Saturday, August 31, 2013

Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #6

Featuring the Suggestions of Whitney Tittle.

The List: 

The Result:

Scander McAllister rose with the ringing of his alarm and shut it off. He stretched and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Another day had begun. Everything promised to be perfectly normal, from the way he got dressed and combed his hair, to the fact that the chickens placidly pecked at the corn he scattered for them before making his own breakfast. Scander paused a moment to check the cupboards before leaving for the day. They were looking quite bare, and he would be wanting some hearty stew come dinnertime.
Scander lifted his jacket off the hook by the door and slipped his hands into the sleeves. Immediately, he heard a popping sound as the seams in the shoulders--which had been stretched around his frame for a while now--finally gave out. Scander mentally checked it as one more thing on his list of items to pick up at the market on his way home. He adjusted the scraps of fabric around his shoulders and walked calmly down the lane to the old schoolhouse.

Scander McAllister was the primary schoolteacher for the children of Unigivla. They awaited him now as he approached and took his place at the head of the classroom. He taught letters and figures until the bell rang midday. Then all the children calmly gathered their belongings and departed to spend the afternoon helping their families around the various farms and orchards that made up the small rural town.

Scander strode down to the edge of the woods, where a particularly old tree raised its gnarled roots in the perfect proportions for a comfortable seat. Settling in the crook of a root, Scander opened his pack and pulled out the bread and cheese that served as his noon meal. He definitely felt like a hot soup in the evening... or perhaps fish. He would have to see which was the better price. Once he finished the meal, Scander McAllister brushed the crumbs from his lap and headed out to the Unigivlan Market.

A few hours later, he returned along the same road, headed home after a successful and uneventful day. It was late afternoon, and he would have time to study and read and relax at his home before his supper of freshly-caught fish. Scander traipsed through the woods, listening to the sound of his footsteps in the undergrowth.


Scander stopped; what had made that awful noise? He looked around, but the forest was still. He took another cautious step forward.


Scander blinked; the noise sounded almost human, but he had heard that there were some animals who made that sort of sound when wounded, such as rabbits or deer. He began to consider the possibilities and their ramifications.

It could be a wounded animal... which a predator or a hunter had left behind as bait for a larger animal. Scander saw himself going to rescue the animal and becoming snared for his pains.

Scander shook his head.


There! The sound couldn't possibly be more human! And yet--

It could be a band of ruffians who wailed to lure victims in, and Scander saw himself going to investigate and being robbed of his nice fish and new jacket and the remainder of his week's pay, for his pains.

Scander shook his head again. He still stood there in the middle of the lane, wondering what to do.


At last, Scander McAllister couldn't stand there any longer. He plunged into the brush in search of the source of the noise. He found it not too far in, nestled in a bush at the foot of a tree.


Scander picked it up and cradled it in his arms. It was certainly nothing like he expected, and nothing he was even remotely prepared to deal with in any way at all: A baby boy, abandoned in the forest. Where had he come from? Who had left him, and did they intend to come back? Scander couldn't tell. He held the baby till it quieted, then Scander McAllister pondered what to do.

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

#1  #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13

Friday, August 30, 2013

ReBible "Professional Integrity" Excerpt-- "Leaving St. Louis"

Daniel turned and began shuffling out with the crowd. Somehow the security force was able to get everyone in a single-file line heading out the doors, scanning them one by one. As soon as Daniel set foot outside the outermost door, a short man in a greasy hairpiece caught his arm.

“Mr. Daniel Princeton?” he asked.
Daniel nodded, wondering why, out of everyone else, he would be singled out, and they would know his name.

“My name is Curtis,” the man said, “If you would follow me, please, your bus is over this way.” He scuttled off past the generic black shuttles, to a white one that was the largest road-permissible vehicle that Daniel had ever seen.
Curtis approached the door, and it opened automatically.

“Welcome, valued workforce member,” a female mechanical voice intoned.
Daniel ascended the steps into the vehicle, and the driver turned to him and waved. Daniel glanced at his nametag. “BRANDON,” it read, “Android.”

“Down this row here,” Curtis was saying from behind him as the android turned back to the steering wheel. “If I may—“ the greasy little man motioned and Daniel stood against the partition as Curtis squeezed past him in the narrow passageway. This was the strangest bus Daniel had ever been on, because the seats were more like enclosed, private “cabins,” like on a train.
Curtis led him down to about the midpoint of the bus, and pointed to a small plaque with the name “BENEDICT” on it.

“Here is your cabin, sir,” he stated, “and here is your nametag.” He handed Daniel a small gold pin with the same name, “BENEDICT” engraved on it. Daniel held the pin against his shirt, and it automatically fastened itself. The rim of the plaque next to his door lit up green. Curtis nodded with satisfaction, but Daniel shook his head in bewilderment.
“But my name is not—“ he began to protest, but Curtis raised his stiffly-waxed eyebrows at him.

“And my name is not Curtis,” he sighed with understanding. “It doesn’t matter; they have a certain computer system for registering employees, and it only allows certain names to be used. You work for Byblos, and your name is Benedict. Now,” he opened the door to the compartment, “as long as you are within twelve inches of your compartment, it will unlock automatically. Any further than that, and it locks, and no one can get in. Food service and entertainment choices will appear as soon as this door closes. You may make your selection and it will be served to you via the chute directly in front of your seat.”

