Article, Cereal Authors, Life, loss, Musings, parents, Ramblings, Ruth Davis Hays, Uncategorized

Hitting PAUSE a moment

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.

It is only because we LOVE you that we ask.

Mother Owl 1940 – 2018

Visit my Patreon page or my Website for more information.

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The Dawnstone Tale — chapter 2 continues

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, impassive.

“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 dirt.

“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 approached.

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’ wares.

Rounding one 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.


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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The Dawnstone Tale – chapter 2 cont’d

by R L Davis Hays 2009

EDDERMONT, Myretrae.

By 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.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

What was that? He squeezed his eyes tighter shut. A cannon? A battering ram?


Damn it, he was being relentlessly plucked out of his pleasant land of soft, richly scented pillows and lovely faerlin beauties caressing him in friendly ways.


“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.

As 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.

“Bastid!” 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.

“You little figshat,” Bastid rumbled as he advanced on Keinigan.

A 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.

The 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.

“What 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 before.

Going from deep sleep to this kind of panicked adrenaline rush left Keinigan shaking and disoriented.

“Damn 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.

The blow sent him into the wall; the impact bruised his shoulder and bloodied his lip. Slipping to the floor, stars sparked in his vision.

He’s 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.

“What do you want?” Keinigan wheezed, finding breath difficult.

“Your hide!” Bastid growled.

“Why? 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.

“You robbed a whore and apparently bought new boots with the money,” said the bounty hunter with a wicked sneer.

Recognition 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?”

Bastid snickered. “I didn’t know for sure ‘til just now, you idiot.”

The 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.

“I 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 of washing his hands a lot, I knew it must be you. But, I never thought you would be stupid enough to rob a Council whore.”

Keinigan 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.

“What?” 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 of his own danger.

“You 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 purpose.”

“I’d be offended by that if I weren’t in so much pain.” He tried to regain some composure. “You’re working for The Council, as in the Journeymen’s Council?”

Bastid wiped a tear from his eye. “Yes. And, they want you.”

“Dead?” he asked warily.

“Maybe. It depends. They want their money back. You got it?”

Keinigan 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.

“Do they know who I am? Or are you the only one that knows that it was me that stole it?” he asked.

“You’re stalling. You spent it all, didn’t you?” Bastid heaved a dramatic sigh, his face cracking into jagged teeth. “I’m going to have to hurt you, then.”

Scrambling 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 say?”

“Come 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.”

“Me, specifically? Or just a thief?” Keinigan hedged.

“Just 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.

“Can’t 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 ducking out of the ogre’s reach.

“The 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.”

“Thanks be, Bastid. I owe you one.” He gasped from beneath the ogre.

Bastid 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 that!”

Keinigan laid his head back on the floor and tried to breathe without pain as the huge ogre left his room with a thunderous stride.

“Draek,” he cursed, “my life stinks.”


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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The Dawnstone Tale – Chapter Two, cont’d

by R L Davis Hays

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 office.

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 false wall.

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 presence.

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 box.

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 the office.

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 mere half-mark 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 seam.

Optimism 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 and close.

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.”


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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Chapter Two of The Dawnstone Tale begins…

Chapter Two

INSIDE A WALL, Nothshore, Myretrae.


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.


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

Cereal Authors, Sassy Sarcasm, Uncategorized

My Blade Drips…with sarcasm

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.

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The Dawnstone Tale — a fantasy novel continues

By R. L. Davis Hays

CHAPTER ONE 1239403_10152563931040663_1790277959_n


Keinigan gathered his meager assortment of belongings with lightning fingers, wrapped a carrying cloth around them, and leaned out the window, tossing his bundle up onto the roof. A knock at the door made him jump out of his skin. He threw a hand over his mouth to muffle a startled cry and watched helplessly as his belongings tumbled down past him to the muddy alley.  Silent, that is what he needed to be, not screeching like a lunatic. He listened. The knock came again. Then a bellow from a gravelly, male voice.

