Tuesday Snippet – Unlicensed Sorceress – Chapter One

unlicensed sorceress 2017

Chapter One

Hilda Brant

The tall men with squared shoulders in red and blue uniforms garnished in gold with swords hanging at right side of their hips were meant to intimidate the most dangerous political prisoners. They may look like toy soldiers, but every one of these men had been hand-picked. They were hard men.

The gray stone chiseled walls rose up around Hilda. She looked into the hard eyes of the leader with head held high as she stepped into the formation. Six men dressed in the king’s colors may have looked like an honor guard, but they weren’t. They were there to escort her to a dwelling that housed political prisoners. At least it wasn’t a cell.

She had been a part of this guard a few times when rogue wizards had been escorted to the university for rehabilitation. It was a euphemism for having their magic stripped from them. Some of the wizards had not survived the process.

Men and women in the gray robes that signified the Mage University gathered at the end of the corridor to watch them pass. A slight shiver ran down Hilda’s back and she could feel a vague unease coming from her gut, telling her that the onlookers wanted to do her harm.

She didn’t look or acknowledge them in any way. The guard formation marched through them. Hilda kept her face still and didn’t show her unease. She had been a mercenary, despised by the soldiers who guarded her now.

No one spit at her and the group was strangely quiet. All she could hear was her breathing and the hard rhythm of marching feet.

Sassy, her boisterous fire elemental, had been hiding in Hilda’s shirt. The little elemental stirred at the feelings of malevolence pouring over them. She slowly settled around Hilda’s waist. At least Sassy hadn’t popped her head through the neck opening. That would have been a disaster in front of so many mages.

They didn’t need to know that she had a familiar.

The corridor opened into a larger courtyard. The cobblestones glistened. Hilda’s head stayed high even when the rising sun hit her in the face. She could feel her body give out just a little. There was a glitch in her right hip as she kept pace with the guard.

Where were the others? Her brother, Michael, even with a limp would know this city. He had been a mage in training at this same university. His fire magic had been burned out when he had stood against a dragon-possessed mage. Still his body and his magic had healed enough that now he had a familiar, an undine water elemental. It was mostly healing magic, which was normally found in female mages.

She was more worried about the dragon and his blacksmith. If Davi was found out, then the mages would drain him and then use his body parts for magical experiments. She wished that the two young ones had just stayed with the dragons. It would have been much safer for everyone.

In the courtyard near the stone-gray walls, men and women were training with wooden swords. Hilda could smell the sour sweat coming from them.

After the war the colonel had been honored by the King and given the job to whip the king’s guard into shape. Even the mages looked physically fit. They were doing more than training in the magical arts.

She wasn’t sure if the changes were good or bad.

The colonel had smiled and shook her hand. Hilda couldn’t quite put a finger on why her stomach was twisting. She breathed evenly. The muscles in her shoulders tensed slightly. He had believed her, hadn’t he?

It was a relief when they marched to the door of a two-story white-washed garden house set in the middle of a formal garden garnished with lilacs and carefully trimmed bushes.

The leader of the guard produced a key from his waistband, put the ornate key into the lock, and opened it.

The rest of the guard surrounded the house and began a slow patrol. So she was right. They were prisoners.

Hilda followed the guard inside. The twisting in her stomach settled when she saw Michael sitting on a soft plush chair in a small parlor.

He stood up and leaned heavily on his cane. Hilda’s eyes widened a little. Michael’s dark hair had been recently combed. He had changed into a gray robe that showed his status as a University trained mage.

“I thought your leg…” She paused when Michael shook his head slightly, causing her to stop her voicing her thoughts. She changed the subject. “Where are the others?”

Michael glanced at the guard who was still standing next to her and who was probably told to listen to their conversations.

“The others will be back soon. The king’s interrogator wanted to question them.”

Hilda’s stomach twisted a little. If the interrogator was a mage, then it was all over for Davi.

Michael must have felt her anxiety because he said, “They’ll be back soon.”

“I think I’m tired,” she said. “Where are the bedrooms?”

Michael pointed to small spiral staircase just a few feet away from the parlor door. They guard stayed in the parlor as she climbed the stairs. The hitch in her hip grew worse and she sighed as she reached the top of the stairs.

There was a hallway with four doors on each side. She walked to the very end of the hallway. Sassy would have warned her if there was anyone there. She grasped the metal handle in her hand and opened the bedroom door quickly.

The room was dimly lit. A soft bed with a canopy was the centerpiece of this bedroom.

Someone, probably Michael, had anticipated that she would pick this room because her bags were sitting on the cold floor near a small wooden chair next to a small table.

