tried to tell herself that his words were lies, but the curling sick in her
stomach and loins told her that he spoke the truth. It was no dream that she
had had months ago. He had done something horrid.
She called out, the name coming with sourness to her lips.
ignored her and kept walking.
are you going?” she shouted, exasperated at his obstinacy. “We’re leaving! What
if those creatures come back? You can’t walk away.”
“I don’t owe you a damn thing, Lylith!” He shouted over his shoulder as he tried to keep his boots from becoming mired in the putrid mud. “Remember that! You needed me for this, not the other way ‘round!”
have to come back.”
folch say you!” He laughed. “I don’t have to do anything for your pleasure.
Least of all, lay my head at the axe of your
you can just go to hell!” she shot
He spun around to face her and cackled. “Love, we are in Hell!”
I wrote recently of my mother’s passing. It will be a year soon. A year without her in my life. I still tear up. I still miss her. I still feel angry that the cancer inside her robbed her of any enjoyment of life beyond a measly 77 years. It was not enough.
Not enough, in my opinion.
I do not want to sound like I’m complaining. I am simply trying to process what steps to take to start living my own life again. My life was put on pause to take care of her, and now, I must find a way to hit the Play button.
Just to clue everyone in, I’m in a bit of a life transition, to say the least.
In 2016, my husband finalized our divorce (after having been absent from our marriage, first emotionally and then physically, since around 2013). He left me the house so that my son could stay in the same school until graduation, and he claimed it would be “my alimony”. Well, that “alimony” cost me my savings and almost every penny I have to my name.
In 2017, my family found out that my mother had pancreatic cancer and she began chemo. My sister, who had been living with me since 2011, was planning a move to Rhode Island to live with friends and act as nanny to their child. That was put on hold and she moved in with my parents instead, to care for our mother.
When she was scheduled to go to her summer camps, I took over the caregiver duties. I was working two jobs, one a physically strenuous and soul-sucking retail job, and I was anxious for my son to be employed and help out with expenses since child support stopped when he turned 18 that year. (18! Oh, how the years fly by)
Then Hurricane Irma hit. She hit my parents’ home hard. Three feet of water in a house that was basically an insulated boathouse in a swamp.
The clean up was vigorous at first. Myself, my son, his friends, my mother’s friend Michelle, my cousin … we threw away the wet stuff and knocked out the moldy walls. We scrubbed the precious things, wiped down family antiques. We wanted to make a clean safe place for my mother to live in while she continued her chemo post surgery, which was coming up soon after the hurricane. My sister was in Rhode Island, at this point for a visit and felt helpless.
She wasn’t alone. I felt rather helpless, too. I was still working and only came up to clean when I had two consequential days off. Our father decided to stay in the upstairs master bedroom with Bindi, their dog. But, none of us thought this house was safe for our mother to stay in yet. So, Michelle and Lynn offered a small room with a daybed in their house, just one county away.
My sister returned to help my mother for a few months, post surgery, while she continued to pack and consolidate her life’s belongings for the move to an attic room in R.I. She and my mother stayed in the room at Lynn’s, my father and Bindi stayed in a half demolished house, and I returned to work so that I could afford to keep my “alimony” and not go into foreclosure.
That’s the way it stayed through the turning of the year. Then 2018 loomed it’s ugly head.
My son had a friend or two that wanted to move in to my house in south Florida and take over the expenses there while I took turns with my sister caring for our mother and cleaning our parents’ house for reconstruction. It seemed like things were progressing. So, I took leave of my job to assist my sister in moving boxes of her stuff from my house to our parents’ house. Then from there, she was going to pack them into a trailer and haul them to R.I. But, the plan was to clean out her old apartment over the parents’ garage and move our mother into there until the house was finished. We didn’t want to overtax the generosity of Michelle, Lynn, and Robbie.
Early 2018, I was living as if camping with my sister, no air conditioner and only a portable heater, in my sister’s old apartment in Jacksonville.
The plan was still to repair the house for our mother to live in, and once Kate moved to R. I., I would stay and take care of our mother until such time as she could again care for herself, since the doctors could not detect any other tumors. Things seemed hopeful. I traveled back and forth to south Florida to pack my own belongings so that my son could move into my room and have two roommates. We had a plan. We were staging for the future; the next stage of our adult lives.
Then the poop hit the fan.
My son’s “roommate” never got a job (and has yet to pay his portion of the bills there). So, my ex and my mother had to help me pay my mortgage for months. Our mother had a pulmonary embolism and almost died in May. My sister’s “friends” in R. I. told her to either move up now or “don’t bother moving at all” and she flipped out. And, it was coming up on summer camp time for my sister, which is her only major employment for the year.
Life and living spaces shifted again. My sister went out of state to her camps. I moved just my immediate necessities to Lynn and Michelle’s house and slept on a cot in the room with my mother. She was very weak after rehab and needed assistance with walking, dressing, and bathroom issues. As well as transport to chemo.
