Tag Archives: serialization

Carthinal 7

The magician performed in the square for several days. Each day, Carthinal went and watched. By the prickling sensation, he quickly learned which of the man’s tricks were real magic and which sleight of hand.


Wren went with him the first couple of times, then she said, “Why do you keep on going back? It’s the same show every day.”


Carthinal shrugged, “I’m unsure myself, Wren. I’m fascinated by his magic. His real magic, that is, not that other stuff.”


After watching a number of times, Carthinal thought he could remember the words and hand movements the magician made when he conjured the small flame on his finger. He decided to try it out, but not in the Gang’s Headquarters.


He walked around the area until he came to a back street, Sitting on a doorstep, he began to mutter the words and copy what he thought were the hand movements. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. After a few attempts, he gave up.


The next day, he was again standing in the square watching. He thought he noticed a few things he’d got wrong, and he went to practise again, in the same back street.


He practised for a week. By then the magician had left the area. One day, sitting on the step, he wondered why he did this. The man he had been copying had gone, so he could not refresh his memory. He sat there, head in his hands, trying to picture exactly what the magician had said and done.


I’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give up.


He chanted in a slightly different way. His skin began to prickle and he felt a sensation deep within his stomach. A tiny flame appeared on his index finger, then quickly vanished.


The young man leaped up and yelled. “Yeah I did it!”


He ran all the way back to headquarters and burst in shouting “Wren, Wren, I did it.”


“Calm down. Did what?”


“Made magic. I got a little flame on my finger.”


Wren shrugged. “So what? How’s that going to help with anything.”


Carthinal took her by her shoulders. “Don’t you see. I can do magic. Perhaps if I practice I can learn more and then go and perform like that magician. We could be rich.”


“Who’s goin’ ter be rich?” Cat was just passing.


“Cat, I managed to do some magic. Real magic.”


Cat laughed. “You think ’cos yer did a little trick yer can become a real mage? Dream on, Fox, but keep ’em for sleep-time.”


Carthinal shook his head, but determined to keep on practising. Apart from the pride in learning to do it all on his own, when he had succeeded, the physical sensations it gave him were enough to make him continue.


Each morning, the young man went to the same back street and chanted and wove his hands around. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed, but he did not give up. Eventually, he could keep the flame going for several minutes.


One say, as he tried to make the flame walk from one finger to another, he became aware of a shadow falling over him. Quickly, he extinguished his little flame and sprang to his feet.


“Steady, lad,” a voice said. “How did you learn to do that?”


Carthinal scowled at the man. “Why should I tell you? Who are you, and how did you find me?”


“My name’s Mabryl. I’m an archmage and I felt a disturbance in the mana, so I tracked it here.”


At the sound of ‘archmage’, Carthinal pricked up his ears.

“Archmage? You’re important, then. So why’ve you tracked me down?”


“One simple reason. Hardly anyone can learn to do magic of any kind on their own. What made you try?”


“I watched the magician in the square on Grillon’s day and during that week. I copied what he said and did,”


“Impressive. How did you know what to copy? In other words, how did you know what was real magic and what wasn’t?”


“I felt it. It was like a tingling all over my skin.”


“Young man, you have a talent for magic, but you need training. First, although you’ve managed to get this far on your own, that’s only a very simple spell. One we use to teach apprentices at the beginning. It’s called a cantrip. More importantly, though, is the fact that magic can be very dangerous in untrained hands, both to yourself and those around you.”


Carthinal looked into Archmage Mabryl’s eyes. “What are you saying? I should stop?”


“Not at all. You have a tremendous talent. I would like to train you.”


“No. I’ll not fall for that. You know who I am and want to lure me to your home so you can hand me over to the guards”


Mabryl laughed a soft laugh. “That would be such a waste of talent. Anyway, who are you that I’d want to hand you over? What have you done that the guards would be interested in?”


Carthinal looked down and shuffled his feet. “Nothing. At least nothing you need to know. I have to go.”


As he turned to leave the street, Mabryl said, “I live on Grindlehoff Street. Number forty three. Come there if you change your mind. I hope you do. Your talent will be wasted if not, and you could cause great danger to everyone around.”


When he got back to the headquarters he searched out Wren. He told her all that had happened.


“What did you say?”


“That he could go away and leave me alone. That I’m not interested. He’s only trying to tempt me so I’ll lead him to the rest of you.”


That night, Wren propped herself up on her elbow on the bed they shared. “I’ve been thinking.”


“Not too hard. I hope.” Carthinal yawned and turned to face her.


“About that man, Mabryl was it?”


“What about him?”


“If you went there and learned to be a proper mage, you could be a help to the Gang.”


“How?”


“Suppose you could use magic to help people not notice us when we pick their pockets? Then perhaps you could make Cat invisible when he goes buglaring so no one sees him. Then you could use it when we fight other gangs. We’d be able to take over all the others.”


“Mmm. Perhaps. I’ll think about it.” He turned over and went to sleep.

