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Sunday Scribble – “Touch”

Touch
(continuation of Autumn)

Our pay was average, but my “findings” enabled us to splurge a bit on dinner. A rack of beef to share, a fresh loaf of bread, and milk to wash it all down gave us one of the best meals we’ve had in a while. There were even leftover coins in Elsworth’s purse when I returned it to him at Luella’s insistence.

“It’s a shame,” Simon said in our room that evening. “That was a nice coin purse.”

“I’m sure the headman thought so too when he got it.” Luella’s words were accompanied with a soft smack to Simon’s arm.

I smirked at the exchange as I folded up my cloak on one of the room’s chairs. It was still rather lumpy with my daggers, bandages, and liberated items from our travels, but as long as no one sat on it, it was fine.

“You alright there?” I asked Brom, noticing he had been over by the wash basin for longer than usual.

He glanced at me before scrubbing at his shoulder with the available cloth. “Elsworth’s touch was sweaty. Feels like the spot can’t get cleaned.”

Simon’s and Luella’s voices stilled from their bickering at Brom’s response, and Simon was by our warrior’s side with a bound. He glanced at the spot, red from continuous scrubbing, and poked it gently.

“Think I have some aloe paste left,” he said, ignoring Brom’s slight flinch. “Want some?”

“I could freeze something for you to use to numb it,” Luella offered.

“Don’t strain yourself,” Brom told the mage. He did, however, nod to Simon. “I’ll try the aloe.”

“Want it wrapped in bandages?” I asked, unfolding my cloak.

“…Sure. Thanks.”

We moved to wrap up Brom’s shoulder, ensuring the bandages weren’t tight enough to hinder his movement or restrict his blood circulation. He swung his arm in a wide circle to test the bandages, his muscles only making a small tear appear by the armpit.

He ignored it, finding the tear insignificant, and nodded. His gaze anywhere but us, he murmured out another, “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Simon’s response was a loud contrast as he sealed up his small jar of aloe paste.

“If it doesn’t work,” I said, “let me know and I’ll get you some of the finest soaps this village sells.”

“Through legitimate means, of course,” Luella said.

“Considering you made me return the rest of the purse, we’ll have to see—”

“Let’s go to bed.” Brom cut us off, a small smile tugging at his lips as he fell onto one of the mattresses. Being the smallest and least likely to accidentally roll over onto his side after his episode, I took the other side of Brom’s mattress. Luella and Simon claimed the other.

I tossed Simon my extra pillow and he placed it on the floor next to his side. With how much he moved in his sleep, he wasn’t a stranger to his bedmate shoving him away only to have him tumble off the mattress. Being a deep sleeper, he tended not to notice until the morning.

The morning came much sooner than all of us cared for it to.

“It’s still dark out—” Simon’s words strangled themselves as a flash of light and a wave of heat washed into our room.

“Easy enough to see what’s gotten the village up at this hour.” Luella reached the window, hearing the shouts and alarms at the dragon’s appearance.

“Did the sands and troughs help keep the fires from spreading?” I asked.

“Difficult to tell with the smoke,” she answered.

“Are we staying to help,” was my next question, “or are we booking it in case the village feels our work wasn’t worth the payment?”

Luella’s eyes rolled and she grabbed her staff. Brom already had his axe in his hands and Simon shouldered his pack of supplies. I sighed as I put on my cloak and touched the hilt of my daggers.

“Here’s hoping chasing off a dragon is worth more than sanding a field,” I said, leading the way out of the inn and into the fray.

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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Autumn”

Autumn

The fires were getting worse, a tell-tale sign that autumn was on its way. The dry leaves, twigs, and old trees provided perfect fodder for the wild dragons’ attempts at keeping their territories warm.

“Why they can’t just fly south for the cold season like birds, I’ll never know,” Brom grumbled. “They’ve wings, don’t they?”

“They’re more reptiles than birds,” Simon said, hefting a couple of buckets of water over to the trough. It was to keep a ready supply of water in case some of the crops did begin to burn. “With their territorial instincts, they’re more apt to warm up their surroundings than go elsewhere. I’m sure most have hoards to protect—”

“Spare us the biology lesson, please,” Luella said. She was resting on an overturned bucket, having used her energy on creating a raincloud to quench a brush fire that had gotten dangerously close to the local town’s wheat fields.

