Beyond the Parchment

Beyond the Parchment: Part 14

Beyond the Parchment: Part 14

Welcome to the final installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment, completed a little over a year since I posted part one. I hope you’ve enjoyed your stay, dropped plotlines, whatever typoes have found their way in, and all. It’s what happens when I write something for a year and can’t go back to change what I’ve written. 😉

If you’ve not read any of the story thus far, a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually began to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world. General maham is the result. Check out the rest of the story here!

Continue reading →

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, Reader's Corner, 5 comments
Beyond the Parchment: Part 13

Beyond the Parchment: Part 13

Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment. Only one more left!

Thus far, dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually began to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world. General maham is the result. Check out the rest of the story here!

Continue reading →

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, 9 comments
Beyond the Parchment: Part 12

Beyond the Parchment: Part 12

Welcome to the next (and third from last) installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment. Because I finally outlined the end and I only have two more parts to write!

Thus far, dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually began to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world. General maham is the result. Check out the rest of the story here!

Continue reading →

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, 2 comments
Beyond the Parchment: Part 11

Beyond the Parchment: Part 11

Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can check out links for the first ten sections here if you haven’t read them yet. *smirks* Have fun.

Continue reading →

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, 1 comment
Beyond the Parchment: Part 10

Beyond the Parchment: Part 10

Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Continue reading →

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, 2 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 9

Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second: in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?: May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same: Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again: May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Part 5: Well, that complicates things:: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.

Part 6: Why can’t this just be a dream: May Ann is a Varizan’s prisoner in this world. She (and he) realize that she is now in both worlds, though only awake in one. Varizan cryptically questions her, wanting to use her power as a wordsmith, then knocks her out.

Part 7: Not my prefered mode of travel: May Ann meets Thrayton, Varizan’s second-in-command and discovers that, to get a cure for Daraton, she must fall asleep and confront Varizan. But when she wakes up in our world, she discovers Jerin has escaped.

Part 8: Terrors of the Modern Word: Varizan sends May Ann after Jerin, promising a cure for Daraton if she’ll bring him back. She tracks him to a local Dollar General, confronts him as he examines a batman hoodie, then her brother appears, wondering what is going on. Except she fall asleep before she can explain the situation…

Truth and War

The wordsmith just had to fall asleep and leave him with the mildly troublesome task of convincing some stranger of the truth, did she? Jerin crossed his arms with a scowl.

“May? May Ann?” Her brother was on his knees, cradling her shoulders with one arm and pressing the back of his hand against her cheek and forehead.

Jerin snorted. “You’re not going to wake her. Not yet.”

“What…?” The young man glared up at him. “Who…? It doesn’t even matter. Why haven’t you called someone yet?”

“Called someone?”

“The hospital, I don’t know. She needs help!”

“Oh, that.” Of course he’d think of healers. Jerin’s jaw tightened. “She’ll be fine. She’s woken the last few times.”

“Last few…? How many…?” The brother stared at him.

Jerin grimaced. This was ridiculous. They’d be here until dawn. “We need to go. Now.” He stooped. “Here, I’ll take—”

The brother’s hand flashed and his knuckles slammed against the side of Jerin’s face. “Keep your hands off!”

Of all the ungrateful… Jerin’s breath hissed through his teeth and he slowly turned toward the younger man. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

“Do I look like I care? What have you done to my sister?”

He was still worried about her? Right… Jerin rubbed his cheek. His free hand clenched about the hilt of his last dagger. Daraton… How soon did Varizan expect May Ann to drag him back? It had only been a night, but a night was enough. Varizan’s poison… The brother was still glaring at him. It wasn’t that hard to understand, was it? He exhaled a long sigh. “There is a portal between our world and hers. There is a rogue ambassador of some sort in your house. Poisoned daggers and all. I suggest you stay away. Your sister, however, I need to take back with me. Once Varizan tells us the cure—”

“Varizan?” the brother sputtered. “If this is about her writing…”

“This is about my brother!”

He shook his head. “My sister is still laying here, asleep, for no reason, and if you for one minute think I am even going to—”

“Is everything fine here?” A new voice asked.

Jerin’s gaze jerked to a figure at the end of the aisle. She pressed her hands against a red apron and her gaze darted between him, the other one, and the Wordsmith. “What—”

“We’re fine,” Jerin growled.

Her lips compressed and she raised her eyebrows, just like that one aunt he stayed with for half a day before borrowing a horse and tearing off across the plains. His hand curled the dagger and he flipped it between his fingers. “We are fine, thank you very much.”

She opened her mouth, then spun away. The brother stared after her. “Did you just…” The words froze on his tongue as he turned back.

Jerin crouched before him, his dagger resting an inch from the young man’s neck. Jerin inclined his head. “How quick are communications in this world?”

The brother blinked. “You are seriously threatening me with a dagger?”

“Varizan took my sword. How soon will that guardian have guards here?”

“Guardian…” his brow furrowed.

He was as hopeless as the rest. One would think the brother of a Wordsmith would get some of the general terms. Jerin gritted his teeth. “Get the Wordsmith and get up. We need to get out of here.”

The brother stumbled to his feet, heaving the girl in his arms. At least he understood that reference. For a long moment, he met the brother’s eyes. They stared back, probing and sifting beneath the furrowed brows. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Put that dagger away and grab something to make you less conspicuous, would you?” He spun on his heel, then glanced over his shoulder. “Well, come on!”

Of all the spear shattering… He should have drawn the dagger to start with. Jerin swept several items from the shelves and strode after the brother. He flipped one coin to the red-aproned guardian as they passed. It was more than anything is this place was worth but he could come back for change later. She stared after them, something flat and black pressed against her ear. On the other hand, maybe he’d not come back. She’d the eyes of a dragon, that one.

He blinked. They were back at the unwalled courtyard surrounding the building. Gray sliced the night on the eastern horizon.

The brother yanked open the door of a tiny humped transport the color of lurid flames. Jerin raised one eyebrow, then yanked off his cloak and unbuckled the worthless sword’s belt. Where was it…? He held up the black shirt—coat. Whatever it was. Too short for a tunic, but it had a hood. And it was black except for the winged design on the front. If it was what people in this realm wore… He slid it over his head.