“Laphae! Give it up and come out here!” It was Big Lukas. Keinigan felt his gut twist. He leapt for the windowsill again.

Outside the door, a woman’s voice proclaimed, a little overzealous, “I told you he wasn’t up here, Lukas. If he owes you money, I’ll be sure and let you know as soon as he comes back, all-righty?”

Good ol’ Maylah, Keinigan smiled as he climbed onto the ledge outside his room. He made a mental note to thank her in a very special way the next time he saw her, as he nimbly crawled up to the roof, quietly easing the shutters closed. Ducking out of sight just as two of Lukas’s thugs ran around from either side of the inn, trying to cut off his escape.

“Hello! What have we here?” One said.

“Looks like someone was planning on running away from home,” he heard the other reply snidely.

“Draek,” the fae muttered.

They confiscated his stuff. Now, all he possessed were the items in his belt pouches, plus his blades.

He crept up the roof to plan a quick escape. The sound of the shutters to his room crashing open made his heart leap. In an instant, he was in motion; sprinting for the roof below. The alley was narrow and he was sure he could make it with little difficulty. He was vaguely aware of Lukas’s voice shouting something to the men beneath, but all Keinigan’s concentration had gone to his footing.

Owing silver to a fellow as powerful as Big Lukas was dangerous enough; being late on repayment and adding the insult of escaping his grasp was tantamount to suicide. Keinigan valued his hide slightly more than money; so, as he leapt from tile rooftop to wooden shingles, praying that he would not come crashing down onto someone’s breakfast table, he swore an oath to get the money for Lukas by any means he could.

He was spry and quickly outdistanced the bulkier thugs as they struggled to keep him in sight from the alleyways. However, the poorly attended roofs of this section of Eddermont were not going to offer him salvation for long. He had pushed his luck running on them this far. Pausing, he took a glance below him.

The humble building on which he perched was low enough that he could easily jump down, but the mud between this store and the next was thick and slick-looking. His flesh writhed at the thought of slipping in that muck and having his backside caked with filth all morning. The shouts approaching from behind told him that he did not have the time to be fussy. Still, he balked at the sight, and darted towards the front of the shop. Being seen dropping into the main street from a rooftop by local authorities at that moment seemed more appealing to his sensibilities than setting his boots down in that dark mud.

Keinigan hit the ground with a grunt and looked up. No one saw him. The street was vacant. The ground here was higher than the ditches; the dirt was dry and hard packed for carriages. This made him more at ease. He sprang up, dodging towards the eastern district where he could easily get lost in the market crowd. Then he would plan his next step.

The township of Nothshore was not far from here; perhaps a few hours’ walk. Some of his lady friends there might allow him to stay the night, while he hunted down a new “avenue of revenue,” as he liked to call it. A quiet corner of his heart prayed to any gods available that his luck would turn around for the better soon. At least, he hoped it would.



Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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The Dawnstone Tale — a fantasy novel excerpt continued

by R. L. Davis Hays

translations cover front 96


Chapter One (cont’d)


After awaking in Gala’s bed with her cinnamon arms draped over him in a gentle entrapment, Keinigan had promised to get her the twenty silver by that afternoon. She let him slip out with sharp distrust in her black eyes, but he indeed did return within six hours, despite the gray rainfall that beleaguered the land.

He had proudly presented a small pouch of coins that she counted quickly in front of him. Keinigan felt offended at this show of cynicism before Gala reminded him of the last time she had taken his silver without checking it first. He conceded that she was better off counting it. She did not ask him where he had acquired the silver pents, and when she promptly turned back to the young human with whom she had been flirting as Keinigan entered, the fae realized that his time with her was concluded for now. He was free to go.

Which, he did with her rejection chafing him sorely. He had hoped to enjoy her favors once again before turning to the arduous task of finding more money.