“I’d be able to spare it if Brom paid attention when I explained it last year and the previous year before that,” Simon said. He ducked away from the handful of sand Brom tossed his way. “Seriously, you complain every year.”

“Probably because I don’t like using my skills to shovel dirt around to prevent forest fires,” Brom said. “I’d rather be getting paid for bashing in the skulls of bandits.”

“Oh, c’mon.” I dumped out half a bag of sand on a pile of dead undergrowth, ensuring that it wouldn’t catch fire should the dragons make their way over to the crops. “There’s plenty of payment opportunity in helping villages with chores like these.”

Glancing up, I stared at the villages doing the same work as us in the distance, working hard to prevent their fields and homes for burning should a dragon arrive.

My gaze caught Luella’s narrowed one. “How many of these villages still have their coin purses?” she asked.

“Most of them, I suspect,” I said cheerfully, nudging around the pile of sand with my foot to even it out. “Honestly, I haven’t lifted a purse from a person today.”

“But if you found one unattended,” Brom said, “say, with other supplies lying about, then…”

“Finders-keepers,” Simon and I chanted in unison.

Luella’s baby-blues rolled. “You’re all horrible.”

“Says a lot about how used to us you are if that’s your only reaction,” Brom said.

Our mage gave him the driest look I’d ever seen her muster before turning to watch some of the other villagers. I kicked some more sand around, more than ready to quit for a snack, as my attention wandered to the inn rooms we had secured for the night.

“Are we done yet?” Apparently Simon had similar thoughts.

“Perhaps.” Luella stood up, stumbled momentarily until Brom caught her elbow, and added, “The headman is coming closer.”

I stood up straighter, my hands deftly double-checking that the “found” purses were well hidden in my pockets, and waited with my companions as the headman caught up to us.

“Thank you all for your help,” Elsworth said, giving us a small bow. Luella gave a brief one in return, Brom inclined his head in a nod, I didn’t even think to join in, and Simon’s gaze was fixed on the smiley face he was toeing in the sand.

“The preparations went so much smoother with such strong help.” Elsworth clapped a hand on Brom’s shoulder, and our warrior’s free hand twitched. It was a feat that Brom didn’t shake off the contact. Had it been a few years prior, I would have marveled at Brom not outright punching the headman.

“We’re always happy to help for the right price,” Simon chirped with a cheeky wink.

Elsworth chuckled. “Ah, that’s right, always know what your work is worth! Come on back to the square and I’ll get my assistant to give you your wages before you turn in for the night.” He turned away to head back before glancing over his shoulders at us. “By the way, if you happen to find a red-skinned coin purse, please let me know. I seemed to have misplaced it.”

As soon as Elsworth was a few paces away, Luella shot me a glare while Brom raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

“Finders-keepers,” I whispered to Simon’s muffled laughter.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble — “Adapted”

Adapted

While the manner in which the party was constructed was a bit odd – really, who thought it best to put up a scribbled sign in the village square to find companions for an adventure? – it at least provided me with an out. An out of the village, an out of the rut my life had become, an out to find somewhere in the world where I could grow.

It was a motley crew at best, a haphazard assortment just waiting to implode at worst. I stood in the threshold of the meeting room, the borrowed storage place of the village’s tavern, and glanced around. There were a trio of broad-shouldered men, somewhat on the shorter side, with brilliant beards and large hands holding onto axes and hammers. The dwarves were speaking amongst themselves, but not bothered by anyone else hearing if their volume was anything to judge by. I wondered why dwarves were so far from their cavern homes, sure that they usually lived in the north.

A man was in the corner, staying so silent and standing so far into the shadows that I nearly missed seeing him. His arms were crossed, the visible fingers fidgeting as much as the hat upon his head was twitching. I talked myself out of marching over and snatching the hat away to see what lay beneath, my curiosity wavering at the sight of the pointed daggers at the man’s waist. I was sure the blades were not just for show.

A red-orange light zipped by my ear on the way into the room, sparkles of the same color marking a trail as it flew along, until it settled atop of a bare spot on the shelf tacked to the western wall. Before my eyes, the light grew into a glow before shaping a child just sitting there with her legs swinging below her seat. Her skin was dark, a sharp contrast to the mass of hair and wide eyes that had matched her sparkles. She gazed around the room with an excited grin, unable to keep a giggle here or there from slipping out.