Now, did I mention that all this time, my father has done just about zero to repair their house? Garbage only gets cleaned out if my sister or I do it. He has not looked through any of his piles of paperwork, has stacks of cat food cans and recycling sitting around the floor, gaping holes in the floorboard that go down to the actual swamp, is still walking up and down the stairs on two bad knees with a dog on a leash, and has built a plank bridge from the bedroom balcony to the garage apartment porch so he can go to the functioning kitchen faster.
My sister is convinced that he is going insane.
Essentially, my sister and I were subjected to long, rambling discussions with our father every time we went to their house to clean. None very useful, and some were downright disturbing.
I felt like I was underwater. Holding my breath and suspended under a crushing weight, just floating. Then, in one golden shimmering moment, surrounded by her children (both by blood and by choice) our mother faded from us.
Life has yet to feel normal again.
Let me say that I am grateful to the friends that I’ve gotten to know through my mother and am infinitely grateful to them for the generosity they have shown my mother, my sister, and myself. They gave us a space to sleep. They gave us a space to store some of our stuff out of the weather and summer temperatures that plague the garage apartment. They offer us comfort and company. They even feed us!
But, I cannot help but feel “homeless”. Facing a burden of two mortgages on houses that I cannot even sleep in, I’m stretched between places. Some boxes packed in the garage apartment; some bags of clothes here in the spare room at Michelle’s; some in the trunk of the car; my bedroom set still in south Florida. I don’t know where some of my specific items even are!
I don’t know where to apply for a new job because I don’t know where I’ll be staying or living in six months time. Do I abandon my grandparents’ land and my aging father in Jacksonville and go back to my house? Do I abandon my son and his friends to struggle with my house payments in south Florida and make a home in Jacksonville? Do I sell one house to pay for the other, only to have to find more money to repair it before it is safe for anyone to live inside? (oh, yes. My own house has mold as well, and needs wall and floor repair before I can sell it. So there’s that.) My sister wants to live in the swamp which was our mother’s parents’ land. But, do we rebuild the swamp house or let it fall to ruin and concentrate on the garage apartment as a tiny living space and make it big enough for three?
I just don’t know! So you can see what I mean when I say I don’t know how to Unpause. How do I hit Play? What do I do that will work for my father, my sister, my son, and myself? How do I maintain or return to “normal”?
elderly magda, her bright eyes sparkling with mischief, said, “So,
I suggest that we leave for Atollis as quickly as possible.”
but I have come all this way. I certainly hope you don’t plan on
leaving without these gifts,”
sighed a new
voice from the door of the library. They all looked up to see an
elderly man in long, stately robes, leaning on a sculpted cane, with
three attendants baring satchels. The fine eyes and small points to
the man’s ears betrayed an elven heritage.
Lady Pinne leapt up and welcomed him before quickly introducing him
around the room as Cayolans’thiane, the Duke of Elis’tavan. He
turned to Pinne as he slowly lowered himself into a comfortable
chair. “I had no idea that libraries were where the young folk
chose to waste their days,”
“But, I have brought you some things to assist in doing just that.”
the wave of his hand, his attendants laid their burdens on the table
and opened them to reveal several, large, leather-bound books,
stamped and inked with beautiful patterns of a scrolling floral.
Runes of a faerlish nature were burned into the covers. All present,
except Keinigan, leaned forward with awe and interest.
looked at her old friend curiously, to which he replied with a casual
air. “The professor wrote to me some weeks back about needing the
histories of the Faerl Folk. But, these are not exactly the ancient
explained. “These are translations in elven, given to me by my
grandfather who had appropriated them at high risk from a friend that
worked inside the Libreas. I hope they will provide what it is that
you are looking for.”
can we ever repay you?” Lylith murmured as her fingers irresistibly
traced the design on one.
don’t you worry about that at present, mistress.” The old
Keinigan watched everyone and felt a twinge of dread as the newcomer’s aged eyes fondled their group with a lustful glance, welcoming their gratitude.
— THE EXCURSION, Book Four from the Translations from Jorthus series by R L Davis Hays
I don’t know how many of you out there have endured caring for a loved one in their last stages of life. All I do know is that it is never easy. My sister, a handful of friends, and I stayed at my mother’s side for months as she battled pancreatic cancer. She had surgery to remove the tumor, but there was some lingering, pernicious poison inside that the doctors could not find. Her “cancer markers” kept going up and her strength kept declining.
This is not a post to talk about her dying. This is a post about love. I wrote it about a week after she had a mass of blood clots in her lungs that resembled an inverse photo of The Tree of Life. She should have died that night. But, the quick thinking of our friend and the “magic” of modern medicine allowed her a few more months with us.
She was stronger after they flushed the clots, but her mind was “fogged” by medicines and a lack of chemo sessions while in recovery. This made caring for her needs more difficult for all concerned. She had always been a “I’m fine, don’t worry about me” kind of person. But, we were constantly trying to find a comfort balance with her medications. Not all of them were mandatory; some were for conditions that arise as side effects of other medications, and of course the chemo.