Someone made a strangled sound and he found the brother staring at him.

“What?”

“I… nothing. I think I prefer the cloak.”

Jerin scowled and tugged up the hood. “You were the one who—”

“You’re fine.” The brother rounded the vehicle and yanked open a door. “Get in.”

“If you think for a minute I’m—”

“You need May Ann, don’t you?” The brother raised an eyebrow. “Well, you aren’t getting her. At least not without a much more detailed explanation. So you can go face your poisoned daggers or you can come with me.”

Jerin gripped his dagger. “My brother is dying.”

“And my sister is split between this realm and another!”

Jerin blinked once. “You believe me.”

The man grimaced then sighed. “It just so happens that I work with a group who studies portals. Or we would, if we could ever get to them fast enough. We tracked a disturbance late last night and…” he bit his lip and glanced toward the vehicle where May Ann lay asleep. “Anyway,” he held out one hand. “The name is Leinad, if you missed it earlier.”

“Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second.” Jerin watched the man warily as he clasped his arm.

Leinad nodded but didn’t loosen his grip. “Now get in the car. We have major work to do.”

 

I squeeze my eyes tight, my head in my hands. How many hours until dawn back home? No, it’s probably dawn already. Then I’ve two hours to bring Jerin to Varizan, assuming he’s inclined to go. And assuming he and Leinad haven’t killed each other…

“You all right?” Adella sinks down on the stone step beside me and hands me a warm cup. Tea, probably. What is it with these people and their tea?

I stare in the distance. Too much… it’s too much, and I’ve only been up for half an hour. First Adella and Thrayton shaking me awake, then a confusion of flames and clashing steel. Varizan has an army; who would have imagined that? Well, enough of an army. Even Thrayton couldn’t save the manor house. It is still blazing hotter by the minute. I lean against the stable door. Soldiers mill on all sides, but Thrayton has managed to convince them Varizan is on some secret mission and will be back any minute instead of being held captive lord or another. Varizan a captive… I snort out a laugh, then glance at Adella. She is staring vacantly at the flaming mansion.

I touch her army. “Hey.”

She flinches. “It’s going to be too late, isn’t it? Even if you get Jerinthreo… If Varizan gives you the cure… They’re still going to kill him, aren’t they?”

I bite my lip. Who knows what Varizan is after? “Only if they find him.”

She presses her fist to her lips. “I need to get back. I need… but they’ll follow me if I leave. They’ll find him and…”

“Shhh.” I reach out tentatively and clasp her hand. “Enough time once we have the cure. Thrayton will help. Maybe.” I glance sideways at the man standing several paces away, one hand on the hilt of his sword, the other flipping Varizan’s dagger.

Adella exhales softly. “We need that cure. Soon.”

I nod and rub my eyes. “Do you have any more of that dreamflower… whatever it is? I need to get back to sleep.”

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, fantasy, Reader's Corner, 7 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 8

Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second: in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?: May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same: Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again: May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Part 5: Well, that complicates things:: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.

Part 6: Why can’t this just be a dream: May Ann is a Varizan’s prisoner in this world. She (and he) realize that she is now in both worlds, though only awake in one. Varizan cryptically questions her, wanting to use her power as a wordsmith, then knocks her out.

Part 7: Not my prefered mode of travel: May Ann meets Thrayton, Varizan’s second-in-command and discovers that, to get a cure for Daraton, she must fall asleep and confront Varizan. But when she wakes up in our world, she discovers Jerin has escaped.

Terrors of the Modern World

Jerinthreo… succeeded in rescuing himself. The words replay themselves through my mind twice before I make sense of them, then I jolt upright. “Jerin escaped!”

Varizan leans one elbow against the doorframe. “It would appear so.”

I blink at him. “And you expect me to find him?”

He shrugs. “Your world is a big enough place. It has its advantages, but I’m not sending my men out when you’ll go and be more successful bring him back.”

I choke out a laugh as I scramble to my feet. Why haven’t they tied— Oh. I catch the cut rope as it slips from my wrist, then glance toward the corner where Jerin had been held. “I’m not about—”

“You want us to stay here?” Varizan peers at me.

I snap my mouth shut.

He shakes his head. “An argument will waste more time than we have. Think, now. You’ve walking in my world for a few hours. I suppose you’ve learned things there, including the fact that no one really has any clue how to open the portal from that end.”

I scowl. “Let me guess, Jerin is the only one on this end who can do it?”

“I’d not say that.” He crosses his arms. “I’ve a feeling Jerin’s success was more accident than otherwise. But he may have a few clues.”

“Hmmm.” I brushed a strand of hair from my face. “I’ve learned other things there. Such as the fact that Daraton is dying from poison and you’re the only one who knows the cure.”

“Ah, you’ve spoken with Trayton, then? Though I don’t think…” Varizan traces the daggers at his belt, then pauses. “Never mind, that one was poisoned. More’s the pity. Although the cure is quite close by for any over there who know how to use it.”

I narrow my eyes. “I suppose you want a price before you tell me what it is?”

“I suppose you know what my price will be.”

I press my lips tight, then exhale forcefully. “Fine.” I can’t very well let Jerin wander into town, whatever the situation here. Freedom for myself and an ally… Who knows what good we can do before we end up back in Varizan’s clutches? “Which way did he go?”

Varizan retreats a step, then and pivots on his heel in my room. I try not to look at the strewn books or tattered maps. A number of them are spread over a desk, black markings across their surfaces.

“That way, if the tracks lead right.” Varizan points out the wind. “Toward the lights.”

“Wonderful.” I press back against the desk, staring out into the faint glow reflected off low hanging clouds. He would head toward the one place I’d have him avoid. Not that there’d be much chance of finding him if he took to the woods, I supposed.

My fingers brush the edges of the maps and I roll those I can feel into a tight scroll. “I’ve one condition. You’re not to follow me.”

