New Sacred Band Tales: The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl on Black Gate

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Love in War and Realms Beyond Imagining: A Review of The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl-small

“Your commander reaches for yonder stars and gods do eye him. And there are more Fates in the wide worlds of men than those whom he has aided.” – from The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl.

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Revised Author’s Cut, published by Perseid Press (386 pages, May 24, 2012, $24.95)
Cover art: Peter Paul Rubens, “The Consequences of War” (detail), 1637-1638

The team of Janet Morris and Chris Morris once again grace us with another excellent collection of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, featuring Tempus, Niko and their Sacred Band of Stepsons. This compilation is comprised of both new stories and earlier tales, herein revised from the original Thieves’ World® series, stories such as “What Women Do Best,” “Power Play,” and “Sanctuary is for Lovers.” Brand-new tales, written especially for this book, include “Shelter from the Storm,” “Lemnian Deed,” “Ravener, Where Art Thou?” and the title story.

All the magic, action, adventure, humor and human drama I’ve come to expect from Janet and Chris Morris are here in spades, and there are enough revelations and plot twists along the way to keep you on your toes.

This collection takes place after the Morris’ masterpiece, The Sacred Band, and gives us more of the history of the Sacred Band as Tempus takes his Stepsons and Thebans north, a world away, into unexplored regions and a mythic country. Though they are courageous, these fighters, they are no strangers to fear. Though they are warriors, hard and tough, they are not immune to love and compassion, to decency and common humanity.

And though the gods at times play their part, there is never a chance that Deus ex machina will overwhelm these wonderful characters and seize control of the stories. In fact, at times it seems that the gods are really no match for the human and mortal characters. As in Greek mythology, which is the heart and soul of all the tales of the Sacred Band, the gods are as weak, as fallible, as jealous, and as imperfect as mortals – and sometimes even more so.

The Sacred Band-smallThe Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl is a highly intelligent and extremely complex collection of tales that reads very much like a novel, and is built on a large and strong cast of characters who live and breathe, sweat and bleed. We meet new characters and revisit old, familiar ones.

And while we travel through unknown territory with Tempus, Niko and the Sacred Band, most of these stories are centered in good old Sanctuary®, where war is brewing between the empire of Ranke and the Beysibs of Harka Bey over control of that infamous town of rogues and thieves, whores and priests, mages and mercenaries.

Tempus and the Stepsons, the 3rd Commandos under Sync, and the Rankan Empire all want to rid Sanctuary of the Beysibs, install an interim ruler, and make Sanctuary an independent state. So that’s the background on what’s going on and the hub around which these stories revolve. Now, let me tell you a little about the players involved.

Once again we encounter Molin Torchholder, Vashanka the Storm God’s priest; he’s always trying to curb the actions of the Sacred Band, and this time out strikes a bargain with Tempus for his own secret agenda.

We learn more about the Stepson Straton and his love affair with Ischade the necromant; they set out to rescue Strat’s partner Sync, who’s been totally enthralled and held captive by Roxane, the Nisibisi witch who played such a large role in The Sacred Band and the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy; her demon-familiar, Snapper Jo, now tends bar at the Vulgar Unicorn® and dreams of being human.

Herein we get tangled up with Zip, the Death Squad guerilla leader who introduced Sync to Roxane; he also gets romantically involved with Kama, daughter of Tempus, and becomes a player in the war for Sanctuary’s independence. Randal, the shape-shifting, jug-eared mage is here, too, and he’s still allergic to animal forms, especially when he changes into one.

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foWe also meet Cassander the Healer, a gifted horse doctor who buys a live fish, a kite-ray that he needs to heal a young girl named Seriti. (Interesting thing about this fish: it’s used to create a sort of “organic battery,” which is then used for healing and purposes of interrogation. Cassander is like a heroic fantasy version of television’s MacGyver.)

Niko, right-side companion to Tempus, has been immortalized and is now the avatar of Harmonia, the Theban goddess of Balance and Justice. He has his hands full taking care of two children: Arton, who at times can see the future, and Gyskouras (Kouras), who is the god Vashanka’s son, through Tempus who actually fathered him. Jihan, Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, shows her maternal side when she and Niko defend the boys against deadly snakes sent by the witch Roxane to slay the lads.

As for Tempus the Sleepless One… as always, he has a full plate. When the two gods – Father Enlil (Lord Storm) and Vashanka the Pillager – vie for space and attention inside the head of an exhausted Tempus, Abarsis the Slaughter Priest, founder and now patron shade of the Sacred Band, comes to his aid and grants him one full night of rest. And Tempus will need that rest, for even more trials and tribulations await him.

