The Time Crevice–part 5

Been a bit, but here is the next installment….

***

 

Ka’tya was tasked with administering the Red Dust to the Dragons as they were lured to the Goddess Temple. She was the only one with Empath abilities, which only affected one Healer in every three generations or so. The Red Dust itself could prove toxic to a Healer without Empath protection, and even A’nal was not immune to its affects. The Red Dust was powerful enough to stun a young Dragon, who would then stumble back to their Lair and fall into a deep sleep. The elder Dragons would be none the wiser until it was too late. Ka’tya was the only person who could handle the Red Dust and guide the young affected Dragons back down the correct path to their Lair without risking either physical or psychological harm.

The danger did not lie in being spotted by the elder Dragons; their vision was not good in daylight. The danger was in being smelled by them. This was why the Healers were paired up with the Priestesses: the Healers could lure the young Dragons away from their nests only if the Priestesses protected them with a ward ship spell, which camouflaged both of them from harm. When done properly, the bulwark caused the pair to smell faintly of what humans might identify as amber and burnt toast, but to an elder Dragon it smelled very much like other younger Dragons, and therefore the pair escaped detection. The key was not to overwhelm any one species with any one smell, which meant that each young Dragon had to be approached by a Healer-Priestess pair one at a time, making for twelve pairs in total.

A’nal and the head Priestess, Ge’ne’se, stood holding hands in the middle of the Temple, encircled by twenty-four lit white candles on the floor, each candle representing either a Healer of a Priestess. A’nal and Ge’ne’se said incantations over each of the girls as they lined up at the front of the Temple, each of them solemnly engrossed in their own thoughts.

At that moment, for this short time, both Healers and Priestesses forgot their year-long feud. All the bickering and bad blood did not seem to matter; all was for the good of Alonia now. The first pair up was a Healer name Sa’ira and a Priestess named Ra’han. Ra’han put a protective arm around Sa’ira, handing her a bunch of white sage to light on fire once they were outside.

“It will cleanse any negative energy before I cast the protection ward,” she explained to Sa’ira. “And chew this,” Ra’han handed her a sweet-smelling herb. “The spell can knock you a bit sidewise if you aren’t ready for it. The herb will help with any nausea.”

Sa’ira took the herb gratefully and placed it a bit uncertainly under her tongue. She was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a sweet tasting as it smelled. Outside the Temple, in the outer courtyard, the pair lit the white sage. Ra’han took Sa’ira’s hands and spoke an enchantment in a language foreign to her ears. Suddenly, the girl felt very warm, like the soles of her feet were on fire. No, she decided, it was more like the sensation of warm brandy sliding down her belly, only the sensation was from the soles of her feet up the length of her body and into her extremities. When it hit her head, she did indeed feel “knocked sideways,” but only for a moment. The herb seemed to have an immediate effect, and she took a deep breath and then felt settled again.

“Ready?” Ra’han’s voice was steady and calm, just what Sa’ira needed to hear.

“Yes,” she said after a breath. “Let’s go.”

The pair went down a winding road that eventually lead to the Dragon’s Lair. They took what Sa’ira’s aunts called “the scenic route”—it was in actuality the safest way to approach the Dragons; the road led to a small cave-like entrance at the rear of the Lair. Sa’ira hesitated, and Ra’han put a comforting hand on her shoulder and asked, “Do you need a minute?” in a raspy whisper.

Sa’ira shook her head, but her facial expression betrayed her lack of confidence. She took a deep breath and steeled herself, and then carefully entered the Lair, Ra’han close behind her. They took a moment to join hands again and both offered up a quick but sincere supplication to the Goddess before facing the mouth of the Lair.

The stench of sulpher was overpowering. Sa’ira was momentarily in awe of the sheer number of Dragons, beating their great leathery wings and belching what could only be described as fire (literally) and brimstone (figuratively). She was frozen in place not by fear but by awe. The Dragons were huge and intimidating, but beautiful at the same time. Their wings were almost translucent, reminding Sa’ira of angel wings, or at least what she imagined angel wings must look like. Ra’han would not more about that, she mused as a gigantic purple beast seemed to spot her and started to lumber towards her.

“Don’t make eye contact with it,” Ra’han hissed. “They can’t see us, but if you make eye contact with them, they can see through the enchantment.” Ra’han smacked Sa’ira hard on her back so she was forced to jerk her head down in a sudden jarring motion. The great amaranthine beast strode past them. Sa’ira let out a gasp, realizing she had been holding her breath.

“Your protection spell is working,” she said in admiration.

“It doesn’t protect against acts of cowardice or stupidity,” Ra’han said flatly. “We can ill afford to make mistakes.”

Sa’ira mumbled an apology.

“They are pretty awesome,” Ra’han said in a hushed voice after a long moment of silence. “Anyone could have been stunned by them. C’mon. The youngling’s nest is this way.” She offered Sa’ira her hand, which the young Healer took gratefully.

