Snippet 5: George and the Dragon

A few weeks ago I shared the first few scenes of Fealty, from my story collection Whips & Fangs. I’ve toyed with the idea of a sequel collection, and this draft is one of the stories that might go in it.

Don’t worry, you get the full story this time.

For one thousand years, our bargain has stood. Each decade a young man, the best the village has to offer. Each year the village prospers and the threats of the world are kept far distant.

But gone are the days when the proud youth come to me bedecked in their finery, speaking words of welcome while they clench their hands to hide the trembling. Gone even are the days when bold fools met me with steel and war cries, determined to not to submit until I beat them to their knees.

Instead I find this. This pathetic thing bound to posts like a common criminal. He will not even lift his head to meet my gaze.

My talons shred the ties at his wrists and he collapses into the marsh. Growling, I fish him out, and find it was not lack of will that kept his head bent. My would-be suitor is more than half dead.

With a roar I launch myself skywards. They shall pay, and pay and pay for this.

I have not entered the village in a hundred years or more, but little has changed. I set my ‘prize’ down in the village square. He coughs weakly and struggles to his knees. Screaming villagers and bellowing cows announce my presence.

“You could have ended our bargain at any time. Instead you insult me with this. Burn then!”

I take to the air again, and set flame to their tallest building. They flee, even their pathetic ‘guard’ dropping their weapons to run screaming for the fields. Let them run. For a thousand years their village has stood safe. When I am done there will be no village.

I circle, picking my next target. Movement, coming toward me. My would-be suitor crawls in my direction.

I start, air slipping from beneath my wings. I turn the loss into a landing, settling before him. Even over the roaring flames I hear his cough, deep and wet.


I blink.

“Please.” He coughed again, “don’t.”

I lower my head until I can meet his eyes. He does not flinch.

“Please. They meant no harm.”

“Twice now, they have abandoned you to me. Why do you defend them?”

He drew a gasping breath. “I volunteered. If you have to- to make a meal of one of us, better it be me.”

“What!” I rear back and flare my wings, bruising them badly against the stone buildings. True some of my recent mates had made jokes about expecting to be eaten. But I took it as virgin nerves. I am rather lusty for my age. They had been joking…hadn’t they?

Hot rage bubbled up. They hadn’t. I could see it in the face of the man before me. He had come to me… his people had sent him to me… believing…

I howled, my flames spearing a mile into the air. For this, I would hunt them down and tear them to pieces. For this, I would roast them alive and feed them to the wild hogs. There is no punishment I can craft in a thousand, thousand years suited to these… these…

“Please.” His hand wrapped around my leg. “Whatever wrong we have done.” that cough again. “There are children, innocents.” He lost his voice in another paroxysm.

I dropped my head until his hair waved with each breath I took. “What will you offer me for their lives?”

He opened his mouth, closed it. His head dropped. “I have nothing. Only- only myself, but…”

But I had made my rejection of him clear. Perhaps I was not the only one who had suffered insult this day.

“Very well. Your life for theirs.”

He stared up at me, then slowly, painfully climbed to his feet.

I grinned. “I usually prefer my mates on their knees. But in this case I’ll make an exception.”

He swayed, and I don’t think it was just his weakness. “Mate?”

I took him carefully in my talons and leapt for the sky. “You have a great deal to learn. And after I get you to a proper healer, many years to learn it in. Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle.

“What is your name?”

“Ah… I’m George. Named for St–.”

“George. I like it.”

For some reason he alternated laughing and coughing the whole way home.

This is the end of Snippet Month. I hope you enjoyed my little bits of random weirdness. Next Tuesday we’ll return to How NOT to Save the World and the regular (in theory) schedule.

Snippet 4: The Scout

Pranli prowled down the branch, watching. The stranger below her was unlike any human she’d ever seen before. He tramped through the trees, unconcerned with the noise his made. His outlandish outfit clattered and jingled with strange metal things attached everywhere imaginable.

Pausing to clean her face, she considered. Curiosity impelled her to follow this apparition, but what would be best for the pride? Report his incursion, and risk losing his trail, or follow and observe?

He made the decision easy for her. After looking around him a moment, he began to set up a camp. Once he was asleep, she could report it, and be back to follow before he woke.

She stretched out on the tree, rested her head in her hands, curled her tail around her, and settled in to enjoy the show. Whatever this strange human was up to, she was sure it would be worth watching. Humans were like that.

The stranger was adept enough in human ways of setting up a camp, and seemed to take care to disturb as little of his surroundings as possible. In a short time he had a small fire going, built with green sticks was burning smoke that would keep away the worst of the insects that plagued the furless creatures. The meal he cooked over his fire smelled surprisingly good. His camp held all the marks of the woods-wise traveler. Which was just one more puzzle, for never had a human traveled these woods alone and no woods-wise traveler would stomp through the jungle making all the noise this one did.

After he finished eating, Pranli gathered herself to be ready to leave as soon as he was asleep. He surprised her again, instead of curling up in his nest he pulled out one of his human things – a book, she thought it was called – and marked it up with a burnt stick from the fire. Hours she sat there, as he filled more and more of his “book” with these strange marks. It almost reminded her of the claw-glyphs the pride’s scouts used to leave messages for each other. But why would he leave a message to someone else in a thing he carried with him? Did he plan to leave the thing behind for others who followed him?

It was a relief when he finally went to sleep, and she could return to dump this problem in the laps of the Elders.

Dashing through the trees, Pranli reached Pride Home before the night was a quarter over. Her normally nocturnal pride mates were active throughout the home. In each great tree she could see someone’s tail hanging down below the leaf line, or the flick of an ear or a pair of eyes gleaming in the darkness. Elder Lowll was sprawled in his usual perch, his black fur making him a darker shadow in the night.

The elder took her report, then told her to wait. He stalked off, his graceful movements unmarred by the pain of ancient joints. With nothing else to do, Pranli decided it was a good time for a nap.


The moon had barely moved in the sky, when the elder woke her with quick shake. A few minutes later, she was racing back through the trees. The elders terrifying words echoing in her thoughts.

“The humans are moving against us,” he had said, “this one you have found, this human who travels alone and marks in his book what he sees. He is a human scout, come to learn our weaknesses.”

Shock and horror had held Pranli silent. Foolish hunters would frequently boast of how the pride would put the humans in their place if ever it came to war, but wise scouts had seen the human weapons, prowled the human cities, and knew the human strength. The hunters could kill 1000 humans each and still more would come to overwhelm them.

“What can we do, Elder?”

“You will go back to this human scout, reveal yourself to him.” Pranli gasped, but forced herself to remain silent. “You will befriend him, and learn his secrets. When you have learned all you can of the humans and their hunters, of their plans, you will kill him.”

The way the elder had said it, it sounded so simple. And she understood the necessity, but to reveal herself to this human was to break every rule of the scout code. Just the thought made her bristle. The journey back to the human’s camp was no longer than her journey from it, but it seemed to take lifetimes.

She reached the human’s camp without difficulty. The creature was still asleep. It made a hideous racket in its sleep. A horrible growling hiss that echoed through the trees. If this was a human scout, then they were even more pathetic than she thought. How did it expect to stay hidden and survive when it couldn’t be quiet?

Stay hidden. She hissed, clinging to a high branch. The scouts stayed hidden, for the safety of the pride. The elders expected her to reveal herself to this human – Elder Lowll said that by speaking with it, learning of it, she would be helping the pride in the coming war.

