author, Cereal Authors, Excerpts, Fantasy, Fiction, Life, paranormal, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

So New, It Doesn’t Even Have a Title

A work in progress:

The juice box was definitely against me. Its resistance was punctuated by a taunting titter.  My efforts to open it were futile, it mocked.

 

WIP copyNo, wait. The snickering was not the juice box. It came from down the lunch table.  I didn’t even have to look their way. I knew who was laughing, and I didn’t want to see if it was me they were laughing at.  In my heart, I knew it was.

 

I continued to stab at the little cellophane covered hole with the sadly beveled end of the hard plastic straw like Van Helsing at the climax of a bad B movie. The final strike bent my straw, but rewarded me with a squirt of lukewarm apple juice in the face. An arterial explosion worthy of the best special effects artist in the business.

 

The laughter from the perfectly coifed girls at the other end of the table could not be ignored this time.  My life was not a bad horror movie; it was a comedy and I was the hapless victim of a situational shtick.

 

Staring down at the lunch tray, I watched the juice drown my stale, rectangular pizza slice.  At least, I wasn’t hungry anymore anyway.  My appetite was ruined by the whispered jokes about me destroying the little paper box with my brute strength.

 

I closed my eyes and swore that if I heard one more comment from those four makeup-slathered, social media celeb wannabes about me being a “she-male”, I’d flip this table on their heads.

 

Not that I hold any direct animosity for She-males, or what have you, but I do resent lies being spread about me.  And, I resent those who start the lies.  Namely, Brittany.  My mom says I spend way too much time worrying about Brittany, her crew, and what they think or say about me.

 

Mom says it doesn’t matter what others think, only what I know about myself.  Yeah, she’s full of inspirational poster stuff like that.

 

Sorry, Mom.  But, it’s hard not to see myself reflected in the eyes and jeers of my fellow students.  My peers.  What a joke.  I have so very little in common with them that I hesitate to call them peers of any sort.  Alas, for the next year or so, I must.

 

Of course, using the word ‘alas’ in casual conversation is one of the things these girls would tease me about.  Can I help it if my grandfather read Shakespeare to me for the last fifteen years of his life?

 

The siren-like bell blared from the hall to announce the next class would begin in five.  I gathered my sloshing tray and stood, never glancing at Brittany once.  Fifth period was next.  Gym class, right after lunch.  Brilliant scheduling.

 

When was this nightmare going to end?

*****************************************************************************

I woke up the other day recounting my dream several times as I did to try and remember it. The sights, the feelings, the familiar trappings of high school. I often dream that I’m back in school, but never had I wanted to write them into a story. This one was fun.  Well, to me, running for my life and fighting creatures while possessing an unnatural strength in a dream is fun.  Others may call it a nightmare.  Either way, it spawned this new character. This is a little beginning snippet from what I will call my first Urban Paranormal Young Adult story.

It is such an infant at the moment that it has no name.  Heck, I just came up with the protagonist’s name this morning.  I hope you enjoy!

Cereal Authors, Character Quotes, childrens stories, Excerpts, Fantasy, Fiction, Life, Literary, Musings, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Realms of Light — A fanfic

Hello, before I return to Jorthus or undernoticed artists, or even rambling creative thoughts, I thought I would present a portion of a fan-fiction story I began many years ago. I had read some Fanfic, but had never tried it. I heard that it is a good writing exercise and a way to get the creative juices flowing when stuck on one’s own work. I gave it a try.

Now, I must say upfront that THE RACES, NAMES, OR PLACES MENTIONED ARE NOT MY OWN. (I elaborated on some concepts presented in two of my favorite bodies of work, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES.) That said, there may be some spoilers to those who may have never read the books or watched the movies/cartoons. But, mainly, this was just for fun.

Again, a disclaimer:  I do not own, nor did I create, these characters. I wrote this as homage to my favorite writers, J. R. R. Tolkien as well as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Chapter 1

It seemed that weeks, or months, had passed since his arrival here.  It was difficult to trace time.  Daylight came and went with no real sense of urgency.  Here he was just beginning to understand the concept of eternity.

Existence carried on much like it did in life in this Resting Place, as it was referred to by its inhabitants.  One could sleep if tired, or eat if hungry.  Though the need was not as strong as it had been in the previous life.  Here one did things out of habit rather than necessity.  Food and drink were delicious and would fill the stomach, but there was never a point of real hunger.  Only the enjoyment of taste and smell would drive one to partake of the bounteous harvest of this peaceful land.  And of course, the mere love of eating is all the motivation a hobbit needs to eat his fill.

The Resting Place, a spirit realm that reaches to all of creation, was the mingling of many races from many worlds in peace and harmony.  Here to rest, to recover from pains of both mind and soul.  The physical pains were left behind on other planes.  This was a place of healing and learning, if one was willing to heal or learn.  Some residents in this land of glory were still clinging to old ways and seemed loathe to give them up.

This realm was extraordinary.  It was a reality, in form and feel like the physical realities that the inhabitants had left behind, but clearer and brighter.  Only spirits dwelt here, but not as a ghost or haunt might in the physical worlds; here all things were spirit so that when one reached out to touch a tree, it was actually the spiritual form of a tree and therefore tactile to one.  The clothes and manners of those dwelling here were the forms chosen by them from their memories.  They had homes that suited them and lands that were pleasing to them.  They dwelt in happiness and contentment, for the most part.

The only discontent here is what they brought with them and would not release.  That is why most were still here.  Some spirits learned to move on to other realms, to find other greater places to dwell.  Some remained here out of fear, some remained out of ignorance, and some remained out of loyalty to those that were not ready to move on.

Those that feared what was beyond this realm, quailed and shrank from learning how to move beyond.  Those that did not wish to move on out of loyalty were allowed to visit both realms, and those that did not learn how to move on, were allowed to stay as long as it would take to learn.

But, some here stayed out of shame.  They are those that could not or would not let go of their hurts.  They did not feel that they should move on.  The light beyond gave them little comfort, mainly guilt.  They had a choice to make.  To let go of their pain and move forward into the light of the Realm Beyond, or to fade into the comfort of the shadows and stay here forever.  Or worse, to slip into the darkness where no hand or light could touch them.

On this particular day, the sun shone through the round window of a hobbit hole.  Not an extravagant hole, a modest hole.  Tastefully decorated, and just the right size for a single, male hobbit. The hall branched off onto a study, a bath, a bedroom, a sitting room with a large fireplace, and most importantly, a well-stocked kitchen.

Frodo Baggins sat quietly in the patch of sunlight that streamed in his sitting room window.  He had been reading one of the books from his shelves.  Books he had remembered from his youth in Bag End.  As his desire to read the story he had picked out dulled, the words on the pages had dimmed to nothing.  Now, he sat with a book of blank pages lying open and forgotten on his lap, staring out the window into the meadows and forests beyond.

He had wandered that countryside when he had first arrived, as most souls do.  Exploring with an insatiable curiosity and undisguised wonder over the beauty and glory of these lands.  But, over time, he had grown weary of the same sights and paths.  He had settled into this little home and began to study other things.  Things closer to himself.  Things about himself.  Things, he was not altogether comfortable about dealing with alone.  Avoidance had been his next tactic to pass the time.  He tried to occupy his mind with other things so that it would not stray onto paths of the soul that he rather not tread.  He wrote stories.  He read stories.  He took short and frequent walks, baked large amounts of food, and even learned how to do his own gardening.  He gave many dinner parties and had tea with Sam and Rosie every day that the weather allowed.  Which was practically every day.

He tried to limit the time he was allowed to sit alone and think about the things that had passed, or what could have come to pass.  When the dark moods came upon him, he would retreat into his comfortable little hole and hide from the queries of others.  They wanted to help him feel “better”, but could not.  Only he could do that, though he did not know how.  At these times, he felt restless, though venturing out seemed impossible.  He wanted company, but all those he knew would know too much about his troubles.  He felt lost and alone, and the brighter the day shone outside his house, the darker the shadows seemed inside.

He was in one of those moods now.  The books had lost their appeal.  The meadow seemed too bright, a brightness that would expose his darkness to all that saw him.  He wanted to hide.  He wanted to escape.  He wanted something.  Something else.  Something that was not in this small, close hole and something that he had yet to find outside.

Slamming the blank book closed, Frodo kicked his footstool aside and went to the bookshelf to replace the book.  As he slipped the book into place his eyes fell on his hand.  Though spirit matter, his third finger was still missing.  He had thought it odd at first.  When he had asked about it, some spirits had suggested that perhaps a strong power had separated the finger even at the essence level of being and that the matter would regrow with time.  That had confused him.  Although the ring had been on the finger at the moment of separation, Gollum had thrown the digit away.  It would have been burned to nothing in Mount Doom.

Perhaps as I should have been

Sam had suggested that he had grown accustomed to not having it and the spiritual form was simply adjusting to that perception.  That was too kind and, Frodo felt, too easy an explanation.  It was easy enough to hear those around him say that he was forgiven for any wrongs, for they only knew as much as he had told them.  It was easy for them to say that the missing finger did not mean anything, for they did not know what was in his heart.  They had not been in his mind at the moment it had been lost.  They did not know, could not know.

But, there was one here in this realm that would know.  The Master of this Realm could see into his heart and lay bare his mind.  He would know.  He did know.  Although Frodo had not faced Him yet, he felt that perhaps he had already been judged.  Some dark part of his heart whispered to him that the finger was gone forever to be a reminder of what he had done.

How can I forgive myself …

His musings were cut short by a noise at his door.  It was not a knock.  It sounded as if someone were trying to pry open his door lock.  Curiosity stirred inside him for the first time in months.  He moved to the door and placed his hand on the center knob just as the thing swung open.  He jumped out of the way with a startled cry.  He was not sure what to expect on the other side, but the form that met his eyes took him by surprise.

There, crouched in the center of his doorway was a Halfling.  But not in form nor dress, a hobbit such as himself.  This being was slender, slightly taller in height than Frodo himself, dressed in an outrageous colored tunic, leggings, and boots with a fur vest.  His ears had small points, similar to an elf’s and a wide, child-like excitement in his brown eyes.  He had chestnut colored skin that wrinkled as he smiled up at the astonished hobbit, and his long, brown hair was tied up in a topknot that overflowed down his back.

