A Brave Step

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and now I’ve really gone and done it. Really, it’s all Geek and Sundry’s fault because without them I would never have even KNOWN about Inkshares. I would have continued on my blissfully ignorant way, happily writing and not  doing anything with it. Well, I’m no longer ignorant and I’ve really gone and done it now.

You see, Geek and Sundry is running a contest that can lead to a published novel. A published novel. So, I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve never won anything in my life, but this seems pretty awesome and I’d thought I’d give it the old one two and submitted A Thing.

So, for your consideration, please take a look. Maybe make a bid if you like it. Share it if you do, spread the word. It’d be pretty amazing to see my name on the cover of a novel and I would love any like, share, purchase, all of it because it means you’re reading it.

https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-uninvited

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A Respit

mistly creek
A Peaceful Inspiration

Water had always been soothing to him. The trickling of a stream, the gentle drip drop of a soft rain, the roar of a waterfall in full stream, or the thunder of waves upon the sand of a beach, all of it soothed his soul, no matter his inner turmoil. He sat and watched the water stream over the soft dark bed of the creek, roiling around rocks, rippling and swirling, trying to capture some remnant of peace within himself. It was hard to find this time, all the light in his soul buried under violence and blood and fear.

He dipped  a hand into the water, feeling the biting chill and watched it flow off his dark skin, drip, drip, drop. If only it were deeper and he could swim in it, cleanse himself of his sins. Heaving a deep sigh he stood, groaning and stretching. He should wish for a feather mattress instead of a cold pond. He really was getting too old to be sleeping on the ground. He sighed again thinking that he needed to get back, that there were undoubtedly people looking for him. There would be questions and queries and papers to sign or read. It was so much work being the general of an army. Sometimes he wanted to just walk away and let them do it themselves, but he had a greater sense of responsibility than that. So he stayed.

Still, he was loath to leave the creek. Here all was quiet except for the purling water. It was peaceful; perhaps it was the last place on this world to be so. He had found a place of solitude amidst the chaos of an army, a place unspoiled by foraging, practice, or latrines. It was somewhat of a miracle, now that he thought on it.

“Girding your loins?” said a voice behind him.

Recognizing the voice, he turned slowly, dropping the gaudy jacket he held, freeing up his hands. “Against what, exactly?” he replied, cautiously eyeing his visitor, while drawing his sword and kicking his coat away. It wouldn’t do to trip over that in the midst of a fight.

A chuckle rumbled up through the creature’s chest. “The fight you’re preparing for right now. Why draw your sword, General? I have made no threat.”

“Your existence is a threat.” It was, too. His kind had been created by accident when a overzealous wizard had taken it upon himself to open doors that should have remained closed, locked, and sealed. By mixing the essences of elves, humans, and demons, he had created an almost unstoppable being that preyed on misery and relished suffering. The first to die, he had never had the chance to help remedy his mistake. Now, here stood that very first successful cross, the beginning of the darkening of the world.

More chuckling. “My, my. That just hurts my feelings.”

The creature’s eyes glowed, giving off a sickly yellow light in the dimness of the forest, and he wasn’t positive, but it looked like the moss around its feet was smoking. He gripped his sword tighter. This was it, this was what all the fighting was leading toward, this is why the stream had brought him no peace today. If he could kill this thing, maybe it would weaken the rest enough, just enough, so that they could kill them all. Because, unlike humans and elves, demons are all connected, a hive mind, power sharers. The more there are of them, the harder they are to kill, and to kill the King is to weaken them most. And the King just decided to pay him a visit.

“Come for a drink?” He nodded at the stream, preparing for the fight he was determined to have.

“Hardly. I wanted to meet the great General everyone screams about when I torture them. You’re really not that impressive.” It pulled a black smoking sword out of …somewhere…and gestured at him. “Come, let’s try this. I could use some fun.”

It felt good to get here and he grinned at the creature, excited and confident. He didn’t speak back, words would solve nothing, but raised his sword and prepared to meet him

The fight wasn’t epic. It wasn’t the stuff of legends. There was no fancy footwork or impressive sword work. It was brutal and violent, full of determination on both sides, both parties focused and absolutely trying to kill each other.

