Beyond the Parchment: Part 4

So, in my serial story, Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And now she has just leaped through the portal, dragging one of her wounded characters with her, to escape her villain.

But, first, I spent some time starting to get a Beyond the Parchment pinterest board. Here are a few pictures I found. 🙂 No collages yet, but they’re coming.

May Ann

Daraton or Jerinthreo

They are identical twins, after all. *scowls* I should have considered pictures before I came up with that idea…

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here:

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same

I’m Never Doing That Again

Shards of blue light stab through my brain, surging about me, tearing at my hair and clothing like a wild animal. The roar of thunder fills the air, echoing in my ears, strobing a blur of glinting silver and darker shadows behind my eyes.

Nothing exists. Nothing but noise and light and something hard I have clutched in one hand. Then even the thunder is gone. There is nothing. Shadows close on all sides of me. Silence echoes in my ears. Something itches beneath my cheek. My breath is hot against my lips.

Somewhere, as though from a distance, I hear a muffled groan. My stomach churns and every muscle in my body aches. I roll over on my back with a moan, staring upwards at the blur of red and orange flickering in and out of focus.

A torch?

Braceaon! Daraton!

I draw a quick breath, shoving myself into a sitting position. My head spins, the shadowy scene swimming before my eyes. I gasp as I plant both hands on the floor to keep myself from falling. How had the others come through the portal so effortlessly? Because I am not about to go through it again.

Not even to get back home.

Besides that, of course… I blink away the gloom, but there is no sign of a portal. Just a ring of charred earth and glowing embers on the straw of what must be the stall of a stable. Something shifted in the shadows beyond the glowing ring and I stagger to my feet, then stumble forward.

“Daraton!” I drop to my knees beside him. His fingers curl around my wrist.

“What… have  you… done?”

“Saved your life, for starters. Again.” I scowl, my gaze skimming his pale drawn face and clenched jaw. His sword still hangs from his hand, but that is the least of my worries, whatever the suppressed rage surging behind his eyes.

I stretch my fingers toward the slim dagger still embedded in Daraton’s side, then jerk back before I actually touch it. Isn’t there something about leaving such things inside a stab wound until they can be properly cared for so the patient doesn’t bleed to death in the meanwhile.

“You’re… hurt.”

“Which is the only reason I’m still lying here.” Daraton pushes himself up on one elbow, then winces. I press him back, the dark stain about the dagger growing.

I swallow hard, my breath hissing between my teeth.

Come on, think! You’ve hurt characters worse than this before and they survive. Well, sometimes.

Yes, and they all had expert healers or at least friends who knew what they were doing to dress their wounds.

So?

I don’t know what to do! I’ve only ever said ‘his wound was bandaged’ in my own writing.

Lazy research. Serves you right.

“Shut up!” I hiss the words out loud, then blink as Daraton stares at me. “Not you I just… I need more light.” I stumble to my feet and yank the torch from its socket, slipping the stone both brothers seem to view as so important into my pocket as I step back across the sifting ashes. There must be a way to turn the portal back on. Or something… I don’t have time to worry about it right now as I crouch down at Daraton’s side.

His eyes narrow as he watched my face. “You have no clue what you are doing, do you?”

“I…”

He rolls his eyes, then grits his teeth as he props himself on his elbow and drags himself backward so he is half sitting against the stall wall.

“Be careful!” I shove the torch into a rack on the wall and turn back towards Daraton as he yanks the dagger from his side. So much for that.

His fingers fumble with a pouch at his side and I shove his hand aside, unbuckling it and pulling out a strip of white cloth. “You carry bandages with you?”

“You don’t?”

“I will now,” I mutter under my breath, pressing a portion of the cloth against the wound in his side. “So…”

Daraton grits his teeth. “Over the tunic. We’ll get it better later but… we have to get out of here…” He leans his head back against the stable wall, his eyes closed, his teeth clenched. Swiftly I wrap the bandage around his midsection, adding extra wrapping he gives me against his side, then fastening it off tightly.

The wound is low enough, but not too low, and it doesn’t seem extremely deep either… I rock back on my heels as I finish. “The bleeding is slowed down. You should survive.”