At the sight of Frodo, the figure leaped up with one hand extended and introduced himself in a frenetic, high-pitched voice.

“Hello! Pleased to meet you.  I’m Tasslehoff Burrfoot.  Your door is fascinating.  Too bad it wasn’t locked.  Nobody locks their doors anymore.  It’s terribly frustrating.  I heard there were other halflings about, ones that I’m not related to and came looking.  There seem to be a lot of doors in the ground around here.  Do you all live underground? Is it hard to keep the grass roots from dropping dirt on your head?  Are there any tree roots in there?  Do you live alone? Are there a lot of others like you?  What do they call your kind?  I’m a kender.  We come from Krynn.  It’s not around here, but we seem to end up here anyway.  Where are you from?  Which world, I mean.  There are so many.  I’ve met a lot of fascinating people around here, wherever ‘Here’ is.  Why do your feet look like that?”

This strange individual had barely stopped to breathe in his excited speech and had shook Frodo’s hand and pushed past him to explore the hobbit’s hole uninvited.  Frodo was momentarily at a loss for what to do or say.  He stood by the open door with his mouth agape, watching the kender manhandle just about every item in his home.

“Oh, I…uh, who are you? And why are you here?” he stammered, as he closed his front door.

The strange little fellow waltzed up to him again and smiling, shook his hand again.  He spoke very slowly and with exaggerated clarity.

“I’m sor-ry.  I did-n’t kn-ow that you were fee-ble-mind-ed.”

Frodo almost laughed at this but felt a little insulted as well.  He pulled his hand out of the other’s grip.  “I’m not feebleminded!  You just took me by surprise is all.”

“Well, then.  I’m Tasslehoff Burrfoot.  I’m a kender from Krynn.  I died, I guess.  And after spending some time with my friend Flint, he’s a dwarf, we came here with the rest of my friends.  Except Fizban wasn’t around at the time, which kind of disappointed me.  But, he’ll probably get around to it later seeing as he’s busy being a god on Krynn and all.”

Frodo saw his eyes begin to wander onto the shelves again and decided to keep the kender’s ramblings on track.  “You died on Krynn, you say.  Where is Krynn?” he asked conversationally.

“I don’t really know.  It had three moons and was far from here, I think.”

He stopped to think hard on the subject and this allowed Frodo a moment to get his bearings on this intrusion.  The fellow did not seem to be hostile and neither did he seem to be in a hurry to leave, so Frodo decided to find out as much as he could about him.  He had heard mention of other “little folk” in this realm, but after extensive wanderings and never seeing any halflings other than hobbits, he had given up the search.  Now, out of the blue pops this kender.

“I’m sorry, I do not mean to be rude.  My name is Frodo Baggins.  I’m a hobbit.  That’s the name for halflings in Middle-earth.  That is from where I hail.” He tried to be polite for he had no idea what kind of temperament a kender might have if insulted.  Had he known a kender’s temper, he would have counted himself lucky that he had chosen the course of diplomacy instead of ordering the creature out of his home.

Tasslehoff came back to the present with a snap.  “Baggins!  I’ve heard that one before.”

“You have?” Frodo was astonished and intrigued.  A faint cloud of paranoia slithered under his heart as well.  What was being said about him?

“Yes, I met a Baggins fellow just yesterday.  Is it a common name?”

“Well, no, not as common as some.  Did you meet Bilbo?”

“Yes, that was his name.  Slightly older than you.  Likes to talk about dragons.  He walked with me for quite a while, then said he was hungry and went home.  If I’d known that he lived in a hole, I would have gone with him.  I’ve never met anyone that lived in a hole before.  Well, no one that intentionally lived in one, anyways.  We were so busy talking and walking that I didn’t really see how odd his feet were.  Do all hobbits have feet like that?”

Frodo smiled, his suspicions gone.  “Yes, I believe they do.  Are there other…kender?  I had thought that I had explored this land well enough, but I’ve never seen one of your kind before.”

“Well, that doesn’t surprise me!” Tasslehoff said knowingly as he plopped into Frodo’s favorite chair and placed his colorful boots on the ottoman.  “We kender rarely stay in one spot.  Besides, something that I’ve noticed about this place is that if you don’t expect to see something or someone or somewheres, then you probably won’t.  It’s kinda like the Abyss in that way.  You have to Think about going somewhere new before you can get there.  Me, I’m always looking for someplace new, so I usually find it.”

Frodo found himself being pulled into this conversation as he sat on a small, wooden chair near his fireplace.  This lively visitor had certainly gotten his mind off his troubles.  Now, his interest peaked, he was anxious to learn more of these other halflings and this other world.

“Abyss?” he queried as he started to brew some tea out of habit. The kettle hung from a small hook in the front of the hearth so the tea-water stayed warm.  “What is the Abyss?”

Tasslehoff seemed astonished.  “You’ve never heard of the Abyss? Well, let me tell you about the time….”

The kender went off on a long and rambling tale of a land of the dead that he had visited by accident where dwelt, at that time, a dark goddess of great beauty and power.  He told of gnomes and mages and a time-traveling device.  There seemed to be no end to the kender’s ability to talk.  One tale seemed to blend into another and Frodo felt that he might need to take notes in order to keep things straight.  Little did he know that with Tasslehoff, repetition of a tale was par for the course.   Though, the tales often varied with the mood.

The time passed so quickly listening to the kender, that when Tasslehoff finally came to a halt in order to put a sweetcake that Frodo had given him into his mouth, the hobbit was shocked to see the window behind Tasslehoff was dark.  Frodo jumped up, “Oh, It’s night.  I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t notice the time.  I’ve kept you far too late, Tasslehoff.”

“Call me Tas, all my friends do.” He hopped up as well, though he seemed confused as to why he was being ushered to the door.  “Am I late for something?”

Frodo was taken aback. “Oh, I assumed that you would want to be home by dark.”

“Oh, no.  I don’t really have a home.  I’m staying with my cousin, Gintilli*, for right now because she’s new here.  Her place is huge because she hasn’t decided whether she’s staying or not, yet.  She takes care of her half-sister, who doesn’t go anywhere, so she made a big house so she could explore without leaving it.  But, I don’t have to be there all the time.  I’m trying to get Gintilli to leave with me, but she feels bad about leaving her sister alone.”

“So, you are not expected somewhere for the night?” Frodo asked cautiously.

“Oh, no! I can stay all night if I want.  Don’t worry about me.  I don’t really get tired much anymore, so I can talk all night and all day!  In fact, that’s why Flint went to visit some gully dwarves he’d met a few months back.  He said that I needed the rest. Though, I thought it strange at the time, since Flint can’t stand gully dwarves.  But, I’m not a bit tired. So, I went exploring.”

Tas settled back into the sitting room and began eating again. Frodo was not entirely sure how he felt about the prospect of Tasslehoff staying all night in his home.  He was not properly prepared for a guest.  He did not wish to be a bad host, but he was not really ready to be a host in the first place.  At least, not to an overnight, and possibly indefinite, guest.   He had enjoyed the kender’s company and his tales were new and fascinating.  The kender, himself, was cheery and talkative, albeit a little intrusive and blunt at times, but Frodo was flustered, nonetheless, at this sudden turn of events.  He hurried to the kitchen to check his cupboard for proper meals.  He could not let a houseguest go hungry.  Then he looked for fresh linens and inquired about the kender’s sleeping and bathing needs.

“I’m fine.” Tas grinned. “I’ll just stay awake.  And I bathed before I left the house.”

Though, from his description of who he had visited in the last few days, there was no telling when he had “left the house”.

Tasslehoff watched Frodo bustle about the house for a while, then decided to follow him in case he went anywhere interesting.

“You don’t need to make all this fuss over me!” Tas chimed in behind Frodo, who seemed startled to find Tas there.  “I just came to visit.  The food is delicious though.  Do you make it yourself?  Gintilli and I usually just ‘think’ stuff up.  Did you know that you can do that here?  Just think about something hard enough and it shows up.  Like magic.  Though, I daresay the cooked stuff you gave me did taste better than the food we got.  Maybe we didn’t think about the flavor of the food hard enough.  Do you have anything to drink around here?”

“Yes, of course.  I have some ale and some mead.”  Frodo led him to the kitchen where the two settled for a while.  Frodo started a fire in the small fireplace where he heated his pots.  Tasslehoff took one sip of the offered ale and began another tale of his world that told of an inn that was renown for the best ale in the land.  The Inn of the Last Home, it was called, and it was in the town of Solace where he had lived for a long time with his dwarf friend, Flint, and a half-elf named Tanis.

Frodo listened intently, spellbound by the kender’s enthusiasm and descriptive tales.  Krynn was a world of dragons that talked, some good and some evil.  Humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, and kenders fighting draconians, dark mages, and minotaur.  He told of his adventures with his closest friends, Flint and Tanis, along with a pair of brothers, Caramon and Raistlin, a knight named Sturm, and an elf maid called Laurana.

They had saved their world from the dark goddess by blocking her from entering the physical plane of Krynn and killed the bad dragons with ancient weapons called Dragonlances.   He talked about the love between Tanis, the half-elf and the young, beautiful Laurana that was a scandal among the elves, and of the sultry relationship Tanis shared with a captivating human woman named Kitiara, who was a half-sister to the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  He even went off on a tale about a wooly mammoth that he encountered as well as sharing a few stories that he knew of the adventures of his Uncle Trapspringer.

Frodo learned quite a few things out about Kender during all this talk as well.  They love to tell tales, they get sidetracked easily, and they seem to have no concept of personal property.  He listened and asked questions until he found himself fighting to keep his eyes open.  He was in the habit of getting a good night’s sleep, though he did find that he was not as tired or sleepy here as he had been in life.  The need for sleep seemed to rise out of habit rather than necessity, as many things did in this realm.  As he realized how weary he was, he also looked around to find that they had eaten nearly everything he had had in his larder.  He had not really been aware of time passing as he listened to Tasslehoff’s tales but they had been sitting for quite some time. Looking into the sitting room, he saw that the sun was shining into the room.  How long had they been talking, he wondered.

