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The Dawnstone Tale – Chapter Two, cont’d

by R L Davis Hays

After hurrying to the eastern side of Nothshore, he had climbed atop an accommodating tree to observe the activity around the Wayward Inn. He spied at the windows until he found one particularly promising room — a small, dull, corner room; it had only two windows, one on the western side and one on the northern. Very possibly the office.

Sitting in the large oak branches for near an hour staring at the room, speculating on how to access the barred windows, he noticed that the northern sill was considerably wider than the others. An inner wall had been constructed in the office, allowing the pincher to conceal his lockbox from his employees.

This had led Keinigan to inspect the outer wall more intimately, which yielded a few dry-rotted boards just above the first floor level. Weighing his possibilities, he waited until he saw Wendal leave through the front. With the boarding house subdued, he had climbed up, pried the boards loose quietly, and then wriggled into the small interior of the false wall.

He was able to slink through the maze of beams and braces; his eyes adjusting to the darkness. The thin illumination of blocked moonlight and sparse warmth, visible to his fae sight, left him to rely more on his other senses. Much to his discomfort.

Grime and rat droppings were thick, and the space he had crammed into was not much wider than his chest. Forced to take shallow breaths (which seemed preferable to him considering the stinking contents of this crawlspace) he wrestled through an area that was good for nothing, barring perhaps to hide dead bodies. His mind was aglow with an image of his prize; a small box stashed beneath the second story window frame.

The splintered wood of a crossbeam snagged his head by the velvet ribbon so sweetly placed by Lyla. Wincing, he reached up to free it, only to flail in the confines. A cringe of dread braced his nerves as he jerked his head, ripping several hairs from his scalp. Tears stung his eyes, but with an angry snort, he started to move again. Dust that had collected over decades kicked up around his face, tickling his nose dangerously. His entire body squeezed shut as he tried not to sneeze. A moment passed before he could recover.

The effort it took to stay quiet was costing him precious minutes and driving him slowly mad with thoughts of the filth covering him. With each sweaty second, he could feel the contamination seeping into his skin, but he dared not rush.

He had seen some ladies in the windows of The Wayward house, and any strange noise could alert them to his presence.

Twisting his head around, he saw the solid blackness of a surface less than an arm’s length from him. It ran from the floorboards to the ceiling. He guessed by the distance from his entry spot that this was the encasement below the widened window. With an awkward bend of his arm, he released his dagger. Grabbing it tight, he shifted to lie on his side, maneuvering the dagger deftly along the cracks of the board obstructing the box.

As he ran his fingers down the crevice, he found what he needed. A rat hole. The vermin that had left their trail of droppings for him to follow had also done most of his work for him. By the splintering on it, he judged that the whole partition was brittle and rotting. He grinned eagerly in the dark.

With sweat rolling down his forehead and stinging his eyes, he worked. Patiently, with his breath making puffs in the sawdust, he whittled bits of plank away with his dagger tip.

After an eternity, Keinigan had a hole large enough to push his arm in, up to the elbow. That was all he needed, he hoped. It was near midnight, and the occupants would be returning soon.

His hand touched the bottom of the lockbox. His coveted goal was near, but his mind compulsively reminded him that he was lying in vermin refuse. Fortunately, the furry residents of the nest were occupied elsewhere. He tried to focus only on his undertaking. Angling his dagger at the corner joist of the box in order to give the best pry point, he heard noises beyond the inner wall. He froze.

A person was milling about in the office.

Minutes ticked slowly in his brain as he listened intently, his muscles cramping and screaming for movement. Loose strands of hair pasted to his forehead by sweat and dirt itched him, making a panic of misery well up inside his chest. He fought to hold it in.

Footfalls came closer to his position, and he heard a scraping sound followed by a click above his hands. The image of Wendal, opening his lockbox with his suntanned hands just a mere half-mark away from a thief enclosed in his walls, popped into Keinigan’s fevered brain, and a giggle tickled him mercilessly.

There was a heavy thud on the board above his dagger tip and (for the briefest instant) Keinigan saw a splinter of dim candlelight at the corner seam.

Optimism fluttered in his soul as he realized his luck. The box was weakened already; his job just got a whole lot easier. His palms tingling, he waited for Wendal to close the wooden lid and leave the house. Hearing a faint creaking clack as the office door shut, Keinigan counted to twenty and then he positioned his dagger on the place where he had seen the flash of light.

Biting his dust covered lip to douse his giddiness, he popped the pommel of his dagger hard. The board gave a little. The nails straining to grip it in place, the wood groaned in objection. Loudly. Pausing in slight alarm, he craned his neck to listen for any noise inside the house before wedging his dagger in again.

He wiggled his tool; pushed again, and was rewarded with sudden movement, as the seam ruptured. His pulse surged. The board bent, opening under the weight of the bags nestled within. Still restrained by the opposite joint, the bottom did not crash down as he feared it might but, he was able to worm one nimble hand inside the hole. It touched the cloth of a small sack. With barely a breath, he painstakingly extricated his prize, allowing the board to relax and close.