“Survive the cut or the poison?”

“Poison?” I bite my lip before I can utter a very unladylike comment. That is so not fair. I never even decided that Varizan dabbles in poisons. Much less that he coats each weapon with them. Quite a personal hazard, I’d have thought, though not a bad idea if…

A distant crunch of hurried steps filters through the night and my head snaps toward the stable doors.

Daraton muffles a groan as he grasps the top of the stall, heaving himself to his feet. “We have… to get out of here.”

“Isn’t this your home?” I demand, throwing one of his arms over my shoulders. His foot slipped and I staggered under the sudden weight. “Shouldn’t we be getting you help?”

“Not here.” Daraton shakes his head. He motions towards the opposite side of the stable, but I am already heading towards the semi-secret entrance. That, at least, is something I know about. “Varizan…”

Right, Varizan.

My mind sifts through one possibility after another as I help Daraton across the stable. Outside, the calls are getting louder.

How had Varizan even known of the portal? Though it wasn’t any surprise that he did, I suppose. He has spies everywhere. I should have known better than to give him so much persuasive charm. Had he killed the old lord then, and set the brothers on each other? But why? I scowl, my breath hissing between my teeth.

Varizan. The one character I’ve next to no backstory on. It is a tragic one, I am fairly sure. Other than that… nothing. Though it probably has something to do with Lord Balstin, seeing he is the only one dead at the moment. At least I hope so… My mind flits back to Jerinthreo. But no. With Daraton gone, Varizan will surely keep Jerin alive. I hope.

We reach the stable wall and Daraton leans against the wall, his hand feeling for the latch. The double doors at the other end other end of the stable are thrown open.

“…can’t be.” The voice is deep, with a drawling accent I almost recognize.

Daraton mutters a low oath.

“Didn’t Varizan say…?”

“I don’t blazes care what he said. Everyone vanishing isn’t natural, even for him. He’ll have got himself in deeper than he meant to this time…”

Daraton eases the door open. His hand pushes me through. My foot catches on a protruding brick. I stumble and, by the time I’ve regained my balance, Daraton is outside as well, silently shutting the door.

A squad of soldiers, their caps lined in the black and silver of Salendria tramp by. Daraton presses me back into the shadows, though I’m already huddled tight against the wall. They vanish without so much a glance in our direction and I move under Daraton’s arm so he can lean on me.

“Where to?”

“The village…” His breath is coming shorter now. Already. The wound or the poison? “We can get help there. It’s…”

“I know where the village.” I turn my steps toward the wood sweeping up against the pastures. A pity it isn’t day. Lord Balstin’s gardens were supposed to be the most enchanting of the land. Though I don’t suppose we’d be able to hide in shadows if it were light out. As it is, the moon is enough to give us away if anyone has a sharp enough eye.

But who is in the village? I hadn’t… oh, right. I almost smirked. Daraton has a secret love interest there. This Ethred I keep hearing about, perhaps?

The shadows of the forest close about us, but we strike a path soon. Daraton’s steps are growing slower, but he presses on, his breath rasping in my ear. The village. How far is the village again?

“Who goes… Daraton?” A lithe figure cuts the challenge short, springing onto the path before us. A quiver hangs across her back and she slips the bow across her shoulder as her hands cup Daraton’s face and she stares up into his eyes.

He manages a tight smile, but she places a finger on his lips before he can speak. “Later. I’ll get you to mother…” Her eyes skim me. “What happened?”

“Varizan.”

Her eyes darkened. “Poison?”

“We think so.”

She moved to Daraton’s other side and between the two of us it is only several minutes later when we break into a clearing just outside the village. Warm light spilled from a window, and in the open door a short, wiry figure stands, waiting. Her white hair hangs to her waist, bound carefully back, and a cloak is wrapped around her shoulders.

“Must you always get yourself into trouble, my dear?” She shakes her head as she scans our small party, focusing on Daraton, then steps aside. “The bed, quickly.”

We deposit Daraton on a wide bed. Staggering back a step, I rub my shoulder as the two woman bend over Daraton, stripping the cloth from his wound, cleaning it, and rebandaging it. The younger girl sits at his head, her fingers brushing away his hair, as her mother finishes the examination. The light gleams gold on her hair and her lips pucker into a charming frown. It’s no wonder both the brothers like her.

