fantasy

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

Fidelyon: ‘O’ and ‘P’ with Ethaniel

‘O’ with Ethaniel:

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

The letter ‘O’ stand for… for… One! Yes, the number one will work. Don’t look at me like that. I have to think of something. There are a number of things I could use ‘one’ for, but I’ll stick with the first thing to spring to mind.

Two nations, becoming one. Unity. That is the prophecy of the end of the third age, after all. Elentisa, split since Shaquille’s rebellion during the first age, will be united with Voland once more. It was one of those things everyone knows vaguely from stories told by crackling firesides. It was not something anyone would picture happening in their lifetime. Or any lifetime, by the looks of the relations between our lands.

Emphasis on the ‘was’.

Just one little problem for our piece of mind. The prophecy doesn’t tell how such a union will come about. Or rather, it gives two choices. We will unite in glory and peace, or in flames and destruction. Frankly, flames look like they have a better chance right now. Not that I’d tell anyone else that, and don’t you go passing the word around either. Because there is still hope. There is always hope. And prayer.

Such is the prophecy, and such will be the union. Two countries, made one. But will they burn or will they stand? Only time will tell.

‘P’ with Ethaniel:

Instead of a subject, Hope is telling me to post a song for this letter. She says it is ‘my’ song. I’m sure it could fit many others, not just myself, but I… No. I can’t talk about it. Just… you can listen to the song, and maybe you’ll understand.

Posted by Hope Ann in A-Z with Ethaniel, fairy tales, fantasy, Fidelyon, WIP, 2 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

Rose of the Night & Rose of the Oath

As many of you know, I’ve written a second Beauty and the Beast retelling to replace Rose of Prophecy. Because of some tight scheduling, I’m actually sending out my new novella to beta readers before Shadows of the Hersweald is launched. *sighs* It’s not ideal, but if I didn’t, anyone who wanted to read the novella and/or it’s prequel would only have around three weeks. So, without more ado, here are a few quick blurbs.

Rose of the Night (a Beauty and the Beast prequel novelette)

Behind every beast, there is a curse.

Behind every curse, there is a promise.

Behind every promise, there is a sacrifice.

Two hundred years before Beauty was born, blood and tears wove a legend of hope and sorrow. A timeless tale of a forbidden rose and the smooth voice of a masked stranger. A story of rebellion and despair and love. A story of a promise given and of a hope received.

Rose of the Oath (a Beauty and the Beast novella)

War clouds the horizon, and wolves howl into the night. With rebels on the move, Elissa is desperate for her brother’s return. When she receives a mysterious message concerning his capture, she knows she must save him.

There is no one else who can.

But the rose that granted her warning now holds her captive in safety. According to her mysterious scarred host, even that safety is tentative at best as wolves and dark figures stalk the night.

Outside the valley, war threatens those she loves most. Her host might hold to ancient promises of the Prince’s return, but Elissa knows the blood-drenched truth. She is on her own. And she is willing to do almost anything to keep her family safe.

Like last time, I’m not actually posting a sign-up form on my blog. I do, however, have a small email list of anyone who is interested in getting notifications about beta reading. I’ll be sending out the official form for Rose of the Oath later this week, so if you want to sign up for beta reading alerts you can do so HERE.

Posted by Hope Ann in fairy tales, fantasy, Legends of Light, Rose of the oath, 2 comments

New Fantasy Times: Advancing Fantasy Technology

Advancing Fantasy Technology

Fantasy equals a sword, a bow, and a golden prophecy, right? Wrong. Do you honestly think that the realm in which you live contains the smartest, most advanced people? Of course, ‘advanced’ can have plenty of definitions. That aside, you might be surprised to find the realms which people in this land deem as ‘fantasy’ have a few tricks of their own.

What is technology after all? A thin device which carries words and pictures. An invisible thread in the air which connects the aforementioned devices. A globe of glass which glows. A chest which keeps things cold. A metal box which hurtles across the country at high speeds… It’s not quite so grand as some like to think.

Plenty of worlds have their own forms of useful (and not so useful) tools. There are the Silver Shells, which one can speak into and their voice will travel outwards to all other shells which are properly tuned. The Ruby Crystals hold pictures, even if they do tint them all red. Fire globes can carry heat and light for up to a week. One ice globe can keep a whole room cool. Swooping, kite-like contraptions carry individuals from one place to another.

The abilities of other realms are not limited to comfort and information. To be sure, swords and bows are quite popular. They were used for over three thousand years in our own realm, you will remember. But I have seen many other weapons. Powders that burrow into the foundations and, once fire catches on them, nothing can put it out. Catapults hurl explosions at iron-clad walls. Tubes send such explosions half way across the world. Hologramic soldiers march in rank and scatter confusion among the enemy. Mixtures seeped in water to weary the limbs and terrify the hearts. Other realms are not lacking in imagination or resources, let me assure you.

It is not just about what great men can think up either. The very air of some lands is different from those of others. There is one realm where currents layer the breeze. Two people in the same current can speak to each other though they are miles away. In other places, pools capture images and stones leave impressions of who was last there, while wind caves catch voices and echo them through deep caverns of the earth.

How people communicate and what they wield is just the beginning. The realms themselves are hardly what so many histories nowadays show them as…all green and swords and golden light or else dark and stony and hard. The past is not always pleasant, nor the future always hard.

Fantasy worlds are destroyed as well and must rise from the ashes. Realms and creatures from other realms interconnect – be they coming from the moon or from the sea. Wagons roll north over great deserts inhabited by wolves. Sleek silver ships combat dragons in the sky over glittering cities.

Quite frankly, no matter how many different ideas you can twist or merge, you will be able to find an existing world within the details. There is no limit except your imagination…and your realm leaper abilities.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 4 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

Shadows of Hersweald Cover Reveal

Yes, it is time! Already!

