Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Short Sell Hell

Selling a house

Yay!  This will be an enjoyable process, yes?
Sure, it will totally be enjoyable.  You betcha.  Bless your little heart.

Making the decision to sell a house

So, my wife and I decided to move our family one day.  Our biggest obstacle was selling the house we had owned for 10 years.  We loved the house, just not the town around it anymore.  We had a mortgage and a second line of credit on it.  Considering how much the market had dropped in the previous few years, we knew we probably wouldn't make it.  So we hired a realtor who had experience in short sales just in case it came to that.

Before I continue, I just want to say that Allison Fuhrman was epically awesome.  Best realtor ever.

And US Bank Home Mortgage was epically horrible.  Worst mortage company ever.

House for sale

We posted the house!  Allison sent us this wonderful email on October 3rd, 2012:

Carroll Family,
Here is the MLS listing with all photos and virtual tours.
Please verify the information.  If you see anything you would like to change or modify please do not hesitate to contact me the changes.  I have listed the home as a 3 bedroom, because of the sq. ft. and bathroom count I felt this is a better marketing plan.  The photos came out great and I am very happy with the v-tour as well. 

I am very excited about selling your home and I thank you for the opportunity to do so.
Warm Regards,

The house

Here is a picture of the house.  It was such a cute little brick Victorian.  We absolutely loved the house and the property lit up like a gingerbread house around Christmas.

Fast forward

Woohoo!  The house is sold! . . . May 20th, 2016.

3 YEARS 7 MONTHS later!

Honestly, I didn't say woohoo.  I pretty much walked out in disbelief after finally signing the paperwork.

What happened

The house didn't sell.  We initiated an aggressive strategy of lowering the price every month in the hope of generating interest and keeping the listing refreshed.

And then everything in our lives fell apart.  Like on an epic level.  I mean it really went to crap.  I'm not even going to talk about it.

The house was the least of my concerns.  I told Allison that we should let it get repossessed.  I didn't care about it in the least.  She encouraged me to keep going though.  A short sale would be far worse for my credit than a repossession.  Bolstered by her words, I told her that I would plug away.  Just let me know what she needed and I'd take care of it.

First buyer

Woohoo!  We got a buyer.  Lots of papers to sign and send off to the bank.  Every detail of my woeful finances was bare to them.  Now we just needed to hurry up and wait . . .

. . . and wait

. . . and wait

After months of waiting, the buyer left.

Another buyer!

More papers, more financial details and more months of waiting.

Buyer gives up.

The next one barely lasted 2 months I believe.

And another,

And another,

Years have passed.  By this time, they have years worth of financial data on how bad things went.


Another, this one super crazy.  They left too.


Another before the other has left.  This one even crazier.

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how many we went through.  At least 7.  I believe it may have been as many as 10.

Along the way, I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  But it wasn't until I contacted my senator's office with the complaint that we finally saw progress.  After 3 years, it seemed like a reasonable step.


It took constant work to get the bank to respond to even the simplest requests.  But we finally received short sale approval.  And then they gave us a deadline of 3 weeks to close.  We managed to do it though


Are lacking in this post.  I really just wanted to write it in order to close a difficult chapter of my life.  This is a woohoo sort of letter/thingy/whatever.

My house is sold!  Yay!

If you ever want to buy a house in the Colorado Springs area, I recommend contacting Allison.  She will do her best for you.  Just please don't put her through the hell I did.

Allison Fuhrman
Cherry Creek Properties, LLC
(office) 720-980-9997
(cell) 719-684-3398
(fax) 719-634-6064

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: In the Wake of War, The Ballard Chronicles Book 1

The Ballard Chronicles

The Ballard Chronicles is the sequel of The Aielund Saga books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland. 

Rather than painting his cover on canvas, the author worked with advanced graphics to paint his cover.  Love the eyes in the dagger.