Deciphering her needs after her brain became foggy became an hourly contest of wills. We did not want to give her a acid reflux med if she wasn’t having that because it would make her more nauseated, or we had to juggle which nausea med she was having to go with whether she was sleepy or headachey or just in general pain. So, it was a puzzle.
Before they stopped her chemo, she could tell us precisely what med she needed. She had been a nurse and understood these things. But, when her faculties slipped (we didn’t know if this was another side effect and might go away with time or if it was the way things would be from now on. On many of the prescription pamphlets, the side effect of confusion or delirium was listed. ), it became exponentially harder to extract information for a proper Needs solution.
I’m not sure if it was her personality slipping or if one a deep level, she knew she couldn’t think of the right thing to say or ask. She would continue to give us the assessment of “I’m fine. ..”, but we could tell by her body language that she was not. She was in some kind of discomfort that the regular dose of pain meds were not alleviating. So, a game of 20 questions would begin. And her answers would differ with each caretaker. The more we asked her for specifics and she could not communicate the answers, the more frustrated she (and we) would get. I think this frustration is what would cause her to shut down and snap at us with rants like, “Oh, never mind! I’m bothering you! I’m being a bother. I’m sorry, I’ll just shut up. Leave me alone and stop fussing at me.”
I tell you all this to explain the post below. In order to deal with her uncharacteristic outbursts, I had to resort to Therapy-writing because if I was able to piece the right words together verbally, I would probably start crying before I was able to say them all. I’m going to share them with you. I don’t know if anyone else needs to hear this; but, I hope that if someone does, that the words might help.
A Note to Mama:
Chemotherapy is hard on your body.
You are fighting, on your interior, a battle that is uncomfortable at best and gut-wrenchingly painful at worst. We who care for you and about you understand this. We admire your strength. I admire your strength. But, we do not expect you to stand alone in this battle.
We do not want you to suffer in silence. When we see the signs of pain and we ask you if your pain is too much, you don’t have to say you are “FINE” for our benefit, because doing so will not benefit YOU. It is YOU we care about. It is YOU we do not want to see suffering or in pain. When we ask if you are in pain, it is not because you are bothering us. It is because we see the chemo bothering you and we wish dearly to alleviate your suffering.
We will not punish you for saying, “I don’t know what it is, but I’m not comfortable.” You are not expected to know. We probably will not know. But, we want to know if you are hurting, not to scold you for showing signs of your pain. We want to know if you are hurting, not to fuss at you for withholding knowledge of your pain. We want to know so that we can help stop it. I am not trying to scold you for being in pain.
What we, and I, want is to see you NOT in pain. Not because the pain inconveniences us or annoys us, but because we do not want you to suffer. So, please, accept my apologies for asking over and over if you are in pain in order to offer the proper medicine or medical solution that will relieve that pain.
After nursing his bruises,
Keinigan dressed and gathered his small assortment of items purchased with the
stolen money. He stared down at the beautifully tanned and oiled leather boots,
the golden rings, and earrings, sighing resentfully. He loathed
returning the things. They would not fetch the same price as he had paid, and
he had had such fun picking them out. They were each a tiny reward for his
pains and labors. He felt cheated in having to sell them so soon.
Even the sword that he had
ordered from a dwarven metal smith in the market of Eddermont was going to have
to stay with its creator. Keinigan would head to Oathak’s Metal Goods booth to
cancel his order and ask for his deposit back as soon as he sold the boots.
In the sky, engorged gray
blankets struggling to hide the sun had reflected his attitude as he left the
comfortable inn. The weather had been threatening to storm again all
through the morning. However, when he left the leather shop and headed to
Oathak the dwarf’s corner booth, he saw the sun thinning some of the clouds and
peeking through the shreds. Still, he was grumbling and kicking dirt with his
old, stained boots as he walked. Nearing the metal smith, he saw Oathak’s
stout, heavily-bearded face peer out at him, then disappear.
“Keinigan Laphae!” A harsh voice
snapped from behind him. His blood curdled with the sound of that name.
The dwarven smith had set a trap
for him. Two armored hands grabbed his shoulders and spun him to face three,
chain-mailed Guards of the Watch. His hood was snatched down by one of them to
reveal his long, slanted ears and blonde hair. The dwarf came out and
identified him as the man for which they were looking. Keinigan could face a
gobberlin hoard, a trollick, or even an ogre or two with a stout heart and wily
courage, but armed guards that knew who he was and held a warrant for his
arrest scared the hell out of him.
“You are under arrest for
thievery and assault. Come quietly,” the leader of the men boomed in a
stern voice as he dropped a few silver coins into the dwarf’s eager hands.
