So, earlier this Fall we decided to start doing local markets with our freeze dried foods business. Covid restrictions have been good for small markets so far, as in the people working them and attending all understand and typically comply happily (or without loud complaints). Plus, working markets seemed a great opportunity to grow our business without over-committing ourselves due to being able to set our own schedule. We did a couple of markets, then the Delta Variant rolled into the province on high speed and two markets we were booked for were postponed.
They're now happening this month. As are the two markets we'd planned on having tables at. November no longer has weekends lol. Wish us luck!
As for a writing update, I got a new office chair – it's so comfy! I had no idea my old chair had died to that extent – and I've unfortunately gotten very few hours to sit in it. Story ideas are stuck in my head at the moment; they have to wait. Editing is my go-to when I get writing time. It's funny to me how I can fall in love with every story over and over each time I come back for a revision pass after letting the manuscripts sit. That makes editing, a task many writers seem to not like, so enjoyable to me.
Anyhoo, off and running again. (The market for this weekend starts tonight!) The story starting today is a continuation of a short story series I started a couple of years ago, The Portal Problem. It's a very interesting fantasy world to me, so welcome back. I hope you get to have a great weekend :)
1. Traveling Woes
Draessellor didn’t even twitch a scale at the accusing comment. Both his eyes stayed looking forward as his steady steps continued away from the – in Aston’s imagination – bustling streets and buildings. Three days ago Draessellor said he could smell a town, adding that it reeked of only humans and there hadn’t been even a whiff of trading with the other races common to this part of the world. He’d said it wasn’t a safe town to go into for either of them as usually single-race towns were violently exclusive.
At least, Aston had interpreted that’s what the old lizard’s frowned grunt of “Human town,” and subsequent direction change away from the valley was meant to translate to when Aston asked him if they could stop for supplies. After a final, long glace over the valley, Aston turned and jogged to catch up with the old lizard.
Their first week together, in the desert tanning snake hides which Aston was now wearing as clothing, he’d tried – often – to talk to the mercenary. The lesson was learned quickly any conversations would be short and one-sided. Draessellor wasn’t much for verbal communications. Now, after two months of walking, the old lizard spoke even less than in the first week.
“You know, I could go back and get a horse and a meal for myself if you wait here,” Aston offered. “I am Human,” he added. “Human town, Human me, it should be fine.”
One of Draessellor’s eyes swiveled back to stare at the Low Prince for a moment, the gaze of it dropping and lifting once before swiveling forward again.
“I could trade for proper clothing and some armor while I was there, as well. You’re the one who keeps saying I need armor for the mountain crossing,” Aston said. “Look, I would be back here well before nightfall and –”
Draessellor stopped. He turned his whole head this time so his elongated face was profiled against the trees ahead of him. A single eye stared over his shoulder and down at Aston in disapproval. “You wear snake leather like a poor desert Human and carry the sword of a rich mountain one. You stand and speak with the posture and the manners of your royal mother but smell like a beggar. You think anyone in that town will trade with you, a strange stranger, just because you’re Human?”
It was the most the old lizard had said in the past three weeks... since the last time Aston had done something extensively wrong and potentially dangerous.
“I just thought...” Aston let his voice trail off, following up with an uncomfortable shrug.
“They’ll believe you’re a thief at best. They’ll treat you as a murderer at worst.”
Aston stared at the dead leaves around his feet. The weight of Draessellor’s stare at the top of his head left his shoulders bowed from the pressure. The old lizard’s scales rustled under his armor and then he started walking again, his steps taking him further away from the valley.
Sundown that night was just like every other night: set camp, small fire, hunt dinner, cooking, eating... then training. Aston didn’t know why the mercenary had decided he needed to be better at fighting, but assumed it was the same reason Draessellor wanted him to have armor. It felt silly to practice with the stolen sword and knife while travelling with an extremely deadly mercenary, and downright ridiculous going through the hand-to-hand combat training against the old lizard, but Aston was fairly certain he’d been getting better over the past weeks. He tripped less, now, anyway.
Sunup started off with the usual cold breakfast, and then the routine switched entirely after Draessellor grunted “Stealth training,” and disappeared silently into the trees. Four days of chasing the ghost of the old lizard and getting ambushed by scaly-handed swats at every wrong step and Aston felt completely ready to happily walk back to the valley and be treated like a murderer in the Human town. These four days were almost as bad as using the cursed portal stones to travel!
Well, maybe not that bad, Aston corrected as he stretched and felt the tight skin of the scar across his back. Travelling with Draessellor was definitely safer, aside from being infinitely more... difficult.
Their route over the next weeks was ever forward into the growing foothills. The increase in stony footing meant less footsteps and rustling leaves, so less of Draessellor’s ambushes. The more plentiful creeks meant more than a few wet afternoons after being ambushed.
How something as large and creaking as Draessellor could move in silence and hide in almost plain sight without disturbing even a twig was an absolute enigma Aston couldn’t figure out at all. Not to say he wasn’t trying his best to emulate the old lizard, but figuring out the fine points of finesse was proving to be something he felt was well beyond his personal capabilities.
He crept past a couple of grazing rabbits, using this latest creek to hide the sound of his footsteps and keeping his head low and below the steep embankment, grateful the breeze carried his scent away from the rabbits as he concentrated on placing his feet. Surprising himself, he arrived on the far side of them without having disturbed anything. And he recalled every step and moment of sneaking past right down to which birds had flown over him.
“Good stealth, son of Ceil,” Draessellor’s disembodied whisper said. The hulking mercenary detached from the scenery and walked the few steps to look down where Aston was waiting to be pushed into the creek... again. “Lunch,” the old lizard added, holding out some fish.
The Low Prince took them carefully and heaved a relieved sigh as the old lizard only gave him the fish and then pulled him up onto the grass. Once Aston was back on his own feet Draessellor turned and walked away, the small deer for his own lunch dangling from his other hand.
Belatedly, the whispered words praising Aston for doing something well sank into his brain. Startled, he glanced back. The grazing rabbits were sitting up on their haunches, staring this way because Draessellor hadn’t been silent when he walked off with his lunch. Aston hurried after the mercenary, careful to keep his steps quiet, more than pleased with himself as the rabbits went back to grazing.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!