What a great start to the week! For writing news: my debut novel (The Centurion's Woman: Maiden) got a 4 star and 5 star review with full write-up (the link is over on my Reviews page if you'd like to check it out), book 2 in The Centurion's Woman, Warrior, is getting so much initial interest, and then I got to confirm my mailing address for the promotional materials Austin Macauley is sending me for An'ji - which will be out likely at the end of this month! For personal news: my hubby grabbed a job and will be starting next week, both my kids are still (somewhat surprisingly) alive and healthy with me taking over the full-time at home while he's updating his training prior to starting back to work (he's been a stay-at-home dad for 6-1/2 years), and my cosplay costume is *almost* done.
Up to Wednesday was awesome!
So what the heck happened on Thursday?
Anxiety provided the worrying realization that that much good stuff should be tempered with multiple days of nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's what happened.
Is there another shoe? No. No, there isn't. Does that argument help? No. No, it doesn't. So, now it's Friday and I'm mad at myself for wasting a day in self-defeating ruminations. Time to channel my inner Magrat. More good stuff is coming up and - dammit - I won't let my own brain tell me to be scared of it!
3. First Contact
“Commander Archer seems more troubled this morning than when we spoke to him yesterday,” Master Catsh also looked troubled as he stowed the view cube back into his pack.
“Yes,” Addint answered. “But you heard him as well as I did. We're all to start wearing the amulets as of now.”
The amulets were smaller, simplified versions of the view cube. They were designed only to transmit, not to receive. Master Catsh removed the five small packets from where they had been stowed in his bag beside the view cube. Each of the young men took one and unwrapped it, then tied the leather thongs the crystals hung off of around their necks.
“This means he believes us to be getting close,” Addint quietly vocalized the thought in each man's mind.
“If, of course, there is anyone to get close to,” Master Chintson replied, hopeful that there was nothing out here.
The first knife took Chintson high in the back and he burped up a mouthful of blood before falling over sideways in the snow. The four remaining blinked at their dead friend, momentarily and completely perplexed.
“Scatter!” Addint recovered first and ordered the rest into motion.
They bolted in different directions, diving for what they hoped would be cover. Master Arden was the slowest to respond; his focus staying horrifically transfixed on the contrast of the red blood on the white snow. The second knife thrown caught Arden in the throat. He gurgled out what might have been a scream and fell to the snow beside his friend.
Addint slid in behind a small boulder beside Catsh as the third knife he saw sliced past where his head had just been. Enti ducked into a divot in the ground that was covered by scrub growth, narrowly dodging the small missiles aimed at him by their unseen assailant.
Catsh had dropped into a trance the moment he was covered by the large stone. He snapped out of it a few heartbeats after Addint slid in beside him.
“There's only one. He has two knives left,” a sheen of sweat appeared on Catsh's brow.
When Addint glanced out towards where Enti had gone, he could see the trail of red in the snow that led to where Catsh was now sitting. A knife was buried high in Catsh's right thigh, vibrating with each beat of his heart.
Addint stared at his friend for a split second then slammed his hands hard over the wound around the knife as best he could. Catsh smiled at him.
“It's too deep for that, Addint. But thanks anyway.”
Catsh's eyes glazed over again, his smile dropping away.
“This man is a scout. The rest of the army is still two hours down the valley from here,” he took a shuddering breath. “Enti could get a clear view of the camp if he can get up there,” he pointed at the cliff face to the west that was about a half day's travel from where they were. “You'll have to hurry, the camp sentries start patrolling before sundown.”
Catsh emerged from the trance. Addint didn't know what to say. He took one of his blood covered hands from the wound and pressed it to his friend's chest. Catsh looked at him, trying hard to focus.
“Addint?” he grabbed out in the general direction of his friend.
“I’m here,” Addint answered as he pushed his fingers into Catsh's hands.
“Tell the Commander he was right,” Catsh demanded as a grin tried to push out at the corners of his mouth. “I am just... just another... useless mage,” his breath shuddered again and he touched the handle of the knife. “Just here to... get in the way... so you... you can get through...”
Catsh died with a smile playing at his lips.
Enti circled around the clear spot they had been sitting in, slipping out of his coat and leaving it piled where he had first ducked for cover. He had been just within hearing distance of Catsh as he'd said that there was only one man, so decided to eliminate the threat.
Enti silently pulled his own good hunting knife as he belly crawled around the snow covered clearing. The other man was well placed, entirely hidden from where the young men had been sitting, but still having a complete view of the whole clearing. The man was quickly shifting his gaze from where Addint and Catsh were and over to where Enti's coat still was, hoping to get a clear line of sight.
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!