Book 1, In the Wake of War


The town of Bracksford was caught in the middle of many conflicts during a recent war, yet the tightly-knit community always found a way to pull together and survive against great adversity. Now that peace has finally settled over the land, they struggle to rebuild while haunted by the memories of violence seen and family lost.Aislin Ballard, the innkeeper's daughter goes about her daily life helping the rebuilding effort any way she can, while struggling with deeper issues of loss and a foreboding sense that the king behind the conflict is still out there, seeking vengeance against the realm for losing both the conflict and his throne. When the spectre of war threatens to engulf the region once again, Aislin and a small group of companions find themselves the only ones able to avert disaster, if they can gather their courage and risk all not to fight a war, but to stop one before it begins.


This book follows the events of the Aielund Saga.  However, it is not necessary to reed those in order to properly enjoy this one.  It calls to the actions and deeds of the Saga as backstory and fills in only what you need to know to understand events in this one.  This is safe for young adults, with mild fantasy violence

In the Wake of War is a fast read that draws you in immediately. The scenes blend into each other and it's easy to forget to stop to sleep. (My wife made me.) It has action, adventure and an excellent plot, but the key with this book is the characters.  They each have distinct personalities that make you like or hate them.  Or in Madelyn's case, flip both ways depending on her behavior. My favorite character is Jaz.  I've always had a soft spot for the tinkerer/artificer characters.

The story begins with Aislin. As with all of the author's characters, you instantly become invested in her fate. She's a 12yr, almost 13yr old girl who's seen far too much war and is pushed into a traumatizing situation again. This time, she's determined to fight for her freedom and the freedom of those she cares about. It's unusual to see a girl as the main character in fantasy and it's a refreshing change. In addition, the party that travels with her is made up of men and women. The author allows the women to be strong, but not lose their femininity, which is an issue with many writers.  The women occasionally need saving, but no more than the men.  If anything, the men need more saving than the women.

The group of characters play well off each other, with conflicts interspersed by witty banter.  Events send them off to try to save the day, or many days as the case may be.  The story draws you into the scenes with spooky caves and awesome vistas.  The danger keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and always worried about the fate of the party.

Stephen Nowland's technique has improved over the course of each story and this one is highly refined.  With most Indie Authors, you have to watch for spelling and grammar issues.  Not so with these books.  They are a professional quality and well edited.  There are no wasted words or scenes.  Everything advances the story in a way that you stop hearing the author's voice.

All in all, this was an excellent adventure to read and I can't wait for the next one to come out.

About the Author

I was one of those kids who daydreamed his way through school. All the little adventures I'd concoct in my mind were far more interesting than math or tests or sport. Somehow, I passed the important bits (art and english) and moved on, but always with a creative perspective to my life.

It was around 1992 when the magic of reading really sunk into me, for it was then I discovered fantasy novels. Feist, Salvatore & Eddings showed me worlds that fired my imagination, and from that point on I knew I wanted to write the stories that flitted around the recesses of my imagination.

Unfortunately, I spent most of the next fifteen years dealing with poor health, including resultant chronic fatigue syndrome which interfered with my life immeasurably, but gave me ample time for thought. An abortive attempt to create a story happened around 1996, but I look back on such things as stepping stones on the road to where I wanted to be.

My first complete novel was actually done back in '03, but it was a derivative work based on elements from other stories, something I didn't realise until after I'd written it. The mind can do funny things if you don't keep it on a tight leash! Still, there were some unique points to the story I kept, so I scrapped the rest and began a completely new for Neverwinter Nights, that RPG video game thing you may or may not have heard of.

The story was so successful (filled with rich, creamy character development) that I lamented that only people playing the game would ever see it. In 2009, with my health improving, I resolved to novelize the stories I'd written, in addition to developing the world in which they exist as the basis for a new fantasy series.

I consider those stories to be merely the first iteration of the saga, for my novels have evolved far beyond the original scope, in terms of detail, plot and character building. Looking back on it now, I can see my style has evolved a very long way from those humble beginnings indeed.

Oh, I also paint. You can expect to see more cover art with each title, becoming more technically sophisticated each time.

Reviews coming soon.

I've read Soul Bonds, Book 1 of The Circle of Light series by E.M. Sinclair.  I just need to write the review for it.

