Back with a new release, MANDREAN REVENGE, author Rival Gates shares the origins behind the Red Sapphire and offers a hint of what’s to come.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
I was born in Port Huron, MI and was the youngest of four surviving children. At the age of five my Father took a position as a magazine editor in Toronto, Ontario Canada. We moved to a large city just outside Toronto called Mississauga. The different cultures and demographics to which I was exposed formed many of the ideas for my story.
When I was thirteen, my Father’s declining health forced him out of work and our family struggled. It was at that time that I decided to channel my negative energy into a constructive purpose. I set out to write a short story about a magical gem called the Red Sapphire. My brothers teased me that such a stone was simply a ruby. That irony was part of the attraction for me. After all, who would be writing about a Red Sapphire? Years went by and we moved down to my Father’s home town of Harrow, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie. It was a drastic change from city life and I found myself retreating more and more into my ever growing story. By age fifteen I had a two-hundred page hand written manuscript.
Advancing from high school to college at Michigan State University there was little time for writing and the project sat in a drawer in my parent’s home. In spite of my lack of attention to writing, every night I would fall asleep working out details of the book and the series to follow.
I met a wonderful woman at Michigan State who agreed after graduation to become my wife. As we started our family I began a career in retail management and sales. For over twenty years I excelled in the field and even incorporated some of my knowledge into the book. I hold my position in the greatest esteem.
While I rewrote the story several times on my computer, I did not attempt to publish it until the longest supporter of my writing, my Mother, became terminally ill. She told me the last time I saw her how proud she was of the story I had created and made me promise to publish it and share it with the world. With the loving support of my wife, our three children and the help of the good people at Solstice Publishing, I am fulfilling that promise.
When my Father (ever the editor) read the book, he told me how proud he was and that somewhere he knew my Mother was equally proud. I present to you the first part of the saga which is my life’s work, “Quest for the Red Sapphire.” May it bring you as much joy to read as it has brought me to write.
It has been more than 2 years since Linvin Grithinshield returned from his life altering quest with the Red Sapphire as his prize. Apart from surviving the regular assassination attempts he thought life had returned to normal. Far to the north in the Mandrean Empire, however, trouble was festering. In spite of Linvin’s best efforts, Lord Mandrean the 13th survived their confrontation and has been plotting his reprisal. With his empire on the verge of revolt he needs a show of force to display his dominance. Dispatching Linvin in front of his subjects would fill that role most handsomely. With the help of his evil Necromancer, Mandrean kidnaps Linvin’s Uncle Anvar. The elderly elf is the closest family Linvin has remaining and has been a father figure to him for much of his life. The emperor promises to release Anvar only after Linvin has surrendered himself for execution. Though Mandrean’s word has slight credibility, Linvin is given a terrible decision to make. With little choice Linvin sees no other option but to set out for the empire. He cannot delay as Anvar’s life will expire at the first frost of fall. That will become more troubling by the obstacles he faces along the way.
The cover art is fantastic. Tell me about its genesis.
The artist wanted my ideas. I wanted the embattled protagonist (Linvin) displayed ready for war yet unaware of the evil, demonic forces watching him and about to ruin his world. The image had to invoke fear in the viewer and I believe it does.
Game of Thrones continues to hasten the quest renaissance begun by the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit reboots over the past decade. What’s your take on the on-going popularity of this genre?
Many of my Twitter followers are fans of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. They have brought younger people into the genre. It’s refreshing because I hear new points of view and opinions about various aspects of the series. The genre continues to grow and that bodes well for my books in the future.
Let’s talk about Mandrean and Linvin. For me, David and Goliath instantly spring to mind. Who did you think about when casting these characters?
In making the characters I envisioned a bully and his gang against the new kid on the block. David and Goliath is not far off. Linvin is a great warrior. But he is up against an entire empire that hates him. The odds are so ridiculously stacked against him that he must always find a new way to survive. He is the guy you want to root for and love to see succeed but this time he may have taken on too much to handle.
Good v. Evil never gets old in art and in life. What value do you place on balancing the two? Should an antagonist have sympathetic qualities?
You see flaws in both my good and evil characters. A key point I have always believed in is that good and evil really depend on your point of view. Lord Mandrean thinks he is in the right and so does Linvin. As an antagonist you have to feel for Mandrean. He is clueless about so many things and is manipulated with ease. Even writing his character I found myself feeling sorry for him sometimes. Then he would remind me of why he is the antagonist and the feeling would go away.
Sapphires come in many colors. What made you decide to go with red?
Great question! I’m surprised no one has ever asked me that. A red sapphire is really a ruby. It is called a sapphire because in the backstory a Great Sapphire Prism of the Cosmos was wiped over the world because the magicians had too much power. This broke the magic up into 6 colors of the spectrum with red and blue as the most powerful. Then a blue and red piece were broken off and given to the world with equal power. One would protect life and the other would seek to dominate it. It would be up to the individual masters to determine if good or evil was stronger.