She sat, and began to clean her ears. What was best for the pride? Revealing herself to this human should be safe, if she was going to kill him anyway. If he died before he told anyone, had she truly revealed herself?

But killing him was revealing herself – his fellows would know he didn’t return. Would guess the pride had stopped him. That would send a message to his elders. If this was a time to act openly, it was work for the hunters, not a lone scout. Scouts gathered information.

Her tail flicked, annoying her. Irritation made it twitch uncontrollably. She grabbed for it. It jerked out of reach. Hissing under her breath, she used both hands to seize the thing and pinned it to the branch. Looking around automatically, she sighed relief that no one had seen her.

What had she been thinking? Information. Scouts gathered information. And she was supposed to get information from this human. Information that would help the pride in the coming war. Growling, she stood up and began to pace along the branch.

In the distance a wild dog howled. For a moment, for the first time in her memory, she envied the canids. Too stupid to think for themselves, they were simply blindly obedient to whoever could force them to submit. Blind obedience wasn’t the way of a cat. What was best for the pride?

Through the long hours tonight, she wrestled with her doubts. Did she trust the elders, and break the scouts code of secrecy; or did she find some other path? She found no answer. She didn’t know enough about humans to guess what the right answer might be. And when the first bird shook itself awake and began to sing to the fast approaching dawn, Pranli was still alert, still pacing, still undecided.

The sun, unseen beyond the jungle canopy, was still not fully over the horizon when she found… Not an answer, but maybe the path to one. Rolling onto her back, she used the bark of a branch to scratch an itch between her shoulder blades. And realized that no matter what she did, this human, the questions he brought would be an itch in her mind. She could never learn enough of him watching. Only by revealing herself, befriending him, learning his secrets directly, could she learned enough to answer the questions that had haunted her through the night.

It was a novel idea for a scout, but she felt her fur settle as she recognized the wisdom of the elders. They could not pick the best path for the pride without answers. Answers they were trusting her to bring.

She clambered swiftly down from the trees, landing lightly on the balls of her feet. She set herself where the human would see her when he woke up, and settled on her haunches. She would find the answers for the elders, so they would have the answers they needed. This, she knew, was best for the pride.

Little thing that’s been sitting in my files for a long time. Doubt I’ll ever do more with it…

Snippet 3: Fealty

Content note: kidnapping, cliffhanger (unfinished story — full version available in ebook)

Beloved, The baron, my husband, is dead. I am fighting to secure these lands and title in my own right as his widow. If you still feel as you once did, come to me now. I have need of you and your sword both.

With all my love,

Myrtle, Baroness Fireridge

Eryk folded up the well-worn letter and tucked it away in his jerkin. Six months ago Baron Balmont of Cliffside had invited him to swear fealty and become one of Balmont’s knights. For the bastard son of the hated Black Baron, the chance to belong was a dream come true. He accepted the lord’s invitation without a moment’s thought. Three weeks later, Myrtle’s letter reached him.

Three weeks…

From the tower, a bell rang the time. He stood and stretched, forcing his thoughts to more productive trails. He had a patrol to run. The border with the Cirisian Empire might be quiet, but it still needed watching.

A short time later, he and his detachment of men at arms rode out. High Range Castle was one of several fortifications on the Baron’s lands. The castle walls overlooked one of the few roads to cut through the mountains between the Westerlands and the Cirisian Empire. The mountains were the main protection for the warring minor lords of the Westerlands against the ever-expanding Cirisians. The mountains—and the Empire’s knowledge that if attacked, those feuding lords would unite until they drove out the intruder.

Turning down the road, the patrol passed a trade caravan. The caravans were the most common traffic between Cirisia and the Westerlands, far more common than invading armies. Still they guarded. Just in case.

~ ~ ~

The first hours of patrol were routine. They found nothing more interesting than some woodsman’s rabbit snares. Halfway through their circuit, Eryk called a halt to water the horses. Habit had him telling off two of the soldiers as sentries. He doubted they’d be needed, but there was no reason to be sloppy.

Eryk’s saddle had been slipping as they rode, and he took the opportunity to check his girth. The familiar sound of a man falling to the ground had him spinning around, hand on his sword hilt. He could see no enemy, but one by one the men of his patrol slid off their horses. Exhaustion swept over him, and the world went black.

~ ~ ~

Eryk woke to the movement of a horse under him. He came awake in an instant. His hands were tied to the saddle in front of him and a blindfold covered his eyes. Straining his ears, he heard the quiet clomping of horses walking a forest trail. Too few horses. “Where are my men?” His voice was hoarse with disuse. “Told you he’d beent alright. Long sleep never hurt none.” The rough voice marked the speaker as a mountain peasant and full of good cheer. Eryk growled and pulled at the rope binding his hands. “No need to get excited. We left your men sleeping like babes. Even tethered the horses so theys wouldn’t get stepped on.”

Eryk started to ask how he knew he was being told the truth, but stopped himself. Whether they lied or not, he could do nothing until he managed to escape.

They rode through the afternoon and made camp in the evening. His guards were careful, and never gave him an opportunity to get free. Nor did they answer any questions.

For three days and two long nights, he endured. By the middle of the first day, he knew they had left Lord Balmont’s land behind, but had no clue where they were.

He spent the time pondering his strange abduction. Magic was rare – very rare. He knew of only three mages in the Westerlands. No one used magery for a minor raid. But only a spell could have taken he and his men down so quickly. Someone very powerful or very rich had ordered his capture. This couldn’t be an attack on the Baron. He didn’t know enough of the Baron’s secrets to be worth interrogating, and the disappearance of a low ranked patrol leader would hardly hurt the Baron’s defenses.

Years ago, the Black Baron had terrorized the northern Baronies. The two decades since the Black Baron’s death had done little to ease the fear and hatred. Eryk had spent a lifetime fighting to be accepted as himself and not the Black Baron’s child. Might someone have decided that with the father dead, they would take their revenge on the son?

It was not a comforting thought.

~ ~ ~

The third night they didn’t stop. Eryk had no way to judge the time, but shortly after the frogs started singing, the horses moved onto a cobblestone road. A few hours later they passed through a guarded checkpoint.

Soon after, the horse under him stopped, and his captors pulled him from the saddle. They led him into a building, and a tired voice told them to bring him upstairs.

Climbing those stairs, blind and with his hands bound, was slow and nasty. But they allowed him to move as best he could, rather than dragging him or carrying him. He was grateful for the small dignity.

A hand on his elbow guided him through the second floor. They stopped in a carpeted room scented with wood polish.

“You hain’t caused us trouble yet, sir. That change if I untie you?”

Unarmed against three armed men and god only knew how many guards stationed about this place. “I don’t think I’m ready to commit suicide today,” Eryk replied.

Something tugged at his wrists, and the ropes fell to the floor. “I’m told the lady’s spelled the room to keep you here. She don’t throw around magery much, but when she does, it usually works.” A few moments later a door closed.

Eryk pulled the blindfold off. A single candle lit the room. The faint light pained his eyes after so many days in darkness. Chafing wrists rubbed raw by the rope, he examined his prison. A wooden bed, larger than some wagons, dominated the room. A study post at each corner supported draperies that matched the thick blankets. A small table and single chair were the only other furniture. His feet sank into a deep carpet. The room wouldn’t have been unsuitable for a minor lord. As a place to stick a captive it was ridiculous.