He had borrowed the minor amount from Big Lukas, a local moneylender in the coastal region. Once the Slider Guild was paid, he had less than thirty hours in which to scrounge up twenty-five silver pents to pay Lukas.

The pent coin, so called because of its five, flat sides, was the most common monetary increment minted throughout the civilized lands on Jorthus. Silver was a rare mineral and, therefore, the base of the value system. The agreed upon value of a stamped coin was represented by its size, shape, and weight as well as the mineral from which it was made. As copper and gold were abundant, they were usually used for jewelry or smaller, round coinage. For higher increments of value, one would seek out either silver “pents” or gemstones. Gems were highly prized and held a steady value to all peoples on the world. If one was rich, it was easier to carry gemstones than bulky amounts of their stamped coin equivalent.

The interest that Big Lukas charged was exorbitant, and the faerlin planned to pay him back within one day, avoiding any accumulation. He also hoped that he would not have to work for it. Thus, the entire remainder of that day he sought out wealthy-looking patrons in the marketplace that had heavy pouches dangling from their belts in the hope that he would not have to think harder on the subject.

Life, as always, was not being kind to him. He detested manual labor and refused to beg, so he sought another way. Being left with enough to make one well-placed bet to try raising the full loan amount, Keinigan headed to the warehouses. He usually considered himself lucky at gambling. Not enough to make it a lucrative profession, but lucky enough to pick winners when he really needed them.

This night, his luck failed him.

The warehouse district of Eddermont, commonly known as The Dungs, was always teeming with some sort of game action, as well as questionable characters. Tonight, the bets were being exchanged on a number of large, long-furred rats. The seedy owners trapped, trained, and cared for the rodents. They would starve them for one day, and then race them along deep, narrow trenches that ran below the warehouse floor as drainage against flooding in that area. Several owners gained speed from them by hanging bits of food at the end of the trenches.

The rats skittered around inside their cages; a few were hungrily gnawing at the wooden bars encasing them. Keinigan looked them over. Choosing a sleek, muscular rat as his favorite, he placed his remaining money on the vermin. The odds would yield enough to pay back Lukas and have plenty to spare. This convinced him the Emmissars of Fortune were smiling on him at last.

Keinigan saw several familiar faces in The Dungs. Some he was glad to see again and some far less so. He was chatting with an eight-fingered thief from the lower end of town when he noticed a hooded person inspecting the cages. The tall, straight-shouldered figure seemed familiar to him; though, he could not have said a name or placed a face to it.

He did not give the cloaked figure any more thought at that time. It was only after the race — after he had lost all his money because a mangy, rotund rat considered unlikely to waddle, let alone win, had made a frenzied dash for the finish line — that Keinigan puzzled on how his luck had turned against him.

Many people lost or won money throughout the dark hours on many events, but only one individual walked away from that particular race with silver. Keinigan stood on the side of the trenches, stunned. Engulfed in angry shouts, he stared numbly at the exhausted rat as it collapsed at the end of the track, gasping. The little creature was not even eating its reward; it was simply lying on its side, beginning to spasm. Keinigan’s brow furrowed. Hunger had not driven that rat so furiously to win. Something else had. He stared at the animal as mumbling, cursing folk jostled him. Trying to see what would come of this odd behavior, his vision was continuously blocked.

Frustrated, Keinigan glanced over to the exit. He glimpsed the cloaked winner retreating by the far door. Two other figures also slipped out of the warehouse after it. Keinigan assumed that they were disgruntled gamblers bent on exacting a refund.

He turned back in time to see a heartbroken trainer carrying the limp, twitching body of the winning rat out of the race area. Keinigan did not call attention to the odd ailment of the rat or the fact that only one person had bet on it. He quietly decided to leave that information stored in his brain for a later time, as he had no idea how it had been accomplished. He could prove nothing.

Still, he decided to follow the winner’s path, morbidly curious if the other men would overtake the lucky gambler or not.