Varizan’s eyebrows rise. “You think I have any intention of following you? That’s why we’re sending you out in the first place. If Daraton dies in Braceaon, you’ll have enough trouble there that you’ll be begging for my help.”

I suppress a smirk. That is doubtful. I shove myself upright and tuck the maps up my sleeve. Where… there it is. I sweep up a black cloak, folded on my bookshelf. My fingers close around a dagger hidden in its thick layers and I tuck the bundle against my chest. “Later then.” I spin away.

“You’ve until two hours after dawn.” Varizan calls after me. “Make sure you’re back.”

“Like I plan on you leave you in my house any longer than necessary,” I mutter.

Several of Varizan’s men glance up as I pass through the kitchen. One of them is carving a loaf of bread. Another has an apple at the end of his dagger while a third is preparing to shovel a spoonful of ground coffee into his mouth.

I pause. “You are going to clean this all up, are you not?”

Three pairs of dark eyes turn in my direction.

I cross my arms. “Portals and poison I understand, but you really don’t have to leave my house a disaster. You understand that, right? I’m tracking down your prisoner. The least you could it is clean up some of this mess.”

The soldiers glance uncertainly over their shoulders and I spin away before they can reply.

In the direction of the light… I sweep up a long stick lying in the yard—one of my brother’s swords or staffs, no doubt. Right. They’re coming home tomorrow. No, tonight. It’s today by now, probably. Dawn is only a few hours off. Less, maybe. Why hadn’t I thought to check a clock before leaving?

I draw a deep breath and hurry past the empty driveway. I’ll be fine without a vehicle, I’d said. It will be wonderful and relaxing home alone, I said. I shook my head at myself. Though if the portal opened and no one was here to take charge of things…

Like you are really taking charge, my dear?

Oh, shut up.

As soon as the shadows of a small wood cloak me from the house, I pause and pull the rolled papers from my sleeve. Folding them, I stuff them into a pocket, then fasten the dagger at my waist and the cloak about my shoulders. Shifting my grip on my staff, I take a deep breath and plunge forward.

Perhaps it is just as well I don’t have a car. The headlines would probably send Jerin deeper into shadows. That, or he’d attack. How long has he been gone? Why hadn’t I thought to ask Varizan a sensible question or two while I was back at the house? I rub one hand over my eyes, pausing once to lean against a tree. Tired… I’m so tired. How much has this body slept? Or is it just my mind that is worn to frayed wires? Why did I ever write up that portal anyway?

You think not writing it would have done any good? It was Jerin who got them here, not you.

Right. Jerin. I straighten and stride through the shadows. Branches crack loudly at each step and I wince. How many characters have I blessed with silent moving and this is what I get in return. Of course Jerin is one of the best. Can almost see in the dark too. I scowl. Then again, maybe not. I’m not everything Ethred made me out to be. Or any of it, probably.

I trip over a log. Muffling a grunt, I shove myself back up. Night. In the forest. It’s so dark I can’t see my hand. Even Jerin couldn’t have made it far in here. Not as if anyone in books ever has a problem with the night, unless they use its shadows like a convenient cloak to hide in, then fling off the moment they need to silently pick their way through some patch of forest or see more than a few inches from their face.

I’m… no. This is enough. I crash through the underbrush, forcing my way back out into the open. Anyone listening will already know I’m coming. Anyone not listening will know too.

I stumble into the open and brush tangled leaves off my dress. Well now…

If Jerin left any tracks, I’ve probably ruined them. No… I need to figure out where he’d go. Think like him. Think like… A small smile quirks my lip.

People… he’d try to find other people. Which means finding lights. Which means… I start off at a quick pace toward town. A very little town, hardly deserving the name. People. Clothes, probably. Maybe food. Or a weapon. Yes, he might want a weapon. I bite my lip. Jerin in a small country town. This is not going to be good.

The first few houses are quiet enough. He’s no fool. He knows he’s in a new land and he probably knows that they know nothing about other worlds. A public place then…

A yellow sign gleams in the darkness. Dollar General. I pause, my fingers closing over the edge of my cloak. Well, there’s nothing for it…

I sprint across the parking lot, gray in the haze of a rising dawn. There’s only two other cars parked. I ignore them, almost slamming into the automatic doors as they hesitate before sliding open. One of them moves jerkily, half off its runner… whatever those things are called. It’s a good sign. Or a sign, at least.

A lady peers up from emptying egg cartons into a refrigerated section as I hurry through the inner doors. Her eyebrows raise. Right. My cloak. Though if Jerin is here, it’s not like I’ll be that conspicuous. I grin and give the lady a small wave as I hurry by. Nothing down the cereal aisle. Nothing down the home decorating aisle. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe… I freeze. There is my quarry.

He stands in the center of the aisle, his tattered cloak almost sweeping the tiled floor, a tiny furrow wrinkling his brow as he holds a butcher’s knife to the light.

I cross my arms under my own cloak. “Find what you were looking for?”

He jolts, his empty scabbard knocking a row of tins to the floor with a raucous clatter. “Doesn’t your world have any better weapons than this?” He traces one finger along the blade. “It’s not sharp, is inconveniently shaped—”

“It’s for the kitchen,” I interrupt.

He scowls. “Yes, I guessed that. No one else would make use of such things. But they don’t have a weapon section here.” He tosses the blade to the shelf with a clatter. “Or maybe there’s an underground level? A cavern of some kind?”

I swallow back a smile. “I’m afraid those are the best you’ll find here.”

“In which case I’ll spend my coins on items that will do some good. They didn’t find all my daggers.” Jerin’s frown deepens as his gaze skims me again. “They sent you after me, didn’t they?” His hand drifts behind his back.

I incline my head. “That doesn’t mean I intend to work for them, though.”

“Humppp.” Jerin taps his fingers on his belt, then turns and sweeps up a small pile of… what has he collected? A loaf of bread. Several washcloths. Spoons. A bag of fish rocks and… is that a batman hoodie? “And… Daraton?”

My amusement fades. “Not good. Varizan says he’s a cure but…” I motion towards him.

