Saturday, October 27, 2018

Serial Saturday: "The Dragon's Mark" Part 11

Part 11
"Chasing The Dragon"

Stella ran, dragon-like, through the endless inferno. All around her was flame, but she didn’t feel it. Henrik ran next to her, and she could see his body covered in the dark, shifting scales. Would they find his father before they, too, became dragons?
At last, Henrik cried out, “I see them!”

Stella followed his gesture and saw two dark blots among the flames—Sigmund the Dragon and his prisoner. Agatha crouched in a patch of blackened soot, her face curled into her lap. Stella noticed that the dress didn’t seem damaged at all; was it some sort of special material Nadia had discovered, resistant to flame? The young woman did not make a sound—probably she had worn herself out screaming as the dragon carried her away. Sigmund waited defensively by, watching the two of them approach, spewing fire wherever his protective circle broke away.

Henrik approached just ahead. “Father!” He cried. “It’s me—Henrik! See, I’ve brought the girl, Nadia’s descendant!”

Sigmund swung his head around and regarded the two of them. Angrily, he sent a blast of fire over their heads, but Henrik and Stella stood their ground.

Stella stepped forward. “My name is Stella; I am the Bride you seek,” she said. “Let me have the Ring, and I can lift this terrible curse.”

Standing there in the heat, Stella could feel all her exposed skin thickening and hardening. It was hard enough to breathe, harder still to see in the blinding light. The dragon snarled at them as it angrily stalked the perimeter of the clearing. Stella wondered if Sigmund was too far gone, if he understood human speech at all by this point. Abruptly, at the far side of the circle, the dragon’s head jerked up, and he took off into the sky with a screech, lost amid the smoke.

Henrik stared helplessly after his father. “Where has he gone? What are we going to do?”

Stella, on the other hand, focused on the terrified figure huddled on the ground. “Agatha!” she called, running toward her.

The tousled dark head came up, revealing the tear-stained, scratched, terrified face underneath. After the fear came anger, and Agatha glared at the scarred young woman before her. “You!” she grunted. “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t gone to the stupid party, Mother wouldn’t have known you had the Ring, and I wouldn’t have had to stand in the Governor’s Court wearing borrowed clothes!” She thrust an arm out, gesturing toward the flames surrounding them. “And now look where we are! I’m going to die out here, and it’s all your fault!

Stella ignored Agatha’s complaining, as she had so many times before. “Agatha, listen to me! I think I have a way to put an end to this, but I’ll need the Ring—“

Agatha wasn’t listening. She stared over Stella’s shoulder and gasped. “Is that… Henrik?” She clapped grubby hands to her cheeks. “Ugh! What have you done to him? He looks… He’s like you! How awful!” Her mouth curled in a horrified grimace.

The former serving girl saw the red gem still on her finger. “Agatha!” She begged. “Give me the Ring! It was meant for me!”
Meant for you?” Agatha shrieked over the roar of the fire. “You think just because everything was wonderful when you wore it, but when I put it on everything went terribly wrong, that it means you somehow deserve it, that I’d just hand the ring back to you? Why should I believe you are anything more than a servant?” She plucked the Ring off her finger and held it up between them. “You want this cursed thing?” With a flick of her wrist, Agatha sent it flying into the ring of fire. “Go and get it then, Toad-face!”

Desperately, Stella leaped after the Ring, searching frantically for where it might have landed. The flames nibbled at her eyes and her hair as she dug her fingers into the ashen earth until she felt its familiar shape.

Behind her, Agatha screamed—and so did the dragon. Stella whirled around.
Sigmund had returned, and was tracing trails of fire dangerously close to Agatha. She crawled backward to get away from the flames, but in the process, she moved closer to the ring of fire surrounding her. Henrik fought to stand between the girl and the flames, but his father merely dodged around him, bombarding his victim from the air.

With trembling hands, Stella fumbled the Ring until she could slip it onto her finger. Unlike before, her skin didn’t change this time, but she held up her hand in the air anyway and called out, “Dragon! The Bride of Drakistos summons thee!”

A powerful gust of wind rolled over the fire, and much of the flame extinguished, plunging them all into star-studded darkness. The sudden shadows danced before their eyes, making it hard for anyone to distinguish their surroundings. In her blindness, Stella felt a hard, knobby hand slip over hers and hold it tight.

“I’m here,” Henrik croaked, his throat parched and likely scaled over.

A massive claw almost as big as Stella’s whole body landed in the dirt right in front of them.

“You have summoned me?” rumbled a deep, rolling voice overhead.

Stella blinked until her eyes adjusted, and she could see the Dragon standing before her, its scales dark as the midnight sky, and sparkling like stars in the small firelight that remained. Its terrible size dwarfed Sigmund, who crouched defensively before it. She saw that its tail reached around the entire clearing. She stepped forward, tilting her head back to look into the Dragon’s face.

“I have come, bearing the Ring of Drakistos,” she held it up for the Dragon to see, “to ask you to lift the curse upon this family.”

The Dragon crouched lower, bringing his enormous head nearer to the pair standing in front of him.
“Only a descendant of Despina, wife of General Drakistos—the first woman to summon me through the portal—can bear the Ring and reopen the portal to send me back to my own realm. Only a descendant of Nadia Drakistos, the Bride and last true heir of the Drakistos lineage, would receive the curse of the Dragon’s Mark I placed upon her and upon the son of the Barbarian Chieftain who threatened both of us—Sigmund Gabbaldursson.” He paused as Henrik ventured a glance at the small dragon burying its head in shame behind them.

Stella nodded. “I am Stella Drakistos, descendant of Nadia Drakistos.”

A rumble resounded in the Dragon’s chest. “In fact, you are her daughter, and the true heir of the Drakistos holdings. Which means,” he swung his head to look upon Henrik, “that this must be the son and heir of Sigmund, since he has suffered a similar fate.”

Henrik stood firm and nodded. “I am,” he announced in a rasping voice.

The Dragon lifted its head. “And these two!” Its tail shifted, knocking the smaller dragon and the petrified young woman closer to him. “Sigmund Gabbaldursson, it would appear that you did not seek out the Bride yourself, or you would not have been fooled by this impersonator who laid false claim upon the title of Bride, and suffer a greater transformation from the Mark I laid upon you!”

Sigmund bellowed loudly, accompanied by the sound of Agatha’s pitiful whimpering.