“I’m not even trying, human. You are wasting my time! No man can kill me, especially not with a human-made blade.”It snarled at him as sparks flew from where their swords met; whatever his dark blade was made of shot off heat and magic alike.

He grinned at the creature, even as his sword grew hot, almost to the point of burning his skin. He began to sweat, and his eyebrows were singed off by the heat given off by the sword and creature. His clothing began to smoke. This is what he’s been waiting for, to be this close to this thing. He let go with his right hand, and ignored the blades coming closer to him as he reached for the sheath hidden in his pocket.

“You are hardly the adversary I was hoping for. I think I shall make you suffer before I kill you, for my disappointment.”

The creature lowered the swords even more, apparently exerting no effort. The skin on his face began to blacken and crackle and the smell of his own burning flesh filled his nostrils. He gritted his teeth and snarled as he brought the knife in his hand upward, jamming it in the center of the King’s chest.

The yowl of surprise filled the wood and was followed by a flash of darkness. It filled the wood and he blinked, trying to see, before it suddenly disappeared. The creature before him stood, dumbfounded, eyes no longer glowing, moss no longer smoking, powerless.

“A mage forged that for me with the Elf Queen herself wielding the blacksmith hammer.” He grinned at the thing, dropped his hand from the knife, and raised his sword.

He grunted as the dark sword entered his chest, piercing his heart. He felt a flash of fury at his stupidity. Of course the blade only killed the creature’s power, not his physical strength. He should have take care to defend himself. He could still win this, he just needed to finish his swing. And so with a demon sword in his chest, the General of the World’s Army struck off the head of the King of Demons.

He died to the soothing sound of water, a smile on his face, because water had always brought him peace.

The Heist of Song

Stealing a song is a complicated matter.  One doesn’t just stroll into the heart of a person, snatch up the song and run. It requires finesse, the softest of touches, and the ability to ooze between the cracks of a person before they realize you’re there. Do not trust street hawkers promising you songs of hope and riches for they are charlatans and will only take your money. Trust me. I am of the Unseelie and I know of what I speak.

Don’t be afraid. I offer you no ill will. The Unseelie enjoy mayhem, this is true, but I have had my fill for now. Do please stop glancing around furtively. My form is human, unless looked upon closely, and you did ask for a song, did you not? Wishes carry on the wind, friend, and whisper in ears. Is your song not to your liking? Yes, I can see that it isn’t. Grand songs are so rare and yours is so very simple.

Oh, please don’t go! I meant no offense. Songs must be different or lose their allure and their magic! But it is true, a King cannot have a simple childs’ rhyme of a song, any more than a peasant can have a grand opus. Your songs define you and your heart aches for a more complicated melody.  Your kind always enjoys loud horns and fanfares, is that what you desire? Sweeping notes, glissando, and crescendos? Or is it the drums you want, thundering and sexual, demonstrating your prowess?  I know where to find what you seek, friend, if you are willing to pay the price.

Of course you must pay! Nothing is free and I am Unseelie, payment is required. It is nothing so very large, I promise. I have no need of money or gold, so fear not. What! Ah ha! You humans are always so very afraid we will steal your children. What would I do with a human child? They are so easily crushed, their lives so brief. It’d be like you keeping a butterfly for a pet. No, I do not want your child, be at ease. Here, let me refill your cup, you look anxious.

What happens when I steal the song? Distraction will not work for long, friend, we will return to the topic of payment, but I’ll answer. A soul without a song is a desert. The soul longs to hear its’ song, it’s like a rain, a balm. It allows goodness to grow, hope, love. To steal it is to take away the rain. Those feeling will still exist, but it will be so much harder to grow them. The song is forgiveness and kindness and empathy. But you know this, you were raised properly, were you not? Yes, I can see that you were.

Stealing a song, if done well, shouldn’t be noticeable or painful. It’s like a slow leak in a bucket; it simply diminishes slowly, until you look and suddenly realize it’s gone.  You need patience to do it correctly, and patience I have. Tell me, can humans hear another’s song? No? How strange that something so important is so private a thing. Yet another reason you are lucky I heard your wish. Fairies are so much more perceptive. What? MY song? Of course you cannot hear my song, human. You would be enthralled immediately, your soul basking in my music. No, much better for you if you do not hear it.

