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Saturday 22 August 2020

It's Just Business

Estimated reading time: 26 minutes

   "An escort job? Who?"
   "Not 'who'. 'What'."
   A crease formed between Taria's eyebrows as she looked from the contract to the humourless man behind the desk. "All right, what then?"
   "No idea."
   "That's not really good enough..."
   "It'll have to be," the man replied, then squinted through his apparently disinterested demeanour to regard once again her sun-kissed skin and almost inhumanly angular features. She didn't flinch from the stare. "Where did you say you were from?"
   "I didn't. Nor," she handed the contract back with a deliberate smile, "do I take on illegal jobs."
   The man's eyebrows rose. "A mercenary with a moral code, how about that. Well, there's nothing here to knot up your precious sensibilities. It's a historical thing of one kind or another - acquired and sold by above-board means."
   "'Historical thing'? A relic? Books? A statue?"
   But he only shrugged. "Couldn't tell you. It's going to Jarl Marland in Kora." He moved out from behind the desk and walked towards a map pinned up to the wall, covered in so many old pin holes that some of the settlements had been completely eradicated.
   She studied where his finger struck it, a city to the north east, then traced her own finger along potential routes from Reyviin. "Three days," she deduced.
   "Two and a half, at most."
   He shook his head. "Landscape. So?"
   She pursed her lips while an errant summer breeze slipped through the window and brushed her short, red hair over her eyes. "Fine," she said eventually. "I'll take it. For a hundred and twenty krona." She didn't need to look to know the man had turned red.
   "A hundred and twenty?! This says--"
   "Ninety. I know. I can read."
   "B-but i-it's a small job--"
   "And 'historical things' are valuable." She turned him another deliberate look. "And when the clients are so tight-lipped, that tends to mean they're even more so. Which means the road may not be quite as smooth as it could be."
   His already squinted eyes narrowed further, and he opened his mouth to speak.
   "And I can't help but notice," she continued before he could, "the date on the request, and the fact that the request is still here. If you fail to get it to him in the next four days, the contract will expire and you won't see a penny of it. Am I right or am I right?"
   Words she didn't catch were grumbled under his breath. "Fine. Hundred and twenty." He shoved the contract back into her hands and stormed off behind his desk. "Get out."
   Taria grinned and left.

   "Hold here, Ten," Taria told her horse, and peered up at the fine house standing regal near the more manicured of the public gardens. A frown creased her brow. Historical research paid this well?
   She shrugged it off and dismounted at the gate. No one was around to guard or greet her, so she went ahead and wandered up the path and knocked at the door. The man that opened it was old and humourless, and didn't say anything beyond "courier?" before closing it again and marching off. Apparently, she wasn't permitted inside.
   Muttering his lack of manners, she satisfied herself instead by peering in through the window beside it at the array of trinkets and valuables on open display. She whistled in astonishment. It was just as well she was above thievery. This place was just begging to be looted.
   Taria darted back when she spotted movement inside, and the door was quickly snatched back open. The stiff old man gave her what she assumed to be a disapproving look, then stepped aside and let a younger man out instead. Again, no words were exchanged when he closed the door.
   Taria sneered after him, then turned her attention onto the new fellow who she found staring back at her, wide-eyed. He couldn't have been more than twenty, but it was as if he had never seen a woman before. He flinched when she smiled, and offered her hand. "Taria."
   "E-Edred. Edred. Lord Ingar's apprentice." He shook her hand nervously. Then stood there, staring at her again.
   She nodded slowly, then looked to the package in his arm. It was large, probably about two and a half feet long, but it didn't seem particularly heavy. "Is that it? What we're delivering?"
   "Wha--oh, yes, yes it is." And then he stared again.
   She smiled uncomfortably, then turned on her heel and led him away. "You have a horse?"
   "In the stables," he hurried along behind her, "yes."
   "Good." She took Tenebris's reins and gestured for Edred to lead the way, which he did with a strange, hurried shuffle, as though he wasn't moving at all from the knees up.
   Far from her surprise, they barely spoke at all along the way, and once they'd mounted up outside the city walls, the silence quickly began to prickle. Taria wasn't inclined to endure it. But then, she never had been. It was only out of courtesy for his clear discomfort that she'd restrained herself for the last fifteen minutes, but it was rapidly becoming more than she could bear.
   "So you're an apprentice," she said before she could stop the words from tumbling out, and gave him as friendly a smile as she could while he looked back at her with wide, startled eyes. "What does that mean?"
   "O-oh, uh, yes, well, uh, you see, every few years, Lord Ingar takes on one aspiring historian and teaches them his methods. Then, when they've advanced far enough, he'll write a referral to the Fellowship of the Hiso--"
   "No," she chuckled, "no, I know what an apprentice is. I mean what do you do? For him?"
   "Oh!" He managed a meagre chuckle, himself. "Well, I organise his work..."
   She continued to smile patiently. "...And?"
   "...And learn the processes he works by..."
   "...And you do your own research in between?"
   "Uh, no, I-I help him with his - organise his files, check for errors, corroborate his connections, strengthen them where they need to be, collect what he needs from libraries..."
   She couldn't keep the frown at bay for much longer. "You do none of your own work? At all? It's all his?"
   "Mhm!" And he sounded proud of that.
   "I...see... Oh!" Her smile returned in triumph. "I see! So your name will be on it beside his when he publishes it!"
   But his sudden chuckle erased it again. "Gods, no! No, of course not! It's not my work!"
   "Mm. Seems to me that it kind of is... Well, how long have you been in his tutelage?"
   "About three years."
   Her eyebrows flickered. "And how much longer?"
   "The same again."
   "Half way?! You're half way, and you're still only doing clerical work?!" She shook her head as his wide eyes blinked. "How will you possibly know you've advanced 'far enough' if you're not given any chances to prove it?! When I was an apprentice, I might've had to gather sword oil and wrappings, but at least I was still able to hone my own skills in between..." She cast him another furrowed look. "You seriously don't do any of your own research?"
   But his expression had stiffened, and he held himself with a sudden pompousness that certainly didn't suit him. "Miss," his tone had risen foolishly, too, "it's a manner of work you don't understand. Master Ingar is a fair and highly-sought master. I'm fortunate to be chosen."
   "And I daresay he's fortunate to have someone so...obliging..." She sighed and drew out her map at a fork in the road. "Well, what drove you to history, anyway?" She glanced up when he didn't answer, and found him frowning at her peculiarly.
   "You're not much like I thought a mercenary would be..."