As Curtis spoke, Daniel scooted into the small compartment and found it entirely occupied by a large chair. He sat in it, and a seatbelt immediately snaked across his lap, while the back of the seat slowly scooted upright until it supported his back.
“The seat responds automatically to your body’s position,” Curtis explained, “It is fully reclining, and there are blankets and pillows available in the recess to your left, while electronic hand-held devices and attachments are in the recess to your right.” Curtis nodded, satisfied that he had gotten through his spiel without incident. “Enjoy your trip, Mr. Benedict!” He closed the door, and immediately the room plunged into darkness. Seconds later, lights flickered back on—but the appearance of the room seemed very different. No longer was he sitting in a small chair in a tiny cabin. Now Daniel (now called Benedict) found himself reclining in a plush armchair in what appeared to be a spacious lounge. A waitress wearing a close-fitting blouse and pencil skirt approached him with a tray in her hands.

Welcome, Benedict,” she said in the same voice that had greeted him when he stepped off the bus, “Can I interest you in a beverage?” She held up her tray in front of him, and immediately a long list of every sort of beverage, alcoholic and not, appeared on its surface. “Touch the screen to make your selection,” the female voice instructed, and Daniel suddenly realized he was viewing a life-like projection. He stared in amazement; the detail extended the full 360 degrees, and the only thing that felt out of place was the fact that he could not leave his chair. He turned back to the “waitress.” She was still holding the tray for him. Daniel leaned forward and scrolled through the list. Nearly every beverage in existence… but all he wanted was some simple refreshment. He tapped “Water” on the list, and the waitress asked, “Will that be mineral, bottled, or iced?”
“Bottled,” Daniel replied automatically aloud, but the waitress responded anyway. She walked out of the room, and Daniel heard a chime ring right in front of him. He watched in amusement as a second waitress appeared, bearing a bottle of water on a tray—but when she extended it to offer the bottle to Daniel, he found that the projection aligned with the chute, so that he was grabbing an actual bottle off of the projected tray in the projected hands of a projected waitress.

As soon as he received the water, the waitress immediately followed up with, “Would you like some entertainment?”
Instantly, a chorus-girl in a gaudy, revealing outfit appeared in front of Daniel, leaning toward him with disturbingly convincing realism. “Want to play?” she crooned.

Daniel desperately closed his eyes and waved his hand, as if to wipe away the image, “No!” he cried frantically.
When he opened his eyes again, the girl was gone and in her place a slot machine. The lights flashed and the handle gleamed tantalizingly as a male voice questioned, “Want to play?” in the same inviting tone as the chorus-girl.
Daniel waved his hand and declared, “No!” a second time, and the slot machine disappeared at his command.

No sooner than it had vanished did the waitress “return,” this time bearing a tray that flickered through images of every food Daniel knew he craved.
“Would you care for something to eat?” she asked.
Daniel knew how much he wanted the food, but he also knew the dangers of gluttony, and giving in to your cravings. He hurriedly chugged the bottle of water still in his hand, grateful for the way it filled his belly, even just for the moment.
“Not right now, thanks,” he replied to the projection.

The waitress did not miss a beat.
“Can we interest you in a TV or movie selection?” she pressed.
Daniel considered this request, knowing of only one video he would be interested to see, but the “waitress” may be reluctant to provide.
“Can you show me what’s passing outside?” he asked the waitress.

The projection of the lounge flickered, and Daniel suddenly found himself sitting on apparently nothing on the Victory Highway as East St. Louis sped past him. Quickly, he turned his head, and the detail tracked with his field of vision. Looking toward the northeast, he had barely time for one last glimpse of the Gateway Arch before it disappeared over the horizon, blocked from his sight by so many steel and brick buildings.

Daniel immediately recalled how his entire life had been lived within sight of that arch. No matter where he was, he could always orient himself with it. It was the one constant landmark in his life—and now he was on his way to California. Who knew when or if he’d ever see it again? Daniel’s heart lodged in his throat, and his eyes began to burn.

“Turn the lights on,” he choked out, and as his mind returned from the projected settings to the reality of a tiny, enclosed cabin, traveling west to his new work location, the words of Justin Mandalord, as expressed to the Executive Director, Mr. Kim, came back to him.

The man had stood in the atrium of Integra Communications, speaking loud enough for everyone to hear,
“If you do not follow the bylaws laid down by my forefathers, the company founders,” he declared, “God has shown me that a king will arise from his castle of gold and take this company away from you.”

Of course, no one could have known then that he didn’t mean a real king, like a foreign dignitary, or an actual castle—but a Mr. King, who “ruled” in the “Golden State.”
Daniel lay back in his seat and wept for his homeland.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Storytime Feature: "The Fairy Godfather"

Geordie was a bully. In particular, he liked to torment his nanny's son, Tom. Tom lived with Nanny, and went to school while Nanny had to devote her attention to Geordie in the morning, but as soon as Tom returned to Geordie's house (where he and his mother lived in the garret of the mansion), Nanny had to bring both Tom and Geordie wherever Geordie wanted to go, and generally, Tom had to wait with his mother while Geordie played and did as he pleased, because Nanny and Tom were poor, and Geordie's parents had lots of money.
One day, Geordie was playing with his toys—actually, he delighted in pulling them apart and blaming Tom for it, because it was great fun to see his mother turn Tom over her knee and spank him, or she would make Nanny do it—when suddenly, the sharp bayonet on one of his tin soldiers pricked his finger. Geordie sat down and howled until a voice told him, “Shut yer mouth!”

