Greetings and salutations! We're in full-swing birthday party prep at our house today. The 4 year old turned 5 earlier this week and there's going to be a house full of Kindergateners here tomorrow for a couple of hours. The parties have proven fun over the years, so I'm looking forward to it. The amount of loud that comes with the parties also gives me a reason to look forward to the quiet after the party ;)
I talked about NaNoWriMo in an earlier post this month, and that I'd decided not to do it. What I did do instead was make up a spreadsheet and chart in Excel to keep track of the writing I hoped to get done during November, with a target of reaching the 50k words across the projects I have on the go. With birthday stuff this week and some other Real Life things happening earlier in the month, I'm not going to make my goal. I did, however, learn that my wavering habits plunked me firmly above 40k in a month of "normal" writing for me, so I'm really, really, really happy with that result!
I know, I know... I've been writing for years and years and never bothered to figure out my "normal" word counts. How could I survive not knowing if I was producing at my average or not? Honestly, over the years I've gone months without writing a thing. Other times, I can't even fight my way out of the words and type up shorts and novels and novellas and... shrug.
Tracking my words this past month let me see what my average is now that I have a real schedule that I try to stick to for designated writing time. This writing schedule is one I've never had due to jobs and life. Being an at-home mom has given me so much more than I ever expected and, looking back at the past two years, almost as much as I'd hoped for. Looking back over the past month I've gotten to see my progress and production and I'm not disappointed. Talk about an awesome start to the day!
Now to go clean bathrooms and finish icing cupcakes and try to figure out what kind of cool craft we can have for birthday partiers to enjoy. Hope you have a great weekend!
4. Lizard, Elf, Serpent, & Angel
Today was the predicted day that the target was meant to arrive. Draessellor walked over to check his soaking leather and stayed in the cool shade of the shelter to sharpen all of his blades. It was better to be prepared in case the Human was dangerous, which was the only reason he could think of that called for four killers to be lying in wait here. As he wouldn’t be making the kill, and that meant he had time to dry and condition the serpent skin, he quickly made a rack and stretched the hide. With the tanning settled to his liking, he returned to sit at his fire and wait.
The winged thing and the Elves were muttering insults at each other, all parties of the argument refusing to eat in the presence of the others. Draessellor crouched by the low flames and watched the winds blow dust across the stones. While he’d been walking back after stretching the hide, he’d heard the Elves discussing how to split payment. Only the mother had received the contract, and she’d decided independently to include her offspring. Counting only himself, the winged thing and the old Elf being here, the threat remained of another killer nearby that Draessellor hadn’t discovered. He dug through his long memory for who he knew, or knew of, who could remain completely hidden to him and came up with only those who had died many years before. So maybe there was someone new?
The argument bantering around him ceased when he drew his best blade and settled it across his knees. He rippled his skin and settled his scales for comfort while crouching, hunched beside the flames. Best to be ready for any surprises.
“Is our previous agreement broken?” the old Elf asked, her voice straining to remain polite.
The winged thing guffawed, sounding more like cackling than laughing after the initial outburst. “Of course it isn’t!” the winged thing taunted. “He always prepares to attack when he’s not planning to attack,” he added, rolling his eyes far enough up that barely any of the blue of his irises was showing.
“Holding a weapon is not using it,” Draessellor reminded the winged thing, who only scoffed another laugh in reply.
The winged thing and the young Elf both roused to begin pacing the same place the portal was predicted to appear. Their weapons shone brightly under the clear sky. It was a matter of seconds before they were busier hurling insults and threats – in spite of the old Elf cautioning her daughter to studious observation – and soon were circling to attack each other rather than watching for the portal.
The impending rend in reality charged the air nearly a full ten seconds before the actual split of it appeared. The building energy tickled over Draessellor’s skin and pulled his gaze to the exact spot where the portal materialized… likely eight strides from where the young Elf and the winged thing were bickering, which was half again how far it was from him.
Both youngsters and the old Elf were surprised at the appearance of the portal, turning toward it only after the Human had surged through and rolled defensively at a right angle away. His hand slapped out and the pebbles racing around the portal’s perimeter too quickly to see scattered across the hard ground. Half an arm that ended in talons on one end, and was perfectly severed on the other, dropped to the ground from the middle of where the portal had been.