Will Carthinal accept Mabryl’s offer and go to his house to become his apprentice, or will he stay with The Beasts? The relative security and friendship he knows or an unknown life are his choices. Read the next episode on the first Tuesday of December to find out which he chooses.

Find out more about Carthinal by reading The Woves of Vimar series. The first three books can be got from Amazon.

Aspholessaria, Part 2

094Fungi

 
Asphodel spent the next few days in confusion. Her mother reprimanded her several times for forgetting little things.
‘Really, Aspholessaria,’ she said, ‘Anyone would think you were in love. What’s wrong with you?’
Her father laughed.
‘Perhaps she is in love,’ he joked. ‘She’s at that age.’
Her mother turned to her husband.
‘She’s of House Royal. She can’t be allowed to fall in love.’
Asphodel thought, ‘Am I in love?’
She wandered out into the city. She had an errand to do for her mother anyway, but she found her steps taking her towards where Linn lived. As she passed his house, the two young men came out.
‘Asphodel,’ called Vass. ‘I’m so glad we’ve seen you. Are you and Sissi going to Allimissoro’s tonight? Liss and I are, and I’d very much like it if you were there too.’
‘I don’t know,’ replied the girl. ‘I’ve not seen Sissi for a couple of days. I’ll go and ask her later, when I’ve done the jobs mother wants me to do.’
Later, Sissi agreed to go to Allimissoro’s that evening to meet the two young men. Asphodel was still in confusion. Vass had said he would like it if they were there, but did he mean her, Sissi or both of them?
Later that evening, it became apparent that Vass’s interest was in Asphodel. He danced with her all evening and hardly took his eyes from her when he was not dancing. That evening he walked her home without the accompaniment of Sissi and Liss, who walked home separately.
Half-way to Asphodel’s home, their hands touched. Asphodel’s stomach turned over again as Vass took her hand in his. They walked along in silence, each happy in the other’s company. The world around them had vanished. There was only Vass in the world as far as Asphodel was concerned.
All too soon the walk ended and they stood outside Asphodel’s home. Vass put a fnger under Asphodel’s chin and lifted her face, then he bent his head to kiss her. When his lips met hers she thought she would faint with pleasure.
The kiss seemed to go on for ever, but finished all too soon as far as Asphodel was concerned. She leaned against Vass’s chest and he held her close.
‘You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met,’ he told her. ‘I wish we could stay like this for always.’
Asphodel sighed and her practical side came to the fore.
‘So do I, Vass,’ she told him, ‘but my mother will be wondering where I am soon. I’m afraid I must go in.’
Vass bent his head once more and delivered a passionate kiss on Asphodel’s mouth, then stood and watched as she walked up the ramp leading to her home in the trees.
Asphodel and Sissi’s visits to Allimissoro’s became more frequent over the next few months. She did not deliberately keep her relationship with Vass secret from her parents, but she just never bothered to tell them. It didn’t seem important they should know.
She was engrossed in her growing relationship with Vass. That was all that seemed important to the girl. He was kind and attentive and always complemented her on how she looked. Soon the pair took to meeting other than at Allimissoro’s and took frequent walks in the land outside the city. If her mother thought anything, she assumed her daughter was out with Sissi somewhere.
One day, after Asphodel and Varr had been seeing one another for almost a year, Asphodel’s father called her into his study.
‘I have something to tell you,’ he said. ‘You remember Frishillondor? He came here not long ago, to eat with us as I had business with him and wanted to help it along. Well, it seems he was quite taken with you and he’s asked me for your hand in marriage.’
Asphodel gasped.
‘Yes, it’s quite a surprise, isn’t it? And quite an honour too. Your mother is thrilled. He’s nearer in blood to the Elflord than even we are. His sister is the Elflord’s mother. Fancy that! So of course I agreed immediately.’
‘No,’ Asphodel cried. ‘I can’t marry him. He’s old. I won’t marry him.’
‘Now, now, child,’ her father replied gently. ‘He’s not so old. He’s younger than me. Anyway, I insist on this marriage. It’ll be a big boost to our family. All our businesses will benefit greatly with him as a sponsor.’
Asphodel stamped her foot.
‘I said I won’t marry him, and I meant it,’ she said as she ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

 

Will Asphodel have to marry Frishillondor? What will happen to her love for Vass? Come back on the first Tuesday of November to find out.

Leave a comment in the comments section and I’ll try to get back to you. Or sign up to my email list to be the first to hear any news of my forthcoming books.

Another visit by Renee. this time it’s about Shadow Stalker book 2

shadow-stalker-writer-1

 

Welcome back, Renee. I’m so glad you can visit again. Tell us a bit about Shadow Stalker Book 2. I’m susre everyone will want to know what’s happening to Auren after Book 1.

About Shadow Stalker – Part 2 (Episodes 7 – 12)

Episode 7: Bound by Fate

Auren’s best friend was captured during the Galvadi invasion, and her rescue attempt goes awry. Now Auren finds herself in the hands of an enemy who knows her true identity…one who has the power to be either her destroyer or her salvation.