   Mercifully, by the dawn of the next morning, Edred had relaxed considerably. Her constant pestering of questions she just couldn't for the life of her hold back had sufficiently worn him down, and he laughed at her story over a breakfast of fruit and cheese.
   "He slipped on the wine," she grinned uncontrollably, "the mug flew from his hand, hit the lamp, the last flame burst in a sputter and fizzled out, then he's on the floor, wailing like a cat. Two more come at me, but I could see them just about clearly enough with the window behind them, but all they could see of me was the light reflecting in my eyes - so I closed them, crouched, scurried forwards and tripped them as they ran. Then, while they're rolling about on the floor, cursing and wheezing and the rest, the cobbler flips his pancake, even in the stiff darkness, and says 'I had more onions in the back'!"
   "You're making that up!" He guffawed.
   "Not a word of a lie!" Well, mostly.
   While he continued to grin and partially collapse as he repeated his favourite bits to himself, Taria noticed someone approaching from the road. She rose and positioned herself smoothly between him and Edred. She could see even from that distance that the tawny-skinned, well-muscled man was another mercenary.
   Her hand loosened, ready to reach for her blade even as she relaxed her tone and smiled. "Morning," she called once it was clear he was definitely heading their way, and he replied in kind.
   "Morning - are you Ingar's couriers?"
   Her hand flicked closer, but her smile widened amicably. "Certainly. And you are?"
   "Yaruun." There was little friendliness in his voice. "He sent me to join you."
   "Oh? Why would he do that?"
   But the man's eyes immediately slipped onto the apprentice. Edred duly paled. "Why?" He managed not to stammer, looking back to her in confusion. "He didn't say anything to me about it."
   "Why would he send you if I've already been hired?" She asked as he came to a stop a polite few paces away.
   "You were hired on Jarl Marland's behalf. I'm working on Ingar's. It's as simple as that."
   Her hand twitched again as he reached towards his hip, then withdrew a folded sheet of parchment from his belt. He extended it warily, and the pair stared back at the seal.
   Somehow, Edred paled further. "He doesn't trust me..."
   "I can't attest to that," Yaruun replied, tucking it away again. "I'm just here to make sure you don't feign theft so your jarl gets both it and a refund. It was an after-thought, though, so I'm being paid well whether I end up being necessary or not. All the same," he turned pointedly to Taria, "if you are up to no good, I advise you to leave now. You can't stand against me. I will be able to stop you."
   Her eyebrow twitched, but she smiled all the same. "I appreciate the warning. But I took a contract, so I'm sticking around. I need the money."
   "Well, I'm paid either way, so it makes little difference to me. And if you're lying, at least I warned you." He turned and marched back to the road where his grey horse waited. "I'm ready when you are."
   Taria gathered up her tidied bedroll and clicked Tenebris over, strapping them back to his saddle. She noticed Edred's nervousness as he tidied away his own. "Not one for people, are you?"
   "I admit," he cast another uneasy glance down towards the man, "I prefer seclusion. Just being out here is several great leaps from my comfort zone. But...he makes sense..."
   "Yes, unfortunately, he does. So it's just as well we're not up to no good. Right?"
   He smiled nervously. "Right."

   Edred had stiffened back up in the company of this man, but Taria was unconcerned. If anything, she found herself even more interested in breaking down the mercenary's walls than she had been the apprentice's. She trotted Tenebris up beside him, and heard Edred draw his closer for safety.
   "Do you have any idea what we're actually transporting?" She asked him. "Edred won't tell me."
   "It's not my business to know," he replied flatly despite his lilting accent, his eyes unmoving from the road. "It's my business to escort it."
   "Even so, you're not curious?"
   "Why should I be? It's intellectual business, and I don't have the head for it, no matter how much my mother might wish otherwise."
   "She disapproves of your profession?"
   "Yours doesn't?"
   Taria's eyes pulled back to the trees, and she shoved away the small crease from the middle of her brow. "I wouldn't honestly know..." Her gaze drew back to him easily enough, and she smiled once again. "You're not from here."
   "No. Ivaea."
   "That's it?" She asked, picturing the deserts, mountains and grass plains to the north. "Just 'Ivaea'?"
   "You need more?"
   "I suppose not..." She looked again at the serpent crest on his scabbard, and the matching image on his shoulder. "Are you part of a guild?"
   "Yes. The Dralagsi."
   "But you're working alone?"
   "Not all of us are cut out for working in groups, and not all jobs need multiple hands. Surely you realise that. You're out here without your guildmates, too."
   "I don't have any. I always work alone."
   "No guild?" Despite the vaguest hint of surprise in his voice, he still didn't look away from the road.
   Taria smirked to herself. "'Not all of us are cut out for working in groups'. But I did train with one."
   Yaruun grunted, but that was all.
   "What do you usually work on?" She asked after barely a moment. "What's your speciality?"
   Finally, he looked her way, and his eyes were brimming with suspicion. "You ask a lot of questions."
   "As far as I'm aware, it's not a crime."
   He looked indignantly back to the road. "It's considered rude among my people."
   "Oh...well...we're not among your people. Really, though: what's your speciality? And why did you start? If your mother doesn't approve, it can't be a family business."
   "It isn't."
   "...So why did you?"
   His answers became only more tight and closed off with every question she asked, and before long, he stopped answering altogether, leaving them to ride on in what silence Taria would let sit. But they wound up making good time - mostly because the mercenary seemed to be pushing his horse in an effort to get away from her, but she supposed she couldn't blame him. And anyway, she was being paid by the job, not the day, so the sooner it was done, the better. And it looked to be an easy matter, too. With two mercenaries, thieves were less likely to try anything - though his unwillingness to talk made it difficult to gauge his likely reaction if they did. All she could really guess was that he would probably either try to take charge, or try to do it all himself. Either way, it looked like her part would be defensive. But giving in to that position early on was easier than trying to break down someone's stubborn pride...