The Human’s roll finished with him closer to the fire than the youngsters, and he fell back onto his ass from the crouch he’d finished in when he glanced up at where he was and who was looking at him. The obviously quickly made weapon in his hand, a flint-bladed knife with the sharp stone simply tied to a sturdy stick with a rag, never faltered from being protectively held out. The young Elf and the winged thing didn’t waste time with yelling as they charged from behind the Human, she intent on getting her first solo kill and him spitefully intent on stopping her from being able to.
Draessellor tensed his skin and snapped his muscles. He was on his feet, three strides from his fire, with his best blade extended before either of the competing youngsters had a chance to finish their swings. The killing was made easier due to the Human’s low position. The old Elf remained near the fire, a second snapping finishing her long, long life while the Human was still blinking in surprise about Draessellor’s first attack.
Draessellor tasted the air in all directions, stooping low and watchful in anticipation of the undiscovered assassin’s attack as he backed slowly nearer to the Human, stopping only when the Human drew up his knees to keep his feet out from under Draessellor’s. Seconds passed with nothing occurring. The breeze brought no new scents and the air carried no new sounds.
The Human panted into breathing after a stretched moment of holding his breath. The cobbled together knife dropped from loose fingers to clatter against the ground and he folded around his tucked-in legs to press his face against his knees. The pose left him looking even more like his mother; she had often sat that way while crying during the time she and Draessellor were travelling to the kingdom she now claimed as her home. Ceil’s offspring was not as well-groomed as in the ink painting she’d sent, and the smell of old blood proved he currently was or recently had been injured, but there was no mistaking that this was the offspring she’d named in her letter as being called Aston.
“A lizard, a serpent, an Elf, and an Angel,” Aston muttered against his legs, the volume obviously meant to be a private whispering. He steeled himself with a deep breath and looked up from his knees to glance over both shoulders and then across the fire. “Two Elves, an Angel, and… a lizard?” he asked, uncertain, as he looked up at Draessellor. “Are you going to kill me?”
“What is the list for?” Draessellor ignored the question to ask his own, the importance of which seemed much higher due to the fourth killer remaining undiscovered even after the violence that had just been committed.
“The… that”– Aston pointed at the half of an arm which had followed him through the portal –“taunted me that I’d be facing ‘a lizard, a serpent, an Elf, and an Angel’ if I used the stones again.”
Draessellor remembered that the serpent whose skull he was carving had attempted to speak to him when he’d first seen her at his fire. Which, with this new information, explained the odd satchel he’d found hidden nearby where the male had bled out.
“That’s a strange taunt,” Draessellor noted after concluding that the fourth killer had been dealt with already, by accident.
I've been having a really good week. The anxiety monsters have been grumbling rather than roaring, my therapy appointment was really positive for the realizations I had in the weeks since my previous session, and writing has been going well for me. I actually had my most productive writing day in literal months earlier this week.
Today, however, today... <heavy sigh>
Anxiety: nothing unmanageable. And my mood is uncharacteristically bubbly, so not depression. I can't even call it brain fog because everything is pretty clear. And interesting. And cool to look at. And neat to think about. And what was I doing again? Oh, that's right, telling you there's an army of ADHD squirrels where my brain should be.
Have I had days like this before? Yes. Are they bad days usually? No. I just haven't had one in a long time and
W O W
there is no end to the distractions, or the distractions to the distractions for what I originally got distracted from. These days are usually good because I really have no choice but to be in the moment while my anxiety honestly is just running behind yelling incomprehensible things at every squirrel that darts past it about "danger" and "consequences" and "being careful", but the squirrels are too fast and none of them stop to listen.
But, friends? I dropped my kids off at school this morning and, after getting my oldest to her door, stopped to talk with one of her friends that I like and who wanted to tell me something and my oldest starting walking away and I was confused and then SLAM! Oh yeah! Gotta take the youngest to her door, too... <face palm> I mean, the kids got to school on time and to the right doors, but those moments are going to be my whole day. (Also, yes, this is probably a hormone thing - my ovaries are poly-cystic. This is one of the positive impacts of growing a new cyst... yay? Lol)
Think I'm just going to do some editing and let this random head space work itself through. And write. And clean the house while keeping the computer on. :D Have a great weekend!