“My freedom for the brother he tried to get me to kill.” Jerin snorts. “He doesn’t waste any time, does he? Not that I’m about—”

“May Ann!”

I stiffen at the jolly voice behind me. Please… not now.

A hand claps my shoulder. “I know you like the whole costume thing, but isn’t it a bit early for you to be up?”

“Isn’t it a bit early for you to be back?” I spin and scowl at my older brother. Heat clenches my stomach. “Everyone isn’t back yet, are they?”

Leinad shakes his head. “Relax, you’ll still get a day of quiet. I’ve classes and… things.” He gestures vaguely. “Just stopped for some breakfast. How did you get him to dress up for you?” He nods toward Jerin. “It looks great by the way,” he smiles at the second son of the Earl of Braceaon. “Even has the beat up and worn look that May likes—”

“Leinad!” I hiss.

“What?”

I press my lips tight and shake my head. “It’s not what you think. I just… You need to… stop.”

“Stop what? I’m not doing anything. May, are you all right?” He catches my shoulder as I suddenly sway.

“Yes… I…” I blink. No, I can’t go back. Not yet. Not… A wave of sleepiness washes over me.

Jerin springs forward. “They’re waking her up! Over on the other side.”

Leinad’s hand tightens about my shoulder. “Are you—”

“Listen to him.” I grit out. “It’s… something happened.” I met Jerin’s eyes. “Tell him. And you…” I drag my gaze back to Leinad as my head begins to droop forward. “Listen to him, if you can. And… and don’t go back to the house.”

My knees buckle. Dimly I can hear exclaiming voices and feel strong hands catching me. Then darkness, wrapped in blue strands, twists me away.

 

Well, what do you think will happen next? And… do you think I should follow May Ann in the next section or should I begin by switching to Jerin’s POV? 😀

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, fantasy, Reader's Corner, 21 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 7

Here we are. 🙂 Welcome to my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second: in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?: May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same: Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again: May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Part 5: Well, that complicates things:: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.

Part 6: Why can’t this just be a dream: May Ann is a Varizan’s prisoner in this world. She (and he) realize that she is now in both worlds, though only awake in one. Varizan cryptically questions her, wanting to use her power as a wordsmith, then knocks her out.

Not my preferred mode of travel

My eyes fly open to glimpse Ethred and Adella bending over me. I groan and shove myself upright. “This is not how that portal was supposed to work.”

“Back, are you?” Ethred straightens and flashes a grin at Adella. “I told you she’d be fine. Besides,” she turns her attention to me. “You are the Wordsmith. Of course it would work differently on you.”

I groan, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and pressing my hand to my forehead. “If by differently you mean being in two places at once and not being able to get a mental wink of sleep, while one body is unconscious and the other has to survive deadly dangers, then yes. I’d say it works differently.”

Adella crouches beside me, her brow furrowing she places two fingers to my neck and feels my wrist. “You’re sure you are fine? You were… you looked dead, almost.”

I force a smile. “Self-diagnosed as not dead.” I shake my hair out of my face and scan the room. What had Varizan said? Ask Ethred about the power of Wordsmiths? And Daraton… Black Shadows? A bit redundant but still, somewhat cool.

“Does Varizan know?” Ethred crosses her arms, standing before me as Adella slips back to where Daraton still sleeps. “About this shifting between realms deal?”

I blink. “Why do you think I woke up so quickly?”

“Fair point. He must be jealous.”

I press my hand to my forehead. Sleep. I need sleep. Except that only means Varizan again… “Daraton? How is he?”

“He hasn’t woken,” Adella replies. “Salendrian poison…” She shakes her head and presses her hand against his forehead. “Varizan knows of the cure. If he were here…” Her jaw tightens and her eyes flash as she lifts her gaze to mine. “Can you get that portal working again?”

“I wish.” I bite my lip. I shoved myself to my feet and turn on Ethred. “The power of the wordsmiths, what do you know of it?”

Her brow furrows. “We record, I already told you that. At least, we do our best to record. We don’t have any–”

“That isn’t what Varizan claims.” I advance a step. “There is something he wants. I’m still figuring him out, but he seems confident I can provide it. I’m assuming it is something a wordsmith in one’s own world can’t offer, else he’d have come to you instead of bothering with a portal.” My voice gains confidence. “Words cannot bring back the dead, but they have power. And I suspect you know a bit more about it than I do.”

For the first time, Ethred glances away. Her lips press in a tight line.

Well… that is an answer of some kind, anyway.

“What about the Black Shadows?” I press my advantage.

Both heads snap toward me.

“Black Shadows?” Adella rises to her feet. “Where did you hear that name?”

I roll my eyes. “Varizsan, of course. I didn’t make it up if that is what you are wondering. Well?”

“They were… raiders.” Ethred speaks slowly. “No allegiance. No nationality, though many of them hailed from Salendria. Lord Balstin fought them during the wars. Routed them. Never a single defeat, or so we heard.”

“And Varizan…?” A raider, perhaps? But no, he’d been a villager. A farmer. He had a family; one that died, by his own admission. Black Shadows. Bandit wars. Lord Balstin the Undefeated… pieces shift, twisting into various shapes and possibilities. I shove them all to the side. “Does Varizan have a captain or second in command of some sort nearby?”

Ethred narrows her eyes. “Why?”

I stare back. “I need information on this ambassador if we are to figure out how to stop him. And maybe he’ll know about a cure for Daraton.”

Ethred is already shaking her head. “And you think Thrayton will help you why, exactly?”

I pace to the end of the room and stare out into the night. Night… how can it still be dark? “Depends. Does he care for Varizan or fear him?”

“My dear, there is nothing on this earth Thrayton fears.”

“Well then,” I spin, planting my hands behind me on the windowsill. “How about a deal? Varizan is trapped in a cruel hard world and if Thrayton ever wants to see his…” I searched for a word. Master? Friend? “If he ever wants to see him again, he’s going to help us.”

Adella’s eyes gleam. “Nice. He might even believe you.”

Ethred still frowns. “And… you can reopen the portal?”

I scowl at her her. “Not yet. But I will figure it out.”