Episode 8: Broken

Auren doesn’t succumb to Makari’s torture, so he decides his father was right about her being the delohi-saqu. Now he resorts to more sadistic methods to extract information, which could doom the Coalition if Auren fails to resist.

Episode 9: Turning Tides

Now that Makari knows the truth about Auren, he has sworn to protect her and help her escape. But when the other guides become suspicious, Makari’s loyalty is tested, and he is forced to do something he swore he’d never do again.

Episode 10: Separate Paths

Auren finally meets Shai, Kado’s daughter, but she is too weak from her months of torture to escape the reconciliation center. Makari takes over Shai’s cleansing sessions, but that means Auren will face daily torture again. To make things worse, Makari disappears and Auren is given a task that means taking the life of someone she loves.

Episode 11: Escape Part 1

Auren and Shai begin their escape, but it doesn’t go as planned, and they are forced to adjust their plans. They are pushed to their limits, and Auren has to put her untried abilities to use or risk being recaptured.

Episode 12: Escape Part 2

Makari has decided to stay with the Galvadi for Auren’s protection. Auren and Shai are on their own, and nature seems to be against them. After being seriously injured, Auren falls ill and it starts to look like they will never reach their meeting spot with Kado on the southern shore.

Buy Links:

Want to get Shadow Stalker Part 2 (Episodes 7 – 12) free too? http://reneescattergood.com/subscribe-today/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Stalker-Part-Episodes-Bundles-ebook/dp/B010H5Y9R2/

My Review

Book 2 lives up to all the promises of Book 1. Auren has to escape from the Galvadi, which she does with the help of the Emperor’s son, Makari. The two of them fell in love when he went to torture her.

She discovers another young shadow stalker imprisoned and the two of them, with the help of Makari, plan their escape. It does not go according to plan, however and the dangers are still around her. Makari, too, has to face dangers of his own.

As with Book 1, the story keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat. It moves quickly and poses questions you want answered.

Auren is a well-drawn heroine. She is realistic and has her faults as well as her good points. She feels fear and anxiety, just as anyone would in those circumstances. Ms Scattergood’s characterisation of all her characters is good. Both books are well worth a read and I can’t wait for the day book 3 is released.

 

 

shadow-stalker-about-the-author

Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn’t start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing dark fantasy, and she’d dabbling with paranormal thrillers under a pen name.

She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker serial, and she has published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. She is also working on a new series of novels, A God’s Deception.

Aside from writing, she loves reading (fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her homeschooled daughter. Visit her site for more information and a free copy of Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6): http://reneescattergood.com

 

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Thank you for visiting, Renee. I’ll see you next week for an update on Book 3, soon to be released.

There will be another visit by Renee on Tuesday 27th September when I’ll be reviewing Book 3 of the Shadow Stalker books. I won’t therefore be posting on that Tuesday as usual. I have work to do on the edited copy of The Wolf Pack my publisher has sent me. Look for my next post the following Tuesday, October 4th, when, as it’s the first Tuesday of October. I’ll be posting the next episode in Asphodel’s story.

Aspholessaria

forest
Today I am going to start telling you the story of Asphodel, whom you can find in The Wolf Pack. Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar Series. You will have noticed I use her name a lot. I like her and the way she stands up for what she believes in, regardless of authority. This gets her into trouble quite a lot.

 

‘Aspholessaria!’ called the young elf’s mother. ‘Are you going out?’

‘I’m meeting Syssillina, mother,’ she replied. ‘There’s a new place opened across the other side of Quantisarillishon. It’s called Allimissoro’s and it’s supposed to be good. We’re going there to suss it out.’

‘I wish you’d refrain from using those slang words, dear. So common. Don’t forget we’re related to the Elf Lord.’

‘Only distantly, mother,’ called Aspholessaria as she skipped out through the door to meet her friend. ‘I don’t expect he’ll hear about it so don’t worry.’

A few minutes later the two girls were running towards where they had heard of the new bar and dance hall especially opened for young folk. The youngsters had little to do in Quantisarillishon and some of them became a little unruly from time to time.

‘My cousin, Gerralishirondo, went last night. He says it’s really good,’ said Syssillina as they trotted across the capital city of Rindissarillishan, the land of the elves. ‘He says there were some elves there playing music, and everyone was up and dancing.’

‘It sounds fantastic,’ Aspholessaria replied. ‘Did he say how far it is?’

‘Oh, Asphodel,’ said her friend, using the elf’s diminutive name, ‘I told you it’s only a few trees over. Wee, perhaps a bit more than that, but only about half a mile.’

The elves built their city of Quantisarillishon deep in the forest. Many who visited it for the first time did not think they had arrived. The elves built so the buildings looked part of the forest. Some of the buildings were even built into the trees themselves with knot holes as windows. Most of the walkways stretched from tree to tree and so to anyone not looking up it would seem there was nothing but forest.

The girls trotted along these walkways passing residences and workshops until they arrived at a building that stretched over the branches of several large oaks. Music and laughter came from out of the open doors. The girls stopped and looked at each other.

Asphodel took a breath and said,’ Well, we’ve come here, so we might as well go in.’
She matched her actions to her words and Syssillina followed.

