Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday 5 (souvenirs)

Well, I haven't done this in awhile and this set looked like fun, so here goes.

1. When you travel, what kinds of souvenirs do you like to bring home for yourself?

Something I can either use for a long while, or something I can wear. Occasionally I don't mind something that I can look at either.

2. Is there a certain kind of souvenir you always bring back for a particular someone?

Yes, my dad. Always something with the name of wherever I went. lol. He loves that. And postcards are always great for the whole family.

3. Of the souvenirs you’ve collected from your travels, what are some that have special meaning for you? A laquered plaque from South America, called "How To Get Even With People" It starts out with things like, "Floor them with your kindness, literally sweep them off their feet with your love, etc." A really cute thing. Hangs in my bedroom near my bookshelf.

4. What’s the silliest souvenir you’ve brought back for yourself, or what’s the silliest souvenir someone has brought back for you?

Pinetart from NYC. The silly thing is pretty much everyone in the family eats by the time the package 'reached' me, it was pretty much gone, but the thought counted. I love pinetart, which is actually a pineapple-jelly-filled pastry in a triangle shape. Yum!

5.If you were going to send someone a souvenir from places you visited today, what might it be?

Postcards. I love seeing snapshots of places where others have been, so I know there are folks who like the same too. And a miniature of something major, like, I would love to travel to Paris and I really would love to buy a little miniature of the Eiffel Towel. ^_^

And that's my Friday 5.

Cheers! I hope you all have a great weekend!

Almost A Western Twist (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Beffy at her blog, Laughing At The Days. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Note: I'm afraid this week's story is quite an epic...drama. Enjoy! There is so much packed into here, I had a hard time trying to pare it down and NOT edit as I wrote it. Layla is a darling character and there's so much story in here, it made my head spin, trying to fit in all in one story! So, here's a quick run through, Crabbe-Dolesk, are shadow creatures similiar to shape-shifters, They are extremely greedy. And the ruby earrings in this story is the actual inspiration for this very old FW challenge piece here: SunDancer's Flight. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

“Well, she’s out back, Thor, but personally, I think you ought to leave the lady alone.” Miranda chewed her lip. “She’s liable to turn the entire ranch on you after what you told her the last time.”

“As if that’s new news or anybody’s business.” Thor muttered darkly, still clutching the soaked coat bundle to his chest. “I’ll see her now…don’t hurry out if you hear screams.” He ducked through the doorway and out onto the back patio.

Miranda hesitated for a moment, then hurried to the kitchen window to get a good glimpse of what would happen next.

Layla had been working with her horse, Feather, all morning. She’d skipped breakfast too and requested that no one disturb her. “This isn’t going to go over well.” MIiranda mumbled, craning her neck to see as Thor disappeared through the barn doors.

She hoped there wouldn’t be any screams.

Thor fought the urge to keep an even expression as he stepped into the barn. He could practically feel Miranda’s eyes blazing through him with every step further he ventured. For a woman who claimed she’d had it with men, the world and children, she played a mother hen to frightening proportions.

A grimace surfaced as the coat bundle squirmed beneath his grasp. He wondered how long he’d have to listen to her yell, rant and rave before she decided to help him.

“What are you doing here?” Her cold voice stopped him before he turned the corner to the tack room where she usually sat, polishing something.

“Hiya.” He tilted his head, not daring to turn and face her just yet. “Been doing okay?”

“Not that you’d care.” Her voice drew closer and she passed beside him, carrying a worn bridle. “What do you want? Or am I being overly vain in assuming you’ve come here to see me?”

“The only reason any sane person ventures on Miranda’s Ranch is to see you.” The words slipped out and he winced inwardly. “Layla-”

“Miss Hancock to you.” She corrected, drawing a key from the ring around her waist and opening the tack room door.

“You keep it locked now?” A new tension slipped over him.

She shrugged. “Too many thefts, lately. Can’t catch them all.”

“Anything important been stolen?” His cop training was taking over.

She stiffened. “If you need to know Miranda’s business, ask her, not me.” She shoved the door open and it hit the stool behind it with a bang. Her cherry-black hair shone in the dusty light as she stood on tip-toe to retrieve a can of oil and a few leather rags. “Are you here to watch me work to be sure I don’t violate any unspoken leatherworking laws? Or have I posed a different threat to your town now, Sheriff?”

The wince crossed his face this time. She wasn’t even looking at him. Yet. “Actually I brought something for you.”

“And if I don’t want it?” She popped open the top of the oil can and dribbled a bit onto a scruffy square of cloth.

“I think you’ll want this one.” He knelt on the floor and gently set the bundle down. “Can you help it?”

She turned so quickly the rags slid off the wooden counter, piling up on the floor. Intensity burned in her dark, chocolate eyes as she reached for the half-unwrapped creature. “A fox!” Surprise and sympathy mingled with her husky voice. “You poor thing!” She reached for it at the same time he did and their fingers touched. She jerked back as if he’d burnt her. “What do you want for it?” The stiff, cold version had returned.

“I don’t want anything, Layla…I just want you to help it.”

“As if.” She glared at him, but gently gathered the fox cub into her arms. “There, there.” She cooed. “Aren’t you a brave little trooper? You really shouldn’t run across the road you know, especially when you hear something coming.”

“How’d you know that?” Thor stared at her. “He was hit by an oncoming car, I was on my way back from the Coroner’s office and saw him in the road.”

Layla’s answer was to promptly turn her back to him as she continued to baby talk to the fox cub. “Yes, you poor wittle thing. So brave too, to let a human touch you. Umm…yes, you poor little darling.”

“Layla!” Thor couldn’t hold onto the last strands of his temper. “You could at least hear me out for-”

“Layla, honey? The biscuits are getting cold!” Miranda’s voice announced her arrival before the stout, matronly figure appeared in the doorway, moments later. “Hello Thor…oh my, who have we here?”

A bright-eyed, curious fox cub stared back at her, as Layla willingly handed it over. “Easy with him, Manda.” A weary smile touched her face. “he’s a bit in shock, but he’ll be all right.”

“Of course you will!” Miranda chirped. “Aren’t you a dashing little fellow? What happened to him?”

Layla shrugged, brushing her red ruby earrings in turn before touching her necklace. “He was hit by one of those dreadful workers down at the…you know…and they didn’t even stop to look back or anything.” Her hands clenched into fists. “I ought to-”

“You ought to do nothing of the sort!” Thor interrupted. “You’re to stay out of it…whatever it is! I won’t have you getting mixed up in law business where you don’t belong!”

Identical expressions of disdain were fixed on him. “So glad to have your opinion on where I belong.” Layla said icily. “So very glad.” She pushed past him and stalked out of the tack room, her earlier task forgotten.

Miranda stared after her a minute, then back at Thor. “Why you…I told you not to! Layla, Layla, honey, I really think you ought to…” The cub wriggled free of her grasp and trotted out of the room after her.

Thor gaped openly. “She…why, it…she did…” His voice faltered. He’d known what she was capable of when he’d brought the cub to her, but of course, she was still being her own stubborn, secretive self and had of course, hidden her true gift in front of him.

Miranda sighed. “I guess that’s that.” She said at last. “Sure won’t be seeing her for lunch.” Her frown grew more pronounced. “Thor, I told you not to bother her.”

“What was I supposed to do? Take the cub to the vet?” He shot back, gathering his soiled coat from the wooden floor.

“I suppose not.” Miranda tried to smile. The town veterinarian was a joke, compared to what Layla herself was fully capable of. “Then again, I’m sure Angus could use the money.”

“Who in this town can’t?” Thor stepped out of the room, pulling it shut behind him. “You need to lock this?”

“Oh, right.” Miranda fumbled in her apron pocket to draw out a large set of keys. “Just a moment.” She squinted at the keys. “I can’t exactly tell which is…oh here we go.” She jammed the key in the lock and turned it. There was a soft click and she withdrew the key, dropping the jingling mass of keys back into her apron pocket. “I suppose I ought to ask you in for a biscuit or something.” She said at last, following him out to the barnyard. “Care to stay for a biscuit?”

Thor hesitated. “I would love to…but I really need to talk to her.”

“I see.” Miranda closed her eyes for a moment, then turned towards the house. “It’s your funeral then. She should have caught a ride to the edge of the riverrock. You’re likely to find her there anyway, even if she hasn’t left already, that’s usually where she ends up.”

“Thanks.” Thor tipped his head in greeted and turned towards the corral where the horses were kept. “I’ll take a rain check on the biscuits.”

“You do that.” Miranda called after him. “and don’t you dare make her cry!”

Thor snorted, disappearing over the fence with the ease and grace that showed he’d done that many times before. He threaded his way through the patches of mud and few stalks of tall grass.
The herd of horses grazed lazily at one end of the corral and he singled out his favorite mount and caught hold of the halter, before hoisting himself up. Once seated, he headed in the direction of the county river.

The ride itself took a few minutes longer than he’d anticipated, riding bareback was one of the skills he hadn’t taken advantage of for quite some time. When he finally did reach, he saw her, as Miranda had said, standing on the river rock ledge, overlooking the rushing water below.

“Layla?” He called out, hoping to announce his presence without startling her, or setting her attitude against him in another negative way.

She turned automatically as if she’d been expecting him, the fox cub curled up in her arms. “I figured you’d follow me.” She said when he drew near. “What do you want? Whatever I haven’t given you, you’ve taken…I can’t say that I’ve got much left to give.”

Heat touched his cheeks as he looked down the ledge into the swirling waters himself. “I didn’t come to take anything from you, Layla. It’s just this last investigation-”

“I don’t know who killed Doc Morgen, and I’ve already told you and the police and the FBI and everyone else stupid enough to ask me to my face, everything I know.”

“That’s not why I’m here.” Thor held up a hand to shush her. “There was something else there, at the murder.”

She stiffened at once. “What do you mean, something else?”

“A cat.” Thor said simply.

Her entire body grew rigid. “And what’s that to me?”

“I want you to talk to it.”

“Sorry. Can’t help you.” She turned to go, but he caught her arm, letting go when the fox cub suddenly bared teeth.

“Layla! This is important…look, I’m sorry if we-”

“I don’t want to hear your apologies, Thor.” She hissed. “I’m sick of your kind and everything that comes with them. You run into a block. You call me. Why? Because I’m a freak. I’m the only one who can actually do something impossible which is what you need when you always end up coming to me. Isn’t it enough I’ve saved your life a half dozen times? Can’t you just leave me alone?”

“If you wanted to be left alone, then why didn’t you leave Maryville?” He shot back.

Her lower lip quivered and then she suddenly bent and set the fox cub on its feet. “Run along home now.” She said clearly, watching as it hesitated. “Oh don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. He’s just a big meanie.”

“Am I?” Thor walked the few steps to stand straight in front of her. “Is that all I am to you?”

She smiled, polite. “No, actually you’re worse. Good day, Sheriff. Unless you have some official piece of paper to wave about in my face, there is nothing under the sun, even with that slip of paper, that would warrant my attention in your direction for whatever reason.”