Kama, his daughter, is on a covert mission and becomes apprenticed to Hakiem the storyteller, who claims to be neutral in this war, but seems to have all the right connections. New to the Stepsons is Gayle, a foul-mouthed mercenary who can build a string of profanity around a single word; he’s been assigned to protect Kama, even from those who are trying to help her. But then Kama is framed – implicated in, and about to be indicted for, sedition and attempted murder.

Meanwhile, Molin Torchholder wants to save and marry her, and Jihan claims to be in love with young Randal, the Hazard Class and shape-shifting mage. So Tempus decides it’s best to stop the marriage between Randal and Jihan; with Randal’s permission he then sets out to woo Jihan away from the young mage for many reasons of his own, not to mention for the sake of romance. But first Tempus must send out teams of Stepsons to find the traitor who framed Kama for murder and sedition.

There is so much more to this anthology and to these stories, so many levels and layers, and the fun is in the reading and discovering how all the many threads tie together to create a tapestry of great storytelling. As in all Janet and Chris Morris’s stories of Tempus and his Sacred Band, their writing is crisp and spot on. Their use of present-tense to grab the reader with a sense of immediacy and urgency is always well-played and never jarring. There is a balance and simplicity, a beauty and poignancy in their prose that is not overdone, not overplayed; they write with a deep insight into the human soul, with compassion and humanity. Here’s a favorite passage of mine that takes place when the ghost of Abarsis the Slaughter Priest appears to take Niko’s former partner to heaven:

She knew ghosts when she saw them; this one was a spirit of supernal power, a fabled strength, a glossy being of such beauty that tears came to Ischade’s eyes when it sat down beside Niko, ruffling his hair with a fawn-colored hand.


“I am Abarsis,” it smiled in introduction, and she saw the wizard blood there, ancient lineage, and love so strong it made her head hurt; she’d given up such options as this ghost thrived on, long ago.

“We need Janni’s soul in heaven; it’s earned its peace…”

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallI like that passage a lot. For me it’s writing that aims for the heart, as well as the brain. The philosophy, the credo of the Sacred Band will make you pause to think, but the way the characters are written, whether heroic, villainous or something in between, will make you feel.

One thing I’d like to mention is the women characters. In a review of one of the Sacred Band books, the reviewer brought up the point that the female characters are either witches or goddesses. Now, part of that statement rings true to history, true to a time when women controlled most religions, when women ruled as queens. But women play much more diverse roles in the Sacred Band mythos than witches, goddesses, priestesses, and even whores.First, there is Kama, a Sacred Band warrior as deadly, as proficient in the art of killing as any man. There are the two Lemnians, Breisis and Ditki, who once fought against the Band but have now joined with them.

And then there’s Madame Bomba, a shrewd businesswoman who has her hands in everything, her eyes on everything, and her heart in the right place. These women are all empowered – they are forces to be reckoned with, such as: a witch that even the gods fear; a necromant who feels love and compassion; a goddess who wants to be human; veteran warriors who have not sacrificed femininity and gentility, tenderness and caring.

To talk more in depth about the plots of each story would be to give too much away. I think, I hopethat what I have given you here is tease enough and has piqued your interest enough to have you seek out this volume and lose yourself in the wondrously magical and yet all too gritty and real world of the Sacred Band. And for those of you who haven’t read my Black Gate and Amazon reviews of The Sacred BandBeyond SanctuaryBeyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall, please check them out. I think you’ll like the realms of wonder created by Janet and Chris Morris.

All Sacred Band of Stepsons series books available at Amazon in trade and Kindle from Perseid Press.

Books shown above also available at Barnes & Noble in trade and Nook editions, and better bookstores everywhere.

Look at Amazon’s Sacred Band books catalog and find additional Sacred Band of Stepsons short fiction available only for Kindle and companion audiobooks from Look for our Author’s Cut editions of the Beyond Trilogy: Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall, expanded by nearly fifty thousand words.

Life to you, and everlasting glory…


Sacred Band Character of the Week: Shamshi


Shamshi is a military character in the Sacred Band of Stepsons fictional universe and in the Thieves’ World shared fictional universe. The illegitimate son of Datan, the Nisibisi sorcerer, and Adrastus Ajami’s Mygdonian wife, Shamshi falls under the sway of Black Nisibis early in life, helping his father trap and hold the Froth Daughter, Jihan, during Tempus’s assault on Wizardwall. Bold and willful, Shamshi takes part in several plots aimed at the destruction of the Sacred Band of Stepsons until he is taken hostage first by Askelon of Meridian, and then by Tempus at the end of the Wizard Wars. Niko, Tempus’s partner, pleads to take the boy to Bandara where he can be trained as a secular adept, and Tempus relents and allows it. Niko brings Shamshi and two other trainees of his back to Lemuria just before the Battle of Chaeronea, after which the Sacred Band, including Shamshi, travel to Sanctuary. There Shamshi falls once more under the influence of Askelon, lord of dreams, and deserts the Sacred Band, becoming first a sniper set on vengeance and later a pawn of the angry Fates, who use an ancient poison to transform Shamshi and, through him, make an end to much of the evil he embraces.

