6. An Allied Beginning
“You would help me?” She stared at him, blinking with disbelief.
“To stop this corner from unraveling? Yes. Without hesitation,” he replied, so sincere that Gabby felt tears prickle at her eyes. “This plan of yours is a good one.”
She hadn’t been able to share her plan with anyone for fear of her father’s spies, and now Dorgand was an ally to it after only a few minutes of conversation. And he was her cousin. And… blink twice if Lydo’s father murdered my mother; she blinked twice, enough to push back the threatening tears. Now was not the time for emotions, but explanations… Her focus narrowed and she rose to her feet. Lydo smiled, as if reading her thoughts. Maybe he was reading her thoughts. She wasn’t guarding her expression, so what she was thinking had to be showing on her face pretty clear.
“First, let’s stop this corner from unraveling in under two weeks. After that, I’ll answer whatever questions of yours I can, swear and seal,” he promised. The air sizzled in front of him. A seal matching that on Lydo’s chest hovered like a heat mirage half way between them. It was the same as the watery memory of her mother’s vow, except this was an image made of wildfire sparks and storm lightning. He chuckled at the shocked expression on her face when the mirage popped out of existence. “It’s a sorcerer’s promise. We take those kinds of oaths seriously, so you’ll need to be careful who you make promises to now that you know you’re one of the Magiks.”
“But I’m not, I’m –”
“About to port an entire siege army into enemy territory to stop a war before it starts,” he interrupted, still smiling. “You’re a sorcerer. And once you do this, they’ll know too,” he said, pointing at the stack of Wrote parchments. “We’re both going to have a lot of explaining to do once they call on you. And they will call on you after you do what you’re planning to.”
“Oh,” she said, not sure what else to say. What else was there to say?
“All right. So, I’ll eliminate whatever assassin or assassins are after you, then come and pick up the message you want to send to your brother in, say, three or four days. Once we have his agreement, you’ll be clear to port in for the siege. Sound about right?”
“Perfect! I knew it was the right idea to bring you here.”
“Wait!” She held up both hands in a stopping gesture. “You expect people to believe the immortal Dorgand is doing my bidding and delivering messages for me?”
“Well… oh.” His brows furrowed together as he realized the flaw in his logic. “Actually, once you’ve ported an entire army across the distance of a two-week march, it will become a lot more believable that I’m working for you,” he reasoned. “Actually, we can spread some rumors that we’re working together for the good of the people. All the people. I mean, it’ll be fine. It's the truth, after all.”
“That – I can’t believe I’m saying it – but telling the truth might work to explain things after.”
“See? It’s perfect!” He beamed a smile at her and nodded to himself. “So, are you able to port out from here or do we have to go back up to the tower?”
“Um…” The chair crept closer behind her legs as she rocked back on her heels. “I’m free to just… go?”
“You’re going to have to if any of this is going to work. I don’t have porting power, I’m just lightning and fire and air pressure. Sky stuff. Using the tower is how I summoned you.”
Gabby pulled together a couple threads of thought and felt the familiar slip feeling inside her gut that accompanied a tugging for wanting to get to her tent. “I can port from here,” she said, truly surprised at the finding. And at how far away she was from the camp right now.
“All right. Well, I guess I’ll see you in a few days, then.” He smiled awkwardly. “And, um, thank you. For stopping this corner of the world from unraveling.”
“I haven’t stopped anything yet.”
“I know, but… we’ve still got two weeks, right?” He held up one hand in a friendly wave. “Bye.”
Gabrhyne barely concentrated and still easily arrived safely in her tent. She sat heavily on her bed with a sigh and rubbed her hands over her face. It sounded like everyone was yelling and at least half the camp was running around.
“I’m here!” she called. A few confused shouts that she’d been found started and seconds later the flap to her tent was shoved aside for Daratno and Natta to stride in. “I’m fine!” She spoke over top of the questions they immediately peppered her with, standing up to meet them half way to the entrance. “I’m fine,” she repeated in a normal speaking tone once they were quiet.
Daratno was still carrying her sword. Without another word, he snapped her into a hug so tight that the pommel dug into her shoulder blade, its angry vibration of being dropped and abandoned making her teeth ache on top of the rib-crushing grip Daratno had on her.
“What happened?” Natta asked when the one-sided hug ended as suddenly as it had begun.
“A lot,” Gabby replied. She settled a hand onto Daratno’s arm before he could retreat more than a step away and smiled at him. “Most I have to think about alone, but I need you two to get everyone ready to move in a few days’ time. I know I’ve been saying weeks, but we don’t have those anymore.” Both of her commanders frowned sharply, they already didn’t like being unaware of what she was planning and having her changing the lack of plans immediately after disappearing like she had was something they liked even less.
