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.

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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 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 3c

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 3c

With this resolution foremost in his mind, he put the reins on the saddle horn, leaving the horse to wander. It was on as tight a leash as he was so he wasn’t worried that it would go the wrong direction. The hours he sat in the saddle, while his butt and thighs rubbed and ached, he tried to come up with an escape plan.

Every day he would reach a clearing with a note pinned to a tree. Every day he would have this compulsion to finish each task completely. Each night at sundown Rhali would appear, demand food, and then tie Silas to a tree. Then Rhali would disappear into the forest.

Each morning Silas broke the ropes, read the morning note, break camp and continue to Hunter’s Quarry. Every day Silas tried to find wiggle room around the instructions on the notes. Sometimes he would have a little time to scout the clearing before Silas appeared. Most of the time, he would lose himself in the tasks and wouldn’t remember completing the list.

Every day his will became weaker. He began to despair. Unless he could untie his soul from this demon, there was no hope for him.

Then one day he woke up with a rabbit’s heart clenched in his hand. The blood seeped through his fingers and there was blood smeared across his face. He woke up from the trance.

Across from him was a rock pile, probably the quarry that was his destination. The mule and horse were gone. He wasn’t sure what happened to them. He searched his mind. His heart beat faster and he sat in the dirt. He couldn’t remember.

He scrubbed the blood off with dirt then dragged himself to a small well. He pulled a bucket of water up, then washed his hands and face. Silas began to remember his name.

He didn’t know how long he had been here. He dry-heaved when he remembered the sacrifice part. There was a note waiting for him, but he didn’t look. He walked towards the rock pile. Some of the stones were cut precisely. Someone at sometime had used this quarry.

Before Rhali appeared, Silas read the note. He didn’t want the demon to know that he could break the spell, even for only a moment.

 

State of the Writer

IMG_0708So yea, I’ve been having a year of procrastination. A lot has to do with my health and medications. A few months ago my doctors thought it would be a good idea to try out medications for cholesterol and gout. It didn’t end well. It also didn’t help my writing brain.

Today I want to make an accounting and let you know what I have on my writing plate. No excuses.

Since January, I decided to take down “Shira: Hero of Corsindor,” and do an edit. What happened is that the edit turned into a complete rewrite. I’m almost halfway through with this project. I actually printed out the entire thing. I changed the name to Hero of Corsindor. Yes, the one in the Tuesday Snippet. I am working on this one daily and my deadline for the rewrite is September 30, 2018.

Also in January, I took a course with Dean W. Smith called “Depth in Writing.” It actually turned my writing upside down. Whenever I take one of his courses, I feel like my skin is being ripped off and it takes me a few weeks to get that thick skin back. I’ve taken four of his courses now and I have come out a better writer each time. I would like to be more prolific.

These are the projects that are in orbit, waiting to land:

  1. Xandra Peel – a story of a hybrid ogre-human who survives both people and Fae in a post-apocalyptic world.
  2. Unlicensed Sorceress – third book in the Hilda’s Inn world. Hilda has proven she has elemental powers and gets training in a highly political environment.
  3. I’m not dead, yet – non-fiction memoir of the last ten years of surviving WG/GPA, thyroid cancer, and Stage IV kidney disease
  4. The third book in the EJ Hunter world – I don’t know why but this one wants to percolate in my subconscious. The captured boy in the first book wants a voice.

There is a few more on my list, but I am not listing them here. I want to finish these first.

In my short story offerings, I am writing more “Green Knight Terraforming Company” stories. I am going to write more shorts as warm-ups.

One things I have learned is that saying I am going to do something, and actually doing it are two different things. So my next goal is to write every day, even if it is only a sentence or two.

I have no excuse. Even if I find myself on a dialysis machine, I can write during those two or more hours.

I was asked recently if I could see a future. I answered, no. There are too many health variables in my life. I do know two things: I want to finish what I write, and I want to care for my dog. At this time– that has to be enough.

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.