He shook his head. The only thing that mattered was escape. He needed to get out of here and back to Baron Balmont. The lack of windows made the door the only exit. A few minutes careful listening left him confident no guard stood outside. Apparently they trusted their mage.

He turned the handle, and it moved under his hand. The door swung open revealing the empty hallways beyond. Either his abductors were idiots—in which case he should have been able to escape days ago—or the mage was so good he might as well give up now.

Well, no one ever called him smart. He reached a hand through the doorway, prepared to pull back at the first sign of danger.

His eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the floor. Sound asleep.

~ ~ ~

He woke on the bed, with his hands and feet bound to the corner posts. He yanked against the ropes, but they weren’t coming loose anytime soon. This was starting to turn into a habit. One he didn’t like.

Standing at the foot of the bed was… Shock turned his blood cold in his veins. “Baroness Fireridge.”

Fealty is the first story in Whips & Fangs, a short story collection of kinky fantasies (in both senses of the terms). Most of them focus on power exchange relationships (with a fair bit of dubcon and noncon). Mix of sexual, romantic, and aro/ace relationships. This is not an erotica collection, more an exploration of the various forms D/s relationships can take in fantasy settings.

Pick up the full collection today

Snippet 1: Me and My Webserial from June 2022

I don’t remember why I started doing these, but they were fun and silly and I posted them on Fedi on and off through out June, then got distracted by the Smashwords sale. I’ll probably post some more next time I’m in a mental place to be a bit silly.

June 2nd

Me: I has successfully adulted.

Me: New rabbi is hired (yay!), kids passed homeschool eval, food shopping is done.

Me: I can be done for day yes?

Webserial schedule: Ahem.

Me: I can be done for next hour yes?

Webserial schedule: Fine, but I’ll grump at you the whole time.

Me: YAY!


Webserial schedule: It’s been an hour, time to get to work!

Me: but… but.. but.. dinner time!

Webserial schedule: grrr


Me: Okay, dinner is done, it’s time to–

Webserial schedule: Edit!

Me: No, it’s time to play with the Kid

Webserial schedule: *wails*


Webserial schedule: Finally! Are you reading to start edi–

Me: Writing time!

Webserial schedule: What? No! You need to edit!

Me: But I’m 200 words short of minimum post length.

Webserial scedule: The post needs be done before you go to bed! you don’t have time to write! it takes you at least an hour to edit and schedule and your brain will turn to mush by 10!

Me: 10:30. Writing time!


Webserial schedule: You still haven’t started writing.

Me: Yeah, well the kid’s bed broke again…

Webserial schedule: *glares*

Me: I’m writing, I’m writing!


Me: See? Done. I told you I could do it.

Webserial schedule: Awesome! You do work well under pressure.

Me: Yup. Still, I’m glad i have Monday’s post already scheduled and…

Webserial schedule: *looks*

Me: What?

Webserial schedule: *looks*

Me: I do have it scheduled! It’s the finale for The Bargain, and I know its…

Webserial schedule: *looks*

Me: … The Bargain finale was last Monday’s post wasn’t it?

Webserial schedule: Yup.

June 3rd

Webserial schedule: You need to write an episode of HNSW today.

Me: Fuck, I only got 5 horus sleep last night.

Webserial: Yeah? And whose fault is that?

Me: I can write it Sunday and edit it Monday.

Webserial schedule: Saturday night is the Shavuot movie marathon. You’ll be lucky to sleep at all.

Me: Fuck…


Webserial schedule: Nooo! You can’t stop!

Me: Look, it’s half written, but I can’t write another six hundred words of people sitting around talking. I need to figure out what next.

Webserial schedule: So write something else!

Me: I need lunch. And laundry needs to be done. Also nap.

Webserial schedule: *sighs* You won’t forget?

Me: Yeah, I promise.

Me: And, hey, we have the whole season for HNSW mapped out. That’s good, right?

Webserial schedule: Yes! I can’t wait!

June 6th

Webserial schedule: *snore*

Me: Aren’t you supposed to be yelling at me right now?

Webserial schedule: Huh? What?

Me: I still haven’t finished tomorrow post. I should work on that right?

Webserial schedule: What! Tomorrow? What!

Me: Yeah. I’m having trouble focusing, but I don’t want to miss another post, you know?

Webserial schedule: START WRITING!!!!

Me: No need to be rude about it.

June 7th

Me: Focus? What is focus?

Webserial schedule: Let’s put your music on, there’s a good human.

Me: Music is good…

Webserial schedule: *waits patiently*

Me: *singing along with Damh the Bard*

Webserial schedule: So… you had something to write? Hadn’t Benj asked Nastasia a question?

Me: Oh! Yes! They need to talk. Karen is done being patient too. And… and stuff. Right. Stuff.

Webserial schedule: Well, it’s an improvement…

June 12th

Me: Yes! Writing has been done.

Webserial schedule: Don’t stop! You’re on a roll! What happens next.

Me: I have to stop. I’m late to walk the dog.

Webserial schedule: But the story!!!!

June 13th

Webserial schedule: I know you’re having a rough day, but do you think we can get some work done? Deadline tomorrow.

Me: I can’t. I just… I can’t do an hour and a half of work today. I’m already into knives. I just…

Webserial schedule: Shh. It’s okay. Hey, so maybe you work on it early tomorrow and it goes out a bit late? That’s not to bad, is it?

Me: But I said I would do this. And I’m letting people down. And I’m failing. I’m failing at everything.


Webserial schedule: Hey! It’s okay. Look, you kept me going for a year and a half. That’s big! And you published a book. You’re doing good.

Me: But I’m supposed to publish consistently. That’s the rule. Readers don’t like it if you aren’t consistent.

Webserial schedule: Fuck the rules. Fuck all the assholes who tried to tell you how to do things ‘right.’ You’re doing good. We’re doing good. Okay?

Me: Okay… Maybe I could write a bit today?

Webserial Schedule: Just don’t push yourself.

June 15th

Webserial schedule: We gonna get anything done today?

Me: I don’t know. It just…

Webserial schedule: It’s a blah day.

Me: Yeah. Trying to write Karen on a blah day…

Webserial schedule: Karen doesn’t do blah.

Me: I know!

Me: Maybe Marcus? He’s sick. I’m sure he’s real blah right now?

Webserial schedule: We can try. Can’t hurt anyway.

Me: Okay.

Me: Blah day’s suck.

Webserial schedule: Yup.


Webserial schedule: Marcus?

Me: Yeah. *sigh*

Webserial schedule: You really should…

Me: Kids are going out to play after lunch. Maybe then?

Webserial schedule: Maybe. *sigh*

June 24th

Webserial schedule: We survived another week.

Me: Yup. Still no buffer.

Webserial Schedule: Two PTSD flare ups in one week, what did you expect.

Me: To miss today’s episode.

Webserial Schedule: Win.


Webserial Schedule: How long do you think you’ll keep doing this?

Me: Which this? The webserial or these posts?

Webserial Schedule: Oh, I know how long you’ll keep doing the serial — until you come up with a better idea or break.

Me: Hah! Which do you think will come first?

Webserial Schedule: Not sure. But I don’t see you breaking anytime soon.

Me: me either.

Me: So I guess you were asking about these posts?

Webserial Schedule: Yeah.

Me: I’ll keep going as long as they amuse me.

June 26th

Webserial Schedule: Hey Jess?

Me: Yeah, I know…

Webserial Schedule: Can I help?