Keinigan had been arrested
enough to know better than to argue. He settled for chewing his lip in
irritation. The three guards surrounded him, pulled his old sword from its
sheath, and then wrenched his hands roughly behind him, tying them. Townsfolk
stared and pointed.
He was getting the sinking
suspicion that his life was turning to figshat again and oozing between his
fingers as quickly as he was trying to keep it from falling to hell.
Sighing pitifully, his head hung low as they
shoved him through the parting market crowd and into a short alleyway filled
with barrels of barley oats. The smell was strong and sweet. Keinigan looked up
sharply as they yanked him to a halt. A muggy breeze from the ocean stirred up
a dusty whirlwind in the tight space, and the lead guard turned to face him,
“Search him,” the man ordered.
Hard, gloved hands poked and prodded every surface and crevice of the faerlin
with detachment. Gathering a marginal collection of pouches, baubles, and his
small dagger, the men were uninterested in all except the coin. They tossed the
rest to his feet.
“Fifteen silver and two gold,
captain.” The voice behind one metal mask reported their findings flatly.
“Well now, that disappoints me,
Laphae.” The captain struck an even pace with his gauntleted hands behind his
back. “Your bounty is thirty silver pents and here you only have fifteen. How
do you expect to buy your freedom with that?”
Seeing with some relief that
this was only extortion, Keinigan quickly tallied up the worth of his belongings.
He could simply let them arrest him, but he doubted that hiding behind bars
would keep him safe from the clutches of a Journeyman. Staying out of jail
where he could pursue the matter or, at least, escape the town altogether
seemed much more productive. Any hope of increasing his fortunes by gambling
with the last of his wealth was dashed
on the corrupt rocks of this town’s security institution.
“I was just returning a few
things,” the faerlin hastily explained. “How’s this, I’ll just run
along to get the rest of the thirty silver, and then I’ll pay you at the end of
the day. Good?”
The captain stared at him.
“All right, how’s this, you let
me go get my money back, and you follow me to make sure I don’t skip out on
you,” he suggested hopefully.
The two underlings turned their
helmeted faces toward their captain. He shook his head. Keinigan groaned in
desperation. “How ‘bout this? I give you everything I have, you beat the crod
out of me, and then you let me go.”
This brought an unexpected
guffaw from the captain. “You’ve done this before, I see.”
With a signal from their leader,
the faceless guards each felled a quick blow to his abdomen. The
faerlin doubled over, breathless, as the captain raised his metal clad fists
up, landing a hard hit between the fae’s shoulder blades that sent him to the
“Pick up his stuff, Karro. Let’s
turn it into coin.” The human chuckled. They exited the alley, leaving Keinigan
coughing in the dust.
Alone, he strained and
worked at the rope binding his hands until it came free. His body quickly
recovering from the beating, he stood up, brushing the dirt from his clothes,
and looked on the ground in the hopes that they had missed something. He was left with only his
shabby, empty scabbard and knife sheath. Deep
curses fluttered under his breath.
Slowly, he walked out of the
alley and leaned against a wall. All his lawful paths to paying the money back
were stripped from him. He had nothing. The dread in his intestines that
had appeared that morning when Bastid busted down his door grew larger and
writhed inside him. The hours were flying past. Sixty silver pents, he
deliberated as he glanced around the market.
His body moved to action before
his brain had truly decided. Weaving through the crowd, his feet flew
back towards the booth of the backstabbing dwarf. The swords and polished shields gleaming in the brief
noon sun, as they lounged on the
counters of the metal smith’s booth,
were a wonderful sight to him. The only thing that made this sight even more
wonderful was the fact that Oathak was nowhere to be seen as Keinigan
A few browsers were turning from
the wares on the center table and looking elsewhere for a bargain; the booth
was quiet. He spotted the sword that had cost him a deposit lying out for some other
buyer to see. Without stopping or even slowing his pace, the faerlin passed the
booth and lifted the short sword, as well as a hand dagger. He deftly slid them into his
sheaths as he moved on beyond the next few booths. His eyes roamed continuously
for anyone who might have seen the swipe. All seemed calm.
One glance back towards the
blade smith revealed Oathak coming out from behind a back curtain, wiping his
hands and staring at the ground.
Keinigan smiled to himself, his
confidence returning with each step. Another good snatch at a jeweler’s booth
and he would have the money to pay everyone back. He skipped between two
gossiping shoppers and headed for another street to inspect more merchants’
corner, his eye caught by a twinkling of gold and gems, the faerlin rubbed his insatiable hands in anticipation. Until, he glanced down the busy street and saw a sight
that made his spine turn to jelly.
Bastid and eight other men were
searching the marketplace. The henchmen in the ogre’s company wore tabards of
dark blue with the symbol of a yellow horse. He could only assume that they
were soldiers of the journeyman looking for him. He froze.
His eyes met those of the ogre.