Tasslehoff was about to launch into another tale when a knock came at the door.  Frodo jumped up with a hasty, “Excuse me” and went to the front door.  He noticed that his legs did feel a bit odd.  Not as though as they had been asleep, like they would have if he had sat for an extremely long time in Middle-earth, but like he simply had to get used to walking on them again.

As he reached for the doorknob with his right hand, he stopped cold.  For a brief moment, he thought that he had seen his missing finger.  His heart skipped a beat.  Then it was gone again, as if he had imagined it.  He began to ponder this odd phenomenon, when the knock came again and jogged him back to the moment.

He opened the door, and there stood Samwise Gamgee.  He looked a bit worried, wringing his hands and shuffling from side to side as Sam used to do when he was upset.  As soon as he laid eyes on Frodo, he seemed to relax.

“Oh, there you are, Mr. Frodo.  I thought something had happened to you,” he said with an exhale of relief.

“No, Sam.  I’m fine.”  Frodo ushered his old friend inside with an outstretched hand.  “Come in, come in and will you please stop calling me, ‘Mister’ Frodo.  We are all equals here, you know that.”

“Of course, I know it, but it’s hard to remember it.”  Sam tried to explain his reluctance to give up what was a comfortable habit.  “I’m just so used to thinking of you, and referring to you like that, Mr. Frodo.  If you get my meaning.”

Frodo had tried to break Sam and Rosie of the habit ever since he had seen them again and knew that it was probably futile.  They would call him that until they no longer felt the need to do so and there was nothing he could do to change it.  He smiled and sighed as he led Sam into his kitchen.

“Well, there is someone I’d like you to meet,” he was saying and then stopped.  The kitchen was empty.  “Now, where’s he gotten off to?”

“Who, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked, curious at his friend’s good mood.

“Tasslehoff.  I wanted you to meet him.  He’s a fascinating fellow, Sam.”  Frodo was peeking around corners and behind furniture as if his visitor was playing a game of hide and seek.  He had wandered from room to room and after peering inside a wardrobe and finding nothing, he stopped with his hands on his hips.  He suddenly noticed Sam staring at him as if he were completely insane.

“He was here a moment ago,” he said in his own defense.

Sam decided to try a new topic.  “Not to interrupt, but I came over to see if you were alright.  Rosie and me was worried about you, seeing as how you usually come over to tea before dark.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Sam.  I meant to come over last night, but I met Tas and we started talking and he started telling his tales.  I lost track of time.  Please give my apologies to Rose.” Frodo halfway gave up his search for the kender, though he wondered where he had gone so quickly.

“Well, we don’t expect you to live your day around us, mind you.  But, seeing as how it has been two days, I just thought that I would pop by and see if you were …well…”

Frodo stopped in shock.  “Did you say two days?”

“Yes, Mr. Frodo.  When we didn’t hear from you.  Well, we got worried.”

“Two days?” he repeated to himself in wonder.  Then he laughed.  A full-hearted laugh.

Sam smiled to see Frodo in such a wonderfully good humor and began to chuckle as well, though he did not know what they were laughing at.  It was just good to see Frodo laugh again.

“No wonder I was running out of food,” Frodo wiped a tear from his eye.  “We sat and talked for two days!  And I didn’t even know it.  No wonder I’m so tired.”

He sat down on a nearby bench and held his head in his hands as the laughs became less hysterical, then rubbed his face and scalp to wake himself back up a bit.

“You mean, that you haven’t slept in two nights, Mr. Frodo?”  Sam seemed worried again.  “That can’t be good for you.”

“I don’t think it really matters that much in this realm, dear Sam.  Don’t worry over me.  You did that enough in life.  But, I do apologize for missing tea, and not giving any notice or explanation.  It was just that Tasslehoff talked almost non-stop and all he had to say was so very interesting.”

“If you say so, Mr. Frodo.”  Sam sounded as if he was beginning to doubt if this Tasslehoff really existed.

“I’m not crazy, Sam.” Frodo chuckled, he began to doubt that statement himself, though.  “I found him trying to pick the lock on my front door.  It seems that is a common thing that kender do.”

“Kender?”  The tone implied that Sam had heard of them before.

“Yes.  Have you heard of them?” Frodo jumped up.  “Where have you known that name from?”

Sam looked as if he were caught with something that he should not have had.  “Oh, I believe that Gandalf had mentioned that name to me.  Just a few days ago.”

“Gandalf?”  Frodo contemplated this new information a moment, then shrugged it off.  “Well, he did say that he had met quite a few new folk around here.  And he did say that if one is not expecting to…”

He got a sudden thought and shouted.  “Tasslehoff?  Are you still here?!”

This outburst startled Sam, but he was even more startled when a voice from two rooms away answered.

Frodo smiled triumphantly.  “Sam, I want you to meet Tasslehoff Burrfoot.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Gintilli Dibbertill is a kender created by my best friend for role-playing the DRAGONLANCE role-playing world by Wizards of the Coast. The Player Character claims relation to the Burrfoot clan, though that is unsubstantiated. She and her sister do not appear in any books or movies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That is the beginning of my fanfic. I hope you enjoyed it. It was fun to write and it filled a need in me to give Frodo a place to deal with feelings over his ordeal and possibly move on to a relationship as the other hobbits had done. Yes, it is a love tale. I had a crush on Frodo ever since seeing the 1978 animated movie The Lord of the Rings.

If you liked it or would like to read more of it, please leave a LIKE or a comment to let me know. Thank you for joining me in this little experiment!

Cereal Authors, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized

Where the Winds Blow — Conclusion

winds-blow-mock-up

by R L Davis Hays 2016

The end of the year is here, so I will give you an extra treatment:  the last two chapters of this Jorthian short story.  ‘Khiall has been splashed with a cold reality; the fact that Lauralei had a life outside of their love cannot be denied. Will he be able to find her or his own path?

A whisper of snow had veiled the grasslands around the Khnyghtsyde estate by the time ‘Khiall had gathered his wits and returned to the walled kitchen garden. Dark footprints traced his path back to the distant forest where he had sought solitude for the better part of the day. The warning of nightfall had urged him to venture to the house once again, despite the knowledge that his step-father might be home from town.

Dinner preparations were lighting the windows as he approached the weathered back door and the moons, Unara and Rhaes, were tinting the fields lavender as they rose. ‘Khiall caught the scent of baking venison and sweetbread on the chilly breeze. His stomach issued a loud whine in anticipation.

Entering the kitchen brought an unexpected storm of welcoming hugs from the housemaids and lady cooks. His hands were filled with muffins and late-harvest fruits as they insisted he sit on a tall, lopsided stool and regale them with news of his recovery at the monastery. He protested at first out of a sense of discomfort with the memories and the strange new familiarity, but after several failed attempts to get up and leave the room, he had a growing sense of something else.

“I want to speak with mi nomei… I mean, my mother. Where is she?”

Old Fiona gave it away with a glance to Leela who, in turn, cast her eyes at the doorway leading to the hall. It was involuntary, not a message to him, which raised his hackles even more. Leaping off the stool, he dropped a half-eaten pastry on the counter. A couple of the cooks tried to block his exit, but he pushed past them roughly. Their startled yelps faded behind him as he skidded from room to room, looking for Ammarron.

He came across the housemistress, Kora, and his step-mother, Sarrah, before bursting in his mother’s bedroom to find she was packing a bag with clothes and jewelry. She gasped as he entered, the door bumping the paneled wall with a heart-stopping bang. The garment she was holding fell from her grip. Her troubled eyes enveloped him in their emerald shroud.

“What is going on, mother?” he asked, his breath coming in gulps from his dash through the house. “Why are you packing up?”

“Ah, mi aver, you are back.” She swooped upon him, gathering him into the low candlelight of her room and shut the door. Ushering him to the bedside, she closed the shutters and drapes of each window before giving him her distracted attention. “Where did you run off? You worried me.”

“Nowhere,” he protested, staring down into her satchel. “Answer my question, though. Why are you packing up?”

“I… we need to take a trip,” she began as she tossed more items to the pile on the bed, “You need to get your belongings together as well. Quickly now.”

Sitting on the end of the mattress, he frowned up at her. “A trip? Where? Why?”

“So many questions, my son. Why not trust me as once you did?”

Remembrances of countless sudden travels flashed through his mind with her words, and his heart became anxious. Lauralei’s note mentioned a reunion with the family at the new year; it was his best opportunity to see her again. Was his mother sabotaging it?

“No,” he said, standing once more. “I don’t want to leave. Not now! Lauralei–”

“You must put her out of your mind, my child.” Ammarron stopped to grasp his shoulders, her fingers digging into him much too hard. Her face was stern and resolute. “We… have to leave tonight.”

“Is it Solomen?” ‘Khiall asked, his heart already firm with an idea of how to handle her husband. “Are you trying to keep me from him? Because–”

She interrupted him, shaking his arms. “No! Trust me. You cannot be found. Help me pack your things. They will be finished searching the property any moment.”

“Who? Who is here?”

“Faerlins…”

His protests stopped. Her expression stopped them. A small, frightened corner of his memory recognized the look in her eyes. He had seen it each time she had upturned their lives and searched for a new haven. It had been many decades since he had seen it, and he had thought it was gone forever. Now, it had resurfaced and he knew what it meant.

“Faerlins from the East Wood? Here?” he asked, his voice low. “What is it that they want, mi nomei? They’ve left us alone this long, why can’t they leave us here in peace? I don’t understand! Why do they follow you? You’ve honored the banishment. We haven’t broken any laws. Why bother us now?”

“Hurry, dear. We do not have time to discuss this.” She insisted, “I will tell you on the road.”

“You’ve said that before, but you never do!” He spun out of her grip, heading for the window, which agitated her greatly. “Mother, why do we always have to run?”

“Because I do not want to lose you, my son!” she shouted in desperation as she moved from dresser to wardrobe.

“Why? What will they do? Where will they take me?” Following her through the room, he caught her shoulder and turned her to face him. “Mother! Am I in danger?”

“’Khiall, dear, please help me.” Her voice was only a breath.

He shook her. “Answer me, Mother. Why do they want me? Tell me why!”

“You are a Changeling! That’s why.” Her words cut the cold air in the room, piercing his heart. Ammarron had never slapped that label on him in his entire life. She shrank from the brief silence between them and said sternly, “For the Guardian’s sake, hurry and pack. We must leave this house.”

