On Friday, I wrote the final words to the fourth book in the Castle Keepers series. Healing Stones came to 142,169 words. Obviously, it won’t stay that count; editing and revisions will change it, but not drastically. If all goes as planned, the book will be released in September 2019.

Healing Stones focusses on the remaining members of The Mercenaries after the brutal battle at the end of Revelation Stones. They set out to find Liam Jenkins, Isla’s friend from her youth, the boy who she pledged to unite with when she was only twelve years old.

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Jack Somerled

Human, explorer, first appeared in chapter 09 of Scattered Stones

“Knavesmire!” The rough voice hacked the name as if it were phlegm.

Jack Somerled’s ears twitched, but his body remained relaxed as his fork poked a potato and lifted it to his mouth. From his corner seat in the tavern, he had a clear view of the scraggly group of mixed-raced men hoarded around a table slinging ale and feasting on plates of meat.

“If he avers to have journeyed there, he’s peddling featherless fletching.” The heavily bearded human chuckled.

“I stated not that he’d journeyed,” said a hauflin, “only that he’d seen it.”

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Lord Dirck Landis

Human, lord of Aruam Castle, first appeared in chapter 05 of Shadows in the Stone

The door slammed and Lord Dirck Landis jumped from his chair to see who had entered. Two of his senior guards dragged a prisoner into the room and tossed him against the wall.

“My Lord,” Corporal Franklin motioned towards the tattered elf sprawled on the floor. “He is suspected of using magic within the town walls.”

“It was ignite powder!” the young man shouted. “Harmless!”

“Witnesses claim otherwise,” said the guard.

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Kellyn Mulryan

Dwarf, sword fighter, prisoner at Blackvale Castle, born Glen Tosh, first appeared in Scattered Stones.

“Stop!” shouted the guard. “You can’t go in there!”

Kellyn ignored the quackpod and kept running. As she drew water from the well in the courtyard, she had seen Merk cross the open balcony and enter his study. He had been absent from Blackvale Castle for several days, and this was the first opportunity to inform him of the tragedy that had occurred to his favourite prisoner.

She reached the door, flung it open and raced inside. Merk stood admiring a painting on the far wall. He glanced in her direction but remained silent.

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Emerson Wheatcroft

Human, cartographer, born Maskil, lives Wandsworth, first appeared in the short story “Destiny Governed their Lives”.

Emerson Wheatcroft neatly scrolled the word Goshen near the circle representing the village on the map. He blew gently on the hide to quicken the drying time. It had taken him a fortnight to reach the labelling phase; the customer required it to be practical yet pleasant to the eye.

He rested in his chair and admired his artisanship. At this point—with the mountains, rivers and settlements dotting the landscape—he felt satisfied. The labelling was a mere detail, an important one, but one many people achieved successfully.

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Lord Merk Lindrum

Human, Lord of Blackvale Castle, sorcerer, first appeared in chapter 27 of Shadows in the Stone

The brush touched the canvas lightly, dabbing grey shadows on the undersides of fluffy clouds floating outside the window. Satisfied, Merk Lindrum turned his attention to the cat lounging on the sill. It also required more shadowing.

He glanced around the easel and scrutinized his pet; its white fur shined as it lay stretched in the sun, sleeping. A few strokes on canvas and it would be perfect. His fan brush gently stroked the watercolours together to create tiny hairs that stabbed into the shadow.

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Lord Laird Mulryan

Dwarf, lord of Aruam Castle, first appeared in chapter 05 of Shadows in the Stone

The sun shined in the window, and Lord Laird Mulryan leant on the sill looking over the grounds of Aruam Castle and Maskil. The morning has been pleasant; he had enjoyed the day’s first ration surrounded by those he loved most. The small gestures, smiles and friendly chatter left him feeling as if he were the luckiest man in Ath-o’Lea.

He sighed, already missing their company and longing to return, but two days were all he could muster to be away from his post. Significant matters needed tending; he had to put the order in for new recruits to bolster the lower ranks. The combined numbers of foot soldiers and castle guards was to be maintained at one thousand fighting men and from his calculations, they were severely deficient.

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Isla of Maura

Hauflin, prisoner at Blackvale Castle, first appeared in chapter 01 of Shadows in the Stone

Isla outlined the military vest, pressing lightly so if the line had to be erased, it wouldn’t leave an indent in the paper. The curve of the shoulder was a difficult part. It took five attempts to get the other shoulder perfect. The black lead moved slowly as she imagined the sun shining on the top of the blue material. In the sunshine is where they had spent their happiest times, and here is where the lightest of touches would accent the glow. She shaded lightly, then used a finger to smudge the colour just right.

A short time later, Isla sat back to admire her efforts. The eyes of her das stared at her as if he would walk across the tower roof and tell her to get ready for bed; they had a busy day tomorrow. Perhaps they’d ride along the Shulie or take a hike to Moon Meadow. She’d ask if Liam could come.

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Joris Darrow

Dwarf, wheelwright, part owner of The Spoke ‘N Waggon shop, first appeared in chapter 11 of Shadows in the Stone

A boot sailed through the air in the dimly-lit tavern. Joris caught sight of it in time to lean back so only its wind brushed his nose. He embraced his mug of ale against his chest and looked for the origin of the projectile. He saw a woman glaring at him from twenty feet away. The young human beside her raced behind Joris, snatched his boot and sped off.

“Chloe.” Joris raised his mug. “You chose a green one. He won’t be back.”

“I chose an inconsiderate, deceitful rogue who is less appealing than the hind end of a troglodyte.”

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Selina Burkenshaw

Human, herbalist, first appeared in chapter 10 of Shadows in the Stone

Selina Burkenshaw slowly poured the steaming tea into the mug. The mug full, she returned the pot to the stove top. Scooping a dollop of honey from the jar, she stirred it gently into the hot liquid. Once sufficiently mixed, she drew the warm spoon over her tongue to taste the sweetness. She picked up the mug and turned to her mate.

Farlan remained in the same position since he entered their dwelling. He rested in the chair near the stove watching their first-born sleep. Their daughter—barely one year old—brought him much joy, but even she could not break the spell he appeared to be under since his return from patrol two days earlier. The outing was supposed to be five days, but it lasted ten. As usual, he couldn’t share details of the excursion, but the permanent grimace and the solemn mood spoke volumes. His lack of chatter also hinted at the worry teasing his mind. She hadn’t seen him this distraught since the inquest into Lady Glynn Dasia’s murder.

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