The pair hid behind a massive boulder. “There.” Ra’han pointed to their right, where there seemed to be a Dragon nursery of sorts. Monumental nests made of mud and straw held smaller versions of the purple creature they had encountered only moments before. Ra’han pointed to a nest where a frog-green Dragon youngling was perched, finishing the remnants of a meal that Sa’ira was loathe to imagine the contents of. “That one’s ours,” Ra’han whispered hoarsely.

The youngling suddenly belched, emitting a small ball of flame followed by the unmistakable stench of brimstone. Sa’ira shrank in horror and disgust. “Are you sure? How can you tell?”

“It’s closest.” Ra’han smiled wryly. “C’mon.”

Sa’ira followed Ra’han to the back of the youngling’s nest. “Remember the plan. Healers act as bait—like a mouse to a cat; Priestesses protect them by praying to the Goddess—“

“Bait?” Sa’ira frowned. “That’s  your pep talk?” She felt some of the tension leave here, because the thought was so ridiculous.

“I made you smile, though, didn’t I?” Ra’han suddenly grew somber. “Seriously, remember the plan, and don’t look him directly in the eye. Focus your vision somewhere about here,” Ra’han pointed to the middle of her forehead. “That’s where his third eye would be. He has the mind and the attention span of a small child. Use that to your advantage. To him, you are literally something new and shiny, like a mouse to a cat.”

Sa’ira turned towards the front of the nest and took a deep breath. Suddenly, her nerves settled and all her fear seemed to disappear. “That’s the spell, too, isn’t it?” she asked in a steady voice.

“Part of it,” Ra’han affirmed. “But most of it is the power inside of a Healer. You can do this. My job is to make sure that you stay safe while you do. I do not have the same ability. Mine is more spiritual than physical.”

The Time Crevice–Part Four

I have been writing like a madwoman, but I have to squeeze in the time. I have been super busy with work, and I started working out again, now that I am all healed up from my treadmill incident. I went swimming last night, and it felt really good, although it wore me out. I am excited to be getting back into a routine again.

I have not mentioned the podcast for a while…we will be recording this Saturday, and if you want to see us or participate in the live discussion, please join us around 3pm mst on Saturday at: www.http://bit.ly/hovpodcast_youtube. Here is the 4th part of what I am working on….

***

“He really loves her, doesn’t he?” Ka’tya asked once she was out of her Healer finery and had donned a soft pair of doeskin slacks and a soft green tunic. She unbraided her hair and began to brush it out into long soft waves.

“He does,” Etienne affirmed. “They were betrothed by their parents before they were born. They grew up side by side, and I think he always loved her. The Curse had not started to afflict Sia’ha’na until she was a teenager, and by then it did not matter. Sebastian still would have married her if she had sprouted three heads and wings.”

“You grew up with them as well?”

“Sebastian and I went to school together. He was already over the moon for Sia’ha’na by then. She became like a sister to me and when they married, I could not have been happier—except perhaps when my own sister married a few years later.”

“What did he mean when he said that I would be his consort?”

“Every King has them,” Etienne assured her. “Some have more than one, but basically it is a fancy word for ‘mistress.’” He laughed mirthlessly. “Don’t look so shocked, Ka’tya. How else do you think the heir would be produced? I know that Sebastian is a powerful wizard, and Alonia is full of plenty of magic, but creating life is one thing that even magic cannot do. People must begat people the old fashioned way.” An idea suddenly struck him. “Don’t tell me that A’nal has failed to tell you how babies are made?”

“Uncle!” Ka’tya blushed. “I know that I am young and…inexperienced, but I do know some things. I have acted as midwife for human women and even animals on occasion. I know how babies are made, as you so indelicately put it. I even have assisted in helping some women to conceive.”

“Don’t pout,” Etienne said gently. “I was just teasing. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

“You shouldn’t treat me like a child,” she said, still wounded. “It may shock you to learn that I am not a virgin.” She immediately regretted her words. “I should not have told you that. Do you think that Sia’ha’na would be displeased?”

“I think she might be displeased to know we are having this conversation,” Etienne said bemusedly. “But I am not surprised to learn that you have had lovers, and I doubt that Sia’ha’na would be either. You are a very attractive young woman. You look a lot like your mother.”

“Healers normally engage in sexual activity in a therapeutic setting,” Ka’tya said quietly after she had a moment to calm down. “Sex is usually presented in the form of a ritual, like ushering in a harvest or celebrating the rebirth of Spring. It is rarely seen as an act of love for us.”

“But it can happen, isn’t that right?” The teasing tone had left Etienne now. He was genuinely interested. “Surely Healers are not forbidden from falling in love?”