3. A Smoldering Assembly
“Well, well, well… how inconspicuous,” the winged thing taunted the Elves. “A blazing fire in the dark.”
“It’s not our fire,” the mother snipped back.
“Of course not,” he replied, landing with a swish of wings that stirred up a spiral of hot embers and sparks tall enough for Draessellor to see above the hill cliff he was climbing around.
“Hey!” the daughter yelped. Draessellor tasted the next breeze and discovered traces of burned leaves, fabric, skin and hair. He crested the path to see the mother draw a blade against the aggressor who had just showered her offspring with hot ashes.
“Oh, please do!” the winged thing smiled, his pointed teeth reflecting the stirred up firelight as he drew his own sword and squared off to begin circling with the mother and daughter.
Draessellor hefted his knife from his belt and flicked it down, stabbing the ground nearby the fire, directly between the combatants. The heavy thud of it sinking deeply into the roots of the tree made the statement clearly of his approach. All three glanced at the blade and then stared out at the dark in the direction the knife had flown from. Draessellor knew it would be fun to simply pause so that they wouldn’t see his motion, but didn’t want his fire put out because of their squabble. The Elves sheathed their weapons first in spite of the winged thing seeing him walking down the hill before they did.
“Oh,” the winged thing stated, frowning as if he’d just smelled something awful. “You’re here,” he added as Draessellor got close enough to see. “That explains the stupidity of a fire.”
“Don’t you have a mountain to hang off of and screech at travelers from?” the mother asked the winged thing.
“How original. Did you manage to think that up yourself?”
Draessellor walked between the squabble, ignoring it because the winged thing and Elves all backed quickly out of what they thought was his striking distance. He retrieved his knife and checked it in case the careless handling had caused the blade to strike a stone. Luckily the only difference on the blade since he drew it was the addition of some sap and some dirt.
“Well then, ancient snake, how have you been keeping?” the winged thing smirked the question, straightening his light armor after stumbling during his recent retreat. Draessellor ignored him because that wasn’t a name he answered to. He crouched down, facing the fire, and took what he needed from his kit to clean the knife properly.
“I collected more firewood for you, old lizard.” The young Elf had obviously been prompted by her mother, but she was trying her best to sound polite. The winged thing was sneering out a laugh at the young Elf’s expense as Draessellor looked at both the Elf and the restocked wood pile.
“You selected good timbers. Thank you.”
Her mother relaxed visibly and nodded slightly when her daughter looked to her for guidance of how to accept the minuscule compliment.
“I got you firewood,” the winged thing mimicked in a squeaky voice before the Elf could say anything else.
“Respect is earned through deed,” the mother chastised.
“I’m a Celestial Being. Everyone respects me because –”
“Half,” Draessellor interrupted. “You’re half Celestial. You inherited the look of your father without any of his wisdom,” he added before the winged thing could continue bragging. The winged thing glared at him in surly silence.
The Elves sat together at the fire’s edge, the mother checking that the daughter’s new burns were slight. She loudly instructed her daughter for how to best maim or kill the flying thing either during or after killing the target Human. The winged thing hunched across the flames from them and interjected insults whenever he could, which was often because he believed being clever made up for being unwise. Draessellor cleaned his knife meticulously, sharpened it while he had it out, and tidied his things back into his kit so that he could begin working on the gift he was going to make for his friend. The winged thing sprang back from the fire and stumbled to his feet a short distance away.
“Five stars of… is that a Giant Poisonous Viper skull?” the winged thing demanded, staring out at the night fearfully.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask,” Draessellor replied.
He scored the skull deeply with his claws in the general shape that he wanted the finished hilt to have, making certain that any splinters from breaking it wouldn’t make it too small, then gripped it in both hands and snapped off the pieces he was planning to discard. The part he was left with was larger than what he’d wanted, but that was better than too small to fit the fang properly into.
The winged thing fled to a stand of nearby trees for the night, keeping himself off the ground and well away from more vipers. The younger Elf swallowed hard as Draessellor used his thumb claws to begin whittling the hilt. She didn’t say anything to interrupt him though, which made for company that was more pleasant than expected. He picked up one of the larger, useless pieces and sucked at the marrow as he worked, the rough shape of the hilt smoothing into something that he would be able to easily work on beside the fire. The skull bone was thick enough to add an engraving detail, as well, if he could think up something that his friend might find attractive.