Bastid stood well over the heads of the crowd and spotted Keinigan easily. The
faerlin shrank back against the stone wall of a shop. His heart began to pound
in his throat. Even as he gave himself up for caught, he saw Bastid scowl and
make a gesture with his large, pale hand. The massive fist
scratched the unshaven chin and then the thumb jerked towards the end of the
street. Keinigan nodded, as the
ogre turned back to the armed men in the tabards.
Without hesitation, he obeyed Bastid’s signal and dashed off, heading for the city gates. Once again that day, he was thankful for having been a former partner with the usually callous bounty hunter. Sometimes it pays to have a checkered past, he decided.
a hostile midnight, Keinigan found that his problem had compounded as
a noise broke into the erotic peace of his dreams. A loud, repetitive
noise. His mind tried to push against it and stay asleep. Dreams were
much nicer than the real world.
He squeezed his eyes tighter shut.
cannon? A battering ram?
he was being relentlessly plucked out of his pleasant land of soft,
richly scented pillows and lovely faerlin beauties caressing him in
“What the hell?” he shouted as his reluctant eyes peeled open. There was no war raging or ballista firing. The noise was coming from his inn door. The groaning frame shook and splintered.
his attention finally focused, the door flew apart to reveal a huge,
pale green-skinned ogre standing in (or rather blocking) the doorway.
The beast was massive, easily eight mark high. His forearms were as
thick as Keinigan’s torso and a mop of black, greasy hair framed
his square head. His eyes burned with a fiercely intelligent glow,
which was unusual for ogres.
Keinigan knew him from past misadventures, thus he also knew that
this meant he was in serious trouble. The ogre made a living as a
bounty hunter, and a very good one at that.
little figshat,” Bastid rumbled as he advanced on Keinigan.
hairy arm shot towards the fae, one huge hand ready to engulf his
whole head. Keinigan dove out of bed, rolled to a stand, and deeply
wished that he were wearing more than just his breeches.
door was obstructed by the ogre’s bulk, and the only window was on
the other side of the bed from where he stood. The best chance he had
was avoiding contact until he discovered what this was regarding.
do you want with me? Hold on a minute!” He ducked under another
swipe and glanced around for his sword, but he doubted that it would
aid him much against this creature. Keinigan had seen him in battle
from deep sleep to this kind of panicked adrenaline rush left
Keinigan shaking and disoriented.
it, you arse-kecker! Giv’me a second to say two words, will you?”
he shouted as he leapt over the rickety bed towards his sword. He
heard the heavy whoosh of Bastid’s hand behind his head and felt a
few hairs pulled out. His hand closed around the hilt of his sword
just in time to feel the hard weight of one huge fist land in the
middle of his back.
blow sent him into the wall; the impact bruised his shoulder and
bloodied his lip. Slipping to the floor, stars sparked in his vision.
going to kill me,
Keinigan’s mind shrieked as it raced over his past crimes trying to
fathom who had sent this beast after him. He shook his spinning head
to clear it. The ogre’s enormous fingers closed over his sword arm
and yanked him close to the pallid, unshaven face.
do you want?” Keinigan wheezed, finding breath difficult.
hide!” Bastid growled.
What did I do?” There were too many answers to this question in his
own mind, so Keinigan was not even going to start guessing. He would
only incriminate himself.
robbed a whore and apparently bought new boots with the money,”
the bounty hunter with a wicked sneer.
dawned on the faerlin. “Correction,” he snapped, offended by the
accusation that he would be so petty. “I stole it from her pincher.
And, how did you know it was me?”
snickered. “I didn’t know for sure ‘til just now, you idiot.”
ogre tossed Keinigan across the room like a rag doll. Hitting a small
table that sat in the corner, he landed hard with a groan; the wood
drove into his groin
as his weight toppled it to the floor. His sword was jarred from him.
had a hunch,” said Bastid. “When I heard from the wench that one
of her clients had been a smart-mouthed
faerlin with blonde hair, a desperate need for money, and the habit
his hands a lot, I knew it must be you. But, I never thought you
would be stupid enough to rob a Council
was slowly pulling his bruised body up to face his attacker again
when he stopped, realizing what had been said. Ice shot through his
veins like a bolt.
It was barely a whisper, but the ogre heard it. Bastid began to shake
with hearty laughter as he saw that Keinigan had been ignorant
his own danger.
didn’t even know it?” he bellowed with a grin as jagged and ugly
as broken rocks. “What a kecker you are, Keinigan! I should have
guessed. You’re too much of a coward to rip off the Council on
be offended by that if I weren’t in so much pain.” He tried to
regain some composure. “You’re working for The
as in the Journeymen’s Council?”
wiped a tear from his eye. “Yes. And, they want you.”
he asked warily.
It depends. They want their money back. You got it?”
felt trapped. He had paid off Big Lukas with most of it; bought
himself some new boots and tunics with some; had even put a deposit
on a new sword that he was to pick up today. A mere fraction of the
booty was left. His heart and mind raced.
they know who I am? Or are you the only one that knows that it was me
that stole it?” he asked.
stalling. You spent it all, didn’t you?” Bastid heaved a dramatic
his face cracking into jagged teeth.