“Dragon!” Stella called his attention back to her. “I believe we have suffered enough the consequences of our own choices. If you would lift this curse upon us all, I will consent to open the portal and send you back to your own realm.”

The Dragon blinked once, very slowly. “Indeed,” it said. “It is time for me to return, and all things are in order. The Ring carries the power because of your lineage, Stella Drakistos. Release it into the ground.”

Henrik took a step back as Stella crouched down and pressed her hand into the ground, just as the mysterious Greek woman from her dream had done. Tiny tendrils of light slithered along the soil, gathering up in the center of the clearing until a sharp spike like a brilliant firework raced up into the sky. Where it exploded, a hole seemed to open in the clouds, but instead of the clear night sky, a different sky showed. The wind raced around them like a whirlwind, extinguishing what little fire there was left. The Dragon lifted off with a roar, headed through the portal in the sky. When he passed through the barrier, it slammed shut behind him with a clap of thunder.

Everything lay still. Stella shivered as the cold of the night reached her, and she gripped her arms to conserve body heat. Her hands met smooth skin. Surprised, she looked down at herself. The Ring had disappeared, but she no longer had scales over her body! Stella rubbed her palms against each other, marveling at the way it felt.

“Stella!” Henrik’s voice recalled her to the present. She looked up to see him at the far side of the clearing, cradling the body of a very, very old man.

Henrik’s voice sounded hoarse as he hugged the man. “Father…” he whispered.

Sigmund—all the centuries he had lived finally catching up to him—reached a trembling, bone-thin hand to grasp his son’s wrist. “Henrik,” he croaked hoarsely. “I’m sorry.”

Tears slid down Henrik’s face. “Sorry for what?” he asked.

Sigmund’s breathing came thick and rattling. “Sorry… that I let… my pride… and vanity… keep me from telling you… the truth. I could have told you… about Nadia… about the Ring… about… the true Heir of Drakistos… but I… chose to hide… rather than tell you… what a drunk fool… I was… and how my own father… Gabbaldur… almost killed… an innocent woman… doomed our family…”

Henrik held his father close, nodding fiercely. “It’s all right, father,” he said. “I forgive you!”
Stella herself tried to keep silent as tears streamed down her face. Sigmund raised his gaze and reached a gnarled hand toward her.

“Stella…” he rasped. “To you I… owe… the greatest debt… Everything… I have… should have been yours… I should have found you… sooner… Should have taken… you in… I am… sorry… so sorry… that I did not… find you…”

Stella smiled and cradled his hand in hers. “You didn’t find me,” she whispered, “But Henrik did.” The young man looked up at her, and they smiled.

The rattling in Sigmund’s breath increased. Henrik gently crossed his father’s arms in front of Sigmund’s chest.
“Go in peace, Father,” whispered the son.

Silence reigned, as Sigmund at last slipped away into death.

The next morning, the whole village of Kadros turned out in the Grand Piazza for the second day of festival celebrations—but instead, they bore witness as Henrik Sigmundson stood atop the wall around the Drakistos estate, on a platform, and announced that his father had passed away in the night, and that he had found a suitable bride in none other than Stella Drakistos—the last true heir of that name. The festival turned into a celebration of their betrothal, and nearly everyone wished the happy couple a long and prosperous life.

Meanwhile, back at the Villa di Farfalle

Jacintha sat rigid in her armchair as she listened to the cheers and happy music from the Piazza. She had stood there long enough to see the radiant woman presented as the true heir of Drakistos and the impending bride of Henrik, and she had left as soon as social etiquette dictated she could. Minutes later, Agatha returned to her alone, covered in soot, dirt, and streaked with blood from wounds on her cheeks. In her hands, she bore a letter with the Drakistos seal. Jacintha had sent her to bathe immediately, and now waited for her daughter to return, freshly beautified.

While she waited, Jacintha opened the letter and read—

Dear Jacintha Farfalle—
I am writing to inform you that you are no longer connected in any way to the House of Drakistos. As such, you may not use the name as credit, you may not avail yourself of the House coffers, and you are hereby stripped of your title.
In recognition of the fact that you did provide the last surviving member of the Drakistos family with a place to live, I will allow you and your daughter to remain in the villa and remain in possession of everything that you currently own, but the maintenance of the house and grounds, the food that you eat, and the clothes that you wear must be provided from your own pocket. I hope that as you learn to survive on your own, you will cultivate a more generous heart toward those less fortunate than you—because you never know when you might become one of them.
That being said, if you ever have need of anything, you may ask for it at the Drakistos Gate. Lady Drakistos gives freely to all.

Lady Stella Drakistos

Jacintha read the name at the end, and all the blood seemed to drain from her face. A wave of dizziness spread over her as she looked around at the enormous house and the half-scrubbed floor that was hers to finish and maintain, without any dependence on others. To the woman who had enjoyed such luxury for most of her life, the mere thought of lifting a finger seemed a cruel punishment, as just as it may have been.

“Mother…” Agatha’s voice trembled as she entered the room.

Jacintha looked over at her daughter, the last bit of her normal life she could cling to… but—

“Good heavens!” She wailed as Agatha turned to face her. “What is that?”

Over half of Agatha’s cheek, the scars of Sigmund’s dragon claws stood out: shallow, pale furrows forever marring her skin.

Agatha burst into tears. “I tried to cover it! I used every kind of plaster and makeup there is, but nothing worked!” She cast herself petulantly upon the couch. “I’m ruined! I’ll be ugly for the rest of my life!”

Ugly… Jacintha thought about Stella’s old scars, the fact that she looked like an entirely new person, while her own Agatha had taken on the ghastly appearance. Justice indeed! Jacintha could only pat her daughter’s head in consolation, as they resigned themselves to their new lives as average citizens.

Henrik and Stella lived generously and governed Kadros fairly, and passed these habits and practices down to their children, and on down through the generations of the Drakistos family. The Drakistos Curse became the Drakistos Blessing, and the Dragon’s Mark continued to impact the city long into the hereafter.


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For more exciting serials, visit the Serial Saturdays page! For other twisted fairy tales, see the Flash Fictions page!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Upstream Updates: October Edition!

Yes, I realize this is later in the month, too... But oh well! Never mind that... I suppose it was too much to plan on having the update ready by the same time every month, never mind the beginning of said month. Moving right along!