Geordie stopped crying immediately and looked for who had spoken to him. “Nobody can talk to me that way!” he asserted, kicking his heels against the carpet and throwing the tin soldier across the room. His eyes searched the corners, but there seemed to be no one else present but him.
“For what it’s worth, kid, I ain’t much in the business of takin’ orders from a shrimp,” and just like that, a tiny man stood in front of him, upon the little table where the rest of the tin soldiers lay. He was about the same size as the tin soldiers, and he wore a dark suit and had greasy, black hair and a cigar in his mouth.
“Who are you?” Geordie demanded, “What are you doing here? Nanny! Nanny, come—“ and before Geordie could utter another syllable, the little man removed the cigar from his mouth and exhaled a cloud of smoke that went right into the little boy’s mouth, lodging in his throat. Geordie’s eyes got wide, and he began to feel very scared as he realized that, scream and holler as he might, he could not make even the tiniest sound come out of his mouth.
The little man sprouted wings and flew in front of Geordie’s face, so that the young boy could get a good look at him. He laughed in Geordie’s face.
“Ha! That’s more like it. Now, you just sit tight, and no yelling, and I won’t have to get too personal, see?” The little man tapped the end of his cigar, and the cloud came out of Geordie’s mouth, and he could talk again. The little man held the cloud on his hand when Geordie threatened to begin screaming again, just as soon as he discovered that his voice returned, but once Geordie saw that, the little boy thought better of it. The little man laughed again.
“Ha! I like you kid, you’re smart; you know your place. Now see, I been hearing rumors about you, kid.”
“Rumors?” Geordie echoed.
The little man puffed on his cigar again before answering, “Yeah, rumors; word on the street is that a certain little millionaire’s brat is pickin’ on his nanny’s kid all the time, and lyin’, and cheatin’, and stealin’, and blamin’ it all on poor little Tommy.”
Geordie blushed with shame, “How did you know?”
The little man spread his arms wide with a grin, “I’m friends with the birds, kid; and the birds, they get real chatty with their friends. They tell me you’re the awfullest, spoiledest, greediest, dirtiest little no-good, low-down rebel that ever walked the streets of this fair city. They tell me the world would be better off without the likes of you. They asked me to make you—disappear. They told me all about you, because I’m the one who can rub you out so’s your own mother don’t know you exist!”
Geordie had gotten some of his spunk back, and he frowned at the cocky little man, “I don’t believe you.”
The little man continued to hover in front of Geordie’s face, “Oh-ho! Tough guy, eh? You want me to prove it, do ya?” The little man flew back to the table. He adjusted his lapels, smoothed his hair, and—ever so smoothly—snapped his fingers.
Geordie suddenly felt dizzy as the room seemed to twist and turn before his eyes, and by the time he could blink, he was standing on the table, about the same size as the little man who stood before him. Geordie noticed that the man had dark, beady eyes, and that he smiled wickedly at him.
The little man snapped his fingers again, and suddenly, Geordie’s tin soldiers—now taller than Geordie himself—came to life and grabbed the little boy, pulling his hands behind his back and cuffing them together. They dragged little Geordie to stand before the little man.

The little man smiled down at Geordie, tapping his fingertips together as he studied the boy.
“Do I got your attention now, kid?” he asked, “This is what I do; now I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse: I’m gonna leave you for now, but you have two days to turn your life around and make better choices with how you treat little Tommy. Be nice to the kid; share your toys, let him play with you. I’ll be back in two days, and if you haven’t made the right choice, then I promise you, there will be consequences. Ya got that, kid?” The little man snapped his fingers again, and Geordie returned to his normal size—but the little man had also grown with him, and now stood over young Geordie who was still huddled on the floor, wondering what had just happened.
“We’ll see you in two days, kid,” The man nodded at him and prepared to leave out of Geordie’s window.
“Wait!” Geordie cried, “Who are you?”
The man turned around with a smirk on his lips, “The name’s Mazzoli, and I’m your Fairy Godfather.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #5 (Updated)

Featuring the contributions of Evelyn Bloom.

The List:
Elena Knight 
4:00 am 
Tabby Cat

The Result:

Version #1:


She watches all day, and walks at night. You can call, but she doesn't have to answer. She is highly trained, with lethal reflexes. She will do anything if she knows it's worth her while. She only has one name: Tabby Cat.

Elena Knight, the first female detective in the small Devonshire village where the train station is the only reason people ever arrive there. She is confident in her abilities, whatever the other blokes might say. Nothing, though, has prepared her to track the Tabby Cat. A phone call at 4AM from the railway station, a woman's body found on an incoming train: clawed to death, the medical examiner says. Detective Knight isn't so sure; but who's to say the victim herself isn't the Tabby herself, killed for revenge or to hide a secret she shouldn't have known? How can they confirm the identity of a woman who apparently has none?
In a deadly game of cat-and-mouse: which is the cat, and which the mouse?


 Version #2:

Her eyes popped open. Where--Oh, that's right. Elena Knight, writer-extraordinaire-in-the-making, slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes. The sky outside the little bed-and-breakfast still looked dark. Elena glanced at the bedside table and saw the illuminated numbers of the vintage "tumbler" clock flip from 3:59 to 4:00. She rolled her eyes. Would she ever get used to the time difference between Devonshire and her home in the States? Elena lay back, but her mind was awake now; there would be no more sleep for now. Slowly she pushed herself upright again.
"That's the price I pay for wanting to get inspiration on location," she muttered to herself as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and fished for her slippers while reaching for her robe. Yawning ferociously, she shuffled over to where she had set up her Remington typewriter in front of the little window overlooking the street. Very few people were out at this hour. Dawn was just beginning its hairline crack along the edges of the eastern sky. A low mist curled around the rooftops and chimney pots.
A sudden movement caught Elena's eye. She watched as a lone tabby cat emerged from behind a chimney and demurely padded across the rooftop. Here is a creature who dares walk when all other creatures are still, Elena thought. She cares not for the restraint of others; all the more for her.
The cat did not hesitate at the edge, but leapt lightly from one closely-packed rooftop to the next, without a care in the world.
Elena grinned; maybe jet lag would end up in her favor after all. She inserted a paper into the carrier and began to type.