“Where are we moving to?” Natta asked. It had been his most often voiced question since she’d ordered the army gathered.
“And why so sudden of a change from weeks to days?” Daratno demanded. “You still haven’t even told us your initial plan, and now the weeks you’ve been assuring us about are suddenly gone? What happened? And where – ?”
“I’ll explain, but not right now. I really need time to think. I'm asking you now for a few more days of trust instead of a few weeks, isn’t that better?”
They both glared at her, but eventually nodded grudging agreement.
“It feels like a big change, I know, but I think it’ll be good. For everyone.”
Whoops! It's 12:13 am now, so technically Sunday and I'm late getting this done.
Let's see... updates... Not much. Hubby is working nights six days a week, so we communicate by grocery list. He's still our designated Leave The House Guy for groceries and supplies, which he does Sunday morning before going to bed for the day because it's easier for him to head out after having dinner than it is for me to load up the kids and attempt shopp- DON'T TOUCH THAT -ing.
My oldest is a night owl and had worked her sleep schedule around to line up with her dad's working sleep schedule. So, I guess she's a vampire now? But a fancy vampire, because fashion, so that would make her a vampyre.
I convinced her to start working back toward sleeping at night as there's only 4 weeks until school starts and our Provincial Premier made the call that schools will reopen as normal... I'm not looking forward to the enforced schedule of early mornings.
Oh, and there's that pandemic thing still happening. I'm pretty angry about forcing teachers and students into classrooms with zero support, after cuts to staffing and custodial services this summer, while a virus with known deadly consequences and unknown long-term effects and which aerosols in enclosed buildings remains prominent in our province, at a time when our "leadership" is fighting with doctors and attempting to force them out of the province.
The mandatory mask order is great, but I doubt my soon-to-be Grade 1 student will be in a class of high compliance 6-year-olds. I can get her to wear hers, I think (face it: kids at school are not the same personalities as kids at home), but I'm not in charge of other people's kids and our classrooms are overcrowded. It's a sad feeling to wonder if my child's teacher will die this year, or if my kids will have to live with life-long lung and/or brain damage. Or if my kids will have to live on without one or both parents. Especially, it's a sad feeling that all the talk and surveys around safe reopening which happened at the end of June resulted in the method "leadership" chose being None Of The Above.
Needless to say, my anxiety has been a larger-than-usual monster eating my brain. Couple that up with the ongoing ouch in my hands / wrists, and it was a surprise of dumbfounding proportions that I got some writing done on Friday. Small scenes, all in my big manuscript, but it was writing and it felt good. It still feels good! There's more that needs to get out of my head and into my computer, but the small step of getting some of the words out was awesome. Hope you're staying safe and healthy this weekend!
5. Moving Pieces
A chair she hadn’t noticed spun out from the wall in a puff of dust and slammed to a stop just behind Lydo, catching him perfectly as his legs faltered. He slumped into it as if furniture racing to assist people was entirely normal.
“Your father is still alive?” he asked, voice trembling and his face flushing as if he’d been taken with a sudden fever.
Gabby swallowed hard, suddenly remembering very well the stories of consequences doled out in retaliation for unsettling sorcerers, and nodded agreement. Lydo buried his face in his hands and rocked full body, the chair creaking under his shifting weight.
“This is bad. This is so bad,” he intoned as a mutter before slouching back dramatically. “My dad was imprisoned when they found out he hadn’t stayed to ensure you were dead. But your dad still being alive…? And they didn’t know? This is so much worse.” He stood from the chair and started pacing. “Wait,” he said, stopping and spinning to face Gabby. “And you have a younger half-brother?”
“Gabrick, yes,” she answered quietly.
He groaned loudly and the chair scooted half the distance toward him. It stopped when he resumed pacing. “What am I going to do? Wait, though, why didn’t they know?” He asked the second question toward Gabby, as if she would knew the answer. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Who are ‘they’?” Gabby asked carefully.
“The ones who write the Wrote. They’re the ones who know,” he said, as if that explained anything.
“Except you just said they didn’t know.”
“I know! It doesn’t make sense, does it. They should have known, but they didn’t. How could they not know, though?” He spun back into pacing. “Well, now I know, but that means there are actually three untied endings not just you.”
“I suppose, except…”
“Except?” he asked hopefully, half the library away and pausing to stare at her as if she might have an answer after all.
Gabby chose her words with utmost caution. “My father has taken ill in his old age, and is right now attempting to incite war between my brother and I.” She tapped a finger to the second line of the Wrote.