To learn more about Shamshi and the rest of the characters in The Sacred Band go to the freebase site at

Sacred band Character of the week: Jihan



Jihan, wind-charmer and Froth Daughter, is a military character created by Janet Morris in the Sacred Band of Stepsons universe and the Thieves’ World shared fictional universe. Jihan is the daughter of Stormbringer, primeval god of wind and wave. She came to earth from her home in the sea to consummate an arranged marriage with Askelon, lord of dreams, which never took place because Askelon chose at the last moment to wed Tempus’s sister-in-arms, Cime, instead. Having agreed to remain in human shape for a year, Jihan decides that Tempus must repay her for her loss of a husband by providing her a year’s companionship. Preternaturally powerful, passionate, childlike, and headstrong, Jihan stays a year with Tempus, fighting at his side in every battle, bringing her more-than-mortal strengths to bear in his cause. After a year with the Sacred Band of Stepsons, Jihan returns to her father’s sea. Twice more she comes and goes, fighting beside the Sacred Band when it suits her, trying to convince Tempus that they should have a child. Eventually she does have a child by him, and raises it beneath the sea at the edge of time. When this child escapes and comes seeking vengeance upon his absent father, Jihan follows, returning to the Sacred Band once again. Her son eventually joins the Stepsons, and Jihan too rejoins Tempus’s forces intermittently thereafter, where she uses her power over cold and water to aid the Band on several occasions, including the Battle of Meridian.


  • Female

Place of Birth:

  • Sea at the edge of time

Character Created By:

  • Janet Morris

Appears In These Fictional Universes:

  • The Sacred Band of Stepsons universe
  • Sacred Band of Stepsons
  • Thieves’ World fictional shared universe

Also known as: Wind-charmer

Notable Quotes:

“Time is so…fluid where I live” -Jihan, The Sacred Band

“I am always yours to call, wherever the sea can reach.” -Jihan, The Sacred Band by Janet Morris & Chris Morris

“My father has relented. He’s given me leave to come back and be with you, poor lonely, sleepless man — eternally.”- Jihan, Beyond Wizardwall, by Janet Morris

“Don’t forget, Riddler, how I love thee. Or all we shared together. Or that this sea and all other seas can lead you back to me.”- Jihan, City at the Edge of Time, by Janet Morris

“Shed your mortal skin and let me take you beneath the waves.”-Jihan, City at the Edge of Time, by Janet Morris

“What’s holding us up then? I’ve had my fill of babies and monks and twaddle. Let’s get out into the World and see what wrongs we can find to right.” She grinned. “Or vice versa.”-Jihan, Tempus, by Janet Morris

Check out more information on Jihan and all the other Sacred Band Characters at the Sacred Band Freebase site HERE.

Sacred Band Character of the Week: Randal


Randal, the Tysian Hazard-class mage, first appeared in the Sacred Band of Stepsons universe when Tempus took his warriors north to Tyse (Beyond Sanctuary, 1985). Randal joined the Band in Tyse, becoming the first and only warrior-mage ever to serve with Tempus’s Sacred Band of Stepsons. Under orders from the Band’s commander, he served as the rightman of Stealth, called Nikodemos. As such, he fought in the Wizard Wars and in the coup at the Festival of Man. After the Wizard Wars, Randal was among a small contingent of Stepsons who returned to Sanctuary. Once there, he took a post as Sanctuary’s First Hazard (in Thieves’ World universe anthology volumes, 7 -11). After the Stepsons withdrew from Sanctuary for a second time, Randal rejoined the Band at their base of operations in Lemuria. When Tempus brought the Sacred Band of Thebes to Sanctuary for training (The Sacred Band, 2010), he summoned Randal. There Randal was reunited with one of his former apprentices, Merricat, and fought in the Battle of Meridian. Randal can become any kind of animal, but he is allergic to animal fur and this weakness hampered his early career. From Askelon of Meridian, he acquired a charmed handkerchief that for a time kept his allergies in check and a blade called a ‘kris’ that parts fire and issues hornets from its tip. He briefly possessed the Nisibsi globe of power that was his portion of the spoils from the assault on Wizardwall. Randal has a platonic love for Niko. He is not as robust as the shock troopers in the Band and they call him “Witchy-ears.” Randal came up through the Mageguild apprentice system, rising from “Junior Hazard” to “First Hazard.” He taught at Mageguild schools in Tyse, Ranke, and in Sanctuary, where the young adept, Merricat, apprenticed to him. Randal’s mental skills, bravery, and fierce loyalty more than make up for any lack of physical prowess in the eyes of the Stepsons.