Thor grabbed her arm, hand tightening around her wrist. “Don’t you give me that, young lady.” He pulled her away from the rock ledge and back to where he’d left the horse. “Don’t give anyone else any bright ideas either.” He added meaningfully, when the horse suddenly shied away from his approach.

She scowled at him. “Let go of my arm, you’re hurting me!”

“I’m hurting you?” He jerked her around in front of him. “I hardly doubt it, since I’m practically squeezing with all my might and you are still pulling away.” He let go and she staggered backwards, toppling to the ground. “I’m tired of playing games. You can help me of your own free will or I can-”

“Or you can what? Make me help you?” She hauled herself up from the ground, dusting off the seat of her pants. “If you touch me again, I am going to-”

“The Jensen’s kid, the little girl, was found strangled in their well, three hours ago.” The words were forced through his mouth. “She saw something. She had to have seen something. There is no other reason for this killer to take out a child, unless she saw something that she could’ve told someone that would have-”

“Little Marian?” Layla had gone from a defiant blush to a suddenly pale white. “No…not little Marian…not her…she didn’t do anything.”

“Layla. Layla!” He shook her shoulder. “Layla, don’t you do this to me now. Don’t you dare zone out on me. I need you here!”

Her head was shaking slowly from side to side. “That wasn’t right.” She shook her head slowly again. “That really wasn’t right. He really shouldn’t have done that.”

“He?” Thor let go. “He who?”

“I can’t help you, Thor.” Her voice sounded far away. “There isn’t any cat. I’m afraid I really can’t help you. But he really shouldn’t have done that.”

“Layla!” Thor’s hands curled into fist. “So help me if I-”

She rolled her shoulders back and then hunched them up to her ears. “There wasn’t a cat, Thor. I was the cat.” She pressed her lips together. “And I didn’t tell you anything before because there was nothing to tell. I didn’t see who killed him, but I do know who tried to kill me.” Her mouth set in a grim line.

Thor felt his stomach about to explode. “And?”

“I don’t want to hurt you.” Her expression was childlike. “I really do like you, Thor. But I don’t want to hurt you, still…He really shouldn’t have done that.”

“He who?” Thor nearly exploded.

“Your deputy.” She said simply, turning towards the horse that had ambled over. “It’s obvious really. He is the only one who stood to gain…Marian…poor child.” A flare of red showed in her eyes. “Get on and get out.” She grabbed the halter, steadying the horse. “Go quickly.”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing.” She gave him a leg up, following with a slap to the horse’s rump. “Find the Doc’s wife and stay with her!” She called after him, her voice faded away into a loud, primal howl.

A shiver ran down his back and Thor hunched forward, clutching handfuls of mane. The goosebumps on his arms reminded him of what a risk he’d just taken. “The deputy?” He repeated, thinking of charming, young Brad Davis, who’d been his invaluable assistant for the past three years. “She’s joking.”

The horse snorted.

“She has to be.” He retorted. “I’ve known him for years…since he was a kid! He never would have ever had any reason to…” The clues silently clicked into place within his head.

The missing lottery ticket, with the name torn off. Brad had been the one to find the ticket and promptly create suspicion by pointing out how the name was missing. Thor winced, he had hounded several possible suspects for weeks on end, and now the puzzle was coming together. The gambling receipts to the anonymous player had always been signed with a “D and V” the initials of Davis and his new fiancé, Hilda Vancouver. The queasy feeling in his stomach had gone from bad to worse and Thor felt himself crouching lower to the horse’s neck. “Faster boy.” He whispered.

The horse seemed to understand as the speed blurred even more. “The stolen medications!” An anguished moan slipped out. Thor didn’t want to believe evidence staring him so glaringly in the face, but he was remembering the little things that gave him insight. He had known Brad since he was a kid and because he did, he knew the troubling teenage years and the few times the law had overlooked his activities.

Thor didn’t remember much else after arriving at the ranch and rushing to his pickup. The road was a similar blur as he drove towards the Jensen’s house. Layla could stay with the Doc’s wife if she needed company that bad, but there was no way he would leave Davis prowling around the farmhouse in false sympathy.

“He had to be looking for something.” His voice echoed oddly in the pickup. “He must have been looking for something.”

The ride to the farmhouse was shorter than he’d expected and Thor tumbled out onto the dirt road more jumbled up than he could remember in his life. He slammed the door a little harder than necessary, miniature dust clouds rising to life beneath his leather cowboy boots. This was beginning to feel like an old western showdown.

He grimaced. “Davis?”

A red-eyed, fifteen year-old Marie Jensen stuck her head out the screened porch. “He went ‘round to the barn, Sheiff.” She snuffled loudly. “Did you get what you was gone for?”
He forced a smile for her benefit. “Yes, I did, Marie, thanks. Uh…is everyone else inside there?” He gestured towards the house. Her head gave a tiny nod. “Good, make sure you all stay inside for now. I need to…check something.” He offered the smile again and quickly headed for the barn.

The door was ajar and an a sudden wind brushed through, sweeping bits of straw across the packed dirt floor and dirtying his polished boots. He stifled the urge to think of that now. “Davis?” He called out. “It’s me, you in here?”

Davis melted out from the shadows behind the tall stacks of hay bales. “Over here, Chief.” His smile faltered at the expression on his face. “Something the matter?”

“Yes, actually.” Thor took a deep breath, moving forward to see him better. “I have a few questions that need answers and you’re the one to answer them.”

Confusion decorated the deputy’s face, but he shrugged. “Whatever you want, Chief. What is it?”
“That lottery ticket.” Thor glared at him. “Whose name was on it?”

A guarded look slipped over Brad’s face at once, the perfect mask of deception. “I don’t know, it was torn when I found it, Old Man Zunt must have conned someone out of it and ripped the name off to protect himself.”

“That’s a bold-faced lie!” Thor said hotly. “You tore the name off ‘cause you wanted it for yourself. You knew no one would even think to-”

“Now hold up a minute, Thor!” The formalities had left, Brad’s eyes narrowed even more in his seemingly snake-like face. “I don’t know where you’re getting this stuff, or why you’re trying to accuse me, but I had nothing to do with that! Why, I bet you-” He sputtered. “Why I bet you don’t even have a single shred of evidence to prove anything!”

“I’m sure the smudged fingerprint in Doc’s lab would match quite nicely with the other smudge marks all around your-”

“That’s enough, Thor.” Brad said evenly, he took a cautious step back. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m feeling fine!” Thor growled. “But Marian isn’t! She’s dead, Davis! Dead! For something she didn’t even know she might have had.”

“Huh-wha?” Brad backtracked at once, feeling for the latch of the opposite barn door. “Thor, you’re not feeling well…that’s why you’re saying all of this stuff. Look, you need help! I-I-I don’t think you-”

“The gambling tickets.” Thor snatched his gun from his holster and it came up in the same instant Brad’s did. “This isn’t a game, Davis.”

“Brad? Sweetiepoo, is that you?” Hilda’s high-pitched squeak cut through the tension in the air and the door behind Brad swung open to show his fiancé, dressed in a smash-up of neon-pink and bright red. Her gleaming stiletto heels sparkled ominously. “Why Sherrif!” She cooed, crossing to rest a hand on Brad’s shoulder. “You really should be careful where you’re pointing that thing!”

“You’re in with it too!” Thor blustered. “D and V! It was you two on those gambling tickets! What were you going to do? Blame the whole mess on me and run of for some cheap wedding in the middle of nowhere?”

“Thor, I’m warning you!” Brad’s voice was barely steady. “Put the gun down. I don’t want to shoot you, but I will if I have to.”

Thor scoffed. “And you think I’ll take pleasure in gunning you down?” He shot back. “I’ve known you since you were a kid, Davis. You were always smart, but not very bright. You had grand ideas, but no one to ever help you pull it off…until she came along.” He scowled at the blond Barbie figure. “Did you do it for her? Or did she rope you all into this?”

“Leave Hilda out of this.” Brad shifted at once to shield her with his own body. “Whatever your bone is, whatever you’ve got to pick, it’s between the two of us, leave here out of this!”

“He has a point, Thor.” Layla’s quiet voice drew their attention at once. “Leave Hilda out of it, she’s just another unsuspecting pawn. And you really should’ve gone to see the Doc’s wife. She had a very valuable piece of information for you.” Her lips set in a grim line as she stood to her full height in the hayloft.

Thor wavered for a moment, confusion, puzzlement and anger fuzzed across his face in a kaleidoscope of emotions. “What information? Tell me!” A stricken glance briefly tossed in Brad’s direction was mirrored back at him.

“Something about seeing who really killed Old Man Zunt.” Layla’s pretty features twisted into a grimace. “She said it was a real pity, because she’d liked him a lot. Though I wager quite a few people had liked this fellow a lot.”

“Who is he?” Thor demanded, a nervous glance flitting between Brad and her. “Layla, it’s me, the Sherrif, you need to tell me-”

“I don’t need to tell you anything, Thor.” Layla glared at him. “Because you’re the one who hasn’t been entirely honest with me.”

Brad sputtered a laugh. “You and me both, lady. He just walked in here and started waving a gun at me and-”

“He is right, Deputy Brad Davis.” Layla intoned, drawing out his full name. “But you were a little too dense to pick up why he’s doing this…isn’t he, Thor?” She smiled, sadly. “It really is such a pity, you see, the sad thing is, you both know what I really am, and what I really do, yet still…you decided that I was too stupid to notice what was happening right under my nose.”

Fire flashed boldly in her eyes and for a moment, the heaviness of the situation slowly weighed in several pounds heavier. Layla licked her lips. “Run while you can.” She said simply. “But The Council has already decided.”

“What’s going on here!” Hilda screeched. “Look, I don’t know what kind of kooky people you folk are, but I don’t care to be lied to and told all kinds of fairy tale stories that don’t even-”

“Hilda, that’s enough.” Layla walked to the edge of the loft and sighed. She stared down at the floor, then lightly jumped off, landing in a crouch. “You can go now.” Her eyes drilled straight into the woman. “Go now.” Her voice had gone cold and hard. “If you want to live.”

Baby blue eyes flew open wide. “Brad!” She wailed. “Don’t let that woman talk to me like that!” She screeched.

“Baby, baby, shhh!” Brad tried to shush her without actually looking at her. His gun was still aimed at Thor, but now directly on Layla as she separated the two of them. “Hilda, babe, why don’t you just step outside for a moment.”

“I’m not going out there into that-”

“Get out there!” Brad boomed. “Unless you want to get shot, woman! This is no place for-”

“Don’t you dare say this is no place for a woman.” Layla drawled, one hand clenching into a fist. “Or I just might have to shoot you for that.”

Hilda gaped at her, mouth open wide. “Why you!” She jerked forward, grabbing for Brad’s gun, unable to twist it from his hands.

Thor fired a shot in the same instant and Layla whirled, a true blur of color. She snatched the bullet from the air and opened her hand, letting it fall to the ground.