“But your family trait is porting. Why incite war when he could just port in, kill some key people, and start one?”
Her father’s earlier visit tonight raced through her mind. “He enjoys the power of creating the war rather than being the cause of it,” she replied.
“What’s the point of creating a war between his own children, though? Especially with his own lands and people positioned right in the middle of where the conflict would occur?”
“He’s dying, and wants proof through victory that is successor will be a strong Liege.”
“Oh. But by pitting his own children against each other and with so many lands and tribes in the middle of it? That’s… vile.” Lydo frowned at the internal dialogue running through his mind. “You’ve of course ported to your brother and discussed this war idea amicably to ensure it doesn’t happen though, right?”
“No,” she admitted. “We signed an agreement when he came to power over his mother’s people that we would never port to each other. Our father uses porting as a –” she paused, hesitating over how to continue.
“He abuses porting, and you two agreed not to do that to each other so you could build trust,” Lydo interrupted.
“Yes.” Gabby nodded, relieved she didn't have to explain after all.
“So, you’re the Liege of your mother’s people, and your brother is the Liege of his mother’s people, so aside from your father’s instigations what is there to even start a war for?”
“My father’s holdings.”
Lydo scoffed. “Those are barely worth a brawl,” he muttered.
“Yes,” she said. “Which is why I’m not engaging in the war,” she continued. Lydo’s eyes narrowed but he remained silent. Gabby lost the silent battle against telling him the plan she hadn’t even yet shared with her commanders. “My brother’s people have a negligible military. I’ve amassed an army for the purpose of occupying my father’s lands and lying siege on his capital until he dies. It will stop him from invading my lands under the guise of offering my brother support, and prevent him from invading my brother’s lands under the guise of supporting me.”
“What if he doesn’t die quickly? Or his own military slows or stops your advance? This plan of yours could create a lot of unnecessary bloodshed among your father’s people and your own, beyond just marching there and establishing a siege.”
Gabby shifted uneasily and stared at the parchment page she was fidgeting with.
“No way,” Lydo said, his tone slightly awed. “Do you have that much power?”
She shrugged one shoulder and then nodded to the positive. "I practiced with our fleet of fishing ships," she said, still not looking up.
“What about your brother? Can he… no, of course not. You having that kind of strength, it must have come from your mother’s side. From…”
Gabby lifted her eyes in silent question, watching him as he decided whether or not to continue.
“From our side,” he said. “Your mother was my father’s cousin. She must have had dormant power, or the marriage never would have been arranged. My dad must have suspected, or else he wouldn’t have tried to stop the wedding.”
A chair slammed to a stop behind her legs and Gabby dropped into it as if she’d just been punched. The memory of her mother’s family crest wavering between Lashiss and the elder Dorgand that night after her mother had vowed to leave and hide away with Gabby, she’d thought she’d imagined it. But, if her mother did have sorcerer magic, and really was one of the legendary Magiks…? Gabby’s thoughts dissolved into chaos.
Lydo regained her attention by clearing his throat politely. “Do you… do you really think your plan will work? Can you hold the siege against the capital for long enough?”
She tried to pull her exploded focus about her mother back into control and regain enough order in her mind to answer the questions he’d just asked. “Holding the capitol? Yes. As long as I can get trustworthy word to Rick, to my brother, so he knows what I’m doing and why before my father’s assassin gets to me. After my father is dead, Rick and I can decide how to deal with his holdings once we’ve spoken to all his tribal leaders, Generals and advisors. We can arrange peace negotiations between all three holdings after those lands have a Liege,” she answered woodenly.
“When were you going to make your move?”
“I expected to move in three weeks. I need to be certain of getting word to and from my brother.”
Lydo tapped his foot, lightning sparking around his toe, and then he began to pace again. “What if I deal with the assassin and then take word to your brother? It would only take me a few days at most, working around all those ‘Dorgand is walking’ tales and rumors,” he said, making his voice mockingly booming for the ‘Dorgand is walking’ part. “Nobody would argue with a sorcerer’s message delivery being trustworthy,” he added with a wry smile.
I have too much stuff. It pushes on my thoughts and clutters up my thinking.
I'm not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, I like having things, but something being a thing means it has purpose and requirement. Stuff, on the other hand, seems to creep in and settle around all the things with no discernible reason. What I'm calling 'stuff' when I say I have too much of it is all the stuff that gets picked up and used and never put away and just sits there with no further purpose or use.