His head began to wag back and forth as he stepped backwards to the door. Visions of this ritual abandonment of one life for the unknown swam before him, back and back to his earliest memories. He grew steadily younger in those visions, though Ammarron remained the same. Always running. Not for fear of her own life, but for his. ‘Khiall’s words were slow, his eyes never leaving her face. “No. I don’t want to leave here now. They can’t make us leave. I won’t let them.”

With the last sentence, he spun on his heel and fled the room before she could utter another word. Ammarron stood still, staring at the empty doorway for a few heartbeats, and then she returned to her packing with determination.

*****

Alone in the front parlor with a travel trunk and luggage stacked around her, Ammarron sat shadowed in a large chair as she penned a note to Solomen. She had never written a farewell note before, though to be honest, she had never shared her life with a human for so many years before. A note had never been necessary. Now, however, a silent disappearance seemed rude.

She was not the type to leave things dangling in the wind if it could be avoided. Propriety was ingrained in her. Though there had been times when she was forced to go against her breeding and be rude. Solomen did not deserve that. He had been rough on her bastard son in recent years, yet she knew him well enough to know that if she left with no word, he would hunt for her.

The man did so enjoy hunting.

Composing her explanation filled the time as she waited for D’harro’mar’rie’khiall to return from… wherever it was he had run to sulk. She understood his reluctance to leave this house more than he probably suspected. It did not change the fact that it was imperative that they leave, though.

Pausing to twirl the quill with lost thought, Ammarron watched the tiny flame on a thin candlestick beside her. It fought the gathering darkness with a valiant dance. The hour growing long and making her pulse throb in fear that someone would arrive at the house to interrupt their departure. Solomen or the Blessed Fathers looking for ‘Khiall or the faerlin Emmisarian Guard who had questioned her earlier that afternoon. She dreaded seeing any of those possibilities coming through the door before her son.

As she thought on him, Ammarron glanced to the far window. The moons traced violet lace on the frosted panes backed with blackness beyond. Night filled the parlor, pregnant and ready to bare. The clock chime startled her.

“It’s all right, Mother. You can unpack our things.”

The calm voice from the nearby archway made her spin. He stood in silhouette. The lamplight from the hall behind him blinded her for a moment, the glow from her candle blocked by the high back of her chair.

“Have they gone?” she asked.

“They are gone.”

Standing, her mind on getting her baggage to the family coach, Ammarron folded up her note and wrote her husband’s name on it. “We still must get far from here while they are away, while Solomen is away. The Guard knows I am here, and they will return to search for you again. They did not believe my excuses. I despise lying, however it is necessary at times.” She gestured to the trunk. “Bring this to the carriage, will you? The house staff knows we’re leaving and have sworn to me their silence.”

“We don’t have to run this time. The Guard can’t hurt us.” He moved into the draped room and perched on a corner desk. Her eyes were on him now. He was a shadow among shadows. A soft noise accompanied his movements. A sucking sound. She raised the candle high, illuminating his blood-soaked form; his teeth working absently at bits of flesh under his nails as he licked and tasted each finger as if he had enjoyed a juicy meal.

Ammarron nearly dropped the golden candle holder.

“What have you done?” she whispered.  Revulsion rose to the top of her throat when she saw his eyes alight with excitement at the question.

“I took care of things. They are gone. We can stay.” He shrugged. “It was easy.”

His eyes stayed on her deepening frown, a little smile playing at the edges of his mouth. “Believe me. Why don’t you settle down and rest, I’ll unpack our bags later,” he said. “Dinner is almost ready.”

“What did you do to them, ‘Khiall?” Her voice was faint and she struggled to keep it even.

“I stopped them. That’s all. You should have seen it. It all happened so smooth and fast.” His impassive stare.  His composed figure.  He gave no sign to indicate if he felt any remorse at his actions.  She had taught him the Laws all his life.  Yet, there he sat with evidence of having harmed another being splattered across his clothing and not seeming to care at all about the hurt he might have caused. Horror washed over her face. He asked, “What is it?  Why do you stare at me so?  They can’t take you away from your home or me away from you.  Not now.”

“Did you kill those Fae soldiers?”

“I…Yes, but I hid the bodies, buried them…”

“How could you?” she nearly shrieked it at him.

“I did what you wanted me to do!”

Her mouth dropped open, aghast at how he could have twisted her intentions. “I…never…”

“You said that we were in danger,” he accused, jumping off his perch finally. The fire in his blue eyes rising high. “You said they would take me because I’m a bastard. You were prepared to flee your home like a fugitive because they were coming for me, isn’t that right, Nomei? Because I’m a Changeling and you’re a faery harlot.”

“Strike your tongue!” she hissed indignantly. “Long ago, that might have been the case, but I do not know if they would have threatened in this day and…”

“Then why did they frighten you so, Mother?” He was shouting and a clanging from the back of the house indicated that others had heard their argument. “You were pulling us out of the one real home that we’ve had in my whole life because you were afraid that they might question us? NO. You were terrified. That implies that they were a threat to us… to me!  You wanted them to go away and I did that.  Why do you act so strangely?”

“You… you are a monster,” she claimed, turning to leave the room. “I cannot protect you from this.  You have gone too far. This is not a fight at school or thievery from a store.  You’ve taken life. Faerlin life!  I cannot hide this.”

He pursued her into the foyer. “I am not asking you to hide anything.”

Heading up the staircase, she was no longer speaking to him but to herself. “They’ll find out and take you away; they’ll kill you this time and I won’t prevent it. I cannot, ‘Khiall.”

“Mother?  What are you saying?” Leaving hand stains on the banister as he followed her, his voice was incredulous. “You are going to turn me in to the authorities?”

“I hid you as a baby to protect you,” she was mumbling, refusing to look at him. “Kept you from the world’s punishment in the past hoping against hope that you would change… But, you haven’t.  You never will.  You are the daemon that they said you were.”

He stopped halfway up the stair. “Mother?” he called.

“Get away from me!” she turned and screamed at him. “Monster!  You are an evil thing!  Get out!  I will protect you no longer!”

They both saw the household servants crowding into the entry, all eyes on ‘Khiall, all ears waiting on orders from their mistress. The man-servants were armed.

‘Khiall glanced from the group to Ammarron and back. “Mother, don’t do this,” he urged, his voice holding a quaver. “Please, don’t turn me out. I have nothing. I did this for you. For us! Don’t forsake me. I need you. Please, help me.”

For the space of a breath, she hesitated. His eyes held hope. Then she shook her head, her green eyes closing.

“Get out.” Her voice was firm.

The burly servants pounded up the stairs to grab ‘Khiall, but he was not moving. Shock had rooted him to his spot.

“Mi nomei?”

The words were so soft, only the ears of a fae could have heard them.

“Out!”

The pronouncement was final. Thick human arms encircled ‘Khiall and dragged him, stumbling, out the front door. A tickle of snowflakes whirled around him as he hit the ground and saw the house blocked against his reentry. Four of the fellows plucked wooden canes from the front stoop and herded him towards the gate.

“Now you won’t have to leave your home, Nomei!” ‘Khiall shouted to her, hoping to be heard over the staff clambering to her rescue inside. He spied the scene, bright and hectic, through the rapidly closing door. “I did it for you! Please don’t push me out!”

His pleas struck the dark hard barrier, its iron hinges and heavy lock shutting him away from the only savior he had ever truly had. The squealing gate was shut, his home on one side and him on the other. The winds tugged at the flimsy gray monastic uniform he still wore. It had been less than a day since his arrival. Now, he was lost again. His voice splintered the night.

“Mother!”

There came no response.

******

Less than a day later:

“The winds will take us far today, lads.” The captain stood with one leg perched on the side gate, inspecting the struggle of the silken mass above them. “Don’t think we’ll need the magda’s help, just keen sailing.”

‘Khiall approached the captain, his head down. He was hoping his hair would hide his ears, but the wind mocked him with relentless exposure.

“‘Hoy!” The captain greeted him as he stepped onto the barge. “Where you headin’, faery boy?”

“Jeullion unda Revota.”

“That’s a fair distance. You got enough coin?”

“I have nothing,” he stated. Having only the clothes he was wearing when he left the estate, the mid-winter air bit his skin and made him shake.

“Payment or work. We don’t do charity. You ever worked a barge before?”

“No.”

“Yer hands don’t look like they see hard labor much. You know anything about sailing? Silks? Or ever fixed a broken rail?”

“I’m afraid not, captain.”

“Then what are you good for, faery boy?” An incredulous laugh rang out from the stout figure.

I can kill with my bare hands, ‘Khiall heard a voice quip in the back of his mind. He kept his lips closed.

“What kind of faery are you? Gobberlin?”

“No. Faerlin.”

“Not with those ears!” The insult rang louder than was meant. ‘Khiall began to walk back down the gangplank when the captain saw the err. “Don’t run from an ol’half-dravan salt like me. I’m no respecter of persons. Yer bloodline means naught here. You need a ride, let’s see what kind of work we can find for you. Yer build is fine, how are you between the sheets?”

‘Khiall raised his eyes from the captain’s short brown leather boots at which he had been staring and took in the thick curves and tanned face of the captain. She had made an effort to tuck her unruly short curls under a large hat and was relatively clean with only a hint of a thin mustache to betray her dravan heritage. With a shrug, ‘Khiall offered, “I’ve been known to make girls smile.”

“In that case, I’ll need a deposit to prove you are good for the trip. Corvo,” she shouted to a dark man nearby, “Take over the welcome for a pause, will ya? I’ve got a down payment to handle.”

The crew within earshot eyed ‘Khiall and chuckled.

Stepping down the light wood staircase, he followed her through the hold and short corridor of cabin hatches. She removed her broad hat in the small space as she opened the door at the far rear of the craft. The cabin was economical and airy. Thin hull ribs formed the skeletal walls and opened onto windows that were merely holes in the stretched parchment skin enclosing them. It was the most unusual vehicle he could have imagined journeying in, though they were quite commonplace on the plains of Verdaillia. He had never seen one from the inside.

“What’s yer name? Mine’s Captain Ferde. But, for the time, you can call me your Mistress.”