The Amazon Triangle

Huzzah! I have finished the first draft of The Amazon Triangle! And I can confirm, it does take me about two years to write the first draft of a novel--the first one was "The Last Inkweaver", but at roughly 85,000 words, it's significantly shorter than "The Amazon Triangle", which clocks in at a hefty 102,600 words--my longest original work to date!
Though I have to say, if I had been focusing on just the one project, I might have finished it sooner--it was the last Big Climactic Fight Scene that stymied me for so long! But it came together with some careful finagling and basically breaking down the scene move-by-move, deciding who went where, who said what, how it ended up and what would happen next... and once that was over with, the rest came together quite nicely! If you're interested in beta-reading, you're in luck! The entire thing is on Wattpad. Feel free to read it >HERE< and let me know what you think!

The Last Inkweaver 

In the last month, I've finished Chapter 20--and Callista & Company has only just landed in the clutches of Ronni the bounty hunter. Yes, it's another one that ended up with more detail than I originally anticipated--but it was fun! 
So in my new conception, Ronni is a bounty hunter who specifically targets Wordspinners and those who believe in their skill and abilities, because she perceives them as weak and also they are rejected by the Crown so she sees a way she can conduct her business of rounding up, imprisoning, and selling people, while the authorities look the other way. Then, too, it comes out that she knows the Wordspinner folk because she can hear the Tale of a Told item. (If you're paying attention, you can figure out exactly how that is so... But it isn't explicitly stated in the text!) The difference between Ronni and the other person who can hear all Tales is that she is using the Tales as a weapon against her targets. Additionally, she has ensured that anyone working for her will not succumb to a Tale by having their ears chopped off. Not a nice person, that--but very necessary for Callista to learn an important lesson. Things are really going to start changing for her from here on out... On a lighter note, I had this really clear idea of a big mansion in the middle of a forest--but the middle had caved in, so Ronni would capitalize on that and just dig (or have her men do it) a really deep pit straight down the middle, down past the cellar and everything, and use that to keep her prisoners in. They would rig an elevator sort of platform off of the old dumbwaiter pulley system, as a means of getting the prisoners down without providing an easy way out, and there they would wait until Ronni got word of a wagon some traffickers promised to send her years ago, when she started rounding up people because she'd run out of Wordspinners.

A Writer's Tale 

I am so excited to be on my way with planning Book 3! It's called "The Sheriff's Showdown" (conventional, yes... I may change it later on, but it works for now!) Laura steps out of a futuristic cyberpunk space cruiser after a battle against an alien horde, and into the high desert, and a random Wild Western town! The good-hearted sheriff is hard-pressed to protect his town from the dirty misdeeds of Big Tom and his rowdy gang of bandits--they've run every other sheriff out of town, and the only laws they heed are their own. As far as they are concerned, Phantom Gulch all but belongs to them. Then again, the other sheriffs didn't have a girl like Laura randomly showing up in town. What can a young woman with no remarkable skill in self defense do against outlaws with guns? Not much, when the revelation that Big Tom's latest raid might have been an inside job--and all eyes and fingers point to her! Laura will need all of her wits about her to clear her name, find the mole, stop a major coup, and save Phantom Gulch--and that might lead to some surprising discoveries for her, as well!

I figure it's late enough in the month that I might as well announce the upcoming shenanigans I have planned for November! I will be participating in my seventh straight year of the National Novel Writing Month challenge--for those who don't know, the goal is to write 50 thousand words in 30 days. That's all it is, just a goal. It's not a competition nor a pledge, there's no cash prizes or medals or anything... just good, old-fashioned, well-meaning, write-like-your-life-depends-on-it-then-obsess-over-what-you've-written-till-your-eyes-glaze-over kind of writerly fun!
I've opted to use this year's challenge to finally finish The Last Inkweaver... for the second time, but this one is so much better than the first! And then, if it turns out (which I'm fairly certain it will... or else we've got bigger problems on our hands) that there isn't a whole 50-thou left for me to write that, I've also got The Sheriff's Showdown as a backup filler.
What does this mean for the blog? Likely there will be no more "Flashes of Inspiration" on Fridays... but I think updates on Wednesdays and Saturdays, to let you all know how I'm doing, would not go amiss, would it? Stay tuned for NaNo2018 Updates!

My BOOkish Blog Hop!

Introductory Post
Another blog hop is nearing its close! I know I've been very lax in keeping up with adding the links every day--but as of tomorrow they will all be added, so there you go! In spite of that, it's been really fun to answer the questions, getting to see and explore new blogs, and I hope you will consider perhaps leaving a comment and joining the various conversations before the month is over!


It's been slow going on the reading front! I find myself not so much in the mood for reading in the evenings, as I might have, and my recent weekend off was more spent writing and hanging out with friends than actually having the mental space to read!
That being said, I did manage to finish A Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt. I first discovered her duology Storybound and Story's End while browsing the shelves, and for the longest time, those were the only books of hers that I knew of--I never realized she'd started another series since then! But she has, and it's every bit as lovely as Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library! Burt breathes life into simple nursery rhymes, giving them a special sort of magic to be able to bend reality when combined with the tracing of stardust--a singular system of magic that is at once thrilling and chilling by turns!
At any rate, from there it's on to T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton--Book 20 in the series! I'm almost done! After that it's only U, V, W, X, and Y... unfortunately Ms. Grafton passed away before she could write the final novel in her delectable series. Rather poetic in a sense--but still heartfelt and tragic all the same.
As far as ebooks are concerned... Honestly, I've been on quite the buying binge. So many books came on a discount in the same weekend I happened to have a gift card to spend--and some of them I was expecting to pay for, but ended up free! At last count, I have roughly 60+ ebooks purchased and downloaded that I haven't a prayer of getting around to reading if I don't make a conscious, intentional effort to do so!
Currently, I'm almost finished with Oblivion's Forge. I have to say, I am glad I gave it a second shot. The first time I came to it, I'd just read Herald of Autumn which was a kind of twisty, bizarre urban fantasy adventure... so to follow that with yet another twisty, bizarre high fantasy was a bit too much to handle. I switched it out with another novel, and as it happens, that's just what it needed! I'm following the story better, getting to know the characters--still very much on a grand, mysterious "Dark Tower" scale. I'm really getting that vibe from all this! And if that was worth it, then here's hoping this one will be, too.