Lanterns wreathed the room and gave a festive air to the surroundings. Seats surrounded small tables, most of which had young elves sitting and chattering. In the centre of the room was a dance floor with a number of young folk dancing to the music.

The girls looked around. Where could they sit? Then Syssillina noticed an empty table close to the band. the girls made their way across to it and sat down to listen to the music. Syssillina went and got them fruit juice from the bar and they sat sipping their drinks.

‘Isn’t that LLinisharrovno over there?’ whispered Asphodel, naming a young man who had been at school with them. ‘Who’s that with him? I’ve not seen him before.’

Syssillina looked over to where Asphodel pointed.

‘Yes. I’ve not seen him for a long time,’ she replied. ‘His friend’s fit, don’t you think?’

The girls started to giggle, but stopped quickly as Asphodel noticed the pair looking at them. The two young men started walking across the room towards them.

‘Are they coming to us?’ Asphodel asked, looking at her drink.

‘I don’t know. there’s that group of girls at the next table. Iexpect they’re going to them.’

But they weren’t. They came and stood in front of Asphodel and Syssillina.

‘I’ve not seen you two since we left school,’ said Llinsharrovno. ‘Where’ve you been hiding yourselves?’

‘If I remember rightly, you live at the opposite side of the city from us. We’ve not been hiding, we just don’t get over there very much.’

Llinsharrovno sat down in an empty seat.

‘This is my cousin, Vassinamorro.’ he said. ‘Vass, this is Aspholessaria, known as Asphodel, and Syssillina, known as Syssi.’

The other young man took another spare seat and smiled a handsome smile that made Asphodel’s stomach turn over. He had blue eyes and blonde hair. He was tall for an elf, being five foot ten and had the build of one who looked after his body and exercised regularly.

‘Pleased to meet you.’ he said. ‘I’m new to Quantisarillishon. LLin has been showing me round. It’s a beautiful city, but it pales into insignificance next to the beauty of it’s girls.’

Both girls blushed and muttered their thanks for the complement.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ asked LLin, standing.

The girls accepted and as he walked away, Vass asked Asphodel if she would like to dance. She accepted and the pair went away onto the dance floor.

Vass was a wonderful dancer and Asphodel felt she had wings on her feet, he was so easy to dance with. When his hand touched hers, the butterflies began to dance in her stomach again, and she thought she would melt into his blue eyes. Her black hair flew round her head as he twisted and turned her in the dance. He lifted her up and swung her round and she gasped in surprise, which made him laugh.

Then the dance ended and the pair returned to their seats.
LLin danced with Syssi, then with Asphodel as Vass danced with Syssi. Asphodel watched them as they danced, treading on Llin’s feet a few times, but he laughed.

‘My cousin has that effect on women,’ he whispered in her ear the fifth time she missed a beat and trod on his toes. ‘I wish I had his looks and charm.’

The girls danced with Vass and Llin all evening, the two young men taking it in turns to dance with each of them.

Then came the time to leave. It was dark and the few lamps on the walkways gave only a little light.

‘I don’t like the idea of you walking alone in the dark,’ said Vass. ‘May we walk the two of you home?’

The girls agreed and the four young people slowly wended their way through the treetop walkways to the girls’ homes.

‘Will you be going to Allimissoro’s again?’ Vass asked them as they stood outside Asphodel’s home.

The girls looked at each other. Asphodel had to restrain herself from replying too quickly. She would certainly go again if Vass was going to be there.

‘What do you think, Syssi?’ she said. ‘Should we go again?’

‘I think I’ll probably give it another go,’ answered her friend. ‘I enjoyed myself tonight. The music was excellent and the drinks. They’ve done wonders with the decor too.’

Vass looked at both girls in turn and said, ‘Perhaps we’ll see you there another time, then.’

The two young men left the girls, walked a few paces and turned to wave.

Asphodel entered her home and crept up the stairs to her bedroom. She threw herself on her bed, smiling, then she turned on her stomach and groaned.

Does he like me? Does he like Syssi better than he likes me? Oh, I can’t tell who he likes better.

She thought of the way he had looked into her grey eyes when they danced and her stomach turned again. She thought one minute he liked her best, then the next she thought of how he had looked at Syssi and decided he liked Syssi best. With her thoughts in turmoil, Asphodel fell asleep.Aspholessaria

‘Aspholessaria!’ called the young elf’s mother. ‘Are you going out?’

‘I’m meeting Syssillina, mother,’ she replied. ‘There’s a new place opened across the other side of Quantisarillishon. It’s called Allimissoro’s and it’s supposed to be good. We’re going there to suss it out.’

‘I wish you’d refrain from using those slang words, dear. So common. Don’t forget we’re related to the Elf Lord.’

‘Only distantly, mother,’ called Aspholessaria as she skipped out through the door to meet her friend. ‘I don’t expect he’ll hear about it so don’t worry.’

A few minutes later the two girls were running towards where they had heard of the new bar and dance hall especially opened for young folk. The youngsters had little to do in Quantisarillishon and some of them became a little unruly from time to time.