Me: I don’t think so. Brain stuff making it hard to focus.

Webserial Schedue: Okay. I’ll poke you in an hour. Sound good.

Me: Works.


Me: I figured it out! I figured it out!

Webserial Schedule: You did? Awesome! Get writing.

Me: On it.

Snippets: Hiatus Week 4

Reverse Stockholm

Content Notes: alien abduction ‘romance’, no adult content

She stood before him. A literal sacrifice to save her world. Though very far from virgin. Behind them, hundreds of news cameras watched, projecting her fate to the world in live HD.


She hesitated. The watching newsies gave her, for the last time, some external power. She could use that. Maybe.

“My name is Jessica.”

He loomed over her. “I don’t give a damn what your name is. Kneel.”

“You say that you aren’t barbarians. Just different. You say that you don’t wish to harm anyone, but you are desperate.” He raised his hand. She spoke faster. “You don’t want a scene here. All I want is for you to use my name.”

He snarled. She braced herself for the blow. “Very well. Kneel, Jessica.”

She slipped easily to her knees and smiled up at him. “Thank you.”

Inside she was cheering. She had made him bargain with her.

The shuttle lifted, whisking them into orbit. She felt his eyes on her. He had to know what she looked like. They had asked for her specifically. Breaking the silence would put her at a disadvantage. She leaned back in the seat and recalled the plot of her latest story. Her fingers twitched, needing to fidget. A strand of hair to twirl settled them, and she distracted herself figuring out why her heroine refused to cooperate with the storyline.

“Tell me a story.” The sudden demand jarred her out of her thoughts.

“Um… what kind of story?”

“Like the stories you write.”

“Oh.” She sighed. Of all the things he would ask. “I can’t. I wish I could.”

He snarled. “You will do what I tell you.”

“I can tell you a story, but I can’t tell those stories. I’ve tried storytelling, but it’s very different from writing. I can tell fairytales and myths and fables and personal experiences. But the stuff I write is too intricate. I’m not a good enough storyteller to spin that kind of yarn.

“What I could do… what is your name?”

He glared. She waited. “What could you do?”

Damn it. “What I could do, Man With No Name, is….

The shuttle docked, and she followed him out into the bay. “Strip.”

She’d been half-expecting it. But she hadn’t been able to come up with any way to turn it to her advantage.

She turned around and undid the fastenings on her suit. One by one, the pieces fell to the floor until she stood wearing nothing. Not even a hat to cover her hair.

He led her through the bay and into the ship. They passed many men but no women. Where were they? Did these people segregate by gender? If they did, she was screwed.

All the men they passed stopped and saluted. Many of them stared at her hungrily. She shivered and did her best to ignore them.

They finally entered a large room where another man waited.

“So this is our female,” he said.

“We are not barbarians. Her name is Jessica.”

Yes! It worked. She might be in their power, but she had established herself as an individual. Time to ride that wave.

She extended her hand and stepped toward the new man. “Hi. It’s nice to meet you…”

“Alec,” the leader said behind her. “His name is Alec.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Alec.”


With a pensive sigh, she traced the ridge of his eyebrows. They stood out so sharply from an otherwise flat face. She had never seen anyone with such a face.

“Jetal, come on!”

She flushed and hurried away from the unconscious supplicant.

“Really, Jetal,” Senior Penitent Rasha said, “You need to stop mooning over the supplicants! It’s unseemly.”

Jetal kept her eyes down and murmured, “Yes, Senior Sister.”

She heard Rasha sigh. “Well, come on. We don’t want to keep Initiate Marga waiting.”

“No, Senior Sister.”

Jetal kept her expression calmly attentive through the ensuing history lesson. She had spent hours in the library, reading the history of the Temple and the Goddess’ Chosen. She never understood how Initiate Marga managed to make all those fascinating stories so BORING.

When the lecture was over, she tried to disappear out the door without being noticed.

“Junior Penitent Jetal!” The sharp voice froze her in the doorway. A living obstacle for her fellow Penitents to flow around.

She turned and re-entered the lecture hall. “Yes, Initiate Marga?”

“The Matriarchs have noted your interest in the Supplicants.”

Jetal winced, waiting for the reprimand.

“They have determined to assign you two hours a day aiding the Sisters in charge of the Supplicants. There is a shortage of hands in the Supplicant quarters, and perhaps exposure will wear away your fascination.”

Even the sting of the Initiates final words couldn’t keep a grin from spreading across Jetal’s face. She bowed, “Thank you, Initiate!”

Space Junk

The aging satellite had circled the small green and white planet for millennium. It observed the rise of a dominant species, evolving from primitive bands to stone cities. The domestication of animals, the beginning of organized war.

Its masters, presumably, received the reports it beamed back, but no response ever came. It circled on, becoming erratic and unreliable. Micro pitting damaged its processors, batteries ran down, and, as the solar cells lost alignment, did not recharge.

More years passed, the civilization below continued to evolve. Finally, the satellite stopped working entirely. It floated in space, an unusable collection of circuits and metal. Without rockets to stabilize its flight, its orbit degraded—a long, slow fall to the planet below.

Berchad was plowing his field, getting ready to plant the mage-touched rhubarb seeds. He ignored the flash of fire high above. The High Mage and Regus-the-Bastard had been fighting for a week already. He figured they’d still be going at it come harvest time.

If he’d looked up, he might have had some warning of the pile of molten metal which was about to crash into his just-planted turnips.

Werewolf foodbank

Frank looked over the long line of people stretching ahead of him. The foodbank doors hadn’t even opened yet, but already the line of people waiting stretched around the block. In the West, the sun sank steadily towards the horizon. He could feel the blood moon’s call itching between his shoulder blades.

Next to him, a young woman bulging with pregnancy explained to an older couple how the foodbank worked. In front of him, a man and woman chatted in sign language, the woman occasionally calling a greeting to people who passed. Ahead of them were boxes of books, dumped on the sidewalk after the church’s latest rummage sale. Several folks cautiously left their spot to dig through the boxes.

Frank’s cupboards at home weren’t empty. But he couldn’t afford to buy more food until the foodstamps came in next week. And the cubs needed meat to stay healthy. According to social services, he made enough money to supplement foodstamps with cash, but the money he sent to his ex as child support each month wasn’t counted in his “expenses.” That $300 bite out of his paycheck left things… tight.

It would be another two months before bow hunting season. And with the bloody supermoon tonight only an idiot would hunt on four legs.

He glanced at the clock on the church tower. Half an hour until the doors opened. An hour and a half until moonrise. Three hours until the eclipse started.

He couldn’t afford to be out tonight. The chance of being away from home—hell the chance of still being at the foodbank–when the moon rose was too great. But the cubs needed meat.

Ridge and Space Junk are two more from the Second Life writing group. Reverse Stolkholm and Werewolf foodback are my own brainstorms. With Reverse Stolkholm I was playing with the ‘alien abduction’ subgenre and how the captive in such a story might turn the tables on her captors, rather than submitting to them. Werewolf foodbank has a bit of a more prosaic background — some years ago there was a supermoon/blood moon on a night the local foodbank was open. How could I not?

Next Tuesday we’ll be starting a new story, First Came Trust, and Friday we’ll be resuming What You Will. Thanks for your patience during this hiatus.

First Came Trust is the, well, first, in a trilogy about three siblings surviving and rebuilding among strange people in a strange land.