That about sums it up! What are you up to these days? Feel free to comment with an update--I'd love to hear from YOU!

Catch You Further Upstream!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

My BOOkish Blog Hop: "Do You Have Any Signed Books?"

A picture may be worth a thousand words... but an autograph from the author is priceless. A personal note? Exponentially more so. At least, to an avid reader. Authors are our pop culture celebrities, our icons, the VIPs of the literary industry. To get a signed copy of a book, one does not merely waltz into the local bookshop and pick up any copy of the requisite book. Signed copies are usually priced higher, and stores carry fewer, which means that if one most definitely wants to be sure of a signed copy, one must either muster the courage to contact the author directly, or make every effort to attend the elusive Book Signing Event--whether or not it's local.

So... Would you like to know how many of us have "taken the plunge," so to speak?

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

I have! I am proud to say that every book in this picture is a signed copy, acquired directly from the author, or brought to an event for them to sign! It’s a wonderful thing to have a personalized message from the author inside a book, or the look on their face when you proudly place their book on the table and say, “I bought this and I would love for you to sign it!” It’s one of my favorite parts of being a book blogger, even though I normally get the ebooks first because it’s easiest for the author to send them to me--this shelf represents either the authors whom I enjoyed so much, I wanted to have a physical copy of their book so that I could flip to my favorite pages and pore over the story at my leisure, or ones that opted to send their books to me for only the cost of shipping, which I was more than willing to pay! It’s a wonderful thing.
In order (L to R): Books 1-5 of The Chronicles of Lorrek, plus two tie-in anthologies by Kelly Blanchard; You're Never Weird on The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (my sole celebrity autograph!); The Starlight Proverbs by Darren E. Barber (alas! The only one in what would have been a series, except that the vanity press he used went bankrupt...); Books 1-4 of The Fair Folk Chronicles by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins; The Portal Prophecies  (Books 1-3) by C. A. King; Skeins Unfurled by K. M. Vanderbilt (another fantastic series forced to end too soon...); Fire's Song and Spirit's Lullaby by J. E. Mueller; The PSS Chronicles by Ripley Patton; The Girl and The Clockwork Cat by Nikki McCormack; Devotion and Deception by Katika Schneider; Grave Beginnings and Grave Measures by R. R. Virdi; and Sound and Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk and What We've Unlearned: Classic Literature Goes Punk by the Writerpunk Press Group (signed by Jeffrey Cook)

I only have two signed books but they are so precious! Here in New Zealand, we don’t get that many international bestseller authors come to visit. The first one was my copy of An Echo in the Bone which was signed by Diana Gabaldon at a reading in 2009. I have loved the Outlander series of historical fiction since I was a teenager.

The other one is a copy of Stories of Your Life and Others which Ted Chiang signed earlier this year at a panel discussion on time travel. One of his short stories, The Story of Your Life was made into the movie Arrival. It is a first contact story about a linguist who is sent to communicate with the alien race and, through deciphering their language, discovers something about herself and her family. A technically brilliant short story for any linguistics nerd!

I have three. All of them are treasured. I have signed copies of The Collector and The Liar by Nora Roberts, who I met. (The picture) when I got them signed. What a great day that was. I made a total ass out of myself too. I have NEVER been tongue-tied with a celebrity before, but I couldn’t hardly talk. I also have a signed copy of This is Gonna Hurt by Nikki Sixx. I was not able to met him though. I had just started a new job and I couldn’t take off that day. My best friend (pronounced sister) Liz went and stood in line and got the autograph for me. She was on her way to a Rammstein show after and Nikki talked to her about the band. When he went to sign, she said, “Oh it’s not for me it’s for my sister Brandy.”
Where’s Brandy?” he said.
They wouldn’t let her take off work,” she laughed.
He answered, “Tell her she needs a new job.”

It was one of my favorite Lizzy moments and since she has passed, it  makes that signature MUCH more precious than any other autographs I have. 

Oh boy. You asked for it this time. Because I work with a lot of local and indie author groups I have a ton of signed books.
Traitor’s Hope by Virginia McClain
Tibilet by Crystal Dueck
Plamen Oren by Christina Prince (this was a limited run college project, I don’t even know if it’s still available for sale anywhere)
Rae of Hope, Discreet Betrayal, and Finding Gloria by Marianne Curtis
Planet Song by TK Boomer
Warp World by Joshua Simpson and Kristen Perron (I only have Kristen’s signature on it)
Charleswood Road & Other Stories by M.C. Joudry
The Dragon’s Tooth by Holly Geely
Red Stone and Broken Stone by Gabriel Goldstone
Sempiternal - The 9th Legion by S. Goshea
Asylum by Chantelle JZ Storm
Pewter Angels by Henry Ripplinger
Calliope and the Sea Monster, Wendigo Whispers, and The Call of the White Moose by Alex McGilvery
I still have to get my copy of Scion of the Fox by S. Beiko and Sons of Earth by Geralyn Wichers signed. 

Laura Morningstar

      Years ago I used to have loads of signed books, these had usually been given to me either by the authors, or I’d taken them to be signed. In 2010 I had a house fire and my collection bar two or three books was destroyed. I clung to the remaining books while I mourned the loss of the rest of my collection. At that time it probably neared 30-40 books.         In recent years my pile of signed books has once again started to grow, mainly because I am lucky enough to know some wonderfully amazing authors. My signed book collection covers both nonfiction and fiction and a wide range of subjects. My favourite way to get a book signed though is to go and actually speak to the author at an event. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to tell someone in person how much their words mean to you. 

How about you? Do you invest in signed copies of your favorite books? Tell us BRAG about them in the comments! And don't forget you can head back to the >Introductory Post< for any questions you may have missed!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Serial Saturday: "The Dragon's Mark" Part 10

Part 10
"The Dragon's Curse"

Everything in the room came to an absolute standstill as the announcement hung in the air. Henrik stared at the girl standing before his father. She was most definitely Agatha Farfalle—but why was she wearing Nadia’s dress? Many daughters had already tried, bringing forth rings and promises, but none of them were Nadia. He still had to hope that she would appear at the masquerade.
Lord Sigmund coughed, and Henrik blinked aside his musings to find his father looking at him.

“Son?” He rasped in a comically-aged voice. “Is this the woman you spoke of?”

“Of course she is!” snapped Lady Jacintha, pursing her lips impatiently. “Can’t you see she’s wearing the Ring?”