The two “angry pursuers” had left an obvious track in the damp, sticky night, even though Keinigan slumped along without any real hope of overtaking the mysterious trio. He was mainly giving his mind time to deal with the reality that he was now broke again.

Following the trail into a dark passage, he stumbled over a soft object. With an irritated curse, he lifted himself out of the mud and froze. He smelled blood. At his feet was a body. Instinctively, he turned to run. As he did so, a fading warm glow outlined a second body propped against the alley wall. Both men had their throats slit, deeply. Warm blood spilt down their chests, into the mud, and formed a gory river that trickled into the shadows.

Keinigan got the distinct impression that neither of these dying humans was the winner in the dark cloak. He was also certain that they had not gotten their refunds.

Impulsively, he snagged a money pouch off the nearest one. It was sticky with fresh blood and desperately empty. The faerlin dropped it in revulsion. Steeling his nerves, and resisting his instinct to be gone from this scene of death, he crept closer to search their bodies. He promptly found it was a fruitless effort, for the being that had taken their lives had also cut their belt pouches open. A grating noise disturbed the end of the alley. He whirled about, snatching out his dagger in reflex. This was a bad place to be caught.

A cat fled a tumbling box; Keinigan’s heart skittered as quickly as the animal before he felt the chill stillness creep back into the alley. Looking at the paltry find from the pouches, he gave up the tracking game to mourn his loss in the safety of his inn room.

The rest of the night crept by with the shadows nagging him about the pitiful state of his affairs, which he had created by steadfastly honoring his life of crime. The nagging strangely reminded him of his mother; Keinigan responded by drinking the last of his redberry wine in order to drown it out.

Sleep began to take him, and as dawn broke over the corroded town of Eddermont, his reckoning came.


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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The Dawnstone Tale — continued

by R. L. Davis Hays

translations cover front 96

CHAPTER ONE (cont’d)

Keinigan watched the newcomers from behind the bar. They touched and whispered with a familiarity he identified, though seldom shared. Trying to appear nonchalant and busy himself about the bar, his eyes were continually brought back to the young woman. She was breathtaking. Light eyes, the color of amethyst, had ensnared him instantly. Her skin was cream, smooth and flawless, filling a slight yet curvaceous vessel. The openness in her expression made him want to defend her, please her. Follow her, anywhere.

He had no doubt that her traveling partner felt the same towards this magnificent lady. The companion, whom Keinigan could tell was most definitely male (even covered deep in a hooded cloak), did not leave her side for an instant.

The thief had considered assailing the pair once they left, so he could relieve his debt to Gala. But, as soon as the woman had unwrapped her veil with the graceful movements of a dancer, revealing a fall of fiery golden tresses down her back, Keinigan had forgotten all about the money. He thought of nothing but burying his face in those tender waves and taking in their sweet fragrance.

“You thinking of my forty silver, Keinigan?” Gala’s voice jolted him out of his fantasies. Her stare followed his, and she nodded to the two seated at the table. “Think they have that much?”

“You think me insane?” He whispered over the bar top, “Look at that man. I can’t tell his race, but he easily has three blades on him.”

“That are visible.” Gala chuckled at Keinigan’s discomfort.

“And take a look at that sword. He must be an ex-soldier. I am not about to die for forty figgin’ silver,” he stated before catching on to the number. Shooting a glare at her, he snagged her arm. “Hold on, I thought we had settled for twenty?”

“Well, either way, you had better start thinking of how you’re going to get it, smart guy. Time is wasting.” She tapped him on the head with the serving platter she was still holding.

“By the way,” Keinigan grinned. “You make a cute serving wench, Gala. Think you’ll get a big tip?”

“Laugh all you want, Keen. You’re going to be the scrub-boy,” she smirked back. Then she fell silent and serious again as she glanced at the couple.

“What?” Keinigan sensed that she was disturbed by something.

“Do you recognize him?” She gestured with her head towards the beautiful woman’s companion.

Keinigan shrugged. “I can’t get a good look at him with that hood on. Why? You know him?”