‘My cousin, Gerralishirondo, went last night. He says it’s really good,’ said Syssillina as they trotted across the capital city of Rindissarillishan, the land of the elves. ‘He says there were some elves there playing music, and everyone was up and dancing.’

‘It sounds fantastic,’ Aspholessaria replied. ‘Did he say how far it is?’

‘Oh, Asphodel,’ said her friend, using the elf’s diminutive name, ‘I told you it’s only a few trees over. Wee, perhaps a bit more than that, but only about half a mile.’

The elves built their city of Quantisarillishon deep in the forest. Many who visited it for the first time did not think they had arrived. The elves built so the buildings looked part of the forest. Some of the buildings were even built into the trees themselves with knot holes as windows. Most of the walkways stretched from tree to tree and so to anyone not looking up it would seem there was nothing but forest.

The girls trotted along these walkways passing residences and workshops until they arrived at a building that stretched over the branches of several large oaks. Music and laughter came from out of the open doors. The girls stopped and looked at each other.

Asphodel took a breath and said,’ Well, we’ve come here, so we might as well go in.’
She matched her actions to her words and Syssillina followed.

Lanterns wreathed the room and gave a festive air to the surroundings. Seats surrounded small tables, most of which had young elves sitting and chattering. In the centre of the room was a dance floor with a number of young folk dancing to the music.

The girls looked around. Where could they sit? Then Syssillina noticed an empty table close to the band. the girls made their way across to it and sat down to listen to the music. Syssillina went and got them fruit juice from the bar and they sat sipping their drinks.

‘Isn’t that LLinisharrovno over there?’ whispered Asphodel, naming a young man who had been at school with them. ‘Who’s that with him? I’ve not seen him before.’

Syssillina looked over to where Asphodel pointed.

‘Yes. I’ve not seen him for a long time,’ she replied. ‘His friend’s fit, don’t you think?’

The girls started to giggle, but stopped quickly as Asphodel noticed the pair looking at them. The two young men started walking across the room towards them.

‘Are they coming to us?’ Asphodel asked, looking at her drink.

‘I don’t know. there’s that group of girls at the next table. Iexpect they’re going to them.’

But they weren’t. They came and stood in front of Asphodel and Syssillina.

‘I’ve not seen you two since we left school,’ said Llinsharrovno. ‘Where’ve you been hiding yourselves?’

‘If I remember rightly, you live at the opposite side of the city from us. We’ve not been hiding, we just don’t get over there very much.’

Llinsharrovno sat down in an empty seat.

‘This is my cousin, Vassinamorro.’ he said. ‘Vass, this is Aspholessaria, known as Asphodel, and Syssillina, known as Syssi.’

The other young man took another spare seat and smiled a handsome smile that made Asphodel’s stomach turn over. He had blue eyes and blonde hair. He was tall for an elf, being five foot ten and had the build of one who looked after his body and exercised regularly.

‘Pleased to meet you.’ he said. ‘I’m new to Quantisarillishon. LLin has been showing me round. It’s a beautiful city, but it pales into insignificance next to the beauty of it’s girls.’

Both girls blushed and muttered their thanks for the complement.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ asked LLin, standing.

The girls accepted and as he walked away, Vass asked Asphodel if she would like to dance. She accepted and the pair went away onto the dance floor.

Vass was a wonderful dancer and Asphodel felt she had wings on her feet, he was so easy to dance with. When his hand touched hers, the butterflies began to dance in her stomach again, and she thought she would melt into his blue eyes. Her black hair flew round her head as he twisted and turned her in the dance. He lifted her up and swung her round and she gasped in surprise, which made him laugh.

Then the dance ended and the pair returned to their seats.
LLin danced with Syssi, then with Asphodel as Vass danced with Syssi. Asphodel watched them as they danced, treading on Llin’s feet a few times, but he laughed.

‘My cousin has that effect on women,’ he whispered in her ear the fifth time she missed a beat and trod on his toes. ‘I wish I had his looks and charm.’

The girls danced with Vass and Llin all evening, the two young men taking it in turns to dance with each of them.

Then came the time to leave. It was dark and the few lamps on the walkways gave only a little light.

‘I don’t like the idea of you walking alone in the dark,’ said Vass. ‘May we walk the two of you home?’

The girls agreed and the four young people slowly wended their way through the treetop walkways to the girls’ homes.

‘Will you be going to Allimissoro’s again?’ Vass asked them as they stood outside Asphodel’s home.

The girls looked at each other. Asphodel had to restrain herself from replying too quickly. She would certainly go again if Vass was going to be there.

‘What do you think, Syssi?’ she said. ‘Should we go again?’

‘I think I’ll probably give it another go,’ answered her friend. ‘I enjoyed myself tonight. The music was excellent and the drinks. They’ve done wonders with the decor too.’

Vass looked at both girls in turn and said, ‘Perhaps we’ll see you there another time, then.’

The two young men left the girls, walked a few paces and turned to wave.

Asphodel entered her home and crept up the stairs to her bedroom. She threw herself on her bed, smiling, then she turned on her stomach and groaned.