   It was only when Taria peered at the map and tried to work out if the forest ahead was Tuskroot or not that she realised just how dark it had gotten. Kora was surely only two hours away by now - but Edred was tired, the horses were tired, and there was every chance that the jarl would not appreciate being woken in the middle of the night to deal with the arrival of an old relic. And the last thing she needed was to upset a client and have him pay the middleman less. That would mean less for her.
   So they made camp just hours from midnight at the edge of the birchwoods that sheltered the old city, ate their dried meat and tough bread - a meal that didn't seem to sit too well with the apprentice, as it hadn't the night before - and turned in, leaving Yaruun to keep watch.
   It took some time for Taria to find any sleep. Her mind kept knotting and twisting and racing. It wasn't often that that happened, but Yaruun - a man who didn't belong here in Turunda any more than she did, and who followed the path his profession laid out just the same - had made her think on her own home. Or, what little of one she had. Bouncing between orphanages hadn't exactly instilled a sense of 'belonging' anywhere. But she'd made the best of it, and she couldn't say she didn't enjoy where her life had taken her - especially seeing what passed for an apprenticeship in this place. But...she just couldn't shake the question as she lay there in the restless, smothering summer warmth: would her mother have been proud of her, if she'd had one? Or would she be disappointed? Or would she just be scared for her, risking her life and sleeping rough as she so often did?
   She lost herself in the matter for a long while before the sheer power of the knot in her jaw reminded her that the answers weren't for her to know. And that, honestly, they didn't really matter. She was happy with her choices.
   Taria closed her eyes and breathed, and sleep settled in easily once she let it.

   The world was black when she jolted awake, and only one sound touched the air. It wasn't an owl. It wasn't a cricket. It wasn't the wind. It was one sound she'd heard more times in her life than should probably have been healthy if it invoked an immediate sense of purpose rather than fear. Did that make her survival instinct broken, she wondered absently as she reached for her sword, or heightened?
   Well, she wasn't dead yet.
   She pushed herself up as the sword withdrew from Edred's body, and watched him hit the ground with a heavy thud and a gasp while Yaruun lifted the package from among the apprentice's belongings.
   Yaruun met Taria's burning stare. "He wouldn't hand it over." His eyes, in the half-clouded moonlight, were neither regretful, nor cold. It was just business.
   Edred's, when her gaze flicked back to him, were wide with shock. But the wound in his shoulder wouldn't be fatal - assuming she could get him help in time. Which meant dealing with Yaruun quickly.
   She'd already shoved herself to her feet, and her blade waited ready in her hand. All the numbness of sleep had fled with the sound of it ringing across her scabbard's locket.
   Yaruun was on her before she could ask a single question. And she realised too late that she was at an immediate disadvantage. His longsword had far greater reach than her shortsword. There was little use even trying to compete.
   Daggers, however, required an entirely different fighting style.
   She barely sidestepped his thrust as she lunged aside for the smaller blades, and danced her way around a second. He must have expected her to take a moment or three to adjust to the difference, and that incorrect assumption gave her room to get in an easy shot at his unprotected side.
   Or so she'd thought. He turned just fast enough to knock her dagger away with his sword.
   "I've warned you," he told her coolly.
   "I know," she replied much the same.
   "Stand aside, Taria. I have a contract."
   "So do I. But more than that," she made for another quick strike, which he didn't deflect in time, "you drew innocent blood."
   He pushed off, disregarding already the shallow cut in his side, while she leapt back, found distance, and exploded into a quick attack towards his legs. Her blades moved in a flurry, and she hit him a handful of times before his boot fired her backwards and sent pain flaring white across her face.
   She cursed and shook it off as fast as she could, and barely managed to sidestep and duck beneath his next rapid strike. He kicked at her again before she could react, but she saw this one coming and slashed a blade across his calf. He grunted, but that was all. His sword still flashed upwards into a skyward arc.
   But Taria didn't steal distance this time. She twitched back and let his momentum continue, leaving his torso open. Then she shot around his exposed side, moved up to his sword arm, and feinted just as he engaged his next attack. Her foot hit the side of his knee with all her strength.
   He crumpled with a curse, and she kicked him forwards as he fought for balance before stamping hard on the back of his other.
   Despite the crunch and howl, Taria's attention turned immediately onto Edred.
   "You okay?" She asked while he stared past her, pale, at the man trying to push himself back up, grunting through gritted teeth.
   His wide eyes soon crashed up onto her "You won't finish him?" He somehow managed both to whisper and shriek. "He'll come after us!"
   "Not with his ligaments in that shape, he won't. And anyway," she smiled, turning her attention quickly to the extent of his bloodied shoulder, "I don't take lives if I don't have to. He was only doing his job. Now come on: to your feet." She dragged him up and clicked the horses over, helped him up onto his own, gathered their things and left Yaruun there. The Ivaean mercenary didn't ask for help once.

   Despite the circumstances, she still gasped at the sight of Kora: the ivy clinging to the outer walls, the high merlons cut into the shape of leaves, clear even in the moonlight - and, above all else, the back of the city, cut straight from the quartz-studded cliffs, glinting and glittering like a sheet of stars.
   Edred was in little state to admire it, nor answer her flurry of questions. He half-slumped over his horse, clutching his shoulder, and looked about with listless eyes.
   Her concern hiked, fascination sharply forgotten, and she urged her horse faster. "Hurry, Ten! Hurry!" He snorted and obeyed, dragging Edred's leashed horse into a canter behind him.
   The guards at the gates gave her directions to the medica, and she kicked forwards without a second to waste, weaving on up through the sleeping hillside city until the old rounded building appeared ahead through the quiet streets.
   Despite few being on hand inside, Edred was seen to immediately, and she was pulled aside to have her nose poked at, too. She was fine, and assured them of it multiple times, but they insisted.
   She sighed and sat back down while a young man began pressing clinically at the bruising across her brow, and stifled her curse. She'd worked it out along the way there. Actually, she'd worked it out the moment she'd heard his blade cut through Edred's flesh. Yaruun had been hired to steal it back. Of course he had. He hadn't tried hard enough to get rid of her, so she hadn't noticed it at the time, but with her dead beside this unlucky apprentice, the jarl would be satisfied that thieves or bandits were to blame rather than any kind of underhand deception - maybe he'd even get his money back and compensation from the contract office, and the seller, evidently protected by some obscure liability clause or rule in the transaction, would keep both the jarl's money and the...whatever it was...
   She frowned down at the package she'd carried in, not daring to leave it outside to be stolen. She still hadn't been able to work out what was inside it, nor why it had made a noise when she'd grabbed it.
   Once the medic had concluded that she was, in fact, fine, and gave her a salve to cool the swelling, she left the poor, pale apprentice in their care, assured that he would make a full recovery, and sought out somewhere to stable Tenebris and find herself some rest - after casting back a cursory note that there was another man out at the edge of the forest that might also like a little bit of help, of course. She wasn't a monster.