Strong male characters v. strong females. Do you feature any in MANDREAN? Can we expect more?
I have several strong male characters and one particularly strong female character. There are more female characters in the book but I wanted this one to stand out so that she was more important. If I had half a dozen strong females then she wouldn’t be so special. There’s no telling what the future holds.
You’ve mentioned that you are Canadian-raised, American-born. How does this duality feed your fiction?
It played into the creation of Linvin. He is half Human and half Elf. Growing up neither race accepted him. In Canada I was mistreated growing up as an American and in America I was ridiculed as a Canadian. Neither place accepted me very well either. When I lost my Canadian accent it became a lot easier but I poured a lot of that resentment into Linvin.
Share with us the quote that inspires you most.
“Luck is the place where preparation and opportunity meet.”
If you could ask your interviewer a question, what would it be and why?
“Is there a question you want to ask but don’t feel like you can? Why not?” I always wonder if there’s a line you don’t want to cross as an interviewer and what it might be.
Thanks for dropping by Rival. Let us know how MANDREAN does and don’t hesitate to share another excerpt in the future. Cheers.
Mandrean closed the door and was in a darkened room. A sole
candle on the nightstand was the only light. A great shadow was
cast on the wall from the dilapidated figure in the bed. Mandrean
moved slowly toward the man while his eyes adjusted.
“Hello, boy,” said the uncharacteristically soft voice of
Gramlick. “I am afraid I cannot play today. I am not well. Maybe
after it stops raining we can go feed the horses.”
“I look forward to that, School Master,” Mandrean replied as he
sat in a chair by the bed with his head hung low.
Gramlick was a powerful looking man, even with his leg
amputated. His snow-white beard was in tatters but still worthy of
note. A lifetime of war and hard living had destroyed his body, but
some evil had hastened his demise.
“How are you, my friend?” asked Mandrean.
“Manenvious? When did you arrive? I was just having a dream
in which we were about to feed the horses apples in the barn. Do
you remember those days, Boy?”
For the first time, Mandrean smiled in a sincere fashion. “Those
were wonderful days. You were my teacher from my earliest
memories,” the middle-aged emperor recalled. “Under your
guidance, I have learned everything from reading to battlefield
Gramlick sat himself against the headboard on the bed. “And
after all these years, you come to my chambers now. Clearly the
doctors were serious about my prognosis. Only a great calamity
would bring you here in this fashion.”
“Your death is no certainty,” Mandrean assured. “You have
fought your entire life, and I see you fighting this disease for some
Gramlick tried to chuckle but began to cough instead. After the
spasm had finished, he spoke. “I knew I was a good teacher, but I
do not recall teaching you the medical profession. Nor did I teach
you to be a liar. That is a skill you developed on your own over the
years. I must say, Manenvious, you have never done it well. My
eyes can tell when you’re deceitful as easily as they can tell if
you’re awake. I suppose speaking untruths is a part of politics, but
I expect honesty when dealing with me. Come to peace with the
fact that I am about to leave this existence. I have. Then tell me
what you need to say. You seek my council one last time. Yes?
Ask and I shall give you my final lesson though the words will
sting. You rarely like my answers, but they are always the truth.”
Mandrean contemplated as tears formed in his eyes. He
observed his mentor and tried to hide his pain. Pockmarks were
evident on Gramlick’s leg. “Did they leach you?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the general. “Those slimy creatures feasted
well today. Speaking of that, I understand you come from court
with its own form of parasites. Come. Unload your burden.”
“Your ears must be good if you can hear all the way to court,”
Mandrean answered. He stood and began to pace with his hands
behind his back. “Are you sure you are up to hearing this?” the
emperor asked hastily.
“My mind is clearing, and I have no other plans at this moment.
Tell me your troubles, Boy.”
“Very well, my teacher, I am surrounded by incompetent,
selfish fools! Those generals cannot even manage their own
territories. Even the simplest of tasks are too much for them to
handle. All they do is complain and secretly push their own
“That should come as no surprise. Those are the same greedy,
selfish men you and your father promoted to those positions. They
have not changed for the better. Why would you expect power to
do that for them? Tecious has been a loyal servant of the crown for
years but long ago lost his appreciation for anything other than his
title. His inability in the field drove your father to make him a
trainer. Even in that position, his apathy infects his work and your
legions. He uses the cane when I know he need not. The man has
no passion for his posting.
“Maxion is as dirty as coal. You know this. You have known
this. Yet he remains in power. He steals your taxes and starves
your slave-workers in the mines so that he might sell the excess
food to pay for his extravagant lifestyle. No number of troops will
stop starving people from rebelling. And those in rebellion will
mine precious little ore. Still, you do nothing.