Henrik watched Agatha, who gave him a beguiling smile. “Don’t you remember that night, sir?” She asked softly, blinking her wide eyes. “We sat and watched the fireworks, and then you led me into the ballroom for dancing!”

“Your steward can confirm that my daughter was most certainly in attendance that night,” Jacintha supplied, waving her hand in the general direction of Sir Travis.

Henrik glanced at his father, and Sigmund waved for him to respond.

“I’m sorry,” Henrik replied to Lady Jacintha. “But the woman we seek goes by the name of Nadia.”

“What does her name have to do with it?” Lady Jacintha’s careful veneer slipped, and she couldn’t hide the sneer dancing over her lips. “We have the Ring, isn’t that what you want?” She turned her attention to Lord Sigmund, but the old man seemed to have fallen asleep—as elderly men past their prime were wont to do. “Your Lordship was very clear in the letter. I have fulfilled my terms, as a faithful servant of the Drakistos family…”

As she spoke, a distinct chill settled over the room. Ladies pulled their wispy shawls closer, men grabbed the lapels of their jackets. Henrik couldn’t restrain a small shiver as a breeze built up through the room, as if they stood on a mountaintop in the open air.

His father jerked upright, eyes fixed on the massive window as if waiting for something to happen.
Is it here?” Henrik heard him whisper. 

The wind played with the skirts of the two women standing on the floor. Lady Jacintha whirled around with a scowl, clinging to the folds of her dress as if her hands could hold them down against the growing wind.

Agatha clung to her mother’s arm. With the ill fit of the dress, she risked losing it altogether.
“What’s happening, mother?” she asked. “Where is it coming from?”

Henrik followed his father’s example and watched the window intently. A shadow unfolded behind it, looming larger and more defined. He could see it was a winged creature of some sort, but just before it seemed it would crash into the window and enter the castle, the shadow disappeared, and the wind ceased in the same moment.

Everyone in the Governor’s Court let out a sigh of relief that echoed in the silence. Everyone, that is, except Lord Sigmund.

Henrik watched him for a long moment, waiting for his father to stir. Lord Sigmund slumped in his throne, the sagging wig covering his face.

“Father?” he asked, reaching toward Lord Sigmund’s shoulder. He prodded it a little, but His Lordship did not stir. “Father, wake up!” He pushed a little harder, and Lord Sigmund promptly tumbled out of his throne, and down the steps of the dais. Lady Jacintha cried out and pulled her daughter back a few paces.

Henrik felt his fear building as he stepped down after his father. “Fathe—“

He hadn’t even finished the word before Lord Sigmund finally moved. His arms stretched out, and his back twisted, as if he were trying to get his legs under him to stand up. A steady, grunting growl built up from him, as his body twisted some more.

“Hen….Henrik…” Lord Sigmund groaned through clenched teeth, hissing through some inexplicable pain.

Henrik watched his father turn his head, and the keen, clear eye stared straight at him. Sigmund reached a hand out toward his son. “Help me.”

Right before his very eyes, Henrik watched in frozen horror as dark, knobby scales broke through the skin on Sigmund’s hand, and his nails lengthened into claws. Jacintha noticed his other hand transforming as well, and she let out a wailing scream. Sigmund Drakistos writhed on the floor of his own palace, moaning in pain as scales erupted over his entire body. The agony drove him to his feet, and the powdered wig slipped off his head as scales covered his face and transformed it into that of—

“A Dragon!” Sir Travis shouted, as the being-that-had-once-been-Sigmund sprouted a large pair of wings and spread them with a bone-chilling screech. Pandemonium erupted, as everyone raced for the door, any door, any way to escape the room and the horrible monster in their midst.

Sigmund the Dragon took off into the air, flying an erratic zigzag around the pillars and among the vaulted ceilings. Henrik dashed for the paralyzed guests. Bride or not, he knew he couldn’t let the Ring be lost in the confusion.

“Henrik, look out!” Sir Travis called out to him, and the young man dropped to the cold stone floor as the dragon veered straight for him. He heard a woman scream, and when he looked up, Agatha Farfalle dangled from the monster’s claws.

“AGATHA!” Jacintha shrieked, as Sir Travis pulled her along with the crowd to safety.

MOMMY!!” Agatha wailed. The dragon smashed into the massive window with a thunderous crash, raining shards of glass on the heads of the masses below. Henrik stared after the disappearing figure until someone grabbed his arm.

“This way, Your Grace!” The footman coaxed him. Henrik followed numbly until he reached a secluded hallway, headed to the tower stairwell that led to his room.

“Wait!” He twisted out of the footman’s grip.
“What is it?” the servant asked.

Henrik couldn’t get the sight of the familiar dress out of his mind. It was definitely the same exotic pattern that Nadia had been wearing—and the size difference there had been between her and Agatha accounted for the ill fit displayed by the latter. Never mind that she was certainly not the same girl; the only way she could possibly be wearing the same dress was—

He blinked and grinned at the footman. “I know where I can find Nadia!” he exclaimed, running down the stairs and out the side door, toward the stables.

Stella tried hard to focus on the brush strokes as she scrubbed the floors of the villa. Her mind kept wandering after Jacintha and Agatha, picturing them in private conference with Lord Sigmund, spinning their spurious tale of how they had caught their ill-mannered servant pilfering the magnificent Ring from some visiting dignitary. She pictured them touting how this same servant girl had seduced young Henrik; Stella was certain Jacintha would not hesitate to barter for her silence on the matter. Either Henrik married Agatha, or Jacintha would spread the rumor that His Lordship’s heir had taken up with a servant girl. What then? They would have no choice, and once Jacintha had secured this guarantee for her daughter, there would be no need for Jacintha to adhere to the Drakistos Rule. Stella imagined them advancing up the walk, coming to the house to break the marvelous news that Stella would be turned out of the house—perhaps even banished from Kadros itself.

A soft sound drew her from her fearful musings. Stella held her breath to listen.
Hoofbeats; a horse galloping up the walk. Jacintha had come to gloat, no doubt.
The horse whinnied and the hoofbeats ground to a stop. She heard quick footsteps on the portico.


Stella caught her breath, even more fear building in her. Henrik? What was he doing here? How had he found her?

A fist pounded on the door. “Nadia—or whatever your name is, I know you’re in there! Open up!”