Does he like me? Does he like Syssi better than he likes me? Oh, I can’t tell who he likes better.

She thought of the way he had looked into her grey eyes when they danced and her stomach turned again. She thought one minute he liked her best, then the next she thought of how he had looked at Syssi and decided he liked Syssi best. With her thoughts in turmoil, Asphodel fell asleep.Aspholessaria

‘Aspholessaria!’ called the young elf’s mother. ‘Are you going out?’

‘I’m meeting Syssillina, mother,’ she replied. ‘There’s a new place opened across the other side of Quantisarillishon. It’s called Allimissoro’s and it’s supposed to be good. We’re going there to suss it out.’

‘I wish you’d refrain from using those slang words, dear. So common. Don’t forget we’re related to the Elf Lord.’

‘Only distantly, mother,’ called Aspholessaria as she skipped out through the door to meet her friend. ‘I don’t expect he’ll hear about it so don’t worry.’

A few minutes later the two girls were running towards where they had heard of the new bar and dance hall especially opened for young folk. The youngsters had little to do in Quantisarillishon and some of them became a little unruly from time to time.

‘My cousin, Gerralishirondo, went last night. He says it’s really good,’ said Syssillina as they trotted across the capital city of Rindissarillishan, the land of the elves. ‘He says there were some elves there playing music, and everyone was up and dancing.’

‘It sounds fantastic,’ Aspholessaria replied. ‘Did he say how far it is?’

‘Oh, Asphodel,’ said her friend, using the elf’s diminutive name, ‘I told you it’s only a few trees over. Wee, perhaps a bit more than that, but only about half a mile.’

The elves built their city of Quantisarillishon deep in the forest. Many who visited it for the first time did not think they had arrived. The elves built so the buildings looked part of the forest. Some of the buildings were even built into the trees themselves with knot holes as windows. Most of the walkways stretched from tree to tree and so to anyone not looking up it would seem there was nothing but forest.

The girls trotted along these walkways passing residences and workshops until they arrived at a building that stretched over the branches of several large oaks. Music and laughter came from out of the open doors. The girls stopped and looked at each other.

Asphodel took a breath and said,’ Well, we’ve come here, so we might as well go in.’
She matched her actions to her words and Syssillina followed.

Lanterns wreathed the room and gave a festive air to the surroundings. Seats surrounded small tables, most of which had young elves sitting and chattering. In the centre of the room was a dance floor with a number of young folk dancing to the music.

The girls looked around. Where could they sit? Then Syssillina noticed an empty table close to the band. the girls made their way across to it and sat down to listen to the music. Syssillina went and got them fruit juice from the bar and they sat sipping their drinks.

‘Isn’t that LLinisharrovno over there?’ whispered Asphodel, naming a young man who had been at school with them. ‘Who’s that with him? I’ve not seen him before.’

Syssillina looked over to where Asphodel pointed.

‘Yes. I’ve not seen him for a long time,’ she replied. ‘His friend’s fit, don’t you think?’

The girls started to giggle, but stopped quickly as Asphodel noticed the pair looking at them. The two young men started walking across the room towards them.

‘Are they coming to us?’ Asphodel asked, looking at her drink.

‘I don’t know. there’s that group of girls at the next table. Iexpect they’re going to them.’

But they weren’t. They came and stood in front of Asphodel and Syssillina.

‘I’ve not seen you two since we left school,’ said Llinsharrovno. ‘Where’ve you been hiding yourselves?’

‘If I remember rightly, you live at the opposite side of the city from us. We’ve not been hiding, we just don’t get over there very much.’

Llinsharrovno sat down in an empty seat.

‘This is my cousin, Vassinamorro.’ he said. ‘Vass, this is Aspholessaria, known as Asphodel, and Syssillina, known as Syssi.’

The other young man took another spare seat and smiled a handsome smile that made Asphodel’s stomach turn over. He had blue eyes and blonde hair. He was tall for an elf, being five foot ten and had the build of one who looked after his body and exercised regularly.

‘Pleased to meet you.’ he said. ‘I’m new to Quantisarillishon. LLin has been showing me round. It’s a beautiful city, but it pales into insignificance next to the beauty of it’s girls.’

Both girls blushed and muttered their thanks for the complement.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ asked LLin, standing.

The girls accepted and as he walked away, Vass asked Asphodel if she would like to dance. She accepted and the pair went away onto the dance floor.

Vass was a wonderful dancer and Asphodel felt she had wings on her feet, he was so easy to dance with. When his hand touched hers, the butterflies began to dance in her stomach again, and she thought she would melt into his blue eyes. Her black hair flew round her head as he twisted and turned her in the dance. He lifted her up and swung her round and she gasped in surprise, which made him laugh.

Then the dance ended and the pair returned to their seats.
LLin danced with Syssi, then with Asphodel as Vass danced with Syssi. Asphodel watched them as they danced, treading on Llin’s feet a few times, but he laughed.

‘My cousin has that effect on women,’ he whispered in her ear the fifth time she missed a beat and trod on his toes. ‘I wish I had his looks and charm.’