Hilda froze. Horror showed plainly in her eyes, and reflected in the wrinkles hidden beneath her powdered face. She dropped Brad’s hand, backing away.

“Not that fast, love.” Layla rolled her shoulders forward. “I only meant I was giving you a chance to escape, but I’m afraid you’ve just thrown it away, and besides, you were the brains behind this blockhead.” She scowled at Brad. “Put the gun down.” Her head turned slightly. “That goes for you too, Thor.”

“Brad?” Hilda whimpered, she was backing towards the door.

Layla closed her eyes.

A sudden wind rushed through with a mournful howl and the huge barn doors blew open.

Her lips curved upwards and she sighed softly, eyes sad as they now opened and focused on the anxious three. “Run.” She said simply.

Hilda’s gorgeous face began to grow sharp lines. “I’m not afraid of you.” She hissed, the squeaky voice changing to a tone, ages of years old. “You think you can just waltz into-”

Layla turned with a snarl and Brad leapt from the way. In the mere seconds it took him to move, Layla morphed. Her slim body twisted and shaped with a feral scream.

The wildcat that landed atop Hilda growled menacingly, teeth bared. From the tawny ears, two large old-fashioned ruby earrings glowed brightly.

The terror settled upon Hilda and suddenly her body went limp. The wildcat Layla turned at once to the remaining two.

Brad was trembling. “You!” His voice had turned to the silvery whisper of the same ancient origins as Hilda’s. “You little traitor!”

Layla hissed, crouching.

He fired two shots, then dropped the gun and ran.

The bullets whizzed through the air, bouncing off the red energy bubble that sprang to life, shielding Layla as she streaked after the deputy and now disappearing Sheriff. She drew again on her gifts, morphing from mountain lion to cheetah as she rushed after them.

Her heart sank as she realized they were making a beeline to the farmhouse. It turned to a dull ache as she skidded to a stop, paws shuffling. Her head shook from side to side. This was not her choice. It was not her decision.

She didn’t want it to be.

The Sheriff neared the porch and Layla closed her eyes, morphing back. She landed awkwardly on her backside, a soft poof of dust coloring her white t-shirt and black jeans.

And then she cringed.

They came even quicker than she’d expected and bore down with a vengeance.

Black birds filled the sky, darkening the horizon as they streaked down, attacking the Sheriff and Deputy. She heard the demon-screams, but her thoughts were fading as she felt the hard beaks pecking and scratching at her face, arms and everywhere she could reach at

Tears streamed down her face as she hunched close to the ground. She wanted it to be over, for it to be all over.

“Layla. Layla! Get away from her, you foul creatures!” Miranda fairly shrieked. Hands, gentle and soft, pulled her bleeding arms away from her face. “Oh child!” Miranda clutched her tight to her chest, rocking back and forth on her heels. “Layla!” The name was spoken with both sorrow and anger. “Whatever made you take them on yourself?”

The pain registered deeper than Miranda’s words, but her words were comforting just the same. It meant there was a human who knew her secret and did care after all.

Layla tried to smile, but her split lip burned. The rocking motion was soothing. She drew a careful breath, before her senses began to kick in. “The Council.” She forced the words out.

Miranda sniffed. “You think too highly of them.” She said darkly, but shifted at once, cradling Layla’s upper half so she could see the proceedings.

In a strange collection of mismatched plaids-and-jeans, dozens of people swarmed over the ranch. There were three escorting a cuffed Hilda from the barn towards a rather strange-looking car and several others were also leading the Sheriff and Deputy as well.

Relief flooded her and Layla sagged weakly into Miranda’s arms.

Miranda clucked disapprovingly. “Now what did I tell you about wearing yourself out?” She squinted. “Why you’re…you’re…” Her voice faltered.

Layla smiled. This time her newly-healed lip didn’t hurt. “Occupational side effect.” She murmured, gingerly easing upwards on her own, with Miranda’s anxious hands patting her shoulder and head. “I’m fine, M.” She said, grateful. “Give me a minute.”

She rolled stiffly to her feet as Roland approached, standing out the most in the standard-issue suit of The Council. “What?” She glared at him.

His smile grew wider. “That was quite a display for a woman who claims she wants nothing with her people, her title or her lot in life.”

“They killed a human child.” She forced the words through her teeth, remembering precious little Marian, the first human she had met upon deciding to stay on earth.

He shook his head. “That’s where you’re wrong and why I believe you should spend more time learning about what you are and what you’re capable of.” His expression darkened. “You summoned a flying death, do you even know what that does?”

Layla shuddered. “Yes.” Her voice was hollow. “I remember.” Her eyes burned up at him. “I remember you and your kind doing it to me for a crime I didn’t commit.” The words streamed from her lips. “But we should be about even now, I’d think. And I’m not wrong about Marian, she didn’t deserve to die, she was child, Roland! A child!”

“And she did not die if it is one of them that killed her.” He was humoring her now. “They are Crabbe-Dolesk, meaning they bite, but cannot kill. She is only sleeping, very, very deeply.”

Layla stared at him in confusion. “What?”

“I’m sure they wanted an autopsy.” Roland smiled. “Why don’t you go rescue her?”

“What?” Miranda peered around Layla’s skinny self. “Little Marian’s alive?”

Roland shrugged, tipping his black hat to her. “Ma’am, she’s no more dead than I am.” He smiled. “And she’ll probably be pretty scared, you might want to find her quickly.” He turned to go. “and Layla, I’ll expect your report on my desk, first thing tomorrow morning.” He smirked. “Whether you claim us as your family is none of our concern, but if you are going to play judge as your title reads, then you’ll have to fill out the paperwork. Good day, ladies.”

Layla stared after him, mouth open. “Why the nerve of that!” She sputtered, but no other words came out as small smile slowly tugged at her lips. “Roland!” She shouted after him. “What about the others? The real sheriff and deputy?”

His laugh floated towards her. “They’re fine…gone fishing actually…they’ll be back and you can pick up right after where you left off with that Sheriff.”

“Well, I’ll say.” Miranda murmured, staring after them as the seemingly dozens of people packed themselves into the one car and turned, driving out from the homestead. "What did he mean about the Sheriff? I thought you two didn't get along!"

Layla felt her face flame as she patted her friend's shoulder. “Don’t worry. Even I don’t get used to that." She easily skipped the actual question. "Shall we go find Marian?”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

(True inspiration for this story, instrumental in the direction of this astonishing conclusion, has been the efforts and suggestions of some extremely talented and bejeweled muses. *coughbeffypeejJJsunnycough* Please be nice and send them lots of chocolate for being such a wonderful help in this epic…drama.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ahh...feel the bloggy love!

LOL. Can't you just feel the bloggy love? I meant to do this yesterday, but as usual, my yesterday is often more confusing than my current today. (Which makes absolutely no sense at all, so onward to business)

Compliments of a very dear friend/awesome person, Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her wonderful blog, An Open Book. I have been awarded the "Fabulous Blog Award" my very first award for this blog.

The rules of this award are as follows: Confess 5 things I am addicted to and then to pass on this award to 5 other sisters.

SO, the five things I'm addicted to:

1. My prayer Journal. Something special happens between those pages and my heart+My heavenly father.

2. Writing-Seriously! I cannot stop writing...and regardless of how random some of the ideas may be, I always have something new to share...and a pen/paper/notebook tucked close by for easy access.

3. I guess I ought to confess my love for the Internet, because of some very special friends I've made through there, my blogs, and other random things. ^_^

4. Chocolate Chip Cookies-Chips Ahoy! Brand only. Seriously! It is the only perfect cookie...and I luv it, luv it, luv it!

5. Music-I absolutely ADORE my music collection, my most recent musical "find" was "Tears from the saints" by Leeland. An excellent and truly beautiful song which will certainly tug at your heartstrings. ^_^

And of course, I now pass this totally fabulous bloggy award on to some very *ahem* notable blogs(and wonderful bloggers!). ^_^

1. Tracy Keck-a good friend and a wonderful writer! Her blog, Seed Thoughts, travels the spectrum of things we all encounter in life-and discusses them with a transparency I am always amazed at.

2. Beth LaBuff-Beffy's blog, Laughing At The Days, is my favorite poetic stop in blogdom. Seriously. If you haven't read any of her writing, you need to! There is something in there for everyone. Her wordsmithing is beautiful and precious, with poems ranging in all emotions from hilarious to serious.

3. Sheri Ward-@ her blog, A Candid Thought. The very title of her blog should be the first hint at the heart of this special lady. I have always been blessed and encouraged by reading her blog.

4. Shelly Ledfors-@ her blog, The Veil Thins. Her blog is fairly new, but her contributions to the blog world blend right on in. Beautiful, inspiring thoughts and snippets from things that we ought to think about-along with some great fiction!

5. Catrina Bradly-@ A Work In Progress-another name that sends a message about the heart of the blogger itself. Cat's blog is a wonderful place for sincere thought and good fiction.

And there we go!

Hope your weekend is going well, I am enjoying today with a fresh slice of apple pie. Yum! ^_^

Friday, February 20, 2009

Visions of Ladysight (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Vonnie @ her blog, My Back Door. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: Hi everyone! I'm on time this week, mostly, considering I've just finally finished this piece. It's an excerpt from the files of Ladysight, a rather lovable, but somewhat devious character in nature, because of the unsual gift in her possession. I had a bit of fun with this one, but I do hope the story follows through. If you missed the 2nd part of last week's Chronicles of Greeves, it's below this post. I didn't finish writing it until just before midnight last week. Sorry! I do hope you enjoy this piece, I had so much fun with the dialog in here, because Lance just writes his own story. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a great weekend!

“I don’t know, Scott. I really don’t think this is a good idea.” Lance heaved himself upwards. “I mean, you read too much. Those are old, ancient fables!”

“That just happen to have historical significance?” Scott retorted. “That just happen to have accurate maps to where these ‘mythical creatures’ exist? I don’t think so, Lance. In fact, I think they still exist.”

“Right.” Lance snorted. “And what exactly are you going to do if they do?”

Scott shrugged. “I don’t know. We’re looking for proof of the great Ladysight, so I suppose I’d ask her to see my future.”

“Right.” Lance rolled his eyes. “Of all the guys in the world…I would get an archaeologist dork for a brother.”

“Hey, hey now! Chill little bro.” Scott flashed a smile. “Aren’t you having fun? I thought you loved hiking and trekking through the great outdoors.”

“I do.” Lance grumped. “As long as I’m not chasing after some ridiculous legend that doesn’t exist. As long as I’m not trekking with a brother who’s going searching for some cave to have some crazy legend lady read his fortune!”

“Ah, Lance, Lance.” Scott sighed in mock sadness. “You can be so close-minded sometimes.”

“Close-minded?” Lance sputtered. “Scott, think about this for a moment.” He paused to duck under several low hanging vines, trailing down to the jungle carpet. “If this is real…don’t you think you should have picked someone else?”

“Hm, wha?” Scott ducked under the vines, poking at them with a wooden cane. “What did you say?”