Seriously, we had a garage sale two weeks ago and I'm still feeling cluttered by corners and pressured by piles and I have no idea where all the stuff is coming from! Papers creep onto my desk – they're drawings from my kids and mail I haven't put away and printouts I needed for whatever I was doing that day – but they come and settle and never seem to go. I clean them off and put them away and they creep back, or new ones slip into the mix.
Over in the spare bedroom / sewing room / craft supply room / good grief why is so much in there room, there's a path between all the things and stuff to get to the one clear spot on the sewing table with work area and... I hate it. I hate going in there to get things. It's not even a storage issue, things are stored pretty good, there's just stuff on and around all the things. It feels like the more things I'd tried to have organized, the more stuff gets in the way or put on top when I'm done.
Living room and kitchen and dining room things can all be put away, that's clutter and kid detritus and the mess of people who like living and playing in their space. It doesn't bother me. It was a total surprise, but I'm that mom who doesn't mind my kids being walking Crayola-war-painted bombs of crumbs and glitter as long as it comes with smiles and laughter. (I was not a single person who thought crumbs and glitter were fine lol.)
The stuff that weighs on me are the unfinished projects my hands don't work for knitting on right now, and the things that have storage places but aren't put away because my hands aren't working right now, and the stories and plots in my thoughts I can't type up because my hands aren't working right now. Anxiety, depression, and chronic pain look and feel like the mess around me has gravity that just pushes down until things and stuff all start looking like they have the same level of useless and standing up is too hard to even attempt to do let alone trying to clean a corner or tidy a table after actually getting to my feet...
This week has been a struggle. I'm glad it's Saturday. My pain cycles are based on activity levels and intensities, so I knew when planning this week it was going to be bad based on what I had to get done. I didn't expect to be this angry about it, though.
I hope you're staying safe and healthy this weekend!
4. The Wrote
Gabby straightened her posture and, as she didn’t have her sword, internally fought to decide if she should fight bare-fisted, bow, kneel, or flee. Her heart pounded against her ribs and her breath raced. If she fled, could she even outrun a sorcerer with the power to port her from anywhere? And kneeling… did Lieges kneel? Did the small sparks and lightning he was causing mean he could call fire and control lightning? Legends said so much and she suddenly couldn’t remember any of it… but was the son of the legend still the legend? Could she fight him?
There was only one viable course to take. She tilted forward from the hip and –
“Yikes! No! You don’t have to bow or –”
He interrupted himself by springing to his feet and holding out both hands in a stopping gesture. Gabby straightened slowly and wondered how many steps toward the nearest window she could run before she was cut down by fire or lightning, how far the fall was if she broke through the glass, and if the clouds supporting this structure would also bear her weight or if the fall would continue.
“I brought you here as my” –he shrugged– “guest? I need your help.” His hands fell to dangle at his sides. “My dad died three months ago. He’d been sick for the past few years. Last night, the premonition was written to us… me… that this whole corner of the world would be, um, unraveling…” Lydo’s voice drifted to a stop, the final word lilting up to form the sentence into sounding like a question. His fingers tapped on his leg like he was nervous. “I think this would all be easier for you to understand if you read it for yourself.”
The decision made, he snapped his fingers. Gabby winced and slammed her eyes shut. She expected to open them to see new surroundings, or never open them again, but was still standing in the sky-built ballroom when she cracked one eye open again. Lydo was watching her, his expression one of utter and hopeless defeat. It made him look like a child.
“You’re not mad. You’re just really, really terrified of me, aren’t you?” he asked, voice small, then sighed and toed at the floor again. “The prophecy, the Wrote was that only ‘the untied ending’ was capable of ‘correcting balance’ and, well, you’re the only untied end my father ever told me about. Please, would you at least come and read it?”
“Your father murdered my mother,” Gabby said. The words came out strongly, and she staggered back from the sound of the echo.
“He wasn’t meant to, though,” Lydo quickly replied. “Your father and all of his children were the targets of that prophecy, so…” his explanation faded and he coughed quietly. “I guess you weren’t expecting being able to speak about it here. The casting they put on you for talking about it probably excludes Magiks, like me, in case you were needed for the trial. And looking at your face now I’ve said that, I can assume I’ve just made an even bigger mess of this.” He buried his face in his hands. “Please just come read the Wrote from last night?” he asked with his mouth still behind his palms.
Everything he’d said up until this moment, dumped on top of the turmoil her father’s visit had already caused, swirled around her mind and confused her into immobility. Her heart was pounding so hard it hurt the inside of her chest and she felt dizzy. The only thing making any sense was that she needed to get back to her camp and her people, and apparently solving whatever problem this sorcerer – Lydo, he’d said his name was – had with his prophecy was her best way to freedom.
