Well, that was a bit of a whirlwind! I'm not complaining. Spontaneity will save any soul from the dreary dregs of monotony. My hubby isn't working yet (by choice, it's going to end soon now that jobs are starting to advertise), and our oldest is on Spring Break, so Wednesday night (around 11 pm) we decided to pack a few suitcases and drive to Calgary to visit my sister. We let her know we were coming when we were on the road Thursday morning. Once at the hotel, we decided to stay for two nights rather than one so that we could just hang out and let the girls play in the pool.
No laptops, no deadlines, no plans. It was GREAT! My 3-year-old can swim now (with her floaty, of course, but she self-propels), my 6-year-old was doing laps and jumping into the pool at spots deep enough that sometimes the water would go over her head (she's usually terrified of having water on / over her face), and we got in some quality family visits that included swims, sharing meals and a walk at the local dog park with my sister's pooches.
It really was just a great trip. It's also wonderful to come home early enough that we've got basically the whole afternoon to be home and recover from taking a random family mini-vacation. LET THE LAUNDRY COMMENCE! Lol :) ........ Well, laundry after blogging. And maybe some writing first... ;)
2. Hard Travels
“Yes, Master Torinson! Whatever you say, Master Torinson!”
Addint glared at his brother.
“I swear it Enti, if you call me that one more time I'll force-feed you some of that fickleroot!”
“And who's going to hold me for you?” what Enti called his ‘Soldier Face’ evaporated into a wicked grin. “Him?” he pointed to a moaning set of bushes to his left, “or them?”
Another set of bushes to Enti's right were emitting similar sounds of misery. Addint closed his eyes and counted to ten before answering.
“Enti,” he began as his younger brother snapped back to full attention.
“Yes, Master -”
Addint threw a right hook that his brother narrowly dodged. Enti was suddenly laughing too hard to keep his balance in the snow and, tripping over his own feet, went down onto his ass in a drift. Addint, taking full advantage, had his younger brother flipped onto his stomach before Enti could get in any type of defense. Addint scrubbed his brother’s face in the snow.
The older of the two sprang lithely to his feet, using the younger as his lift-off point, and was out of reach before Enti could recover. Enti, nearly angry, sat up with both fists clenched and a beard full of snow. Then, realizing what had just happened, burst out into another fit of laughter. Addint tried to scowl, but snickers soon began to leak out of him as well. He finally conceded, sat down in the snow beside his brother, and they both laughed themselves to tears; much to the humiliation of their non-mountain-folk peers. Once their joviality had mostly subsided, Addint sighed and shook his head.
“You know, we'd move a lot faster – and a lot more comfortably – if you'd quit screwing around.”
Enti nodded, agreeing completely as he swiped the tears out of his eyes.
“You're the only Trainee that Archer sent out and that's only because you're from the High Mountains. It wouldn't be funny if this scouting mission ended with you being kicked out of the compound based on bad references from these guys,” Addint encircled the surrounding foliage with one sweeping gesture.
Enti broke down into fits of giggles, his eyes dancing with mischief. Addint found himself again getting caught up by his brother's humor and tried to turn it to anger.
“And why under stars did you give them fickleroot?!”
Enti burst out laughing. “Well,” he started, once he could talk again. “Master Catsh was saying how he felt nervous shitting in the woods, which was delaying us, and you kept saying how we all needed to pick up the pace...” Enti shrugged. Addint stared at his brother in disbelief. “I just thought it would help to kill two birds with one stone. Master Catsh is shitting easily, and everyone is moving really, really quickly,”
Addint rolled back into the snow drift, laughing so hard his belly hurt. Enti managed to stay sitting… barely.
The five young men were soon traveling hard and fast, going cross-country to the mountains instead of taking the winding roads. In seventeen days’ time the brothers led their small group out of the foothills and into the familiar terrain of the High Mountains. Twenty-two days later, they passed out of the High Mountains into the uninhabitable and unnamed peaks beyond. They didn't stop at their home village on the way by, their orders didn't allow it.
The three men traveling with the brothers, despite a deserved dislike of Trainee Torinson, held a grudging respect for the two men leading them. After all, Master Torinson was a man in his element when in command, and Enti always seemed to know just where to step. Whether it was on snow covered ice, or scaling a sheer rock face, his hands and feet always found the right spot to lead them all safely through. Addint had smiled and winked at their shocked exclamations when first seeing Enti really climb.
“It's because we're only half-brothers,” he told them. “We have different mothers.”
Enti had swung free then, dangling 30 feet above them by only the fingers of his left hand.
“That is entirely correct!” he'd cried down at them. “My mother was a goat!”