“No,” Ka’tya answered, and it was clear that she was no longer angry with him. “It happens, but most such love affairs are short lived. Healers almost never marry or have children of their own, and they don’t have families with dowries or other such incentives. The young men usually tire of their Healer lovers and move on to something more permanent.”

Sensing that he had struck a nerve, Etienne asked gently, “And what happens to the Healer?”

Ka’tya shrugged. “She returns to her clan. If a child results, we all help raise it. If it is a girl, A’nal trains her in the way of a Healer. If it is a boy, he goes to school and trains as a member of the King’s Guard. If there is no child, the Healer simply returns to her practices with no stigma. To us, she is still our sister and there is no shame with her.”

“And how may children have you helped raise in A’nal’s clan?”

“A dozen or so.” She laughed at his reaction. “I myself have fallen for a shepherd boy’s wiles once or twice, but I have been lucky and no child resulted, just a bruised ego.”

“Why have you never told me this before?” Etienne asked after a long quiet moment. “You are usually so forthcoming with me.”

“Because, Uncle,” she walked over and softly kissed his forehead, “I did not want to worry you, and,” she giggled,” you are Captain of the King’s Guard. I did not wish any ill to befall my former beloved.”

“Does that mean I am forgiven?” he frowned.

“Yes,” Ka’tya sighed. “I am curious, however. Do you really expect to keep this scheme a secret? If I become the King’s consort, whether I become with child or not, how do you purpose to keep that a secret from the palace staff?”

“If the palace staff wish to keep their heads attached to their shoulders,” Etienne said softly, “they will keep all of the palace secrets within the palace walls.” He absent-mindedly lit a cigar and took a drag. “I convinced the Royals that you can be trusted because I have never known you to betray a secret, when asked not to. The fact that I have never known about your…bruised ego concerning foolish lovers only proves that.” He smiled ruefully.

“I have never kept secrets from A’nal,” she said thoughtfully. “This will be the first.”

“It is necessary,” Etienne took another pull on the cigar. “It is not only for your safety, but for the Royals as well. The Queen’s Curse is not common knowledge for a reason. The people of Alonia are in turmoil enough because of the conflict between the Healers and the Goddess Priestesses. They fear what they do not know, and both groups are known, renown really, for operating in secret. The Dragons being so unpredictable this season only adds the fear, and each group blames the other. The truth is much more simplistic: it is the Queen’s Curse. Both groups know this, but cannot reveal it. The people of Alonia suffer for it. The crops are reacting to the Queen’s affliction as well. Morale is suffering. If the truth were to be known, that the Healers and the Priestesses were unable to do anything to stop it, civil war could break out. If they traced any involvement back to you as a Healer,” he shrugged meaningfully. “You and your kind would never be safe again. Just knowing of the Queen’s Curse puts all of you at enough risk.”

“I know that it is necessary,” Ka’tya said slowly. “I just don’t like keeping things from A’nal. She is the closest thing that I have to a mother figure.”

“If your mother were here,” Etienne told her, “she would be proud of you. I know I am.”

The two stared into nothingness for a long silent moment before he sent her off to bed.

***

 

The Time Crevice–Part 3

She stood frozen at the foot of the canopied bed. It was as if a beam of moonlight had pinpointed her location and Ka’tya felt very small and out of place all of a sudden. She willed herself to give the Queen a small nervous smile and a curtsy. It was not the curtsy of a Healer, come to offer her services; it was the curtsy of a frightened child or a new servant, reporting for duty.

“Come closer, child,” Sia’ha’na said in her breathy hypnotic voice. “I don’t bite.”

Ka’tya forced herself to take a few steps closer to the Queen. She realized that she had gooseflesh on her upper arms, a sign of being stricken with a terrible, nervous cold, even though it was more than adequately warm in the room. She found her voice, almost forgetting she was addressing a Royal.

“I can help alieve some of your suffering, Your Highness.” Ka’tya was all Healer now. A’nal would have been proud.

“I’m sure you can, child,” Sia’ha’na gave a small laugh. “And that is why we have asked you here.”

Ka’tya looked confusedly at Etienne.

“What my wife is trying to say,” King Sebastian’s voice literally made Ka’tya jump. She had not expected him to speak. His voice softened, “Is that we are in need of a Healer’s aid.”

“I can do an energy transfer. A’nal says it is very much like a…a vacation from your pain.” Ka’tya seemed to forget her shyness now; she even dared to reach over and touch the Queen’s arm. Her empath abilities were hard to disguise at times like this; they could be both a blessing and a curse. She felt a wave of nausea wash over her, but she did not let it show.

“It is a cancer that has consumed almost every major organ, child,” Sia’ha’na almost whispered. “I’m dying—I am sure A’nal has told you about my family’s Curse.”

“It is well known among the Healers,” Ka’tya confirmed. “We preform rituals and incantations for both you and the land, since both are so closely linked.” She unconsciously rubbed Sia’ha’na’s arm soothingly. “We—I—pray to the Goddess often for relief for both.”