After a while the Elves set out bedrolls and tucked into them. They slept lightly so Draessellor didn’t move around much out of respect that they needed sleep more often than every few days. A crow popped in very early in the morning, circled the fire once before dropping a note into Draessellor’s hand, and then popped back out again. The scrap of paper was small and smelled of his friend. There were only two words on it, and that she thought to send them was a kindness he didn’t expect. Both Elves were staring at the note when he swiveled an eye to check their statuses so, because Ceil’s simple ‘Thank you’ didn’t concern them or require their knowledge, he burned it.
He was happy with his progress on the little hilt. It was small enough for a Human hand now, but the edges were likely too rough to feel comfortable against his friend’s soft skin. He wrapped it into the same cloth as the better of all the fangs and tucked the package into his kit.
Well. That was a whirlwind of a week.
My hubby got his layoff for the end of season, so we threw the kids and a few changes of clothes into the van and scooted down to Calgary for a couple nights. The main goals were to visit with my sister and to give my better half a chance to unwind after working three months straight. The side goals were to check out the Calgary Zoo and to let the kids go swimming. I'm happy to say that all goals were achieved!
The tiger we got to watch on Tuesday was the 19 year old female, bred and born in captivity, and she honestly rolled her eyes at every trick because she just wanted the damn treats lol. Once she even roared and paw slammed the bars out of irritation about not getting treats after not doing multiple tricks, which was a good reminder she is a few hundred pounds of murderous intent wrapped in claws, teeth, and fuzziness. She did get the big reward at the end because she completed the needed tricks for her handler to ensure her health. (Note: the big reward is for participating, she would have gotten it even if she hadn't done all the tricks, and it was two of her favorite things to eat wrapped in a tear-it-open paper bag. She walked away a happy giant murder floof with a tiger's lunch-sized treat bag.)
I did get some writing done, as well. Not nearly as much as I wanted to, but more than I expected I would get considering the quick holiday away from All The Real Life Things. Family time and writing time in one week... it was beyond awesome. Hope you have a great weekend!
2. The Other Assassins
Draessellor scoffed and put the contract away again. He wasn’t an assassin, so the mention of there being ‘other’ assassins would never stop looking ridiculous to him; almost as ridiculous as there being a mage stamp in the contract’s seal. There was too much magic for his tastes these past years. Whole wars were being fought by mages rather than swordsmen and mercenaries. The last person he’d spoken to had even tried to convince him that the unnatural uses of magic all these mages were inventing were for something or other positive that supported some greater good. With honest murder becoming a scarce occupation, and deaths by potions and invisible means on a sharp rise, it was hard to believe that magic was some kind of ‘better’ goodness than a steel blade and some dragon scale armor.
Adding emphasis to the thought, Draessellor thumped a fist against the large scales protecting his soft underbelly. These had been a gift from another of his friends, a Storm Dragon from distant mountains he hadn’t crossed in many, many years.
“Call me Cliff,” was how the dragon introduced himself after a lengthy discussion of why Draessellor was perched in what he’d thought an excellent hiding place until Cliff had ripped the top off of it. Cliff had thought the small Reptillian was seeking fame or fortune by killing dragons, and the long conversation confirming he was only there to ambush a passing caravan had been carried out with Draessellor literally underfoot. (Perhaps the conversation hadn’t been lengthy, but only looked that way due to the amount and size of teeth asking the questions.) Cliff had apologized for the misunderstanding.
What solidified them into friends was that the queen who’d hired Draessellor for murdering the caravan had tried to hire him to hunt the dragons he’d spent a pleasant afternoon with. He hadn’t taken the job, she’d tried to have him killed under her kingdom’s treason laws, and Cliff heard about it. He and his wife had found Draessellor just before the execution and laid waste to half the palace and then carried their new friend back to the mountains so he could regain his health in peace.
Cliff’s eldest son had cut the strongest scales from his father’s body and fashioned them into armor for Draessellor when the old dragon passed on. It had been a gift of both unequalled kindness and unparalleled sadness. The armor had been how he’d learned the ancient dragon had died.
A familiar scent arrived on the breeze and Draesellor tasted the air for clearer definition, his tongue slipping out and back in like a snake’s. An Elf assassin and her daughter that were known to him from wars throughout the decades were coming. They weren’t friends of his, but also not enemies.