"She watches all day, and walks at night. You can call, but she doesn't have to answer. She is highly trained, with lethal reflexes. She will do anything if she knows it's worth her while. She only has one name: Tabby Cat...."

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

#1  #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Excerpt--The Travellers

"Let me be the first to apologize for the rude welcome," Moraenor began. "We have not had any visitors since we began living in this cave."
"Ah, yes, the Brat-King's last edict," Jeroham mused, "I heard something of that at the last town."
    Laurel passed around mugs of hot cider before taking a seat next to Moraenor.
    "Why do you travel?" she asked curiously.
Jeroham paused to sip his mug, and clasped his hands around it pensively as he answered, "We're entertainers, ma'am, the Respertians and I."
    "The--what do you call them?" Laurel asked.
The short, dark boy with the frizzy hair spoke for himself. "Respertians, ma'am, from the hill country of Respert," he explained. "My name is Samrill, and this is Laililika, Molotto, and Gokken."
 Laurel gazed over the small, dark faces as she tried to comprehend the strange names. "You all look so alike! Are you from the same family?"
Jeroham chuckled fondly at his little friends. "They're all close friends ‘n’ neighbors;  'cept Sammy and Laililika, they're cousins. T'other two ain't related. All Respertians look about the same; only when you've worked around 'em as long as I have, you can start to tell the difference betwixt 'em."
"What about you?" Moraenor asked the Elf, "What is your name, and how did you come to join a troop like this? Do you perform as well?"
The Elf's expression never changed as he replied evenly, "My name is Athelron. I do not perform with Jeroham's troupe, I am only with them as protection."
 Moraenor and Laurel glanced at each other significantly; Jeroham's fighting skills were sufficient for the amount of danger a troupe of entertainers might occasionally run across. Athelron was far too skilled and grand in his bearing to merely serve as a bodyguard for a bunch of performers. Laurel sensed a deeper story. Jeroham soon supplied his hosts.
He laughed loudly at his companion. "What my stately friend neglects to mention is he and I are bonded by the code of the Elves!"
Both Moraenor and Laurel raised their eyebrows. They were familiar with this code, common knowledge to all Elves of every race on Murinda. "You saved his life?" Laurel queried.
Jeroham nodded. "The Respertians and I were on the road from Clywen to Deerfest, back East, and we came up on a band of ruffians just in the act of throwing the Elf here over the ravine. The boys and I scared the ruffians away, helped the Elf back onto the cliff, and before we can say anything, he gets right down on his knees and--"
    "I merely introduced myself and pledged my services, as the code requires," Athelron interrupted coldly. "That is all."
Your accent," Laurel remarked, attempting to ease the tension, "I've never heard it before. Where are you from?"
    Athelron fixed his piercing gaze on her. "I am from Bregundi, the Elf-country." he sniffed contemptuously. "And you are--"
    "We are elves from...overseas," Laurel replied. She surprised herself, but she suddenly felt like she could not mention the country that had rejected her.
    Athelron raised an eyebrow, "Are you, now? Both of you?"
    He looked significantly at Laurel, and she wondered if he could tell she was different; he certainly looked like he did, and it stung her.
    "Yes," she snapped quietly, "both of us."
    Athelron sniffed.
Jeroham glanced at the elves for one tense, uncomfortable moment, and then he cleared his throat.
    "Well!" he cried, turning to the Respertians, "While we're here, as a thank-you to our fine hosts, what say we give them a little show?"
    Laurel seized on the opportunity, “Oh, yes please!” she clapped her hands in delight.

    Moraenor helped Jeroham move the table out of the way, and the four Respertians took their places in the center of the room. Jeroham pulled out an old squeeze-box and heaved a few chords on it to begin the performance.
"Ladies and gentle Elves," Jeroham announced as if speaking to a crowd larger than the three sitting before him, "Allow me to introduce to you the most incredible sight never before seen in this country!"
Molotto winked slyly at Laurel, "Normally, we'd be out of sight behind the stage or in the wagon, but you've already seen us, so we needn't bother."
Laurel smiled and winked back at him.
"PRESENTING," Jeroham cried grandly, "the dance of the little people!"

The show began with Samrill and Laililika dancing pleasantly. Gokken pantomimed a blind man trying to "propose" to Laililika, and Molotto was a tubby little clumsy whose job it seemed was to periodically trip over various objects the blind man inadvertently dropped, or his own feet and tumble into the other characters, causing comical chaos as the blind man offered flowers to everyone but Laililika by mistake, Samrill tried to fend off the interlopers, Jeroham pumped away on the box, and the whole performance delighted the audience.
Their delight, though, was not readily displayed merely because they were Elves. Athelron and Moraenor expressed their pleasure in the manner of their breed, by shifting their posture in an agreeable and imperceptible manner, raising their eyebrows only slightly, and allowing a pleased expression to glimmer across their features.
Laurel, on the other hand, noticed the exertions of the performers and the expectant glint in their eye, and surmised that they were probably accustomed to loud cheers and happy applause of their more human crowd. She felt herself capable of such response, and indeed longed to recognized the hard-working Respertians thus, but felt herself restrained by the arrogant glances of Athelron. Every time Laurel so much as giggled at a joke in the pantomime, or one given by Jeroham himself during a lull in the play, she could feel the Bregundian's steely gaze boring into her, making her very uncomfortable. When the show was over, Athelron and Moraenor acknowledged the panting performers' bows with a silent nod. A sudden spurt of rebellion seized Laurel, and she burst out with wild applause, enjoying for her abandon the grateful glances of the little people. She looked to Athelron and saw him glaring at her. She faced the performance again, but for the next hour she could feel his gaze burning into the back of her neck.