“You are so…” Sia’ha’na paused. She almost said “naïve,” but that was not the right word. “…innocent. Pure, even.” Those seemed to better convey what she was trying to convey. “A’nal has groomed you well.” Sia’ha’na grimaced in discomfort and Ka’tya instinctively readjusted a pillow behind the Queen’s left shoulder to make her more comfortable.

“Can I make you some tea, Your Highness?” she offered. “Something to warm your bones?”

The Queen shook her head, but rang a small brass bell on her bedside table. “Let my servants attend to that, child,” she wheezed. “It’s what they do.”

Ka’tya waited a moment, and remained silent while two young servant girls appeared at Sia’ha’na’s side, seemingly arriving from a hidden panel in the far wall opposite the main entrance. The Queen whispered a command, and both white-clad servants nodded, leaving the room the same way they had appeared.

“Please let me do an energy transfer for you, Your Highness,” Ka’tya said quietly. “I can temporarily take your pain, and you will feel much better afterwards, though it is only temporary.”

“And what becomes of you during this time, child?” Sia’ha’na asked softly.

“I would take on the symptoms of your cancer,” Ka’tya admitted. “Mostly, I will want to sleep for a few days.” Sensing the Queen’s reluctance, she went on. “I have done this a few times before, for some of the village women suffering from cancers and other non-curable illnesses.”

“Ah,” the Queen sighed heavily, “but you have never done such a thing for a Queen with a generational Curse.”

“No, but—“ Ka’tya was silenced by the arrival of the two servant girls again. They laid out teapots and teacups for the Royals and their guests. When they had departed, it was Etienne who spoke.

“Perhaps it can be decided at another time,” he suggested. “I am sure Ka’tya is at least curious as to why she was invited to come here.” He handed Ka’tya a cup of steaming herbal tea and set another cup on the Queen’s bedside table. Sia’ha’na delicately brought her cup to her mouth and took a sip, her eyes deferring to her husband.

“What is said here cannot leave this room,” he said quietly. “For not only our sakes, but for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of the people of Alonia.”

Ka’tya nodded, and then took a sip of the fragrant tea, taking a chair next to her uncle.

“The cancer has rendered Sai’ha’na infertile. We cannot produce an heir to the throne, and yet,” Sabastian gestured around the room meaningfully. “And yet, we need an heir to the throne. We were hoping that you might consider—“

“You want me to be a surrogate?” Ka’tya interrupted. “That’s why you asked me here; you want a Healer as a surrogate.”

“And now you see why we must have the utmost discretion, child.” The Queen’s voice seemed fainter now.

“Of course, Your Highness,” Ka’tya assured them, her head still spinning a bit.

“We would also ask that you become the resulting child’s nursemaid, governess and nanny,” Sebastian explained. “You would also have a position as the Palace Healer, if you so desired.”

Ka’tya was quiet for a long moment. “What if I was unable to conceive the heir that you are wanting?”

“We chose a Healer because that gives us the best chance of conceiving,” the King explained. “However, if you were not with child after a year, you would be released from your agreement and could either stay as Palace Healer or return to A’nal.”

“And what of A’nal?” Ka’tya asked. “She will not release me so easily from my duties to the Healer community, especially with the diplomatic aid with the Goddess Priestesses to lure the Dragons into hibernation in less than a fortnight.”

“A’nal has told us how important you are to the conflict with the Priestesses and the Healers concerning the Dragons. She will be told that you are being offered a position as a Healer to aid the Queen, but not for another month from now. When you are with child, A’nal will be told you are working as Sia’ha’na’s midwife. Once the child is born, she will be invited to see that child and witness for herself that you are the child’s nursemaid, while continuing to act as the Palace Healer.”

Ka’tya was clearly thinking about it. Etienne whispered in her ear, “Please consider this for the sake of the kingdom.”

“I will allow the energy transfer a month from now,” the Queen said at last. “You are much too valuable to A’nal and her cause now, especially when there is no way to know how you will react to both the cancer and the Curse combined. One month from today, I will allow the ritual, if you will consider aiding us in our quest to produce an heir.”

“Alright, Your Highness,” Ka’tya said after another long thoughtful moment. “I’ll do it. I’ll try to help you.”

“Thank you, child,” the Queen beamed. “I want us to be friends. You must call me Sia’ha’na.”

“If we are to be friends,” Ka’tya took her hand, “then you must call me by my name as well.”

“Thank you, ch—Ka’tya.” Sia’ha’na sighed and her eyes grew heavy.

“The Queen needs her rest,” Sebastian said softly. “It grows late. Please stay the night as our guest.”

“Come, Ka’tya,” Etienne touched his niece’s shoulder. “You can stay in my quarters tonight and I will escort you back to A’nal at daybreak.”