“I said-oh never mind!” Lance reached back and yanked the vines away. “Quit poking stuff like that. It’s just a vine. It’s not going to come to life and strangle you! How would you like it if you were a jungle and two idiots came tramping through looking for some ghost and poking sticks at everything.”

“It’s not a stick.” Scott wrinkled his nose. “It’s an antique key staff and it’ll help us when we get where we’re going.”

“Which is nowhere.” Lance inserted. “Oh give it up already! We’ve been trekking for nearly a month. I’m getting tired of nowhere. I’d like to go back to civilization while I’m old enough to appreciate and enjoy it!”

“Then go whenever you’d like.” Scott said evenly. “I’ve told you before. If you don’t want to be a part of this expedition, you’re welcome to leave whenever you like. Just don’t come back to me when I make the discovery of the century and you want a slice of the fame in a bottle.”

“If there is any to be had.” Lance shot back, yanking aside the next curtain of vines, scraping his knuckles on the solid wall of black and white rock behind. “Congrats, bro, we’ve reached a dead end.” He examined his knuckles, grimacing at the pinkish-red result.

But Scott had suddenly become very still. Light had filled his eyes and his mouth hung open as he stared at the rock wall. “We’ve done it.” He breathed. “We’ve finally gone and done it! We’ve found it!” He began to babble deliriously. “Oh this is wonderful. Oh we’ve found it. How wonderful.” A laugh escaped. “Precious! This is the find of the century…no, of eons to come!”

“Uh, Scott?” Lance waved a hand in front of him. “I think you’re seeing things, ‘cause all I see is a brick-er-rock wall. And I don’t see how we’re going to get around that.”
Scott smirked. “You know for the one of us who really did go all the way through school and all that, you really are…dense.”

“Dense?” Lance perked a brow. “Scott, buddy, you have officially lost it. Don’t worry. I think I’ll be able to get us both back to civilization, possibly before it’s too late for you.”

But Scott’s answer was to suddenly launch himself at the vines, ripping them away from the front of the stone. He worked almost manically, yanking, ripping and tearing the greenery away to fully reveal the stone wall. “It’s beautiful!” He exclaimed, tears sparkling in his eyes as he grasped the staff with both hands and drove it straight through the hole in the center of the spiral stone.

There was a deep, loud rumbling from behind the rock wall and Lance skittered back several steps. “Scott…?”

“Don’t worry.” Scott pushed him aside. “it’s working.”

“Working? What is? Scott!” Lance grabbed for his arm, but missed as Scott stepped back and the antique staff was suddenly sucked all the way through the hole. “Whoa!”

The spiral stone carving suddenly began to spin, slowly, slowly, then picking up in speed. Grating and moaning noises came from behind the great rock wall, but the only change in front was the spinning spiral.

Until the carving itself, suddenly shrank back into the stone, a passageway opening up in the ground beneath it. Stone steps leading downward, with torches already lit, lighting the way with their flickering talent.

“S-scott, I don’t think we should go down there.” Lance grabbed for his elbow again and missed as Scott staggered towards the opening in the ground.

“Downward?” His voice was puzzled. “After all these years…I thought the steps went upwards?”
“All the more reason for us to…Scott?” Lance growled in frustration. “And here we go again.” He wearily moved forward to the hole in the ground, gingerly inching down the first earthen steps until his feet rested solidly on the stone stairway. “Scott?”

The few steps down were quickly taken, leading down to a long, darkened passageway. A scrabbling noise in one end, arrested his attention and Lance grabbed at a torch on the side of the wall.

It refused to budge. “Oh man…not now!” Lance braced against the wall and yanked again with all his might. The metal holder squeaked in protest. “Come off…now!” Lance huffed. “It’s so easy in the movies…why can’t it…oof!” The torch slipped free and he staggered back a few feet.

The scrabbling noise came again and Lance hurried in the direction of the sound. An uneasy feeling began to grow and sprout leaves inside his stomach as he broke into a light jog. “The light isn’t going out.” He muttered, the realization not quite sinking in as he jogged until he reached a wooden door at the end with the spiral carving engraved on the front.

“The light didn’t go out.” He stared at the torch in horror. It flickered automatically, but remained steadily burning. A shiver ran through him. “I never should have let him talk me into this.”

He pushed on the door and it swung easily inward. “Bad sign.” He mumbled to himself. “Always a bad sign.” The room within lightened the moment he stepped through. A stone pillar was in the middle of the room with a torch burning brightly from the ornate holder on top. “Scott?” Lance whispered. “You in here?”

The whisper echoed loudly as he held the torch high. “Scott!” A limp form lay on the ground a few feet away from a beautiful block of crystal.

Lance rushed to his side, dropping to his knees as he shrugged off the pack from his back. “Scott? Can you hear me?” He felt for a pulse, panic rising as he switched to fumbling for the first aid kit with one hand. There was a large gash on his forehead, but strangely it wasn’t bleeding. “Scott please wake up!” He tried to open the first-aid kit with one hand, the plastic clasps digging into his fingers. “Scott! Wake up, please wake up! Mom’s gonna kill me if something happens to you!”

“He’s not going to.” The sultry voice drawled. “But he’ll be okay…I think.”

“Who’s there?” Lance shot to his feet, whirling around, torch held tight in hand. “Come out!”

“Lance…” The voice was bored. “It’s me.”

There was the rustle of fabric and Lance turned in time to catch the beautiful armful that hurtled towards him. “Vikki!” He grabbed her tight. “What are you doing here? I thought you were on another dig…somewhere in Brazil…”

“I changed my mind.” Her voice was muffled in his shoulder. “You know I can’t leave here.” She pulled away. “Brazil? Really? He is out cold.”

Lance let go, reluctantly as she pulled away from him to bend over his brother. “For real? What did you do to him?”

She shrugged, the rich, violet robes spilling elegantly from her shoulders to sweep the floor, pooling as she bent to examine him. “I didn’t. The vines did.” She poked his shoulder with one, long, white finger. “Well?”

A blush touched his cheeks and Lance gritted his teeth. “I couldn’t help it. He wouldn’t give up!”

She scoffed. “Excuses? That is all you have in answer?”

“It wasn’t my fault. I tried to get him to change his mind to do something else to-”

“By whining?” She said, disdainful. “Really, Lance. Couldn’t you look further into yourself to know that I would already know that?”

“Then why ask me?” He growled. “And what do you mean, vines? What did you do to my brother?”

“Now, now. Is that anyway to speak to the legendary Ladysight?” Her voice was a hair’s breath away from mockery. “I didn’t do anything to him…I didn’t get the chance.”

“You didn’t get the chance?” Lance bit the words off one at a time. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

She shrugged, straightening and turning to face him. She took a deep breath and let it out. “Candlelight.” She murmured. A surreal, white glow suddenly formed around her, then spread out until the darkened, earthen room was brightly lit.

Lance opened his mouth and shut it, taking in the sight of her. Bright purple eyes, billowing purple robes, glowing lavender carvings on her face and exposed arms, brown-to-violet tinted hair framed a heart-shaped face and when her lips parted, she was saying his name.

“Lance!” Her hands went to her hips. “I appreciate the sentiment, I think…of whatever it is I did to have you staring at me for so long, but really, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

“Word?” Lance licked his lips.

She sighed. “Yes, Lance. Word. Words.” She enunciated slowly. “Plural. I was talking about the vines, they did this to him.” She gestured towards Scott. “But he’ll be fine once I’m out of here.”

“Where are you going?” Lance felt his brain slowly shifting into gear.

She shrugged. “You know where. I can’t stay here. It’s not good.” She bit her lip. “Not good for anyone. Did you bring me a piece of the vine? I have the staff.” She drew the antique wooden staff from the voluminous folds of her robes.

Lance winced. “No…I…uh…” He shrugged, holding the torch awkwardly.

“I cannot believe this.” She rolled her eyes dramatically. “Did he hold them for long?” She gestured towards Scott. “I need the protein strand within the greens.”

“Huh, wha?” Lance blinked, shaking his head. “What for what?”

There was another sigh. “I need the plant to open my portal. Once it’s opened, I go back home and your life returns to normal.”

“Normal being without you?” Lance crossed to stick the torch into one of the wall holders. It stuck. “Not again!” He jammed the base into the holder, trying to convince it to stay.

“What happened to your hand?” Vikki asked suddenly, crossing the room to take it in hers. “You’ve cut your hand.”

“Just scraped my knuckles.” Lance muttered. “Stupid torch.”

“Leave it alone.” Vikki murmured, absently waving a hand at it. The holder suddenly resized, clutching the new torch in its holds. “Where did you…scrape your knuckles?” She asked, her smile polite.

Lance shrugged. “On the wall thing. There was a bunch of vines and I was the first one there-”

“You were the first?” Excitement showed plainly in her eyes.

“Well yeah. Scott’s older than me, but he’s definitely no outdoorsman.” Lance shrugged. “I was breaking the path and he’d just tell me what to look for.”

“The poor man.” Vikki murmured.

“What?” Lance whirled to look at her.

“He wanted to see his future.” Vikki said tonelessly, gliding to the center of the room to the stone pillar with the ornate torch holder. “I don’t understand you humans…even though I used to be one of you.”

“Vikki…” Lance said warningly. “what did you do?”

“I’m thousands of years older than you, Lance.” She droned. “Do not take that tone with me. You humans always reflect the same. Two emotions. Fear or greed. Is there nothing in between?”

“What are you talking about?” Lance exclaimed.

“You’re afraid of me, but Scott wanted me.” She smiled, artificial. “He wanted me to tell his future.” There was bitter laugh. “You poor misguided creatures. Only God can truly see and know the future. No one ever really knows what’s going to happen.”

“Except you.” Lance interrupted. “Vikki, what’s going on?”

“Come see for yourself.” She beckoned him closer. “Even I don’t see the future, dear Lance. I see the many faces of possible things to come…based on the decisions one makes. I am not a witch nor am I a toy. I am not to be trifled with.” Her eyes blazed. “But him!” She glared at the fallen body. “He knows nothing.”

“Vikki?” Lance found himself walking forward against his own will. “Whatever you’re doing, stop it! I don’t want to see my future! I don’t care if I never see my future, I just want to get out of here and we’ll leave you alone. I promise. I won’t ever let Scott come back here. I-I-I’ll never even think of you again!”

“A foolish child’s promise.” She intoned. “Easily made, easily broken. I’m sorry, Lance. But I can’t stay in your world much longer. Scott will be fine…you will not.”


She reached out, taking his hands in hers. “You were the first one to touch the stone wall…” Her gaze flickered to Scott. “and the vines are poisonous.”

Lance felt his feet threatening to give way beneath him. “Vines can’t be poisonous.”

Her lips curved into a smile. “The ones that guard the way to me are. I’m very sorry. Scott should be fine. The antidote is very simple for him…but not for you, because you’ve absorbed it directly into your bloodstream.” A faint pattern of light began to sparkle across her arms as she curved her arms around his neck. “That’s why I’m apologizing. I know this is going to hurt…but I will keep my end of the bargain. When you first discovered and freed me, I was bound to the first promise I made, as you were. You are now fulfilling yours and so I complete mine.”

