Reader’s Corner

Trains and Free Verse

Trains and Free Verse

Two weeks ago, I rode a train for the first time. Well, Amtrak. The little steam train I rode years ago doesn’t count as a ‘real’ train. It was a nine hour, overnight trip to Pittsburgh. I’ll have more to say about the trip and train in my monthly highlights post, but I did want to share one thing with you all.

I finally expermented with free verse poetry! I’ve tried my hand at free verse once or twice before, but I’ve never studied poetry and have read hardly any. Still, while looking out the window at 3:30 a.m. from the observation car, I decided to give it a go. Here is the result.

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Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, My Writing, Reader's Corner, 2 comments
Beyond the Parchment: Part 10

Beyond the Parchment: Part 10

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Parchment: Part 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth and War

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

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

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

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

“Called someone?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is about my brother!”

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

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

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

“We’re fine,” Jerin growled.

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

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

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

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

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

“Guardian…” his brow furrowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

“If you think for a minute I’m—”

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

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

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

Jerin blinked once. “You believe me.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

I touch her army. “Hey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Parchment: Part 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrors of the Modern World

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snap my mouth shut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three pairs of dark eyes turn in my direction.

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

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

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

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

Like you are really taking charge, my dear?

Oh, shut up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s for the kitchen,” I interrupt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May Ann!”

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

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

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

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

“Leinad!” I hiss.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Rain

I don’t normally write flowery, dramatic monologues, but about a month a got I got inspired (from the language of Fahrenheit 451 and Shakespeare) and this was the result.

The Rain

The rain rages in mindless anger, dashing against choking walls, streaming down bricks, racing along pavement. Hard, cold drops stabbing though papered shelter, soaking clothing, battering skin, matting hair, coating all in icy reasonless fury. On and on and on, it pours, smashing, slashing, crashing…

The rumbles fade. Time slows. Leaden skies, weeping frigid tears. The wind howls about sharp corners, catching a soggy banner of smeared ink, tossing it against the alley walls, discarding it again. Softly now the drops fall, streaming quietly in bitter sorrow.

So much the desolate grayness sees. So much to weep for. The starved. The sick. The withered faces and infant cries. Shadowy figures, huddled against the wintery tears. Young lips, so cold. Ancient eyes, so blank. The men, with death in their eyes and life in their hands. Hearts of despairing hope and sight already veiled with darkness.

But hark. A light. A wind. The drops twist and dance. A fleeting smile. A fragmented laugh. The flicker of hope. Molten drops of silver and gold. The pavement a polished floor. The grimed walls a bejeweled passage.

Faces uplifting. Eyes opening wide. Murmuring laughter, washing clean the earth. Caressing shivering skin. Soothing trembling limbs.

Drop by drop, the rain quickens. The light fades. Shadows grow. Darker, thicker, the anger returns. The rumbling rage, keeping time with the tramp of boots. Stark lighting bolts glint off polished steel. Metal glitters, slicing the rain’s protective embrace.

Still the mist falls, thicker and faster, veiling the eyes of those who wait. Those who hide. A thunderous crash to cover the crack of weapons. A shattering roar. Lashing wind, slamming rain against the stained steel and streaming coats. Retreating coats. Fading steps.

The gloom lifts. Light gleams again. Wind moans through the street. A silenced voice. An exhaled breath. A stilled crawl. Crimson seeps across the ink-stained banner. Scarlet mingles with gold and silver, carried away in endless rivulets dropping from the weeping sky.

Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Reader's Corner, 10 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t this just be a dream?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s doubtful.”

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

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

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

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

I muffle a groan.

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

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

“It should.”

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

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

“Daraton did not kill your father.”

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

Strange pant– Oh, the fridge.

“Ethred told me,” I say.

Silence.

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

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

“Jerinthreo.”

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

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

“He’s safe then?”

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

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

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

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

Well then. That was one uneasy truce brokered.

“So…” I venture. “Varizan?”

“What about him?”

“Do you happen to know his backstory?”

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

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

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

I press my lips tight.

Jerin snorts.

“Varizan then?” I ask again.

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

“Family?” I ask.

“None that I know of.”