“I’ll walk with you,” Sebastian offered as Etienne opened the door. The three of them walked down the long corridor in silence, until the King broke it.

“Please forgive our desperateness. The Queen is dying, but she is dying by inches. The very thing that is destroying her—that damn curse—is also what is keeping her alive. She is not immortal,” he smiled ruefully. “Although it seems that way at times. I just wanted to say ‘thank you.’ I must get back to her, if you’ll both excuse me.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” she said quietly.

“Please call me Sebastian.” His face was grim. “After all, you will be my consort and we should be on a first-name basis.” Ka’tya only nodded. He bade Etienne good-bye and retreated back up the hallway.

They did not speak again until they reached her uncle’s quarters.

The Time Crevice–2

I am feeling much much better and have been able to write much more. I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo, but I am on the fence as to which project I want to work on. I either will continue on the one I started last year or I will do this one. Here is the 2nd installment….Enjoy!

***

A quarter of an hour later, Ka’tya was dressed in her finest Healer colors—gold, red, and green—and her waist-length auburn tresses were done up in a thick braided coil, piled atop her head. Etienne smiled appreciatively at his niece.

“We’ll be meeting the Royals in the Queen’s Quarters,” he explained, leading her towards the Royal Wing. “The Queen is not feeling well enough to address visitors in the formal Meeting Room today.”

“I understand. The Queen’s affliction is something that she cannot control. Like any illness, I imagine she has her good days and her bad ones. As a Healer, I can feel the degree of her pain today. It’s hard to explain to a non-Healer.” Ka’tya paused. “I can almost feel her energy from here.”

“Are you able to do an energy transfer spell for her?” Etienne asked gently. “I know you can’t cure the Queen, but can you temporarily alieve her pain, even in the slightest bit?” They turned a corner into the Royal Quarters, passing two armed guards, dressed in the Alonian Red and Black.

“She would have to allow me to do the ritual,” Ka’tya replied. “And she would have to understand that it would only be temporary and—and I would be out of commission for at least three days afterwards, depending on how much of her Curse manifested itself in the energy that I took on. But yes, I can do an energy transfer spell for her.”

They walked a few minutes more in thoughtful silence down a long, winding corridor, until they came to a heavy, intricately engraved closed door, with two more armed guards, dressed in the Red and Black, who Etienne dismissed with barely a wave of his hand. Ka’tya realized she had been holding her breath as Etienne knocked on the door three times and pushed the door open gently. She exhaled and followed her uncle into the Queen’s Quarters.

Queen Sia’ha’na was propped up on several oversized pillows on a large canopied bed, covered by several cotton and silk quilts, despite the relatively warm Alonian weather outside. The Queen was still a rather attractive woman despite her illness, with long white-silver hair streaked with a darker gray that she kept brushed straight and pulled back in a loose pony tail behind her back. She wore a dark blue silk dressing gown and her eyes were the most stunning shade of turquoise that Ka’tya had ever seen.

King Sebastian stood behind Etienne, and Ka’tya had the feeling he was trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He was a remarkably handsome man, with straw colored shoulder-length tresses pulled in a loose bunch at the nape of his neck. It was hard to determine his true height, but Ka’tya guessed it to be about the same as her uncle, a little more than six spans high.

“Thank you for seeing us in my quarters,” the Queen addressed Etienne. “I just wasn’t up to going through the motions so I could see people today.” Sia’ha’na’s voice was soft, but not weak; Ka’tya would call it “breathy.” It was a voice she imagined her mother had in her daydreams.

“Of course, Your Highness,” Etienne was using his Diplomat voice, Ka’tya noted, but she did not fault him for it now. She realized that she was trembling slightly—this was the first time since she was a small child that she had come before the Royals, and even then that had been with A’nal and a group of very young Healers. Never in her lifetime did she expect to be called to the Queen’s bedchamber.

“And this is my niece,” Etienne reached behind him and gently pushed the trembling girl forward, “Ka’tya.”

 

The Time Crevice

I have been struggling with some mental health issues for several weeks but I do seem to be coming out of it. This is the beginning of something I have began to write. Hope you enjoy it….

***

The Time Crevice

The girl worked quickly, trying to take advantage of what little natural light remained of the day. She dug a shallow hole with her fingers deftly working the cool, damp soil into a small mound at one end so that it resembled a miniaturized tombstone. She removed a small fabric wrapped packet from a hidden pocket in the dark blue jumper she wore slowly opened it to reveal six smooth brown, black, and gold stones. Carefully, she placed each stone in the hole, quietly recited an incantation over them, and sprinkled some soft powdered ash across the top before carefully replacing the dirt over what now resembled a fresh miniature grave. She whispered a more desperate, fervent incantation, and sprinkled the topsoil with a remaining layer of soft gray ash. She folded the now-empty fabric packet and replaced it back into a secret pocket, whipped the remaining ash from her fingertips on the hem of her jumper, and sat back on her heels, breathing deeply.