“D’harro’mar’rie’khiall Khnyghtsyde Bhaalaweiss, mistress.”

“White Stars, but that’s a mouthful! If you want ta get anywhere in this saphien world, I’ll advise you now to cut that down. Only one I recognized was Khnyghtsyde. I’d stick to that. Now, hurry and depants yourself, faery boy. Let’s take a look at yer tusha. See if it’s worth the price to Jeullion. Hurry now, I have a ship to sail!”

Turning away, he slid his garments off.

“There’s a tusha round enough for slappin’! Spin so I can see what tackle you bring. Hmm, short stocked, are ya? You’re hiding the goods! If you need encouragement, come on over here and bury yer face in these bags or else I’ll lose my patience and strap on a rod to cork you instead!” She laughed.

He did not appear self-conscious. In fact, her drawing attention to him caused his loins to stir. He heard her chuckle turning in tone and she purred, “’ere ye go, gobberlin. That’s a masthead I can hoist!”

“Permission to climb aboard, mistress?” ‘Khiall’s lip curled at the edge.

“Permission granted already!”

*********

Bundled in thick woolen wraps borrowed from the crew, ‘Khiall leaned on the wooden guardboard, his eyes tearing up from the constant assault of wind. The deck was a carnival of moving beams, gears, and flapping sails. All the parts, more than seemed completely necessary, worked and creaked to propel the craft across the emerald imitation sea. Impossibly blue skies carved a jagged horizon, promising the eastern cities within the week.

The course was slow heading northeast as the winds were want to force them west. The behemoth slid over the grasses, its rhythmic webbed arms stroking the breeze both horizontal and vertical. A bizarre wood and cloth beetle crawling between ancient rocks with a perpetual grace.

Khiall had earned his passage, evidently. There were no complaints from the captain. She taught him much about pleasing a woman, but nothing about how to keep his balance on this gently lurching monstrosity she piloted. The trip was rigorous and the crew left him alone, aside from bestowing the nickname ‘Gobber’ upon him. They were convinced that his father was ogre kin of some kind, but bets were still being laid.

Sighing, he plucked and peeled apart a small nut he had stored in his pocket. A sample of the handful of dry rations that he had earned by scrubbing the galley. His fingers fought to get the nutmeat into his mouth against the numbing air. After success gave him something to chew, ‘Khiall stared down at his hands. Was that the odor of blood on them still?

He covered his mouth and nose to inhale deeply. Wool and flesh. No blood.

“Ya going ta hurl, Gobber?”

Looking over to the sail-smith who had spoken, ‘Khiall pulled his hands down to his pockets and shook his head. Most of the people aboard were friendly, laced with a subtle reserve.

If only they knew, he thought with a slight frown.  Even the dravan captain had not guessed his secret, no matter how candid they were together.

Using swigs of Apthia water and imagining lapping the warm blood from the pulsing neck wound on one of the dying faerlin sentries, he would service the captain dutifully each day until they both laid panting and tangled in her sheets.

“Where were ya, Gobber?” she asked once, her thick fingers toying with his dark hair. “Yer thoughts are not on this ‘ere ship.”

Choosing to bury the gory fantasy that disturbed him on a deeper level, he had turned on her with an inquisitive smile. “Why do you think I’m a gobberling?”

She had waved it dismissively from the air. He insisted, curling closer to her.

“Your strangeness. I’ve seen many a folk, but not a one like you. Yer faery, that’s fer sure. But, what kind? Not elf, dravan, faerlin, ogre, nor trollkin.”

“So, my mother was got by a gobberling?” He laughed. His mind scratched at this theory, digging for any possibility of truth while his lips feigned good humor.

“It’s not impossible, but mayhaps it is.” She contemplated her assessment with a bit more seriousness. “What’s it matter? You’re here and soon you’ll be where you want to go. Ain’t that all that’s needed in life?”

Her voice was gruff and distant. She was falling asleep. ‘Khiall slipped from her bed and dressed. Hunger was getting the best of him and he needed some fresh air. On deck, huddled in the mismatched wrappings, he glanced at the crew.

Would they have offered a ride to him had they seen the shredded corpses he left buried behind the wall of the Khnyghtsyde estate? Would anyone ever know about those sentries? His mother may keep their secret, but what if the bodies are found or the Emmisarian Guard noticed the men missing?

‘Khiall turned his back to the other travelers, his night-blue eyes locking on the eastern skies. The snapping silks and undulating fields whispered sweet promises of freedom. No stone boundaries, no confining walls. He was finally released upon the world.

Whatever shall happen when he reached Jeullion? Could he find Laure and would she join him on the run? Would he tell her what happened, and if he did, would she ever look at him the same? He wondered. The weight of his action grew heavier with each thought.

He decided at that moment to never tell Laure this secret. Even if all the world looked at him and saw something vile, he wished for her to see only … her Dharromar.

Yet, so much had changed. Could he truly hide it from her?

“Jeullion unda Revota on the horizon!” a voice shouted from the crow’s nest. ‘Khiall looked up instinctively.

“Be there by morn,” the captain said to him, her face at his elbow suddenly. She had her eyes on the endless hills. “New town, new journeys to make. You be ready?”

His head began to wag from side to side. Her words were polite conversation to anyone else, but to him, they bore the hint of an ultimatum. His heavy feet felt rooted to the boards as Lauralei’s letter echoed in his mind; the absence of his name in it poisoned his heart. He was weary of denying its power over him. It had lurked in the shadows for days. The closer the city came, the more he questioned his motives.

It does no good to become too attached, his mother had said. Best to move past the pain as quick as possible. Find a new distraction.

Breathing deep in the winter air, ‘Khiall let it freeze his insides and encapsulate the memories of Laure with its tender frost.

“Captain, I’ve changed my mind.”

“So say you.” She nodded, her face squinting up at him. “Where yer headin’ then?”

“That depends. Where does this ship go?”

“Wherever the wind blows, boy,” she said with a slap on his rump. “What say you? The Jeullion?”

“Don’t stop on my account, captain.” He closed his eyes, shutting out the view. “I don’t think that’s my destination any longer.”

“So say you?” Her question searched for his certainty.

“Aye,” ‘Khiall said, turning away from the railing. “So say I.”

THE END

***************************************

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Where the Winds Blow — Chapter 34

by Ruth Davis Hays

Returning to his step-family’s estate in Culetan, ‘Khiall insisted on knowing the whereabouts of Lauralei. In answer, he is given a letter to read from her…

Third day of Kha’Nad

Dearest mother Sarrah,

I promised to write to you, and I have been remiss in that duty. Here at the royal house there are many things to keep my attentions, more so than there were at the Conte’s manor. Yet, that is no excuse.

I wish to have a visit when my time for mourning is ended, which unfortunately would mean missing the feast of Gaerm-Yul being shared with you. Rest assured that I will be celebrating it, though. It is one of the high holidays here at the palace! Perhaps I shall come home for the Ennaeg. I would dearly love to sing in the new year with family and old friends. Or, better yet, I will arrange to bring you, father, the twins, and Ammarron to my home in the Jeullion. Yes! That will be the plan for the new year. A new Ennaeg tradition in my new house.

Alas, that is more than two months away. However, sadness at our separation is not my reason for writing to you.

I wanted you to know that I have not been idle while at court. I am now on a first name basis with several of the Duchtes, Conteses, and even a lovely lady magda. She is a gnome, but not from the royal lines here in Quithai. She is from the continent of Cordilleran. I believe there is even a Chia-jenghir here, but he keeps to himself and no one admits to having spoken with him.

Also, I wanted to mention the biggest news.

You remember how I am forever sketching dresses and coats, all manner of clothes. I have found a way to put that dream to good use. Father never would pay for a dressmaker to create my original designs, but the Conte did. He let me fashion a whole new wardrobe while he was alive.

Well, I have been wearing my creations around court and have garnered ever so much attention! I have received numerous commissions for similar garments from my new friends. All the clothes are made in my little town, which is keeping my factories busy. The business has been so good that the couriers coming to pick up the garments stay and shop the town. It truly is becoming the “Jewel on the River”!

Of course, the majority of my popularity would have never been, were it not for my new dearest friend, Ramon. I will have to tell you all about him soon.

I had best make this short or else it will never fly! Haha! Give my love to the twins, Father, Ammarron, and all the staff.  I miss you, mother.

Your most faithful daughter, Lauralei.

Refolding the letter, Sarrah gave a remorseful sigh. “You see? She does not even mention you, ‘Khiall. Lauralei has moved on with her life. I suggest you try and do the same. Just not in this household.”

“Yes, my son,” Ammarron said quietly, piling more pain onto Sarrah Khnghtsyde’s statement. “It is best to put your ill-conceived affair far from your mind. It would come to nothing but heartache.”

“You don’t think that’s exactly what it’s come to now?” ‘Khiall blurted out as he stood, towering over the two ladies. They appeared startled, which only added to the weight growing in his chest. He left the room at a swift pace and sought solitude. An echo of Sarrah’s voice followed his retreat.

“It would be best if you stayed out of sight when Solomen returns from his appointment,” she squeaked in her mouse-like tone.

‘Khiall had no intention of confronting his step-father yet. That was a meeting that would require his full control, and at this moment, he was flying in every direction. He ducked into the tiny closet under the main staircase and held the door tight closed. The space was rank with memories, but he was at a loss for another place to hide. Hide from his step-father; hide from disappointment in the mothers’ eyes at his unceremonious return; hide from the specter of guilt at harming Daviel; hide from the tears that threatened hearing Lauralei’s words excluding him. He just wished to vanish and feel nothing before he destroyed everything.

Thoughts of causing injury cascaded behind his closed eyes for several long moments, fueling a fire deep in his breast until he heard his mother’s soft voice outside the door.

“I know the ache of longing for someone you are forbidden to love, mi aver,” she whispered through the door slats. “It is better to…”

“What is a changeling, mi nomei?” He interrupted her plea.

She was silent for a heartbeat or two. “A myth, my son. Nurse tales of dark faeries and trollkin, nothing more. It has nothing to do with you.”