A bowl of water and a hand mirror were set on the table. Hilda put both hands in the water and splashed her face. She took a deep breath and then took a small drink of water from a glass next to a pitcher. Sassy crawled up to see what she was doing, and then sniffed the water.

Hilda sat on the bed and it bounced just a little under her weight. She tugged and pulled off her boots. She stripped off her leathers next. Using a washcloth, she washed the dust from her arms and legs.

She finally felt clean enough until she could spend a some time soaking in a bath.

Exhaustion became her friend and she wanted to lie on the bed and sleep. She pulled a white nightgown over her head.

Someone thoughtfully left her some bread and cheese. The bread and cheese was hard, so she nibbled it. Her stomach settled.

She was so tired that she wanted to sink into the mattress and sleep for days. Instead she waited for Michael.

Not too much later she heard the clump, clump, clump as Michael navigated the stairs with his cane. He knocked on the door.

“Come in,” she said.

He leaned on the cane. “The interrogator isn’t a mage.”

Hilda nodded. It was a relief. As Michael stood there, Hilda saw the hard lines of his face and body. When had her little brother grown into this hard man?

He could take care of himself and her. Hilda sank into the mattress.

“Good night sister,” Michael said. She watched him clump out the door and down the stairs.

Sassy leaped to the fireplace next to the bed. She didn’t start a fire—not yet. Sassy curled up in the ashes. Hilda feel asleep watching Sassy.
Soon, only a slight harmonic snoring came from the room.


Tuesday Snippet: Hero of Corsindor Chapter six

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Hero of Corsindor
Chapter six

The Hunter’s Quarry butted up against a cliff. Small and large gray-black stones scattered around the clearing. Aspen trees grew close together and guarded the quarry. Sunlight dappled through the trees, leaving spots of shadows and light.

Silas opened his eyes to the light. His head pounded and his mouth was dry. His stomach burned. The demon must not have been taking care of him because he had lost a lot of weight. It felt like he hadn’t eaten in ages.
Next to him was a burned out campfire. There were stones around it as if someone, probably him in one of the spells, had built it. He groaned as he rolled over. Pebbles dented his skin. He stood up and dusted off the dirt.

The horses and mule were gone. He studied the area looking for a sign of the animals. There were no hoof prints in the dirt. He couldn’t remember anything except for the few lucid moments before he read the note.

A note on the ground caught his attention. He tried to move away from it, but he could feel a compulsion moving him to that spell.

When he looked down he caught sight of his hands. There was hair growing from the knuckles and his forefinger was clawed. It shocked him.

He must find a way out of this mess. It wouldn’t be long before he was one of them. He walked away from the note. It was like there was a noose around his neck. He pulled away and felt himself choke. He fell to the ground and clawed his way toward a small rock pile.

Just before the noose snapped, he saw the shadow of a cave opening. The next moment he was in front of that note. He hated himself as he picked it up. Then his memory was gone.

The next day he was by the same campfire. It was burned out. This time he put his hand on it and felt a small bit of warmth. Once again he pulled away from the white note that was on the ground. This time when he felt the noose tighten, he slight the back of his hand with the one claw.

Silas didn’t look, wouldn’t look, at the new hair growth on his arms. When the noose became too much had his body tried to go unconscious, he made another slice.

This time he made it to the cave opening. The opening was too small for a grown man to slide into— but had lost so much weight that he was able to slide through. The rocks sliced his body and when he reached the interior of the cave, the compulsion suddenly stopped.

Silas took a deep breath. He reached into a side pocket and pulled out a bit of candle. The relief was immediate. The demon hadn’t taken anything. He touched the wick, and the candle lit.

Silas started to shake. He didn’t have magic. He shouldn’t have been able to light the candle with his hand. He didn’t have time to be scared. He pushed this to the back of his mind with the other things like his heart being bound to a demon.

Through the flickering candle light, he thought he saw moving shapes on the walls of the cave. He looked closer. The pictures were of cats hunting and playing.

When he glanced away and looked back, he saw one of the cats that had been lying down was now leaping on a stag. Its claws had ripped the hindquarters of the prey.

Although the pictures were interesting, his attention was caught by the back wall. He could tell that the pictures had been drawn of him and the demon. Here Rhali was capturing him. There was another picture of Silas gradually turning into a nightstalker.

He winced.

The next picture Rhali had torn out Silas’ heart and eaten half of it.
Silas touched the pictures. His fate was sealed. He felt moisture gather at the corners of his eyes. “What should I do?” He whispered in the silence.

“You must find his heart,” a small breeze whispered to him. Silas turned around suddenly, but no one was there.

“If I kill him, I’ll die.”

The breeze whispered back, “If you have his heart, you can command him to give yours back.”

“Where should I look?” he asked. He felt a small flicker of hope in his heart.