Looking out at the tops of clouds, Gabby didn’t see how she had much of a choice.
“All right,” she agreed. He stared at her around his fingers and then dropped his hands to slap at his legs as if clapping for a performance
“Really? You will? I mean, great! That’s really great. Please, it’s just this way.” He gestured widely to the stair railing and nearly sprinted to it in his haste to lead the way.
Gabby studied the architecture closely on the way down, wary of traps or deception, and saw only a set of stairs wide enough for three friends to walk comfortably side by side that led to an equally wide, gently curving hallway. Everything was built of grey stone, thick and unimaginative, and lit by the same style of candle-less chandeliers as in the ballroom (except these were much smaller).
Lydo paused and turned back to flash a relieved smile at her every few steps. He also never stopped talking from the moment his boots touched the first stair until they were in a warm but sparsely furnished library, of sorts. His babble was a relay of his life, unintelligible because the story was impossible to hear through her shock, but she grasped a few points: he was a similar age to her younger brother, Dorgand was a family name and not a single person, and her mother had known his father. It was too difficult to absorb every detail, but she learned Lydo’s father had attended on her mother the day before Gabby’s parents had gotten married to request Lashiss not go through with the wedding.
The barren library had tall windows on the wall opposite the doorway they entered through, but these showed only fog and darkness so the reflections of the room were clearer to see than anything outside. The available light came from colorless spheres floating near the ceiling which lazily drifted around and bumped into walls and each other. Three floor-to-ceiling book cases were placed one to each wall without windows, each barely half full, and a thick layer of dust covered the empty shelves and most of the books. In the center of the room stood a pedestal with a stack of thick parchments and absolutely nothing to use for writing on them.
“This is where we – I, I guess now – receive the Wrote, which is what us Magiks call what you would think of as prophecies except it’s a shorter word. Anyway, this is the last one we, I, received. As I told you upstairs in the tower, it came last night.” He motioned for her to approach the lone stack of parchments he was standing beside.
Dorgand’s guarded corner unravels.
In two weeks hence a war of decimation haunts.
Balance must be corrected through the untied ending.
Gabby read the gibberish sentences a second time to see if there was something she was missing. She lifted the page on top, just in case there was more on the page below to add meaning to the three lines, but there was only a blank page underneath. Lydo made a choked whimpering sound before carefully taking the top parchment out of her hands and smoothing it back onto the top of the pile.
“So ‘Dorgand’s guarded corner’ in this usage means the part of the world that the Dorgand family protects and oversees, and the use of ‘unravel’ is just an allusion to all things being composed of the fabric of the universe. And here, saying that the war 'haunts', that means it's a looming possibility but can still be avoided,” Lydo explained. “The ‘two weeks hence’ is the deadline to get balance restored and avoid the war which will cause our corner of the universe to unravel. So, I need your help because you have to be the untied ending because you’re, well, alive, right? You were supposed to be dead and you’re not.”
Gabby read the Wrote one more time, slowly, tapping her finger on the bottom of the parchment for each syllable. Right now, she was fairly certain her life – and possibly the lives of everyone she knew and cared for – was hanging on this Dorgand not killing her. That outcome seemed to rest on figuring out the answer to whatever this confused riddle was he’d ported her here to solve. She focused her attention and shut out the clamoring confusion.
“To be clear,” she said, “you’re assuming that because your father was sent to kill my father and all his children, me still being alive makes me your needed ‘untied ending’?” she asked, carefully.
“Yes,” he said, quickly and confidently.
“Except, by that same logic, my father and younger half-brother are also untied endings, aren’t they?”
Not much to report about this week as most of the week was recovery. Setting up and packing up the garage sale we had last weekend ruined my hands, so not a lot of anything was happening for me during the past seven days. Just lots of nothing (ie: rest).
If you've never dealt with repetitive strain injuries, I really hope you never have to. Especially in the chronically recurring way I'm stuck with which has spanned the past 27 years for me. If you're recently dealing with a new repetitive strain injury, treat the symptoms and rest the injury, then stretch and strengthen the injured area under the guidance of a good physiotherapist so the injury doesn't come back.
My latest round of setback pain was from straight-up overuse. Too much lifting / grabbing using hands and fingers, and then extra computer work for making up a website, so both wrists were over-fatigued. Cue up the ouch. Rest for every day since Monday consisted of no typing, no knitting, minimal lifting (I'm still a mom, life provides lifting requirements), wearing support braces, regular pain meds, and crushing anxiety about All The Things I'm Not Doing.