Lilah knew ey was dead the moment ey met the creature in the woods. Ey never expected eir doom to overtake eir siblings as well. A stranger on the road may offer salvation, but is it worth the price?

Ulfsark: Hiatus Week 3

Content notes: abuse, untreated PTSD, violence, death threats

Salma pushed aside the curtain and stepped into the airway. As always, the space between the thick sod outer walls and the wooden inner walls of the long house was cool and damp. The shielded oil lamp she carried cast a dim glow across the nearest support beam and a few feet of dirt floor.

A strong tang filled the air. Someone had been to lazy to go to the outhouse. Salma’s nose wrinkled. She watched the ground as she moved through the airway, careful of where she put her feet.

The airway stretched the full length of the long house, providing insulation and protecting the wooden walls for damp and rot. More than half the distance from the curtain Salma entered, a dark shape stepped back, pressing itself against the wooden walls. In the darkness, the dim light of the lamp came steadily closer. The monster’s golden eyes tracked the light, and the sturdy hand that held it.

The filth saved Salma’s life. When the flickering light bounced off a stinking puddle, she stopped. The beast launched himself at her. With a clattered of chains, he jerked to a stop, his teeth inches from her throat.

A daughter of the north, Salma didn’t scream, but stepped back quickly and her free hand grabbed the hilt of her knife.

The beast stood revealed in the light of her lamp. A man’s body, but covered in a thick pelt of dark grey fur. The head a mix of man and beast, with golden eyes, and a muzzle filled with sharp teeth. His hands, held by thick chains bolted to the wall, had thick, dark claws in place of finger nails.

Salma gasped. She released her knife. Her wide eyes glittered with tears before she blinked them away. Coming out of her defensive crouch, she curtsied, her eyes fixed on a spot above the beast’s head. “Greetings, ulfsark.”

The beast growled again. They stood for a moment, unmoving. Then the beast relaxed. The arms stopped straining against the chains. The muzzle softened. The face shifted, the eyes taking on a human cast while keeping their bright gold color.

“It has been a long time since one of your kin feasted in my hall, warrior. I am sorry I cannot give you a proper welcome.”

“No one welcomes a monster.” The whisper was more growl than speech. He stepped back from her, turned to face the wall.

Salma stepped forward, coming within his reach. “I do not see a monster. How came you to my hall, ulfsark? Who did this?” Her finger brushed the chains that held him.

“The Bloodaxe brought me. If you do not heed him, he will loose me on your people.” He whirled, grabbing her arm, his claws digging into her skin. “Leave before I kill you. And listen to the Bloodaxe.”

She tilted her head. “I am a daughter of the northlands, ulfsark. I have faced death every winter of my life. I will fight you if I must. But I will not fear you.”

The claws retreated from her arm, though his hand never moved. The last of his muzzle disappeared into a human mouth. “How are you doing this?” fear flickered in his eyes.

“I told you, warrior. My hall has welcomed ulfsark and berserk many times. I am not a threat to you, nor do I fear you. What has the Bloodaxe done, to drive your wolf out of your control?”

He laughed. “Not the Bloodaxe. His father. Haraald Shockhair did what 15 years of battle could not.”

“And now he uses you as a tool of his conquest.”

“Yes.” He met her eyes, and his teeth hovered between fang and human. “Heed him, or more blood will soak my claws.”

She shook her head. “No.”

His hand tightened on her arm, claws once again dug into her flesh. “I could kill you now.”

“Or you could free me.”

He froze.

“Warrior. Help me escape the Bloodaxe, and I will help you. You can come with us, and you and your wolf will heal. You can own your life again.”

He stared at her. Tears shimmered in his eyes. Then he dropped her arm and turned away. “Go. When they do release me, I will try to make your death quick.”

Blood trickled down her arm. She reached toward him, then turned and walked away. Leaving the broken warrior standing in a pool of his own piss.

Some time ago I read an essay on evidence of PTSD in warrior myths. Among other things, the author explored evidence from Norse mythos that the berserk and ulfsark of legend might have been Norse warriors suffering from PTSD. Of course, the legends we have are incomplete and mostly recorded through later Christian writers. But he made a compelling case.

Of course, a few places in the myths say or imply that berserk and ulfsark were shapeshiters. I had to put the two together.

Harald Shockhair is the historical Norse lead/strongman/conquerer who united Norway into a single kingdom in the 10th century CE. He did so through a combination of threats, bribes, and outright conquest, driving many of the lesser kings and chieftains into exile in England or Iceland. Eric the Bloodaxe was his son.

Snippets: Hiatus Week 2


“Out.” That was all they said, and suddenly Danne found himself ejected from the only home he had anymore. He had gone to the headmaster, hoping to plead for another chance. But the door refused to admit him.

He hadn’t meant to blow up the alchemy classroom. It just…happened. Just like he hadn’t meant to frighten all the pegasi when it was his turn to groom them. Or turn all the food rancid while helping make dinner. And he definitely hadn’t meant to put invisibility powder in the laundry instead of soap. Who leaves invisibility powder sitting around the academy laundry room anyway?

It didn’t make any difference. After three years and five mishaps, they were done with him.

With nothing else to do, Danne wandered down the dirt road that ran past the academy. Sooner or later, he’d come to a town—though he seemed to remember it had been a long way from the last town to the academy when he came here. NMIMY– No Mages In My Yard—was the popular sentiment in Carolia. And given his own mishaps, Danne couldn’t exactly blame them. But he’d need somewhere to sleep for the night…

“Are you done wallowing yet?” a voice squeaked in his ear.

“I’m not wallowing!” The little fire demon had started following him around his first week at the academy—and for some reason never left.

“Sure, sure. Cheer up. I didn’t think we’d make it out of there alive. It’s a good day.”

Danne flicked the creature off his shoulder. A moment later, the scent of scorched hair told him it had reappeared on his head.

“Yup, clear sailing from here. Gotta say: I’m impressed you stuck it out that long. Most cadets don’t last six months after management decides to get rid of them.”


Content note: bigotry

Strong wings beat the skies, adding swirling gusts to the winds buffeting the Empire State Building. Zach kept a firm grip on his hat as he dropped down off the griffon’s back and dashed inside. Sara shook her head and followed him at a less hectic pace. Of course, she had been smart enough not to wear a hat. “Same time next week?” she called over her shoulder.

“Ssssssssss…. No, an hour after sun-high.”

Sara waved acknowledgment and slipped inside. Zach was gone, must have grabbed the first elevator.

Ten minutes later, the elevator dinged and the doors opened. Sara stepped out of the way as a half dozen suits hurried past. The griffon skybus wasn’t due for another hour, so they probably had a charter.

Sara hopped on the elevator and selected the first-level basement. With a bit of luck, Zach would have continued being an impatient git, and she’d be able to catch a scooter back to the office.

Of course, Zach was waiting for her in the company’s two-seater mini-auto. “What took you so long? I could have been back by now!” Sara rolled her eyes. Her long legs barely fit in the mini’s passenger seat.

“And once again, that was an utter waste of time. Why do we have to keep flying out there? Sending a telegram would do more good.”

“The dragons only deal in person.” The cool glass of the window felt good against her forehead.

Zach put the mini in gear and hit the gas. Sara closed her eyes after they zipped past a support column with inches to spare. “It’s stupid. All the protocol and dancing around. Why can’t they just make a deal, like normal people.”