My utter inability to remain anchored in this reality aside, I'm super excited to announce that Book 2 of The Centurion's Woman trilogy is fully published and (mostly) available from your favorite book sellers! There are a couple eBook providers that haven't updated to "on sale!" yet, but FriesenPress has MOBI (for Kindle) and EPUB formats RIGHT NOW! You can go and order your very own copy RIGHT NOW!
Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook versions are all available so you can cater completely to your personal preference. Click the buttons below to check out Warrior!
Also, with this being Spring Break right now and having Easter Weekend barreling up so much quicker than expected (note: I actually can read and understand calendars, they're just sooo... real life and filled with Holiday dates that are all hard deadlines), the regular Friday blog update stands a good chance of being a panic post on Saturday. Flip side, I'm getting a lot of writing done and Warrior was released today.
Oh my gods! Warrior came out today! <excited squealing goes here>
Yesterday was super stressful. I agreed to do something very anxiety-triggering for me in order to help out some of my previous coworkers and still friends: I went into the office of my previous workplace and did coaching for a once-a-year task I'd been responsible for. Yes, the same workplace that was about 50% responsible for why I can't 'work' right now. And... it sucked to go there, but it was great to help friends as them figuring it out without help would've taken way longer than the hour of coaching. (My sister offered to be my 'emergency' in case my ability to deal crashed and burned - and I didn't have to use the 'out' because the coaching session went so well.) Then I left as soon as the meeting was over. I am no longer obligated to that company.
Positives and learnings: I can again do some high anxiety, triggering tasks without a panic attack; the good people at that company are still awesome; not being 'owned' by a corporation that puts zero value on people as living beings is a huge relief in day-to-day existence; having a stress-relieving melt-down at home is pretty darn okay because my hubby and kids give some of the best hugs in the world.
Also, watching the claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer before 10:00 am and having popcorn as breakfast with a happy 3-year-old this morning was a really good reset that this reality is the real one.
1. Ternick's National Army
Torin waved goodbye to his two young sons. Addint was fifteen and Enti just into his twelfth year. They lifted their hands in return, calling out to him that soon they would be sending home many letters full of heroic stories and great hordes of captured treasure.
Torin had never felt as proud as when he watched the Master lead his boys out of the poor village where they had grown. If all things went well, in four or five weeks they would soon be far below at the edge of the Plains, Trainees of Ternick’s National Army.
The student regiments trained hard. Every lesson was aimed at getting the very most out of every Trainee, and every Trainee was promoted to the next level of training only once the class's Master was convinced that the very most had been gotten. Trainees and Masters were always graduating at different times due to completing their training on an individual basis, new recruits were always being sought out to join the ranks. It was a massive, finely honed system that encouraged recruits to advance in the areas that they were the best at.
For some, the forever changing environment and constantly demanded high quality was too much. But as a rule, no Trainee in his first year could be removed from the system based solely on poor performance. It was in the second year that Trainees started to filter out.
In their fifth year at the compound, Addint made Master and began his first full step into his Armyman career by becoming a Facility Instructor, and Enti, much to the frustration of his superiors, remained a Trainee. Over the past five years, Commander Archer had had many private laughs over Trainee Torinson. As well as many moments of private admiration for how adept, responsive, and efficiently competent the young man could be whenever he felt necessity required it. Unfortunately for most of the Masters training him, his personal view of ‘necessity’ seemed to cause his best traits to shine when it would be the most inconvenient for him to possess them.
Commander Archer did sometimes feel sorry for the Masters most inconvenienced by Enti. More often than not, though, he agreed with the Trainee that such inconvenience was well past due. Time passed easily into the Torinson brothers’ sixth year at the compound. Then the rumors of war began
“Commander Archer, I fail to see your point.”
The Commander scowled at the image of the richly clad, older woman standing in the view cube on his desk. Her name was Luinda, and she was a Mage member of the Council. Archer had a complete mistrust of magic, so had had more than the normal number of foul run-ins with the Council in general, and Luinda in particular.
“What I mean, Madam,” he began through clenched teeth, “is that Arkin was known to have prepared for war in the past months, and that their entire army has now disappeared. As they were preparing along the northeast border of Ternick, and the mountains and this compound are the only things between your fine city of Tern and the border, I believe it would be best to have this compound equipped for something more than training when Arkin marches on the capital!” Archer slammed his fist onto the desktop beside the view cube, making it rattle.
Council Mage Luinda frowned out at him from the side facing him, her acute dislike of soldiers in general doubling in his particular direction. She sniffed haughtily at his outburst.