“I’m going to have to hurt you, then.”
away from the ogre, Keinigan verbalized his plan as it came to him.
“Hear me out, Bastid. If you’re the only one that knows it was
actually me, then we can work it out. You pretend not to find me for
a few days, and I will get you the money. Plus some! What do you
now, it wouldn’t look very good on my reputation if it took me a
week to find the scad that stole the loot, and then I neglect to
bring him in. Besides, there are others looking for you.”
specifically? Or just a thief?” Keinigan hedged.
a thief, s’far
as I know. But, it won’t take ‘em much longer than me to find out
who’s been spending money that he doesn’t normally have. You’ve
been careless ever since Northgate, Keinigan. It makes for an easy
trail.” The ogre almost sounded concerned for the fae.
help it, I needed new clothes.” He dodged Bastid’s grip once
more. “Look, bastard, I can get you the money and disappear. Com’on
now, for old time’s sake? Don’t turn me in,” he pleaded while
of the ogre’s reach.
name’s Bastid, you kecking faery!” A fist came out of nowhere and
slammed Keinigan to the floor, then a heavy boot pinned him. He
sucked in a painful breath. The ogre snorted into his face, “And,
you got one day, understand? If you run, you know that I’ll find
you. Then, you’ll be a dead man.”
be, Bastid. I owe you one.” He gasped from beneath the ogre.
began to leave, but shoved a warning finger into the faerlin’s
face. “No, you owe me sixty. Silver. And,
if they find out I let you off, you’ll owe me a lot more than
laid his head back on the floor and tried to breathe without pain as
the huge ogre left his room with a thunderous stride.
After hurrying to the eastern
side of Nothshore, he had climbed atop an accommodating tree to observe the
activity around the Wayward Inn. He spied at the windows until he found one
particularly promising room — a small, dull, corner room; it had only two
windows, one on the western side and one on the northern. Very possibly the
Sitting in the large oak
branches for near an hour staring at the room, speculating on how to access the
barred windows, he noticed that the northern sill was
considerably wider than the others. An inner wall had been constructed in the
office, allowing the pincher to conceal his
lockbox from his employees.
This had led Keinigan to inspect
the outer wall more intimately, which yielded a few dry-rotted boards
just above the first floor level. Weighing his possibilities, he waited until
he saw Wendal leave through the front. With the boarding house subdued, he had
climbed up, pried the boards loose quietly, and then wriggled into the small interior of the
He was able to slink through the
maze of beams and braces; his eyes adjusting to the darkness. The thin illumination of blocked moonlight and sparse
warmth, visible to his fae sight, left him to rely more on his other senses.
Much to his discomfort.
Grime and rat droppings were
thick, and the space he had crammed into was not much wider than his chest. Forced to take
shallow breaths (which seemed preferable to him considering the stinking
contents of this crawlspace) he wrestled through an area that was good for
nothing, barring perhaps to hide dead
bodies. His mind was aglow with an image of his
prize; a small
box stashed beneath the second story window frame.
The splintered wood of a
crossbeam snagged his head by the velvet ribbon so sweetly placed by Lyla.
Wincing, he reached up to free it, only to flail in the confines. A cringe of
dread braced his nerves as he jerked his head, ripping several hairs from his scalp. Tears stung
his eyes, but with an angry snort, he started to move again. Dust that had
collected over decades kicked up around his face, tickling his nose
dangerously. His entire body squeezed shut as he tried not to sneeze. A moment passed before he could recover.
The effort it took to stay quiet
was costing him precious minutes and driving him slowly mad with thoughts of
the filth covering him. With each sweaty second, he could feel the
contamination seeping into his skin, but he dared not rush.
He had seen some ladies in the
windows of The Wayward house, and any strange noise could alert them to his
Twisting his head around, he saw
the solid blackness of a surface less than an arm’s length from him. It ran
from the floorboards to the ceiling. He guessed by the distance from his entry
spot that this was the encasement below the widened
window. With an awkward bend of his arm, he
released his dagger. Grabbing it tight, he shifted to lie on his side,
maneuvering the dagger deftly along the cracks of the board obstructing the
As he ran his fingers down the
crevice, he found what he needed. A rat hole. The vermin that had left their
trail of droppings for him to follow had also done most of his work for him. By
the splintering on it, he judged that the whole partition was brittle and
rotting. He grinned eagerly in the dark.
With sweat rolling down his
forehead and stinging his eyes, he worked. Patiently, with his breath making
puffs in the sawdust, he whittled bits of plank away with his dagger tip.
After an eternity, Keinigan had
a hole large enough to push his arm in, up to the elbow. That was all he
needed, he hoped. It was near midnight,
and the occupants would be returning soon.