Soul Bonds

The next books I want to read are by Michael Mathias, starting with the Wardstone Trilogy


I have decided to review books that I enjoy. I am an avid reader of fantasy, so most of them will be in that genre. I'm not taking any requests, just reading what catches my eyes. You'll find that most of these are from Indie Authors. The way I figure it, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster and Piers Anthony (my favorite authors) already have enough reviews, but Indies could always use a few more.

It is important to note here that while I am a writer, I am doing these reviews as a reader. I also know a number of the authors I will be reviewing. (I am friends with Mr. Nowland, and he even mentioned me in his acknowledgements) This is not an exchange of reviews, nor have I been solicited by those authors to write the review.  If I don't like a book, I won't review it.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 years published

Becoming a writer

I self-published my first book, Rojuun, November 24th 2010 at the beginning of the Self-Publishing revolution.  I had high hopes and low expectations as to what to expect.  I discussed it with my wife and told her that self-publishing would likely ruin my chances to get a traditional contract.  However, the thought of going through years worth of rejections when I could put my book out there immediately just seemed foolish.  So I went for it.

I began writing Rojuun in January of 2010.  I had already written some terrible poetry and a couple of short stories.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing, but the experience taught me a great deal.

2010 was a vastly different environment than now with self-publishing.  Everyone was trying new things.  Amazon hadn't figured out their algorithms yet, so when I put Rojuun free after finishing the next couple in the series, It took off with thousands of downloads.  Rojuun and a few of my other books are still free and those books draw new readers to my work every week.

Book 4 of the Ryallon Series: Rojuun FREE!

Five year plan

When I first published, I decided on a five year plan.  I would write as much as possible and do everything I could to succeed to a point where writing could sustain me.  I also decided at the time that if I turned out to be a complete failure, I would set it aside and focus on something else.

The reality is that neither of those happened.  I could have done some things differently along the way to create better success.  I should have reinvested some of my money into my books, but I used it to support my family instead.  My family comes before everything.  I would even give up writing to take care of them.  Also, the last few years have gone badly in many ways.  We've had to work through some very rough times, and continue to have to do so.  My last book took 2 years to write because of it.  That's a serious liability when publishing one's own work.  Optimally, I should be publishing 3 or 4 works every year.

That said, I've still achieved a fair amount of success, more than many have experienced.  I haven't counted my sales in nearly a year, so I can't give you exact numbers, but I've sold about 15,000 copies of my books.  I've made a reasonable amount of money, which has helped with the bills along the way.

And I've enjoyed myself. That's a big key right there.  I absolutely love writing. I don't write for others. If I did, then there wouldn't be so many emo bunnies in my books.  I write for myself. When I'm done, I share it with the world because it's cruel for an artist not to. The stories are still for me though.

What I've learned

There is a saying that you don't become a professional until you spend 10,000 hours doing an activity.  After doing some math where I included a lot of time in the past doing some game building for about 4 years where I wrote a great deal of dialog and story creation, I've far surpassed that.  I've also surpassed a million words of published work. I've completed 9 novels, 10 children's stories, 2 novellas, and 4 short stories. Does this mean I'm a professional?  Hard to tell, but it does mean I've put in the time. 

While writing all these books, I've learned to write.  It's a redundant statement, but it's real.  I've gone over and over every word I've written.  I've changed styles.  I've experimented with different techniques.  All the while, I've tried to write excellent stories about fascinating characters that stimulate the imagination.  I'm still learning with every book I write and striving to get better.

My current books won't ever reach the level of success of a JK Rowling or others like that.  I think I made too many mistakes along the way.  I developed a story line that was a little too large with too many characters to follow.  I should have focused down into some of the stories and developed them into adventure series.  It's something I will keep in mind for the future.

Where I'm at now

I just finished a re-edit of Dralin, which is the 1st book overall in the Ryallon Series.  I did one of those things where I wrote books 4,5,6 before 1,2,3.  However, the Dralin Trilogy is a much better prequel than some others that we'll avoid mentioning *coughstarwars123cough*

In doing so, I realized that I had lost some of my enjoyment and verve when it came to writing.  This book returns to the fun, banter and even silliness that my earlier writing had.  It's a blast and I love the characters in it.


Book 1: Dralin FREE!