Sounds super fun, right?
My physiotherapist noted the positive that this setback pain required a lot more aggravation than previous, similar pain levels. Inside my brain that was definitely a spiral-snuffing thought. Behold! The wisdom of progress monitoring! She was absolutely right, the past six months of physio are providing strength improvements which in turn provide less pain and this setback pain proves the point, but it still hurts and feels like back-sliding. Good thing to remember as my reminder to self this weekend: "feels like" and "actually is" are two different things.
Hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
3. Disappearing Acts
The visit from her father and then thinking about everything after her mother died; her father disappearing and leaving her as a child Liege, leaving home to live with Uncle Mazzo when her father returned, the politics and games … she needed some fresh air. In a rash tempt to fate and the assassin apparently coming for her, she took off her armor and decided only to carry her sword. A heavy cloak would keep off the physical symptoms of tonight’s drizzle, and a warm fire combined with some laughs and pleasant conversation should get rid of the worst of the coldness inside her.
The ground was soft and her footsteps barely rustled the sparse grasses. Her camp had been here a week. It was a long enough time to have packed trails in the common routes between tents but not long enough for the grass to give up completely and leave everyone walking in mud. Her sword rattled in its scabbard as she shivered and pulled her cloak tighter closed, then it vibrated like laughter before humming happily about being immune to feeling the damp chill in the evening air. In each direction she looked, fires and conversations were warmly shared at common junctions and the smells of leather, horses, spiced teas, and thick soups infused the dark along with light and laughter.
At the nearest fire were her two top commanders, Daratno and Natta. Daratno saw her first and smiled. Her stomach flipped and her knees wobbled like she was a girl. Gabryhn quickly reminded herself about how annoying she’d thought his awkward and adoring attentions were after first moving to these territories with Uncle Mazzo, her mother’s brother, and that a fluttering stomach had no place inside her now she was the Liege.
The untasted mug of tea he stole from Natta spilled and burned his fingers as he held it out in invitation for Gabby to join them for a hot drink on a cold evening. Natta’s quick laugh at the instant revenge his tea had wrought helped her smile. These two as her top commanders… they were good choices but both were utter goofs in the rare moments they weren’t being commanders.
Natta was strong and tall, his skin browned by years in the sun and his eyes and hair a dark compliment to his rugged features. He possessed a fast, steady hand and a calm mind both in combat and in training. In contrast to Natta’s handsome bearing, Daratno’s nose was a half-size too small for his face, and his teeth a size to large. He was leanly muscled and – at least in training and battle – possessed the most grace of motion Gabby had ever seen a person control. His eyes and hair were almost the same color of dark brown, nearly black, and he had a smattering of sun-born freckles across both cheeks that looked like someone had flicked a wet paintbrush at him.
Gabby returned his smile and opened her mouth to wonder aloud how he managed to be so skilled with his sword and simultaneously so clumsy without it. Her ears popped and she stumbled to a stop, boot heels clicking on polished flagstones. A sharp inhalation proved the air was suddenly sharp and crisply dry.
Back in the camp, her sword thumped to the trail she’d just been walking on. Daratno dropped both mugs of tea and leapt to his feet, looking around for the Liege who suddenly wasn’t there before being the first to raise the alarm.
Gabby’s gaze swept the change in surroundings. Tall, wide windows paned with clear glass were set at even intervals around each wall, the view outside of mountain peaks in each direction above clouds lit gold and purple from below by the last of the sunset. A high, domed ceiling arched overhead. The impressive stonework to support it was open to see and bathed in light by a multitude of white-lit chandeliers which didn’t have any candles in them. The chandeliers were glowing brightly. A railing emerged in a gentle curve up from the floor near the wall to her left side and Gabby could see the first few polished stone steps leading down.
She was in the middle of what looked like, from here, some kind of sky-built… ballroom? A low stage where musicians would be expected to sit was centered at the long end of the oblong room, opposite the railing for the stairs. One person stood at the front of the stage; a stranger, wearing clothing identical to what Dorgand had worn the night he’d murdered her mother.
Gabby snarled and reached for her sword. Her hand closed on empty air where the hilt should have been. The person nodded and sighed, then sat down on the edge of the stage while making a spiral gesture with one hand to encompass the entire ballroom.
“No weapons allowed. It’s a thing my grandfather set up and my dad kept charged so I keep it going, too. Great fun when you forget to take off a dagger on the way up the stairs and it clatters around your feet like a cat trying to trip you. I’m… um… I’m Edden Dorgand’s son, Lydo,” he said. He was fidgeting with his sleeves. His face looked no older than her brother’s, but the similarity to the man who’d killed her mother was there in the shape of his cheeks and the lines of his nose.