In the cave wall next to the pictures, a small ruby heart worked its way to his hand. He tried to catch it, but then it disappeared. His heart dropped.

The candle sputtered. A small spark from the dying candle landed on his right hand. It burned.

“A gift,” whispered the breeze. “It will help you find the heart.”

It was time to go. Silas needed to read the note before Rhali found out about this cave. It would be his secret.

He crawled out of the cave, then hid the entrance with brush. It was the best he could do.

When he looked up, he saw that the sun was lower than he thought. He brushed off the debris from his clothes and rushed to the campsite. Rhali was already there.

“Where have you been?” There was anger in the demon’s voice. Instead of waiting for an answer, the demon made some finger movements and Silas yelped. His heart burned.

“Ummm,” Rhali looked at him carefully. “You are still mine.”

Silas went to the note. Rhali took it from him. “You don’t need that, boy,” said Rhali. “Get some wood. I will need a lot of it.”

Silas was terrified that the demon would find out his secret. He hurried to the edge of the aspens to look for firewood. He didn’t know if he would find the heart or even if he could survive the demon.

His mind muddled, he thought on the character of demons. They looked like us. How could anyone tell who was a demon and who was not? He tried to calm down. He dropped a branch and bent to pick it up.

“Pssst,” said a small voice. Silas jumped.

“Shhhhhh,” the voice said again. “Calm down.”

Silas couldn’t move. Was this another demon? His terror increased until he almost screamed. A hand went over his mouth and he dropped to the ground.

The words didn’t make sense. “Lad, we are here to help you.”
A young woman had her hand around his mouth. She had blonde hair and long long legs encased in hunter’s leather. The little man who was talking to him was dressed in forest green.

He was so small that his head barely reached the young woman’s waist.

“Come with us,” he said.

Silas shook his head, no. The young woman lifted her hand and waited for his answer.

“I can’t,” Silas said. “He has my heart.”

“That’s rough, lad,” said the little man. The little man looked at the young woman, then said, “We’ll find a way. Get back now.”

Silas left. Now he had two secrets.

Tuesday Snippet: Hero of Corsindor Chapter 5c

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Hero of Corsindor

It was the shouting and scuffling outside that convinced Malkiah to run to the tent opening. A young man with a scimitar burst into the tent with a couple of guards behind him. One of them tackled the young man. The scimitar went flying.

The alcoholic fumes coming off the young man made Malkiah step back. The young man was flailing and kicking. He screamed at the Councilor who was safely on the dais. “There are traitors here. They want to kill you.”

It must have been the drink or the young man’s insanity. Malkiah knew several family heads who wanted the Councilor deposed, but killed?
Some stuffed a rag in the man’s mouth and the guards hog-tied him. The young man looked at the Councilor pleadingly. He was a sorry looking Ahrah. His robes were stained and yellowed. No one could believe that.

“Do you think this man is telling the truth?”

Malkiah wasn’t watching the byplay between the priest and the Councilor. He was more concerned in finding more weapons on the young man. He ran his hands down the side of the young man and pulled out several knives secured on his person.

“Untie him,” said the Councilor.

Malkiah frowned. If this petitioner attacked the Councilor, then he would have failed his duty. “I don’t think that’s wise,” he told her as he complied.

Soon the young man was on his feet. He wiped his hands down his robes. Then in a quick movement he grabbed the Councilor. Malkiah grabbed one of the young man’s arms and twisted it. He fell away and there was a manic gleam in his eyes.

Then the young man yelled in Malkiah’s face. His breath was putried. “You’ll get yours.”
Malkiah turned the young man over to the guards. They didn’t normally have jails, but this man had touched the Councilor. At the very least he would lose his head.

The Councilor’s face went white then gray. She fell and the priest caught her. “She’s just tired,” the priest said.

Malkiah and the priest supported her to her rooms. The Councilor didn’t live in a tent. She had permanent quarters here. They reached her room and she sat down heavily.

It had been a long day. Malkiah left the room and stood outside. Several of the Ahrah must have heard of the altercation because they were already crowding outside the building.

One of his old friends walked up to him. “Come with us,” he said.

“No,” he said. “I’m still on duty.”

“Your loss,” said his old friend. There was something in his eyes that made Malkiah wary.

He kept the crowds from coming into the building. The Councilor needed to rest. Soon the priest came the door.

“The Councilor just needed rest. Please leave.”

Then he said to Malkiah, “You can leave now.”

Malkiah looked around and saw his mother with her cronies. She was tittering and talking. Then her eyes caught his. They narrowed. It was that one look and he knew. His mother had been part of the Councilor’s sudden illness.

He had always known that his mother considered him her tool. With him she could reach heights that she couldn’t reach as a female of the olds ways. The thoughts of betrayal and treason soured his stomach.