Currently, I'm writing my 10th novel: Cloudswept, Book 3 of the Wyvern Trilogy.  It's going very well.  I expect to have the first draft of this book finished in late February if too many more things don't go wrong.

What the future holds

After I'm finished with this book, I'm going to write books 2 and 3 of the Crazed Trilogy.  I'm afraid I left the characters in that trilogy hanging, along with some very frustrated readers!

I also need to write some more Stories for Demented Children.  It's not near as popular as the Ryallon series, but I have some devoted readers of those.  I have a few ideas down for stories there.  I intend to do another Zachary Zombie story and possibly even an Emo Bunny that Should sequel!

I'm not the best writer, but I'm a solid writer that spins enjoyable yarns.  The characters have become real to me and many of my readers.  I believe that I will at some point support my family with my writing.  In any case, I'll keep plugging away.  I truly love writing.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cloudswept, Wyvern Trilogy Book 3, Chapter 1


"Cloudswept" is book three of the Wyvern Trilogy.  This is the first draft of the first chapter.  Please keep in mind that it will be edited numerous times before being published.  That said, I'm actually very happy with it.  It's somewhat exciting, introduces the main character like it needs to, and it has the playfulness that I lacked in my previous book.

I hope this preview keeps you excited for the coming of the book.

I'm including an updated map of Nulanea, a northern continent in the world of Ryallon.

Chapter 1


Year 1393, Fifth Age

Being seven months after the events of Liquid.


The complex lock was taking longer to pick than Pelya liked.  Sweat-soaked strands of hair cascading around her face blocked her vision.  She refused to cut it or put it in a braid as she had done in the past.  It was irrelevant, as was the flickering light of enchanted torchlight from the hallway behind.  She needed the sense of touch, not sight in this instance.  Pelya steadied her breathing to calm anxiety that threatened to scatter her focus.

Four enchanted picks pressed against tumblers through the keyhole.  She needed a fifth, but there was no room for it.  Their magic kept them steady when Pelya’s gloved hand twitched from concentrated effort.  The uppermost pick had three prongs on it.  It should work if she could just manage to press . . .  The lock finally gave a satisfying click of success.

Pelya took the oft-used picks out to put them back in their worn leather pouch.  After rolling it up, she put it back into the secret pocket inside her form-fitting black tunic.   Mystic silver thread covered both the tunic and her dark-blue pants, providing powerful protections against physical and magical threats.  They would probably be needed considering she was breaking into a treasure room below a wizard’s tower.

A quick scan showed the hallway behind her to be empty other than the pit trap in the center of the floor.  Pelya stretched her legs, shook her feet, and adjusted the chain-reinforced leather sword belt around her waist.  Pouches hung from it with items to help her in her mission.  She was a master with the pair of enchanted swords that rested in sheaths at her hips.  Hopefully, those wouldn’t be necessary since her contract required she not kill the wizard whose tower she was breaking into.

Even though she was the one picking locks and evading traps, Pelya wasn’t a thief.  The wizard had stolen a shipment of powerful wizards’ staffs headed from Dralin to Juragdat in the Kingdom of Inizor.  The Cloudswept Bank provided insurance to the merchant shipping them.  If the staffs weren’t recovered, the bank would have to pay out a large sum in compensation.  They already owed a portion of money for the delivery being late.

That was where Pelya and agents like her came in.  For a fee, they recovered stolen goods, saving the bank a great deal of money.  An agent like Pelya cost a great deal though.  She was one of the best and her fee would negate any profit the bank might have made off the insurance.  Paying her was better than covering the entire cost of the shipment though.  It was in everyone’s best interest if the shipment arrived as it was supposed to.

What worried Pelya was that the lone survivor of the theft had mentioned the wizard controlled a golem made of stone.  Of course, the golem wasn’t the only thing that worried Pelya.  She peered into the bottom of the spiked pit where the remains of the previous agent of the bank rested uncomfortably.  Judging by the wounds, it had taken him a while to die.  She wondered if the wizard had stripped his gear before or after the man had succumbed to the end.