Stella wiped her wet hands on her apron, and looked down at the wrinkled, scarred palms. She wore her scars! He would know she tricked him! Would her twisted appearance scare him off?

Bam-bam. “Please! Whoever you are! I need help! An innocent life is at stake!”

At last, Stella opened the door, keeping her head bowed.

“Thank you!” Henrik pushed past her and stepped into the house. “I’m looking for Nad—Oh, wait!” When Stella looked up, he was pointing at her, eyes wide and jaw open in astonishment. “You’re her!”

She couldn’t speak. His face twisted ever so slightly, just like the small sneers Jacintha would get when she looked at Stella’s curving scars. Stella gave a small nod, and then bowed her head to hide her trembling chin. Hot tears bubbled out of her eyes and down her craggy cheeks.

Henrik grabbed her hands, holding them gently. He cradled her knobby, hardened fingertips in his palm, and Stella noticed that he still had the patch of dry “scales” from the night of the fireworks.
“So it was true,” he whispered softly in her ear. “You do have scars like me.”

She trembled so badly she couldn’t speak—she could hardly breathe. “I…” She choked. “I’m sorry I pretended to be someone else, I shouldn’t have been ashamed of my scars—“

“Nadia,” Henrik reached out and nudged her chin, prompting her to look at him. “Or whatever your name is—“

She smiled through her tears. “Stella,” she supplied.

“Stella, then.” Henrik’s mouth quirked in a small smile. “You weren’t hiding because you were ashamed. I’ve wanted the same thing, too: to be seen for me, and not just my inheritance—or my skin condition. At least I know how you did it.” He lifted the hand that had worn the Ring that night, but then his smile dropped. “Oh! The Ring! My father! Quick!” Henrik didn’t let go of her hand, but pulled her along behind him as he made for the door.

“Where are we going?” Stella asked.

“You have to come with me!” Henrik exclaimed over his shoulder.

Stella staggered a few paces, but then she dug in her feet. “Why?” Was she in trouble? Was he luring her into some kind of trap?

“Stella, please!” Henrik begged. “How do you think I found you? Lady Jacintha brought her daughter in wearing the dress and the Ring, claiming that she was the descendant of Nadia—the last true Heir of Drakistos, and the one who could lift the curse on our family and send the Dragon back to where he belonged—but because it wasn’t true, my father turned into a real dragon, and he carried Jacintha’s daughter off!”

“How is that even possible?” Stella gasped, but just then, a bone-chilling roar cut through the air, and a massive column of smoke rose in the distance. The scent of burning wood permeated the air. Stella pulled her hand away from Henrik as the white billowing clouds swirled around them.

Henrik turned back and refused to leave her side. “Please, Stella! As the true descendant of Nadia Drakistos, you are the only one who can right the things that everyone has done to wrong you! You alone can wear the Ring and lift the curse!”

Old resentment built like the flames inside Stella. Why should she care if Jacintha and Agatha suffered for lying and mistreating her? Wasn’t that what they deserved?

The clouds of smoke grew thicker and darker, blotting out the sun, but neither Henrik nor Stella had any trouble breathing. She could feel the rough, stiff scales in her throat, protecting her tender skin from damage, in the same way the scales on the outside shielded her from the increasing heat.

Henrik’s own skin seemed to crust over, paling chalky-white as the hot air dried his cheeks and arms.
“Stella, please come with me! My father—“ Henrik choked on the words. “The forest is burning, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He can’t stop this—you can!”

Stella took a deep breath and gripped Henrik’s hand resolutely. “All right,” she said at last. “Take me to him.”

Together, they took off down the road into Kadros, but while the desperate crowds streamed eastward, away from the billowing flames, Henrik and Stella ran deeper, straight for the heart of the fire. The trees burned around them like a hellish labyrinth, but neither one felt it, as their skin hardened altogether, rendering them impervious to heat and flame. Sure-footed and single-focused, they raced on, headed for the dragon and its prisoner.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 20

Remember this prompt? The story I wrote for it comes in two parts...

#20 "Gybralltyr" (Part 2)

<<<< Read Part 1 First!!

In the middle of reading the letter I had found in the safety deposit box, something creaked, and my eyes detected movement in my periphery. I dropped Mom’s letter and stared hard at the place where something moved. The dusty lenses made the shadows swirl around. I took off the glasses and rubbed my eyes. The room instantly returned to normal. I shook my head.
“I must be hungry,” I muttered to myself, heading for the fridge of many casseroles. It was now well after dark, and I still hadn’t had dinner.

I picked one with a lot of cheese piled on top, but by the time I heated it and took my first bite, I tasted a confusing array of flavors that didn’t go well together at all. Maybe I wasn’t as good at identifying casseroles as I thought. I had hoped it would contain some kind of chicken, but I certainly didn’t taste anything remotely resembling meat! I shoveled in a few more bites, just to avoid going to bed on an empty stomach, washed it all down with water (which also tasted funny), and headed to my room, taking the contents of the safety deposit box with me. I left them on the dresser while I crawled into bed with Treasure Island. I slipped the glasses on my face and prepared to read myself to sleep.
Not two sentences in, and my eyes began skipping around the page. The words I read seemed to switch in order. I gave up after the third attempt to successfully read a single paragraph.


There it was again! I froze and stared hard at the wall in front of me. The trellis pattern on my wallpaper seemed to twist and unwind itself. I tried to blink my vision back to normal, but it kept warping and moving. What did the letter have to say about this? Was it another effect of the pixie dust?

I leaned over to my dresser to reach it. Just beyond the letter, my birth certificate lay on the dresser—and now it was glowing! It seemed to reflect the light of a moonbeam streaming right through my window. Why did this happen?

A high-pitched squeal nearly caused me to jump out of my pj’s, as a bright light flew straight at my face. The impact knocked the glasses off my nose, as I frantically swatted whatever it was away. I hated bugs.
As soon as the glasses dropped, the zooming light disappeared, though I could still hear that annoying whine. I glanced at my dresser. All was dark, and everything looked normal.

Well, almost.
I watched in terror as the letter from my Mom began moving of its own accord, lifting at the edge and shaking around. As I sat, clutching the bedsheets to my chest, my glasses floated up from my lap and hovered in front of my face! Breathless with fright, I grabbed my glasses and put them on my face, to keep them from floating away altogether.

