ranks of the dead.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leave a comment to win.

From now until June first anyone who leaves a comment anywhere on my blog will be in the running to win one of my e-books(except Warrior's Apprentice)...reader's choice.
Passion's Wings, a short story, is available free on request.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fear and Loathing and Erotic Romance

We human beings are a strange bunch. Over the centuries we have seen those who are different and instead of embracing those differences, as a group, we feel threatened. It is a primitive, protective response, stemming from the most basic primal urge to ensure the survival of our genetic material, which of course means the survival of our offspring.
Of course we want our children to live long and prosper...oh wait...that’s Star Trek! But you know what I mean. The only problem with this is that sometimes that desire gets confused and we act inappropriately maybe because our knowledge and command of the world has grown at a faster pace than our limbic brains can keep up with.
It would have made sense, way back at the dawn of human civilization to be very wary of strangers approaching you. In a violent age, where the strong overwhelmed the weak, outsiders could attack you or your extended family.
Our ancestors knew if someone looked different, then they had a different set of genes, genes that would compete for dominance. In the fight for survival, fear was a useful factor because it primed us for the fight or flight reaction. And we all know that fear can become linked to hatred and disgust...just ask me about how I react to snakes and spiders!
Like so many of our primitive responses, this fear of the unknown can be pretty out of place in the modern world. I could cite some of the more serious social issues, but for I think I can make my point better by looking at just two.
The first group comprise ten percent of the population by most counts. Throughout history they have been shunned and reviled in spite of there being strong evidence to suggest that those who belong to this ten per cent are born that way. The French, Dutch, Portuguese, Arabic and English languages all contain derogatory terms that indicate members of this group are inspired by the devil. They have been described as sinful, burned at the stake and subject to cruel processes to turn them from their evil ways and restore them to normality.
Yep! I am talking about left-handers. Sinister, gauche, having two left feet, all derogatory terms for left handedness. It is no coincidence that right means correct. Lefties weren’t like the rest of us so we attacked them.
Another example of fear and loathing that I have only encountered in recent years is the vilification of red-heads. Suddenly it is so bad to be a ginger that people feel free to abuse them in the street.
So what has this to do with today’s blog, you may ask. Like many writers of fantasy and science-fiction, I am fascinated by the way we marginalize some groups. We writers get to explore the idea in abstract, creating a class of beings which we then torture for your entertainment. We create shape-shifters, vampires, aliens and otherkin. Then, nasty, manipulative things that we are, we make you sympathise with them, show you their basic goodness and proceed to give them a very, very hard time. If we’re doing our job right, readers see the injustice.
In my newest book, Warrior’s Apprentice, I have created a human-like race who dwell in the Underworld of Earth. Naturally, I have also created an enemy. What is a story without conflict, after all? In the book I explore the ways we are driven by fear--fear of sexuality, fear of strangers and fear of one’s own nature and fear of emotional intensity.
Combat-hardened Dvallin warrior Tybor has no room in his life for softness or sentiment. His job is to train the soldiers who stand between his people and destruction. He instantly despises Huon, his newest recruit, dismissing him as weak.
But Huon is determined to prove his worth. He accepts all the challenges Tybor throws at him, passing every test, until Tybor finds himself waging his own battle against his growing attraction to his apprentice warrior.
When Tybor discovers Huon is to be sent on a suicide mission to the human world, to infiltrate and destroy enemy headquarters by seducing Judie, the enemy’s weapons expert, he cannot let him go alone.
The ménage-a-trois seduction works as planned but Tybor is threatened by the emotions their passionate relationship triggers. He tries to deny the feelings Judie and Huon arouse in him while they flee their pursuers in a deadly race for survival.
To have a hope for the future, the master must bury his old prejudices and let himself learn from the warrior’s apprentice. Only when we see our fears for what they are can we rise to our true greatness.

Warrior’s Apprentice Alysha Ellis May 23rd Ellora’s Cave