“Donorus executed an invasion I planned with overwhelming
force. In spite of his victory, he neither seized the assets of the
former nation’s treasury nor has been able to control the
population in spite of several years of occupation. As a result, their
people pay no taxes and he is incapable of extracting the funds.
Still he portrays himself as a mighty commander. He is a joke. His
own people lack respect for him. They should all be discharged
“That leaves our new Western commander. What do you think
of my handpicked replacement, Tathbar, in particular? Did he not
please you?” the general asked.
“I cannot believe you of all people would make him your
number two,” Mandrean raged. “He is arrogant and a whelp.”
“So were you when I stood by you in court at his age,”
Gramlick noted with a touch of irony. “He is poorly mannered and
lacking in military experience, but he is a capable administrator
who speaks plainly. It seems that these days those are the most
important functions a provincial governor has.”
“You are right about his military background, Gramlick. He
actually suggested disbursing our military stores to the people.”
“Yes,” Gramlick said. “I agree with him and endorse the plan.”
Mandrean was in disbelief. “Not you as well?”
“Tathbar is right, Lad. We have to redistribute the grain to feed
our people and stabilize the economy. The embers of revolution
are growing. Hungry citizens will only add fuel to this fire until it
is out of control. Such a fate would be the end of the empire.”
Mandrean looked betrayed and retorted, “And what of
Romadon and her armies?”
“Oh, you and Romadon again. It really turns your stomach that
we had to make peace with them years back…does it not? They
are no threat to invade now or any time soon. Their forces are
defensive in nature, and they have no need or desire to press our
borders. Defending the vast expanse of their own land is taxing
enough. They have a wealth of natural resources and goods for
which we could trade. We have precious few trade partners.
Adding Romadon to the list would enrich both sides.”
“Where has your fight gone, old one? They are but waiting for a
chance to strike us at our weakest moment. With no long-term
supplies, we would not be able to hold for long. We should attack
them and take their resources by force.”
“Fight? Listen to yourself, Boy. Even if I am wrong and they
did attack, you still have plenty of forces to repel them. But that
will not happen. I know their king too well. He has had his fill of
war for the moment. With the Goblin Nations quarreling with one
another and our invasion efforts downgraded, he will turn his
attention to his domestic agenda. His borders are as far out as he is
willing to go. Even if their king were to attack us, it would only
help our situation.”
“How, teacher?” Mandrean inquired as he came over to the bed
“If the empire was attacked, the people would stand behind you
to repel the invaders. It would give you the backing you lack. But
as I said before …Their king is not so foolish. Tend to your own
borders and the souls within them.”
Mandrean found the tone insolent but would not escalate the
argument with a dying man. “So you’re saying that distributing the
grain is the best way to deal with this situation?”
“Distributing the grain is the only way to appease the people,
save the economy and your throne. I know it. Tathbar knows it.
And deep down inside you know it. Tathbar did not approach the
subject well, but his solution was still best.”
The emperor was taken aback. He hung his head and bit his lip.
With his face staring at the floor, he spoke in a quiet, subservient
tone. “Do you know what you ask of me? It is too much? I cannot
let go of the dream of conquering Romadon.”
Gramlick touched his protégée on the arm. “I know what I ask,
my lord. I ask that you be a good ruler—a good emperor—and do
right by the people who hold you at such heights. They know
nothing of your dreams for glory or conquest. They only know that
they have served the empire loyally for years.
“A nearly foreign army of purchased slaves protects them and
occasionally pillages their land. Their roads are falling apart and
clean water is becoming rare. Now food is in short supply while
this army of slaves eats their fill. There is great resentment. Fix the
roads. Mend the land and the water. Make your people prosperous.
Then reorganize the legions to include humans again with archers
and cavalry. The infantry-heavy units you have favored since the
war with Sartan are inflexible and cumbersome to command.
When the Empire is strong once again, Romadon will still be
“Marinhalk and your court are viewed as uncaring tyrants in all
the provinces. The people are tired of war. What do they see of the
empire’s gains? Only a hand full of the wealthy nobles reaps the
benefit of new lands. The peasants see their taxes paying for goblin
thugs to mistreat them while our engineers are sent to assure
conquered people’s roads are in good order.
“Your empire is crumbling under its own weight, my lord. You
have much to do in order to remedy that, and I will not live to see
your actions take effect. Every job must start somewhere and this
one begins with feeding those upon whose shoulders you stand.
Let your name go into the history annals as the Lord Mandrean
who restored the empire to its former glory, rather than the one
who let his people starve so that murderous goblins would have
The words painted a turbulent and terrifying picture for
Mandrean. No one save for Necromancer would dare regard him in
such a way. He began to search for holes in the plan so that he
might disprove the theory.