   She slept well until she awoke beside her horse to a blinding strip of early dawn light falling across her eyes.
   She cursed and shielded them behind her arm, then found the tiptoeing stablehand apologising profusely for waking her, though he looked bemused at the same time. Why would she sleep down here when there were beds in a tavern literally on the other side of the wall? But, honestly, she couldn't even remember making it to the stables. Something in the salve must have made her drowsy. They really should give warnings about that kind of thing...
   After a quick bite that often consituted a breakfast on the road, Taria went to check on the apprentice, but he'd apparently lost more blood than she'd realised and the medics refused to discharge him. He was given no opportunity to argue, though, because he had yet to actually wake up. So it was left to Taria to take the mysterious bundle to the jarl, who the medics told her she'd find in library in the cliff face itself. She couldn't help a skip of fascination in her step as she hurried along towards it.

   Her eyes adjusted quickly to the dark of the library, and when she turned around to glance back out through the glass doors, the morning light almost blinded her again. She snapped away with a strained murmur and set off further into the building. Or, carving.
   Bookshelves lined the walls and segmented the hall, reaching all the way up to the tall, far-off ceilings. She saw, as she craned her neck, the images cut into it, though she couldn't make them out, and wound up spinning on the spot trying to find the right perspective.
   "You there!"
   She stopped and snapped around at the voice, then spotted two men hurrying towards her, both well-dressed, though the older of the pair held himself with a distinctly prouder bearing than the other. Both of them carried an eager light in their eyes.
   She bowed. It had to be the jarl. He didn't seem to notice the gesture, though.
   "You've brought it!" The jarl beamed. "Marvellous!" He all but snatched it from her, but before she could confirm her latent presumption that a fat purse meant fat fingers, he handled it with at least as much care as Edred did.
   She watched the pair of them stare at the wrapping as if they were suddenly afraid of what might be inside it.
   Then, suddenly, the jarl's head lifted and his eyes crashed back onto her. "Come! You've ferried it all this way, it's only fair that you get a look!"
   She wasn't about to argue, though she did have to hurry to keep up, and followed them into a well-lit back room where the jarl set the package on the table. Taria frowned as he all but leapt back from it, then the younger of the two moved forwards, and she watched him stare at it for another long moment. It was only at the jarl's excited command that he finally began to unlace it.
   Her eyebrows dropped when he drew back the cloth. "A tattered old fiddle? That's what we were bringing here? A fiddle?"
   "A nyckelharpa," the young man corrected in a voice barely above a whisper, his green eyes glittering. "Pre-magic elven, First Era, about one thousand four hundred years old, one of the earliest versions of what became the most iconic instrument, even in our own age!"
   "Really?" She took a more interested step closer. He caught her hand before she could pluck at a string.
   They both looked back to the jarl, his eyes as thick with fret as his voice.
   "Can you restore it?"
   Even she turned a cautious look back towards him as he circled around the table, mindlessly ushering them out of the way to look at it from all angles before daring to finally touch it. Never mind that it had been jostled about and strapped to the back of a horse for the past two days.
   Finally, he nodded. "I can. I think. I know a luthier who should be able to help..." he breathed a sound that was either a gasp or a stifled squeak. "It's so old... How much did you--"
   The jarl's cough and far from subtle nod towards Taria cut him off. He straightened instead and enforced composure over himself. It did little to chase away the glee in his eyes.
   Then the jarl was suddenly in front of her, shaking her hand vigorously and pressing a note of confirmation into her other palm, all while ushering her towards the door. "Thank you for your help, young lady. It trust it wasn't...too much...trouble..."
   She turned her head away while he stared at the bruising across her nose and brow, probably only now noticing it for the first time, and smiled offhandedly, freeing herself from his grip and making towards the door for herself. "No. None at all. And it took me only two days - you might want to let the oaf in Reyviin know that. Otherwise, gentlemen, best of luck with your fiddle." She reached for the handle, but she couldn't help casting back a curious smile. "I should like to hear it, if you get it working."
   Anthis smiled and gave a single nod of his head while the jarl descended back into staring at the thing, then Taria stepped back out into the library.
   Her smile promptly withered, and her eyes dropped down to the note of delivery. "Now to try to get my money out of that weasel..."

Taria and Tenebris belong to Patricia of FairyLiterary. Set in The Devoted's Turunda by request. This story is not to be copied or reproduced without both mine and FairyLiterary's permission.
Words copyright © Kim Wedlock

Saturday 15 August 2020

One Öre

   This month, The Zi'veyn turns 2, and The Sah'niir has its 1st birthday,
so I wrote this month's short story in connection to it.
It takes place on the morning of The Zi'veyn - no prior reading needed!
Estimated reading time: 18 minutes

   Garon frowned at the coins dropped into his palm. 'Two, four, six...' Seven öre and one krona. It was all there. And yet, bouncing them in his hand, it felt just a little too light...
   His grey eyes lifted back to the trader. The man's amiable smile had stiffened, and even as he looked offhandedly across the surrounding market, he seemed to be trying to shuffle off to the side and away from his cart. Garon smoothly caught his wrist.
   "What," he presented the coins, "is this?"
   "Your change, sir," the man replied without a trace of concern for his grip. His smile had even revived. There was no shame in his eyes at all. It was a perfect mask. And, logically speaking, nonsensical.
   Garon sighed to himself. This man knew exactly what he was doing. And he didn't have the time for it.
   Unfortunately, matters like these were his jurisdiction.
   He didn't release his wrist, and turned himself only slightly, but the shift of his cloak was enough to draw the man's eyes to the hilt of his sword, and the White Hammer insignia stamped on the flat of the pommel. At that point, the chipper colour drained from his face.
   The trader's gaze lifted back, his eyes suddenly as wide and innocent as a child's, and he opened his failing smile to speak.
   Then snatched the coins and ran instead.
   Garon cursed and set off after him, darting around the cart while the trader dashed away behind the rest before swinging down into a lane. He called over the startled merchants for the man to stop, but the words, as they always did, fell on deaf ears. They were little more than a formality. Leaping as easily over the crates and debris thrown in his way as he did, the man must have known he could never outrun him. But he would try. They always tried.
   And so Garon wasn't remotely surprised when the man barrelled out from the far end of the lane to the street beyond, and crashed straight into the side of the horse. A surprising number of alley chases ended that way.
   While the cart-horse squealed and stamped its surprise, coins scattering all over the cobbles, Garon strode out to the street, seized him by the wrist, dragged him to his feet, and dutifully intoned: "I am arresting you for possession of and intent to distribute counterfeit coins, suspicion of counterfeiting, and treason." His grip didn't falter while the man tried to struggle his way out of it. Nor when his effort doubled at the timely arrival of two guards.
   Garon all but shoved him into their care. "Detain him, and recover those coins. The Hall of the White Hammer will be in to collect him in due course. I'm following up on something else at the moment."
   They straightened and nodded their agreement, then began calling for the civilians to keep clear while a third guard hurried over to help them.
   With a grunt of satisfaction, Garon turned and strode away. He had another, greater matter to see to.