His hand touched the bottom of
the lockbox. His coveted goal was near, but his mind compulsively reminded him
that he was lying in vermin refuse. Fortunately, the furry residents of the
nest were occupied elsewhere. He tried to focus only on his undertaking.
Angling his dagger at the corner joist of the box in order to give the best pry
point, he heard noises beyond the inner wall. He froze.
A person was milling about in
Minutes ticked slowly in his
brain as he listened intently, his muscles cramping and screaming for movement.
Loose strands of hair pasted to his forehead by sweat and dirt itched him, making a panic of misery
well up inside his chest. He fought to hold it in.
Footfalls came closer to his
position, and he heard a scraping sound followed by a click above his hands. The
image of Wendal, opening his lockbox with
his suntanned hands just a
away from a thief enclosed in his walls, popped into Keinigan’s fevered brain,
and a giggle tickled him mercilessly.
There was a heavy thud on the
board above his dagger tip and (for the briefest instant) Keinigan saw a
splinter of dim candlelight at the corner
fluttered in his soul as he realized his luck. The box was weakened already; his job just
got a whole lot easier. His palms tingling,
he waited for Wendal to close the wooden lid
and leave the house. Hearing a faint creaking clack as the office door shut, Keinigan counted to twenty and then he
positioned his dagger on the place where he had seen the flash of light.
Biting his dust covered lip to
douse his giddiness, he popped the pommel of his dagger hard. The board gave a little. The
nails straining to grip it in place, the wood groaned in objection.
Loudly. Pausing in slight alarm,
he craned his neck to listen for any noise inside the house before wedging his
dagger in again.
He wiggled his tool; pushed
again, and was rewarded with sudden movement, as the seam ruptured. His pulse
surged. The board bent, opening under the weight of the bags nestled within. Still
restrained by the opposite joint, the bottom did not crash down as he feared it
might but, he was able to worm one nimble hand inside the hole. It touched the cloth of a small sack. With barely
a breath, he painstakingly extricated his prize, allowing the board to relax
Now, he was anxious to get the
hell out of there.
The chill night air was drifting
in through the loose entry fracture as he squirmed out backwards, finding his
way blindly like a giant maggot with his feet thrashing in midair and dust
clouding around his head. Finally, finding a foothold on the windowsill, he
yanked himself free and hopped to the ground.
He crouched below the casement for a
moment, certain that someone was aware
of the activity. All was quiet around
him. It had been a risk coming out hindquarters first; his fears had conjured
images of a circle of thugs and Wendal watching him grapple out only to pin him to the wall with swords. But,
there was no one.
Keinigan was scraped, cut,
aching, filthy, and somehow had never been more elated. The more rational part
of his brain was astonished by the depths to
which he would go for money. He glanced down at the small sack in his hands,
testing its weight. It felt as if there were at least fifty silver pents in
coin and gems. Hysteria bubbling up from his insides, he had to quickly dash
into the back alleys, heading for the city entrance before it erupted.
A heavy, spring sun was coming
up over the horizon, showing its shy white face between sullen clouds as he was
nearing the city of Eddermont to repay Big Lukas.
Keinigan thought to himself,
“Problem solved. I’ll finally have some left over.”
The young faerlin’s avenues eventually led him into a small, confined space inside a wall of the Wayward Inn boarding house on the eastern end of Nothshore in the middle of the night. He would have bemoaned this fate, if he were not so keenly aware of how he got into this predicament.
Earlier in the day, Keinigan had arrived in the seaside town, eager to gain some useful ideas on where he could get money enough to pay Lukas. He had traveled from tavern to pub, chatting and flirting until he met with one young woman of ill repute who was relaxing before her evening duties began.
Her name was Lyla. He had given her his business before and he fancied that she liked him more than she liked the usual customer. She had brightened when she saw him and, after a little chitchat, she had agreed to start work early just for him.
After an exhilarating romp in her room at the Red Palms Inn, he sat naked on the end of her hard-packed, cotton mattress as she playfully combed the snarls out of his hair. Her hands gathered the jagged blonde waves up and, embracing them with a velvet ribbon from her bedside table, she tied it into a neat tail.
Stroking his head, she had leaned forward to kiss his slanted ears tenderly. Her small bosom smashed into his back as she did so, sending a pleasant shudder through him. He had smiled, content for that moment.
It was not until she had dressed and opened her window drapes to the sunset washed buildings outside that he let reality creep back into his thoughts. Lyla was sprinkling her bedcovers with a fragrant powder to disguise the scent of lovemaking as Keinigan pulled on his breeches and boots. Looking up at her, he had asked, “Where can a fellow get his hands on a bag of silver?”
Not looking at him, Lyla had laughed, “You could work here. We make five pents per customer.”
“Right, but you have to give most of that to the pincher, for housing and protection. I doubt I could make enough tonight to get out of trouble.” He had made the comment sound like a joke, but he was halfway considering the idea of renting himself out. Lyla cocked her head at him sardonically.
