As most readers of this website are aware,my writing under Daniel Quentin Steele is very mainstream and sexual. Under WE Marden or William Marden I write fantasy, science fiction and horror. The following is part of an extensive epic fantasy involving a 17-year-old girl battling a bloodthirsty gang of mercenaries and mages. “The Power of One” is more than a title.







      Yssela was fingering a clump of tart onyons, shaking the dirt  that clung to their roots, pondering how far down she could haggle the price when she heard the sobs of a child and harsh panting.

     The gold-skinned Messavi maiden tried to keep her mind on purchasing food stuffs and vegetables for the next several days’ meals at her father’s inn.

     But a child’s scream, the thud of fists against flesh, and the sudden silence that settled over the small alley near the produce stalls of what was called the Farmer’s Quarters sent Yssela running instinctively toward the alley.

     As she entered the dim, dreamlike shade of the alley, the sunlight shrouded by numerous tents, awnings, clothing stretched out to dry on lines between windows, and the like, she knew her father and brothers would give her a tongue lashing for her

stupidity had they seen her action.

     How many times had they drilled the first law of Messavi survival in the matchless continent-spanning city of Zymmerys, or anywhere else for that matter, into her head.

     “Don’t get involved,” her father had told her since she was old enough to sit on his knee at the downstairs window looking out on the busy thoroughfare that ran past The Sword and Crown, her family’s inn.

     “You see these people going up and down the street,” he had told her. “Most of them are friendly, some are trustworthy, some are valued allies. But they are not Messavi. You have only one loyalty, daughter, and that is to your family, your Inn, and beyond

that to the Messavi people. You must be a good citizen of Zymmerys since we live under its Emperor’s laws, but do not become involved in the affairs of its people.”

     And now she had done just that.  Her gleaming, pearl-handled Messavi blades appeared as if by magic in her hands.  A dozen paces down the alley, no more than eight ells, two men held a held a struggling boy while two others gripped a slender female form, one roughly squeezing her breasts while the other tried to force her

legs apart to rape her standing up in the alley.

     A fifth man stood apart, saying, “Buldrys, Austur, you are insane. The Blindman has said she must be delivered intact, along with the brat. If you rape her, Gulleman or that bitch Lystina will have your balls.”

      “Go plug a hole in the wall, you simpering mongrel,” the man trying to rape the woman said. “The Blindman, for all his damned airs, is not some sorcerer, he’s just a garden variety mage. And that big black bastard Gulleman or Lystina don’t scare me. We’re together in this mission, they’re not our lords. I say we’ve worked damned hard to track this bitch down, and I’m going to have some fun before I turn her over to the Blindman.”

     Yssela stood frozen for the smallest fraction of a moment, her eyes locked on those of the woman who had turned her bloody face to the alley’s entrance. Ysella wondered if she should shout at the men and raise such a fuss that merchants nearby would come to her

aid or call for Guardians and hope that one of the city’s famed peacekeepers was close enough to hear.

     A strange sensation passed over Yssela, as if she were waking INTO a dream and she somehow was not surprised to find herself moving forward without pause, cutting down the hesitant bandit  from behind with a single quick slash that cleaved deep into the

side of his neck, stepping beyond him and plunging both swords simultaneously into the backs of the two men who held the struggling youth.

     She yanked hard to pull both swords free as the surviving two men let the woman drop like a sack of vegetables to the ground.

     “What?” said the man who had been mauling the woman’s breasts, looking at Yssela and telling his companion, “Buldrys, it’s another damned ambush, the witch is at it again.”

     Both men brought out scimitars, the sight of the curved and finely honed blades along with the men’s height and coloring convincing Yssela that they were renegade Arlians, a seafaring race that controlled much of the ocean traffic.

     “Not that much of an ambush this time, Austur, just one big eyed Messavi wench,” the man called Buldrys said. “She cut the others down from behind. Let’s take her swords away and I’ll let you have her while I do the witch.”

     “Easier said than done,” Yssela said, finding herself in control of her voice again. She cast a hard glance toward the fallen woman. She must truly be a witch of some sort, because she had taken control of Yssela’s body for just those critical few seconds to carry out the deadly surprise attack. Perhaps it was something she would have done anyway, Yssela thought, but she’d be damned if she’d let anybody play with her as a toy for their own uses. But first things first. And disposing of Buldrys and Austur was first.

    “You can walk away and I’ll not stop you,” Yssela said, “or you can die here. By your looks, both of you are Arlians and must be well traveled. You should know of the Messavi skill with swords.I may be female, but I am the equal of any of my brothers and

better than most. Just leave the woman and child and go.”

     The one called Buldrys spat at her and said, “I think I’ll cut your tongue out before I let Austur take you. I hate babbling bitches.”   

     He came at her waving the scimitar around in undisciplined but still effective swipes. The alley was so narrow that he created a curtain of steel that he hoped would push her back. He died with that contemptous expression on his face as Yssela deflected the

scimitar with one short sword and buried the other deep in his gut.