Now, he was anxious to get the hell out of there.

The chill night air was drifting in through the loose entry fracture as he squirmed out backwards, finding his way blindly like a giant maggot with his feet thrashing in midair and dust clouding around his head. Finally, finding a foothold on the windowsill, he yanked himself free and hopped to the ground.

He crouched below the casement for a moment, certain that someone was aware of the activity. All was quiet around him. It had been a risk coming out hindquarters first; his fears had conjured images of a circle of thugs and Wendal watching him grapple out only to pin him to the wall with swords. But, there was no one.

Keinigan was scraped, cut, aching, filthy, and somehow had never been more elated. The more rational part of his brain was astonished by the depths to which he would go for money. He glanced down at the small sack in his hands, testing its weight. It felt as if there were at least fifty silver pents in coin and gems. Hysteria bubbling up from his insides, he had to quickly dash into the back alleys, heading for the city entrance before it erupted.

A heavy, spring sun was coming up over the horizon, showing its shy white face between sullen clouds as he was nearing the city of Eddermont to repay Big Lukas.

Keinigan thought to himself, “Problem solved. I’ll finally have some left over.”


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

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The Dawnstone Tale — a fantasy novel continues

By R. L. Davis Hays

CHAPTER ONE 1239403_10152563931040663_1790277959_n


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

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

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

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

“Hello! What have we here?” One said.

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

“Draek,” the fae muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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The Dawnstone Tale — a fantasy novel excerpt continued

by R. L. Davis Hays

translations cover front 96


Chapter One (cont’d)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This night, his luck failed him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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The Dawnstone Tale — continued

by R. L. Davis Hays

translations cover front 96

CHAPTER ONE (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keinigan sneered at her jab.

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

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

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

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

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

She apologized.

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

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

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

She held up her hands to illustrate her narrative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They departed without another word.


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

Character Quotes, Dellani Oakes, Sci-Fi

Character Quotes from Shakazhan by Dellani

Shakazhan front“Wilson, full subversive scan of the Flotilla. I want as much of a picture as you can give me.”

“Aye sir.”

A few moments later, the view screen on the wall slid silently open. On it were displayed the specs of the ship and a Tri-D schematic of Flotilla. There were signs of damage all over her. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for quite awhile. The doctor came up behind Ben, peering over his left shoulder.

“They had quite a battle,” the doctor mused.

“What are the two of them thinking, taking on Riley in a Mining Guild vessel? Doesn’t make sense.” Shaking his head, Ben held up a hand. “Let me rephrase that. It probably makes sense to someone, just not to me.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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

by R.L.Davis Hays

Ruth Davis Hays Book Cover Collage 1

Chapter 1 continues:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Cereal Authors, GENRES, Karen Vaughan, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized




Science fiction (often shortened to Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, spaceflight, time travel, and extraterrestrial life.—GOOGLE

“Science fiction” is difficult to define, as it includes a wide range of subgenres and themesJames Blish wrote: “Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call ‘hard’ science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them.”[3]

Isaac Asimov said: “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”[4] According to Robert A. Heinlein, “a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.

Lester del Rey wrote, “Even the devoted aficionado—or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is”, and that the reason for there not being a “full satisfactory definition” is that “there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction.”[6] Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty, saying “science fiction is what we point to when we say it”, while author Mark C. Glassy argues that the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it.–WIKIPEDIA


Science fiction elements can include:

  • Temporal settings in the future, or in alternative histories.
  • Spatial settings or scenes in outer space, on other worlds, in subterranean earth, or in parallel universes
  • Characters that include aliens, mutants, robots, enhanced humans and other predicted or imagined beings.
  • Speculative or predicted technology such as brain-computer interface, bio-engineering, super-intelligent computers, ray guns and other advanced weapons.
  • Undiscovered scientific possibilities such as teleportation, time travel, and faster-than-light travel or communication.
  • New and different political and social systems and situations, including utopian, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or post-scarcity.
  • Future history and evolution of humans on earth or on other planets.
  • Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, and telekinesis (e.g. “The Force” in Star Wars [20]).


While many beautiful entries in the science fiction universe do bend the rules about what is or isn’t possible in our physical universe (see Star Wars and the Force), much science fiction is actually based in science. This is hard science fictionHard science fiction exists inside the realm of scientific possibility. 


Soft science fiction, or soft SF, is a category of science fiction with two different definitions. It either (1) explores the “soft” sciences, and especially the social sciences (for example, anthropology, sociology, or psychology), rather than engineering or the “hard” sciences (for example, physics, astronomy, or chemistry), or (2) is not scientifically accurate.[1] Soft science fiction of either type is often more concerned with character and speculative societies, rather than speculative science or engineering.[2] It is the opposite of hard science fiction. The term first appeared in the late 1970s and is attributed to Australian literary scholar Peter Nicholls.

31 Best Soft Science Fiction Books



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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 schtick.


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


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?”


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.


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.


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?”


“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.”



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