He nodded to the priest and then left. There were other guards on the doors. He wasn’t needed. Besides he wanted to clear his head. He strode through the crowd, not looking right or left. He refused to answer his mother, who called his name.

When he reached his tent, he changed into his riding clothes. He needed to clear his head and not think for a while. It was obvious now that he was between a rock and a hard place— between his mother and the Councilor. Not a safe place to be.

After changing he walked to at the corrals He rubbed Storm’s nose after giving him a carrot. He bridled and saddled Storm and then leaped into the saddle. They galloped down a small dirt road, and Malkiah felt exhilaration with the wind in his face. For a moment he felt free.

In the corral, a dark shadow watched him ride away.

Tuesday Snippet: Hero of Corsindor- Chapter 5b

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2 Last week I rearranged my living room to make more space. So my blogposts suffered as I vacuumed, dusted, and moved my stuffed rocking chair, bookcases, tables, and sorted through my accumulated stuff. I am definitely a bookworm and even with the kindle, I have some heavy tomes from my English Literature days.

Of course this need to clean and rearrange wandered into other rooms. I’m still going through my coats and sweaters. I’m washing them so they will be ready for the winter. Even though I live on the edges of the Sonora desert in a large paved city, it does get cold in the winter. Thankfully not Chicago cold. It is a dry cold that blows through the layers.

So without further ado, here is the snippet I promised.

Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 5b

In his private tent, the walls shook a little as the breeze slapped against them. The fall wind would be a reminder that the tent walls were too light. Most of the Ahrah would leave to go to their strongholds built of wood and stone in the high mountains.

Malkiah and his mother would retreat with the other high-born and follow the Councilor. The Councilor was not a life-time appointment. Every four years the Ahrah would get together to decide who would be the best leader. This Councilor had managed to hold the position for fifteen years.

Every other year the Ahrah would get together, bringing their families and their animals to the meeting ground in the biggest valley. They would meet, marry, and settle their differences.

When they first escaped from Corsindor, they had been a small group. The gathering was necessary to keep track of their numbers. Now this was the largest gathering Malkiah had seen in his lifetime.

It also meant that the Councilor needed a ceremonial guard, who could actually defend her. Before Shira left, Malkiah had thought that the honor would be given to her. It had been a great source of tension between Malkiah and his mother, Cianne.

Cianne stood holding the mirror, while he adjusted his ceremonial cape and then placed a headscarf on his head held with a white rope. He did look elegant in black trousers and a simple jacket that came to his mid thigh. He was shorter than Shira, but compared to other Ahrah his was tall. He straightened his back.

His mother put the mirror down and adjust his jacket shoulders and fiddled with headscarf. “There,” she said. “You are a credit to me.”

Malkiah tried not to wince. Cianne was more conscious of her position than him. She liked the old ways where the woman hid her face, but was the steel behind the man. He was well aware that she wanted more power.

She had bit her lip when he told her that he would be guarding the Councilor. For a moment he suspected that she was one of the conspirators that wanted to change their system and install a king. But then she smiled and congratulated him.

He knew she was a snake. He had lived with her his entire life. He tried to relax as he strapped his curved scimitar to his waist. It reminded him of his father, who had died long ago.

He took a deep breath and turned away from her. She tried to hug him, but he shrugged her off. It was time for him to leave his mother. She wouldn’t like that.

He left her standing in front of the tent.

The main tent they had used last night for the banquet had been set up as a judgment hall for the Councilor. Today was when the groups who had grievances could air and settle them.

Malkiah reached a wooden table where the main clerk sat, checking in the folks who would see the Councilor today.

The clerk was dressed in a white desert robe that covered him. His headscarf declared that he was of the group that rode the border between Corsindor and Ahrah. He wasn’t of the usual clerk class.

“Name,” barked the clerk.

Malkiah told him his name.


Malkiah showed his scimiter. “You must leave that here,” the clerk said.

“I’m the ceremonial guard,” Malkiah said patiently. “I won’t leave it.”

The clerk sent a boy into the tent. The boy came back and nodded his head to the clerk. The frowning clerk waved him in.

A long carpet runner reached from the front to where the Councilor was standing. There were no chairs except on the dais. The petitioners would have to take that long walk to the Councilor so that he could think if he wanted to bring a petty problem to such a high authority.

There would be observers in the tent, who would be unarmed. This was unusual in the Ahrah life. Most everyone carried a long knife or weapon. Councilors had been assassinated before in such surroundings. The guards around this Councilor didn’t want to lose another one.

When Malkiah reached the dais, a priest of the “one God” stood next to her. He was leaning into her and Malkiah hurried toward the Councilor.