“Ka’tya!”

The girl jumped at the sound of her name. Her uncle, a member of the Red Guard and the King’s trusted Advisor, was calling for her. “Ka’tya!”

“Coming, Uncle!” Ka’tya stood up, brushed the dirt of her jumper, and went to find him.

Etienne was standing with his back to the doorway when Ka’tya arrived at his quarters. He seemed lost in thought, staring fixedly out a window the overlooked the courtyard Gardens. He was a tall, stoic man, with sandy brown hair and dark expressive eyes. He had a serious demeanor, but he also laughed often, and although he was often lost in his thoughts, as he seemed to be now, he served the King well, and his ability to keep secrets was commonly known and respected. Ka’tya was his only living relative, and he encouraged her activities as a Healer, but kept them an enigma even unto the Master he served. His position in the Red Guard as a Helmsman and Advisor kept them both safe and more than well provided for. Healers were both feared and revered, and Etienne taught his niece to be more of an observer than an attention seeker, and it was a role she wore like a second skin.

“Uncle?” Ka’tya rapped on the doorframe with her now clean knuckles. Etienne snapped back to the now present.

“Ah, yes. Ka’tya. Is it done?” He nodded towards the door so she would quietly close it.

“The ritual is complete,” Ka’tya affirmed. “Time will only tell if it worked or not. Harvest time is months away, and the land will not show signs of health until then. And then there are the Dragons. If they do not hibernate early this year, it will not matter how well our land produces at harvest time—they will take it from us, and burn what they do not consume.”

“Do you really suppose that the Dragons hate us—the people of Alonia—that much?” Etienne reeled on his heels away from the window and faced his niece.

“It is not a choice that is theirs to make,” Ka’tya clarified. “The Queen’s Curse mandates it. Our only hope is that the Healers and the Goddess Priestesses can come together long enough to lure the Dragons—at least the young, inexperienced ones—to the Temples where they can be sedated with the Red Dust to induce hibernation.”

“And if that fails? If the Goddess Priestesses continue to force the Healers underground?” Etienne was a pragmatic man; it was why the King listened to his counsel. He was also able to see things from all sides without judgment most of the time. When it came to his niece, however, he tended to be a bit over-protective. Ka’tya called it being “nose-blind.”

“Uncle,” Ka’tya kept her voice steady and soothing, a trick she had learned from her mentor, Ana’l. “We Healers are just as much to blame as the Priestesses. There are no Innocents in that feud, except the people of Alonia.”

“You are so much like your mother,” Etienne’s voice caught slightly. His sister, Sofia had been his best friend. Her husband, George had been killed on the battlefield before Sofia had even known she was pregnant with Ka’tya, and she died in childbirth. Etienne, a powerful magician in his own right, had recognized the girl’s gift almost immediately, and Ana’l began her training as soon as the girl could walk on her own. “You are so forgiving. You speak no evil toward the Queen, only to the Queen’s Curse and its’ mandates.”

“The Queen is not to blame,” Ka’tya said emphatically. “She was cursed before she was even conceived. So was her mother and her mother before her. It is a curse of Generations, not one easily broken.”

“But, as a Healer,” Etienne asked softly, “you do believe that she may be healed one day?”

“That is not up to me,” Ka’tya smiled grimly. “I know that I am not powerful or skillful enough to break the Curse. Only someone in her lineage who is just as powerful as the Queen’s Curse can break it. They say a Generational Curse is predestined to be broken by a certain person at a certain time only under a specific set of circumstances designed by the Goddess Herself.”

“They also say that a Healer can help usher in such an event,” Etienne said in an oddly quiet voice.

“Uncle,” Ka’tya laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “You cannot force a miracle. If you could, then…” she shrugged. “…it wouldn’t really be a miracle, now would it?”

“Maybe not that one,” he conceded, seeming to snap back into the present again. “But what if you, Ka’tya, could help with a different kind of miracle? Something only a Healer could aid in? Something the King and Queen themselves have tasked me with finding such a Healer?”

“What did you have in mind?”  Ka’tya eyed him suspiciously.

“Just hear what they have to say and then make up your own mind.”

“What?” Ka’tya squawked. “You want me to see the Royals? Now? Like this?” she indicated her dark jumper and her messy hair. “I need to braid my hair and change into the Colors of a Healer. I need to present myself in crimson, gold, and green. I can’t go like this.” She self-consciously started to braid her hair.

“You can make yourself more….presentable if you wish,” Etienne’s eyes were crinkled with good-natured laughter. “The Royals requested I send for a Healer. They also…suggested that I might bring my niece to them, since obviously, you are the best Healer that I know of. I agreed. I also let them know that I was making no promises—you have a mind of your own and that you would hear their request but beyond that, it is entirely your choice.”