Some of the color has returned to Daraton’s face, but he is still pale, his eyes closed, his jaw tensed. But finally his breathing relaxes.

“He’ll sleep for a good bit.” The older lady announces, rising to her feet. “Now,” she turns on me. “How about you tell us exactly what happened?”

“Without even proper introductions, mother?” the younger girl rises, forcing a smile as she rounds the bed.

I return the expression. “My name is May Ann.” My fingers touch the stone in my pocket. “I presume you are Ethred?”

The older lady snorts out a laugh, her frown easing into a smile. “No, my dear, I’m Ethred. That is my daughter, Adella. Lord Daraton’s wife.

 

Well, what say you? I have the basic story outlined now, but what do you think/want to happen next?

Beyond the Parchment: Part 3

So, in my serial story, Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And now, a villain has just step through the fridge which happens to be the portal into May Ann’s house. Read the first parts here:

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?

My kitchen will never be the same

“Good evening Lord Daraton. My lady.” Varizan inclines his head with a smile, his smooth rolling voice filling the room. Isn’t he even the slightest bit dazed that he’s standing in the middle of broken glass and scattered food?

“Blazes! Has the whole of Braceaon decided to leave their native land?” Daraton demands. His hand tightens about his blade as he advances a step. “And what of Ethred? If you have harmed her…”

There’s that name again. The girl who had the stone. My hand tightens around the piece in my hand.

Varizan raises his hands, palms upwards, with a long-suffering sigh. But his eyes gleam as they light on me and, behind him, soldiers are still stepping from the fridge. There are nearly half a dozen behind my villain now, though most are opening cupboards or testing their blades on the counters. “Must you always think the worst, my Lord Daraton –”

“Don’t.” Daraton grits his teeth as he takes a step forwards. “My father is the Lord of Balstin Hall.”

“Your father is dead.” The words are sharp as daggers, smooth as a polished lash. The undercurrent pleasure of masked by undeniable condolences. My lip curls upwards, then I jerk my expression into a sober mask. Whatever the perfection of Varizan’s voice, this is not the time to indulge it. Especially with Jerin’s crashing footsteps approaching from the rear.

Turning slightly, I lower my voice, angling the stone both Jerin and Daraton place such importance on, upwards so Daraton can see it. “We need to get out of here. Now.”

“Where to, my lady?” Varizan’s voice slips through my veins.

Botheration. How could I forget I’d given him excellent hearing? And a sure aim with a love of daggers like the one he is flipping between his fingers again. Oh, and let’s not forget the loyalty he can command with just a handful of words nor the dozen soldiers now ranged between us and the door. What the blazes had I been thinking?

“Lord Varizan.” Daraton’s voice is cold as ice. Behind us, Jerin’s steps turn into a flurry of clashing metal. It’s about time Daraton’s men caught up with Jerin. A whole extra minute for us to escape Varizan. How wonderful.

“Why are you here?” Daraton’s voice is low. Measured.

“I am a guest, remember?”

“Courtesies to ambassadors of Salendria do not extend to secret portals no one is supposed to know the existence of.” Daraton glares at the soldiers behind Varizan as I clap a hand to my mouth. Salendria! So, the someplacethatneedsaname is actually already named. Perhaps, if I can merely step into Braceaon, I can figure out the rest of my plot holes without any headache. Well, besides the very real danger of being killed or trapped. “I asked you once, I’ll not ask it again. What of Ethred?”

“I swear to you, I never saw her. Just the portal itself, pulsing and flaring…”

“And so you decide to step through with a dozen soldiers,” I comment dryly. Perhaps not the best idea. Both men’s eyes fasten on me and Daraton’s gaze hardens.

“What do you know of this matter?”

I catch myself before I can say ‘everything’, then bite my tongue before I say ‘nothing’. “Enough.” There, that sounds smooth enough. Except the word breaks into a sudden silence as the clash of blades behind us ceases.

A small smile flits across Varizan’s lips.