He heard the last of the priest words, “but you cannot mean…” his words trailed off when he saw Malkiah.

The Councilor turned away from the priest. It was a moved calculated to infuriate the priest. “Malkiah,” she said almost gratefully.

“You will stand here.” It was a place to the right and behind the Councilor. “Your position is mostly ceremonial,” she continued. Malkiah knew this. Her eyes said otherwise. She was not as comfortable as her demeanor suggested. He would watch carefully. No petitioner would hurt her while she was under his eye.

His loyalty was under question of course. His mother was part of the “loyal opposition.” But he wouldn’t let his mother get between him and his duty.

For the next two hours he stood behind her, listening to much of the same complaints. This one was more interesting.

Two tribal leaders stood in front of the Councilor. They were in dispute of the same summer fields.

“Why is this a problem?” asked the Councilor. “You’ve shared this summer fields before.”

The two men looked at each other, then the older one spoke.

“Councilor,” his voice was deep and the sound filled the tent. “We have both grown, and we can’t share anymore.”

This caught the Councilor’s attention. “Have you adopted stragglers from the border? Or were there new children?”


“Go to the clerk and have your people counted,” she said. “Have you forgotten the compact?”

The two men bowed to her and were escorted out.

Near the end of the supplicants the two came back. The clerk handed her the count. She perused it and then said, “In the next two months you will each send people for a new tribe. The summer fields will still be shared.” She sent a significant look at the two men.

They nodded.

“Remember you are now the mother and father of this new tribe. You will teach and help this tribe for five years. Is that understood?”

Malkiah watched them as they agreed. One of the tribal leaders frowned, but what could he do? The Councilor had stuck to the compact.

The tribal leader who had spoke before said, “Councilor, we have already picked the new leader.” He called up a young man who had been with the observers in the back of the tent.

The young man had that stunned look on his face that said he had no idea. The three leaders walked out of the tent, talking of new plans and alliances.

More petitioners and more problems. Malkiah quit listening and watched each one carefully, looking for any weapons. Many of these problems were petty and could have been fixed in their own groups.

The Councilor was patient, but he could tell that she was getting tired because she leaned against the priest. Her lips were pale.

“Maybe you should sit down,” the priest said.

The Councilor nodded her head no and kept standing.

Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor -Chapter 5a

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 5a

The servant’s stairs seemed dark and foreboding because there were no candles flickering in the sconces. The servants complained daily that they hated walking these stairs laden with trays and food. They complained of the whispers they heard in the dark when nothing was there.

The maids would not go up or down these stairs by themselves. So they went by twos.
Rose listened to their gossip, but she wasn’t superstitious. Not at all.

Curls of chestnut hair escaped her bun, and her white dress embroidered with little roses swayed around her legs as she slipped up the stairs. If someone saw her they would have thought she was going to see a lover. Her face glowed with anticipation.

Before the stairs, she had gone to the ballroom just to confirm the queen’s story. She had peeked around the wall, but the guards were already at the door. There was a green haze covering the door, and she could see some blurry white thing above the door. It was good enough.

When she reached the guest level, she looked around her to see if anyone was watching, and then she walked slowly down a passageway that wasn’t used. There was a slight layer of dust on the sconces.

At the end of the passageway was a plain wooden door. She whispered her information through the keyhole, and then ran back the way she had come. Rose knew that in a few hours a coin wrapped in a handkerchief would appear on her bed. Still there was something cold in that room, it made her shiver.

Rhali, pulled a long hair from his neck and dropped it on the floor. His ears twitched a little as he listened to the little human’s words. Sometimes he had trouble getting back into his human shape after he had let his demon out to play.

He sighed in satisfaction. It had taken over a decade, but his plans were coming to fruition. Rose had been easy to corrupt. The queen though was having second thoughts.

He laughed. It was too late for the queen. She had been the catalyst to set all this into motion; a king who didn’t have an heir and couldn’t lead. She was a figure-head queen.

She would learn that real soon when he started the second part of his plan.

The boy prince would soon be dead. Besides a royal raised as a commoner? It was too delicious. No one would want him to lead.

The boy prince sacrifice would give him enough power to make this world his own.
The promise he made to Cianne that her son would be king of the Ahrah. It could be easily broken. He had made his plans carefully and soon he would have at least one of the kingdoms in his hand.

There was a puff of white smoke and Rhali vanished.

The mouse who lived in a chink in the floor under the roll-top desk, sniffed the room for crumbs and cheese. When it smelled brimstone, it hurried back to its hole.

Tuesday Snippet: Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 4

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Hero of Corsindor
Chapter 4

Shira packed her few clothes into a bag. She couldn’t bring more than her horse could carry. It would be better to have more food and weapons than clothes. She would miss this tent. She could barely stand in the center and it had a small cot in the corner.