“V-vikki!” Lance shuddered as her arms circled around his neck and her head rested on his shoulder.

“Shhh! Ladysight.” She corrected. “They call me Ladysight, they that dare to speak of me. I never asked to be what I am…but it does not mean I am heartless.”

A loud sucking sound echoed through the ancient chambers and Lance felt a scream bubbling up inside of him. Every fiber of his being seemed to be burning and burning with an acid he felt he would never escape.

The light flashed so brightly before his eyes he was sure that he would be blinded for life, if there was life after this sort of encounter.

As quickly as it had happened, it all faded away.

Lance crumpled to his knees in the now pitch, dark chamber. The pain was still prickling through every pore of him and he dared not do a thing. Tears threatened to break free, but he willed himself to crawl forward.

Someone was moving.

“Scott?” He croaked.

“Lance?” The voice was bewildered. “Where are we? What’s going on?” More shuffling came about. “Has there been a power failure? Where’s Mom and Tina?”

Relief flooded through him and Lance struggled to inch forward. She had kept her part of their wretched bargain. At least she had done that. “I’m here, Scott. I’m here…how are you feeling?”

“Just fine.” The puzzlement showed plainly on his face when it appeared just inches away from Lance himself, by the aid of a lighter.

“Ah!” Lance yelped, jerking away from the open flame. “Ohhh.” He winced at the movement.

“Lance!” Scott dropped to his knees grabbing his shoulders. “What happened? Where are we? What’s going on?”

Lance blinked, squinting. He could still hear Scott asking questions, but the pressure around his shoulders was fading. Just like Scott. Scott was disappearing into thin air. The strange sight hovered before his eyes and then Scott seemed to evaporate completely.

A moan escaped as Lance felt his stomach heave. Only hours ago his life had been somewhat normal. A tear trickled out. Normal. He was going to die in underground in a chamber that shouldn’t have existed for something his mind had yet to comprehend.

Normal was for the normal ones.

* * * * *
“Ladysight.” The whispery voice echoed. “You have returned home, where you belong. What took you so long?”

“There were complications, Milady.” Ladysight dropped to her knees, bowing slightly. “I am sorry for my…tardiness.”

“Excuses, excuses.” The whispery voice wheezed. “But you have returned and now restored my favor in you. Is there anything you desire? A welcome home present?”

“Well…” A tiny smile sprang up at the corners of her mouth. “There was-”

“Don’t you dare mention a human!” The whispery voice exclaimed, outraged. "You know they are not allowed in our world!

“But you said anything.” And then she smiled.

© Sara Harricharan 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Valentine

This is a special Valentine for my Heavenly Father.

When I scream and cry, and rage at you,
I hear a patient sigh
When I try to run away from you,
Your arms are open wide

When I try to find the words for you,
You write them on my heart
When I try to throw them back at you,
They bounce right back

I think I'm growing
Maybe it's showing
Maybe I'm not so sure

I think You're bigger
Than I'd ever discover
Maybe, this time I'm sure

For every rough patch
On our shared journey
You smooth the way again

For every rough patch
On my battered heart
You soothe it over again

Our language is different
Special, unique
Our heartprints are different
Between you and me

You don't mind,
The acid tears
You don't mind
The shredded fears
You don't mind
The empty pages
You don't mind
The empty heart

You share the tears
That burn down my cheeks
You calm the fears
That spring from my mouth
You fill the pages
With so many words
Because you know my heart
Belongs to you first

An empty slate
Is an open heart
A brand new start
Is a practiced art

I give you a paintbrush
Will all of the paint
With every single color
With matching little names

With every precise stroke
I crave more of you
I'm seeing the picture
You've started anew

Rainbow colors
Dancing across
Pure creation
No pain, no loss

I love you forever
Do you believe?
I promise you're always
First for me.

Happy Valentine's Day, Daddy.



Friday, February 13, 2009

Chronicles Of Greeves {part 2} (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Julie @ Surrendered Scribe. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: Sorry for this post being a little late. I've been fiddling around with a half-dozen different ways for this second half to play out, hopefully without disappointing the expectations brimming from the first part. Unfortunately, I cannot fit as much story into it as I would like, this week has been far too busy for me to finish (and edit it) as nicely as I'd like, but I threw in a few new characters, We get to see Dwynn, the incredible talking horse-lol-for a brief moment, and four other new gifted heroes. I hope you enjoy this second installment-Have a great weekend and thanks a bunch for reading!

“Sondra?” Bri’en asked, gently, urging his mount to keep pace with hers. “Be you all right?”

A shudder passed over her and then the head held up stiff, erect. “Just fine, Bri’en.” She murmured, polite. “Just fine.”

“You couldn’t have done anything.”

“Maybe.” She forced the word through her lips.

“Sondra…Captain…” He tried again. “It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t your fault. It was theirs. They could have sought our assistance if they had needed it that badly.”

“No, Bri’en they wouldn’t have.” She closed her eyes. “There were helpless and innocent people within those walls. Those smoldering, burning walls. And for the sake of politics alone, we cannot help them!” She scoffed. “Help. That’s all we would have done. Helped them. Did you not see them? Did you not see the faces? The homes…the flames…” Another shudder passed over her.
“There was not much we could’ve done…Lorenth said there were at least twenty of them and-”

“And there is thirty-seven of us, four with gifts powerful enough to do a hundred times that. There were children there, Bri’en. Children! They no longer have homes, and the city itself…you saw, empty! Sacked! It’s either a Baulden forest or a desert filled with sinking sand. We’re just lucky that we made it through without running into more than one cluster of them at a time. That city! Those people. Something there wasn’t right. It was just….wrong, very, very, wrong!”

“You cannot burden yourself with the ‘what ifs’ in your position, Captain. I understand that this may have been…what I mean is, perhaps even if you had known, there might not have been anything we could have done. We can’t impose ourselves on-”

“To save lives?” Sondra shot back. “That is wrong?”

“If they do not wish to be saved-”

“I should have sent a scout or something.” Sondra cut in.

“Maybe.” Bri’en allowed. “I am not sure. The elders themselves were quite…adamant in their arguments. They wanted nothing to do with us.”

“But because of their leadership, the people are doomed?” Sondra countered. “No, Bri’en, I do not think that is fair. Please…I would like to think this through on my own, if you do not mind.”
Bri’en hesitated, then slowed his horse, dropping back. “Of course.”

They had scarcely passed the city when Sondra held up her hand to halt the procession. “Lorenth, I need to talk to Dwynn.” She nodded towards the dappled gray horse. “Alone, please…” She dismounted, waiting.

Lorenth blinked, staring at her for a long moment before he finally handed the reins down and switched horses. “Everything okay?” He darted a glance over his shoulder, as if looking for the culprit to cause such a strange request.

“Stir the riders.” Sondra murmured. “and get me Malachi, Raul and Lavender…and probably Quile as well. Might as well make the whole thing official. I’m going to ride ahead several paces…don’t follow.” She spurred Dwynn forward, launching herself into the new greenery.

Sondra felt some of the tension drain away as the greenery flew by. She reached upwards and touched the ruby earrings, before double checking the flask to be sure it was secured to her belt.

He snorted. About time! We’re being followed!

I know. What is it?

Who, not what.

All right then, who? And where exactly are you taking me? Sondra shifted her weight forward.



He slowed to a walk and then shook himself lightly. Down.

Sondra gratefully slid from the saddle, keeping a tight hold on the saddle horn. “Some ride.” She mumbled.

Dwynn whuffled softly into her shoulder. Not so loud. Someone could hear you.

An uneasily feeling slid over her like cold creamed corn. We already know that Dwynn, get to the point, please? Any time now?

Those were strange bandits that attacked that city. Strange elders too. Strange person following us.

What’s strange about it?

No marks.


Yes. Think. No marks. Surely you saw?

Sondra felt her strength slowly ebbing away, she sagged against his warm side, the metal stirrup digging into her side. “I did.” She closed her eyes. “Why am I so blind, Dwynn? Ylyander has won another victory it would seem.”

Dwynn twitched his tail, shuddering. Please get on. I would feel much more comfortable if I knew I could save you by running…rather than sacrificing myself.

A smile threatened to break to the surface, but Sondra barely managed to pat his shoulder and heave herself up into the saddle. There we go. I’m up. No heroics okay?

The steady drumming of hooves reached her ears and Dwynn shied sideways. “Easy now, Dwynn. That ought to be Lorenth, or else he’s much more-”

A white horse broke through the branches, prancing almost, to a halt before the half-hidden duo. The lilac robed figure riding smiled widely from beneath a scarf-covered headdress. “Captain.” She tilted her head.

“Lavender.” Sondra maneuvered Dwynn out from his sudden, impromptu hiding place. “that was quick. I ought to give Lorenth more credit.” She peered over her shoulder. “Where is he?”

“Bri’en caught him.” Malachi spoke over Quile’s shoulder as the golden horse stepped through, bearing two riders. Malachi murmured a word of thanks, sliding down to stand next to Raul who had trailed behind them on foot.

Sondra winced. “This isn’t going to go over well, then.”

“Probably not.” Lavender said cheerfully, hiking the sleeves of her robes up to her shoulder, showing off her bare arms. “Would you like to see?”

Sondra shook her head quickly. “No, not that anyway. I want you to see something else, I’ll tell you in a moment.”

Lavender shrugged. “Whatever you’d like, Captain.”

“We’re going after the bandits.” She said bluntly. The reactions were exactly what she’d expected.

Lavender’s smile blossomed several degrees brighter. Quile winced and promptly looked in the opposite direction. Malachi nodded, cracking his knuckles and rolling his neck side to side. Raul just grinned.

“Malachi, I want you overhead. Find out any and everything that you can. Even if you think it’s not important, think ahead of where we may be in a few days, all right? You’re welcome to go any time now.”

“Gladly.” He rolled his neck back. “Must take good care of my cloak…gift from my mother’s side, you know.” There was a soft slurping sound and the pool of black fabric dropped to the ground.

Raul bent to lift the robe from the ground, offering a hand to the glistening black and burgundy bird lying underneath. “Very well done, Malachi.” He said approvingly, with a toss upwards.

Powerful wings carried him upwards quickly and Sondra shifted her attention from him to Raul next. “Raul, I hate to give up any element of surprise, but what I want is transportation. Once Malachi can tell me where these scumbags are, we’ll give them a little something to remember us by and I want you to get us there fast. Can you handle it?”

Dancing blue eyes smiled back at her. “Naturally. It would be a pleasure.”

“Good. Thank you. Lavender…I want to know what they are doing, where they’ve been and whatever they’ve done up to now.”

A quiet moan came from Quile’s direction. “Please.” He spoke faintly. “Please, my dearest, darling captain, please do tell me you are not sending me off on-”

“Catch our shadow, Quile.” Sondra hid at smile at the mournful look he sent in her direction. “and it shouldn’t take you long, nothing to whine about.”