Gala shook her head. “His hands. They’re strange. And he keeps himself well hidden. I’ve been over there three times and still haven’t seen his face. I wonder who he is.”

Keinigan felt completely uninterested in the man. “Who cares?”

“By the color of that hood, I’d swear it was one of ol’ Cylas’s fingermen, but the fellow’s manners are too good. Plus, he doesn’t talk like a mercenary. He speaks very… well, fancy talk; you know, the way they talk at court.” She was not really speaking to Keinigan anymore and this put him off.

“Oh, yes, I am frequently at the courts, dancing, dining, and hobnobbing with all the town officials. I know exactly what you mean,” he babbled to himself.

Gala turned back to him, grinning at his jealousy. “Oh, you’re at court a lot, just not that kind of court. There’s a slight difference.”

Keinigan sneered at her jab.

She slid around to face him fully; a cat with a squirming mouse in its claws, her dark eyes watched him. “Back to the point of my money, then.”

Hanging his head, he raked a hand through his shaggy hair. He was hoping to get her onto a different subject, one that might lead to more pleasant positions and situations.

“I suppose I’ll hit the cockfights or The Dungs tomorrow. I can usually get a fair amount there.” He was feeling morose.

“Oh, Keinigan.” Gala was shaking her head, her eyes sad. “When are you going to stop living like this? You lose money faster than anyone else I know. You have got to get into a more stable line of work. Or, at least, stop getting caught,” she clucked sympathetically. “Why won’t you accept a steady guild status or tump in some other town? That would help. Don’t you have any money stored anywhere? Didn’t you save anything from when you were in the Northgate militia?”

His head snapped up at the name as if she had struck him. “Don’t open that wound again, Gala. You know I wasn’t paid. The only money I came away with was what I’d stolen from the militia’s looting. As a convict, I didn’t have the right to have money, remember?”

She apologized.

He stretched up tall, trying to settle his anger at the memories of his futile past. The young faerlin’s eyes fell again on the couple by the door. His keen ears had overheard the conversation about ports and a voyage. The man mentioned getting enough money for passage somewhere. Keinigan quickly calculated that it would be more than twenty silver pents. The possibility of robbing them surfaced again.

Then his eyes fell on the black scabbard hanging off the man’s thigh, and his ambitions died there. That weapon looked as if it was well used and he did not doubt that he would find out just what the blade of it looked like if he tangled with the man. Although he could not see much of the fellow, he sensed a disagreeable aura coming from him.

He pulled Gala close to him again. “You said that his hands were strange, how so?”

She held up her hands to illustrate her narrative.

“His nails are not flat like ours. They come out and down a bit, like talons almost. And they are a darkish gray.”

Keinigan’s brow creased in concentration. “Sounds familiar; though, I can’t remember where I’ve heard that kind of description before.”

“He’s not full-blood human,” she conceded. “Could he be part ogre? Or faerl?”

Keinigan looked offended at the comment. “The Fae don’t have claws, Gala.”

She shrugged the statement off. “Well, maybe I can get him to take that blasted hood off.”

Headed over to them again when the couple stood up, she paused. Having finished their meal, the man was tossing a few silver pieces on the table. The woman drew in close and, stretching up, embraced the man in a kiss. The hood slid back to reveal ashen skin, black hair, a striking face that was accented by piercing blue eyes, and tall, pointed ears.

Gala let out an involuntary purring noise and Keinigan did not care for its sensuality in the least. Admittedly, the man was good-looking, and any hope of stealing the red-haired woman’s affections away seemed faint suddenly.

Their kiss was cut short by Gala’s reaction. The man turned and bid them goodnight, pulling his hood close over his face again before swiftly helping the woman into her thin cloak.

They departed without another word.


Translations from Jorthus series available from Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook.