“Old lizard,” the mother greeted him politely once they arrived beside his fire.
“Good Elf,” he rumbled out the appropriate reply. “You’re expected here for the doorway portal?” he asked pointedly. In his mind it was best to be certain that they wouldn’t be in each other’s ways if their jobs were different.
“We are,” she agreed. He uncurled his hands to show they were empty as an invitation for them to join his fire. They made the same gesture before sitting down. “Might I ask you to allow my daughter this kill?”
He’d heard the rumors that the younger Elf had started doing more in her apprenticeship. A controlled kill like this would be a good place to practice.
“I’ll watch,” he agreed. The mother smiled kindly at him, and then beamed at her daughter. The younger female sat prouder.
“Do you know who the third and fourth assassins are?” the daughter asked. He decided to not bother correcting her that he was just a murderer because she was obviously attempting to be polite while discovering if he had any further information that could help her.
“No,” he replied honestly.
“Do you have a description of the Human?” she asked another question.
“What about the stones that were mentioned. Do you –”
Her mother interrupted her by placing a restraining hand on the daughter’s arm. He stayed staring at the thwarted questioner and swiveled only one eye to look at the mother.
“The impatience of youth,” the mother excused her child before turning to look at her daughter. “When speaking with an equal regarding a joint effort, we assume they have the same contract that we do, delivered by the same means,” she instructed quietly.
“He’s only a mercenary,” the daughter hissed, her condescension much quieter than what she expected him to be able to hear from this distance.
“He’s been my colleague in combat for more years than you’ve been alive,” the mother replied at the same volume, her tone chastising. “Isn’t that right, old lizard?” she asked, her voice dropping even quieter for the question.
“I lost count of the years we’ve fought on the same and different sides many years ago,” he replied.
The daughter gaped at him for a moment and then slammed her mouth shut and sullenly glared at the fire. The mother hid a smile by digging through her pack. The rations she took out smelled and looked delicious to the two of them. However, having tasted Elf food before (and considering the amount he trusted these two) he easily declined the offer of sharing with them in favor of eating from the serpents he’d killed the other day.
Once the customary meal was complete, confirming they would eat together so must be on the same side, Draessellor packed his kit and slung it across his back before walking away to go check on the serpent hide he was tanning into leather. The younger Elf peppered her mother with questions as soon as she believed him out of hearing distance, because he was out of sight, and he chuckled quietly while trying to remember ever being that young and naïve.
Another scent he recognized arrived with the evening wind while Draessellor was sorting through the dead serpents’ bones. He’d cleaned and scraped them, and now he was looking for one that would carve and dry nicely to make a delicate hilt fit for a Human female’s hands. He was decided since this morning that it would be appropriate to actively look for his friend’s son due to the logic that she must be extremely worried if she’d contacted him. Plus, the pay would be fair, it would be pleasant to see her, and if her kingdom was going to war then there was likely more profit to be made… and she would likely need a new knife. He wasn’t good at gifts, but practical weapons he understood well. After some consideration, he selected the female serpent’s skull.
The scent in the breeze grew stronger as what Draessellor called ‘the winged thing’ approached. He sighed as he tensed and relaxed to settle his scales comfortably for standing after crouching for so long. Whoever had done the hiring for this job wasn’t very smart, or was young and not very well informed. Neither provided a comfort for what would be the irritating night ahead.
It's still Friday evening here, so I'm not late with my Friday schedule blog posting. It was a busy day (in a good way), and I'm starting a new short story today, so I also have zero complaints about posting a few hours later than I usually do. :)
It was a good week for writing for me. I got a lot of progress on my terrible stories that I'm using as training grounds for a couple of complex characters I want to be able to write well in my main manuscript, and I was able to add more words to the first book of my main manuscript. The major revision I started on it left my word count short, but also highlighted areas I'd written too thin (and have started thickening up) and has given me room to expand on my 'villain'. Did I mention before how happy I am with this revision? If I did, I'm going to repeat myself. These changes make the story so much better!
As for my non-writing updates, this week only had two appointments in it and the lack of struggling to run around and Get Things Done on a daily basis for every day of the week was wonderful. There were sill busy days. The difference is that things were completed and there was time to stop and have proper meals AND to sleep each day. The to-do list doesn't seem shorten, but the anxiety and depression definitely have less to feed on.