Also known as:

  • Witchy-ears,
  • Junior Hazard,
  • First Hazard,
  • Third Hazard,
  • Sacred Bander,
  • Stepson,
  • Mageling,
  • Hazard,
  • Randal, Hazard-class mage,
  • Fifth Hazard

Notable Quotes:

“The universe forgives those who give until their hearts are aching and their spirits weak, and finds a way to renew all strength and cure all ills, in this world or the next, if a soul can just have faith.” -Randal, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2010 Perseid Publishing

“Some nights, valor and cold purpose aren’t enough.”- Randal, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris,  (c) 2010 Perseid Publishing.

“These warriors of the Sacred Band were inscrutable; they loved their war and death and picking through the bones of time to sort out right from wrong, good from bad, holy from profane, honor from dishonor.” -Randal, from Beyond the Veil,  by Janet Morris, (c) 1985

“Some nights, one wants to tell beloveds everything that’s been waiting to be said. Some nights, a man needs flesh and blood and warm breath and a loving heart.” -Randal, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2010 Perseid Publishing.

“One man can make another’s life so much better.” -Randal, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2010 Perseid Publishing.

“Live and die, shoulder to shoulder, back to back. For the honor of serving by your partner’s side. For the glory of dying by your partner’s side. Honor and glory meant everything to these men. And whatever else Randal might be, he was a man.”- Randal, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2010 Perseid Publishing.

Check out more information about Randal, and all the Sacred Band characters at the freebase page HERE.

Sacred Band Character of the Week: Straton


This week’s featured character from The Sacred Band tales is Straton.

Straton is a character in the Sacred Band of Stepsons fictional universe who has been with the Stepsons since their formation. Straton is considered by many of the professionals in Tempus’s forces to be the deadliest warrior among them. Straton has fought in every engagement undertaken by the Stepsons with the exception of the period during which he served in Sanctuary as Tempus’s interim commander, and again when he fought at the Battle of Shaga while the Sacred Band Stepsons was between missions. Straton and Critias became a Sacred Band pair during the Wizard Wars and maintain a very close bond despite Straton’s infatuation with Ischade, the necromant. Perhaps feeling responsible for Straton being bolt-shot twice in the same shoulder, Ischade gave Straton his ghost horse, a mount who cannot die and cannot be harmed by mortal weapons.

Also known as: Strat.

War name: Ace.

Rank and Titles:

Notable quotes:

“The gods gave us horses so we wouldn’t have to fight on foot.” -Straton, from The Fish, the Fighters, and the Song- girl, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris.

“It makes me irritable when people come around asking for trouble and I don’t have any ready for them. Now I’ll have to go find them and deliver some.” -Straton, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris.

“Something awful is always going to happen, Arton. It’s Sanctuary. You’re a Stepson. Awful is a big part of your job.” -Straton, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris.

By Enlil’s third and fuzziest ball….” -Straton  from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris.

“I see all sorts of things when I’m clearing my pipes.” -Straton from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris.

By Enlil’s prong, give the boy a chance.”– Straton, from The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris

Check out more facts and details about Straton, and all the characters at the Sacred Band Freebase website HERE.

Featured Sacred Band Character of the week: Critias


Critias is a military person and military character in the Sacred Band of Stepsons fictional universe. The Stepson ‘Critias’ is not to be confused with Plato’s uncle or Plato’s book by that name. Critias, called Fox, joins the Sacred Band of Stepsons as a single mercenary shortly after its formation and remains with the Band for the rest of his career, taking a Sacred Band partner, Straton. Critias participates in every major engagement joined by Tempus’s forces, fighting in the Wizard Wars, the Mygdonian Campaign, and the Great War (including the Battle of Chaeronea, the Downwind Sweep, and the Battle of Meridian). The brightest, coldest, and boldest of the Stepsons, Critias is initially Tempus’s task force leader and second in command and later becomes his executive officer. As the Band grows and the warriors mature through a series of conflicts, Critias remains one of Tempus’s mainstays. In “The Sacred Band” (Paradise Publishing, 2010), an uneasy relationship exists between Critias and Nikodemos, Tempus’s partner, which comes to a head when their commander is wounded at Chaeronea with Niko by his side. The tensions between these two senior officers persist, unabated, throughout the Sacred Band’s return to Sanctuary and the missions undertaken there, exacerbated by the integration of the Theban Sacred Band remnants into the Riddler’s forces. Nevertheless, Critias’s unflinching determination and unflagging devotion over so many years of war-fighting and his exemplary service record make him an indispensable member of Tempus’s cadre and among the most valued of the Sacred Band’s leadership.