“You are right, my lord.” He raises his hand, flicking his wrist. Daraton swings his blade and I jump as a dagger embeds itself in the wall beside me. Daraton’s eyes widen as he inhales sharply between his teeth.

“I came for the wordsmith, of course.” Varizan’s eyes shift to me. “Jerinthreo and you can battle it out as you please but –”

Daraton charges with a shout.

The good news is that, whatever their earlier position, the dagger flying his way must have convinced Daraton that Varizan means no good.

The bad news?

Varizan still has eleven knives left. And he is even better at throwing than Jerin. What on earth possessed me to give him such a lethal skill? Daraton staggers with a gasp as a gleaming projectile smashes between his ribs, but he keeps on, closing the distance before Varizan can hurl another one. Varizan’s soldiers aren’t much help to their leader. Between the island counter and the fridge, there isn’t room for a soldier beside Varizan in any case. For the first time in my life, I am grateful for the narrow kitchen. Then again, Varizan doesn’t seem like he needs any help.

Something dark hurls over my head and I can’t suppress a yelp as I duck, spinning to the side as Jerin himself crashes through the door.

His gaze spins between the fight ensuing between his brother and Varizan, then slips down to me and darkens. I stagger to my feet, stumbling backward before his piercing gaze.

“So you were working with Daraton. And Ethred…did you steal the stone from her too?”

Ethred? Who was Ethred? And why are both brothers so protective of her? Maybe she can talk some sense into them. Provided the two brothers don’t kill each other, which of course assumes Varizan fails in his own quest.

“I stole nothing.” I finally find my voice. “But you both are acting like fools when the real fault lies elsewhere.”

It’s too late. Jerin’s eyes are hardened. He’s not listening anymore if he even registers what I’m saying. I glance wildly back, my gaze flying over where Daraton is now barely keeping Varizan at bay while the strobing blue lights from my poor fridge casts an eerie glow over the chaos that once was my kitchen.

I grit my teeth. I’m going to so regret this, I know. I also know I regret not doing it even more…besides the fact that I’ll be dead and the world I’ve created will probably implode with the death of several of its changing characters.

I leap forward, my hand closing about Daraton’s arm even as he stumbles. Varizan’s blade slashes downwards, but I jerk Daraton out of the way, toward the fridge. The light surrounds me…surrounds both of us, drawing us closer, faster, swifter. For a split second I see Varazan, his eyes lighting with a blue smile.

Then I jump upwards – or forwards; direction itself is spinning about me now.

And all is brilliant light.

Beyond the Parchment: Part 2

In the first installment of Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. A pair of brothers, actually, who are currently engaged in mortal combat.

All Brothers Fight Sometimes, Right?

I do what any girl would do when two men plunge into a duel to the death in her bedchamber. I step behind a pair of bookshelves and get dressed. Thirty seconds is all it takes to throw on a skirt and shirt. Another half a minute to pull on my socks and shoes. For all their faults, Daraton and Jerin are two of the most expert swordsmen I’ve written. My only characters who can fight until exhaustion with neither one drawing blood…to their everlasting irritation and my own amusement.

Except it’s not amusing now. My ears ring with tinkling glass, crashes, and thuds. Long swords and small rooms don’t mix well. And with little room comes daggers. And with daggers…

With daggers, one brother is very much superior to the other and, in their current rage, neither one will pull back on a fatal blow if an opening reveals itself.

They’re too good for that. Relax.

You’re telling me to relax? Do you know what will happen if one of the brothers dies?

Universal apocalypse? Which is why you’re taking the time to get dressed?

Something like that. And do you expect me to leave here in a nightgown? Don’t give me that look. I’m not like Jerin. I finish tying my shoe as I fire off the last thought to my own inner voice, then throw my body against the bookshelf as something heavy thuds against it. A wave of books jolt from their perch above my head, tumbling down around my shoulders. I wince, peering around the wood, then jerking back as a blade flashes near my head.

“Botheration.” I mutter the exclamation as a figure rolls to avoid a descending blade, then twists back to his feet. Not good. Not good at all. I’ve got to get Jerin out of here before he kills his brother. As it is, I can hardly tell which twin is which. The lights won’t help, even if I could reach them without losing an arm. I’m certain each bulb is shattered by now. But Jerin is the one with the cloak, isn’t he and Daraton…his cloak is darker? Since when do they wear anything remotely similar?