   One bronze öre rolled its way beneath the wagon and bounced across the cobbles. It wove its way out between boot and hoof, narrowly avoided striking the well, and missed the eye of the local miser.
   It was only when a single misstep sent a foot grazing and stumbling over the uneven stonework that its roll for freedom was broken.

   Petra cursed and cast the road a spiteful sneer, restraining herself from kicking it. She was about to move on when a bronze glint caught her eye.
   Her gaze narrowed, and a thought puckered her lips. 'Luck,' she wondered, 'or just chance?' Was the question even worth it?
   She bent down and lifted it from the stone, when a voice rose behind her.
   "Are you Petra Dalin?"
   A smile flickered across her face. 'Luck.'
   She turned as she rose, and considered the armed man who waited a wary few steps away. About fifty, almost twice her own age; a strong frame, but lean rather than bulky; a scar running from his cheekbone down through his beard; a confident bearing - trained, not inherent, and probably deserved. A soldier, she surmised, until not that long ago.
   This wouldn't be an easy win.
   Petra straightened and moved her cloak aside, deliberately placing one hand on the sword at her hip. The gesture was made only in part for intimidation. "I am." Her eyebrows rose when he bowed his head.
   "Then I extend a challenge, if I may."
   "You may. And more politely than I'm used to."
   "Don't misunderstand my honour as chauvinism." There was a steadiness in his eye when he looked back up. "I know well of you. I won't hold back."
   "In which case," her eyes similarly hardened, "neither will I. Where?"
   "The square."
   He drew his sword.
   A smirk flickered across her lips, and she drew her own in answer. "Lead the way."
   A number of people followed them from that busy street. She could hear her name, and his, flow throughout the growing crowd, and when they reached the town square, marked by a small and poorly maintained public garden, it had swelled to perhaps three dozen.
   She glanced over them as they came to a stop, removed their cloaks and prepared themselves, but her evaluation of their wealth was cut short by the cold. She fought back a shiver and swung her arms to warm up her shoulders. Spring felt further off than it should have been. Surely the ice floes had moved off by now...
   'I'll have to try my luck north in Kasire one of these days...'
   She shook the useless thoughts away. She was wasting time.
   Her attention returned to her opponent, watching his warm up, looking for injuries and where he was taking more care. There were plenty of small weaknesses, but they appeared mostly healed. But even if some of them were nothing more than left-over ticks from an injury healed a decade ago, they could be exploited.
   Her own most recent had cleared up a few days ago, and she did her best not to show any subtle hints of protection. But she had the distinct feeling that even that level of physical wellness wouldn't last for much longer.
   The soldier ended his warm up. "I am aware of your rules, Miss Dalin. We fight to disarm."
   "Yes, that's...all of them..." She shook her bemusement away. "No amendments?"
   "None. Are we ready?"
   Someone nearby started calling for bets.
   'I am now.' She stepped aside and unlaced her coin purse. It contained only about one quarter of the money she carried; the rest was in a pouch hidden inside her cloak. This was a show of arrogance. She was sure to feign a slight limp as she approached the collector.
   "On me," she said, and was about to drop the pouch into his waiting hand when she remembered the lucky öre. She drew it from its hiding place in her cinch just as a warning rose from the other side.
   Everyone scattered before she could finish her curse.
   She snatched her cloak from the ground and threw up her hood, covering her blood-red hair, and fled along behind them. A few corners later, she breathed a sigh of relief. The guards here were quick to move, but not to pursue. But no rules had actually been broken, so she'd been prepared to protest her innocence. As for the soldier, she would find him again later.
   Tying her purse back to her cinch, she looked down at the lucky coin and smiled. At least she'd made something, if only a penny, and, resolved or not, she'd found a challenger too.
   The mid-morning sun glinted across the bronze as she flicked it up into the air. Then a sudden doubt pulled at her eyebrows as she caught it. She squinted closer, turning it between her fingers. "This isn't..."
   She looked around quickly, spotted a beggar sitting hunched on a low wall, and dropped it onto his book.
   If Petra Dalin was caught with a counterfeit, it would destroy her.