Yes, my song would be helpful in stealing a song. How clever you are.  But I have yet another talent you humans lack. I can change my song. Why do you think fairies are so gifted? Our songs are our magic. I can make lesser creatures act as if it is their will when really I am controlling them like puppets. It doesn’t work on everyone, only the weak-willed, so fear not. You’re safe.

Now, payment. You will not escape that, friend. It is not an easy thing to steal a song. To commit such a heist requires time and commitment and my time is precious. You need not worry, I have already taken it, and you don’t miss it do you?  See all the things precious to you are still there. Yes, even your wedding ring. Your husband chose it well; I’ll let you keep it.

Yes, a song heist is not easy, but if done well, is almost un-noticable. Afterall, you didn’t feel anything as I syphoned yours away, did you? Ha ha! Yes, this was such fun for me. Honestly, why are you so surprised? How can you think you are worhty of a new song? You put your children on the table for payment! Oh, do stop making so much noise. People are starting to stare. You didn’t even like your song! You wanted a new one so badly you were  asking me to steal one for you! Well, now I’ve rid you of that tedious melody. You should be grateful, not whining at me. Imagine, a life without guilt or conscience. You can finally aspire to be the person you want to be!

This is getting tiresome and I’m rapidly losing my patience. I had to use up so much of it getting you to drop your defenses. Put it back? Why on Earth would I do that? It’s worth so much and someone somewhere will give me whatever I ask for it. Of course it’s simple, human, but think of those who are born without one! Even trolls long for music in their lives. Yes, it will do just fine. Good night, now. It’s almost morning and your husband probably misses you. Unseelie as I am, I prefer the shadows, so I will steal away now, to my own bower. Good night!

Putting a foot (or two) in your mouth

No big plot points revealed, but here is a sample of my current writing.  No, I won’t tell you what’s weird. The point of this is the meeting of two people and dialogue. Here’s hoping I did it right.

“Well, that IS weird,” commented Tonyn. “We need to worry about getting this horse shod and getting out of here though. The Duke will recognize Aella for sure, he and the Duchess used to be friends with the King and Queen.”

“Come on, the smithy is over here,” Ash said, leading them toward a side of the bailey. Sure enough, Aella heard the ringing of the hammer on the anvil and could see the furnace from here.

It was much larger than the one Ash had kept in Eban. Both her and her father looked around carefully, noting differences and similarities. Aella breathed in deep, enjoying the smells of hot metal and ash, feeling like she was coming home.  

There were at least three smiths working and several apprentices running errands or getting a lesson from a master. It was much busier than the quiet smith of her youth, but all the sights and smells were the same. She was first to arrive, mostly because she was short and wanted to get a look before the taller folk crowded in front of her. She waited for one of the workers to greet her. And waited. And waited. It was only as Ash and Tonyn walked up beside her that someone finally looked up.  

“I’ll be right with you,” he apologized to Ash, gesturing to the papers on his desk and the man in front of him. Aella took a deep breath, annoyed at being ignored, only to let it out in a gasp.

“STOP!” she cried and reached out to grab the customer’s hand just before it grasped a burning hot tong. “Goddamnit, you idiot!” she scolded. “Don’t EVER touch anything in a smithy unless you KNOW it’s cool.”

The man was staring at her in amazement. “It IS cool? It’s not red or smoking.”

Aella gave him a withering glance and picked up a piece of straw from the floor, carefully swept away from the forges. She dangled the straw over the tongs and to the man’s amazement, it began to smoke and then caught fire. She held it up and staring the man in the eyes, blew it out. “Oh, really?” she said dryly.

“Excuse me, sir,” Ash said behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “She didn’t realize who you are; she meant to disrespect.

Huh? Aella looked back at him, startled to see him keeping his eyes down. She’d never seen him be subservient before.

“Oh it’s alright,” came a hasty response. “No harm done.”