“Dorgand’s… son?” Gabby forced out the question. Her brain was reeling from both the sudden change in surroundings and the thundering information that an immortal sorcerer had a son… and a father? And a stone ballroom built on the clouds?
Lydo cleared his throat and opened his mouth, apparently changed his mind about speaking before even uttering a sound, and then his teeth clicked shut and he nodded a silent, positive response to her question. His shoulders drooped on the third head motion and he sighed, head staying bowed. After a moment, he inhaled as if he was going to speak, then glanced at her and dropped head again to stare at his feet. He scoffed and kicked at an invisible rock instead. Lightning sparked and crackled around the toe of his boot, reflecting in the polished flagstones.
“I’ve been practicing what to say for nearly an hour,” he said, looking across at her, completely at ease with lightning fizzling to a stop around his foot yet visibly uncomfortable holding her gaze. “I was going to explain everything really well. But then… you look so much angrier than I expected and… and…” His words ended haltingly and he scoffed at himself. “Of course you’re really angry. You must think I kidnapped you,” he muttered. He slapped the stage with his hand. His bare palm striking the stone rang out like steel and yellow sparks skittered across what would be the woodwind’s section, in a standard orchestra arrangement.
Here in Edmonton it's nearly a quarter past eight in the evening on July 11, 2020, which means I am technically still updating on Saturday as promised by my home page. I mean, in a lot of the rest of the world it's already Sunday, but here in the far west of the global land masses I can claim not being late. Yay! Time Zones! LOL
How's you're weekend going? We're having a garage sale. I interacted with more people in the six hours our stuff was available to buy today than I think I've spoken to in person for the past five months. The awesome part was that likely half of everyone who dropped by was wearing a mask, and the unmasked folks were 100% cool with physical distancing while speaking. My hands are raw from sanitizing after every cash exchange, but that's just my eczema flaring because my husband – with his partly iron-based skin – did the majority of the cash taking and change making.
I also just want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who's buying our stuff. You people are wonderful for getting things out of our basement! :)
On the writing side of things, I'm playing with the cute romance more and got some good writing time in with that story. The changes I'm picking away at for the big manuscript unlocked a few new scenes that are percolating at the back of my brain... soon they'll be ready for committing to draft status mwa ha ha ha! (They're not actually evil scenes, so the "evil laugh" can stay non-caps and little. Kind of a half-hearted, evil chuckle.)
Otherwise, it's just been summer break at our house. Not much going on and even less happening. It's a lovely change of pace and I'm enjoying it immensely. I hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
While stitching the thick canvas, Gabby reviewed the short conversation for anything that could have a double meaning or different connotation than what she’d originally thought he’d said. As usual, she was exhausted from the multiple meanings of everything he said only a few minutes later. The cut was mended, however, so at least that was done. She put the needle and remaining sinew away and sat on her cot beside her sword.
“What do you think about it?” she asked the blade, resting one hand on the sheath. The desire to slit her father’s throat raced up her arm and she chuckled. “I know exactly what you mean, but…” She let the sentence die and shrugged.
Killing her father would force her bother into combat; defense of honor and family retribution and all that. Her father’s Generals would be honor-bound by the death of their Liege to attack her lands and people as well. Those arguments amounted to only so much garbage, but would mean she’d be the one responsible for rushing the war into reality instead of sticking to her plan to stop it. Starting a war that would decimate thousands of lives and ruin so many lands was something she could not live with.
The blade on her bed whispered a sigh and offered only the warm comfort of cold steel. Negotiations and information were still what she knew to be the best options available, and the hardest considering what she was going to have do for them.
Ignoring the pending assassin supposedly from her brother – but paid for and organized by her father – until they arrived and then killed her was the easiest option… for her. Her death, the death of Liege Gabrhyne, would mean tens of thousands of people without a leader or protector, though, and her army would be without a General. Her land’s longest border was with her father, a second small border was shared with a quiet Liege who Gabby respected and protected from her father, and then a long stretch of coastline. Her brother’s lands were on the other side of their father's.
Many of her people were seafaring, but there wasn’t anywhere else to go. The sea was only so large, and other lands they’d discovered were not places that could support families. Of course they built huts and sheds on the barren rocks they’d found, maintaining the buildings as outposts for fishing seasons, but that was it.