A slender figure, at least part elf with the point of the ears, the angled eyes, the lean arm muscles, lounged on the solitary chair in the room. The strap of a quiver crossed over the figure’s chest while a bow of curved metal leaned against the chair. Those eyes caught mine as they roamed around the room. Briefly, we gave each other a nod, seemingly understanding that we were two of the most sensible of the gathered lot.

“Are you responding to the ad from the square as well?”

I brought my attention to the young man in front of me, his face smooth, lightly tanned, barely looking as if he had ever been out of the village let alone the world. Still, he appeared to be taking this rather seriously, as there was no hint of mirth around him. No upward turns of the lip, no gleams of wanderlust in his dark eyes, no flush on his cheeks from anticipation.

I nodded in response and, when he asked for my name and skills, I flipped open to the appropriate page of my book of common phrases.

He frowned as he glanced at it long enough to comprehend the words that not only answered his question but also explained that I was born without a voice. “A Runekeeper? How can you be a Runekeeper if you cannot speak?”

He was blunt, I would give him that. He was also lucky I had been dealing with that kind of question all my life.

With years of practice, I snapped my common phrase book shut, slipped it into its sleeve hanging on the left side of my belt, and brought out the book of thin paper from my right holster. A stick of coal helped me write my rune on a strip of paper before I ripped the parchment from the book’s binding and smacked the paper, coal marks facedown, against the wooden frame of the door.

Slowly, ivy vines sprouted from the paper, much to the cooing delight of the fairy, encompassing the parchment until it was dissolved completely from the rune’s workings. Greenery sprouted around the frame until the wood was merely the flowerbed for the ivy.

When the young man pulled his gaze away from the ivy, it was to see my common phrase book opened once more to the page that told him, “I’ve adapted.”

He gave one chuckle, his lips settling into a crooked grin as he said, “Welcome to the team.”

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble — “News”

News

“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” were the words that tumbled out of the healer’s mouth when he exited the castle’s infirmary.

Aidan gripped his lance tight enough to make his hands start smoking, but he calmed down enough to say, “Good news.”

“The queen is getting better.” The dark-skinned healer glanced back toward the infirmary and murmured something about how odd it was that the queen was doing so well. “Quite a turnaround, really.”

“That’s excellent,” Aidan said. His grip loosened on his weapon as he tried to peer into the room beyond the healer. “What’s the bad news?”

“Come and see for yourself.” The healer gestured into the infirmary and followed the soldier in. The room was quiet, save for the soft footsteps of the men, as he checked on the women in the beds.

Queen Mystral had a healthy pink color in her cheeks, and her chest moved in a steady rhythm as she peacefully slept. Jars and containers of ointments and medicines were on the bedside table, and Aidan glanced through them, his curiosity demanding to know what the medicines were, how they were made, why the country didn’t put more emphasis on the healing arts instead of focusing on the army.

The princess, spending much of her time between running the country in her mother’s absence and visiting the infirmary, was lying on the bed adjacent to the queen. Princess Anila’s pale face was wrinkled with distress, her breathing coming in ragged breaths, and sweat was upon her brow.

“The bad news,” the healer said slowly, “is that the princess is not getting better.”

“Her Royal Highness wasn’t sick.”

“She is now.” The healer took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up even further. “Quite a turnaround, really…”

Aidan raised an eyebrow. “You said that already about the queen.”

“It applies to the princess too,” the healer said. His eyes were downcast and his shoulders shook from his deep sigh. “I’m sorry…”

“You helped the queen,” Aidan said, “and I’m sure you did your best for the princess. Perhaps she’ll have another turnaround, as you say.”

The healer shook his head. “I don’t think so. I don’t believe that the princess will get up again. Princess Anila wasn’t responding to any of the remedies I tried with the queen. In fact…”

Aidan prompted the healer when the other man wasn’t going to elaborate on his own. “In fact what? What is it?”

The healer’s words dropped to a whisper. “I’m not even sure the queen responded to my remedies. It seems the gods have a hand on her shoulder. Her recovery is nothing short of a miracle.”

“You must have done something,” Aidan said. “I’m sure this miracle wouldn’t have had a chance without your help.”

The healer suddenly chuckled. “Are you always this encouraging?” he asked. “Are you the type of soldier that cheers on his opponent in a spar?”

Aidan rolled his eyes. “If you’re done, healer–”

“Doyle.” The healer stuck out his hand to the soldier. “My name is Doyle Lorz.”