The girls danced with Vass and Llin all evening, the two young men taking it in turns to dance with each of them.

Then came the time to leave. It was dark and the few lamps on the walkways gave only a little light.

‘I don’t like the idea of you walking alone in the dark,’ said Vass. ‘May we walk the two of you home?’

The girls agreed and the four young people slowly wended their way through the treetop walkways to the girls’ homes.

‘Will you be going to Allimissoro’s again?’ Vass asked them as they stood outside Asphodel’s home.

The girls looked at each other. Asphodel had to restrain herself from replying too quickly. She would certainly go again if Vass was going to be there.

‘What do you think, Syssi?’ she said. ‘Should we go again?’

‘I think I’ll probably give it another go,’ answered her friend. ‘I enjoyed myself tonight. The music was excellent and the drinks. They’ve done wonders with the decor too.’

Vass looked at both girls in turn and said, ‘Perhaps we’ll see you there another time, then.’

The two young men left the girls, walked a few paces and turned to wave.

Asphodel entered her home and crept up the stairs to her bedroom. She threw herself on her bed, smiling, then she turned on her stomach and groaned.

Does he like me? Does he like Syssi better than he likes me? Oh, I can’t tell who he likes better.

She thought of the way he had looked into her grey eyes when they danced and her stomach turned again. She thought one minute he liked her best, then the next she thought of how he had looked at Syssi and decided he liked Syssi best. With her thoughts in turmoil, Asphodel fell asleep.

Does Vass prefer Asphodel or Syssi? Find out in the next installment at the beginning of October.

Please leave a comment about this story. I appreciate all feedback, good or bad. I can’t learn and improve if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

 

Jovinda and Noni Part 6. Tragedy

newcoverwolfpack

 

This is the last part of the story of Carthinal’s parents. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment when you’ve read it.

 

Two years passed quickly, and Carthinal was toddling about. Noni came in from the embassy where he was still working. It was Carthinal’s second birthday and he had brought a huge toy dog for the little boy.
‘Dada,’ Carthinal said as he ran towards his father.
Noni gave him the dog and he struggled with it, dragging it towards the sitting room where he had been spending some time with Jovinda. His mother laughed at his difficulty, then went to help him bring it in.
‘Say thank you to Daddy, Carthinal,’ Jovinda said.
‘Fan choo,’ Carthinal said, looking at his father. ‘Fan choo. Doggy.’
Jovinda kissed her husband then said, ‘I’m a bit worried about Carthinal, Noni. Most of my friends children his age seem to be much more advanced. Even some of those much younger are moare advanced than he is. I’m afraid there’s something wrong. Perhaps he’s not very bright.’
Noni laughed. ‘There’s nothing wrong with our son, Jo. Half of his blood is elf. Elven children develop more slowly than human ones. In fact, he’s in advance of most elven children of his age.’ He paused for thought for a minute before continuing. ‘I don’t know how quickly or slowly this mixture of elf and human should develop, but probably about half way between an elf child and a human one, I would say. It’ll be interesting to find out. In the meantime, stop worrying.’
Jovinda smiled up at her husband and picked up her son, dog and all. She kissed him as he struggled to get down again.
‘Down,’ he insisted. He clenched his small fist and tried to punch her. ‘Down’ he repeated.
Noli took his hand. ‘You must not punch your mother, Carthinal. That’s very naughty.’
‘Want down,’ he repeated.
Jovinda put him down and sighed.
‘That’s another thing. He seems to be developing a temper. That must be nipped in the bud.’
‘No one said bringing up a child is easy, love. In fact. it’s probably the hardest thing in the world. You’re doing a great job.’

The couple wished for another child, but the years passed and there was no sign. Noni said it was probably due to the infertility of elves and that perhaps it would happen in due course. Jovinda went to the temple of Bramara and prayed, but it was to no avail.
When Carthinal was six, he was in the garden, playing on a swing that Kendo had fixed to the branch of a tree in the garden. He heard his nurse calling for him, but took no notice. It was nice in the garden. The sun was shining and he liked the swing.
Shortly, Jovinda came out and saw him.
‘Oh, there you are. Didn’t you hear nurse calling for you?’
‘Yes, but I don’t want to go in. It’s nice out here.’
‘You must come in now, Carthinal. It’s time for your tea and then it’s bathtime and bedtime.’
The little boy’s face clouded over and he fixed his lips into a straight line.
‘Shan’t.’
‘Oh, don’t be naughty, Carthinal. Be a good boy and come for your tea.’
‘No.’ His eyes began to look, not like the blue summer skies, but dark stormy seas. Jovinda noticed the change ans she went and picked him off the swing and carried him, squirming and crying into the house where she handded him over to Blendin who took him away for his tea.
Jovinda went into the sitting room and smiled to herself. She had become used to these infrequent outbursts of temper and knew that in a few minutes her son would be his normal sunny self again. His temper never lasted long.