She shot the man another glance. No harm done?! She saved him from a serious injury. Harm PREVENTED. Ash squeezed her shoulder, feeling her muscles tense in anger, and whispered, “Look at his clothes. Use your eyes, Aella!”

She took a steadying breath and looked. He was young, but older than her by quite a few years. His clothes were brown but of high quality, very finely woven. There was a coat of arms emblazoned on one shoulder, and he wore leather vambraces, but no other armor, and there was a VERY fine sword hanging from his hip. He stood as if he knew how to use it. This was no man-at-arms as she had thought originally. This was someone with much more money, perhaps a son of the house. Shit.

He laughed and she realized she had said the last word out loud. “I have never heard a woman use language like that. I’m Riain of House Allea.” He extended his hand, which she stared at as if it were a snake.

“Shake the man’s damn hand,” Ash growled at her. She jumped and reached out. His hand was warm and his shake of greeting firm.

“Sir, my apologies,” she said, embarrassed. “I was raised by a blacksmith and not used to nobility.”

“So you use language like the with normal people, but not nobility?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t want to offend someone of delicate sensibilities.” The words popped out of her mouth before she could stop herself and she stared at him in chagrin.

He surprised her by laughing. “Damn, you’re the most honest person I’ve ever met. Do you always just say what you’re thinking?”

“No, sir, I don’t. I have no idea what’s wrong with me.”

“Yes, she does,” Ash corrected her. “She’s just more aware of it now. Aella, do shut up.”

She shot her father a grin and closed her mouth, standing with her hands clasped in front of her primly. Riain’s eyes danced with amusement. Very nice eyes, she noticed and then wondered where that thought came from.

“Sir? Here’s the girdle you wanted for your lady mother,” an apprentice interjected and handed Riain a belt made of gold and jewels that would have bought Ash’s smithy six times over. “My Master asks that you let him know if she likes it.”

“Of course, thank you. I’ll go have it wrapped. Will you be in the hall for the festivities?”

It took a minute for Aella to realize he was talking to her. “What? Festivities?”

“Goddess above, Aella,” muttered Ash behind her.

Riain repeated his question, clarifying, “It’s my mother’s birthday feast tonight. All are welcome to dine in the hall.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know. We plan to be on our way after my horse is re-shod.” Ash poked her back. “Oh! Um, thank you, sir.”

Riain smiled and nodded, then turned and left after paying the apprentice. For a space, no one said anything and an heavy silence hung over the group. It was broken by Tonyn swearing loudly.

“Aella, you pick NOW to practice flirting?!”

What?” Aella gasped. “I did no such thing!”

“Well, whatever you didn’t do, you grabbed that man’s attention right quick. The one person we didn’t want noticing us, too. And he invited you to his mother’s birthday feast. It was the best flirting I’ve ever seen someone not do.”

Character Exercise

Going to try character development NOT through exposition. I’m going to try and describe a character’s appearance and temperament through action and dialogue. Here we go.

 

WHACK! The sound her toe made as it hit the corner of the table sounded like a carrot snapping and the small cracking echoed through her toe and leg. Her whole body clenched, preparing for the pain even before she felt it.

“Goddess’s tits and arse!” she swore, hopping up and down clutching her foot, only to lose her balance and have to set down said foot, putting pressure on the offending appendage. “Fuck shit and damn!” she bellowed, tears popping into her eyes as she lifted her toes up and walked on her heel to the small settee, practically falling on it.

She lifted her foot, and glared at her toe.  “You are NOT broken!” she told it sternly, too angry to embarrassed about speaking out loud to an empty room or addressing a toe. She tentatively touched her pinky toe and moved it. Slightly. Her breath hissed in as pain lanced through her. Yep. It was definitely broken.

“Blast it all,” she muttered. It had to be the day her father had gone to the next town over for a delivery. Why they kept the bandages on the shelf in the entry closet was a mystery to her and a problem she was going to resolve as soon as she got the damn things down.  She hobbled over to the small closet and pushed aside the curtain covering it and then stood staring up at the shelf.  Uninjured, she could just reach the bandages if she stood on her tiptoes, but that was completely out of the question at the moment. So, she glanced around and limped over to the dining table, grabbed one of the straight-backed chairs, lifted, and began to walk back to the closet. It took two steps to convince her that it was going to be harder than she expected.