Right in front of me, where the glasses had been, hovered a flying, glowing figure—a pixie! I screamed and swatted at it. My fingers connected with the tiny body—it was real!

The tiny creature zipped back and forth in crazy whorls and curlicues, gesturing wildly and still yammering on, but I could not figure out why it looked so bothered. It flew to hover over the birth certificate (which was glowing again), and it picked the thing up and made as if to fly away with it!

“Hey! That’s mine!” I yelled, leaping out of bed. My foot caught in the covers, and I flailed awkwardly. My finger caught on the edge of the paper and I felt it bite in deep. I got my balance and checked my hand. Blood smeared around a tiny paper cut on the ball of my finger.

At any rate, the pixie dropped the certificate and landed on it. I could see the red sheen on the edge that had cut me. Now that she landed, she wasn’t glowing, and her movements were less indistinct. She blathered at me in her strange language, pointing at the vial of dust and pointing at her head.

“What do you want?” I said, picking up the vial and opening it. “Do you want me to return the dust to you?” I tilted it over her head, ready to pour it.

She fluttered her wings and ducked out of the way, jabbering insensible again. She kept pointing from the vial to me. When at last she actually bounced against the vial and then buzzed around my ear, I made the connection: maybe putting the pixie dust in my ears would help me understand her language, just like I could read Mom’s letter through the dust on my glasses.
I tipped a bit of dust on my finger and swiped the insides of my ears with it.

Immediately, the jabber became clear.

Mellapukkanagirinamal... Understand, your highness?” The pixie took off in erratic loops again. “TOO LATE!” she shrieked, and zoomed off to another corner. I tried to follow her path, but when I turned around, a stranger stood in the middle of my room.

“Greetings, Miss Nyella,” he rumbled in a cool, bass voice. His skin had a reddish tint to it, and the coal-black hair on his chin stuck straight out like a brush, while his sleek coif lay carefully styled against his head.

“Who are you?” I fumbled with the birth certificate in my hand.

He smiled with shiny yellow teeth. “Someone who’s waited a long time to meet the daughter of Lord Stevan and Lady Pierelle.” He gave an elegant, flourishing bow. “Malveleth, at your service.” He gestured a clawed hand toward the door of my bedroom. “This is my associate, Kessh.”

I followed his gesture, only to see a furry creature the size of an ottoman, with gigantic eyes and a tiny beak. It’s face almost looked like an owl, except that it sat on four clawed feet, not wings or talons. So that was the thing I saw displacing the shadows without my glasses!

“Yes,” Malveleth answered my mind as if I had remarked aloud. “I’m afraid Kessh needs more practice in the art of discretion. He can be too eager. Dreadfully sorry, we didn’t mean to frighten you!”
Kessh blinked his wide eyes and clacked his beak, but there was absolutely no part of me that wanted to reach out and pet him.

“Why are you here?” I asked Malveleth. “Where do you come from?”

The red-faced man tilted his head, regarding me with deep-black eyes. “Well,” he responded slowly, “we are from a place called Everrealm, and I guess you can say we are collectors, of sorts.”

“Collectors?” I glanced between them. “Does this have to do with the things my parents left me?” I glanced back at the coins, the vial, and the letter.

Malveleth grinned again. “Exactly! You see, those are things from Everrealm, and we have been commissioned to bring them back there.”

Instinctively I pulled back from him. Was it because he looked so freaky with his red skin and all-white suit? “You want to take this stuff?” I squeaked. “But it’s mine!”

Malveleth chuckled. “Oh, my dear, I realize you just picked up those things from the bank vault today, but honestly—what use do you have for these things?” He slid a few paces closer to me. “The pixie dust, you’ve already used; I can tell you right now that the gold is basically useless in your world. And that certificate you’re holding?” He waved his hand. “Well, what good is an official document from a place no one knows exists?”

The longer I listened, the more I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. “What will you do with them?”

Malveleth shrugged. “Personally, I have no use for them either. I will simply travel back to the Everrealm, deliver these things to my client, and you can go on and live the rest of your life completely as normal, free of worry or fear.”

What was I getting myself into? “And if I refuse?”

Behind me, Kessh warbled, halfway between a yowl and a chirrup.

Malveleth’s suave demeanor hardened a little. “Then we’ll just take you with us, all the same—and trust me, you won’t like it where we have to go.” He held out his hands, a debonair smolder perking his lips. “So, my dear Nyella, what do you choose? Your birthright, or your life?”

A piercing whine heralded the return of the pixie, and this time, she brought reinforcements. A whole swarm of pixies raced circles around my head, and I heard the voice from before screaming as she went. “Don’t trust Malveleth! Take the things and run!”

I stared at the red man, as Kessh unleashed an angry snarl and attacked the tiny creatures. I locked eyes with Malveleth and very deliberately snatched up the coins and the vial. When I reached for Mom’s letter, his hand slammed on it first, cracking the surface of my dresser.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” he murmured. “But so be it.”

I smelled rotten eggs just before his hand burst into flame, igniting and consuming the paper, and spreading to the wooden dresser.
“NOO!” I screamed, jumping away as the entire bedroom wall burst into flames.

“This way, highness!” shrieked a pixie. They kept Kessh and Malveleth at bay as they guided me out of my blazing house and into my front yard.

A powerful whinny cut through the night. Right there at the curb stood a small, round carriage, pulled by two creatures that I thought were horses, but as I watched, each unfurled a pair of wide, grey wings.

WHAT?” I hollered. Just how crazy was this night going to get?

Malveleth was calling, “Ny-elllll-la!” in a creepy singsong voice, but when I tried to open the carriage door, it wouldn’t budge.

The squat man holding the reins reached a gloved hand down. “That’ll be three gold pieces, luv,” he grunted.

I dug the coins out of my pocket and all but threw them at him. “Here!”

He took the coins, and the door popped open on its own. “Where shall I take you, lady?” croaked the man.

I knew it wasn’t Everrealm—but perhaps I could try the place mentioned by my birth certificate and the now-obsolete letter from my mother. “Take me to Gybralltyr!” I said, and the carriage closed and lifted away.

Did you enjoy this story? See below for more "Flashes of Inspiration"!


#10: "Avelyn's Masquerade"/ "The Stabbing" (with links to #1-#9) --> #11: "The Hallway" --> #12: "The Park" --> 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Serial Saturday: "The Dragon's Mark" Part 9

Part 9
"Who Bears The Ring"

As much as Agatha and Jacintha had discussed and speculated over the dramatic events of the previous night, things were even further rumored and dissected, no matter where Stella went.