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Excerpt--Unexpected Visitors

Laurel stepped into the sunshine outside the cave bearing a rug on each arm and smiled. They had been living in the cave for almost two years now, and, all things considered, it was not as terrible as it first sounded. 
Often, she spent her days sitting upon her father's old easy chair at the mouth of the cave, wishing for new people to meet.
"It isn't that you aren't good company yourself, Moraenor," she assured him, "but wouldn't it be so much fun to meet new people, and play hostess in our cave? It is all very grand, with the furniture from our old home in it, but--" she sighed, "it just doesn't feel like a home till I've had someone to visit!"
Moraenor only shrugged.
Laurel amused herself on occasion by climbing through the treetops till she came upon the various picnickers who found their way among the trees closest to town. There, high above the parties, Laurel would spy unseen, like a spirit of the woods. Thus she passed the days when she was especially bored, but the more she observed, the more she wanted to participate in such activities.
At long last, Laurel got her guests-- but it was not in the manner she quite expected.

They came at night, when a large, noisy storm pelted the woods outside. Inside the cave, laying upon fur sleeping mats, behind a thick curtain they hung across the back of the cave for a sleeping area, Moraenor and Laurel were snug and dry.
Moraenor breathed softly in deep slumber, but the noise of the storm creaking through the trees and the rain slapping the stone threshold of the cave all prevented her from sleeping.

Quite unexpectedly, she heard more than the rain and the trees--Laurel heard voices! More correctly, she heard a voice--and a loud one at that.
"Here! I've found a cave! Let's get out of this storm!"

Laurel froze with a frown. Whoever spoke had a very queer accent, one she could not identify.
She heard movement, the scrape of boots and dripping cloth at the front of the cave.

The voice continued in a whisper, "There, now, just lay 'em here--gently! Don't want to damage them! That's good, away from the rain; we don't want them too wet, now. I’ll light us a fire."
Laurel held her breath as she peeked from under the corner of the curtain. A stocky figure sat against the wall, striking his tinder over a pile of small branches as his tall, lean companion laid four bundles in a row on the cave floor. Laurel wondered if these two were merchants, and the bundles were the goods they intended to sell. She silently prodded Moraenor awake.
"Hm? What is it, Laurel?" he asked.
"People!" Laurel whispered back. "There are people in our cave!"

Moraenor joined Laurel in peeking out under the curtain. By now the thin intruder had disappeared, leaving only the stocky one perusing his bundles as his eyes glinted in the firelight. She wondered where the lean one had gone as the stocky one continued talking.

"Poor little tykes!" he murmured, gazing over the bundles. "Won't they have a shock to be so far from home in such a short time!"
Laurel caught Moraenor's eye.
"They are children?" she mouthed.

"Yes, sir," the stocky figure continued, "they're sure to make a handsome profit in this town."

"He's a slaver!" Laurel gasped silently.

"Nothing like selling an act well, eh, my friend?"

Laurel saw him turn his head back and forth, looking for his companion.


He received no answer; perhaps this Athelron had left.
She saw him wag his head and shrug as he resumed gazing at the fire. His words had pierced her compassionate heart, and all she could think of were those poor innocent children and the cruelty of a man--he could not be an elf or dwarf, she reasoned, which meant he was a man--who thought only of making money by them!
Hand on her hilt, Laurel slipped out from behind the curtain. Noiselessly she drew her sword.

The man had been sitting, lulled into a semi-trance by the rhythmic rain, when he felt the tickle of a sword-blade at his throat.
A hooded figure stood menacingly over him.
"W-wh-what d'ye want with me?" the man stuttered nervously.
"I want your name," the figure's voice was low and dangerous, "and I want you to tell me your intentions with these poor children, quickly!"
"Jeroham," the man replied, hastening to add, "My intentions are by no means to harm them, I am only a simple--"
"Enough, base liar!" the figure barked, pressing into the sword and forcing Jeroham to his feet. "I am acquainted with your vile breed, and there is not a whit of truth in you! Every word from your mouth is calculated in gold and silver, and every glance is but as profit to you! Do not speak of noble intentions to me! I heard your plans to cull money from the innocent folk of Glastor City by the lives of these poor innocents whom you so falsely profess to love!"

Laurel flushed brighter and her voice raised louder as she spoke; she would have continued voicing her thoughts, hoping to drive the frightened old slaver away from his intended victims--but for the tip of a dagger which came to rest on her earlobe.
"I would hold my tongue, or cut it out, ere I called an Elf-friend 'liar,' little maid," a low voice said distinctly in her ear. "Take your sword off the man's neck, or I'll slit your ear like a common sow."
Laurel had no choice but to drop her sword. Jeroham immediately slumped back into his seat as the one holding the dagger seized Laurel's wrist and moved his blade from her ear to her throat.
Now that he stood in front of her, what little she could see of his features told Laurel she looked upon an elf, but one quite different from the Andarian elves she used to see.
“Stranger, identify yourself to us, and state your business in this cave,” the elf ordered.

Laurel drew herself up haughtily, “I live here in this cave, and I should not have to identify myself first, as if I were a petty intruder in my own dwelling!”