   Anthis blinked at the coin on his page. Glancing up from beneath his tattered hood, he looked about from one passing figure to another, but there was no knowing who'd done it.
   So he shrugged and pocketed it, read on to the end of the page, closed his notebook and tucked it into the satchel beneath his travel cloak. After dusting the moss from his rear, he hoisted the bag, bundled himself up and left. Why was it still so cold?!
   He shook his head to himself as he drew the cloak tighter around his neck. It would be fine once he was moving. Or working. Or just not thinking about it. Which was difficult when it was everywhere.
   'Silverwood, Silverwood, Silverwood...'
   That seemed to do the trick.
   He'd been to the ruins in that old, pear-speckled forest for two days on the trot, comparing notes from that ruined archway to notes on others from over the length of the country. No one else took much of an interest in them, but that was probably just as well - depending on how you looked at it. No one was around, which meant no interruptions, and the rest of the Historical Society didn't seem to give two sniffs about the thing. Too far beneath them, probably.
   Anthis scoffed to himself. That was their attitude on so many things. Armchair historians, the lot of them. The Fellowship was riddled with them, ironically. He was one of only a few who actually went out to investigate his theories.
   But on the other hand, that also meant that there was little he could fall back on. Any discovery would be entirely his own, but it would also be hard-won. And you know what they say: two minds, yadda yadda.
   Not that he could rely on many of them. He wasn't well-liked, and more or less precisely because he didn't attend sherry nights. But that didn't really bother him. Was he lonely? Perhaps a little. But he was also never happier than when he was out in a ruin, following up on his own research. And 'ornamental stones' or not, the archways were fascinating. They always stood alone, all of them, and he was sure they had once been gateways - intangible, yes; metaphorical, symbolic. Had they been made by post-magic elves, they could well have been actual portals, but these all dated - all of them - well back before the elves were gifted their magic, way back in the First Era, and they all seemed dedicated to Nara, the God of Hands - Vastal's face of craft and toil.
   But not all of them. Some were instead dedicated to Doru, the God of Mind, Vastal's face of intellect and compassion. And yet they all looked the same, aside from a few small engravings.
   They had to cross over somewhere, beyond simple aesthetics. There was a reason they all looked the same - same shape, same height, same dimensions, same coiling ornamentation. Weather and ruin not withstanding, of course. There was a link between these two of the Goddess's aspects in elven culture - but he'd been to seven sites in Turunda and several more in Kalokh and Doana, and he couldn't find it! Even just pondering it now, as his feet carried him almost feverishly through Edam's streets, he could feel a frustration clawing at the insides of his throat.
   Which face was dominant? More arches seemed to be dedicated to Nara, but was that just because they were crafted? Were they actually dedicated to Doru instead, and built with a higher, intellectual purpose? Like the communication between themselves and the gods? The 'gateway' to better understanding them? Maybe Nara only came into it at all because they had to be crafted by hand. Or maybe Doru was only relevant because it took planning and co-ordination to get so many so identical.
   He shook his head over the matter for the umpteenth time. Elves and their damned context. It was never simple! And while they left their stories engraved all over the things, so many words had multiple meanings that it was impossible to know for sure without a broad study. Which is exactly what this had been so far. Needlessly so. So broad, in fact, that he was beginning to wonder if they were linked at all - which was something he was hoping would've been answered five sites ago. Give it another day or two and he'd be off, no doubt, to yet another.
   He huffed to himself, loosening his cloak.
   He didn't notice the smile already creeping over his lips half a heartbeat later, nor the haste in his feet as he rushed out through Edam's town gate. Nuisance or not, the mystery, the search for the answers, they were what he lived for.
   Nodding at the guards as he left, he spotted a trader just ahead, and hurried forwards at a thought. "Excuse me," he called, already running in his previous excitement, "excuse me, sir!"
   The trader turned. It seemed a cumbersome movement with the pack on his back trying to overbalance him, but he grinned amicably enough. "Good morning, sir! However can I be of assistance?"
   Anthis returned his friendly smile as he puffed to a stop beside him. "Do you have any pencils?"
   The man blinked. "Pencils? Graphite?"
   "That's them exactly, yes. No one in Edam had any and I think - I hope - I'll need them." He watched the man tap his chin as he mentally noted off his inventory, then smiled in relief as the man snapped his fingers and lowered the pack from his back.
   "So, artist, are you?" He asked, rifling through one of the side pockets, which itself could have rivalled his own over-stuffed satchel.
   "Oh, no - historian. I'm heading out to the arch in Silverwood." He could see the man had already lost interest. Fortunately, he'd also already found the pencils.
   "Ah, here we are. Well, I can't see what good staring at old stones will do for a people as long-gone and as foul as the elves, but each to their own. I'm sure it has meaning to someone." He presented three wooden pencils. "Half an öre each, or all three for one."
   Anthis nodded and pulled the bronze coin out from his pocket. "All three, please."
   "Lovely jubbly."
   Anthis stuffed the pencils into his bag and thanked the man profusely. The trader watched him go with a bemused look on his face. "You're in a rush! The rocks ain't going anywhere!"
   "But the past grows only more distant!" He called as he hurried on away.
   The trader blinked then shook his head. "...Can't argue with that."


   One coin heavier, the trader followed the road from Edam towards the highlands, and the trees began to close in, ash and alder giving way to spruce as the ground climbed. He puffed along that wretched route with such a weight on his back, but he didn't consciously notice the strain. He whistled to himself whenever he had the breath to spare. There were easier routes, but this one was lucrative.
   And, after a few hours of travel and passing a handful of other trundling customers along the way, two figures emerged up ahead from among the trees: a grim-looking man, one who'd surely never smiled a day in his life, and a child.
   The trader narrowed his eyes as he always did, but never voiced his questions.
   "Morning, sir," he hailed the pair, and unstrapped the bundle tied to the side of the pack without taking it off. He paid no mind when the man ushered the child behind him. Hermits would be like that.
   The man handed him the money immediately, and he in turn the package. His burden felt wonderfully lightened, and his purse that beautiful degree heavier as he counted the coins and dropped them in. But he was twenty öre over.
   But the glint of the man's silver took him.
   He drew the strings together.

   "Taxes have gone up again," the trader told him before he'd even turned back to see Rathen's waiting palm. "On account of the war." He shrugged and smiled apologetically enough. "Sorry, friend."
   Rathen growled and dropped his hand, but he didn't pursue it. "Mead?"
   "No change on tax there."
   The usual grim lines in his face deepened in irritation. "Do you have any?"
   The pack came off of his back, and Rathen waited while he opened one of his many compartments. A moment later, he presented a bottle. Rathen managed not to sneer at the flourish. It was only a bottle of Edrich. The man thought he was an idiot. But what could he do about it?
   Plenty, really. But this thief didn't know that.
   And it was better that he didn't.
   Rathen reached out to take the bottle, but the trader immediately moved back. With another grumble, he drew his meagre coin pouch from his sleeve. "How much?" He didn't need to look up to see him eyeing his coins hungrily.
   "Two krona."
   "Two whole krona?! You said the tax didn't change!"
   "No," he smiled in that wretchedly apologetic way again, "but it's in demand at the moment. On account of war."
   "Of course it is." He handed over his last silver coin and took the bottle. A subtle tug came at his side, but he didn't look around at it. "And sugar."
   "Ah." That sounded sincere. "That one's not so easy, on account--"
   "Of war," Rathen finished. "Yes. Well, find some. Or it won't just be my purse strings getting cut." He made sure the look in his eyes was unmistakable, and rather enjoyed watching the man flinch.
   "R-right-o," he stammered. "In that case, I'll scour my storehouses, and raid my competitors'. Now, if that's all--"
   "Yes, thank you. Go." He watched the trader hoist his bag back onto his shoulders and move at surprising speed for his load. He shook his head to himself, but managed not to curse. "Thief."
   He saw the little hands grabbing up beside him in their usual desperation to help. The package was heavy, but the bottle could be smashed. But she was more likely to fall with the package.
   "Be careful," he said quite precisely, handing her the bottle. "If you drop it, don't try to save it."