If she failed at avoiding the war Liege Gabron was trying to start and then lost, or was successfully assassinated and her people were forced into an honor-bound war and lost, her lands would fall to the victor. Liege Gabrick (her brother) was too far away physically to hold peace between tribes, even if he tried, and Liege Gabrhyne didn’t have a chosen heir yet. Gabby’s people would be at the mercy of her father until the old man died, with no guarantee of how soon that event would occur. And her father, Liege Gabron, was well known for the extent of his mercy; it was usually measured in widths of mouse whiskers and not known to exceed amounts into double digits.
Gabby’s ears finally popped. Her father had gotten bored of waiting for her to say anything of importance to her sword and finally ported away. Everyone on her father’s side of the family could port. That was their talent. Her mother’s family was untalented, as was normal for an arranged wedding match. The more powerful families had talents, and married into untalented families to ensure talents remained pure, whatever that meant.
Legends said Dorgand was the reason why some families had talents, although there wasn’t anything except legends to say so. None of those stories ever explained how the talents came to be. Every time he’d walked the lands before, recorded throughout history, familial culls occurred or new talents in previously untalented families began. Gabby had been a child the last time the sorcerer had walked, and her brother Rick hadn’t been conceived yet.
It was the first memory she had of her father’s unending cowardice, and the last of her mother’s devoted bravery. Dorgand had walked into their home in the middle of the night, slaughtered the few bastards her father had fathered with other women around the manor, and crossed swords with Gabby’s mother in Gabby’s bedroom while Gabby hid under the bed. In hindsight and with a General’s experience, under a bed wasn’t a particularly useful place to hide. It was the only hiding place among the traditionally barren furnishings of the bedroom that her mother could quickly use, though.
Gabby’s mother had attempted to barter during the duel. She’d offered anything and everything available to her, including every part of wealth behind her and Gabron’s families, and then vowing per the sacred rights – to swear and seal, which had shimmered as her family crest like a watery memory before being slashed aside – to take Gabby away and disappear into obscurity. None of it had swayed the mission of the sorcerer. Dorgand had apologized first, tried to reason for something he called a Wrote, and then pleaded for Lashiss to step aside. Then he’d cut her down when she wouldn’t allow him access to Gabron’s final remaining child. When Lashiss fell, so did he; weeping and clinging to her hand after completing the task of killing her.
Against the logic of anyone but a nine-year-old child who’d just witnessed their mother being killed defending them and knowing they would now die now no matter what, Gabby had crawled to her mother’s side. It was better to die there, with her, then alone under the bed.
“Why did you do that? I was never here to harm you,” Dorgand whispered, his voice tight and pained. He was leaning over and stroking Lashiss’ face, not seeing Gabrhyne’s approach until she picked up her mother’s other hand and sobbed. Lashiss then turned her eyes to her only child, smiled, and breathed her last.
Legends and rumors say that being immortal means Dorgand has no ability or comprehension of mortal emotions. The conflict of raw feelings etched on his face when he’d stared at her then was just as firmly carved into her memories now. He'd been unable to speak, unable to answer her demands to know why he’d killed Lashiss; why he’d done it if he didn’t want to. He’d sobbed once, dropped Lashiss’ fingers, bitten the knuckles of his own hand, and slashed out at Gabby as he spun to his feet.
At first she thought he’d spared her. His running footsteps had carried him out the door and sped faster away once he was in the hall. Then the alarms in her mind started ringing and she’d looked down. Her insides had spilled outside onto her legs, as if her craft for today was to sort out and reassemble herself from all the pieces dumped in her lap. She’d cried out weakly, then tipped sideways and passed out.
Waking up had been the most unexpected thing which could have happened. With no other heir, her father had poured half his wealth into another sorcerer’s talents and saved her life. When asked what had happened in her bedroom, she’d found her tongue unable to move and her teeth and lips solidly closed. She was prevented from saying anything about what had happened from the day she’d woken and every day after. Even now, Gabby couldn’t utter a sound about it – or even write a single mark to begin the first letter to write about it.
The sorcerer who’d healed her invented the accepted theory that a single blow from Dorgand had both slain Lashiss and cut Gabrhyne, but was stopped from being a deadly blow to Gabby by Lashiss taking the brunt of the hit. Gabby couldn’t even shake her head to agree or disagree with any of the theories people around her invented.
She sighed and looked across her tent to her mirror. Blink once for yes and twice for knowing every detail of how your mother was killed, Gabby thought, staring at her unblinking reflection. Her sword vibrated in the frustration it shared with her about not being able to act on the knowledge Gabby carried. Not even alone and only thinking about the topic was she able to make her body respond in any way to answer the questions she was asking herself and already knew the answers to.
A blog with quick updates about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and where I can vent my short stories weekly for everyone to read for free!