“The Council will consider your suggestion when we have time for such barbaric ideas. Currently, we are in a time of peace and your opinion is not relevant.”
Council Mage Luinda broke the connection just before Archer could again yell at her. He snarled and pounced to his feet, knocking over his chair, and shoved everything off his desk in one angry swipe. He felt a small satisfaction in watching the view cube bounce along the floor and into the wall as he envisioned a specific tiny Council Mage trapped inside it.
Knowing he didn't have much time because his gut told him so, he strode out of his office and down the hallway to the meal hall. It was dinner time, the Masters and Trainees would all be there. It was well past time to start planning for the nearing war that he now needed to prove was coming.
So many words... they keep filling up my head and falling out of my fingers. The keyboard catches most of them, but some slip through the spaces between the keys and get lost on my desk. I'm fairly certain that's where all the dust is coming from: words that got away.
It's a way more poetic thought than admitting I should clean up my office space a bit. (However, I did just read an article on Facebook that says messy space is good for creating creative kids - and Facebook would only post true stuff, right? - so maybe I'll put off cleaning up for a while yet.)
Besides, this week was for writing and editing. So much writing! It was a good week.
4. The Seventh Escape
They had all been given new shoes that morning. The shoes had hard soles and soft liners, slip-on things that were pliable and comfortable after a couple of days and replaced every month. The shoes they were all wearing were still in the brand-new and hard-soled phase of their life span. Charlie’s new shoe rolled off the stone and he tipped a little further. In slow motion, just like right before she had walked to the police station barefoot, his head turned so he could glare at her and she could see the blinding madness in his eyes. Just like that night, she balled her fist and drove it as hard as she could right between his eyes.
Time sped back up to full speed as his head snapped back and blood sprayed from his broken nose. He didn’t let go as he was falling, so Abby hit him again on the way down. His grip finally loosened and she jumped to her feet. She took two steps back from him and looked down. He rolled over onto his stomach and started moving towards her, reaching out to grab at her ankles. She stepped once and kicked. Charlie’s head snapped up and then dropped forward hard enough to bounce off the floor. His fingers twitched, but otherwise he’d stopped moving.
Abby remembered the rest of the Gang after a moment and spun around to face where they were standing, but they were all at the door about twenty feet away. All five of them were watching her. She could see the uncertainty, the contrary knowledge of Seeing slowly taking over from Blind Believing. They looked scared, the anger gone for the moment.
She turned away from them and started hunting for the stone that Charlie had stepped on. It was important for her to find it. A person didn’t give tokens to the dead for no reason, and now it might be lost... it had rolled into a shadow two tables away. She walked over, picked it up, and carried it back. The Other on the table was remarkably light for its size and Abby was able to shove it around so it was completely on the table again. She tried to put the arms and legs like the ones beside it and tucked the stone back into its hands as she folded them together, careful to avoid the sharp talons.
The Charlie Gang murmured to each other as she straightened out the next Other and replaced its stone, too. One of the Gang tried to approach her and stopped dead in his tracks under her accusing glare.
“We’re going to go,” he blurted out quietly. “You can come if -”
“Just go,” Abby interrupted him.
Her voice sounded flat and strange in the stillness. The remains of The Charlie Gang scurried out the door together, closing and locking it behind them.
Abby spent what felt like a long time straightening out the armor of the tussled corpses, trying to get them looking like the ones that lay undisturbed. Eventually the Gang burst back into the room, but this time the door didn’t shut. Abby let her hands fall to her sides as their pursuers lithely entered and firmly collected the wayward Gang members. And Charlie. The coppery-red colored Other entered with the rest, but instead of simply collecting Abby it stood across the table from her. After a moment of watching each other, it turned and pointed at a glossy, silver lump on the nearest wall. When it turned back, it tapped at its helmet beside its right eye.
Abby understood immediately. Those lumps were not common, but they were in many places. Cameras, or whatever kind of surveillance the Others used.
Suddenly her knees gave out. The Other came around slowly and knelt beside her. They still couldn’t understand each other, but were getting closer to it. She realized she was crying when it touched her cheek and lifted a tear onto the back of one of its talons. It gently checked her split lip and bruised arm. Abby leaned her forehead against its armored chest plates and sobbed.
* * *
When she woke up, she was lying on a bunk in a small room with a partly-open doorway into the hall. A group of Others – and a few different races she'd never imagined – walked past, talking quietly to each other over what Abby could only refer to as a tablet, barely glancing into her room as they went about their day. She sat up carefully, understanding slowly that she wasn't with the Charlie gang anymore. She was in the part of the ship where everyone lived and worked.