A small pile of dust at her feet was all that was left of the runeball that had enabled her to see it and the two traps on the door she had disarmed before picking it.  That had been her last trap-finding runeball.  Ebudae, her best friend growing up in Dralin, had made it along with a number of others Pelya had at her disposal.  Pelya had a request with the bank to either replace them or find her a new device that would do the same job.  Her expenses were part of the fee she charged.

The blood flowed normally through her legs again.  She couldn’t waste any more time.  After drawing her secondary sword, she hunched low, cracked the door open, and looked into the room.

No lights shone from inside.  The crack allowed light from the hall to enter, which wasn’t enough to see anything, but would allow anything inside to see her.

This was when her job was most dangerous.  Every option available to her had risks that could get her killed.  At least she was alone and wouldn’t be the cause of anyone else’s death.

Pelya flung open the door and darted inside to the left.  Her first thought was gratitude that the floor didn’t open into another pit trap.

Torches in brackets on the walls of the circular treasure room sprang to life, sputtering with enchanted flame.  Long crates made to hold staffs were stacked on the right side of the room.  There should be eighteen of them.  Other crates lined the walls along with a full bookshelf, numerous bags and assorted items on shelves.

Pelya’s next thought was consternation at the golem standing in the middle of the treasure room.  To her dismay, it noticed her.

A voice like rolling boulders emitted from it.  “Password.”  Crystalline black gems glowed with enchantment from a head made up of rock pieces molded together.

Pelya hated passwords.  She guessed.  “Carnivorous fairy.”

“Not password.  Intruder die.” It came after her.

Pelya drew her primary sword as she dashed to the side.  “Intruder die is a terrible password.”

Its body consisted of two large stones for the torso and two for each limb.  Rocks for the hands and feet mimicked a human’s shape.  Joints glowed with red light when it moved.  Each thudding step the golem took shook dust from the mortar.  It moved faster than Pelya anticipated.  It also showed intelligence in the course it took to intercept.

She reversed direction just before it reached her.  “Shall we dance?”

The golem skidded to a halt and swung its fist where she had been.  Had it connected, it likely would have crushed Pelya’s skull.

Pelya slashed at its arm with her primary sword.  It took a chunk out of the rock with a clang, but did no real damage.  That was a worrisome outcome considering the level of enchantment in the blade.  Runes flashed on the golem’s arm, proving mystical protection in addition to the fact that it was made out of stone.

It attempted to backhand her with the arm.

Pelya rolled backward, jumped to her feet, and dashed to the other side of the circular room.  “You don’t laugh at my jokes, you don’t want to dance.  You’re a very rude host.”  She shoved home her primary sword and grabbed a statuette from a shelf.  With a twirl, she tossed it in an attempt to distract the golem before dashing the other way.

The golem altered his chase to snatch the statuette out of the air.  It put it back on the shelf with gentleness belying its size and make.

It was a better distraction than Pelya had hoped for.  She pulled a runeball out of one of her pouches.  There was only one more of its type after this, another one she needed to replace.

The golem stomped toward her.

Pelya tossed the runeball at it and said the activation word.  Then she said, “Catch!”

The golem snatched the runeball out of the air.  It skidded to a halt and opened its hand to look at it.

The runeball had already begun its magic.  Pelya watched with the fascination she always felt while observing one work.

It disintegrated into liquid that melted the golem’s hand.  From there, it traveled up the arm.  The runes carved into the stone popped and sizzled as it streamed through the shoulder to the upper stone of its torso.  The effects slowed significantly.  Drops of melted stone splatted to the floor.

The golem stared at its melting body.  The effects were beyond its instructions on how to react.

Pelya slid her secondary sword into its sheath.  “You’re falling to pieces, golem boy.”

It looked at her.  Slurred words emitted from it.  “Passwerrll . . . intrugg.”  The enchantments holding it together gave out.  The remaining stones fell with a racket.  The runeball continued to liquidate them at a slower and slower pace.

“Tsk.  I’d hate to be the one who has to mop up that mess.”  Pelya raked her hair back and dashed to the door.  She was alone.  The pit was an issue though.  She had to carry out eighteen crates.  “Maybe being alone wasn’t such a good idea.”  There was still the issue of the wizard.  Most constructs like the golem had a focus that would alert its maker.  If that was the case, then she wouldn’t be alone for long.