A trunk held her clothes and weapons. She would have to leave much of it if she was only allowed one horse.

She didn’t turn to look when she heard the tent flap crackle. She had wanted to tell Oor that she was leaving, but the Counselor had cautioned her.

Well, she hadn’t told him, but he would have to be suspicious after seeing her packing.

“You’ll need this,” Oor said. He handed her a small ebony knife. She wrapped the knife in cotton and place it in the pouch that hung on her belt. There was a small blue jewel in the knife that was the exact color of her eyes.

“Thank you,” said Shira. “It’s lovely.”

She waited for him to leave, but he just looked at her with a little disappointment in his eyes. Oor was like a father to her. While training her, he had trained her and taught her all of his tricks. She hated to see that look in his eyes.

“You aren’t leaving without me,” he told her.

“I can’t,” she said. “You are needed here.”

He smiled. “You think I’m too old for the journey. Well, you don’t get a choice. I’ve already talked to the Counselor. Get your butt in gear because our horses are waiting for us.”

Oor grabbed her bag then pulled out most of the clothes. “You won’t be needing these.”

She was half-resigned and very amused when they made their way to the barn. Malkiah was there already. He had two horses geared up and ready.

Two people knowing her mission was two many, but three? “You aren’t going too?”
Malkiah shook his head, no. Then he smiled. “You know that when you leave I am next in line to be the Councilor’s protector?”

Shira hadn’t thought of that. Still she knew that the Counselor would run him ragged. “Good luck with that,” she smiled back.

Even though they were rivals, she would miss him. Malkiah was short, muscled, with dark hair bound in leather strips. His brown eyes could twinkle when he wasn’t angry. Shira had to admit that she liked making him angry. He spent too much of his time being self-important.

“Keep Cianne out of trouble” was her parting shot. Malkiah frowned.

Shira swung her leg over the saddle and settled in. Oh yea, Malkiah was angry that she had mentioned Cianne. That woman had too much ambition in her body and she used that ambition to get Malkiah, her son, in positions of power.

Oor leaped onto the two-tone white and brown gelding, “Quit murmuring love words and let’s get going.”

“Oh hell,” Shira would miss him. She leaned over the saddle and planted a kiss on Malkiah’s lips. He was shocked. Well, that shut him up. He did stroke her hair.

She turned the horse north and didn’t look back.


As soon as they reached the forest, the tree limbs of the fir trees closed around them and it became harder to ride. Shira got off of her horse after Oor. They led their horses through the small narrow trail. The detritus crunched under Shira’s feet. The two people, two horses, and one mule could not pass unnoticed.

As they passed the outer edges of the trees, the trunks became thicker and the moon that had risen only a few minutes before hid its face in the upper branches. Not even a little moonlight lit the forest floor.

When they reached a small clearing near a stream, Shira saw a few bits of rope on the ground near the tree. That wouldn’t have alarmed her much except there were huge claw marks on the trunk of a cottonwood with roots drinking thirstily from the burbling stream.

Still they decided to camp here for the rest of the night and get a head start in the morning. It was going to be a cold camp. After tying the horses and mules to stakes so they could graze and get water, Shira rolled up in a blanket under the clawed-up tree. Oor would take the first watch tonight.

Shira woke at the first howl.

She jumped up and rolled her blanket. Even if they could get the horses saddled again, the nightstalker was too close. She knew it was a nightstalker. There was nothing else that would make the back of her hairs stand on end.

She looked longingly at the stream. Nightwalkers were like other scent predators. If they could get away without being seen, then they might have a chance. When she started that direction, Oor caught her arm and put a finger to his lips.

Stupid. Stupid. The nightstalker was close enough to hear them. The stream was not the escape she could take.

Shira slid out her short sword from her belt and readied herself for an extremely bloody death. Nightstalkers mauled their prey and ate the meat bloody, raw, and live.

Oor didn’t have his sword out. Before she could say anything she heard a rustle coming from the tops of the trees. She faced the new danger with her sword out.

Oor grabbed her wrist and pointed her sword down. He shook his head, no.
The bushes moved from the outside of the clearing moved closer. She blinked her eyes and the bushes were even closer. When she took another look, there were four small men barely over four feet standing around them.

They wore spiked armor that resembled the bushes. Shira admired the camouflage and the work that had went into making them. It took a fine artisan to make it.

“No, it can’t be,” Shira whispered to Oor. “The little people are myths.”

Oor just grinned at her astonishment.

A man in green tights walked through the little warriors. He had a hat with a long feather that swept the ground behind him. Oor poked Shira in the ribs before she laughed.

“SPAKRSF,” said the little man.