Her bruised arm could barely move, but her lip was stitched and her chest didn’t hurt so much from where she’d been kicked. She glanced around and saw that one whole wall of the room was a window, and that day was just breaking around the horizon of the planet outside. She stood and walked over to the window to stare out at the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen.
3. The Sixth Excape
Abby woke up as all the air painfully rushed out of her lungs. The panic didn’t start until she tried to breathe back in and nothing happened. She was pulled up to a sitting position by her hair and Charlie’s hand clamped over her mouth. Her bangs fell past her wide eyes and tickled at her nose as her stomach clenched and she was able to draw in small puffs of sweet air. He had kicked her awake. One of his old favorites.
“Let’s go, babe,” he whispered harshly into her face, his breath stinking, and then pulled her to her feet.
Abby knew better than to whimper or cringe even though it hurt her insides fiercely to stand up so fast. Another escape. This would make it an even six over the past year if you included the first attempt as an escape. The Charlie Gang looked excited, like zealots that were going on the bus to meet their television idol. Abby steeled herself for whatever was going to come next in their latest plot and simply clung to the hope that she would find a way to get away from them.
The Gang popped the cell door and scurried down the winding halls, Charlie dragging Abby along by her arm. He was angry tonight. And scared. His hand wrapped above her elbow so tightly that his fingers felt like they were crushing the muscles. She tripped and he hit her across the mouth. He didn’t even snarl at her when he did it. Abby tried harder to keep up as her heart pounded in her throat and her ribs burned around the spot where he’d kicked her.
The soft clicking sound of heel spurs against armored boots alerted the man in the lead and he popped another door. They all darted into the room without looking first, and the door slid smoothly closed before the approaching Other saw them, softly thumping locked under Charlie’s skilled hand. Time paused for a minute as Abby realized that Charlie wasn’t going to let go of her this time, not even to lock a door.
Abby watched the sealed door longingly for a moment before time started up and she noticed she wasn’t getting pulled along. She turned cautiously to look at what was holding the gang in stunned silence. The window was massive. They could see the darkened planet above them back-lit from the sun on the other side, a ribbon of stars trailed across the bottom of the window.
“We’re in space?”
“Told you so.”
“Must be a picture.”
“I don’t believe it.”
The Charlie Gang milled about and glanced frightfully at the window. Abby barely heard them over her terrified heartbeat. The room itself was full of low tables, starlit shapes resting on most of them. It was eerily quiet.
“Cots?” the woman asked Charlie, her voice barely at a whisper.
One of the men stepped up to the nearest shape and prodded at it with the ends of his fingers. After a moment he chuckled quietly.
“Door,” Charlie commanded.
The Gang started searching the perimeter of the room. Abby tried to shrink away from Charlie and he hit her in the mouth again, drawing blood this time. He barely glanced at her and his painful grip on her arm never changed. He was focused and he was angry and she was scared.
“Found one,” one of the men announced quietly from the shadows somewhere off to the right.
Nobody else found anything, so Charlie pulled Abby between the tables and started toward the new door. He struck out at the dead Others with his free hand as they passed. He shouldn’t do that, she thought.
“Don’t,” she said quietly after he struck each one, and he ignored her. The fourth one he hit hard enough to rattle it, the fifth he knocked partly off the table – seemingly no simple feat as the Others were on average about a foot taller than Humans. The way it moved on the table, though, she wondered if they were about the same weight, or maybe lighter if they didn’t have all that armor. Abby heard something solid hit the floor and roll for a moment.
Her quiet ‘don’t’ turned into a blank ‘no’. Charlie grinned at her and then snarled as he hit the sixth one like he had hit the fifth. Abby watched the corpse’s hands bounce apart and a small shiny object fell out of them and dropped to the floor, making a solid thump and rolling in a crescent around the end of the table before stopping just in front of Charlie. It looked like a rounded, lava-glass stone in the starlight. Charlie stepped out, not seeing it. His normal stride would have easily taken him past it without even knowing it was ever there.
“No,” Abby said with finality and shoved him hard enough knock him off balance so that his foot landed right on the smooth little stone.
Not much writing was happening for me this week. Lots of editing, lots of reading, lots of sewing, but not much writing. Anxiety ate my soul around Monday, so mid-week was the standard battle to get my brain back to being capable of functioning – which worked in my favor this week. My oldest didn't have school yesterday or today, so we packed up the mini-van and went and hour from the house to visit the Reynolds-Alberta Museum. It's a really cool place if you like old cars, old planes, old farming equipment, old industrial equipment, and Canadian history and heroes. There's a bunch of kid-friendly activities and displays, as well, so this museum was a blast to take the girls to.