She was so short that the top rung of the chair back came to her neck when flat on the ground. Lifting the thing only gave the legs an inch or so clearance and she had to shuffle her feet to move forward. With a broken toe, that proved to be very painful. She stared at the chair, a frown on her face, eyed the distance to the closet, and swung her green eyes back to the chair. Suddenly, her face brightened.

“Got you now, you blasted chair!” she crowed. Grasping the chair, she lifted it up onto one leg and twirled it so that it landed back facing her side, seat the wall, and she put her arm over the top. Grasping the lower rung on the ladder back chair, she pulled the chair to her side and, using it as a crutch, lifted and walked, lifted and walked, back to the closet.

Getting up on the chair was easy, grabbing the bandages was easy, but climbing down from her perch took gritted teeth, balance, and determination. Still, she sat on the settee, bandages in hand, panting from pain, but victorious.  She lifted her injured foot onto the opposite knee and leaned forward to start wrapping the broken toe to the whole ones. Her black hair kept falling into her face and getting in the way of her hands, causing her to toss her head and puff air out of her mouth, but she was determined to wrap her blasted foot.

Finally, her foot was wrapped and she allowed herself a moment of sitting still before she rose and rummaged in the closet for her summer sandals. She strapped one on her injured foot and then put her boot on the other foot. She stared at her mix-matched feet and grinned. There. Now she can get some work done.

When her father returned home that afternoon, he found the garden weeded and hoed, ready for winter crops, the animals fed and watered, and the rugs strung on the line ready to be beaten free of dust. Inside, Aella was standing at the stove, stirring something, humming.

“How did it go today?”

“Father!” She turned and grinned at him, her green eyes brightening. “Welcome back.” She frowned slightly. “Take off those dusty boots and stamp off some of that road dust. I just dusted in here AND swept. And wash up! It’s only toasted sandwiches for dinner, but you don’t want grit on your bread.”

He laughed. “You’ve been busy!” he called back as he stepped outside to follow directions.

“Yes, well, I wanted to get as much done before it starts getting dark at four in the afternoon. Come on, you must be hungry.”

He smiled at her as he walked in his socks into the kitchen to grab a sandwich and a cup of water. It was his turn to frown as he saw her limp toward the dinning room table.

“What happened to your foot?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, I banged it on the table this morning. I’m pretty sure I broke my pinky toe.”

He stared at Aella, speechless for a moment, before taking a deep breath. He sometimes loved having such an independent daughter, but other times patience was a necessary commodity. “Aella..” he started, only to be interrupted.

“Don’t worry, Father, I’ll get the rugs done tomorrow!” Aella said brightly, biting into her sandwich.

He groaned and dropped his head into his hands.

Fish

 

It had been a normal day for Mary. Her alarm clock had gone off at 6:30AM as usual. Her morning routine had taken thirty minutes as usual. She had spent ten more minutes having her cup of morning coffee with no milk and two sugars, as usual. There had been no indication that this day would not be usual in any way.

Mary worked in an advertising firm in the city doing nothing particularly exciting or requiring any special talent. Her car was a small foreign model sedan, the same as thousands of other people. The one special thing she had that separated her form her friends and coworkers was her tiny house outside the city.  She had saved for years, suffered through tiny apartments, odd roommates, and eating inexpensive frozen meals to save for it. The house wasn’t large, but it was tidy, neat, and hers. After the bustle and insanity of the city, this house became her sanctuary. Everything was done in a certain way and she never had to deviate from her routines and habits.

Now, this morning, after it’s promising beginning, would become the morning that changed her life forever. It started when she stepped out the door. There, right on her brown mat with the bold black letters spelling “Welcome,” was a fish tail. Mary frowned, confused. She had no pets and from what she knew of her neighbors, no one would have done this. But, it was only a fish tail, so she got a paper towel, picked it up and deposited it neatly in the garbage bin in the garage (no need to stink up the house, after all). Mary then promptly forgot about it.