That feast last night, remember? You forced Jerin to dress down and Daraton to dress up.

Right. That. In which case the story isn’t very advanced at all. That is it. I have to get Jerin out of here.

I yank a photo off the wall and jerk down on a sort chain. A groan echoes through the room as a portion of wall slides away and, for the fraction of a second, the fighting pauses long enough for me to hear more boots downstairs. Jerin’s back is to the bookshelf and I grab his arm, ignoring his glare as I hold up the silver petalled stone I still hold. “Come with me now!”

“Where did you…” his voice trails as his sword flashes, deflecting a spinning gleam with a clang. Seizing my wrist, he dives for the opening in the wall, dragging me with him as another dagger thuds into the bookshelf.

A dagger?

My gaze picks out second figure in the room, a figure whose eyes are now blazing with anger as they stab through me. More boots are pounding up the stairs and I duck, punching a button as another dagger hurtles through the air, clattering against the inside wall moments before the door shuts.

Flaming flames! Or whatever it is they say in Braceaon. Daraton must have been practicing recently. It isn’t right for one man to have so many skills.

“Jerin…” my voice trails off as I spin to face the figure in the dim but growing automatic lights of the concealed corridor.

“Jerin?” The man’s eyebrows lift up. They are so alike, and yet so different. More firm. More determined. And yet with the same tense sorrow I’d seen earlier. “My brother lets you call him Jerin?”

Daraton. My breath sticks in my throat.

No wonder the other figure threw daggers so well.

And now Jerin is left facing Daraton’s men. I only hope he doesn’t kill them all. That would really put the brothers on bad terms.

Daraton sweeps up his brother’s dagger from the floor and slips it in his belt, his face dark. “What dealings do you have with Jerinthreo?”

“I don’t…I’m not…” Why can I scold Jerin and yet find myself wordless when faced with his brother. Their hair. Their build. Their nose and jaw. It is the same. And yet Daraton’s eyes are different. Hard, wary… He scowls.

“Whatever the reason she sent you with that stone, it better have been worth interrupting the judgment of an avenger of blood.” Daraton’s eyes sparked, his hand tightening over his sword’s hilt. “How did you even get over here? I gave stern orders to the contrary. Ethred wouldn’t let anyone over unless it were a matter of life and death.”

“Do you think she doesn’t have her ways?” The words spill out before I can stop them, even as my mind spins. She? The stone? It was an heirloom of their house; no single person claimed ownership of it and certainly not a girl. Not that I ought to complain, the story is sadly lacking in female characters. But what is Daraton…

A sword stabs through the drywall of the entrance, almost grazing my cheek.

The blade Andrith. Apparently the wall is far from innocent because the blade withdraws, then carves another gash into the wall.

“He’s getting quicker.” Daraton mutters, his hand closing about my wrist. “Well, which way is out? Unless you’re going to let me finish the fight this time?”

“Not a chance.” I pull my hand from his grasp. “This way.”

I always told you it was a good idea for us have a secret passage.

Yes, and maybe it still would be if the doors actually kept out intruders, I counter as I dash around a corner. As it is, it will work well enough as an escape route. And, once we are outside there are dozens of places to hide in the surrounding forest or fields. Assuming we can get out of the house.

Because that’s another downside of this passage. It leads to the kitchen pantry. Though Jerin can’t know that, so we should be safe. The crashing behinds us ends with the sound of crumpling wall and I shove open the door to and spring into the shadows of the wide pantry.

My fingers close over the handle and I yank the door open then freeze, drawing a sharp breath. The kitchen glows in a faint light. Dishes, food, and glass lie in shambles over the floor and the door to my fridge hangs open at a rakish angle. Even as I watch, a soldier steps from the inside, almost slipping on the tile floor. But my brain doesn’t even comprehend the ridiculousness of the portal’s exit as my gaze fastens on a pair of pale blue eyes meeting my own, then travels outwards, to his clipped black hair. His dark face. His red and gold clothing. The black belts crossing his chest and the silver blade flicking between his fingers.