The Elf sniffed at her rebuttal, and twisted her wrist around behind her. “It seems you need a lesson in respect,” he jerked her arm roughly and painfully, “and I will—“
“Unhand her,” Moraenor’s calm voice cut in.
The Elf’s voice stopped, as Moraenor’s own sword touched at his throat. He glared at Moraenor.


Lightning split the sky, followed immediately by tremendous thunder, and in that instant, many things happened all at once.

Laurel twisted away from the Elf as he dodged away from Moraenor’s sword and lunged for the Elf himself. Jeroham suddenly swept to his feet and came for Laurel, as Moraenor and the Elf grappled for the upper hand.
Laurel had litheness and quickness to her advantage, against the old man’s strength and weight. Her main objective being to rescue the children (who remained solidly ensconced in their blankets during the whole ordeal) and not to actually kill her opponent, she left her sword where it lay, and sparred with Jeroham in hand-to-hand combat.
Jeroham armed himself with a staff, and aimed to strike Laurel as much as he could, and the Elf-maid dodged his blows and sought to wrest the weapon from him.
For an older man (Laurel assumed, because of his silvery hair), Jeroham proved surprisingly fast. A few times, Laurel dodged a blow from one end of his staff only to be bludgeoned by the other end. She staunchly maintained her guard, though, and at last got her hands on Jeroham’s staff. She discouraged him from attacking her with a blow to his face, and dove down to where the children lay under the blankets.
“Hurry, little ones!” she yelled to them, whipping off the blankets, “Run away!”
The four figures jumped to their feet—and Laurel realized something was very wrong about her assumptions.
 “You…you—“ she spluttered in shock. “You’re not—“

She glanced over to where Moraenor and the Elf were still locked in combat. The light from the fire was fading, making it more difficult for the two to find each other, but both skills matched so evenly that neither cared about the lack of light. Moraenor fought gamely in defense of his ward, while the other Elf fought just as adamantly in defense of his own life.
Quite suddenly, a bright light illuminated the entire cave, and Laurel yelled, “Stop!”

Everyone froze and gave her their attention. Laurel swung the lantern she held over the faces before her. The four short “children” she had thought to rescue proved more like adults in their faces than their statures. They stood a full head shorter than the height of a dwarf. Two—a girl and a boy—had dark-brown skin and frizzy, dark hair that stuck out in all directions, and the other two boys had wavy hair (one dark, one bright-red) that hung down to their shoulders. All four had round dark eyes, all filled with the same petrified expression as they gazed upon their new surroundings and the strangers locked in combat with their evident guides.
Laurel looked sternly at the combatants. “Everyone put down your weapons! We are not enemies!” she said forcefully. She pointed to the man and the Elf. “Who are you—“ she moved her gaze to the short ones, “—and what in Murinda are they?”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Serial Saturday: The Suggestion Box #4

Featuring the contribution of Sam Garcia

The List:
Winter solstice

The Result:

My name is Teresa, and I am the Fourth.
I don't mean I am a quarter, nor that there are three other Teresas. There is only one me, and six other Ordinaries. I am the Fourth Ordinary.

It happens almost every year in Walesmoor; all the children of a certain age gather before the Ten Cardinals during the Dividing, and each person is given an order. There were seven of us this year, and the age of selection was set at seventeen. I had been seventeen for only nine days, and yet I was enumerated as an Ordinary.

I had always had mixed feelings about being selected. Some years I would pray that this time, the Cardinals would cull my age. Other times I would cross all five fingers in hopes that they wouldn't.
This year they did; there were three boys and four girls. The Cardinals issued to us this Solution: "As your number arises, come forth and receive your deadline to arrive at the Base-10 in Londonshire. If you do not arrive at the deadline precisely, neither a minute late nor early, you will lose your place."
All of us felt a cold hand twist our hearts. For an Ordinary, losing one's place didn't just mean missing the prize; it was death.
"Go forth," the Cardinals ordered.

Cardinal Eight announced our numbers.
A girl named Alice marched forward and received the paper and also a necklace bearing a pendant in the shape of her number.
A tall young man—I believe his name was Donovan—arose and received his paper and pendant.
The girl standing next to me, Sophia, moved toward the Cardinal to receive her items.
Finally, it was my turn. I fought against the tremors that wracked my whole body; fear? Excitement? I was still dead inside at the thought of losing my place.
The Cardinal placed the paper in my hand and the pendant around my neck. I stepped off to the side to read my timing.

Winter Solstice. A fortnight from now. I could get there very well by Abacus, and even have some time for myself before I entered the Base-10.


I made my way to the Abacus station. "Passage to Londonshire," I announced.
The station agent smiled at me. "You must be the Fourth," she guessed. "Here is your ticket."
I accepted my ticket and waited by the platform. Donovan and Sophia were still waiting. The Abacus--a chain of rounded cars on a metal rail, propelled by steam-engine--pulled up, and Donovan stood.
"There's my ride," he said. "Stay safe, girls!" He boarded and it was gone.