“The army would mutiny.”
Gramlick coughed hard and then replied. “Most of these goblins
have been here for less than four years. They come from a land
where no one ever dies of old age. Only war, disease and hunger
claim lives. Their existence here is far better than they would ever
have in the nations, even if that means they build roads.
Remember, we are only talking about distributing the storehouses
of excess food. The army’s rations will not be touched.”
Mandrean paced beside the bed again with his hands on his
waist. The idea of again postponing the annexation of Romadon
still sounded too radical for him. He resolved to find a more simple
solution. There had to be a way to appease the people and remain
ready to go to war at any time.
One idea of note came to mind over and over, but he did not
want to discuss the matter. Mandrean wished to place all the
responsibility for the discord in the empire at Linvin’s feet and
assign blame. He could sense the response he would receive if he
mentioned his plan. Deep down inside Mandrean’s soul was a
place where he could not hear his own lies and was truthful with
himself. The voice from there told him Gramlick was right but
blaming all his miseries on Linvin was easier than admitting his
own failure and soothed his ego.
At that moment, he thought he could manipulate the situation.
After Gramlick’s death, he could enact a plan against Linvin
without fear of disapproval from his teacher. If Mandrean never
discussed his notion with his mentor, he knew he could convince
himself that Gramlick had no qualms with the plan. An even
deeper truism was that Mandrean, in time, could even convince
himself that Gramlick would have approved.
Gramlick knew his former student better than anyone and read
his expressions like pages in a book. He knew what Mandrean was
thinking of doing. He also knew that his opinion needed to be
heard by the emperor. The trick was bringing it up in such a way
that the topic appeared to be Mandrean’s choice.
“Give an old warrior some elixir, boy.”
Mandrean brought a cup of medicine over. It contained roots
and the like in a solution, which dulled the senses. After taking a
drink, Gramlick winced and laid his sweat-soaked head back on
“So I heard you whipped Tathbar. Did the grain distribution
upset you that much?”
“It wasn’t that at all,” Mandrean stated. “He mentioned that
elf’s name. You know it is banned.”
Gramlick had made the emperor open the subject. He could not,
however, take pleasure in his simple maneuver. The general tried
to put on a good face but was beginning to fade. “So you publicly
humiliated the commander of your largest army because he dared
to say Linvin Grithinshield?
“It would seem that I have chosen a battle I cannot win with
this leg of mine. You do remember the lesson about that, don’t
“Yes, school master…Fight no battle you cannot win. It was the
second lesson you taught me. It followed the one about never
underestimating an opponent. I never forgot.”
“You may not have forgotten, Lad, but you have paid them no
Mandrean jerked his head over at Gramlick who knew he had
special privileges at that moment. The emperor’s teeth ground
together, and his face tightened.
“Tathbar knew the rule and deliberately broke it,” Mandrean
fumed. “And Grithinshield will pay for all the trouble he has
Gramlick’s vision was failing so he paid attention to the
direction of Mandrean’s voice to maintain the illusion of sight. “I
think you give the Sartanian too much credit. Our troubles are not
“How can you say that?” Mandrean erupted while coming to
the bedside. “You know what happened. That man humiliated me.
He destroyed my palace…annihilated my elite guard, crushed
entire legions, and left me for dead in a pool of my own blood. Oh,
I give him credit. I credit him with creating this foul climate
throughout the empire. He has wronged me in the worst possible
ways, and he will pay for it. All will see that no one betters Lord
Mandrean and lives.
“He must die, to be sure, and his death will renew the people’s
confidence in me. The army’s morale will improve, and the
impotent group I met with earlier will pour the glory upon me like
a shower of golden raindrops. Forget the grain. The death of
Linvin Grithinshield will bring me all I desire.”
Gramlick was completely blind by the end of the oration. His
time was short. Mandrean had finally voiced his opinion, and
Gramlick had little time to get his point across.
“Boy. Grithinshield did not make the crops fail or the
conquered territory rebellious or the roads crumble or the Goblin
Nations fight. You credit the man for too much. His death will not
solve these problems. Most have forgotten the incident in the
mountains. The only person keeping this issue alive is you. You
seek revenge. That is an expensive thing that a wise emperor
knows he cannot afford.”
Mandrean was so self-involved that he paid no heed to the
faltering voice of his mentor. “I will have that revenge no matter
“Child, you have tried for a year to kill him. How many
assassins have returned—how many soldiers?” Gramlick began to
shake and start convulsions.
“Stay with me, schoolmaster,” Mandrean pleaded as he clasped
the general’s hand. “I need you.”
Gramlick fought to speak as his body contorted.
“There…is…more you must know. Acreas, Betrimpia and
Necromancer…. Don’t trust them.… They all want you dead for
their own…” Gramlick’s body stopped fighting and collapsed on
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