“SPAKRSF,” Oor answered, and then spread his hands with the palm ups.

“What is he saying?” Shira asked.

Oor frowned at her. She wanted to roll her eyes because he would say the same thing he always said. Use your gift.
So she tried to hear with her ears and heart. “I can’t find it,” she said.

“It’s a first world language.”

Shira took a deep breath and tried to calm herself as the nightstalker’s howls came closer. She lost herself for a moment in the deep blackness until Oor pinched her. She came back with a blush on her cheek.

“Ha, ha, ha,” said the little man. “She thinks I’m a wizard. You need to teach her better, old friend.”

“Hush,” Oor said. “She’s never met a creature as ugly as you before. Remember when you met your first world creature? You screeched and ran away.”

“Well,” said the little man. “You were big and hairy.”

“Surely, I haven’t changed that much?”

“So is this a reunion?” Shira asked. “Do you this is the proper moment for introductions?” Shira’s complaint was punctured by another howl.

“This is Stefan Gomez Alvirez Antonio McFarland. Shorty to his friends. I call him, Runt,” said Oor.

The howl that echoed through the woods was so close that both Shira and Runt jumped.

“Can we continue this conversation in a safer place?” Oor asked.

Shorty whistled in such a high pitch that Shira barely heard it. Long hemp ropes coiled down from the tops of the trees. Shira could see several little people high in the branches.

“Our horses,” said Shira. She wouldn’t leave them to the nightstalker.

“We’ll take care of them,” said Shorty. Two large baskets were lowered to the ground. “Get in.”

Shira and Oor scrambled in the woven baskets. The baskets swayed as the little people in the trees heaved to get them up and hidden in the higher branches. It swayed so much that Shira felt nauseous. She swallowed the bile down and closed her eyes.

The ride seemed like an eternity. But it wasn’t forever. Soon a little woman was coaxing her out of the basket. Shira shook, but followed the woman. There was a temporary bridge between the trees that was made of wooden planks.

“Don’t look down,” said the little woman. She helped Shira into the next basket. It dangled from a series of ropes across the trees to a destination that was too far for her eyes to see.

She took a deep breath and told her stomach to be good. The basket whizzed down the ropes and the air rushed and slapped her face. Her shoulders cramped. Her fingers cramped as she clung to the edge of the basket.

The nightwalker howled beneath her. It was a cry of a predator that had lost its prey.

Shira shivered.


As Shira gently swayed, the darkness deepened. A small lit glinted and a strong current whirled her toward that light. She bumped through a tunnel, black jagged rocks, cave openings, and hieroglyphics flashed across her corneas. She fell and fell and fell.

She landed softly on a soft velvety grass. She was surprised to be on her feet. The sun shone straight down on her so her shadow was hidden.

“Where am I?” she asked softly. She wasn’t expecting an answer so she was surprised when she heard a soft voice.

“I have called you,” it said.

When she felt a feathery light touch on her legs, she looked down and saw a small kitten rubbing her leg.

The kitten sat on its haunch in front of her.

“Listen.” It looked at Shira directly and Shira could not look away. “At Hunter’s Quarry, there is a small cave guarded by a nightstalker named Rhali. He has traded his birthright for destruction. Kill him. He hosts the soul of a young man.”

“Go with my blessings.” A whirling light touched the top of the kitten’s head and traveling down its body. Turning into a whirlwind, it clawed Shira, leaving three marks on her ribs.

“My mark is upon you.”

A white pearl necklace was placed around Shira’s neck. The light became smaller and smaller until Shira was in the blackness again.

A young woman shook her. “Get out, please. I can’t carry you.” Shira opened her eyes. “You poor thing. You’ve hurt yourself.”

Shira crawled out of the basket. She must have had a dream while she was traveling so high above the ground. She promised that if she ever got back on the ground, she wouldn’t come back…ever.

Her ribs stung so she looked down. There was blood on the shirt. When she lifted it up, there was three claw marks on her ribs. The small woman helped her to a hut in the tree city.

She fussed over Shira, wiping the cut and putting salve on it. “You need to be careful of infection,” she said.

Soon Shira couldn’t keep her eyes open. She was on a bed so short that her feet hung over the sides.

As she was falling into that twilight dusk of sleep, she thought she heard voices.

“She is a child of the third world,” said a deep male voice.

A light curled up on the table next to Shira. In the light was a small gray tabby cat with deep forest green eyes.

“She is called,” the cat said.

A light breeze whispered through a window and touched Shira on the forehead. She slept.

Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 3b

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Silas came to slowly, while his head exploded from the pain. The back and top of his head pulsed. He tried to rub his temples, but his hands were tied at his back. He was drooling, face down in the dirt, next to his mule.