“And you wonder why I seem terrified,” she muttered.

“Ka’tya,” his voice was like smooth butter now. It was his turn to apply his Diplomat voice. It was the voice Ka’tya never disobeyed. “I know it is scary. But King Sebastian and I have been friends since we were children, and I assure you that Queen Sia’ha’na is not nearly as frightening in person as the stories you hear may have led you to believe.”

***

Sludge

I know I have not been keeping up with the blog. I am going to try to be back on track. I have some plans to network and do some freelance stuff. I did Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July, picking up with a story I started last year for the month of November for NaNoWriMo. The point is, I am writing again, even though it is not every day. I am trying to make a better effort. The following is a piece of flash fiction I just sort of threw out there, and I am hoping something will stick. Enjoy!

Sludge

At first, we thought he black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was a converted school bus turned into a tiny house. We already had the land—a piece of farmland Tom inherited from his grandparents before we met. Tom let the parcel get overgrown, and was able to rent the property out to a nearby goat farmer ever summer. The goats ate the underbrush that grew abundantly on the land, and Tom was able to maintain the it with no actual manpower on his part.

The Tiny House Dream was something we both wanted, and the converted school bus was an idea that came to me one day while I was watching some home improvement show on television. I was also doing laundry at the time and I remember getting excited about the stacked washer and dryer unit that a family had installed in their RV. Once I knew that a washer and dryer were possible, I was even more excited about the Tiny House idea. The school bus was not cheap, but it could be affordable. My sister was a school bus driver, and she let us know whenever there were auctions. We were saving up, as the conversion itself is going to cost us, big time.

Unfortunately, the ‘oil’ we struck was just mud and sludge from a failing septic system. We had to use about a third of our savings to repair a third of our savings to repair it. Tom, trying to relieve the stress of the situation, quipped, “There goes our dream down the hole, to fix a hole.”

I rolled my eyes and went back to my laundry and my Tiny House daydream.

Snipette 1

So I have been slammed at work, but I have been writing. I had been a bit stuck, but I am inspired again, at least somewhat. I will be giving you some snipettes of what I have been working on. Enjoy!

*** From “A Dance in the Rain”

“I was just lucky that Jeremy was as understanding as he was. I will say this: Jeremy is not a bad guy. He never was. We just grew apart. He loved my mom and dad. He knew my mom was a wreck, and both of my brothers were….” she hesitated. “You know how they are. They are shit in a crisis. So it was me or nothing. And Jeremy couldn’t ever say no to me. That was part of the problem.”

“I had the opposite problem with James. He was such a damn control freak.”

“James had other issues going on,” Helena reminded her. “And the crazy family they came from didn’t help. Shelly was a total control freak. There was no doubt who wore the pants in the family, and it wasn’t her husband.” Shelly and Frank were their former in-laws.

“She is still like that,” Ellie said. “They insist on seeing Charlie, and I can’t keep him from his grandparents. I really wish they would leave us alone, if you really want to know. If it wasn’t for the girls in the family, I’d just block their number and not ever answer if they called.”

“So,” Helena teased, a little unkindly “you would be basically emotionally held hostage by them. Isn’t that what James does to you now?”

“That’s not fair,” Ellie said darkly. “But I see your point. I am still friends with Katie, Alice and Marsha. I am civil to Shelly and Frank for their sake. And I see Jeremy every once in a while. He loves Charlie.” She shrugged. “However, the bitch he married can die for all I care.”

“Now wait a minute,” Helena said, much more kindly. “I know Jeremy wasn’t happy when he was with me. Especially towards the end. I know I was miserable. If Jen makes him happy, then I am all for that. I know the way it went down wasn’t ideal, but I did leave him for someone else. I knew what the consequences would be. I know Jen didn’t wait long to swoop in and ‘comfort’ Jeremy after I left. However, if it had been the other way around, I might have done the same thing. If she loves him, and he’s happy, then I am happy for him.”

“What upsets me about Jen,” Ellie said quietly, “is what it did to Jesse. You don’t break up with one brother and actively go after another brother. Especially when he’s still technically married. Jesse says he’s okay with it, but we both know it has to hurt. And it obviously has made his relationship with Jeremy tense. I don’t blame Jeremy. I agree he’s a good guy. I blame Jen. She was pretty much a predator.”

“I could have fought for Jeremy when everything fell apart with Jonathan,” Helena pointed out. “But by the time I actually was ready to come home and admit defeat, I was not in any shape to fight

anymore. I was ready for it to be over. It sucked, but I got over it. It’s nice to see he’s moved on, too. I just wish he had handled cutting ties with my family a bit differently. My mom was heart-broken over it, and he made me do the dirty work because he didn’t have the balls to do it himself.”

“Maybe it just proved that the two of you had become way different people, and it was better if you weren’t together anymore,” Ellie observed. “Because the Jeremy I knew at that time would have never hurt your mom like that. Again, I blame Jen.”