The drive to the city began as normal. There were lights, cars, loud music, and stops and starts. She tuned her radio to classical and did her best to ignore the chaos. Unfortunately, there was more chaos than usual this particular morning. A traffic accident on the main freeway had backed up traffic for miles. Annoyed, Mary considered waiting it out, but knew that she had an appointment not long after she usually arrived at work. Deciding that the appointment was important enough, Mary took the next exit in order to arrive on time. As she took a left, she saw a fish head on the side of the road. Well, she thought, at least it’s not on my front porch.

As she drove down the surface street, along with other people trying to avoid the traffic, she noticed the sky, which had been bright and promising earlier, was rapidly becoming dark. The closer she got to the city, the darker it got, until it turned a gut clenching odd green color. Mary had never seen such a sky and sent a fervent hope out that she would find shelter before the storm broke.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Not only was she still driving, the storm that broke was not your normal storm. Her first hint at its abnormality was when the fish landed on her windshield. It was a fairly large fish, with splendid silvery scales, and it hit with a sick smack, promptly spilled its guts, and Mary found herself unable to see out of her windshield. Now, no one really knows how to react when a fish hits their windshield, but Mary cried out in surprise and then applied her brakes, hit her emergency lights, and found a place to pull over.

Stepping out of her car, she found herself on the main drag of a small town. She was parked in front of an auto parts store (what a coincidence, she thought), and next to a bar called “The Usual.” She turned to look at her car and sighed. What a mess. Scales, blood, and other fish parts decorated the windshield; this simply wouldn’t do.

Mary turned to the auto-parts store to find some cleaning supplies and found someone had come out to see her.

“Good morning!” he greeted her brightly. He was tall, good looking (she supposed), and wore blue jeans and a white t-shirt. “I saw your emergency lights and though I’d come out. What seems to be – Goddamn, is that a fish?”

Mary cringed at the profanity, but nodded. “Um, yes. If you could just get some glass cleaner and a rag, I’ll get it cleaned up and be out of your hair.” Her every move and her very demeanor screamed a desire to be left alone.

“Well, I’ll be. How the hell did a fish end up on your car?” He stepped closer, peering at it.

She stepped back before answering. “Oh, well, it just fell on it.”

“No! From where?”

“Er, the sky, I imagine.” Really, she just wanted him to leave her be and where else would it fall from?!

“I’ll be damned. Never seen anything like it.” At this point he turned and smiled at her. “Must’ve scared you when it hit.”

“It certainly startled me, yes,” she replied, looking at him as if he were crazy. “Please, I’m in a bit of a hurry-”

“Now, I don’t have much that will take off fish. A new windshield I have, but you need a scraper and glass cleaner. Easy fix really.”

Was this man an idiot? Hadn’t she just said that? “Yes,” she said simply, not wanting to prolong a conversation with him by arguing.

“I’m Jack,” he said, and stuck out a grease and oil stained hand at her. Gingerly, she reached out to shake it. Ignoring her squeamishness, he grabbed her hand firmly, pumping it several times. “Let’s go find you those things and get this windshield clean.”

She followed him into the bar next door, grimacing at her oily hand. She had run out of travel tissues yesterday, so she had to deal with it for now. As Jack approached  the door, he pulled the handle, which refused to move. “Must be too early,” he muttered.

“It’s only 7:30,” she replied.

“Well, of course it is. Come on,” And then, just then, the storm broke. Rain fell so heavily she felt as if a bucket were being poured over her ehad. She couldn’t see or breath and rapidly began to panic.

“Hey now! This way, ma’am.” Jack’s greasy hand grabbed her white crisp, irioned, white shirt and pulled. She practically fell into the shelter of an awning, careening into him. “All right, then?” he asked, peering at her.

“Yes, thank you.” She wasn’t really.  Her hair was soaking and ruined, her shirt was transparent, her make-up running, and she was late.

“I don’t think this will let up soon. Why don’t you come in and have breakfast?”

Turning, Mary saw the awning they stood under belonged to a diner. “Oh, no, thank you. The rain probably got rid of the fish now. You have been very helpful, but I really need to go.” And she squared her shoulders, stepped out into the rain, and was promptly hit on the head with a fish. It bounced off, hit her shoulder, and then fell on her right foot. “Augh!” she cried in disgust, jumping back under the awning.