   "I won't drop it, Daddy." Aria wrapped her arms around the bottle and held on both as tight and careful as she could, even as she watched the trader go from beneath her thick hood. It was a long moment before she realised her father had already turned and started back up the hill away from the road.
   She gasped and hurried along after him, feeling danger nipping at her bum. She raced at first, then remembered the heavy, sloshy bottle and instead took long but careful strides. Only when she was back and safe at his side in the shadow of the woods did she puff a sigh through her cheeks. Then she turned him a frown. "What did he steal, Daddy?"
   "Anything he can get his grubby hands on, I'm sure..."
   "But," the knot in her forehead tightened, "you gave him the money for all this."
   The smile he gave her was tired, but his ruffling of her curls through her hood was firm enough to rattle away her confusion at least a little. "Yes, little one, I did. Maybe I am an idiot."
   "You're not an idiot, Daddy."
   "Thank you for saying so."
   "'Dim-witted', Kienza says." She hid her smile behind the bottle while he turned a flat look down at her, then lowered it and gave him a careful grin. "Please still make me a cake."
   "Might not be able to. On account of the war."
   "Mmm," she pursed her heart-shaped lips in thought. "I suppose soldiers need cake, too..." Her eyes drifted back up to him, noticing again the same strange line between his eyebrows he'd worn since morning. "What's wrong?"
   "Hm?" He glanced down at her, then seemed to notice it himself. He forced it away, and it didn't come easily. "I don't know, little one. I just have a...feeling..."
   She watched him shake his head, then he stared forwards into the forest. "Like something's about to change..."

Words copyright © Kim Wedlock
No part is to be reproduced without my permission.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Steps of Hope

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

     Artis was fair, even among the fay. Beneath a crown braided with ribbons the colour of a summer sky, her curls were as pale and golden as the sun and drifted like silk on the breeze. The skin they caressed was as pure as milk, the cheeks they framed were as pink as a rose, and the eyes they shaded were as rich as forget-me-nots.
    But for all the shepherdess's beauty, she was not as vibrant as once she'd been.
    Across those rolling hills, silver streams and sparse, sun-bathed trees, her eyes stared numb for miles, and she stood atop that old, drystone wall like a figure of forgotten porcelain. She barely moved but for the breeze tugging at her skirts, and her attention remained fixed to the horizon, searching, as it always was, for sight of her lost lover.
    It had been years - not too many, by the mind of the sun, but more enough to change her - since she'd seen Arlen chase off after the stray lamb. She'd given it little thought at the time; sheep wandered, sometimes too far, and their enchanted fleeces would be a dangerous prize among mortals. Strays were worth chasing down.
    But he hadn't come back.
    She couldn't remember when concern had set in, nor when concern had changed to panic, and panic into a lifeless patience. But loss had never gripped her, not truly. Every day, she stared and wandered, peering into the distance for sight of his return.
    That summer's day was no different.
    Artis stepped off of the wall, startling her adoring sheep, and drifted out into the endless hills, wandering blindly while her flock trotted and bounced along beside her. There was little hidden from the sun between her and the horizon, just scattered fluffs of snow-white sheep speckling the hills, while the rich scent of grazing, rustle of leaves and lazy trill of songbirds tinted the air a dozen different colours.
    But she didn't notice them. Nor the faintest music on the breeze, nor the grass beneath her feet, nor the weight of another shepherd's eyes watching her from a rock on the streamside.
    But Silvius often watched her; the shepherd's stare was nothing new. It was so mundane, in fact, that she'd never noticed it at all. All Artis knew of Silvius was his magnificent skill with his pipes. He played for the fay, leading their céilí by melody while she led them by step. But that was all she noticed of him.
    Though she never heard it, he would sigh wistfully into the breeze whenever she passed by, and the tunes he played upon his pipe fell deeper into melancholy. And in those melodies, drifting on the air, she heard only the sounds of her heartbreak until her feet carried her out of its reach.

    For all her wandering, there was only one place Artis would stop while her flock spread out to graze, and it was in the shade of that hilltop rowan that her arms lifted and wrapped about herself in comfort. But her eyes never stopped searching. From here, the last place she'd seen her beloved, she continued to watch the horizon.
    Hours would pass before she moved again - but this time a curious bleat drew her from her cloud of thought, and she watched as one lamb wandered away from the rest, enraptured by something in the distance.
    Her heart shuddered as her eyes followed it, and her stare sharpened to that of a hawk's. But whatever had captured the lamb's attention remained silent and unseen. It was a mystery.
    And so the flicker of hope that she'd nursed and encased inside her heart exploded immediately into a searing fire.
    She ran the moment the lamb did, her bare feet glancing over grass while the creature's little hooves thudded their way ahead, moving faster than any lamb should - so fast, it fell out of sight in moments.
    But Artis ran on and on, the raging of her heart and the hope firing her muscles carrying her even past the point of exhaustion, and like a wind she covered several hills with Arlen growing clearer and clearer in her mind. Her eyes were wider than they'd ever been, and they saw the least they had in years. A smile even graced her lips.
    She had no idea how far she'd run, but she would run as far as she had to, as far as her feet could carry her, and then she'd run farther still.
    The same curious bleat rose suddenly from up ahead, clearer and louder this time, and she threw herself after it, tripping over herself while her smile grew wider and tears prickled her eyes, until she reached the top of the hill. There, the wind whipped past her ears, tangling her hair and pulling at the ribbons in her braids while her breath burned in her chest, but her eyes didn't stop scouring the area.
    Buttercups and grazing sheep dotted the slope that rolled away below, and her gaze tumbled after it to the stream winding around its base, and, finally, the figure sitting upon a rock at its side.
    The water glittered brighter through her tears.
    Until the wind died away, and the sound of pipes drifted towards her in the lull.
    Silvius's sorrowful melodies, steeped in shades of grey and lilac, smothered her flame back into a meek and sputtering flicker, and renewed in a moment the power of her heartbreak. The forlorn melodies, anguish and hope intertwined...his music brought to mind Arlen, only Arlen, and the vaguest wisp of a direction, like the dust drifting from an old and overgrown trail.
    Dust that settled every time she tried to take just one step out towards it, concealing the path once more.
    Then, as the last grain settled, a sudden certainty came crashing in: she would never find him. It was a certainty she turned away from, numb, any time it caught her eye. Because to give up hope was to give up on him. And to give up on him... Her heart wouldn't let her.
    Her eyes, filled with the tears of a loss she refused to acknowledge, turned up towards the beaming sun, and she embraced the ache of the music. In spite of that certainty, she began to dance.
    Her attention fell to the soles of her feet, to the feel of the grass, the small stones, and the roots beneath them, and she threw herself into it while other shepherds and shepherdesses arrived over the hills from all directions, called by the sun, drawn by the pipes, and moved by her steps.
    For all the love Silvius poured into his music while he watched her dance, the melodies only scorched her heart.
    And she would keep waiting in spite of it.

This story was written for Istaaire, who owns all the characters and their histories.
This story is not to be copied without both my permission, and Istaaire's.
Words copyright © Kim Wedlock.