Sophia shivered. She glanced at me, pulling her silk purse closer to her lacy bodice.
"D'you think they're real?" she murmured to me.
"Who?" I asked, suddenly cold, myself, even in the windless station.
"The Nullifiers," Sophia breathed. "A faction of anarchists who want to destroy the Cardinals."
"But no one can touch the Cardinals," I was beginning to think that she'd been listening to wild tales.
Sophia nodded, "Oh yes, the Cardinals can be harmed--if an Ordinary is killed."
I blinked; I had always believed that an Ordinary's journey to Base-10 would be uneventful and thrilling because we were headed into a heretofore restricted area. It figured that I would only learn about the threat of death after my journey was confirmed!
"No thank you, Sophia," I tried to behave as the voice of reason in the conversation. "I really think the Nullifiers are just a myth. You shouldn't believe everything you are told."
"Teresa!" Sophia reached and grabbed my hands. "You remember the Division of 1908?"
I shook my head, "Not really; we were only small children then."
"One of the Ordinaries, the Seventh, I think, became my governess that year. She cared for me until I turned thirteen. Her name was Vonica. Before she left, she told me--" Sophia's chin quivered and she gulped, "she told me that even though she was Seventh, there were only three others there when she arrived."
Sophia's terror was beginning to grate on my nerves. We heard the chime of the approaching Abacus. "Sophia, that might be so merely because the missing three did not arrive in time!"
"How is that possible? The Abacus Tables are fixed during the Division Time so that Ordinaries can receive tickets for specific trains that will allow them to arrive in plenty of time to meet the deadline!" Sophia insisted.
The Abacus engine approached the station.
She continued, "No, the only way they could have missed it is if they had been killed or delayed on the way."
"As long as we're alive, Teresa, the others will live."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nullifiers can only kill Ordinaries in order. As long as First and Second are still alive, the Nullifiers can't touch us."
She boarded the Abacus before I could say another word.

I was so disturbed by her words that I hardly noticed the passage of time between the departure of her Abacus and the arrival of mine. I numbly climbed into the waiting car, and watched Walesmoor slip behind me. Surely all that talk of Nullifiers was myth and fairytale. I sat back and tried to enjoy the streaming countryside outside the window of my car.


I had been so lost in the daydream that I didn't even notice the Abacus had slowed until I realized we had stopped altogether.
"What is it?" I asked the engineer.
He gestured ahead; an Abacus had derailed. My heart twisted within my chest. What other explanation could there be for the unfortunate circumstance? I had never seen such a thing. Abacuses were means of getting from one place to another; they were always maintained, always ran smoothly, and never derailed. There was only one reason for it, and everything within me revolted against the idea.
"Let me see it," I told the conductor.
He opened my door and I walked over to the wreck. The closer I got, the more my body seemed paralyzed by the fear of who I might find in the wreckage. I saw a blue silk dress--all us girls wore the same dress. Was it Sophia? The wreck seemed to have been there for a while. I saw a thin, pale hand, a bloody arm--there was the head, badly mangled, but the long red hair was still visible, matted with blood as it was. Sophia had dark hair; this was Alice, then. Sophia was safe--but for how long? After all, Alice was First. If what Sophia had said about the Nullfiers was true, and they were responsible for derailing Alice's abacus, then I could be sure of one thing: Donovan would be next. Did he survive? Were they going after Sophia by now?
I climbed back into the Abacus, suddenly paranoid of every little creak it made as we began moving again. The scenery was no longer relaxing and peaceful; every shadow concealed an enemy.

It had begun......

The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:

#1  #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Story Excerpt--Only A Duty

When the two elves returned to town, Moraenor reined Glathwere in.
"What has passed here?"

Laurel shook her head; well he might ask that. Elves and belongings: furniture, livestock, clothing and whatnot, lined the streets of Glastor City. No one really wept, but an intense melancholy covered the area. The Andarians, only just removed from their dwellings and clueless as to any alternative, milled about discussing the issue quietly with their neighbors.
Laurel and Moraenor found their pile of belongings and servants, and slipped off their horses.

"Polograth, as his last act as King, decreed that no Andarian is allowed to remain in the houses of Glastor City. We have all had to remove." Laurel sighed and shook her head.
Moraenor noticed a group of robed Andarians--the Royal Council, who basically took leadership over the Andarian people in the absence of the Elvenking or his heir (many wondered if he even had one). Moraenor took Laurel's arm and began leading her toward them.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Come with me, and let's find out," he said quietly.

Seated at the head of the group was the chief advisor, Mauriol. His pure white hair gleamed in the dying sunlight. In his hand he held a parchment with a royal seal fixed at the bottom, though the crest was unfamiliar. Most likely it was the royal crest of Fortinskan.
Mauriol looked up when Laurel approached and smiled Elf-fashion: a mere flicker at the corners of his mouth.
"Ah! Wenda-an-Nareandor," he greeted her as her father's daughter instead of her mother’s, as the custom usually was, "How kind of you to join us!"
She blushed as Moraenor helped her into the last empty chair in the circle and stood rather officially behind it. Laurel wondered that Mauriol still stared expectantly at her.
"Please," she waved her hand, "by all means continue."

Mauriol nodded and held up the paper.
"I have just come from a meeting with the new king, King Brabantes, and we have agreed to a solution to the housing problem, now that none of us can remain in the town."

"What?" a councilor cried, "Do you mean that he will not allow us to return, now that he rules the land?"
Mauriol shook his head, "Apparently he needs our houses for his own people. The king and I reached an alternative."
Here Mauriol paused, obviously waiting to be asked. He looked around at the other councilors.

"Well," prompted a seasoned councilor in a long blue robe with black lapels trimmed with gold, "What is it, Mauriol? Is this what that paper is about?"
Mauriol nodded. "The king has decreed that no elf can remain in the town, but must reside in one of two places. We must either live in Beilon forest, or we may return to Andar." Mauriol gazed around the crowd at the surprised faces of the Elves. He spread his arms magnanimously.
"Fellow elves, we have been away from our home for a very long time. Surely by now the blight has died out. We can return to our homeland and start afresh. Since the only alternative is sleeping out in the woods," he sneered at the word, "like a common animal, returning to Andar sounds like our only option."