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The Dawnstone Tale — a fantasy novel, Chapter 1 continued…

by R.L.Davis Hays

Ruth Davis Hays Book Cover Collage 1

Chapter 1 continues:


The Drunken Faery Tavern was nearly empty; the few lamps that burned gave a secretive light to the place. The stale smell of ale filled Lylith’s mind with images of dark deeds and careless laughter. It was the kind of tavern she imagined would appear in the tales she read; the sort of stories that always initiated some unknown youth into the dark paths of crime, only to have him save his ladylove at the end.

Alone, she would have never stepped foot into this little pub, yet with Lord Dharromar Weiss on her arm, she felt untouchable. Her new acquaintance bore an intensity that made most harm-doers back down without a second thought. The worn, leather scabbard and intricately carved hilt of his blade, resting with ease on his hip, made those that did give them a second thought turn away as well.

They sat at a small, scarred table near the door. Her companion kept his dark green hood drawn low over his stern face until a loud rumble from her belly caused him to smile.

“That hungry, m’lady?” he chuckled as they settled and signaled the barmaid. “We should have stopped sooner.”

Lylith smiled. “Pardon me. I suppose I am hungrier than I knew. My mind was rather occupied with other things before.”

They exchanged the secret smile of new lovers. Blushing, Lylith changed the subject when the waitress appeared beside them with two mugs and a plate of roast venison, the aroma prompting another internal growl. She asked Lord Weiss, “Will we reach the port soon?”

“There is a town a few leagues ahead where we can bed down for the night. Then, if we get an early start tomorrow, we should reach the port town of Nothshore by evening,” he answered after the food was on the table. The dark-skinned waitress withdrew sourly, appearing put out by the arrival of these latecomers.

Unable to resist the succulence, the young sengheir was quick to eat, but Lord Dharromar was silent for a long time, spurring Lylith to look up from her meal. He was watching her intently.

“Are you absolutely set on this course, m’lady?” he asked.

“Yes, I should think. I want to see this island. At least try. I’m not able to explain it other than to say that I feel compelled to go there.”

The gentleman nodded in understanding. “Then, we go.”

“Do not feel that you must accompany me, Dharromar –” Lylith began. He raised one pale hand to ward off her dismissal. She glanced at the candlelight reflecting on his gray, claw-like fingernails. It was captivating; they were one of his weird qualities that fascinated her, making her crave to know more about him.

“I have learned that it’s better not to argue with a magda on a course of action when they say that they are ‘compelled.’ Besides m’lady, the night we met I did promise my sword for your protection and myself as your guide. I never go back on my word. Without our word of honor, what are we but the Beasts of Chaos?” He shook his head and added, “No. I will accompany you to the ends of this world if I must. As long as you have need of me.”

She smiled gratefully. “I am glad. I have enjoyed your company these past few days. You have proved to be a most helpful guide. And, I cannot deny that you are most helpful in other ways, too.” She giggled as the memory of their first, passionate encounter flowed back into the forefront of her mind…


She had traveled into the unfamiliar lands outside her home for less than a day when she sought refuge in a small, two-story inn that boasted the name of The Regal Lion, though its crippled and weathered boards hinted that it held the name from ages long past.

Rains swept over the landscape and night was quickly following. She knew she would be staying here until the morning. That was if the stained, thickset crowd inhabiting the tavern did not chase her back out into the downpour. The heavy, wooden door creaked shut behind her, causing all heads to swing towards the newcomer. She could feel their eyes crawling over her greedily.

With a mixture of natural interest and inexperience, she surveyed the room, meeting each pair of eyes one by one. Some fell away at her glance and returned to their mugs of ale; some leaned closer with perverse glee. Her skin felt sullied by these stares. Her heart began to tremble as she marveled at her audacity to attempt this trip alone and on foot.