“Hmmm. I’m not–”

“I’m going with you.” Adella strides across the room and slings her quiver over her shoulders. “We’ll improvise if something goes wrong.”

I raise my eyebrows. “You mean if it turns out he doesn’t want Varizan back and we twist the story so that Daraton is the only one to can stop him and we need help.”

Adella doesn’t blink. “Something like that. Yes.”

“Adella!” Ethred steps forward, her eyes slipping between us.

“Mother?”

Ethred hesitates, then her knuckles whiten over the back of a chair. “Be careful. And don’t you dare get captured, because I can’t tend to your husband and rescue you at the same time. Understand?”

Adella inclines her head. “I’ll be careful. We should be back by dawn. Unless,” she looks at me, her brow furrowing. “Unless she goes to sleep again.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not just going to fall asleep.” Does Varizan have a way to wake me up, though? If he does…? Hmm, not sure what would happen. Could be interesting. I’d rather not find out.

I follow Adella from the cottage, back into the cool night. My fingers close about the dagger I’d saved from Daraton’s wound. Maybe Thrayton will recognize it. Whatever the case, I have a weapon of my own now, never mind the fact all my knowledge of how to use one came from a book. It is a knife. How hard can it be? I grimace.

Adella’s steps are firm, quick, retracing my own steps from earlier that evening. I grip her arm, pulling back as lights glint from a manor house. “Where are we going?”

She raises her eyebrows. “Did you think Thrayton was holed up in some cave or camp? All the ambassador’s men lodged in the manor. Thrayton will be running the place by now, or at least keeping some semblance of order.”

Thrayton… I shift through my memory as I fall in pace a step behind Adella. Nothing. I have nothing. Varizan really isn’t as well developed as I thought. Some skills–well, more than some. And… that’s about it. It’s not my fault! I wasn’t done with him yet, or with any of the others for that matter. I scowl.

My steps whisper against the grass and my fingers tighten around my dagger. The manor looms before us, dark. Deserted. One man rests on the top step, his arms crossed over one raised knee, his head leaning against the doorframe. Wonderful. A guard. Of course…

Shouts and the tramp of feet drift from the barracks and stables, but here all is surrounded in a pool of silence. Torches lift the night into a gloaming. The man shifts slowly as we approach, not even turning his gaze on us until we are mere paces away. His eyes flit over us and he scowls as he pushes himself to his feet.

“None of the lords are here, nor the ambassador either. I’d suggest you hurry back to the village. The night isn’t safe for such as you, even if you do carry a bow.”

I start. That voice… I’ve heard it before. Daraton and I… the stables. What had he said? Everyone vanishing isn’t natural, even for him. He’ll have got himself in deeper than he meant to this time…

“Thrayton?”

“Obviously.” He crosses his arms as we don’t move. Light and shadows rove back and forth over his face.

Adella glances at me. I glance back at her.

She scowls, then advances a step. “We actually came to speak with you. And unless you are declaring open war on your hosts here at Braceaon, then I call upon your honor to help us.”

“Honor?” He springs forward a step. “Varizan has vanished. With a dozen of his men! On this land. I will do as I please until we get him back. If you have information about his location, then speak. Otherwise,” he flung out a hand, then turned away. “Just leave. I’ve other matters to deal with.”

Adella presses her lips tight, but I hold her back and advance a step. “I’ve seen Varizan.”

“Indeed.” Thrayton snorts then pauses as he glances at me, taking in my clothing. His eyes rest at my belt, freeze, then snap back to my face. “Let me have that!”

“This?” I draw the dagger. “It’s why we are here, actually. We need–”

“Let. Me. Have. That.” Thrayton strides forward and holds out his hand. “How did you come by this?”

I relinquish the weapon with a scowl. “Hurling a knife at someone is not how someone generally tries to keep their daggers safe.”

Thrayton grunts, holding the dagger up to the light. “Someone was wounded.” It is a statement, not a question. His eyes jerk back to me. He sighs. “Varizan poisoned his blades again, didn’t he?”

“And now Lord Daraton is dying,” Adella says. “We need the cure. And we need it quickly.”

A shadow crosses Thrayton’s face. “That is not something you will get unless you speak with Varizan himself.” He watches me closely. “Ah, so you do know where he is then?”

I blink. How had he just…?

“Where is he?”

“There is a portal, or was a portal…” I glance toward the stables. “He’s trapped on the other side.”

“Enjoying himself immensely, I’m sure.” Thrayton scowls. “How do we get over?”

“We don’t,” I say. “Lord Jerinr… Jerin…”

“Jerinthreo,” Adella supplies.

“Right. Anyway, he opened it. I’ll need to speak to him to figure out how to reopen it.”

“And where is he?”

“With Varizan.”

Thrayton throws his arms into the air. “And what use is all this news to me? You know where he is, but you can’t even speak to him or–”

“I can speak to him,” I interrupt.

Trayton pauses.

I shrug and glance at Adella apologetically. “I just need to go to sleep.”

Her jaw tightens, but she nods and pulls several flowers from her pocket. “I suspected as much. These will send you away quick enough.”

Well, then… I take the pale blossoms and sniff at them, then grasp Adella’s shoulders as the ground suddenly spins.

“Not here!” I hear her voice faintly. “What… don’t you know how…? Thrayton, help me, would you?”

Strong arms slip around my knees as they buckle, and another arm catches my shoulders. Blackness, flecked with petals, washes around me…

And I blink away back in my closet. The door is ajar and shouts echo through the house. More drift in faintly from what must be outside.

“Jerin…” my words slur, then jerk to a stop. The ropes are cut. The closet is empty.

The door opens and I lurch upright as a shadow moves between me and the light. Varizan smiles. “How nice to join us again. I hoped you would. And I’m afraid I need your help.” He taps the daggers at his belt. “You see, I’m very worried that Jerinthreo has just succeeded in rescuing himself.”

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, Beyond the Parchment, 11 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 6

It’s this time of the month again. 🙂 Welcome to my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right? May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Part 5: Well, that complicates things: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.

Why can’t this just be a dream?