“I ran into Margot at the Wal-Mart over by my house last week. She told me that Jen is pregnant,” Helena replied. “If anyone in this world deserves to be a dad, it’s Jeremy. He really wanted

kids. I always felt like I was never ready. It’s one of the things that broke us up. I don’t hold any ill will towards him. I am happy for him, and for Jen. She got the best one out of all the boys in the family. Jesse will make someone a good husband some day, but face it, he still has a lot of growing up to do.”

“You are more forgiving than I ever would have been,” Ellie told her.

“I also don’t have to see either of them on a regular basis. As long as you are tied to James and his crazy-ass family, you are going to have to see Jen once in a while. For my sake, no, for Jeremy’s sake, try to be nice to her.”

“Well, I’ll try not to be openly hostile to her. Not for you. Not for Jeremy. Not even for Jesse. For my son’s sake, I will be civil. Civil is not the same as being nice,” Ellie pointed out. “It means not being ugly to her when I really want to hit her with a brick.”

“Ellie,” Helena said softly. “You are one of my most loyal friends. After I left Jeremy, especially when everyone found out that I left him for someone else, I lost nearly all of my friends. Friends I had had since I was eighteen months old. Friends I grew up with. My relatives thought I had lost my damn mind. My mom was fit to be tied. I am glad my dad wasn’t around then to witness that. I think had he

still been alive, we would have kept together, just for him. But you,” she shook her head. “You defended me to everyone who talked about me behind my back. I really love you for that.”

“I love you,” Ellie said simply. “When I needed a friend, back in high school, you were the first one I came to. Your family has always accepted me. I love you all for that. Shelly and Frank have always been nice to me, but I watched how they treated you, and how they have treated every other female to come into any of their sons’ lives. It’s not right. I come really close to telling Shelly to go fuck herself every time I see her. And I won’t ever leave Charlie alone with either of them. You know that. But I can leave him with any member of your family, your idiot brothers included, and know he’ll

be treated right. Why wouldn’t I be loyal to you after all that you did for me when James was out playing the fool?”

“I only did what any friend would have done in my place,” Helena said firmly. “You came to me for help. I would have moved the stars to give it to you.”

“I now know that you and Jeremy were dealing with your own stuff. I didn’t know that then. And you still helped me get away from James long enough so that I could at least think straight for a minute. I don’t know what I would have done if that hadn’t happened,” Ellie mused.

“You would have found a way. Katie and John were all too ready to help, too. You would have figured things out eventually.”

“I don’t think I would have asked Katie for help,” Ellie said slowly. “I didn’t want James hurt. I just needed some breathing room for a bit. John would have shot him on sight.”

“Okay,” Helena giggled. “You have a point there. John is very protective when it comes to his family. The fact that James was Katie’s brother wouldn’t have stopped him.”

“I still don’t know how you got Jeremy to agree not to tell James you guys were hiding me.”

“It wasn’t that difficult. First of all, Jeremy would rather give in to me than fight with me. I rarely heard the word ‘no’ from him,” Helena recalled. “Second of all, he knew how bad James was treating you. The day you called me to ask if you could come stay with us, as soon as I got off the phone with you, I called Jeremy and told him you were staying with us. No argument. His reaction was just something like ‘it’s about damn time.’ So it wasn’t that difficult.”

“Too bad I didn’t listen to my better instincts, and went back to him two weeks later.”

“But if you hadn’t done that, Charlie wouldn’t be here,” Helena pointed out.

“True. I gave James more than enough time to pull his head out of his ass. Especially after you and Jeremy split up. I waited over a year before I had had enough. The day I found out I was pregnant, I headed to my parents for help. My dad was ready to shoot him if he came anywhere near me.”

“No different than John, then,” Helena said.

“Except my dad was way more protective. I am their only daughter, and that does something to a dad. You know how it is. Your dad was the same way. Maybe not as willing to go to the lengths my parents were, but face it. If Jeremy ever did to you a tenth of what James did to me, I have a feeling he wouldn’t stop one of your brothers from making it the last thing Jeremy ever did,” Ellie replied.

“My dad loved Jeremy, and he did his best to treat me right,” Helena reiterated. “But if it had been any different, you know my brothers would have acted just like your dad did with James. My dad couldn’t have stopped them from that.”

“Well, I never feared for my safety,” Ellie said after a long moment. “I did, however, question my sanity on more than one occasion. James was really good at gas-lighting me. He raised that to a whole new level.”

“I know what that must have been like,” Helena sighed. “Jonathan did that to me all the time. I knew it wasn’t going to last, and I used him to get out of my marriage. I just didn’t think Jonathan would turn out to be such an emotional mess himself. We kind of crashed and burned before we started, you know?”

***

The ramblings of a poly chic