Varizan, dark lord of someplacethatneedsaname and a character who isn’t even supposed to be in Braceaon yet.

This…

This is not good.

So, what do you think? Any favorite characters? Any guesses at to what will come next?

Beyond the Parchment: Part 1

Last month I gave you three options for the beginning of a serial story, and the third one won by a landslide. And so, without further ado, here is the ‘pilot episode’ of my serial story (including what I wrote last time). Enjoy!

It Just Had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

I wake up in the dark. Shreds of parchment flutter around me, sifting through the shadows in a noiseless wind. I watch them vacantly for a long moment as my thoughts slowly connect. A late night of writing. My muttered threats about deleting the whole document if it didn’t cooperate. My dreams filled with vague faces, half remembered prophecy fragments, and a gleaming silver sword a character was given as proof of his kingship…which he then accidentally stabbed into a stone, couldn’t pull it back out, and ended up leaving behind.

My lips, which have gradually turned upwards in a smirk, widen into a smile. Now that idea I’ll have to write down. I roll over, reaching for the notebook I always keep by my bed.

And freeze.

It isn’t there. Only darkness and the paper fragments, quickening in a wind I can’t feel. I narrow my eyes. Am I not awake then? Is this an inception type of dream? I frown. But I have to wake up. To write down that idea before I forget it. What idea was it again…? It will probably be something really weird once my logical brain gets a hold of it.

Except…

Except I feel awake. And the wind about me almost looks like… It looks like the portal cavern I’d been trying to invent the day before. That jolts me into a sitting position.

“Calm yourself, May Ann,” I growl to myself, then, “what if this is real? If I should be so lucky.” I raise my eyebrows. “Which I doubt, of course. Luck indeed. The portal didn’t even work. But then…you never know. It’s good for description anyway.”

The parchments have sped into a blur now. I stretch out one hand. For the fraction of a second, a cold gust slices against my skin, then it is gone. The paper. The wind. The darkness. Moonlight seeps through my window. Everything is as it should be.

I swallow down an unreasonable touch of disappointment and reach for my notebook. At least…

My breath quickens.

I’m not alone.

Reaching backwards, my hand closes about the dagger I keep by my bed as a shadowy figure steps through my door. I stare, barely even remembering to breathe as I take in the fair hair, short beard, leather armor, emblazoned hammer and whip, and the sword clenched in the man’s hand.

Emotions and thoughts batter about my mind too quickly to even acknowledge them, but one thought sears through all the rest. Why him? Of all my characters, why had the portal brought him through? There were so many others I’d rather see.

You’re asking why him when you should be asking why at all? Are you insane? Do you realize what you have done? What will happen now…boy, but he is perfect isn’t he? That sneer and the way he holds himself with such…such vainness. Even my inner voice is having trouble focusing on scolding me the man strides to the middle of the room, slowly turning as his gaze skims the maps covering the wall.

I should probably introduce myself. Something calming. Perhaps some flattery.

He steps towards my desk, his hand curling around a crystal figurine.

“Don’t touch that!” The words snap out of my mouth before I can stop them and the man spins, his eyes searching out the shadows. One long step, and his hand wraps itself around the front of my nightgown as he drags me from the bed, bringing the cool edge of his blade against my throat.

“You dare give me orders?” He demands. “Do you even know who I am? Of course you don’t. You should though. You will too, after tonight. You’ll remember me. Your whole world will remember me. Also, how far is your nearest tailor shop? Because I require the best of whatever –”

“What you require is something I’m going to be sorry I didn’t give you,” I grumble, twisting backwards.

“And now you’re interrupting me.” The man shifts his grip to my hair and holds up his blade before my eyes. “Don’t you know what this is, girl? It’s a sword. It will kill you.”

I smirk as my eyes travel adoringly up the engraved blade to the ruby studded hilt. “Well, it might if it weren’t Andrith, the third most powerful blade in Braceaon and incapable of killing anyone who is innocent. Frankly, you’d do better with a normal dagger. Can I hold the sword?”