Please note that today begins the long weekend for November. I'm lucky enough to be spending these coming days with loved ones. November 11 is a day I personally feel as very important. Both my grandfathers were military, with my dad's father serving during WWII (his father serving during WWI), and my mom's father having a career in the RCAF. I have zero respect for war, but more respect than I can put words to for the men and women who fought and fight them on behalf of the freedoms I have. Please remember this Remembrance Day. Hope you have a great weekend!
1. Friends & Contracts
Draessellor stirred the flames of his small fire and watched the burst of sparks drift up to wink out between the stars. He would be paid well for sitting here and waiting once he killed whoever arrived by the way described. The contract didn’t mention who was coming. That was fairly normal and, to be honest, it never crossed his mind to ask. He’d been a mercenary and murderer for hire for too many years to bother counting them anymore. Not fancy enough for assassinations, and not pretty enough for subterfuge, he’d simply killed a lot of people for money. Over those many years, he’d made a couple of friends as well. Not easy, considering. More of a surprise when it happened, actually.
Ruffling feathers caught his attention and one eye swiveled up to look at the messenger crow one of his friends had sent to him, reminding him of the letter she’d sent asking for his help if he was able. She’d even offered payment, and written a sincere wish for his continued well-being. He stirred the flames again. Ceil was a good friend.
He set aside the stick he’d been using to stir the fire. He needed to get some rest and locking his joints was easier than lying down, so he hunched a bit rounder and settled in for a comfortable night. The contract mentioned other killers but didn’t say who else was coming, or precisely when, so he decided it was best to be able to move quickly. The fire ebbed down to embers as his eyes closed to slits and he entered into the nearest state he was capable of that was akin to sleep as mammals understood it.
His subconscious watched the stars spin overhead, their positions counting the hours that aligned perfectly with how far the fire was burning down. The messenger crow stayed perched on the low branch of the nearby tree as it slept.
As dawn arrived, so did the forewarning scents of approaching scavengers. Draessellor stood and walked away from his fire so he could bring his weapons to hand without being seen doing so, and returned to find one of the serpents coiling around the heat of the embers. She lifted her head to speak with him and he snapped out a blade quicker than she could dodge, separating her head from her body. Serpents rarely had anything useful to say, and the ones that could speak tasted exactly like the ones that couldn’t. Her male companion attempted to attack from behind and lost his bottom jaw to the first sword swing. The second swing cut the serpent in half, the front writhing away to bleed out rather than turn back for a swifter death.
Draessellor ignored the dying, useless half of the male and set to inspecting the female. Her hide looked like she’d recently gone through a shedding and would make good leather he could sell for additional profit. The nearby half of the male wasn’t in as good of condition so wouldn’t be worth the effort of tanning. As he started skinning the female, he decided that tonight he would track the front half of the male and cut out the fangs to sharpen for daggers. The serpent ivory was too brittle for his preference, but some lords and royals paid well for the small blades due to the rarity.
His friend’s promised second messenger crow arrived with a pop of light on the fourth day of waiting for the target. Ceil had said in her first letter that, if he wasn’t able to help her, he needed to reply within three days using the first crow. If he was able to help, he didn’t need to reply at all and she’d send a second crow with a small portrait of her offspring that had gone missing. Of course he hadn’t replied. The second crow delivered the portrait to his hand and then flew up to the low branch to roost with the first. Draessellor studied the image of the young human, memorizing every line, and then tossed the page into the fire he always kept burning.
Her first letter had said her king was dying and a neighboring country had tipped over the brink into war, so her country had sent troops to help. One of her sons had gone to war, and then then other had disappeared. She didn’t ask him to come and fight, which is what he’d expected, but instead inquired that – if their paths happened to cross – could he please protect and guide her missing offspring safely home to her kingdom, as he’d once protected and guided her. She expected to compensate him at his usual rate, which was odd because he didn’t know where – or even if – he would cross paths with Ceil’s wayward offspring.
He smiled at the flames as he stirred the fire; her dealings were always so professional.