Monday 3 August 2020

Little Dragon

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
   Through the glittering surface of the dark, azure water, down past the constant tug of the current, beneath the reach of shimmering shafts of light, where the pebbles twitched and the green fronds swayed. The roar from the mountains penetrated even here.
   The tiny wyrm froze in fright at the vibration, before a gentle hum softened the water around it.
   "Do not panic, my little dragon. It is not a sound you will hear often."
   The wyrm turned back towards its mother as she coiled her long, serpentine body tighter into her rocky nook, and lay her great head down beside him among the waving stems of reeds. The same current that tried to pull him away merely tugged at the fronds on her chin. The duckweed didn't stir far above them.
   "Their story is your story. It is time I tell you, and you shall heed it well. For the good of all of us."
   The wyrm settled and watched as the light played over her scales.
   "Eons ago, dragons were abundant. We ranged through swamps, caves, deserts, seas, forests, jungles and ice. There was nowhere we could not live and adapt to, and the world was our kingdom for millennia. We saw the rise and fall of many creatures, and few of those who survive today are anything like they used to be. But we dragons have not changed so much. We have always been the kings and queens. We fit the world perfectly. It was made for us.
   "But in time, deep time, another creature - a wingless, puny creature - arrived and took offence. A creature that cannot adapt, and instead changes the world to adapt to them. In their eyes, our perfection made us a threat, and they began to hunt us. First, because they feared us. Then because they wanted our scales to wear, as if they could become like us, and be perfect like us. Then, for nothing but sport. Hundreds upon thousands of us have fallen for the sake of their glory."
   The wyrm jolted at a splash from the bank. The serpent lifted her heavy head and watched the beaver swim past. She didn't bother even to snap at it, and lay her chin back down.
   "And they learned. They hunted us in mating season, the most dangerous time they could - that was the thrill. The excuse. But we were then also our most vulnerable. We dragons are tied to our nests." Another hum rumbled through the water, and she twitched her fronds in amusement. "But this is how we river wyrms survived where others fell.
   "Dragons are ancient, as I have said, and we have never had reason to hide. Many make spectacles of themselves in the skies for mates and territory. Water dragons, however, do not. Nor do we breathe fire or fumes. And so few have thought to look for dragons by the water, and we in turn keep away from where along the rivers the creatures make their homes.
   "But one of our kind could see what the rest could not. She knew the creatures would expand their territory, just as we did, and we would either be seen, or cut off from one another, unable to breed. Our species would die out either way. And we could not fly away to safer waters like others could to mountains, nor survive on so little in the drowned caverns.
   "Suryū knew all of this, and when they were seen along the banks of her river, she acted.
   "But she did not kill them like others did. She stalked, and she learned. And when breeding season came with the rains, she made her nest among the reeds, and she laid - sooner than anyone else."
   A glint of silver caught the serpent's eye. Stretching her small, paddle-shaped wings, she adjusted the current passing over her, raised her head, bowed her neck, snapped, and struck. The fish was gone in an instant.
   The little wyrm snatched at one far smaller. She rumbled in pride again.
   "Suryū's eggs were small, and the water she breathed over them, warmed in her belly, was a puff rather than a jet. She knew they might well not survive with such treatment. But it was a calculated risk, and, ten days later, those small eggs, tangled in algae, did indeed hatch. The small, stiff little things were nothing like dragons, and jerked about in the water, tiny and helpless. They did not survive. They could not. They were nothing familiar, and were eaten by other clutches.
   "Suryū tried again the following season, and though these grew bigger, they did not survive, either. Many were caught in fishing nets instead. But she did not tire." She turned her head, and peered at him a little closer with one great turquoise eye. "You, little dragon, are a product of much toil.
   "It was in the seventh season that Suryū perfected her clutch, with hatchlings familiar enough to go uneaten, big enough to defend themselves, small enough to slip through nets, and fast enough to catch their own prey. This seventh clutch survived, and she passed her success on to the rest of us to follow her lead for the good of our kind. Many did not, believing we should not sully our lineage, that our 'kind' would not be our kind anymore. But there is a good reason that there are so many more of you today than there are of them.
   "But the deception alone was still not enough. The waters were still not safe. River wyrms had been discovered, and our numbers shrank rapidly. This clutch still looked nothing like their mother, but how long would it be before the deception was discovered, and the puny, offended creatures imagined a new threat?
   "So Suryū taught her hatchlings to weave wings of water and spider silk where their paddles should have been. She taught them to break through the water and move across its surface on six tiny legs. She taught them to fly, thrown up by small jets of water until those delicate wings took over. Then, one day, when they had learned all she could teach them, they perched on grass and reed and looked down at her through the water, and with a final bow of her great head, she sent them flying off downstream."
   She chuckled once more. "You might well wonder. Why fly when it was the downfall of the other dragons? Because they, like you, were small enough to slip through nets. No arrow could hit them, and they cast no shadows when they flew. If eyes were looking in the water, far better to be above it.
   "You will be too, one day. And when you do, my little dragonfly, make for the vast ocean. Lay and breed your young in the streams and rivers along the way, and tell them this story. And when you, or they, or their young, reach at last the endless sea, land yourself amid the rising coils of steam and bubbles." She closed her eyes and nudged him softly with her snout, humming softly into the current. "Our cousins await your return."

Words copyright © Kim Wedlock
No part is to be reproduced without my permission.

Saturday 1 August 2020

Book Birthdays! [free books and short stories]

Today marks the birthday of The Zi'veyn and The Sah'niir! And, because I like to take book birthdays a little too seriously, I've gotten organised for the first time since Corona struck!

     The Zi'veyn and The Sah'niir have been reduced in price
on Kindle for the entirety of August!
Search on your preferred Kindle store
or hit one of the links below for the most common stores:
The Zi'veyn: UK    US    Can    Aus    NL
The Sah'niir: UK    US    Can    Aus    NL

Otherwise, here's my schedule for the month,
including both Patreon and public posts:

1st: 'One Öre' (short story) released on Patreon Archivist tier
1st-5th: The Zi'veyn free on Kindle
8th: 'It's Just Business' (short story) released on Patreon Archivist tier
13th: Artwork compilation on Patreon, all tiers
15th: 'One Öre' made available to everyone else
15th-19th: The Sah'niir free on Kindle
20th: Artwork compilation available to everyone else
22nd: Sneak-peek of Veysuul's cover for Patreon only, all tiers
22nd: 'It's Just Business' made available to everyone else
27th-31st: Hlífrún free on Kindle