He sighed. “I know. That is what you always say. And that is why I always worry…” His voice trailed off and his image flickered, then flared, before disappearing completely, horse and all.

Raul chuckled. “Bet you five guild I’ll finish before he’s back.”

“Deal.” Lavender smacked her fist into his palm. “Get a move on so I can get some work done here.”

He offered a salute. “Ladyship, Capt’n.” He broke into an easy jog, disappearing into the foliage.

Lavender shuddered. “I can hardly to stand to be in these woods.” She rode over to Dwynn. “Makes me nervous, because I would never see them until they were close.”

“I know.” Sondra searched her face. “But let me worry about that now. Give me something useful.”

The young woman smiled, then took a deep breath. Her head rolled to the side and her eyes rolled upwards into her head. Sondra leaned across to tilt her forward onto her horse’s neck. “Dwynn.” She muttered.

He whuffled, pressing closer to allow her to steady Lavender.

At first, there was just a faint sparkle of rainbow color along her arms and then the colors began to swirl around, forming into pictures that intensified, motion beginning to show. Sondra sucked her breath in as the moving pictures played across Lavender’s arms.

She squinted, trying to sort them out.

“Sondra!” Bri’en’s voice cut through the air, tinged with annoyance, touched with relief. Lorenth rode up behind, a deep blush coloring his face. “What’s going on…?” His gaze flickered from Lavender to her and his eyes grew hard. “Tell me you are not chasing after those bandits.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you, Bri’en.” She said evenly, returning her attention to the kaleidoscope of images playing across Lavender’s arms. “Lorenth, come here…tell me what this says.” She pointed to an image flickering across Lavender’s left elbow.

Lorenth dismounted, hurrying over to see. His brow furrowed in puzzlement. “Well, it’s ancient writing.” He said at last, staring at it. “I can’t quite make it out…it’s too blurry, but it seems like the…” He swallowed.

“Yes?” Sondra prompted.

“It seems like…the prophecy scrolls.” The blush had faded from his cheeks, now replaced by a near unnatural white.

There was a hiss from beside them and Lorenth stepped back, jerking Dwynn’s reins along with him.

Lavender stirred, the images slowly fading away. Her head raised up, one hand going to her neck as the sleeves drooped down over her bare arms once more. Surprise flickered briefly through her face and then she grimaced. “Oh…I was out again, wasn’t I?”

Sondra nodded. “Thank you. I’m not quite sure what to make of what I saw…but Lorenth believes you saw something to do with the prophecy scrolls.”

“I did.” She winced. “I traveled through several slots of time, all different people…” She shuddered. “Couldn’t get too much on the bandits, sorry, they’ve been careful, but I have seen plenty of other things.”

“That is quite all right. Thank you, Lavender.” Sondra offered a smile. “you may go...”

She smirked. “Gladly…I would much rather be elsewhere than here for the next ten minutes.”

“Lavender?” Dala called tentatively. “Is that you? There's something over here I think you should see for a moment.”

Lavender sighed. “Yes of course. Who else would it be?” She turned back to Sondra. “I’ll stall them, have at it.”

Sondra opened her mouth and then shut it. There wasn’t a suitable reply at hand for that particular remark. An awkward silence hung in the air for a moment and then Lorenth tugged on Dwynn’s reins.

“Oh! Sorry.” Sondra quickly swung down from the saddle, heading to her original mount instead. “Thank you, Lorenth…Dwynn, I appreciate it.”

“You appreciate what?” Bri’en snapped. “What were you thinking riding off like that? Flask and all? I see you one moment and you’re gone the next. Might I remind you that the original mission is to safely see you and the flask to the Morgofe Mountains? To insure that the Ancient’s Artifacts are united to defeat Ylyander and his-”

“Tell me something I do not know, Bri’en.” Sondra sat tall in the saddle. “Lorenth, kindly stir the riders, please. Let them know we are readying for an attack.”

“Yes, Captain.” He wheeled around, urging Dwynn forward in the direction where they’d come.

“You don’t know how to leave well enough alone.” Bri’en growled. “Every time we come across even the most scarce example of injustice, you cannot let it alone to progress towards an outcome for greater good! You simply must plow straight towards it with naught but your own sheer stubbornness to-”

“That is enough, Bri’en.” Sondra hid her own surprise the coldness beneath her voice. “You do not have to agree with all that I do. You must simply follow the orders you are given.” She took a deep breath. “We’re going to track those bandits down. We’re going to ask them some questions. And when I am satisfied with the results, then we will continue. Until then, I do not wish to hear you opinion on this, am I understood?”

Bri’en’s hands tightened on the reins, his body turning rigid. “Quite clear, Captain.” He offered a stiff salute. “I take my leave.”

“Captain!” A bored voice cut through, a flicker of silver shimmering and then solidifying. “I found it…I mean, him.” Quile let go of the arm of a young man, who quickly jerked away, rubbing his shoulder. “The follower I mean.” He offered an artificial smile. “I am tired…this tracking business…makes me tired. I’m going to take a nap.”

The boy scoffed. “I wore you out then? Needing a nap and all?”

“Go, Quile. Thank you.” Sondra wearily inserted herself within the newcomer’s line of vision.

“Hello there, you do not know me, but I think it would be a good idea, if we didn’t get off on the wrong foot. Quile needs his naps…and I’ve learned not tease him about it. It would be wise for you to do the same.” She frowned. “He said you had a horse…what happened to it.”

The boy looked away.

“oh right.” She sighed. “I am Sondra, this is Bri’en.” She gestured towards her left. “And you would be…?”

“Richard.” He scowled. “What do you want with me?”

“I would very much like to know why you were following us, for one. Second, I would like to know where you are from.”

“You’re a lady knight.” He nodded towards her. “A real one and all that.”

She shrugged. “I am, but you did not answer my questions.”

“What are you doing here?”

“She asked first.” Bri’en glared at him. “Answer.”

“I wasn’t following you and I’m from nowhere.” He shrugged, palms turned upwards. “Can I go now, or am I your prisoner?”

“We don’t take prisoners.” Sondra said quietly. “And no, that does not answer my question.” She unhooked the flask from her waist. “You look thirsty, drink?” She offered it, uncorking the top.

Bri’en grew very still.

The boy eyed her skeptically, then gingerly reached out and took it. He sniffed it for a moment, then took a swig. “Thanks.” He took another swallow, then handed it back.

Sondra smiled, capping it and retying it to her waist. “You’re welcome…so tell me, what is your name?”

His eyes glazed over. “Richard Prusse.”

“Ah, I see. And where are you from, Richard?” She asked, pleasantly.

“City of Tanderk…not much of a city anymore.” He laughed, harshly. “Burned to the ground you know. Bandits. They stole everything. Everything I had…and killed whatever I loved.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Sondra said, sincere. “But why are you following us?”

He rolled his eyes. “Not following you…following the bandits. I’m gonna make them pay for what they did.”

Sondra blinked. “You? By yourself?” Her brows knitted themselves together in puzzlement.

Bri’en made a strangled noise in this throat, the expression on his face one of pure disbelief.

“Take a breath.” She advised, unable to resist teasing. “And thank you, Richard. We’re going after the bandits too.” She drew her sword from its sheath, blowing softly on the lightly blue-tinted blade. There was a soft hum and a ring of energy sprang to life around it. Sondra twirled it expertly with one hand and then sliced the air directly in front of Richard.

The haze disappeared from his eyes and he staggered back. “Hey!” He yelped. “Watch where you swing that thing!”

Sondra smiled, tucking the sword safely back in its sheath. “Sorry. But I had to know where you stand.”

As if on cue, he doubled over, clutching his stomach. “ugh…what was that?”

“You do not wish to know.” She smiled. “But, we are bandit-hunting, are you with us?”

He coughed, spitting on the ground, one hand rubbing his stomach. “Do I have a choice?”

Bri’en seemed to revive. “No. You don’t.” He wheeled his horse around. “Any further orders, Captain?”

“Captain?” Richard gaped openly. “You’re a woman!”

The stubbornness lifted enough to touch her with a feather of mischief. She grinned. “Last time I checked I was.” She held out a hand. “And if you do not mind that, then I have an offer for you. Would you care for a ride? We are leaving now. You're welcome to ride with us, under our protection. When you're seeking revenge, you should do it within the realms of the law.”

“He’ll ride with me.” Bri’en interrupted, crossing in front to offer his hand over hers.

Richard hesitated, then took the hand. “Thanks.”

“Hold on.” Bri’en looked upwards. A large black burgundy bird was circling overhead. The weariness over him seemed to ebb away and a faint smile touched his face. “Looks like it’s time.”
“Seems like it.” Sondra murmured, her eyes locked onto his. The unspoken conversation ended with a smile. “Shall we ride?”

© 2009 Sara Harricharan

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Musical February

As some of you may know, last year, I participated in FAWM 2008, which stood for February Album Writing Month. This year, I wasn't sure I'd have the time or energy for it, but somehow I keep writing things that don't classify as poetry, prose or anything in between and they keep fitting into tunes inside of my head. ^_^

So, this year, I'm going to go for it anyway and write 14 songs for FAWM 2009. This is the sixth year it's been in session, if you'd like to read more about it, visit the website.

Or, visit my profile and poke around. I've already had three songs written and a fourth one possibly sneaking out of my head sometime this weekend. So far, I've only had the time to post one, but just the same, enjoy.

Last year was really amazing, I gave myself the chance to create something I'd never tried my hand at before. Since music is a huge part of my life, writing songs eventually fit into my creative palette as the month continued. This project is very special to me, the meaning behind each song and emotions that sprout from them.

I hope you enjoy a quick sneak peek into what my Feburary is going to be like. ^_^ Have a great weekend!

The Great Hill of Passage (Fiction)

Hello all, I had promised this story yesterday and fell asleep before I remembered. ^_^ Sorry! But here it is.

It wasn’t that her life was terrible, it was more along the lines of being ridiculously horrible. The greatest bane of her existence was the question which would inevitably plague every human being during a trying time in their life.

The question of purpose, of greatness and whether it really mattered as to whether they ought to make a difference in the world with the limited time on their hands, referred to as life.

Tracy Sherton didn’t particularly care if she made a difference or not, her thoughts often wandered to the darker side of her existence where her thoughts chases themselves around in circles guaranteed to drive any mad person, completely insane.

“You shouldn’t wonder so much.” Her mother scolded, fussing around her only child as Tracy stuffed spoonfuls of soggy cornflakes in her mouth.

“I’m fine, Ma, quit it.” She tried to dodge the well-meaning pair of wrinkled fingers.

“You’re going to do just fine in this interview.” Her mother continued.

Tracy rolled her eyes. “Of course.” She slurped up the last cornflake and sprung from her chair with sudden energy. The bowl was hastily deposited in the sink and she paused long enough to run a bit of water inside to keep the leftover milk from crusting at the corners.

“You should drink the milk.” Her mother hovered anxiously behind her. “It would give you stronger bones. Leave that there dish be, I’ll get it.”