On cue, a spike drove through Sara’s left temple. “Zach, you need to shut up. Now.”

“What? You know I’m right. If the dragons, and griffons, and all the others would just get with the modern world, we could have wrapped this up months ago!”

“Or maybe they have reasons for doing things their way. If we’d ‘wrapped this up months ago,’ we’d spend decades sorting out the problems caused by a rushed deal.” Stupid, stupid. Don’t engage. She should have learned that by now.

“I’m just saying, all the back and forth-ing and what not is completely unnecessary. Half a day gone, for what? A minor change in a single sub-clause? Who cares?”

That “minor change” would finally cement an alliance between two rival dragon clans that threatened the entire multi-species alliance. Sara ran a hand over her forehead. Ridges, damn it.

“If you have a problem with it, take it up with Craig. I don’t want to hear any more.” What had Craig been thinking assigning Zach to this job? She had been asking herself that three times a day for three weeks and never found an answer.

“What crawled up your butt all of a sudden? I’m just saying what we’re both think–”

Sara whirled towards him and grabbed his shirt, her claws ripping through the expensive cotton blend. He slammed on the brakes, and the car spun out, stopping just short of a parked van. Sara was passed caring. “What you have been saying, every week since you were assigned to this negotiation, is that you are a human-centric bigot who has no business on this team. Your refusal to even attempt to understand the cultures you are dealing with is noted. Your resignation is accepted. Tell Craig the next assistant he assigns me better not need air piped in through his belly button.”

She opened the door and climbed out of the mini. Checked herself in the van’s mirror. Crap. Full scales, yellow eyes, the works. “And tell him I’ll be out the next few days.” It would take that long to get her human face back on.


Content note: guns, threat of violence

John listened to the fool in the bus seat in front of him and grinned.

“It’s highway robbery, I tell ya! What they expect me to pay just for keeping the lights on. I mean what do they think we are? Made of money?”

The man’s $1000 Rolex glittered as he waved his hands in the air, emphasizing his outrage.

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Ned, three rows forward, signal.

He reached into his jacket and checked the holster. Ned got up and walked forward to speak with the driver. John stood up, nodded to Lucy in the back of the bus. The drive was being smart, pulling over to the side of the highway.

John drew his gun. “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm and no one will get hurt!”

Lucy started going up the aisle with a bag. “Just drop your valuables in the bag, and we’ll be out of your hair.”

John couldn’t help noticing the idiot with Rolex was clutching his watch. He leaned in and whispered to the man, “By the way, this is highway robbery. What your utility company is pulling is a monopoly. Which is way worse than what I’m doing to you now, you might want to write your congressman.”


Content note: religious content (Catholic)

“Holy, holy, holy.”

The ancient prayer rang out through the cathedral, nearly a thousand voices raised as one.

The sheer power of that much belief made the hair on Pal’s neck stand on end. He resisted the urge to shudder.

“Lord God almighty.”

All the sheep were focused on the alter and their Shepherd. They took no notice of him, standing by a chalk circle in an alcove that should have been filled with a saint’s statue and candles.

“Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory.”

With each verse, the power grew. Taking a deep breath, Pal scraped his foot across the drawn circle, breaking it. The tiny crystal talisman in the center reacted immediately. It drank down the power, gathering in all the belief, the faith, the power, the sheep had gathered to offer, in hopes the Shepherd would slaughter some other fools for Its meal.

No longer clear crystal, the talisman darkened. It gorged on power, and the power stained it a blue so dark it was black.

Pal ignored the rest of the prayer, absorbed in his casting. It finished as the last “Amen!” resounded through the ancient building.

Bending over, he scooped up the talisman. It was cool to the touch but heavy. Weighed down with the prayers and hopes and fears of all the people who had filled it.

Pocketing his trophy, Pal quietly slipped out of the cathedral. He knew a demon who would pay good money for a nice catch of faith.


Content note: Assault

Marie’s eyes narrowed as she saw Paul and a strange woman laughing and holding hands outside the movie theater. She stormed up to them and slapped him. Hard.

“What the hell!” Hand to his face, he growled at her, “Marie, what is your fucking problem.”

“Fuck you,” she said, “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. My sister is marrying you next week, and you have the fucking balls to be out at the movies making kissy noises with someone else?”

The woman beside him suddenly started laughing. After a moment, Paul joined her.

“What’s so funny,” Marie demanded.

“Ah…” Paul’s laughing trailed off, “You know, I was sure this was gonna bite me in the ass, but I’m not allowed to tell you.” He shrugged a bit uncomfortably. “Call your sister, and she’ll explain.”

And they just started walking off. Marie stared after them in shock.

After a moment, she pulled out her cellphone, speed-dialed her sister, “Sis, I’m really, really sorry, but I gotta tell you. I think you need to call off the wedding. Paul is cheating on you… Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. I saw him coming out of the movie theater making kissy-face with some stranger… you mean you knew about her?… I… yeah, I guess we can talk later… I interrupted your DATE- but Paul was just… your boyfriend… BUT YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!”

These pieces are mostly from a Second Life writing group I was in nearly 10 years ago. We got together once a day to write for fifteen minutes on a single word prompt. A good chunk of those prompts became scenes in The Bargain. But quite a few were just random brain firings that I’ve somehow managed to hold onto.

The Door: Hiatus Week 1

Content Notes: death and arson references

As the first flames began flickering in the windows, Elisabet turned her back on the manor. The fire would take care of all the evidence. By morning, nothing would be left of her family’s crimes. They, like the rest of her family, would be nothing but smoke and ash.

It was a long trip from that once-proud manor to the antiquated cottage hidden deep in the moor where her many-times great-grandmother, the first Elisabet, had lived. The cottage, passed through the female line for years beyond reckoning, belonged to her. Everything else of her family’s wealth and holdings would go to a distant relative. Elisabet wished them joy in it.

Thoughts of her ancestor, family tales, and the simple cottage from which everything began distracted her from blistered feet and the English weather. Her wild appearance kept others on the road from approaching her, though whispers warned that if she stayed in any one place too long, she would likely be locked up as a madwoman.

When Elisabet reached the cottage, she nearly wept. The door hung off the hinges, and several areas needed new thatch, but otherwise, it seemed intact. In spite of her mother’s neglect, it could still be a home to her.

A small, smokey fire cleared the room of pests, and a sturdy branch braced the door closed. Clearing the chimney would be a long day’s work, but with the holes in the thatch, she could safely leave a tiny fire going to cook dinner and keep her warm through the night. There was no mattress, and the wood-and-leather bed was rotted to pieces, but she had slept on the ground enough nights that she wasn’t bothered. A good night’s sleep and she would be ready to start turning the rundown cottage into a home.

She woke to sunlight creeping under the door. Confused, she looked around and remembered the cottage. Great-grandmother Elisabet. The end of her family. Standing up, she stretched and looked again at the door. It was on the wrong side of the building. On its hinges. Turning around, she saw the door–the real door–braced closed and sagging. No hint of sunlight crept through the gaps between the door and the wall.

She looked again at the new door, impossible door, bright shining door leaking the light of a beautiful summer day. Panic took her. She tore the brace from the door (the real door) and ran out onto the moor. The full moon shone overhead, giving further lie to the sunlight creeping into her new home. From where?

She didn’t know. She didn’t want to know. Her parents had proven, and proven well, that there were things man (and woman) was not meant to know. That such things might have invaded her last haven…

Creeping inside, she grabbed her blanked and scuttled back out, onto the moor. Sleeping under the stars seemed a very good idea.

