I hope that you’ve all been enjoying the second Blood Magic episode: Here There Be Dragons? While you’ve been hopefully reading the second episode, and eagerly awaiting the third episode, I’ve been working hard to write the third episode. That’s right; this month’s episode is the first one that I hadn’t pre-written before going into the series. I’d plotted it out, when I plotted the whole series, but I hadn’t actually sat down and written it. Fortunately, after some fitful starts and early struggles, the story began to come together, and I am very pleased to say that Thicker Than Water will be ready for publication on time, on March 31st.

While you’re waiting, I’m pleased to present a preview of the new Blood Magic episode. Don’t forget to head over to the forum to discuss what you think is going to happen in this month’s episode.

                It was a dark and stormy night, but there was nothing unusual about that.  Autumn evenings in Merolate were often rainy, with storms rolling across the harbor, setting the sails fluttering and swirling fallen leaves out over the vast sea, and most nights were dark.  What was unusual about this particular dark and stormy evening was the young woman standing, bedraggled, in the rain just outside of Merolate’s smaller, private citizen gate, arguing with the guardsman on duty there.

                “There’s just nothing I can do,” the guardsman was saying, as rain pinged off his armor.  “I’ve got my orders, and I can’t just go letting people in when they come knocking on my gate after dark, no matter how pretty they might be.”

                Rain coursed down the woman’s face; with the hood of her sodden cloak down, her hair hung in straggly tendrils around her cheeks.  “Couldn’t some manner of exception be made?  I’ve come a very long ways.”

                The guardsman was silent, and then sighed.  The gate creaked, swinging open, and he stood in the opening, silhouetted by the warm light streaming from the guard tower beyond.  “Come in,” he whispered.  “Quickly.  I can’t let you into the city, but you can at least come into the tower and get warm.”

                “You are most gracious,” the woman said as she ducked beneath the guardsman’s arm and hurried for the shelter of the tower.  Her cloak swished about her ankles as she walked, and the guardsman was surprised to notice a sword hanging from her waist.

                Inside the tower was still slightly damp, but it wasn’t actively raining, and warm torchlight turned the stones a welcoming orange that wound its way up the broad, spiral staircase.  Once inside, the light illuminated the woman, revealing a pretty, pale face, marred by a single scar that traced down over her cheekbone from her eye, or rather, what had once been her eye.  It was now nothing more than a polished, black ball of glass, though her other eye was a striking green.

                “There’s a guardroom up the stairs,” the guardsman said, gesturing with the hand that didn’t hold a spear from where he was taking the opportunity indoors to warm himself before a brazier.  “The other guards should be able to find you a dry cloak, at least.  Once morning comes, we’ll see about getting you into the city.”

                Pushing water out of her hair with her hands, leaving it plastered against her skull, the woman smiled, twisting the scar on her face, but from the faint lines around her eyes, it was clear she smiled often.  “Thank you.”

                “Well, I better be getting back outside,” the guardsman remarked, stepping reluctantly away from the brazier and putting his hand on the tower door.  “Say, what did you say your business was in Merolate?  You have family here or something?”

                “I didn’t,” the woman replied, humor sparkling in her living eye.  “But since you ask, I’m here to see my brother.  I haven’t seen him in many years, but I’ve finally tracked him here.  Who would have thought he’d be a personal servant in the Prime’s castle?”

                Wincing as he put on his helmet, and shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, the guardsman smiled back.  “I’d be happy to take you there, when my shift ends.”

                “Oh, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you,” the woman replied, pausing on her way up the stairs to look back down at the guardsman.  “I’m sure it can’t be too hard to find the castle of Merolate’s Prime.  Thank you again for your help tonight.”

                “Oh, well, of course,” the guardsman mumbled, and then he stepped back out of the rain and shut the door behind him.

                Smiling to herself, the woman continued up the stairs.  So far, everything was going precisely as she had planned.

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