“No.” The man growls out the word as he slams it into his sheath and thrust a dagger under my skin. The edge of this blade is sharp. Idiot that I am. “It’s the second most powerful blade. Now who exactly do you think yourself to be? And what are you dressed in? Is that the fashion here?”

“Andrith is the third most powerful blade. And it’s a nightgown. Something which, in your world, would be very improper for you to see.” The man snaps himself out of his perusal of my long nightgown with a suddenness which makes me suppress a grin. On second thought, there are worse characters who could have appeared at this time of night. “Also, I’m May Ann. Will you please remove that dagger from my throat?”

The man scowls, but actually complies, even though it’s only to step back and sweep a dashing bow and flick his cape over his shoulder. “Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second, Earl of the third shire of Braceaon.” He never could resist introducing himself with a flourish. “And owner of the second most powerful sword in the world.”

Yep, just as vain as I imagined him. As far as swords were concerned…I’d looked forward to the discovery of the most powerful blade in my book for this very reason. I just hadn’t expected to be the one to tell the second son of one of the most powerful lords in Braceaon about it. For now the matter was best left alone. As well as the fact that Jerinthreo was claiming his brother’s title.

“Well, then maybe –” I reach over and flicked on the light switch. The next moment I am pressed against the wall, the dagger at my throat once more.

“Traitor!” Jerinthreo spat out the word. “Firstly, you can call me Lord Jerinthreo. And what do you want to do, signal my enemies?”

“It’s a light!” I protest. His glare deepens and I amend my statement. “Lord Jerinthr… Jerinthre… will Jerin do?” The names I make up; I’ll never be able to add that perfectly accented ‘eo’ like Jerinthreo had said it. “Everyone has them. Look!” I point upwards and at the light fixture and Jerin followed my gaze. I take the opportunity to shove his hand out of the way and sidestep towards my chair where I’d draped my clothes.

“It’s…natural then?”

“More or less.” I shrug. “Did you expect everything to be the same in this world?” How has he even gotten to this world anyway? The portal machine isn’t his, though I don’t put a bit of meddling – or outright stealing – past him. He must have got in another fight with his brother…

My eyes widen. “Daraton?”

Jerin’s gaze hardens. “What do you know of my brother?”

For a second, my breath catches in my throat as my mind sifts through the tangle of half-formed plot twists and characters. There’s no way to know exactly where the characters are or if they’ve even followed my storyline exactly, but as my gaze skims over Jerinthreo again, this time under the light, I pick up signs I missed the first time. The tear in his velvet sleeve. The lopsided clasp on his cloak. The scuffs on his boots. The tightness lurking under the faintest sneer which curls his lip and lifts the side of one nostril. My eyes end at his, taking in the green glare which masks fury and pain.

He takes a step forward. “Are you in league with him too?” His fingers tighten over his dagger. “Whoever you are; however you know so much about us –  because it obvious you’re not from Braceaon, tell me what you know about my brother right now. Because if you helped him murder my father, then by the blazing mountain itself…” His cavalier attitude has vanished but I hardly notice as I stare at him.

“Lord Balstin is dead?”

“Why else do you think I’m here?” Jerin spits out the words.

No. It’s not right. Something is missing. A few pieces shift in my mind. My picture is different from anything Jerinthreo or Daraton will guess, but it’s still far from clear. Except in one point.

I spring for the light switch, plunging us both back into darkness. “Is he here? Daraton? Did he follow you?”

In the moonlight, it’s hard to decipher Jerin’s expression. In any case, he doesn’t have a chance to answer as glass crashes downstairs. Jerin’s jaw clenched and he steps toward the door, drawing his sword. I grit my teeth and snatch my clothes and shoes from my chair, then grab Jerin’s arm, ducking as he swings his dagger.

“Come on. I know a way out.”

His eyes narrow. “Any why should I trust you?”

Feet thud through the house, nearing. Where has the portal let out at and who has come through? More than one person, from the sound of it. I send a glance desperately around my room, finally pausing as they rest on a green stone, framed with silver petals.

I spin back to Jerin. But it’s too late. Another figure fills the door in the moonlight and the room explodes in a clash of silver and metal.

So, what do you think? What should happen next? Any guesses as to backstory? Or clothes Jerin should try out, assuming he survives the fight?