The first rays of dawn woke her the next morning. No more strangeness had occurred during the night; aside from dreams, her sleep had been peaceful. The morning light shone into the cottage through the east-facing doorway. The far wall, facing the sunset, was blank of door and window alike. Just as it had been when she first entered the cabin late yesterday.

Just a dream, she told herself. And knew she was lying.

That morning she wandered the moors gathering wild carrots and berries and other wild-growing foods. In a few days, she would need to find the nearest village and purchase food and other necessities with the small amount of coin she had taken from the manor. For now, she lived off the moors and blessed the old gardener who taught her about the plants that were safe to eat, and which to avoid.

When she had food for a few days, she gathered rushes and reeds. The scraps of the old bed went out the door into a convenient ditch for the small animals of the moor to make what they could of it. Piling the rushes and reeds where the bed had been made a reasonably comfortable bed for the night. More reeds and twigs, and a sturdy branch, let her make a start on clearing the chimney. Several old birds’ nests later, she had made progress but still had a ways to go. And she didn’t dare fix the thatching until she had a working chimney.

Thankfully, the skies stayed clear, and she would have at least one more rain-free night.

After a simple dinner, she bedded down for the night and told herself fiercely to close her mind to strange dreams.

Sunlight shining on her face–sunlight shining from the west–woke her once again. Gleaming brightly under the door.

The next morning the door was gone again. If she had any faith in pastor or priest, Elisabet might have sought one out. Instead, she did the only thing she could: ignored it. She walked into the nearest village, where the tale of her recent orphaning and retreat to the last of her family’s properties bought the sympathy and support of the village matrons. Over the next days, the men and boys in the village got her roof thatched and she bartered one of her old-but-still-fine dresses to the dressmaker for a bed to sleep on. With seeds from the village, she started a small kitchen garden. Within two weeks’ time, she had a snug little home.

And still, each night, the mysterious door appeared.

One full day, she sat and thought. She had left behind all the books, all the scrolls and palimpsests. Every bit of writing or knowledge her family had accumulated over the years had burned with the manor. Everything but the knowledge within her own mind.

Ignoring the door had done nothing. An exorcism, by a true man of faith, might work. Assuming the door was demonic in nature. And assuming a true man of faith could be found. Plastering over the door might work. Or might not.

She could continue ignoring the door–and hope that it would not ever open of its own accord. She could leave the cottage, strike out alone with no home and no family for whatever life a woman alone in the world might make. Or she could confront the door, open it, and discover for herself just how dangerous its secrets were

That night she did not sleep. She gathered about herself salt from the sea, scraps of iron from the blacksmith’s forge, rue and rosemary, and every other scrap of protection she had ever heard of. Most would probably be useless, but without knowing what was on the other side of the door, she couldn’t know which.

She carefully latched and barred the cottage door (probably rehung, finally) and sat down on her bed to wait.

The hours crept past slowly. Always before she had been asleep when the door appeared. This time she remained awake and watching. Just as she had begun to wonder if the door would appear at all, a point of light appeared at the floor and stretched into a line. The line turned and traced the outline of a door. For a moment, the light blinded Elisabet. Then it was just a door, and the bright summer sun shining under it.

She rose from her bed and lifted the latch. It wouldn’t move.

None of her thinking or planning had prepared her for this. However, she tugged and pulled, the latch would not lift. The door would not open. She tried each of her protective charms in turn. Of course, her bit of iron scrap had no effect on the iron latch, but neither did the salt or rue or anything else.

She sat back down on the bed and started at the door. If the latch wouldn’t lift, then perhaps she didn’t need to worry about the door. After all, with the latch down, nothing on the other side could open the door. She hoped.

The more she thought of it, the less she trusted that thought. Seductive thought. But if the door could simply appear out of nowhere, who was to say that the latch couldn’t open on its own? Not her — she had seen far too much.

Not sure what else to do and unwilling to stare at the impossible door any longer, she got up and left the cottage through the real door. Outside, the stars gleamed brightly, and a thin crescent moon gleamed with the promise of light that never reached the dark moor. It was quiet. The wind blew gently, stirring her hair without disturbing the grass and heather.

What was on the other side of the door?

A sudden thought had her running around to the back of the cottage. There! The other side of the door. The impossible door faced out from the cottage. A faint light shone from under the door, nowhere near as bright as the summer sun which crept out from under the door inside the cottage, but there should have been no light at all–her fire was banked and dark.

Heart in her throat, she walked one careful step at a time up to the door and knocked.

Something moved inside. The latch lifted.

Elisabet held her breath as the door opened, spilling light across the dark moor.

On the other side of the impossible door stood a tall, imposing man with long, flowing hair and a sharply pointed nose. He filled the doorway so she couldn’t see what was on the other side, but she heard bird song coming from somewhere nearby “Elisabet,” he said.

She stared in shock, then shook herself. “Yes. I am sorry to disturb you.”

“Did I not warn you? Did I not tell you that one day you would return and beg me to lift the curse you begged me to gift you with? As I told you then, there is nothing I can do. What you have crafted, you must endure.”

And the door closed in her face.

Flabbergasted, stared for a minute. Then pounded on the door. When there was no immediate answer, she pounded again. And again.

The door opened, and she stopped herself just before she pounded on the fool’s nose. He glowered down at her, and she spoke quickly. “Pardon me, but I think you may have me confused with someone else. I have never seen you before in my life, and I am simply trying to find out why your door keeps appearing in my cottage.”

“You are not Elisabet?”

“Well, I am an Elisabet, but there are lots of Elisabet’s in my family, going all the way back to my several-times great-grandmother Elisabet, the first to leave this cottage. But the family has returned to the cottage frequently. Is it possible you were thinking of another Elisabet?”

The man suddenly became far less imposing, seeming to shrink in on himself. “I…suppose it might. You say it was your many-times grandmother who left the cottage to fall into ruin?”

“Not quite. It was my many-times grandmother who moved away, but the family has always made sure the repairs were kept up and the cottage was in good condition. Until my mother, that is. She didn’t want to be bothered, and the cottage was in a dreadful state when I arrived.”

“And why did you return?”

“Well it’s all gone now, isn’t it? My mother and father were fool enough to play with things no one should touch, and got themselves killed by one of their magics gone awry. I burned down the manor to be sure none of the evil they dealt in would escape and have only the cottage left in the world. Your door frighted me badly, appearing as it did. I want no more truck with such things as my parents dealt in, and having a door appear in my cottage every night was rather disconcerting. Especially when I didn’t know what was on the other side.”

The man humphed. “Well, now you know.”

“Indeed, I do.” She cocked her head to the side. “Might I trouble you to ask if it would be possible to stop your door from appearing in my cabin? It’s a tad disruptive, especially when I’m trying to sleep.”

“No.” He looked down his rapier nose. “Now leave me alone.”

The door slammed again, and this time Elisabet left it.

Her strange neighbor–for so he apparently was, in some odd manner–was a prickly man. But he certainly didn’t appear to be a threat. And if his door only ever opened to the outside of her cottage. Well, that was a strange thing, but the world was full of strange things, and a door that opened on the outside of a cottage was far less threatening than one that opened on the inside. She wondered for a moment what it looked like inside her cottage when the door was opened outside. But she had some knowledge of such matters; most likely when the door was open, her cottage wasn’t inside. Instead, his cottage was inside, and her door would be missing entirely. Maybe she would test that one day.