Carefully avoiding the puddled golem, Pelya went to the crates and counted.  There were eighteen, just as reported.  Pelya took a scroll out of a protective pouch.  On it was a list of the stamps on each end of the crates.  Different wizards had made each staff to sell.  A broker had arranged the sale to a merchant in Juragdat.  Pelya took the time to make certain each mark matched.  A wizard’s staff was a valuable device only the wealthy could afford and only an archmage could afford one.  Her fee for the recovery wouldn’t cover the cost of one.

“What did you do to the master’s servant?!”

“I gave it a bath.”  Pelya mentally cursed herself for the lapse in awareness.  In an instant, she was on her feet with both swords drawn.  The scroll fell to the ground.  “Who knew stone melted when you washed it?”

There was only one man, a bodyguard by the looks of him.  “You’re a thief!”

“I am not.  What an appalling accusation.”

A wizard in his night robe burst into the room, shoving the bodyguard aside.  “A thief?!  In my vault?”

“I just explained that I’m not a thief.”  Pelya held her chin up high.  “Weren’t you listening?

The wizard’s face was ruddy with outrage.  “Just who are you and how did you get in here?  He gestured at the grey puddle on the ground.  The spell had run its course.  Pieces of stone stuck up from it, including the top of the head with the crystal black eyes staring up at its maker as though confused by what had just happened.  “And what did you do to my pet?”

“My name is Jerald, I came in through a hole in the wall and I gave your pet a bath.”  Pelya indicated the puddle with her sword.  “I think it’s allergic to water.  You might want to look into that.

The wizard’s finger shook in rage as he pointed it at Pelya.  “Kill him!”

The bodyguard frowned.  “I thought she . . . he was a girl, boss.”

The wizard leaned forward and held his arms out in disbelief.  “I don’t care.  Girl, boy, just kill whoever it is.”

“Right.”  The bodyguard drew his sword.

Pelya met it with her secondary before he could bring it into position.  With the flat of her primary, she slapped him in the face.  At the same time, she tripped him.

The bodyguard hit the ground hard, bounced once and fell unconscious.  His sword clattered to the ground.

Pelya looked down at him.  “Wow.  I would think a wizard’s bodyguard would have more skill.”

The wizard shrieked in outraged, “You killed him!”

“No I didn’t.”  Pelya rested her primary sword over her shoulder and put the other fist on her hip with the sword still in it, but pointed back.  “You’re making a lot of unfounded accusations.  I don’t appreciate it.  It’s very rude.”

“Rude?”  The wizard sputtered, his face redder than before.

“Yes, rude.”  She shook her head.  “I’m just not feeling very welcome here.”

“You . . . I . . . Of course you’re not welcome here!”

Pelya slammed her swords into their sheaths.  “Oh, well just come right out and say it.  Now I know how you really feel!”

He pointed accusingly at her.  “There is something wrong with you . . . you . . . whatever your name is.”

Pelya crossed her arms.  “Name’s Gilbert.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to point?”

“I thought you said your name was Jerald.”  The wizard frowned suspiciously.

“Well if you know my name, why did you ask?”  Pelya threw a hand up in exasperation.  She reached into a pouch with the other.

The wizard noticed her hand going to the pouch.  He stepped back to begin casting a spell.

Pelya acted fast.  If he gathered much energy, she could kill them all with backlash by interrupting the spell.  She yanked the runeball out of the pouch and threw it at him, saying the activation word at the same time.

It hit him in the face and exploded into powder.  Fear widened his eyes as he inhaled while beginning his incantation.  The powder put him to sleep instantly.

Pelya dropped to the floor and curled in a ball.

The energy of the unfinished spell crackled and hissed, but it hadn’t been formed enough to create an explosion.  The wizard fell limply, his head bouncing once.  The sleep spell in the runeball would keep him asleep for five or six hours.  The concussion might add a few to that along with a headache.