Tracy blinked. She’d been staring at the great foaming swirl as it blossomed from the milky remains of her breakfast. “Pity.” The word slipped from her lips.

“Tracy!” There was strength in the aged hands that savagely shook her to the present. “You hopeless child! You will be late. I can just see it!”

Tracy jerked away. I won’t. She thought stubbornly in her head, but the gears of her mind shifted from the lovely white swirls to focus on the interview at work. It would mean a promotion, certainly, a bigger paycheck, of course, and naturally it would be put to good use.

She brushed her teeth last and then reapplied her lipstick. Baby Girl Pink. She stuffed the plastic tube in her purse and dashed for the door.


Her body responded by jerking to a complete stop, inches away from the stained-glass door. “What?” Tracy pleaded.

“A kiss for luck.” Her mother’s pruned lips puckered up to bless her left cheek.

Tracy squeezed her eyes shut. “Thanks.” Tears threatened to wreck her carefully applied navy-eyeliner.

“Now you do your best and get that new job, okay?” A cackle accompanied the gap-toothed smile. “Go now. Do best.”

Tracy felt the tears freeze within her eyes and disappear in that split-second. “Sure thing, Ma.” She heard herself say. “Sure thing.”

She took the stairs two at a time and didn’t draw a full breath until she sat behind the wheel of her black BMW. The key in the ignition was the first taste she’d craved. She took a breath, savoring the new-car scent. She did miss the musky smell of her old, faithful Honda Civic, with fast-food containers tucked here and there. Her eyes closed, briefly, then opened again, as she backed slowly down the driveway.

The craving resurfaced as she entered the highway. Oh pure bliss! She lowered the windows, reveling in the beauty of having one’s hair blown about by unseen hands. “A convertible.” She murmured.

About half-way to work, her favorite part of the mindless drive crested the horizon. A sigh of pleasure escaped her lips. Tracy leaned a little harder on the gas pedal. The trees whizzed by, the silver railings raced by and of course, so did the cars, trucks and SUV’s with their insignificant little drivers.

The hill took forever to scale it seemed, a moment where time slowed enough so Tracy could breathe. But all too soon it ended and she found herself walking from the parking garage towards the corporate office building.

The interview went well. It lasted ten seconds.

“Morning, Tracy.” Her boss met her at the door of the conference room. “Can you do this?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good girl.” He handed over a key with a butterfly charm on the end. “There’s your new office. Settle in quick before we come to inspect.”

The door shut in her face.

Tracy blinked.

It took her a full minute to recover and then she retreated to her old office cubicle and cleaned out her desk. It seemed like hours before she unpacked in the new window office. Hours before her new supervisors came to inspect. Hours before she could muster the energy to call her mother.

The cellphone taunted her from its stationary position on the polished wood desk. She hit the speed dial with a trembling finger.

“Ma?” She half-whispered as the call went through, hoping it would never be answered. “Hi Ma, it’s Tracy. Yeah, I got it. Sure. Dinner. Thanks.” The phone was snapped shut and she cradled her head in her hands once more.

She’d done it. The only child. She’d been the daughter her mother hadn’t wanted. But now, she was cleared for a bit. She made something of herself. The corner office. And a bigger, fatter paycheck, it would buy her mother’s love for the next few years.

The day ended quicker than she’d expected and it was the craving within her, prompting her to run in three-inch heels to reach her precious car. The BMW glinted in the fading sunlight as she climbed inside and yanked off the cursed shoes.

She rummaged through the glove compartment and pulled out the flat pair of foam flip-flops. Her feet thanked her as she eased them on and then checked her mirrors, lights and wipers in succession.

The drive from the parking garage was a blur, until she reached the hill again. Traveling down was just as much of an experience as traveling up. Goosebumps sprouted along her arms and she closed the windows, now careful. A somber mood had touched the air and she thrived on it.

In the depths of her mind, the dark twists returned and for a frightening moment, she wondered what it would feel like to just tip the steering wheel a little too far in one direction. Her breath caught.

No, Tracy. She told herself. Mustn’t think like that. But the thought twisted through her mind as the speedometer increased, flying past seventy, seventy-five, eighty and beyond.

A second thought occurred. Death would be painful. It would be certain, of course, for this hill had no rails on it, and the valley looming below was sure to be filled with dangerous things. Naturally. Her thoughts jumbled together, but there was no time to sort them out, the end was coming quickly.

Tracy took a last breath, breathing in the rich leather scent. She crossed her toes and let her hand twitch the steering wheel to the right.

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

Author's Note: This story sprang to mind after reading several rather depressing episdoes in literature class. I tried to create a character who had a seemingly perfect life, but was still trapped by the very things that made up her life. The ending is left open, for however you'd like to interpet it.

Chronicles of Greeves (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Sheri Ward @ her blog, Candid Thought. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Note: I had such fun with this post. I loved the character of Captain Sondra who has been in my head, swimming about for quite some time. There is definitely more to her story than I was able to fit in here this week, if you'd like a part 2, mention it in your comment and I'll post it next week, otherwise, your regularly scheduled randomness shall continue as usual. I've had a story key for several terms, they're in the front, with the story below. Hopefully that should keep things understandable. Oh and a secret? Lorenth's Horse can actually talk...that's why he talks to it. ^_^ Thanks for stopping by-have a great weekend!

Baudlen: creatures that look like trees, they are tall, skinny and the their
skin is made of bark. Their most common weapon is razor-like leaves which are
coated with a waxy poison with deadly side-effects if not treated within hours.
They can travel by uprooting themselves and leaving large ditches in their wake,
this causes immense difficulty to unsuspecting travelers and severely limits
Baulden-hunting, by turning the terrain into a hopeless mess.

Article of the Ancients: Items such as a healing flask, an endlessly sharp
sword, special armor and arrows that always find their mark. They belonged
to a group of eight, anicent warriors who left these special
gifts for their country when they died. Only a certain few can
possess or use them.

The restless murmur rippled through the knights, until it reached the knight commanded herself. She scowled, characteristically and turned to Lorenth, her third in command. “What did he just tell them?”

Lorenth turned his mount, riding to the front of the group to answer her question. She grimaced. “Be you well enough, squire?” Her words were meant for the trembling figure on the dapple gray horse beside her. A shaggy head bobbed. “Good. I’ll be right back.”

She spurred her horse forward, catching up to Lorenth as he spoke to her second, Bri’en. Bri’en had dismounted and was apparently speaking to three older men who had come to greet them. Sondra held back a moment, waiting until Lorenth returned with her answer.

“It’s village elders, Capt’n.” He nodded his head towards them. “And they say no knights from Greeves are welcome in the town.”

Sondra grimaced. “Lovely, friendly folk.” She muttered.

“Orders, captain?” Lorenth asked, quiet.

She shrugged. “Tell Bri’en to tell them that’s fine. The land ‘round the town is public property, we’ll came there, no worries. I was only-” Her gaze flickered briefly over her shoulder. “Never mind. Perhaps I’ll send Layla and Kalliane later, maybe they’ll let them through to purchase a few treats.”

“Treats?” Bri’en interrupted, the sparkle in his green eyes had dulled considerably.

She offered a weak smile. “You’ve all been quite good,” She turned her horse around. “Don’t you deserve a treat?”

Bri’en cracked a weary smile. “Aye. All in favor.” He turned to Lorenth who had already begun backing away. “Not so fast, cousin.” He tilted his head to the side. “Go tell the elders we won’t be troubling them.”

Sondra hid a smile as she slipped away, riding back to the end of the group. Bri’en and Lorenth were a riot, plenty of chatter to keep her amused, but there were other priorities more pressing and a good mood.

Bri’en broke out from the group of riders, leading the way towards the woods to the left. “Riders!” His rich baritone voice floated through the evening air. “This way, ho!”

Sondra found her squire, taking the reins from bruised hands to lead the horse in step. “Just a bit more, Dala.” She murmured. “and then it’ll be all over.”

A soft moan was her answer.

Sondra followed the group, glad Bri’en was taking charge, her mind was a foggy mess at best and she didn’t trust her own judgment to choose a safe space for camp and organizing the night duties between thirty-seven riders.

“Your tent, Captain?” Malachi appeared at her side, seeming to melt out of the new darkness.

Sondra flinched. She could still barely get used to his gift and the unsettling way he carried about him. “Right. Thanks, Malachi.” She handed him the reins, dismounting. Dala was eased from the saddle and carried straight to her tent, the closest to the sputtering fire, in the circle of them all.

A hiss escaped as she laid her squire on the simple bedroll. “Next time I tell you to duck…” She tried to tease, brushing stray wisps of straw-like hair away from her young face.

Dala tried to smile, but grimaced instead. Someone shuffled outside the tent and Sondra stuck her hand through the flap. “Lorenth?” Familiar cool, steel was pressed to her palm. She drew her hand back, a dull flask in hand. “Thank you.”

There was a grunt from the other side, followed by another hand pushing its way through the flaps to offer a bowl, half-filled with water. Sondra took it with a smile. “Thank you.” She murmured once more, setting the bowl on the floor beside Dala. She tested it with one finger. It was lukewarm.

She hurriedly washed her hands, using a piece of scrubbing stone to ensure her fingers would be clean. Unconsciously, she hummed a soft melody beneath her breath. Dala’s breathing evened out when Sondra could finally focus her attention on the bleeding shoulder. She sponged the warm water on the stiff, crude bandage, helping to loosen it for removal.

Dala had been much more than all the other squires, she’d been like the daughter Sondra had known she’d never had. Her stomach heaved at the sight of twisted flesh, but she gritted her teeth, continuing anyway. When the wound was cleaned, she pinched a bit of powdered herbs from a pouch that hung ‘round her neck and dropped it inside the dented flask, swirling it to mix the contents.

“This is going to hurt.” She warned.

Dala smiled wanly. “And the leaves didn’t?” She coughed. “Hurry.”

Sondra wadded up a clean kerchief and moistened one corner with water. “Bite this.” She wedged it gently in Dala’s mouth, and without further warning, poured the herbed water over the entire shoulder.

Another hiss escaped, followed by a gurgled choke. Tears streamed down Dala’s face, her eyes searching rapidly for something to distract her.

“Dala.” Sondra captured her chin with one hand. “Dala, look at me. Don’t fight it! Don’t!” She let go, corking the flask and setting it to the side. Memories of every helpless moment in her knight-career surfaced to torment her as she watched her squire writhe beneath the effects of a anicent healing.

The minutes swelled as if they were hours and when Dala was finally still, she’d fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. Sondra lightly feathered her fingers across the new skin, checking the new healing to be sure it was complete.

It was.

Relief flooded her at once, soothing her hidden, mother’s heart. She extracted the chewed handkerchief and dumped it in the bowl. Tucking the thin blanket securely around Dala’s broad shoulders, Sondra gathered her things, exiting the tent. Several of the men were grouped around the fire nearby, while others huddled close to their own section fires. She threaded her way around them to her pack, which lay on the ground near Bri’en.