“Varizan?” I blink, staring into his sharp blue eyes. How… I was in Braceaon. Resting. Relaxing! Why am I having a dream like this!

“Rested?” Varizan raises an eyebrow, rocking back on his heels as he releases me. “You slept long enough.”

I open my mouth, then shut it soundlessly. Varizan was in my home, but I’d gone through the portal, hadn’t I? Yet I am… here? In my closet. My arms tied behind one of the bare supports of my closet. With Jerinthreo, of all people, even more trussed up than I and glaring at me from the side.

Varizan shakes his head. “What realmly good did you think it would do to get Daraton out of my way when I didn’t care a wit about him in the first place? Well,” he corrects himself, “with his brother in my hands, I’m sure I can pull some good out of the situation. Assuming the young lord survives.”

Jerin’s breath hisses between his teeth. “Just you wait, Varizan. Just you wait.”

“I have been waiting, several hours,” Varizan says. “Nothing’s happened yet.” His gaze flicks back to me and hardens. “You, however, my dear…”

I am still staring at him, my mind spinning. Characters have come to life and I’ve visited their world. Why should being back here, interrogated by my own villain, be so startling? Interrogated… My stomach churns. That is one part of his character I have developed. For once, I don’t like knowing what to expect.

Varizan flips a dagger absently between his fingers, still rocking on his heels, then finally sheaths it. “Are you ready?”

I glare at Varizan. “It might help if you gave me a clue about what you wanted.”

“The wordsmith doesn’t know?” Varizan raises his gaze to the ceiling, then snaps his eyes back to my face. “I daresay you’d help if you did?”

“It’s doubtful.”

His hand smashes against the side of my face. I gasp, my head snapping to the side.

“That was a warning.” He lifts one finger as I blink. His face blurs in and out of focus. “I’ll be back. With details.” He rises. “In the meantime, think over what you do know about me and consider how long you can defy me.”

He strides from the narrow closet. I stare after him, his last words echoing my mind. How long… Time. Time. I close my eyes, my shoulders slumping. What my family would have done if Jerin and the others came through when they were all here is beyond me. As it is, they’ll be back tomorrow night. Back from the visit to our grandparents. A visit I skipped because I was supposed to be writing. If they return while Varizan was here…

That is an interrogation weapon he knows how to use too well.

I muffle a groan.

“You’re going to be dealing with more than a mere slap if you intend to defy Varizan.” Jerin growls.

I twist my head, glaring at the twin as best I could. “You think that is bothering me?”

“It should.”

I bite my lip before snapping a retort. “And you? I thought you were with Varizan?”

Jerin snorts. “Just because he gave me information doesn’t mean I trust the son of a snake. But he was right. And Daraton–”

“Daraton did not kill your father.”

“Or so he claimed in those brief moments before you threw him back in the portal and then collapsed in that strange pantry?”

Strange pant– Oh, the fridge.

“Ethred told me,” I say.

Silence.

“That name is not one to be bandied about just because you have a token from her.” Jerin’s voice is low. Deadly.

I close my eyes, my fingers twisting at the knots about my wrist. They don’t give. “And yet she did tell me. I went through, Jerin–”

“Jerinthreo.”

I ignore him. “I went through and got your brother to Ethred and Adella–”

I cut myself short. Was Jerin for the marriage, or against it? Ethred’s hasty explanations still wound confused webs between my eyes.

“He’s safe then?”

“Yes, well…” I hesitate. “Besides slowly slipping away from poison on Varizan’s dagger and hiding from soldiers who seem to have taken over the manor house.”

“Flaming Salendrians!” Jerin spat the exclamation. He jerks against his ropes, then lets his head fall against the wall with a sigh. “When I get my hands on Varizan–”

I blink, shaking my head. “Varizan now? I thought you were mortal enemies with your brother. Not that I’m complaining.”

“I’m not a fool,” Jerin says. “My brother has much to answer for, but it is not Varizan’s place to interfere or implement execution for a crime he seems very well able to have committed himself!”

Well then. That was one uneasy truce brokered.

“So…” I venture. “Varizan?”

“What about him?”

“Do you happen to know his backstory?”

“Backstory!” Jerin jerks upright. “Is that all we are to you? Characters in some book?”

“Not anymore,” I protest. “And it’s not just me. You should see what Ethred–”

“Ethred has issues when it comes to her wordsmithing.” Jerin rolls his eyes. “Everyone is orphaned, had a troubled childhood, or was beaten at a young age. I had hoped you weren’t all like that.”

I press my lips tight.

Jerin snorts.

“Varizan then?” I ask again.

“Ambassador from Salendria. Still not sure why he came, but Father–” His voice wavers, but he takes a deep breath. “Father accepted him. Didn’t talk much to him though, that I could see.”

“Family?” I ask.

“None that I know of.”

“And that is probably where the backstory comes in,” I mutter under my breath. I search back through my various shreds of history. A wife and two kids, at least Varizan had them at one point. What happened? A raider attack? Fire? I shook my head. Something involving the former lord Balstin, probably. Their ages matched. There had been a war twenty years ago when Balstin was a captain and Varizan a mere villager.

“What are you smirking about?” Jerin demands.

I clear my expression, blinking as I snap my gaze back to my fellow prisoner. “Just thinking. I had a… idea.”

“If it is about Varizan, you’d better keep it to yourself. I know what you types are like.”

“My type!”

“Ethred, remember? What did she do to your past? Kill your family and have a sibling die in your arms?”

I choke out a small cry of indignation.

“Whatever family Varizan had is dead,” Jerin says. “That much I know. If you try to share the elaborate ways they might have died, then it will go the worse for you.”

“That I don’t doubt.” I bite my lip, then draw a soft breath as footsteps approach.

The door swings open and I turn my head away, blinking in the bright light.

“General wants to see you.” A dusky figure blocks the sun, striding around me. Cold steel presses against my wrist. The ropes jerk tight, then loosen abruptly.

I swing my arms around, massaging my wrists. “What does he–?”

“I’m sure he’ll tell you.” The man yanks me up by the arm, shoving me before him. “Come along.”