"How will we return over the sea?" someone asked.
Mauriol shrugged, "The king will lend us ships to transport us, I'm sure. With all the favors we have done for this country, I dare say the humans owe it to us!"

Laurel could not sit still and silent under this arrogant, brazen entitlement mentality. She stood. "Mauriol, gentle Elves of the council," she began, "do you not recall the agreement between our nation and Glastor, that the Elvenking first contracted? All he required was a place to live, and in return the king promised our skills and our steel. Now, the whole reason we are negotiating with a new king is because our soldiers perished upholding that agreement. Is it right for us to then sneer at the thing our heroes supported with their very lives?"

The councilors looked at one another, the second thoughts showing plainly on their faces.
"That's all very heart-wrenching," Mauriol argued, "but wouldn't it be better to sleep once again in houses of our own, even if it is an empty land, than be relegated out-of-doors like so many dogs?"
Laurel held Mauriol's gaze, “It is a place to sleep, and to ‘start afresh,’ as you say. Moreover, it is the agreement we have made with this country, no matter who is leading it.” Laurel gazed over the assembly, “I stand by the Elvenking,” she declared simply and quietly.

The councilors gazed at each other uncomfortably.
Mauriol, on the other hand, grinned. “It is well that you feel that way,” he told Laurel, “you wouldn’t be able to return to Andar as matters stand.”
Laurel furrowed her brow, “Why not?”
Mauriol held up the parchment, “The document explicitly states, all pure Elves will be allowed to return to Andar. If I recall correctly, this does not include you.”

Laurel’s mouth flew open in shock at the cruelty of the Chief Councilor.
Mauriol ignored her and looked at the rest of the Elves, “Shall we prepare to embark?”
The whole assembly nodded their heads. Laurel ran from the group, sobbing.

How could he? The meanness of the other elves was almost too much to bear! Laurel collapsed by her pile of belongings, sobbing with shame.
“Laurel!” She heard Moraenor approach, but she had difficulty curbing her emotions.
“I’m fine, it’s all right,” she sobbed, “You must go with the rest. I deserve this anyway, even if I had no control over the circumstances that created this situation.” She looked up at her former guardian with tears in her eyes and streaming down her face. “I suppose since I feel that someone must stay and abide by the Elvenking’s promise, I then must be the one to fulfill it since everyone else is returning to Andar.”
Moraenor helped her to her feet as she continued, “Moraenor, I want you to do one last thing for me before you go.”

The faithful Elf nodded, “What is it?”
“Promise me.”
Moraenor chuckled, “All right, what am I promising to do?”

Laurel reached down and unbuckled Golon’s sword from around her waist. She laid it in Moraenor’s hands. “Take this sword back to Andar for me. Grandfather gave it to me because he thought I would be able to do it, but now since I will most likely never see Andar, I want you to do what I cannot.”
Moraenor shook his head and tried to give the sword back to the young Elf-maiden. “No, you must keep the sword, if only for protection—“
“No,” Laurel would not accept it, “you must do it, for it must be done, and you gave me your word. I’ll get another sword. Now, go; the ships are already in the harbor, you must leave.” She set her chin bravely. “Thank you so much for your friendship, Moraenor; it means the world to me. I will never forget you. Fare you well, and goodbye for the present.”

Moraenor saw that she was set in her decision, and there was no convincing her otherwise. He sighed, “Hello for the future,” he replied, taking her hand momentarily.
Laurel saw the stream of Elves slowly moving toward the harbor. “Go now,” she told Moraenor.
The Elvish lieutenant nodded and joined the throng.
Laurel was truly alone.

She almost felt like crying, but she steeled herself. She had to move out of the town, and find a place in the woods to live. She focused all her attention on loading the belongings from her father’s house into a large wagon, and hitching Zarta to the wagon. Glathwere, and Nareandor’s horse Turgynn were also left to her.

Laurel stroked the mare’s neck, “Come, Zarta,” she whispered, “Let’s find our new home.” Together they headed into Beilon Forest. To get there, though, she had to pass near the harbor, near enough to see the wide, magnificent ships, the ones that were carrying all her kin back to their home. She thought of Moraenor, carrying Grandfather’s sword back to Andar. Laurel bit her lip and turned sharply into the forest.

Laurel traveled through the forest for several hours, but there seemed to be no suitable place for permanent residence, only trees, shrubs, and grass. She persisted, steadily making her way toward Mt. Horbaroth, and away from the town.
About five miles from the mountain, Laurel came upon a huge cave in the forest, its mouth facing Mt. Horbaroth, and several trees about it. The floor was wide, and the ceiling was high; it was just suitable for a dwelling.
“At any rate, it’s the only one to be had,” she murmured to herself.
She turned to unload the wagon, and saw Moraenor standing at the mouth of the cave.

“Moraenor!” She gasped. “What are you doing here? You should be boarding the ship!”
He shrugged, “I could not go,” he said simply.
Laurel tipped her head, “What do you mean? You are a pure Elf! You must go!”
Moraenor shook his head with a smile. “I have a duty,” he said, “one that was given to me by my commanding officer, and I am bound to fulfill that duty, above all others, until I am discharged by the same commanding officer or a lieutenant appointed by him.” He offered Laurel’s sword back to her.
Laurel looked into his eyes, and realized what he meant. She smiled warmly in spite of the tears still moistening her cheeks. “Thank you, Moraenor,” she whispered, taking the sword and buckling it on again.

“It is only a duty,” Moraenor replied, but he winked at his young charge.

Together the two Elves unpacked the wagon and prepared for their new lives as Elves of the woods.