When he was in a less grumpy mood.

This one is longer than I usually like to send, but I figure I all y’all a bit of extra. This piece came from a writing prompt on Tumblr. I’ve always wanted to do more with Elisabet and her grumpy neighbor, but never really figured out what.

On a Trip to London Town (A tease)

Sorry folks. That family emergency I mentioned back in August? Well it kind of ran into September and I’m still getting back on my feet. One of these days I’m going to rebuild my buffer so I can get back to posting consistently for y’all.

In the mean time, here’s a piece from a few years ago. Ol’ Robin has long been one of my fave tales and one of these days I’m going to do something with him. Sadly, this won’t be that something. I find these days I’m mildly allergic to stories involving The Good King. So Good King Richard will have to find something else to do with his time when I get around to writing about Robin again.

Content notes: violence, hunting

There was a young man once, of good family, though fallen on hard times. When he came of age, he left his home, bidding farewell to his old father, and set off for London Town, seeking his fortune there as young men are wont to do. He carried with him a yew bow and a score of cloth-yard shafts, as well as a gift of coin from his father to see him through his journey. With his good bow and his skill, he had high hopes of winning a place in the king’s service.

Fate had other plans for him, however.

On the second day of his travels, he passed through Nottingham town, ‘twas market day, and being heavy of purse and light of mind, as men of that age are, he thought to pick up some trinket in the market. However, it was no trinket that caught his eye, but the bright curls and laughing eyes of a young maid. She saw him as well, and despite the disapproval of her nurse, winked and flirted with him from across the market square.

Well, he needed no further encouragement, I assure you. Darting around carts and between stalls, he quickly made his way across the square and found a spot next to the market stall where the maid’s nurse was bargaining for fresh herbs.

She made a slight curtsy when she saw him, and he bowed in reply. “What do you here, goodsir? I fain I have not seen your face before.”

“Sadly, no, lady, as my father was not wont to come to town, and I perforce remained with him, but now I make my way to London town, to seek service with the King.”

“And what is your father’s name goodsir?”

“My father is Robert of Locksley.”

“I have heard of him, a noted scholar.”

“Indeed – as his son is not, a disappointment to him, I fear.”

“Surely – ”

So caught up were they in each other they neglected to notice the nurse had finished her bargaining. Horrified to find her charge speaking with a strange man, she bore down upon them like a ship under full sail.

“My lady Marian! This is not seemly! What would your father say!”

As the nurse hustled the maid Marian away, the young man called out, “I hope I may see you again… Lady Marian.”

The nurse screeched in offended proprietary, and then they were gone.

As the young man wandered down the road later that day, he reflected on how his dreams could change so suddenly. No more did the miles pass beneath his feet with happy thoughts of rising in the king’s service, earning acclaim and gold, saving the king from an assassin perhaps, or performing some great feat of valor fighting for Christendom in the Holy Land. His thoughts turned instead back to Nottingham Town. “Marian” He tasted the name over and over, sweet and light, a delight to the tongue. Long and drawn out to be almost a song, the short burst of a whispered confidence. A few years service with the king, some small heroic acts, and he could possibly retire with a small barony as a reward for his service, and enough income to think of… dare he even consider… marriage!

So lost was he in happy daydreams that he didn’t see men in the forest until they were almost upon him.

“What ho, fellow. What brings you to the greenwood?”

“Passing through stranger, on my way to London Town, where I will take service with the king.”

The men laughed at this. “Not yet a stripling, and so sure the king will have you? Go back your mother’s apron strings boy, until you can use that bow you carry!”

The young man’s face turned red, pricked pride driving him down a foolish course.

“I wager gold that I can shoot better than any of you or any man in England!”

One of the number, a villainous man wearing stained deer hide breeches and with a scar running across his creek stepped forward.

“I’ll take that wager, boy, and your gold also!”

The young man agreed and began casting about for materials to set up a proper target.

“Just as I thought, a boy, not a man. No man wastes his time on targets – there is the only target worthy of a grown man!”

The challenger pointed off into the forest, where a herd of deer grazed. “Take down that buck boy, and I’ll name you man in truth.”

The young man did not stop to think but strung his bow and fit arrow to string. A moment to gauge the wind, not even a moment to sight, and the arrow was loosed, to lodge firm between the stags ribs. The wound was mortal, and the creature took one fleeing leap before falling dead to the forest floor.

The young man turned in triumph to face his challenger.

“What say you now?”

The villainous man was grinning, as was the rest of the small band.

“I say we have a poacher, worth ten gold crowns if we deliver you to the Sheriff in Nottingham Town. And I say that there are more of us than you, so you might as well come quietly. Boy.”

The young man’s face drained of color as he realized what his foolish pride had driven him to. He turned to run but was felled with a blow to the head. And the world went dark.

He returned to himself, hot and nauseous, the smell of blood in his nostrils and the world spinning around him. He tried to sit but found he was bound – wrapped tightly in a bundle that, to his horror, he saw was suspended by a pole carried between two of the men from the wood.

They laughed and joked as they traveled, and the young man fell into the deepest despair as he realized his predicament. Trussed like a pig for market, he could not escape, and the killing of the king’s deer – all deer were the king’s deer – was a mortal offense. If he couldn’t get away, he would find himself scheduled to meet the headsman in short order.

For a time, he struggled against his bonds, but they proved firm.

He had all but given up when his captors came upon an inn and decided to stop for a meal. Dumping him to the ground, sure he could not get away, they went into the cool of the inn.

At first, the young man thought here might be a chance to escape. Alone along the road, if he could cut his bonds, and run they would never find him. But again, the ties were too strong for him to break.

He fell into a dazed stupor, brought on by heat and shock and hunger. When he was roused sometime later, he thought it was only his captors come to claim him again.

A man, clad in light, was gazing down at him, sternness and compassion both shining in his eyes. A thunderous wind roared in his ears, like the breath of eternity.

“Well, boy, what brings you to this state.”

The young man, shocked to find a seeming angel staring him in the face, lowered his eyes and babbled out his tale, leaving out nothing, sure that if he did, those unearthly eyes would know it.

When he was finished, the man sighed. “You are a fool boy, and worse a proud one, but even a fool can learn. Can you?”

“Yes, Lord! I … I will set aside my pride.”

“The truth of that will be tested, I expect, in years to come. If I free you, will you swear your service to me?”

The young man agreed, eagerly in fact, and suddenly found himself sprawled on the ground. Without standing, he went to his knees.

“If you would have me, Lord, my service is yours, man and blade, until the last breath has left my body.”

The shining one accepted his service and bade him rise, and the vision of wonder faded before his eyes. The shining light had been the sun reflected on armor, the wind the breath of the man’s warhorse in his ear.

Once again shocked, feeling the world spin about him.

The man handed him a water pouch and a purse of food.

“Hie you to the greenwood,” he said, “Whatever is there, be it wood or deer or herb is free for your use, and the use of any who would follow you. Perhaps we will need again, perhaps not, but it is time and past time the folk of the land had someone to stand for them. Perhaps you will be that man. Now go.”

That voice – only a man’s voice now, but a command so firm it could not be denied, could not be resisted. The young man scooped up the water and food, paused but a moment to grab his good yew bow and arrows, and disappeared into the woods.

And thus did Robin of Locksley, known now as Robin of the Hood come to life in the greenwood.