*squeals*

Shadows of the Hersweald is the third novella in my Legends of Light series and retells the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. And I am very excited to be sharing the cover with you today.

A battered soldier from a defeated army, Haydn knows the only end to the arrival of the Prince’s governor is chains, followed by punishment and possible execution. Except he hasn’t counted on the Prince himself. Or the pardon which his recent foe has declared to acquit all those who fought against him.

A pardon Haydn detests.

A pardon that refuses to punish the rebels now threatening his own village. And his sister.

Guilt-ridden from his own actions during the war, Haydn knows there are others who have no conscience at all. Others who are using the freedom of the pardon to forward their own desperate schemes.

With enemies closing in on all sides, a pardon that refuses punishment for the rebellion, and nightmares of murder and fire hovering in the back of Haydn’s every thought, can he save the only ones left he cares about before it is too late?

Find out in Shadows of the Hersweald!

And…I suppose I should actually show you the cover now. So, without more ado, here it is!

This gorgeous cover, by the way, was created by a good friend of mine who just started a blog and who you can find here.

Oh, and one more thing. There is something else I’ve been looking forward to sharing. The book trailer for Shadows of the Hersweald. It is the first book trailer I have made and I had fun with it.

Well, what do you all think, of both the cover and the trailer? Looking forward to the end of March yet? 🙂

Posted by Hope Ann in Cover Reveal, fantasy, Legends of Light, Shadows of the Hersweald, 10 comments

Fidelyon: ‘K’ and ‘L’ with Ethaniel

thaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

‘K’ with Ethaniel

Keros is the natural choice for ‘K’. A fellow messenger, he has also grown to something like a friend during the times he’s been posted nearby. Generally stationed at the neighboring Messenger Outpost 8, Keros had moved up and down the messenger line more than once, filling in for sick or hurt messengers.

He is quiet and keeps to himself, though Drexin sometimes manages to get him talking and even laughing. Keros is steady, determined, and quick.

His past is a bit of a mystery although, considering he appears to be a mixture of Volandum and Elentisaren blood, it’s little wonder he doesn’t speak of. He doesn’t speak of himself much at all, really, except to occasionally mention his father who he says he will rejoin one of these days. There are some messengers who doubt such a man really exists, but they quickly learned to keep their mouths shut on such a subjected if they valued their further wellbeing.

‘L’ with Ethaniel:

There are two men who sprang to mind when I was given the letter ‘L’.

The first is Lasher. First a ranger, then a jester in King Kysten’s court, he must be in his 50s at least. Short, wiry, with sharply cut graying hair, he carries himself with preoccupied purpose. He has a dry sense of humor, but not enough to make a good jester. How he got the position is beyond me. Though I am told that he is great at juggling. Especially when it comes to knives. No surprise there.

The other is also an older man by the name of Lathen. A Volandum Follower, he lives across the border near the main pass between our two nations. A healer and a leader of the Followers of the Prince in his village in Voland, he also has a wry sense of humor and a commanding presence whenever he enters a room.

Both men are very loyal, though Lathen takes a more relaxed view of duty than Lasher. Still, the two could almost be brothers. (They aren’t. I’ve looked into it.)

Sign up to my newsletter to get regular updates on my writing and secret stories about the realm-leapers and fantasy time travelers, Kirin and Elena, each month. Join the Legend Seekers here.

Posted by Hope Ann in A-Z with Ethaniel, fantasy, Fidelyon, WIP, 0 comments

Shadows of the Hersweald

You’ve all heard of it, on and off, but now it’s time for the official unveiling of my third Legends of Light novella, Shadows of the Hersweald, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Though it originally gave me much grief, the story has progressed into one of my favorites. Which might mean something except that, so far, the each Legend of Light novella is a favorite as I write it.

They would have to come that afternoon. Haydn glared at the rutted road twisted away from the gate beneath him, slithering into the shadows of the Harsweald. And what was the flaming idea behind leaving him in charge? Tregaron in the hands of a criminal… that would put them all in the good graces of the province governor, no questions asked.

A battered soldier from a defeated army, Haydn knows there is only one end to the arrival of the Prince’s governor. Except he hasn’t counted on the Prince himself. Or the pardon which his recent foe has declared to acquit all those who fought against him.

A pardon Haydn detests.

A pardon that refuses to punish the rebels now threatening his own village. And his sister.

Guilt-ridden from his own actions during the war, Haydn knows there are others who have no conscience at all. Others who are using the freedom of the pardon to forward their own desperate schemes.

With enemies closing in on all sides, a pardon that refuses punishment for the rebellion, and nightmares of murder and fire hovering in the back of Haydn’s every thought, can he save the only ones left he cares about before it is too late?

Shadows of the Hersweald is currently scheduled for publication late March of 2017. I do have a date, but I’m not releasing it yet because it’s possible it may change to early April instead. This will be the first novella I find an editor for, and I’m not sure how long the editing process itself will take…

But I will be accepting beta readers soon! I’ve about a week left of my own corrections, then I’ll send it out. But I’m not going to be having an open form on my blog this time. Instead, I’ve set up a beta reader email list you can sign up to. I only use it to email out beta reading and book review alerts and opportunities. And, just because you are signed up, you will be under no obligation to beta read anything. Anyhow, you can sign up here if you are interested.

I’ve a bunch of fun stuff planned in relation to Shadows of the Hersweald over the next few months, so you can be looking forward to that. And, in the meantime, I must be off because there is writing yet to do, both on Shadows of the Hersweald and Rose of the Oath.

Posted by Hope Ann in fairy tales, fantasy, Legends of Light, My Writing, Shadows of the Hersweald, WIP, 6 comments

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?

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, fantasy, My Writing, Reader's Corner, serial story, 23 comments