He set aside the stick and took a blank parchment roll out of his pack. Careful with making his letters because he rarely used them, he scratched out a short letter using charcoal that stated he would look to find her offspring. He paused, and then added his sincere hope that she was also well despite the problems she was facing. He cut the note from the roll and put the roll away, then called down the crows by holding up the letter. One of them plucked the note from his hand. The two circled for a moment, flipping and spinning around the column of smoke from the fire, before disappearing through a pop of light.
Teleportation was neat to watch, but only a few species were capable of surviving it. Draessellor didn’t know if he was capable, and he wasn’t willing to try and see. Crows did well at it, and rats. (The rats couldn’t be trusted to reliably deliver messages, they were too independently minded, however seeing swarms of them sent to harass enemies never failed to be entertaining.)
While his pack was open, he replaced the blank parchment and took a moment to scan over the contract he was here to collect on. Whatever he was meant to kill had been described as only ‘Human; male’, but the method of arrival was set out in detail: portal teleportation, unique due to the use of twelve stones that created a doorway appearance. The final sentence mentioned that there would be at least three other assassins present to ensure success, and all would be paid without question even if only providing eyewitness proof of seeing the Human killed.
Hello! Hope you all had a lovely Halloween yesterday. It made for a lot of excitement at our house, that's for sure. (And resulted in a lot of candy lol)
Let's see... what's been going on...? My current short story, The Clearing, wraps up this week, which means the free downloads are posted and waiting for you! With this one ending on November 1, I'll be starting a new short story next week. :)
And how is it already November?? Can we have an extra October in 2019 so there's a chance to catch up on where I needed to be this year? And an extra week or two in November would be great – especially for all the NaNoWriMo2019 writers! I won't be officially participating, but I'm planning to keep track of my word count and see where I finish by the end of the month. I will also be cheering for and encouraging all the participants I run across in Twitter-landia.
No idea what that weird 'NaNoWriMo' abbreviation is for? No problem! Check out this link:
My muse is unpredictable and, unfortunately for me, setting goals in anything has proven to feed my anxiety and block my productivity. It's weird, but if I want to achieve something, I get there faster without establishing plans and assigning deadlines. This is something I used to want to change about myself, which added to the anxiety mess inside my head, but now I realize it's part of how I operate: clear ideas of what I'd like to have, fuzzy methods of achieving it, and massive amounts of contingency planning with completely open exits for switching pursuits when and as needed or wanted.
Inside my head is messy.
However, with all the extra people... um... 'characters' in here, being chaotically organized lets me keep track of my and their realities simultaneously. That helps a lot when writing. I like to think this personality trait of mine is creatively useful. (Which is a much better spin on it than being constantly scatter-brained while still knowing what most of the loose ends of thought are attached to.) Hope you have a great weekend!
5. Debts and Promises
Felix woke up to dogs barking. He scrubbed the disorientation out of his eyes and sat up. Had he been out here all night? Distant voices yelling his name, the sun being up, and more barking answered the question. The events of yesterday, why he’d slept outside all night, slammed into his conscious mind. A squeak peeped out of his armpit as his body tensed with remembering Luis hitting his mom and then chasing him out of the house. His call to nine-one-one must’ve been answered because he remembered the sirens when he’d been running away, but… why was he out here with some old unicorn toy that had been forgotten outside by some kid probably ten years ago wedged under his arm?
His shoe thunked against something hard and he looked down to see the music box he remembered dreaming about. He set the scruffy unicorn aside and picked up the box, winding it once and hearing enough to know that it played The Teddy Bears Picnic. The lid closed with the snap of the stopper inside interrupting the spring-driven spinning of the little gears. He finished winding until it clicked because, well, why not? Then he set it down and looked around. There were five toys close to him, six if he counted the unicorn he’d been sleeping with, but these five were pretty beat up; they were mud encrusted from their chins down and had small sticks, thorns and dead grass poking out all over them.
He remembered cleaning up the unicorn before… he’d played picnic with it and then fell asleep to dream about dancing with him… it? Felix realized that he must’ve had a breakdown episode after everything with his step dad last night. He absently reached over to the five toys and picked branches out of frayed stitching and thorns out of plastic fur as he attempted piecing together the likely reality from the breakdown memories and dreams. The dogs and yelling people coming to find him were too far away and too loud to hear him if he answered, and the toys looked better once they were cleaned up. Tidying them and then setting them around a broken tea set like they were having a picnic presented as a cute idea while he was waiting to be found.