I stumble a step as he pushes me out into my room. My poor room. What had these men done!? I bit my lip as I stare at the maps torn from the walls, the trampled flag, the scribbled parchments, my leather journal of customs and superstations lying open, with some passages underlined and others scribbled off….

The corridors and rest of the house isn’t much better. I’ll not get any sleep at all if I want this clean before my family gets back.

Varizan is sitting in state at the dining room table, rolling magnetized balls around the palm of his hand. He pinches two apart as the man who fetched me loosens his grip and pulls out the chair at the other end of the table.

I watch him warily as I sit down, then let my gaze skim the paper and assortment of pens and pencils before me. I bite the inside of my cheek.

Varizan lets the magnet balls reconnect with a snap, then drops them to the table and looks at me. “I suppose you’ve a guess at what I want?”

“Perhaps.”

Varizan waves one hand in a circular motion. “Pray, elaborate.”

I trace the inside of my teeth with my tongue. Family is probably a sensitive point. Power? Revenge? Most likely, but we can go with power. “You want to take over this world and you want me to write up some story or such where that that happens.”

Varizan throws back his head, his laughter billowing upward. “This world? This world?” He shakes his head. “Why in all the realms would I want this world? I have great confidence in my own abilities, but taking over a whole realm which is already fragmented into dozens of warring factions? I must say, I am flattered.”

So much for the power angle.

“Braceaon then?”

“Closer, but not by much.” Varizan sobers. Folding his hands, he watches me steadily. “I want you to write.”

“Hence the paper and pens.”

“Someone died once.” Varizan continues. “Someone dear to me. You are going to write them back.”

My breath caught in the back of my throat. So it was family then.

“But…”

“But what?” Varizan rose, circling his chair and leaning on the back. “You can’t? Think carefully about what you say.”

“I…” Best have it out with. “That’s not what I do. I write, yes. But what has happened has happened. I can’t change events. I can’t bring people back from the dead.”

“No?” Varizan’s brows draw closer as he rounds the table. He presses both hands on the surface beside me. “A wordsmith can do what she pleases, how she pleases.”

“You must believe me, we can’t.”

“And I am supposed to take the word of one captive on that?” Varizan leans close.

I force myself not to recoil. “I’m not the only one! Even Ethred said–” I cut myself off. Idiot! I could write my own death scene at the moment.

A slow smile spreads over Varizan’s face. “Ah, so you did go through the portal? A portion of you, anyway. I suspected as much.” He rounds the back of my chair, his hands resting lightly on my shoulders. I jerk, but their grip hardens, holding me in place.

“No need for any writing yet, my dear. The past is, as you said, past. The future, however…” his hands slowly slide toward my neck. I suppress a shudder.

“Wordsmiths have more power on the future than Ethred likes to let on. Ask her about it, why don’t you? And,” he leans over my shoulder, “when you see Daraton, tell him the Black Shadows has finally come.”

Varizan’s hand close over my mouth and nose, cutting off all air. I twist, struggling to breathe, but his hold tightens. Blackness edges my sight. Choking, suffocating blackness. And then I know no more.

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, fantasy, Reader's Corner, serial story, 17 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 5

I know. It is Wednesday and I said I was only posting twice a week. But I have something I’m planning on posting Friday, in relation to Shadows of the Hersweald so you get the next installment of Beyond the Parchment a few days early. 😉

In this serial story, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right? May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Well, That Complicates Things

Adella, Lord Daraton’s wife. The words echo through my mind as I numbly stare at the two women, the one short with gray hair and steady eyes, the other twisting an arrow between her fingers. Since when had Lord Daraton decided to get married without inviting me to the wedding?

Ethred chuckles, shaking her head. “No worries. They all look at us like that when we tell them. It’s a precious small secret right now, thanks to that snake, Vaizen.” Her forehead furrows as she turns to the fire, breaking up the coals with short stabbing motions.

The scene blurs as I shake my head, the Adella is at my elbow. “You must be tired, too. Portal traveling and all.” She leads me to a chair and gently pushes me down. Her gaze skims my clothing. “You’re not from here, I take it.”

“Not from…” I blink, shaking my head. Even details behind secret marriages needed to wait in the face of the danger we were in. “No, not really.”

“Ah.” Ethred’s lips twisted into a wry smile as she pours steaming liquid into a mug and hands it to me. “That much we knew. I saw Daraton go through that portal myself, after all.” She settles down opposite me. “Now I realize you are upset and stressed and afraid, but we really need–”

“I’m fine.” The words are a bit sharper than I mean them. “Sorry…” I wrap my fingers around the warmth seeping from the mug. “But really, I am fine.”

“Wonderful.” Ethred smiles broadly as Adella leans against the wall behind her, twirling an arrow between her fingers. “So, where is Jerinthreo, how did you meet up with Varizan, what is he planning, how did Daraton get wounded, and how did he end up with you?”

I blink.

Adella stares at the rafters above, a small smile teasing her lips. “She’ll forget the questions before you’re finished with them, mother.”

Ethred frowns. “It’s not my fault you young ones have such short attention spans. But if it can’t be helped…” She looked at me again, her eyes stabbing through mine. “Well, out with it. As quick as you can. And as much as you can remember.”

I bite the inside of my lip, hesitating. The brothers both trust her. They are also at odds with each other, which means she must transcend the petty arguments flaring up about us. Well, that or she was some sort of double agent or else…

Stop it. I scold myself. She’s not a secret agent. At least… ok, so I don’t know everything going on here, but I feel sure of that, at least. Maybe she can help, and we need answers of our own.

Interlocking my fingers behind my head, I stare into the crackling flames and slowly sift through the past few hours, recounting all I could remember. Well, all except for the fact that I had written this world in the first palace. They’ll not believe that, and even if they do, I’ve a feeling they’ll not want to hear they are figments of my imagination. If they actually are, that is. I am growing less and less certain by the minute.

Ethred flips the wire covered stone in the palm of her hand, tracing the silver designs which swirled over the smooth surface. “And you’re the Wordsmith?”