“You lie!” Eyes snapping open, he burst out of his cabinet to face her. “It’s all I’ve ever heard. Changeling! Fingers pointing, fear in their eyes as they shout it. What does it truly mean?” He yelled until she flinched. “Don’t give me the same old stories of babies switched in their cradles by gobberlings. I’m your son, so I must have had a father. Why will you never speak of him? What was he, mi nomei? Tell me! I beg of you. What am I?”

“You are a Bhaalaweiss. That is all that is important.”

“I need more! I almost killed my only friend by accident. Just as I hurt Galian, just like all those other times. Tell me more!”

Standing awkwardly to meet his eyes, she offered, “I don’t remember much of your Vaero, er… your sire. It was a dark and terrible night, my sweet. Don’t make me recall it just to tell you that you are my son. You’re a faerlin of great heritage…”

“I’m not a faerlin. If I were, we would still be living in the East Wood.” The words came as a sharp accusation rather than an inquiry. “Isn’t that true?”

“I–”

“Don’t lie to me. You know I could hurt you.”

Her hand flew across his face. “What are you saying to me? I’m your mother!”

As familiar as he was with punishment, it was rare for it to come from his mother. “Forgive me, mi nomei.” He could feel blood rushing to his cheek. Though he towered over his mother, he shrank in her gaze. “I don’t know what is happening with me! I’m just… angry.”

His next question came out small and tight. “Why am I like this?” Crumpling into a ball, tears began to glisten the corners of his blue eyes. His head fell against the wall, his arms shrouding his face from the world.  “I don’t understand what’s going on inside me.”

Ammarron wrapped ‘Khiall in her arms. “You are distraught over your sister. That is all.”

“She is not my sister, Nomei,” he insisted. “I love her.”

“I know. I know. But, she is a human.”

He flinched. “What has that got to do with it? Solomen is a human, yet you two are bonded.”

“I simply mean that neither of them will live as long as you or I,” she explained. “It does no good to become too attached. Your heart will feel broken now or later. Best to move past the pain as quick as possible. Find a new distraction.”

“Is that what you think she was? Just a distraction?”

“That’s all any love is, unless it is one of your own kind.” Her voice was wistful. “Only a faerlin can fulfill the true companionship of another faerlin.”

“But, I’m not a true faerlin, am I?” It was not a question. Without another word, he pushed against her and fled the house.

******************************************

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Cereal Authors, Fantasy, Fiction, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi

Where the Winds Blow — Chapter 33

by Ruth Davis Hays

 

He stood, the chill air caressing his skin. Eyes closed to the world around him, D’harro’mar’rie’Khiall let his fate sink into his conscious mind, feeling it tickle the raw indignation of the last few days.

The Blessed Fathers of the Monastic Temple University of Coreigan had made up their minds about his motives and guilt long before his tribunal had begun. Twelve hours spent with his neck tied to a rock in order to incapacitate him was the least of his trials as he was relentlessly questioned and prodded.

—–

The first moment they had allowed him to stand upright, he had insisted to them, “Nothing happened in the garden.”

“We will decide that. Now, open your mouth.”

“Why?” Khiall flinched back from the approaching acolyte. “I’m bathed in blood, yet you want to look in my mouth? I didn’t bite him!”

“Father Grae is simply collecting specimens. He will swab your mouth, genital area, and rectum.”

“For what?!”

A hand gripped his face, prying open his mouth with all the detachment of inspecting a prize stallion’s teeth. Rough white cloth on a stick dabbed at his throat, stopping his question in a gag.

“What are you looking for?” he repeated when his jaw was free.

“Evidence, of course. Traces of saliva, abrasions, ejaculate, oils, or Apthia Water can be discovered with simple alchemy tests.”

“Apthia Water?”

“Yes, some men use it as lubrication.”

“Where would we get Apthia Water in the monastery?” His mind was distracted from their implication by the unintentional education they gave.

“There are vials in the infirmary. If traces are found, then an additional charge will be brought against you:  Theft.”

“Stop clenching,” another voice said.

Shifting to glare at the young monk groping his rump, ‘Khiall continued addressing the High Priest. “Why do all this?”

“You and the other were caught in the act of breaking your vows.”

“I made no vows to this place.” He growled under the statement.

“Acolyte Daviel most certainly did. You have corrupted him.”

“We did nothing to break his vow of-“

His statement was ended by a grunt as the metal cylinder was inserted in his backside with little nuance. The cold, thin sheath was retracted and the porous material of the probe absorbed all it could, growing as it did until it felt roughly the size of a tree trunk.  It was extracted in a swift, abrasive movement which elicited a sharp cry of pain. It stopped his words with a clenched jaw.

Then the monks turned their attention to his front. One assistant inspected the smooth fae abdomen and looked back at his superior with a shrug.

Reading from a manual, perhaps the same book Daviel had gleaned his information about faerlin ears, Father Grae began instructing the younger monk on how to force a fae to “present” the penial instrument.

“Place a thumb on either side of the glift and spread it open while pressing inwards on the abdomen soft. The genitals will be exposed for inspection.”

“Only if it’s not too cold in here.” ‘Khiall muttered. He was not fond of this intrusion. If his arms had not been tied, he was inclined to let his claws fly wherever they willed. As it was…

The assistant made a slight recoil as the fae’s treasure dropped into view. ‘Khiall couldn’t resist a chuckle. “By the rumors I’ve heard from you saphiens, I’ll bet you weren’t expecting such an endowment, hm?” he said with a smirk. The young human simply eyed him with a blush and continued his duties. ‘Khiall’s mirth was short-lived.

“Bend over.”

The order caused “Khiall to roll his eyes.

“Oh Sweet Hells! What further invasion are you going to visit upon me?” he shouted. This was greeted by a backhand on his face.

“Show more respect to the Fathers!” Grae stared down at the fae. The small pit set ‘Khiall’s head at the perfect level for a swing of the hand. “We are going to reattach the stone to your neck. This interview is ended.”

‘Khiall’s tongue prodded at the corner of his mouth, testing the blood there and savoring the thrill it brought. As the last monk tied the rope around his neck, pulling it tight, he heard another attendant plod into the chamber. The monk who had inspected him exited. His limited vantage point blocked his discovery of who was in the room.

“Who’s there?”

A pair of sandaled feet scuffled into his view.

“It’s Onath.” The owner of the feet whispered. “I can’t stay long. I just wanted to say that it wasn’t me. Don’t hate me.”

Running like a child fearful of a beating, Onath vanished through the door. ‘Khiall began to suspect that if Daviel was orchestrating some escape access for him, perhaps he had not leaked his plans to the other saphien boys in their intimate circle. Or else, he is unable to do so. A constriction in his chest, at the idea that Daviel’s wounds may have been too severe, gave ‘Khiall pause.

Do I truly care about these saphiens, he pondered? Are they my friends?

“When did that happen?” he said aloud.

**************

“Witnesses testify that you were attempting to break your vow of celibacy in the garden, and you are charged with bodily harm of another. That cannot be overlooked. Worse still, it has come to our attention that you, Acolyte Khnyghtsyde, coerced several others to partake in the sin of gambling. How do you plead?”

Still pondering the accusation of garden fornication, ‘Khiall was silent too long for the Blessed Fathers’ comfort. The High Priest repeated the question with vehemence. Shaken from his thoughts, the changeling stumbled in his defense.

“I…I plead… guilty?” If his instincts were wrong about this confession and its possible judgement, then he may be faced with a lifetime of onerous vows and dank stone monastic walls.

“He has confessed. Shall Our Spirit Guide Coreigan bless him with mercy and atonement or exclusion from His grace, even in death?”

Wood striking on wood shattered ‘Khiall’s unsuspecting ears as the gavel rang out three times. Wincing with each, the changeling was held in limbo for insufferable moments before the words reached into his brain and he understood that his long months of exile from Culetan were ended.

“Cast him out!” the witnesses repeated until the air danced with the syllables. An observant member of the crowd might have even noticed the changeling’s lips moving in accord.

**********************

Opening his eyes to unveil the landscape of the Khnyghtsyde estate before him, ‘Khiall took a deep breath and strode through the gate with a grim determination to confront his step-father and gain access to Lauralei once more. …

**********************

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Fantasy, Fiction, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow — 32

by Ruth Davis Hays

Watching the thin pale smoke inside one of the numerous glow orbs that lined the gallery, Lauralei issued a deliberate sigh. Her maidservant, Ameila, glanced in her direction as they strolled. The Contes had requested Ameila accompany her to the royal court and for that opportunity, the maidservant was grateful. Yet, the few drops of elven blood still residing in her family line were weary of being deep underground. She was longing for wind and trees, the smells of the season and the ripple of leaves. Her psyche screamed, and no matter the height of the room, she wanted to claw off her face.

Shuddering at the ever growing distance she felt from all things green, Ameila tried to attend to her mistress’s mood. “A sigh of boredom or despair, Contes? Are you ready to return to Jeullion?”

“Even you are addressing me by title now?”

The voice was not quite toneless.

“When in public, it is only fitting that a servant address her mistress formally. In case there are any… onlookers. It’s bad enough that you have me walking beside you as a friend would. I don’t fancy being whipped for insubordination at the whim of some strange noble. Sometimes your lack of formal etiquette training surprises me.”

“I was born in a stable, as they say.” Lauralei smirked at her joke. “My father made me read books on the subject, but I was not tutored for long. Honestly, I didn’t pay close attention for I never assumed that I would need it.”

“Did you not attend a finishing college?”

“Yes, but as I said. I wasn’t paying attention.” Lauralei stopped and pointed to an immobile servant at the end of the wide passage. “Here’s an example of my ignorance. I’ve asked that man five times if he knows a servant by the name of Ramon, and he will not speak to me. I know he can hear me.”

“It’s improper for one of his rank to speak to a noble. He’s required to take orders and fulfill them, not chitchat.”

“Isn’t that rude?”

“If you need assistance that requires answers, you have to find a servant of higher rank.”

“That’s inane. Besides, all the ones who will speak to me say there is no servant by that name in the palace. But, he wasn’t an illusion. I’m not crazy.” Lauralei stomped towards the fellow in a predatory fashion.

Ameila touched her arm and halted her attack with a smile. “Allow me.”