“Be there any others?” She asked, holding up the flask. Several blanched at the sight, leaning away from it as if it would bite.

“Two over here.” Malachi murmured, appearing at her elbow.

Sondra stifled the urge to twitch. “Thank you, Malachi.” She made herself say, walking carefully in the direction he’d pointed. He was a valuable asset, yes, with his gift, but his manners. The shudder escaped as she stepped in by the new fire. There were two young men laid close to it, sporting a leg wound and a graze to the neck.

Sympathy flowed freely from her as she bent, asking how they felt and requesting a few strips of clean cloth. “Bite something.” She advised, taking the cloth strips and dipping them inside the flask. “It’s going to hurt worse.” The soggy strips were laid over the angry, red, cuts. Two pairs of hands slapped over the two mouths, stifling the cries that escaped.

The sound of someone throwing up, caused her own stomach to churn once more as Sondra added another pinch of herbal powder to the flask and swished it around once more. She dribbled it carefully over the wounds, relieved to see the healing take place immediately.

“They’ll be fine.” She murmured, corking the flask and shifting to her feet. “If they can keep some food down, go for it.” She offered a smile. “You’re both quite lucky to survive you know.” She cradled the flask in one arm. “Not everyone can say they’ve survived a Baudlen attack.”

They smiled their thanks and Sondra bid them goodnight, returning to her circle and heading for the pack near Bri’en’s feet again. The chatter ceased at once, while their eyes followed her every move, watching as she safely tucked the flask within. “She’s going to be fine.” She announced, turning to face them. “And so will the others.”

A few heads nodded and several smiles showed briefly. Lorenth grunted. “They should’ve given us passage.” He scowled at the flickering lights below the hill, showing the city. “A healer in there could’ve saved her all of that.”

“True.” Sondra settled in a spot near the fire, saved for her. A bowl of stew was handed over and a cup of coffee. She sniffed the stew, inwardly questioning her stomach’s ability to handle food at the moment. “Might I inquire whose handiwork this is?” She nodded towards the stew.

A smattering of laughter sounded around the fire and Lorenth turned a fair shade of red. “Mine, Captain.” He bravely volunteered.

“Ah. Thanks.” Sondra tentatively slurped a mouthful and waited. Her stomach seemed to decide that stew was okay and so she took another mouthful. “Not bad.” She allowed, taking a swig of coffee. “Needs more salt next time.”

Chuckles floated over from the group next to them. “Salt.” Lorenth repeated, the red growing more pronounced. “Of course.”

“How are the others?” Sondra looked to Bri’en, weighing the answer in his eyes against the one going to come out of his mouth.

“They are well.” He allowed. “We are all restless. I do not feel safe here.”

Sondra coughed. “I can’t say that I do, but we needed to stop.” She spooned another mouthful, chewing deliberately. “You’ve arranged an all-night guard, good. Weapons are being checked and cleaned, good. There’s a few practicing, good.” She ticked them off inside her head. “Something must have scared them you know.” Her gaze settled on the flickering lights, surprised when the lights suddenly went out. “Strange.”

“What?” Bri’en was at her side at once, following her line of vision. He squinted. “The village…” His voice trailed off.

“I don’t hear anything.” Lorenth produced a spyglass from his pack and beckoned his horse, Dwynn, closer. He mounted quickly. “Don’t you dare dump me, Dwynn or I’ll make sure we’re all out of apples for your next stroke of brilliance.” He threatened. Dwynn snorted, standing still as Lorenth slowly stood up. He put the glass to his eyes and his lips pursed as he searched.

“Well?” Bri’en demanded, impatient. “What do you see?”

Lorenth slowly sat down, then slid off. “Thanks, Dwynn.” He murmured, rewarding his mount with a brief scratch behind the ears. “I don’t see anything.” He tossed the spyglass to Bri’en. “I don’t hear anything either…I don’t like it.”

“You and me both.” Sondra muttered, standing up, empty bowl and cup in hand. “But we’re not moving until those three are well enough to travel.

“Can’t we fashion a few things to carry them in?” The whispery question came from Raul, a near giant as his shadow fell over the flickering flames. “Begging the captain’s pardon.” He grudgingly added.

Sondra shrugged. “Hard to travel with the kind of healing they’ve just gotten.” Her eyes narrowed. “Nothing a good nights’ sleep can’t cure. We’ll be moving by first morn’s light.”

Raul wordlessly reached over and took the dirty dishes from her hands. “As the captain wishes.” He offered a tip of his head, retreating the way he’d come.

“Sondra?” Bri’en stood beside her, one hand on her shoulder.

It was nice and warm, freezing the frozen fog in her mind. She offered a smile. “Perhaps you ought to check on…” her voice trailed off.

“I’ll speak to them.” Bri’en was gone at once.

After murmuring a few pleasantries, Sondra retreated to her tent where she settled down to a restless sleep of her own. She heard the cry for morning’s light, dragging herself upwards with a groan.

Dala was still fast asleep and she didn’t have the heart to wake her. With a grimace, she shook out a fresh tunic from her clothes pack and changed, grateful for the fresh soaped-scent that had survived the weeks of travel. It lifted her spirits considerably and when she finally had donned her flexible armor, the noise had awakened her squire. “Morning.” Sondra twisted her ratty ponytail into messy bun and wrapped a spiked cord around it. “We’ve got to get moving.”

Dala nodded, slowly sitting up and testing her shoulder. “How much further?” She rolled upwards to her feet, biting her lip to deal with the aches and stiffness.

“About another two day’s worth.” Sondra folded the dirty tunic and crammed it back into her clothes pack. “We’ll be there soon.”

“Good.” Dala began rummaging through her own pack. “I wish we were there already.”

“That makes two of us.”

“Are you happy for it?” Dala ducked her head, pretending to be very interested in her pack.

Sondra was quiet for a moment, reading the real question behind the words. “Yes and no. Glad to see my old friends again, glad to be able to use the gift I have, glad to be able help in any way I can, yes. Our country is at war, we fight creatures that spread destruction without remorse and even though our laws allow women to fight, in the far regions where we’ve traveled, the receptions have been poor at best. They believe women have no place in combat.” She shook her head. “That, I am unhappy for, if that is what you ask. Yet, they are all blind. They do not understand that the articles of the ancients can only be used by women.”

“That’s why you let Bri’en take charge?”

“Bri’en’s got a good head on his shoulders.” Sondra skirted the question. “and he works best with Lorenth.”

“The others?” Dala tugged fresh leggings out.

“They are restless. They trust my judgement, but it makes them nervous to be near the woods.”

Dala suppressed a shudder. “It makes me nervous to think of woods.”

“Then don’t think about it.” Sondra patted her head. “Get dressed and moving. I’d best be running my rounds. We’ll ride through the city on our way out…something happened there last night and I think it best we at least see what it was.”

“We have to?”

“Yes, squire. We do.” Sondra hid a smile as she ducked through the tent flap and out into the bustling camp. She was glad to see things in motion. Lorenth was at her side within seconds and Bri’en joined him moments later, her breakfast in hand.

“Morning, Capt’n.” He offered the food. “No alarms during the night, but smoke from the city…we didn’t see it last night.”

Sondra grimaced, taking the food and moving to a quieter corner to eat. “A bandit raid or an attack from Ylyander, himself?”

“I want to say bandits…” Lorenth hesitated. “but I can’t be certain, if it had been, surely we would have seen the smoke.”

Sondra looked from the food to him and thrust the plate into his surprised hands, downing the coffee instead. “Then we ride now.” She growled. “Dala!” She strode back to the tent.

Her squire appeared a half-second later and took one look her face before scrambling to attention. “Yes Master?”

“We ride, now.” There was an edge to her voice. “Give me that flask.”

Dala disappeared inside the tent and returned with her pack, offering it cautiously. Sondra snatched it, rifling through the contents to find the flask. It was heavy again, having refilled itself during the night. She grimaced, then uncorked it and took a large swallow. There was collective gasp as she clenched her hands into fists, focusing on the pain in her palms instead of the fire burning down her throat. The flames melted away when it reached her stomach and energy flooded through her tired limbs. She opened her eyes and corked the flask, now tying it tight to her waist, before turning to take her horse from Malachi who had magically appeared beside her again.

“Morning, Captain.” He held the horse steady.

Sondra grunted, mounting up and taking Lorenth’s proffered spyglass. She could see the smoke plainly without it, but her concerns were more on the city and what was happening within the walls.

“We’re ready, Captain.” Bri’en was at her side once more, Dala riding just behind him and Lorenth ready on her left.

The daily dose of stubbornness ran through her and she lifted her chin. “Good. Then let us pay the city a little visit.”

The visit turned out to be a near horror show. The smoke was thick and sweet as if some strange flame had burned during the night.

“Where were you last night?” A ragged man screamed at them as they rode through the main street in a silent procession.

The men shifted behind and Sondra knew they’d shifted to put Dala in the middle, out of sight’s way. “We were at camp, on the hill.” Bri’en spoke evenly. “What happened here?”

“Can’t tha see?” He shrieked. “Can’t tha see?”

“Father, please!” A young woman darted into the street, grabbing at his bony arms. “Oh , please, Father, please, come inside, do not trouble them, please!” She turned to them at once. “He didn’t mean any harm, he didn’t!”

“I know that.” Bri’en nodded towards the smoking ruins. “What happened here?”

“I shouldna say.” She backed away, following her father towards their crumbling house. “And you shoulda ask!”

“You mean to tell us, you were not a part of this?” The lofty voice from the corner of the alley belonged to one of the pompous robed figures from the night before.

Sondra grimaced. Bri’en shifted enough to shield her from view. “We asked to spend the night and were refused. We camped in the hills.” His scowl surfaced. “Your trouble is none of our concern, unless you speak of this as work by Ylyander.”

A gasp went up from the motley crowd that had slowly gathered around. “You would dark speak such a wicked name before the women?” The elder raged, eyes bulging. “You impertinent-”

“Shut up!” Sondra snapped, shifting into view as she coaxed her horse several steps forward. She glared down at the wrinkled face and dyed beard. “We are a traveling party for a holder with an artifact.” She waited, satisfied to see the color drain from his already pale face. “We sought a healer here, in asking to camp. We were refused.” She struggled to keep her voice steady. “And now, we are here and you still treat us as if-”

“You are a woman.” The statement fell from his lips. He backed away. “Greeves has fallen indeed if it is women now parading themselves in the guise of a warrior-”

“I will thank you to speak politely in the presence of our captain.” Bri’en was at her side again. “We are sorry to intrude upon your grief.”

Sondra shook her head. “We could have helped you.” She forced the words out, unable to keep them inside. “We could have. But you didn’t want that.” Her eyes settled on the horizon. “Bandits?” She asked Lorenth.

“Quite a group.” He answered. “At least twenty of them.”

“Not Ylyander?”

“No, Captain.”

“Thank you, Lorenth.” Sondra turned in the saddle to survey the grim faces behind her. “We are ahead of him yet.” Her voice rang out in the cool morning air. “We ride!”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan