I'm going to start with this not being a very good personal week. It wasn't a bad week, just a week that was busy with a lot of small things which combine into yucky anxiety levels for me. I lost more days than I got, but I got a lot of reading done. This doesn't seem like a big thing, except usually my anxiety forces a shutdown and the most I can do above the required is play a few of the app games on my phone while feeling a drowning-like panic clawing at the back of my throat. Reading meant I could focus on something (ie: concentrate) and I took each new chapter starting as a personal check: Do I have to use the bathroom? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Is it now time for a required thing? For the first time in a long time, I maintained an eating schedule during moderate anxiety and the levels didn't spiral (as badly).
My friends are completely to blame for this positive outcome, because we had a blast on Sunday hanging out, drinking tea, and working on our knitting and crochet projects. This was my go-to recent memory for shaking off the yucky. Yesterday I even added over 3000 words to my big story. Today is still a struggle, but writing these three sentences improved my brain-space a bit so... LOVE YOU, FRIENDS!
I'm going to end this with how awful the world is ending off this week. The mass shootings that happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, are horrific. The last report I saw had 49 dead and over 20 critically wounded. I don't know how we're going to fix this broken world, but I hope we can. Our children deserve better than what this world is.
Help a stranger, hug a friend, learn something new, strive to do no harm. I hope you can have a good weekend.
3. ... Into the Portal
"May I see them?" Murial's question broke into his head as she stopped and looked up at him with her innocent, wide-eyed features. Aston nearly fell as he tried to pause mid-step and focus on her.
"See what?" Aston asked in response once he'd gained his balance, genuinely confused. He’d stopped listening to her what seemed like hours before, and had lost track of all thought not long after. It had been mid-afternoon when he’d fled from the dragon, and now it was getting dark.
"Why, the stones that brought you here." She looked sweetly surprised, her little girl's voice slightly shocked at his ignorance.
"Oh, um..." He shook his head to try to clear it. "I think… I think that would be okay.” He dropped his hand to the pocket that held the small, smooth rocks. The familiar tingle was dull in his hand the moment his fingers were close.
Her image collapsed on itself. The landscape behind her tilted as a haggard figure leapt at his hand before he had even pulled it from his pocket. Aston ducked sharply out of her path, striking out with his other hand at the stinking thing she’d become as it flashed past the place he’d been a split second earlier. Dropping into the fighter's stance that had been ingrained from years of Tovin’s training and Drevin’s teasing, he turned to face what had been his friendly, chatterbox, walking companion.
The harpy howled in rage and lunged directly for him out of the sickly, melting forest. He caught her charge with a kick, his large boot contacting hard with her narrow chest and knocking her flat. Without so much as a second thought to what was happening to the forest around him, he dropped and drove his knee into her gasping face. The hollow bones crunched and she stopped moving.
Suddenly free of the illusion she’d held him in since he’d arrived, the rich forest snapped away to leave behind only boulders, barren dirt, gnawed bones, and sharp cliffs in the distance. She’d been leading him toward the cliffs. His stomach knotted and heaved at the change in his surroundings, but Aston could now hear the rest of the harpies calling out from the stone wall ahead and forced his stomach to hold on to what little food was still in there. The flock would have heard the howl of the one he had just killed, and were probably already coming to where she had been. Where he still was.
He had no time for vomiting.
Working as quickly as he could, Aston pulled the dagger from his boot and scratched a hasty circle on the relatively flat rock by his feet. It wouldn't be perfectly round by any stretch of the imagination, but should be good enough to at least get him out of this place once the stones were laid out, and hopefully into some place that was better this time.
His chanting was ragged from exhaustion and his hands trembled as he placed the center stone. The trembling soon subsided as he laid out the familiar pattern that should’ve taken him home the first time.
The twelve stones lifted as he chanted, rising into the air as if they were adhered to a plank that opened to the side like a trap door hinged by his left foot. The eleven outer stones traced the rough circle shape he’d scratched as they began orbiting the stationary center stone. Like the rim of a wheel, the track of each of the eleven stones soon blurred to create what appeared to be a line in the air before him. Then the stones pivoted to open the portal, shaped just like the rough circle he’d scratched into the rock. The circle grew until it was of a size he could easily step through. The center stone held absolutely still in the middle of the doorway. Ripples of light shone out in all directions from the edge of the portal where the eleven stones were now spinning so fast that they could no longer be seen.
Aston grasped the center stone like a tiny doorknob and felt the dizziness overtake him as he stepped through. In the back of his mind, behind the concentration that the High Mages had instructed would hold the door open for him, he prayed to whatever might be listening that this time he really would go home.
The doorway collapsed out of existence, the eleven edge stones following the center stone through the portal in a flash of brilliant light, leaving no trace of the Low Prince or the magic he’d used save for the hint of ozone hanging in the air.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays 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!