Jack was laughing. Loudly. “That-your face! Ha ha!” He bent over clutching his stomach. Mary felt something she had never felt before: pure rage.” She jumped at him, hitting him everywhere. Still laughing, Jack simply caught her hands. Once he stilled, he looked at her flashing eyes, running mascara and all, her flushed cheeks, and her heaving chest. “It’s nice to finally really meet you.” he said, grinning.

Taken aback, Mary gaped at him.

“Now, how about breakfast?” He had blue eyes, she saw.

“Oh, I, um, I suppose.” she stammered. And that day began something. It may or may not turn into a beautiful romance, but it wasn’t the usual. Mary never had the usual ever again and it was all thanks to that fish that fell from the sky and hit her windshield.

The beginning

I’m slowly working on my novel, and I can’t really show much of it to you, but here’s something that may or may not begin the story. I might just leave it out and start at Chapter 1 and not use this as a prologue. It did help me get a starting place though, a little bit of background.  I hope you like it.

Prologue (maybe):

“You have to take her.  NOW!”

He looked down at the babe in his arms, well swaddled against a trip out into the cold night air, green eyes regarding him calmly.  “Your majesty,” he protested. “My oath is to you.  I can’t leave you.”

“Your oath is to the royal family!”  The Queen’s green eyes flashed.  “And I swear right here and now, if you don’t take her, I will kill you myself.”  And with that startling statement, she produced a knife, which she held in a very competent manner.

He eyed that knife, knowing she was serious, but reluctant to  leave her.  “This wasn’t part of the plan, your majesty.  Someone else was supposed to take her.  You take her and leave me.”

“They’re dead.  Everyone is dead!” The queen snarled at him.  “You are it.  My life has enough value to buy hers for a few more moments.  You they would kill and then pursue us immediately. Now, obey me.  Go!”

He went, holding the baby closely, pretending he didn’t hear the stifled sob behind him as he opened the secret door.  His last look of his queen was of a mother, mourning a life with her daughter she would never have, her green eyes glinting behind tears.

They had known Cronan would make his move soon.  They had practiced several escape scenarios, everyone had known their role perfectly.  Damn the man. By the time his treachery was known, he had bought off anyone who had the power to remove him; guards, members of the council, even the queen’s and king’s attendants.  He apparently had more money than the Gods themselves.  Who would have thought after all that practicing and all that planning that everything would have gone so completely to shit?  Who would have thought the only survivor would be a baby?  Only survivor, he told himself, if he made his escape.

He moved quickly, running during straight aways, no light needed.  He had followed this route so many times his feet knew where to fall.  The ground had just changed from smooth to rough, signalling he had left the palace behind and was now somewhere beneath the palace grounds, when he felt a draft.  They had opened the secret door.  He ran full time now, safe in the advantage of home territory.

The cold night air slapped his face and he blinked.  Even the dim light of the night was bright after the pitch black of the tunnel.  He looked around as he walked, noting with a pleasant surprise that there was a nice thick fog.  He sent a thankful prayer skyward as he loaded himself and his parcel in the boat hidden along the lake shore.  He rowed, hard, fast, and with desperation.  He had to get far enough away fast enough or everything would be for naught.

It was impossible to see anything, but he kept the rowing, hoping he was rowing away from the palace and not toward.  He could hear shouts as men burst from the tunnel.

“This way!”

“Footprints!  He’s on the lake!”

“I can’t bloody see anything.  Where is he?  Find a boat!”

All he could do was row, so that’s what he did.  His shoulders burned, but he kept rowing.  After what seemed like an eternity, he realized he was in a current.  Hope bubbled in his chest.  He had found the river.  With a current behind him he would move faster.  He looked at the baby and found her fast asleep, lulled by the rocking of the boat.  He shook his head at his luck that she hadn’t made a sound.  