“Aidan Basset.” The soldier returned the handshake. “Now, if you’re done here, the soldier at the front gate will give you your payment. I’ll keep an eye on the queen and the princess.”

“I’m sure they’re in good hands with you.” Doyle tipped his hat to Aidan. “Call me if anything changes.”

“Of course.” Aidan watched the healer go. Doyle’s firm footfalls receded from Aidan’s ears only to be replaced by the lumbering steps of Queen Mystral’s closest advisor.

“Her Majesty?” Zion came into the infirmary, his gaze riveted on the queen’s prone form.

“The healer said she’s doing well,” Aidan said. “Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the princess… Hopefully she’ll make a turnaround just as her mother had.”

Zion made a noncommittal grunt and took a seat beside the queen’s bed. Aidan cast one last look at the princess before leaving the care of the women to Zion.

It was a mere two days later that the queen was well enough to personally plan her daughter’s funeral.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Saucer”

Saucer
First Part | Previous Part

“Your dragon Toasted—”

“Toasty,” the tower man, who had introduced himself as Fraden, corrected Brom as he poured tea for the four of us.

“Whatever.” Brom waved his free hand dismissively. His other hand was holding the ice-encased rock that Luella had spelled up against a nasty bump that he had gotten while chasing down Toasty. The dragon itself was perched back up on the roof, but its snout was nearly poking through the window as it watched us lounge around the small dining table its master had set up in the tower.

Brom continued with, “Your dragon has been terrorizing the nearby village. We were commissioned to slay it and rescue any of its victims that happened to still be alive here in the tower.”

“You’re mistaken,” Fraden said, settling down next to Simon. Simon raised an eyebrow at me from across the table, either at the man’s blunt and confident statement or at me smuggling the tea saucer under my coat.

I figured the fancy plate could earn us a few gold coins since it didn’t seem like we were going to be rewarded for rescuing anyone.

Fraden didn’t notice, as he kept a steady gaze on Brom. “Toasty has never gone near the village, and he certainly hasn’t taken any so-called victims.”

“We smelled burned corpses,” Luella said.

“Toasty likes his food cooked,” Fraden said, “but he doesn’t eat humans. Too sinewy and stringy with muscles.” I clamped my mouth shut, not wanting to ask how Fraden would know that particular detail. He added, “Toasty mainly hunts deer and bear from the forests. Once in a while he’ll head toward the sea to snatch a shark if he feels like seafood.”

“Pretty sure we can tell the difference between cooked bear meat and humans,” Brom said. “That, and the village people have seen maidens getting kidnapped by a large, flying reptile. What’s your answer for that?”

“Have you tried the wyvern caves to the north?” Fraden sipped at his tea, his smallest finger sticky out as he held up his cup.

“Were we tracking down the wrong creature?” Simon deadpanned.

Luella groaned and stood up, her chair scrapping against the floor. “Well, let’s go, then! There’s no telling how many people may be in trouble with these wyverns!”

“Wait.” I stopped her from moving and looked at Fraden. “Why are you here alone in a tower with a dragon?”

“I enjoy Toasty’s company more so than people’s,” he said with a slight shrug. “Besides, there’s not many who wish to get too close to me once they find out how large my guard dog is, you know?”

“Huh. Fair enough.” I got up, my curiosity satisfied for the time being.

“If you four are not frightened off by Toasty,” Fraden said as we straightened out our belongings, “then you are welcome to visit anytime. As long as, of course, you don’t try to steal any more of my belongings. Please return the saucer to the table.”

Simon snorted as I sighed and took out the small dish from my pocket, returning it as requested.

“We apologize for that,” Luella said, and I ignored her narrowed gaze while heading to the door. “Perhaps we will take up on your offer to visit again, Fraden. Thank you for the information and take care.”

“Sorry about, uh, attacking, I guess,” Brom added as we finally left. When we were further down the road, Brom turned to me. “You must be losing your touch if he noticed a little tea cup plate missing.”

I smirked and merely opened my pack while we walked to wordlessly reveal the tea kettle nestled among my other treasures.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Sing-Along”

Sing-Along

“Shall we start a sing-along?”

I turned and gave Simon a bemused look, seeing him grinning in turn at the rest of us as he all but bounced by Luella on the path. “I’m sure singing will ruin the element of surprise that we’re going for, won’t it?” I asked.