Pelya sprang to her feet.  She checked the bodyguard.  He had a concussion and possibly a broken cheek.  At least he was alive.  She reached into another pouch and pulled out a tiny sachet of sleeping powder.  Carefully, she dabbed some on her finger and placed it on his mustache.  The small amounts he breathed would keep him asleep for about as long as the wizard.  She then dragged him away from the door and made him as comfortable as possible.  She wiped the rest of the dust off her gloved finger onto his pant leg.

Her contract imposed a severe penalty for killing anyone.  The bank wished to acquire a respectable reputation in its dealings.  It made it easier to gain contracts and to deal with kingdoms that frowned on murder and vigilantism.

The pit in the hallway needed to be covered so she could move the staffs out.  There didn’t appear to be anything in the treasure room that could help her.  She went to the door only to discover that a plank was already placed across it.  That solved that problem, though it irritated her that she hadn’t heard them do so.

Pelya went back to the crates to recover her inventory scroll.  On the back of it were enchantments to open two of the crates.  The makers of the others hadn’t given access to the bank.

It took her a few minutes to get those crates out of the stack.  Carefully performing the enchantments, she opened each to verify that the staffs were there.  To her relief, they were.  One was made of entwined wood with gems and crystals bracketed to store and channel magic.  Even without the enchantments in the staff, it was valuable.  The other was a metal shaft with three orbs of power at the top in semi-circle brackets.  It looked powerful.  She closed and resealed them.  It was sufficient evidence that all the staffs were likely still within the crates barring any obvious visible physical damage.

Pelya checked over the wizard and bodyguard again.  They were both sound asleep.  The wizard snored peacefully.

There was no time to waste.  They would wake up eventually.  She wanted to put as much ground between her and the tower as possible before they did.

She grabbed the first crate and carried it down the hall and up a set of stairs.  Once at the top, she traveled along another hallway to a door she had come through.  Beyond it was a room with a hole of melted stone in the outside wall, the result of another of the runeballs that had destroyed the golem.

Pelya took the crate out into the night air to the road leading to the tower.  Both moons were out, shining brightly between wispy brushes of clouds.  Siahray was half-full in its waning cycle while Piohray was half-full in its waxing.  Together, they cast a lavender glow over the landscape.  Pelya put her fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly.  Then she went back to get another crate.

By the time she got back with the second, she heard and saw two horses and a cart coming up the road in the moonlight.  She put the crate on top of the first and looked around.  The tower was situated on the side of a hill in the rolling plains of Obda.  The wizard had no neighbors.  The road was little traveled and rough, but wouldn’t be hard to travel in the night.

Honey, her beautiful chestnut warhorse with blonde mane, glared at her.  Tied to a rope behind her was a sturdy mare pulling a skinny cart on two wheels.

“Yes, I know you don’t pull carts and that you don’t even like pulling horses that do.”  Pelya put the crate in the back of the cart.

Honey snorted.  She flicked her tail and hit Pelya as she walked by.

“Hey!  Don’t be like that.  You know I love you.”  Pelya tried to hug her neck, but Honey turned her head away and stepped aside.

“Wow.  I’m feeling very unappreciated today.”  Pelya pulled an apple out of a pouch and held it up.

Honey kept her head turned to the side, though she did eye the apple as if considering.

Pelya set it on the ground.  “Well, if you change your mind, it’ll be right here.”  She got the mare a bag of feed to keep her docile, though Honey seemed to have matters in hand . . . or hoof.  “I have to get the rest of those crates.”  She patted Honey’s rump.

Honey snorted.

It took two hours to get the wagon loaded and the crates tied down.  In that time, Honey ate the apple and stopped glaring at Pelya.

Pelya wiped sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her arm and then took her gloves off and put them in her swordbelt.  She unhooked the mare’s lead from Honey’s pommel.  “There, all done.”

Honey was unimpressed.

Pelya climbed into the wagon’s seat and attached Honey’s lead to the side of it.

Honey was less impressed.

“I know.  You’re a warhorse and I should be riding you.  We just need to get this wagon to the Cloudswept Bank in Anukarda.  They can take it where it goes after that.  She released the brake and flipped the reins.

The steady mare pulled the cart down the road with no complaint.

Honey refused to discuss the matter further.