“The boys work the south side of town, hon. I was only joking.”
“So was I,” he said innocently. A thought had crept into his mind and he then ventured, “How much does Wendal, your pincher, take?”
She was picking up old clothes around her room; her gangly legs peeked out from beneath her skirts every so often to tempt his gaze. She shrugged. “Three out of our regular five. Anything above that, we keep. That’s why I like big tippers.” She shot him a scathing glance, but he was oblivious to it.
Tossing his tunic and vest on, he had headed for the washbasin to rinse his hands, continuing his train of thought aloud. “How many girls work in this boarding house?” he asked. “About twenty rooms, is it?”
“Yes, but not all Wendal’s girls stay here. Some o’ them rent rooms at his other house on the east end. The Wayward is much nicer. That’s where he has his own apartments.” Finished with as much cleaning as she wanted to do, she was standing with her hands on her hips, waiting for him to pay her and leave. She had a living to earn and he was wasting her valuable time casually scrubbing his face and neck.
“Do you have any cologne?” he asked offhandedly. When she shook her head, he grunted with disappointment. “Does he just keep all the money he takes from you ladies or does he ever buy you anything with it?” He dried his face on his shirt, noting with horror that he needed to launder it. “Does he have partners?”
“You lookin’ to get hired?” She had giggled. “I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Wendal works alone. And, no he doesn’t buy us gifts or anything with his money.”
“The kecker.” He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her small waist one more time and pulled her close. “If you were mine, I’d make sure you got roses every day and a diamond at least once a week.”
She smirked up into his sparkling green eyes. “That’s why I love seeing you, Keinigan. You are so full of figshat. You always make me laugh.”
He pressed his lips to hers; the supple touch made him crave her again. She had pulled back and placed one finger on his mouth. “We better stop or it’ll start costing you extra.”
Bending his forehead to hers and letting his hands caress her shoulders, he tried his best to stay focused on his errand. He had been trying to find a subtle way of asking her where her pincher stowed his fortunes, but his mind filled with more carnal thoughts. Questions faded in and out, losing all coherence as his body ached to be smothered in her scent again. At last hope, as she was pushing him towards the door, he had blurted out, “What does he do with his money?”
“AH!” She was exasperated. “I don’t know! He puts it in the lockbox for his retirement, I guess. Now, will you just pay me and go?”
“He has a locked box? In his room?” He had tried to sound dense.
“No, silly, in his office. Hidden. He has the only key. Keeps it on his neck, but you’re not good enough to steal it from him. So, give it up. Now, are you going to give me my money or do I have to send Wendal after you to collect double?”
Keinigan was bounced out the door and dug into his belt pouch as she shoved. Fishing out a gemstone he had swiped from someone’s purse earlier, he stared down at it; his rebuffed passions waning. The stone was worth ten silver pents, but he supposed that the information she had given him was worth a good tip. He stuck it out to her and smiled, “Can I have credit for later?”
With a tilt of her brown curled head, she had smirked, “What, and leave me with no tip? You still owe me one from last time, hon.” She snatched the gem and shut the door, leaving him in the graywood hall of the inn with his plans.
To begin with a poem, a little ditty about anger cloaked in wry or bitter humor:
I’m sorry if I died while standing beside you.
I was not aware I had been left behind.
You asked to talk, all I did was listen.
I stopped walking to let you catch up.
I stopped talking for I spoke into a void.
My breath stilled to hear your slightest call.
I was not aware I was dead.
I thought I lived for you.
I thought I heard your words.
But, who speaks to the dead anyway?
I did not see. I did not feel.
I did not know I was left behind.
Not until you told me.
Not until you were gone.
Gee, I’m sorry if I died while standing by your side,
Humor and witticisms have been used for centuries. They expose something about the character, whether it is their coping mechanism or to hide an insecurity. Sarcasm, in particular, is a powerful weapon for the writer and the reader to dissect a character’s state of mind or structure.
A sarcastic remark can fly from a character’s mouth to indicate that they are feeling a thinly veiled superiority to another, such as Loki’s tirade to Thor in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, “You know, this is wonderful. This is a tremendous idea! Let’s steal the biggest, most obvious ship in the universe and escape in that. Flying around the city, smash it into everything in sight and everyone will see it. It’s brilliant, Thor! It’s truly brillian…” Of course, Thor then gets to shove Loki out of said ship at that point, but we all know that Loki views himself as more clever than Thor.
A sarcastic reaction can cover up something that a character does not want to reveal or is uncomfortable saying. For example, if Player 1 does something wonderful or caring and asks, “Do you love me?” and Player 2 replies with a smirk, “No, I hate you with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns! What do you think?”
Humor is disarming, whether for the audience or the speaker. It is a shield, a bandage over a fresh wound. It is that spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, however it is not always in the most delightful way. Whether small and light, or long and deep, it can still be termed a “cutting remark” for a reason.