“Aw, c’mon, we’re trying to find a dragon,” Simon said. “Don’t dragons, ya know, have noses and stuff to smell us coming? It wouldn’t matter if it heard us.”

“I’d rather not get baked by a dragon’s flames while singing a tavern song, thanks,” Brom said dryly.

“Maybe we can sing the dragon to sleep,” Luella said with a small, teasing smile.

“Don’t encourage him,” Brom muttered.

“Aw, c’mon, singing’s fun—”

I interrupted Simon by saying, “I vote we keep quiet on the path. Not only do we not want to invoke the dragon before we’re ready, we don’t know how many people, friendly or otherwise, are around this area.”

“Yeah, keep your mouth shut so bandits don’t find us,” Brom translated for Simon.

Simon huffed but he listened and honestly didn’t say much at all for the remainder of the walk. The village was a mere dot on the horizon at the base of the hill below us when we first smelled the stench of smoke.

Luella sneezed. “That’s… not just a campfire.”

“It’s burned corpses,” Brom said grimly.

I took a deep breath to steel myself, immediately coughed due to the stench, then straightened up. “I think we found our dragon…”

“Why are we going after a dragon again?” Simon asked. “Is this for gold?”

“It’s stealing maidens from the village,” Luella said. “I think this is more important than gold!”

“Although gold would be nice,” Brom mused, “our main goal is to be nice people and try to slay the dragon—”

A screech echoed as overhead leathery wings beat through the air, carrying the reptile north. I stared at the creature’s underbelly, marveling at the glint of the gray scales from the midday sun.

Instead of slaying the creature, perhaps we could tame it…

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Blight Part Two”

Blight – Part Two
Previous Part

The Blight was not a friendly part of the castle city, not even to someone in a respectable uniform of one of the noble houses. The alleys stank of piss and sex, the natural musk of those who cared only enough to live in order to survive.

Emery did his best to move out of there as quickly as his dignity could manage.

“There you are.” Ridge let Emery back in through the servants’ entrance of the Harding estate. “You’re in one piece, to boot. How did it go?”

Emery shook his head. “Not too well. Thieves apparently are only interested in their own pockets. They want to be certain they get rewarded no matter what they do.”

“Well, it was a long-shot,” Ridge said, helping Emery shuck off the soldier’s uniform and change into his fitted tunic and breeches. “After all, what could a common foot soldier offer to the scourges of the Blight? They have no idea who you are, right?”

“I used the name Dax Cabot whenever I had been asked,” Emery said. Ridge gave him a quick glance over to ensure Emery hadn’t been looking as if he crawled through the dirtiest part of the city, then led him out of the servants’ area.

“Wasn’t that the name of your old tutor?” Ridge asked.

Emery shushed him, but nodded. Talk of Emery’s trip to the Blight ceased between the two friends as they made their way through the manor. Gods knew Emery didn’t want any gossipy maids overhearing that their prince had tried to make deals with thieves.

Ridge changed the topic to a teasing, “My parents are seating you next to Leandra again at dinner tonight.”

Emery gave Ridge a sidelong glance. “You know nothing is going to come of this.”

“Of course,” Ridge said. “You would never be able to handle my sister. It’s why it’s such fun to tease you about my parents trying to set you up. You can’t blame them for wanting the match, though. I heard they had to petition hard to have the crown prince himself go through his squire years at their estate.”

Emery gave his head a soft shake, finding no words. He had no doubt that once he did return to court there would be women lined up as potential brides, both from his parents and from the other noble houses alike.

“There are times when I wish Leandra and I cared enough about each other to go through that,” Emery admitted quietly. “She would never want to be queen, though, and I wouldn’t want to force her to play the part.”

“As her brother, I suppose I’m thankful you care enough about her to think of her feelings like that,” Ridge said. “That and, let’s be real, she’s not delicate enough to be a queen.”

“I’ve no idea where you’ve come up with that thought,” Emery said. “Queens are anything but delicate.”

“Well, yes, I’m sure,” Ridge said, waving off Emery’s words, “but they need to play that part, don’t they? Your mother is the gentle hand compared to your father’s iron fist. Leandra would end up insulting most of the court. Under her, a rebellion would have happened long ago—”

Emery gave Ridge a hard jab in the ribs with an elbow. Ridge glared at Emery but said nothing, grudgingly accepting the admonishment.

“Come on,” Emery said, quickening their pace through the estate’s hallways. “We’ll be late for sparring practice.”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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