At the butcher’s, she overheard two women talking about the second day, and how they planned to catch Don Henrik’s eye—maybe even Lord Sigmund himself, though he must be very old indeed, for as long as he had presided over the Drakistos family. At the baker’s, all the talk among the pastries was about the “golden princess” and where she might come from, and what she intended by showing up unexpectedly and insinuating herself into the ruling family. Stella spoke as little as possible, and did her best to remain inconspicuous.

As she roved among the stalls of fresh garden produce from the many farms around the area, her ears caught wind of another announcement.
“What do you think of this whole ring business, Dermia?” asked a woman inspecting fruit right next to Stella.
Dermia sniffed in response. “Oh, Nico received that letter this morning. We can’t make heads or tails of it. What ring are we supposed to have? Certainly I have never even seen anything remotely resembling the Drakistos Crest on display—and if anyone in my family had somehow managed to purchase it, well! More foolish of them, I suppose!”

Stella fought to keep her focus on picking up the necessary items for Jacintha’s party, but the comments sent her mind into a tumult. A ring resembling the Drakistos crest? What ring could that possibly be except the one she now hid? How had Henrik noticed her wearing it? If he had, why hadn’t he said anything about it?

A little ways beyond, an herb-seller turned to the flower vendor next to him and remarked, “Have you ever heard of the like? They’re saying that if the citizens of Kadros fail to produce this Ring everybody’s talking about, the Family will invoke the Drakistos Rule, starting at the ones with the least connection and working their way up!”
“That means nothing to me,” said the flower-seller in a thick, foreign accent. “I am only here selling flowers to afford passage to Malta. I know nothing about the Rules Governor Drakistos uses on the residents of Kadros.”
“You’re lucky,” the herb-seller replied. “For those who live here, there is only one Rule: a request from anyone connected to the Drakistos name cannot be refused.”

Stella paid for the assortment of vegetables and fruit she collected and moved on. The reference to the Drakistos Rule reminded her of confronting Jacintha about the dream she’d had, of the other Nadia and the circumstances surrounding the birth of her daughter, and Stella’s cheeks had begun to smart at the recollection of how Jacintha slapped her for implying that Agatha had been that infant…

But what if it had been her instead?

The thought swept through Stella’s mind like a sharp winter gust, bringing her to a dead halt in the middle of the road.

Could it be?

Was that the reason Jacintha had seen fit to dispose of every servant… except Stella? Because, according to the Drakistos Rule… Jacintha couldn’t risk turning Stella out of the house?

Her heart began to thump wildly in her chest as certain vital pieces of information fell into place.
If she was really Nadia’s daughter, why did that make her so important to the Drakistos family? And if she was connected to the Drakistos family, why did Jacintha try so hard to hide it?

Speaking of hiding… Stella’s thoughts immediately went to the Ring. If everybody knew about the Ring and its description, everybody would be searching for it—including Jacintha, since she would be one of the first to be cut off, being neither friend nor blood relation to the Drakistos family. And if Jacintha already knew that Stella was secretly connected to the Family anyway, that could mean that she might reasonably suspect—

Stella clutched the shopping basket tight as she ran back to the villa as fast as she could. Silently, she crept into the kitchen, deposited the basket, and climbed the steps to the main floor. At every moment, she expected to see Jacintha and Agatha, poised and waiting to confront her about the Ring, just to see her cringe and squirm and make her feel worthless about attempting to fool everyone into thinking she was anything special. The stillness sent chills down her spine. On the table in the front hall, in the tray reserved for calling cards, she found a note.

Stella—We have gone calling. We will return in the evening. –Jacintha

Stella felt some of the building tension relax, but not completely. While it meant that the women were not at the house, she could not rule out the fact that she had been discovered. Not until she knew. Stella headed straight for the cellar, where she had concealed both the dress and the ring.

The chest once containing the dress stood open and empty, and the contents of the pouch lay strewn among the ashes and coal dust. Stella felt her legs give way, and she collapsed to her knees. The shopping trip had been a ruse. What would happen to her, now that the two cruelest people in Kadros had discovered her secret?

The guards at the gate surrounding the governor’s mansion watched the elegant woman descend from the simple one-horse chaise, followed closely by a younger woman in an ornate (if rather ill-fitting) gold-embroidered dress. The two looked alike enough to be mother and daughter, and indeed, the older woman held up the hand of the younger so that the ring worn by the latter would be clearly visible in the afternoon sun. At a signal from the guard-house, Sir Travis himself met the pair upon entering.

“Who might you be?” he asked the women.

The mother cleared her throat. “I am Jacintha Farfalle, widow of the late Giorgio Farfalle, who fought in battle alongside Arthur Drakistos, our representative before His Lordship.”

Sir Travis looked at the girl; he could recognize her round face. She had definitely been in attendance last night, and he definitely remembered young Henrik paying particular attention to a young lady in the very same golden dress—but the longer he looked, the more it became obvious to his practiced eye that the dress didn’t quite fit the girl, as if it had been made for someone else.

Lady Jacintha advanced urgently. “It is imperative that we hold an audience with Lord Sigmund Drakistos—for you see, it so happens that my daughter Agatha here is the bride he seeks for his son Henrik. Look!” She held up Agatha’s hand. “She even wears the Ring of Drakistos His Lordship has asked for!”

Sir Travis stared at the relic. He had never seen it in person, but Lord Sigmund had certainly described it to him often enough over the years that he could not doubt that it was, indeed, the all-important Ring that would cure the strange malady affecting him and his son. At least he could be sure of that, whether or not this pale-faced, uncomfortable debutante was the true Bride they needed. That would be for Lord Sigmund to decide, concluded Sir Travis.

He gave a courtly bow and gestured to the house. “If you would follow me, Lady Jacintha, I will conduct you into His Lordship’s presence personally.”

Lady Jacintha smiled and pulled her daughter along, as they entered the house together.

Striding into the Great Hall, where Lord Sigmund waited (wearing a powdered wig and heavy robes to hide his renewed appearance), Sir Travis dutifully announced, “Your Lordship, may I present Lady Jacintha Farfalle and her daughter Agatha, the professed Bride of Drakistos and the bearer of the Ring of Drakistos!”

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