“I am the Contes’s handmaid,” Ameila said upon approaching the spindle thin man with his hands behind his back. He glanced at her. “She is interested in –“

“I know what she wants.” The man tossed his eyes around the gallery before continuing. “The contes has come to me several times. I can’t say it to her, but I have no idea who she’s talking about.”

“Who would know the roster of servants, even the ones that may be on loan from other places?”

The man shrugged. “Master Julius. He is head of the housestaff. I think she talked to him yesterday. If he doesn’t know who it is she’s looking for, no one would.”

Ameila had not given much stock in hope, but was disappointed that she could not give her mistress any new information about her mysterious “servant” friend. “Thanks be to you for your help.” She gave him a curt, yet polite curtsy and turned back to Lauralei to repeat the report.

“That’s disheartening.” Lauralei was defeated. Turning back towards her apartments, she stared at her feet rather than the artwork adorning the carved walls. “I simply wanted to talk with him further. Not that you’re not a good companion, Ameila, but I miss laughing with a man who shares my… humor.”

“I cannot attend the formal parties with you, so I can understand your … needs.”

Lauralei paused at her inflection. “Are you suggesting that I’m only seek him out because I’m attracted to him?”

Ameila let her eyes slide sideways as a light smile touched her lips. It took only seconds for her mistress to return the smile and blush as well.

“Perhaps I did find him … likable.” Lauralei giggled. “Something about him reminded me of-“

“Who?” Ameila had never delved into her mistress’s past, at least not any further than she was willing to share openly.

“I suppose it doesn’t matter now that I’m a widow.” Lauralei took a deep breath. “I was in love with a young man before I came to the Monteforte household. Someone I miss still. It was a dalliance not approved of by my family, to say the least. My father separated us and I was sent to the conte. I know where he is now, but it seems worlds away.”

Hearing her voice trail off, Ameila decided to leave her to her memories. They were approaching the hall to their rooms. The chime of the king’s elaborate time-keeping device could be heard echoing through the upper corridors, muffled in its reverberation.

“Are you attending the court tonight?” Ameila asked. For two nights, Lauralei had gone and returned more glum by her failure to find Ramon.

“I suppose. It’s probably best that I keep on top of the rumors, to make certain that I am not the subject.”

“Then let’s get you dressed.”

*************************************************************

Explore more about the world of Jorthus at booksofjorthus.com

All royalties from online sales of THE DAWNSTONE TALE will go to benefit The Butterfly Fund.

“The Butterfly Fund was started because of the need to get involved & to make a difference in the lives of people who truly need it.  It originated because of the need for awareness and help of those who suffer from the disease Epidermolysis Bullosa – 
also known as EB. When we met these children and heard their stories, our hearts were never the same.”  -Laurie Sterner, Founder

Cereal Authors, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized

Where the Winds Blow — 31

From the fantasy series by R L Davis Hays

Many leagues away from the monastery…

“So young to be a widow. How sad.”

It was a reoccurring theme around the Quithai royal court this night. Lauralei had overheard the not so subtle whispers several times as she would pass bundles of courtiers. She did her best to hide her smile and look demur, casting her eyes down or moving away to a new corner.

She wanted to spin across the floor in the arms of some new acquaintance, however her public mourning was far from over.  Decorum dictated that she not dance, sing, or partake of intoxicating substances for a minimum of three months. It was her Terme du Sorwen.

Lauralei for courtHer one consolation was that she could wait out her Terme in the long and glorious royal house of Quithai. The widow of a conte was considered noble regardless of her former station in life, and as long as she was not actively seeking remarriage, her rights to her husband’s title would remain hers. Lauralei could agree to that. Being bonded to a man once in her life was quite enough. Now, she was enjoying being unbound.

The palace was a labyrinth of intricately decorated passages and great rooms hollowing one of the highest mountains in the kingdom. Completely hidden from the upper world, the Halles du Monarchie could only be entered by underground roads in the subterranean city of Whiteholl. Each tunnel to the Halles was closed and guarded. It seemed the safest place in the whole world to Lauralei. Yet, she was just beginning to realize that one is not safe locked in a cage if the tigers are in the cage along with one.

Nearing one dim lit corner, she noticed one of the servants standing at a casual attention, holding a tray of sweet meats, and watching the crowd with a sideways smirk on his square jaw. She sidled up and took a small dainty from the tray, turning her back to the wall as she asked him, “What’s amusing you this fine night, sirra?”

He glanced at her veiled face in brief shock before averting his eyes. “Do you address me, good madam?”

“Of course. I rarely talk to myself in public,” Lauralei said with a chuckle clogging her throat. “Although I haven’t truly been in public for quite some time.”

The servant haltingly responded to her question. “I was watching the Lords Cornwal and Alver trying to best one another to impress Lady Duruss. Neither can dance a lick, but that doesn’t stop them.”

Lauralei snorted, almost choking on her sweet meat. The young servant looked over and smiled at her as she wiped her gloved hand across her lips.

“I thought they were both having seizures,” she replied. The fellow held back a laugh, his face turning a bit pink.

“My good madam,” he said, “I must admit that it is rare to find a lady of your state who would spend her time chatting with a servant, let alone mocking her peers.”

Taking another tasty meat off his platter, she glanced up at his face. A rather pleasing face, at that. “Well, I can’t dance or drink. And I don’t really know anyone else yet. Who else can I mock my peers with?”

He couldn’t rip his eyes off her now. “If it is not too improper, may I know your name, my good madam?”

“As long as you stop incessantly calling me My Good Madam. I’m Lauralei, Contes of Jeullion unda Revota. And you?”

“I’m no one of importance, Contes.”

“Please, I feel awkward enough in this white veil and stupid hat; don’t make me call you Servant-boy all night if we are going to enjoy each others company here.”

This made him chuckle aloud. “If you insist. You may call me… Ramon.”

She paused, her eyes squinted a bit. “You seem uncertain of your name, Ramon.”

His stumble was shorter this time. “I’m not accustomed to speaking with my betters, let alone telling them my name. I apologize.”

“For what?” Lauralei turned to face him directly. “Do I make you nervous? I simply want some pleasant conversation. Unless, I’ve interrupted your entertainment, in which case maybe I should be the one apologizing.”

Ramon looked dumbfounded. His tray lowered to his waist. “You would apologize to a servant?”

“If I’m bothering you, I would.” She was mystified by his sudden fluster. His eyes darted to various faces in the room of hundreds and he then blushed in earnest.

“I had best get back to my duties, madam.”

“Lauralei.”

“Yes, Madam Lauralei.”

With that, he clutched his tray in both fists and ducked into a tight hall to the kitchen. Lauralei was stranded amid dancing and laughter. She felt his loss keenly and no longer wished to be in the company of others. Sulking to her appointed apartments, she wondered what had disturbed the young man.

As her steps neared her door which provided the only real privacy in this herd of gossip mongers, she began to wonder if her flippant attitude towards her “peers” may have drifted into the wrong ears. It was not uncommon for nobles to maintain watchers to weed out their enemies, or even those of which they could take advantage.

Lauralei felt naked and ashamed. It was an unusual combination for her. Slipping behind her bedroom door, she hoped that she had not just sabotaged her chances for real influence at this court.  Her landholdings needed her success here in order to thrive.

“Now I know why they call it court,” she huffed to herself. “Too many judges.”

****************************************

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books, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized

Where the Winds Blow — 30

by Ruth Davis Hays 2016

After giving ‘Khiall the map of the countryside that would guide him home, Daviel finds it hard to contemplate life at the monastery without the changeling….

It was another sleepless night for Daviel. The frigid air seeping through the stones did nothing to assuage the heat of his young blood when his thoughts turned to the changeling, ‘Khiall.  There was no remedy for his ailment that would not cost him his honor and his position in the priesthood.

He had never considered himself a devotee of Coreigan, or any of the other spirit guides, in fact. Daviel had always been rather practical, never given to flights of fancy or mystical leanings. His path to be a priest had been a strategic one. It was a career, a venerated profession as far as he was concerned, not a calling. Though, it did carry with it a ponderous amount of strict oaths and the penalties for breaking them were just as ponderous.

These restrictions never burdened him before. He had always been serious. Too serious to find much joy in the world. However, with ‘Khiall, he had nothing to rely on but his instincts and his passions. That changeling undid him completely. ‘Khiall would be his ruin, Daviel was sure of it.

It would be best just to let him go. Yes, let him go back home to his family and his ladylove. Daviel tossed onto his side and pulled his sheet tight to his chin, as if to block out the night with his final decision on this topic.

The thin bandage that was adhered to his injured neck scraped loudly on his pillow. The flesh was still delicate, angered by the touch of the cloth. From the look on the Blessed Fathers’ faces, they had not completely accepted Daviel’s excuse for his neck wound. They had cleaned it and dressed it, but questions remained. After all, it hardly looked like a scrape from falling against a door handle.

“Damn you to the Unseen Halls, ‘Khiall,” Daviel muttered as he shifted to lie on his other side. This position was no more comfortable than the last.

He was kicking at the tightly tucked bedcover when he spied a wavering in the light that peeked under his door. It blinked away to light again, the shadow gone. Rising from his cot, Daviel leapt at the door and pulled it open.  The hall was empty… almost.  He caught sight of a heel disappearing around the corner to his left. Forgetting to close his cell door, Daviel sprinted after the figure, only to find it one corridor ahead of him throughout the monastery. Until he reached the gate to the garden. It was unlocked.

Bursting into the frost-kissed night, Daviel saw ‘Khiall scaling the stone wall with ease.

“Not even going to say farewell?” the acolyte shouted, heedless of nearby listeners. His heart and nerves were drawn thin; the backs of his eyes stung at the sight of the fae departing without a word. “You’re the worst!”

daviel and khiall‘Khiall jumped back down and faced him. His expression unreadable. Silence filled the garden for several heartbeats before Daviel heard ‘Khiall ask, “Are you going to tell the Fathers?”

“I won’t have to,” he said, stepping closer. “They will know you’re missing by morning meal.”

“By then, I’ll be far from here.”

“That won’t matter.” Daviel took a few more tentative steps, approaching the fae as he would a timid fossdeer. “They have an oath to keep. They will send out missionaries to find you and bring you back. By all laws, you belong to them until they release you.”

“I signed no oath to stay here.” Khiall’s eyes grew dark. “I never volunteered to come here. I’m not like you or any of the rest.”