I jerk, staring at her. Wordsmith… that is what Varizan called me too, though I’d not mentioned it.

“I… maybe?”

“Maybe?” Adella slips the arrow into her quiver. “How can one not know?”

Ethred shakes her head, peering over her shoulder at her daughter. “You’re lucky. I’ve told you that before. Most Wordsmiths don’t even know their kind exists, much less what they can do.”

Adella’s eyes slide back to me, but I am staring at Ethred. “Wordsmith? As in… a writer?”

“No, my dear.” Ethred holds the stone by a chain, letting it swing back and forth. “Not a writer. A Chronicler.”

“I don’t…”

“Every generation has one,” Ethred interrupts me. “There are storytellers in many worlds, but there is only one Wordsmith in each land. They write of people in other lands, carrying the histories and the lessons learned across the borders of time and space. I was a Wordsmith, and Adella has taken the duties in hand now.” Ethred rose, crossing the room and opening a deep shelf. Rows upon rows of leather-bound notebooks stared from the shadows.

“You are from…” Ethred’s fingers trace down the spine. “Terra, is it not? Ah yes. The Wordsmith May Ann. She was the one who designed a portal…” Ethred motion outwards in the general direction of the manor house, while she flips through the yellowed pages. “Nothing about coming here, but it looks like you get married and then…”

“Stop!” I spring to my feet. My stomach twists. What on earth did this lady know about me? About my life. Another story. Another history… “I don’t want to know. I really don’t. Assuming all you tell me is true.”

“I didn’t say it would all happen, dearie.” Ethred places the book back on the shelf and turns back toward me. “Some Wordsmiths are more connected with what happens than others. There are some who get the accounts horribly mangled, I fear. Though it is hard to tell, seeing we can’t generally confirm any of them. Are you an orphan with one brother in the army and a younger sister who died in your arms four years ago?”

“Am I… why… you…” I sputter. “No! I have a wonderful family who happens to be on vacation until tomorrow night.” I bite my lip. Tomorrow night I’ve until then to get Vaizen out of my house. And possibly buy a new fridge.

Ethred sighs and shrugs. “Ah well. A pity. Not for you, of course, but it was touching. And your own death scene…”

I glare at Ethred. “Wait until I get back and write up a heartrending scene for your death. It would be just the thing to get Jerin and Daraton back on the same side, don’t you think?”

“Don’t you dare.” Steel presses just below my eye and I raise my eyebrows as I meet Adella’s flashing stare. “I am the Wordsmith here, and I can make you suffer much worse than death. Believe me.”

“One would think you both could actually make a difference.” Ethred rolls her eyes. “A Wordsmith writes what happens in the various worlds. The stories which come to them are history, but they don’t always come fully formed. And where guesswork is involved, drama and truth do not always go hand in hand. You both can kill each other or me as much as you please in your writings, it’s not going to make it so. And you, Adella, should know that already.”

Adella sighs, scowling as she lowers the arrow. “I know, but still…”

I hold up both hands. “It’s fine. I’d probably do the same if you threatened…” I broke off, watching her warily. “Never mind. I’m not telling you who you should threaten.”

Adella snorts, but her lips curve up slightly.

“And,” I turn back to Ethred, “since I’ve answered your questions, it’s only fair you return the favor.”

“As if life cares anything for fairness.” Ethred shakes her head, her eyes twinkling. “Well, ask away, and I’ll answer as best I can.”

I bite my lip, glancing around the small room. Beyond the shuttered windows, shadows of the night press inwards. Braceaon. My land. Which is no longer my land because I had nothing to do with the creation in the first place. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. There will be time, later on, to deal with such… things.

“What has happened here?” I finally find the words. “Daraton, Jerin, Lord Balstin… I knew he would die, I just didn’t realize he died so early.”

Adella glances at Ethred, and Ethred sighs, taking a seat. “Neither did I. Or any of us.” She passes one hand over her face. “It was Vaizen, mainly. Riling Lord Balstin with news of Daraton’s marriage. Then he got cozy with Jerinthreo over the portal to gain access to that. We still aren’t sure who assassinated the Lord, but Vaizen made sure Daraton thought Jerinthreo had a hand in it due to his contestation for more lands, whereas Jerinthreo now thinks it has something to do with Adella and Daraton’s marriage.” Ethred glares at Daraton who is still sleeping peacefully. “Fools, both of them, though I must say Vaizen was convincing enough.”

“And Vaizen?” I ask. “What does he want?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Adella looks sharply at me. “He wants the Wordsmith. He wants you.”

I groan. Great. This is just great.

“It’s not all that bad,” Ethred assures me. “There are plenty of others he wants too, though you are at the top of his list. Rest now, and by morning we might have a few more answers, although…” she glances at Daraton, “We may have more pressing matters on our hands by then.”

Right. Poison. And such.

I sigh, but let them lead me to a bed tucked in the wall. I’m never going to sleep, of course. Not now. Not after what has happened.

But I’m so tired.

I blink rapidly, trying to keep my eyes open. Or did that put one to sleep? What did it matter? I was exhausted and somewhere in my muddled thoughts I’ve the suspicion Ethred slipped some sort of calming agent in my tea. But I do I need sleep.

My eyes slip closed and darkness sweeps about me…

Darkness, but light filters through the air. My shoulders ache and something rough is holding my wrists behind my back. Rope? A heavy breath echoes in my ear and I jump, twisting to the side. A vaguely familiar outline leans against the wall as my eyes adjust to the gloom. His cloak is torn, and blood stains his tunic and face.

Jerinthreo?

My brow furrows as I stare at him. Somewhere, footsteps echo. Why does my head throb so? And is that… are those my shoes? I blink, my gaze skimming the familiar confines of my walk-in closet. What on…?

The door is flung open, and light streams inwards.

I squint against the sudden brightness, then a shadow falls between me and the light.

“Well, well, well.” Varizan’s hand catches my chin as he crouches down, forcing me to meet his gaze. “Look who finally woke up?”

 

And…there you have it. Any guesses on what is happening or what will happen next?

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, serial story, 10 comments