Then her eyes fell on another individual, one that seemed wholly unique in this place. Dark blue eyes gleamed from the far side of the room, mimicking the color of tumultuous clouds etched by flaring moonlight. His lean frame lounged against a carved doorway which opened onto a staircase. His stare did not frighten her. It seared her, intrigued her. His lips held her gaze with a sly, inviting grin and trapped his thoughts inside. Modest, yet elegantly detailed clothes draped over his muscles, defining his shape rather than hiding it. The firelight caressed his pale skin and glinted across the smooth fall of hair that was as black as the deepest shadows in a nightmare.

The buzz of conversation resumed around the stuffy tavern, the other patrons fading back into their own business. She stood mute, pondering her next step. The fire popped and jumped in a short, stone hearth to her left. Tables, crowded with travel-worn patrons, filled the room before her and a line of hunched backs covered the bar that stood opposite the fireplace.

Neither hungry nor tired, she was simply seeking a safe haven. The tavern staff seemed busy with the room’s demands and she did not know the name of a single soul in this town. She felt very lost.

Her glance was drawn back to the man by the stairs. He had not moved. She felt a tingle run through her as she met his intense, knowing eyes again. He was merely leaning on the wall, his arms crossed over his broad chest comfortably, one booted foot cocked against the baseboard. But, his smile threatened to strip her dress from her skin, exposing and fulfilling all her wanton desires.

Her heart lurched; brushed by his fire. It seized a curiosity within that had consumed her for many years; the neglected lust for uninhibited adventure that propelled her dreams through restless nights. This man’s expression stoked that buried inferno, giving promise of its release.

He had nodded a friendly greeting. The shape of his face was most pleasing, framed by the ebony hair. There was something audacious about him. A dark radiance sparked deep within those sultry eyes, rimmed in their black lashes.

Perhaps lured by his savage beauty or because of the impudent confidence in his stance; either way, she had decided that making his acquaintance would surely prove most exciting.

Not knowing what was socially proper, and not really caring about convention, Lylith had walked straight up to him and asked why he smiled at her.

He did not react as one shocked by her behavior nor did he make any polite excuses. He had simply smiled broader, which revealed slight fangs, and stared deep into her large, violet eyes.

“I was imagining what you would look like on my bed, m’lady,” his resonant voice had purred.

“And where is your bed, sirra?” she had asked, aroused by his blatant comment.

One black eyebrow arched as he replied that it was upstairs, third door on the right.

She had nodded and given a mischievous grin. “All right, m’lord.”

With that, she walked straight up to his room. Her sense of adventure engaged, she was not one to play senseless games.

He had followed behind her after a brief moment of surprise and confusion, but the “introduction” that followed was, to her, quite remarkable.


After the brief reverie, Lylith found that she had been staring at Dharromar for quite some time. They were both silent. His smile was inquisitive and kind.

“Were you having pleasant thoughts, m’lady? You didn’t seem to be listening to me, so I stopped talking.”

“Oh, I am sorry.” Lylith laughed at herself. “I was just remembering how we met.”

They both grinned and, surprisingly, she saw him blush as he looked down at his plate.

“I will concede, m’lady, that is a most pleasing thought, but we do have the problem ahead of us of how to pay for the voyage. You, as you have said, have no funds to pull from and I cannot access mine this far west.”

Lylith shrugged. “I could use majiks to get us whatsoever money we need.”

Lord Dharromar shook his head and glanced around the bar. “No, no. Besides the fact that actions of that kind are illegal, we don’t want to wreak havoc upon the economic balance of a small port town. I can get the money needed. But, it will take a little time.”

“How long? Will we miss the ship?” Lylith’s voice had a strange distressed tone to it.

He glanced at her, concerned; then he shook his head. “I think not. The clouds gathering this evening foretell foul weather tomorrow. Possibly rain for a few days. I don’t think the ship will leave port in a storm. We have time.”

A playful thought came to her. She reached out to draw tiny circles on the back of his hand resting on the table. “Then we do not really need to get up early in the morning, do we?”

His warm fingers captured her slender hand and he brought it to his lips. The hot breath trickled down the flesh of her arm with intimate promises.

“I am your most humble servant, m’love,” he whispered.


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