A wind blew over the walls, a chill cyclone inside the garden to kick up their hair and rumple their garments. Daviel was within arm’s reach of ‘Khiall. Their words dampened by the rushing air.

“I know,” the young human said with a heavy breath. “But, you can’t leave. Not now.”

“You can’t stop me. Neither can the Blessed Fathers. I will leave the country if I must; I will not stay here.”

“Do you honestly think that you can go home to your sister?” Daviel’s voice was strained.

“I’ll take her with me,” Khiall turned to the wall again before glancing back to see the acolyte lunge for him. The human’s hand gripped his shoulder.

“Take me as well.” Daviel heard the pathetic plea tumble out of his mouth. He no longer cared if ‘Khiall would laugh at him. “I can’t stay in this dread hell without you.”

“I can’t,” ‘Khiall said. His words were not harsh, just insistent.

A jealous flare ignited Daviel, and he pulled ‘Khiall from the wall with a strength that surprised them both. The fae scrambled to his feet and dove towards his exit once more. He was blocked by Daviel.

“What are you doing?”

“Stopping you. You are not leaving without me. Not like this, not tonight.” The human shoved his friend back before they locked arms and grappled in earnest. Daviel knew the fight would not last long, for the fae was stronger, yet he wanted to at least….

He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he knew it was not to let ‘Khiall slip away from his life.

The tussle was witnessed by one of their cohorts who had followed them through the darkened passages hoping for another midnight adventure. He watched from the shadow of the door, staying silent until he knew how to use this argument to his own advantage. Neither combatant saw Norin run back into the monastery, but when the bell began to toll, both struggled harder for their goals.

Candlelight and men spilled into the garden with shouts and sticks. ‘Khiall lashed at Daviel’s clinging form and shoved him with a force grown from panic. Leaping up the wall, he did not look back, but jumped and ran.

The outer doors of the monastery opened with a flood of searching lanterns crisscrossing the meadow to find the escaped fae.  It was only when two monks on horseback cut him off and tossed a rope over his head that ‘Khiall noticed the preponderance of blood on his hands and clothes.  Daviel’s blood.

The peels of the chapel bell clanged with an ominous echo in ‘Khiall’s soul.

***************

In short order, the monks devised a way to contain the changeling using the Chastisement Chamber that was constructed with several physical obstacles for the weak-willed to overcome on their path to purity.

Standing knee-deep in a narrow hole with his neck weighed down by a rope attached to a rather large piece of masonry while his arms were bound behind his back, ‘Khiall could hear the voices of the Blessed Fathers filtering through the doorway. His nose was close to his chest and all he could smell was Daviel’s blood slowly soiling him.

The Blessed Fathers had been discussing his fate for close to an hour. Long enough for his back to ache from the bent position and lack of reprieve since there was a boarded wall preventing him from slumping onto the stone.

“He is too savage to remain. He is never going to become a priest or a monk. He must be removed.”

“What about the atonement through Coreigan’s teachings? If he humbles himself to the rectification…”

“No. That creature is not fit to live within our walls.”

“Beat the savagery out of him. It is the only way.”

“It’s not as though we haven’t tried that method. He is resistant. A thing such as him can never change.”

A new voice joined the discussion. D’harro’mar’rie’khiall listened with renewed curiosity.

“I have a witness that will testify of his sins. Sins great enough to warrant his dismissal.”

“Speak on, Father.”

“Yes,” ‘Khiall muttered to the disembodied voices. “Do speak.”

It seemed one of his former conspirators was ready to clear his conscience and it could either go badly or it could play right into ‘Khiall’s plans. He sensed that this confession had been premeditated and orchestrated by a greater mind than the one who was named. Norin was not one to turn easily.

This would be his way out. Albeit with an unfavorable mark on his reputation. But, that was something that ‘Khiall was willing to live with if it meant he could be sent home.

After hearing the Fathers’ discuss his expulsion from the monastery, ‘Khiall smirked in his dim prison. “Damn you, Daviel. If this was your idea, you’d better not die. At least give me the chance to even the score.”

**************************

Explore more about the world of Jorthus at booksofjorthus.com

All royalties from online sales of THE DAWNSTONE TALE will go to benefit The Butterfly Fund.

“The Butterfly Fund was started because of the need to get involved & to make a difference in the lives of people who truly need it.  It originated because of the need for awareness and help of those who suffer from the disease Epidermolysis Bullosa – 
also known as EB. When we met these children and heard their stories, our hearts were never the same.”  -Laurie Sterner, Founder

books, Cereal Authors, Displaced Detective, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Sherlock Holmes, Stephanie Osborn

Excerpt — The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

This is not your father’s Sherlock Holmes…

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more? And what happens next?

~~~

“…This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *

Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *

Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *

Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *

When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *

“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Amanda Thrasher, books, Cereal Authors, childrens stories, Fantasy, Fiction, Life, Literary, Nonfiction, Ramblings, Sci-Fi, Sharing, Uncategorized

Give Us A Minute, We’ll Give You A Book. Deal?

 

Why take the time?    smallgreenleeping

Depending on how you look at it, I am fortunate enough to see both sides of the publishing industry, author and publisher. This can be both advantageous at times and disadvantageous at others. I was an author first; published by another company, and between book signings, speaking engagements and discussing with others the reasons I even bothered to write at all, they indirectly taught me how to become a professional author. The desire to start a company that operated much like a traditional publisher and yet cater to writers from all walks of life consumed my mind. So I pulled my titles, hired someone to re-lay them and create a logo, brought in a business partner and between the two of us we operate a relatively nice sized organization.

Over the years, many things in this industry have changed. However, I have noticed something that hasn’t changed, reviews or the lack of them I should say. The importance of book reviews discussed countless times, is a significant one. Let me be clear, I am not referring to people that make a living or habit out of reviewing books. Nor review circles (not discounting those) but consumer book reviews. People that generously donate their time and write a review because the book that they just read made them laugh, cry, think, angry, mad, frustrated, or simply entertained them in the way that the author had intended.

I know you’ve heard countless people say that they love a certain book, right? I have. I’ve even sat in groups with others and discussed great books people have read. I’ve been fortunate to have people stop me in grocery stores to tell me that they loved my last piece, and I am humbled and grateful for every kind word they have ever said to me publicly or posted on social media. Like most writers (or I hope this is true), I have shared manuscripts with the world that I am pleased with and yet have pieces that I do not put in print at all. The pieces, the books that authors (including myself) know are going to capture an audience, they are special. It can take years of evolving as a writer to get to the point as an author that we know that we’ve written that one piece.

The words that we intentionally wrote, with purpose and placement, did their job. Reeled in our audience and captured the moment we had intended, whatever that might be. Unfortunately, if we tell people how great we think our book is, it can seem rude and obnoxious. Sometimes, regardless of the eye rolls and shaking of the heads, we have to suck it up and tell others about our book(s) and how great we think the story line is because it is the only way to get the word out about our work.

Why do people get frustrated when we do that? Because that incredible piece, the one we nailed, we wrote it. In their minds it’s inevitable that we’re going to say those words. But you’d be surprised. Sometimes we have manuscripts that we are incredibly disgusted with and wouldn’t print even if, like me, had all the opportunity in the world to do so. Not to mention, readers typically do not know that there were multiple drafts of the one that we managed to nail finally.

I do not believe that our readers don’t care about the books that they read. It is possible that they think their voice or review does not matter at all. That other people are reviewing the book, so they simply do not need to put in their two cents when Amazon or Barnes and Noble.com offer them the chance. You hope as a writer that they enjoyed the book, and they shared it with someone else at least verbally. However, I wonder if they understood, really understood, the importance of such reviews if it would make a difference.

A consumer review, much like a trade review, is valuable, especially for a new release or an author that is trying to build a platform. It not only assists with future sales by allowing other potential consumers to make a decision about the book, but it aids as a source for online outlets to assess if they should assist with promotion, as in recommending the title to their customers.

A review shows others that a real live consumer, not a friend, fellow author or colleague, enjoyed the writer’s work. It can take months if not years to write a book, but only a few minutes to write a review. Reviews are truly like an unexpected gift for your favorite or newly found author; a valuable gift, that is cherished and recognized by the author each time they receive one. Trust me; authors check their reviews and are grateful every time a reader takes the time to share a positive word about their work that they value so much.

The Greenlee Project is a captivating fictional story addressing critical real-life issues that tweens and teens face today. Bullying and cyber-bullying are part of our society that has tragic consequences for many. Amanda M. Thrasher, is a talented author, who has delivered a story that is both compelling and also thought-provoking. You can feel the emotions of each of the characters as the story unfolds along this journey. It will leave you with the desire to change the world around you and to talk to others about the increasing severity of bullying and cyber bullying. With the discussion questions included, this is an excellent choice for book clubs and middle school language arts classes. Such a critical and important story. – Lisa Keefer Robinson- National Safety Council

The Greenlee Project is a touching and chilling cautionary tale that every teen should read. Amanda M. Thrasher gives us interesting and compelling characters, a well-crafted plot, and a breathless pace. Her teens are so real that you will feel as if you know them personally. Normal adolescent insecurity and thirst for acceptance trumps friendship and consideration, leading to a nightmare. – Dr. David A. Bedford Ph.D Instructor at TCU

I understand it is possible you’ve read books that you’ve struggled to finish for one reason or another. Being both an author and publisher, my criticism of such work could be twice as harsh, but it’s not. Knowing how hard it is to write a good book, story line, plot, dialogue, I find myself trying to find something positive about the work, anything. So easy to be critical. Did I like the characters or a chapter or the initial story line? Finding something positive is encouraging. I believe writers entertain and educate the world. They write the books, screenplays, movie scripts, songs, news, magazine articles, they inform, and write the textbooks that educate our kids to list a few. If words or music are involved a writer contributed somewhere along the line and without words, look at all the entertainment, research, and education that would be lost.

Write the reviews, take the time, often only takes a few minutes. You may just find a lovely ‘thank you’ in your inbox. Receive an autographed copy of the book, or just know it was noted and appreciated by each and every author. “You write the review, and we’ll write the books. Thank you in advance!” – Copyright © 2016 Amanda M. Thrasher

Amanda M. Thrasher