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

“What are you smirking about?” Jerin demands.

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

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

“My type!”

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

I choke out a small cry of indignation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perhaps.”

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

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

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

So much for the power angle.

“Braceaon then?”

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

“Hence the paper and pens.”

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

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

“But…”

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

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

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

“You must believe me, we can’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Parchment: Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, That Complicates Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I blink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I… maybe?”

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

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

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

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

“I don’t…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adella snorts, but her lips curve up slightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I groan. Great. This is just great.

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

Right. Poison. And such.

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

But I’m so tired.

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

My eyes slip closed and darkness sweeps about me…

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

Jerinthreo?

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

The door is flung open, and light streams inwards.

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

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

 

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

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

Autumn Reading: Mini-Reviews

Despite lack of time, I did get a good amount of reading done this summer.

Inkdeath

Overview: Yes, it has a skull on the front. But there is a reason the book is called Inkdeath (and it doesn’t have to do with skeletons or anything gruesome of that kind). What happens when one gets read into a book. And when the author has based a heroic rebel off of you (or your father, as the case may be).

Technical aspects: Writing: 5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5

My thoughts: Inkdeath is the last book in the Inkheart trilogy and it is also my favorite. These books are charming and well written with great characters. Mo/the Bluejay is so cool, and I absolutely love Dustfinger. And the writing humor in here, with the author trapped in his own book…so good.

Recommendation:  5 of 5. I’ve enjoyed these books very much. I love writers meeting characters and writing humor. Besides, I just loved the book.

The Light of Eidon

Overview: All Abramm wanted was peace. But when he is caught up in political schemes and betrayed to be sold as a slave, fighting is the only way to survive.

Technical aspects: Writing: 3.5 of 5 – Characters: 4 of 5 – Dialogue: 4 of 5 – Theme 4.5 of 5

My thoughts: I really liked the story itself. The characters, for the most part, I enjoyed. The theme was well done and the pacing was pretty good. The writing itself was not especially impressive. It wasn’t awful, just lots of telling instead of showing or mingling descriptions with the scenery. This is the first book in a four book series and I like it enough that I might get the next book sometime.

Recommendation:  4 of 5. If you like allegorical fantasy, you will probably like this story. It is exciting. I mean, how can you go wrong with gladiators and rebellion? If the writing style doesn’t bother you, then I would definitely recommend it.

Space Drifters: The Iron Gauntlet

Overview: Captain Glint Starcrost is one of the few humans chosen to  compete in the Iron Gauntlet, pitted against four of the most fearsome, fang-filled, alien fighters in the universe. With the help of his crew, he must survive. But he’ll never be the same.

Technical aspects: Writing: 5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5 – Theme 5 of 5

My thoughts: The second Space Drifter book doesn’t disappoint. Hilarious, exciting, dangerous, with fresh new characters and unexpected twists, it builds up for the next book while telling a complete story. I can hardly wait for the next book.

Recommendation:  5 of 5. This is my favorite Christian sci-fi series and, really, my favorite sci-fi series anywhere. Not that I read much sci-fi, but I love this series. And the characters. As one person put it, it reminds me of a clean Christian Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder and Scarlet

Overview: A retelling of Cinderella where Cinder is a cyborg. Little Red Riding Hood with Lunar enemies. Each book in the Lunar Chronicles has a new main character, but they build on each other, containing past characters and running in a progressive storyline.

Technical aspects: Writing: 4.5 of 5 – Characters: 5 of 5 – Dialogue: 5 of 5 – Theme 4 of 5

My thoughts: I loved Cinder. All the nods to the original fairytale, and yet there were a number of new twists as well. Scarlet I enjoyed, though I liked Cinder’s character better. (Plus, Cinder was as passionately romantic). Still, I’m looking forward to reading Cress, the third book.

Recommendation:  4.5 of 5. This isn’t a Christian series, but it is pretty clean. No swearing. Not too much romance. Well, there is more in Scarlet than in Cinder, which I could have done without, but it wasn’t too bad.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What your favorite book which you’ve read this autumn?

Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 1 comment

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

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.

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, fantasy, My Writing, Reader's Corner, serial story, 28 comments