He tried to open his eyes, but a bright burst of light stabbed them and made his head hurt even worse. He shut his eyes tight and moaned.

“Where am I?”

“Ah,” Silas could hear the smooth round tones of his captor. “The prisoner is awake.

As the man came closer to him, Silas’ nose was overwhelmed with the smell of rotten eggs. Silas dry-gagged.

“The bonds were to protect you,” his captor said. He sliced the bonds and pulled Silas to his feet. Silas tried to open his eyes again and this time he squinted.

His captor was tall and dark. His eyes were a dark black with no irises. Silas shivered just a little. If his captor had had normal eyes, he would have been a handsome man. Silas looked down at his feet instead of facing his captor.

“Why am I here?” Silas mumbled. He was still weak and could barely get his mouth to move. His hands and feet started prickling and he almost missed the answer.

“My prince,” said the man. “I’ve been looking for you for too long.”

The shock of being called a prince made Silas stand straighter and look into the man’s face. The man had no wrinkles. There was no life experience etched into his face. Silas felt his heart drop to his stomach. He had been captured by a demon. He tried to stop the shivers, but his body had other ideas.

The man-shaped demon smiled, showing sharp teeth that could rend flesh. Silas shook harder.

Abruptly the man-shaped demon frowned at him. “I have no time to play with you prince. Quit acting like prey.”

Silas took a deep breath and let it out.

“I am Rhali,” said the man-demon. For a moment Silas had hope. If he had the demon’s real name he would be able to free himself.

The demon, Rhali, picked him up and threw him over the mule, then tied him down. The mule should have run from the demon. Animals were more afraid of these things than humans. Humans made deals with these creatures.

The mule was docile though. Rhali must have some type of magical hold on the animal.
Silas tried to wiggle out of his bounds. Maybe if he rolled off the mule, he could hide in the forest. His bounds were tight, but not too tight.

Rhali lead the mule and talked and talked and talked. His voice must have been spelled because Silas relaxed and finally heard the words.

“You’ll make a suitable sacrifice, prince,” murmured Rhali. “You are bound to me. If I die, then you die. If you die, I then will die but I will live on in another body.” He laughed. The sound echoed and hurt the trees around him. He was unnatural

“If I die, then you will die. If you die, then I will die.”

There was no escape.

It may have been hours or days because Silas had lost track of time, when Rhali stopped the mule in a small clearing near a small creek, a tributary of the Snake river that flowed through the heart of Corsindor.
Rhali dragged him off the mule and dropped him on the hard dirt. He did a little gesture with his hand and Silas was lifted in the air and thrown on a branch of the tree. The rope was thrown over him and wound around him like a huge snake.
It happened so quickly that Silas was snug against the branch before he could struggle. It was like Rhali was stashing him like food for the next day. There was a burning next to his heart where he assumed was where he was bound to this evil creature.

“Why?” asked Silas as if he would get a different answer.

“Don’t look down,” Rhali warned, ignoring his question.

Silas felt rather than saw Rhali leave. The tree bark scratched his cheek. The whirling sound of grasshoppers and other insects soothed him. In the distance he could hear the howl of a night hunter. He was too tired and still hurt too badly to be scared of it.

The moon rose as beautiful as a young girl in a spring gown. It’s glow made the clearing from his viewpoint made the grasses lining the banks of the creek almost ethereal.

As the moon rays touched him, his neck became itchy. His hands were bound so tightly to the branch that he couldn’t scratch. He slide his hands, scraping them until they bled. His fingernails had become claws and were covered in fur.

He finally knew what the demon meant. He was bound body and soul to the demon. Every night Silas would experienced the nocturnal turning with him.

At this realization, Silas screamed as he tried to struggle, but he was bound too tightly to move. He felt his body crack and change. It was too much horror. He blacked out.

The sun had already risen when Silas woke up to a violent headache. He was still trussed to the tree, but the rope had loosened enough during the night that he could wiggle out of it.

Next to the grazing mule was a horse. He didn’t know why he was surprised that Rhali had a horse—a nice gelding at that. A note was pinned to the saddle bags.

“Meet me at Hound’s Quarry.”

Silas had no options except obedience. If he showed up at his village with his furry problem, they would shoot him first and ask questions later. He sighed.

He led the horse to the creek so it could get a good drink. Next was the mule’s turn. He but the saddle bags on the mule, tied the mule to the saddle, and then mounted the gelding. He wasn’t used to riding something so fine. In the village he was considered odd because the blacksmith made sure he could read and ride. Only nobles rode.

It would take a few days to get to Hound’s Quarry. He had a fuzzy idea that it was in that direction. He could feel a line stretch from himself to Rhali. Yep, that direction.

Maybe he would come up with an escape plan before then. He nudged the horse.