Notable quotes:
“Survival has its own etiquette.” -The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.
“Hug my crack.” -Beyond Sanctuary, by Janet Morris”Don’t, boy. Draw that sword on your left hip now and everything changes — for the worse, for you and all your brothers.” -The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.
“Death’s easy to find. If She wants you, you’ll meet Her here as well as anywhere.” -Beyond Sanctuary, by Janet Morris”No mercy goes unpunished by the angry gods.” -The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.
“To save something, where precious little can be saved. Again and again. To tip a balance, change destiny, trick fate.” -The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.
“Haste breeds error; error breeds woe.” -Beyond the Veil, by Janet Morris

To learn more about Critias and the rest of teh Sacred Band characters, go to the Sacred Band freebase webpage here.


Featured Sacred Band Character of the Week: Niko

Niko (Stealth, called Nikodemos) is a military character in the Thieves’ World shared fictional universe and the Sacred Band of Stepsons universe. Niko is a Bandaran-trained warrior-monk and an adept of the mystery of Maat, of balance and equilibrium, justice and truth. Niko is a Sacred Band fighter from humble beginnings, a ‘son of the armies.’ Niko begins his military career as an eromenos, then loses his ‘left-side leader’ and becomes an erastes, or left-side leader, in his next pairing with the Stepson Janni. After losing Janni to a witch, Niko is stalked by that same witch, Roxane, throughout the Wizard Wars. He leaves the Sacred Band during the Wizard Wars but returns to it. After that campaign, the storm god takes Niko to the City at the Edge of Time, where he formally becomes an adherent of Enlil, the Storm God, and marries the princess Tabet.

Notable Quotes:

“When the balance is restored, people get hurt.” -Niko, The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2009 Perseid Publishing

“What we hold sacred is honor, justice, and glory. You need not swear allegiance to our storm god, to serve with us. Fighters are among us from many lands, with many gods and many beliefs. Believe as you will. What is between a man and his god is theirs alone to say.” -Niko, The Sacred Band,  by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2009 Perseid Publishing

“I have my mind, my body, my soul — my maat. I’m not trading any of it away for special favors. You’ve taught me that nothing can be had without cost.” -Niko, The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2009 Perseid Publishing

“Restore balance. Deliver justice. That’s the mission. Show me you understand.”  -Niko, The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2009 Perseid Publishing

“Look around you. It’s an honor to fight beside you. Today we choose to fight. For the freedom to fight on other days. So we remember what’s worth fighting for.”  -Niko, The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2009 Perseid Publishing

Men live, and then they die. It is the quality of the process of living which matters, that and that alone.  -Niko, Tempus with His Right-Side Companion Niko, by Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2011 Perseid Publishing

“It’s all the same — no good without evil, no balance…no maat. If we lose one, we lose the other. It’s just life, that’s all.” -Niko, The Fish, The Fighters, and the Song-Girl, by  Janet Morris & Chris Morris, (c) 2012 Perseid Publishing

Check out more information about Niko and all the characters in the Sacred Band at the Sacred Band of Stepsons Freebase Site here.


Painting: “Automedon and the horses of Achilles” copyright(c) Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Image used with permission of license to Janet Morris.

A Man and His God now on The Book Rack!

The Book Rack is spotlighting A Man and His God:


Read how the Sacred Band of Stepsons gets its name and meet Abarsis, Slaughter Priest.  An iconic story from Thieves World(R), in an Author’s Cut edition totally revised and updated by Janet Morris.

Rare interview with Christopher Crosby Morris, coauthor of The Sacred Band of Stepsons series

Remain mindful that reality for the characters is inchoate until we compose the prose. In a very real but quantum mechanical and/or metaphysical way, their moment is not yet formed or specific until we observe them, but is “just now” impinging on them when we prepare to write a tale.

Read this and more insightful comments about writing the Sacred Band series, music, and other works, both fiction and nonfiction, from Chris Morris in this landmark interview.

The conclusion of Janet Morris 3-part interview by Todd Brown

Today we’re proud to post a link to the thought-provoking conclusion of Todd Brown’s in-depth three part interview with Janet Morris.

Janet Morris with UVM Christine, her Grand National and World Champion Morgan Mare.