He stayed on the river until it was too rough to continue.  He then found a farm which had been provided a horse for this very purpose weeks ago, and rode.  He traveled as a widower with his daughter, fleeing the memories of his wife.  He used funds provided him to buy a change of clothes for himself and the baby, so they looked like simple people instead of a soldier and a very rich looking infant.  He told anyone he met that he was going in the opposite direction of his actual path and he just kept moving.  Cities became towns, towns became villages.  Soon they reached a small town perched in the mountains, so far removed from everywhere that he doubted they saw many visitors.

The baby was tied to him, sling fashion, and she cooed and waved as he pulled up in front of the largest building he could find.

“Yes,” he said. “I think we’re home too.”

Home turned out to be Eban, according to the local magistrate.  He took pity on him after he told him a story about a wife, dead in childbirth, and him too sad to bear the memories of his home and life without her.

“Well of course you must stay.  Poor lass,” he murmured at the baby.  “No mother.  Come, it just so happens we have a vacant house you can live in.  What’s your profession?”

That stymied him a bit.  He was a professional killer, but he couldn’t stay that, for obvious reasons.  His father had been a blacksmith though, and he had apprenticed with him before deciding he’d rather wield a sword than a hammer.  Perhaps he could handle horseshoes and wagon tongues, which is probably all that this place would require of him. “Blacksmith.”

“Oh, really?  What a stroke of luck!”  The magistrate grinned at him.  “Ours just died of the ague, poor man, and his wife took off with a local farmer.  Quite the scandal, let me tell you!”  He shook his head at the whole mess, then gestured to the house they had stopped at.  “It’s his house you’ll be taking and it’s right next to the forge.”

The magistrate opened the door, revealing a fully furnished, if dusty, interior of a modest house.  “She left with nothing, daft woman.  Just some clothes and food. You should find everything you need here, but if you find yourself lacking, let me know.  I’m Barnaby Law.”

He should Barnaby’s hand.  “Pleasure.  I’m Ash.  Ash Smith.  And this,” he gestured to the baby, “is Aella.”  Their true names would be buried forever, as were the ashes of her family and his queen.

They settled in to life in Eban.  Ash re-learned smithing as quickly as possible. Aella was raised amid the din of the hammer on the anvil, breathing the smells of hot metal, fire and steam.  She grew strong and quick, beginning to aid Ash with what she could.  Fetching and carrying to begin with, then sweeping.  On breaks he would read to her from what books he could find and taught her the letters, her numbers, and shapes.  The queen would want her educated and for the first time he thanked his parents for teaching him what he had always thought pretty useless in his life.

As she got older, he taught her other things.  How to hold a knife and how to draw it quickly, both from a sheath on her waist and a hidden one on her thigh.  He taught her how to use a sling to bring down rabbits and even quail.  “So you will never be without a weapon,” he told her when she asked why she had to learn.  “All you need is a piece of cloth or leather and a rock.”  He didn’t tell her why she should need a weapon at all.

The bow was next and then how to use a knife for more than cutting vegetables.  She could hunt and shoot as well as him by 10, and often went hunting while he worked, skinning and carrying the animals back on her own by age 12.  At sixteen she was running the business side of the smith, handling the ordering, deliveries, and who owed what and what they ordered.  She couldn’t wield a hammer, the handles of which were almost as tall as she, but she would tend the fires, file finished pieces, or hold a piece as he worked.

She looked just like her mother.  She had the same straight black hair, the same crystaline green eyes.  She never grew past five feet or so, remaining petite if curvy.  The boys of the village noticed the curves, but they also noticed her knife, and Ash’s stern countenance.  He taught her as well as he could about boys and life, trying to instill a good moral compass, but he always felt he did a poor job.  She called him father.

Never one to be surrounded by friends, she had one or two close friends that she spent her free time with.  It was their influence that marked a change from tunics and hose to skirts.  Her hair went from simple ponytails to elaborate styles and braids.  All in all, she had a happy childhood, if atypical, but all oddities in her knowledge and manners were blamed on her being motherless.  

He couldn’t believe how much he had grown to love her and regarded her as a daughter.  What started as a duty had quickly become a labor of love.  Soon, he knew, he would have to explain why she couldn’t marry, how he wasn’t really her father.  But not yet.  Let her be happy for a while yet.

Fate was not so kind.