Writing plans for this weekend include: getting my ass back in gear and working on at least one work in progress; doing more than just editing. Happy Friday, all!
2. Neat and Sneaky Feats
It was an exercise day. On her twelfth lap around the big track a side door slid open and one of the Others came out. The sky-blue crested one. It turned away, not noticing her, and Abby ducked into the room behind it as the door slid shut again. As neat a feat no feet could beat – as her dad used to say. Usually when she did this, there would be more Others in the room she'd gone into and she would just be gently led back to wherever she had come from. Now and then she’d find herself in a long hallway, and usually could wander a bit and just look around at the strange place she was being kept. Different times, there would be an empty room and she would get a few minutes of looking around at things she’d never seen before. Always, though, she would then get caught and gently led back to where she was supposed to be.
Right now, the room was empty and had an enormous window. Completely ignoring the familiar strangeness of the things in the room, Abby sprinted up the few steps to look outside. She pressed her hands against the slick, perfectly clear material and gazed out at the spectacular view of the planet below her backed by the thousands – maybe even millions, or billions! – of stars.
She had grown up down there never even once dreaming that she might one day be up here. Now she was having the adventure of a lifetime, it was catered, and there was a private training program. Abby smiled. She was eating right and exercising and had never felt better in her whole life.
Abby was way too absorbed in the view to notice one of the Others walk up behind her. She nearly jumped through the window as she spun around and let out a yelp of surprise when it first touched her arm to take her back to the exercise area. (Probably ‘arena’ would be a better description, the place was massive.) The Other struck out at her defensively, the razor-sharp claws stopping less than an inch from her throat.
They stood still for a moment, frozen. Abby suddenly exhaled in a rush, her right hand moved to cover her heart and her left to her mouth. She closed her eyes so she would remember to breathe in again and when she opened them the Other was watching her warily, golden eyes gazing out from the coppery-colored, scaled skin behind the hardened mask. Her breath came out in giggles and the blood rushed up to make her face hot and uncomfortable. The Other’s stance finally relaxed and, with a head shake and a soft ruffling sound, the crest of feathers settled smoothly against the back of its neck.
Those feathers were a shiny, copper-tinted red, Abby knew. This was the same one that had grabbed Charlie. Abby watched for this one. She liked this one.
The Other waited for her giggles to subside and then, with the careful attentiveness humans would usually attribute to a pediatric surgeon, lifted the short sleeve of her tee-shirt to check her arm for the injury that had made her yelp. She giggled again as its head ducked and bobbed and those golden eyes darted back to her face, the sharp talons at the ends of its fingers piercing small holes in her shirt-sleeve as it paused. She bit her lips together to try and stop the embarrassment from escaping like this and failed miserably when it mistook her silly reaction to being startled as a further sign of injury.
She caught its big hand in both of hers when the Other moved to slice open her shirt with one of its talons.
“I’m okay,” she told it. “You...” she pointed at the door then mimed walking, then covered her ears. “So quiet.”
The Other’s head cocked sideways, curious and uncomprehending. Abby gave up with a sigh. They’d been trying to talk to each other since three times like this ago and had yet to get beyond being relaxed with each other. The Other took her arm carefully. Abby put her hand over its, patted the leathery skin and smiled what she hoped was a reassuring smile. It paused to allow her another moment of looking out the window at all those stars beyond the planet, its eyes kind, and then gently tugged her arm to lead her toward the door.
* * *
The Charlie Gang, as Abby thought of them, attempted their first escape at the end of a shower day. They made it down the hall. Charlie was so proud of himself and they all hailed it as a breakthrough that they’d even gotten the door open.
Abby had gone with them. Charlie was scared and angry and that scared her, like it had scared her when they’d been married, so it had been easy for him to make her go. She’d spent the entire five minutes in a panic and trying to see anywhere that she could get away from the Charlie Gang. There was no police station she could walk to barefoot up here. Much like when Charlie had grabbed her and pulled her into the alley seconds before they had been abducted, there wasn’t a soul around who knew what was going on well enough to help. And the ones who did know, wouldn’t.
The Others that caught them had been firm with them. Abby had hung onto the one that took her back to the cell so strongly that her knuckles had turned white where she grasped its fingers. She stood stiffly under the watchful eyes of Charlie as the sand-colored eyes set in light blue scaled skin darted from her hands to her blank face to its comrades. Through sheer will power, she didn’t grab at it again after it carefully pried her fingers loose.
It looked back at her once as it left the cell. Abby stood where she had been left, watching its back, and saw its metallic-teal crest feathers ruffle uneasily as the door closed.
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!