Once the tea party was set up, he propped the unicorn against the music box so it looked like it was about to turn the peg. In his dream, the music box had been protectively hidden inside a soggy shoe box, but he didn’t see that anywhere. He smiled at the toys having their party and, with nothing else to do, decided walking toward the people searching for him meant getting found and going home sooner. His stomach was already growling.
He started going the way most trampled, which was obviously the way he’d come from because that’s where most of the yelling was originating right now, but a growl in his memory was louder than the growling from his stomach. A stained scrap of fabric fluttered in the weak, morning sunlight from where it was caught in some thorny weeds, the pattern on it the same as one of Luis’s shirts. Going that way was a bad idea. In one of his dreams last night, Luis had found him here with the toys. He was right now standing where he’d dreamed Luis stopping. Felix backed two steps away from the direction most trampled. During the dream, moving toys had freaked out Luis enough that he’d run away.
The music box plinked and Felix spun around. All the toys he’d left facing each other were looking up at him. The music box he’d left closed was open. The little toy unicorn hefted the lid and snapped the music box shut, its head lifting slowly until its scratched eyes full of glitter were staring at him. Felix collapsed to his knees. It hadn’t been a dream! The toys really could move.
“You guys took care of me last night, didn’t you?” he asked, smiling at the realization. They all nodded once in unison. “But now I owe you,” he said. His smile faded as quickly as his stomach dropped when they all nodded again. “What, um… what do you…?”
Only the heads of the five toys at the tea party twisted to look at the unicorn. It glumly poked a hind hoof at the remains of the old shoe box Felix had squished while sleeping and then been sitting on when he’d looked around for it. He smiled at how sad they all posed for the ruined box.
“How about I get you something better than cardboard?” he offered. One by one, they stood and tumbled toward him on floppy limbs and loose stitches. It was easy to ignore the clawed gouges of their footprints mismatching the wobbling steps he could see. He hugged them gently as they snuggled against his waist, each one fluffy and soft around what his eyes told him were sticky sap stains. The little unicorn came last, dragging the music box. He picked up the cube, lifting the unicorn with it, and hugged both to his chest. “I’ll get something to keep this safe for a long time. I promise.” Their heads twisted in unison to look up at him. “Will that pay you back for keeping me safe?” As one, they all nodded and then hugged him one more time.
He set down the unicorn gently as the other toys ambled back to their tea party. The unicorn stood with a sequined hoof on his leg, watching with him as the other five sat in their places and then flumped into stillness.
“I promise I’ll get something to protect this and then I’ll bring it back,” Felix said to the unicorn.
The unicorn hugged his hip tight enough to make its squeaker peep. Felix stroked its back and cradled the music box safely into the crook of his elbow. The unicorn limped away, flumping into stillness before reaching the tea party and – for all intentions – appearing to have been dropped by a child too excited to remember they were holding a toy after seeing the rest having tea.
He stood up and brushed off the dry leaves sticking to his pajama pants. The most trampled way out of the clearing was behind him. There were also dogs barking and people yelling kind of in front of him and off to his left, though, so he decided that way was a much better direction. He jogged at first, wanting distance between himself and the clearing so the search dogs wouldn’t get into the toys, and then starting yelling replies to the people calling his name once he knew he was far enough away.
A warm jacket was wrapped over his shoulders and he’d already talked to his mom on someone’s phone when the screaming started. It was originating from the direction of the searchers who had been approaching toward the way most trampled. His grip tightened on the music box he wouldn’t let anyone else touch. Chatter over the search team’s radios confirmed they’d found Luis. What was left of Luis.
Animals had gotten to Luis. There were coyotes out here, after all. The search and rescue teams all agreed it was a miracle that Felix wasn’t hurt.
Felix looked over the arm that was hugging him, consoling him over the loss of his step father. The arm belonged to a woman who smelled like melon perfume. Two eyes that were too perfectly round were staring at him from the dark shadow inside the rotten end of a fallen tree behind her. The button eyes belonged to a little penguin with a flipper arm that was falling off. Felix’s vision flickered and the penguin changed, but quickly went back to looking right when he blinked. Felix hummed a couple of bars from The Teddy Bears Picnic and, smiling, decided he would bring thread and needles when he brought the music box back.
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!