Noni arrived soon after this and sank down in one of the chairs.
‘There’s a problem in Rindisallaron,’ he told his wife. The elflord has died and there’s a problem with the succession.’
‘I thought that the elflord was succeeded by the eldest male child of his nearest female relative.’
‘Yes, That’s true, but in this case there are identical twins.’
‘So! The elder twin inherits, doesn’t he?’
‘Ah, therein lies the problem. You see, when the twins were born, their mother was seriously ill after the birth and in the rush to treat her the twins weren’t labelled. Now both twins are claiming to be the first-born.’
‘The father told the midwife that the first child was to be called Frissillimidor and the second Grimmshollin. She claimed she knew in which crib she’d put each baby and so they were named.’ He stood and walked round the room before continuing.
‘I believe the midwife would have been correct and that Frissillimidor is the elder, but factions have grown up, as you would expect. Now war has broken out.’
‘That doesn’t affect us herein Bluehaven though,’ Jovinda said ‘We aren’t involved in Elven politics.’
Noni came and sat beside his wife and took her hand.
‘You aren’t involved. Bluehaven isn’t involved, but I’m an elf, and so I am involved, like it or not. Father is packing at this minute to go to help the rightful heir.’
Jovinda turned and looked at her husband, understanding beginning to dawn on her face.
‘So you plan to go and fight too.’
Noni nodded.
‘You’d leave your wife and child for this war?’ Jovinda was getting angry rather than sad at the thought of Noni going away. ‘You care more for this Frissi-whatsit than Carthinal and me?’
Noni stood.
Just at that moment, Carthinal came to the door, but neither of them saw him. He had come to apologise for his outburst earlier. He heard his parents arguing. He had never seen that before and it frightened him. Nevertheless, he stood just behind the door and listened to an argument he could not understand. Carthinal fled back up to the nursery, his apology forgotten.
No matter what argument she put forward, Noni was adamant he must go to fight for the rightful heir. The couple went to bed that evening barely speaking and that continued until three days later when Noni had packed ready to leave for the Elven lands.
Jovinda said goodbye to Noni with a heavy heart. They had made up their quarrel and she stood on the doorstep of their house with Carthinal as she waved him off. She blinked back her tears as she stood waving until he could no longer be seen.
‘How long will Daddy be away?’ Carthinal asked.
‘I don’t know, dear. He’ll come and see us when he gets leave.’

Two years passed. Noni came home as often as he could, but he needed a long leave to make the journey to Bluehaven from Rindissillaron and back and he had little time when he was there. Jovinda had to rely on his letters to tell her of the progress of the war.In one letter, Noni wrote of how the war was nearly won. Grimmshollin had retreated to a very small area and was barely holding it. It would be only a few days before the war was over.
Jovinda was delighted at this news and eagerly looked forward to welcoming Noni home. Every day she expected a letter, or even Noni himself to arrive. The letter came in just over a sixday saying that there was one more battle to end the war and then just a few things to sort out before Noni came home. She was ecstatic and began to prepare a welcome home party.
A couple of sixdays later, there was a knock on the door. Their butler answered and showed an officer into the drawing room where Jovinda sat reading to Carthinal. She rose as the officer entered.
He saluted and introduced himself as Roshinderal, who was Noni’s friend.
‘Yes, he’s spoken of you often in his letters,’ Jovinda told him. ‘Do you know when he’ll be home? I’m planning a welcome home party for him, you see.’
The young captain cleared his throat and looked embarrassed.
‘Perhaps you’d better send your son out of the room, Madam,’ he said.
Jovinda’s heart began to beat quickly as she told Carthinal to go to the nursery. At first she though he would refuse as she saw tell-tale signs come over hs face, but the boy thought better of it and left.’
‘Please, sit down,’ said Roshinderal, as though it were his house and she were the visitor.
Jovinda sat down as requested, heart sinking. Then Roshinderal cleared his throat again and began to speak.
‘It was the last battle, and nearly the end of that too. The enemy was retreating. Noni laughed and said he always knew we’d win as we were in the right. Just then, one of the enemy archers turned and drew his bow. The arrow took Noni.’
Jovinda’s hand went to her mouth.
‘How is he? Can I go to see him? Is he badly injured?’
Roshinderal took Jovinda’s hand in his.
‘I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news, but I’m afraid Noni died of his injuries soon afterwards. The arrow ruptured an artery, you see. He knew he was dying and asked me to come and tell you and to say he loves you more than he could ever express. He said to take care of Carthinal. He was very proud of you both.’
Jovinda looked at Roshinderal with a blank look in her eyes. All the life had gone out of them. Then she screamed.
‘No! No! No! No! It’s not true. You’ve all made a mistake. He’s not dead. He can’t be. Go back and check. I’d know if he was dead. I know I would.’ She shook her head in disbelief, refusing to accept what Roshinderal had told her.
Her screams brought the butler, who was passing the door.
‘Madam,’ he said, ‘What’s the matter? Is it this man? Do you want me to escort him off the premises?’
Roshinderal turned and said, ‘I’ve just brought her bad news. Her husband was killed in the last battle of the war. Is there anyone who I can get to be with her?’
Between them, they decided that Jovinda’s parents would be the best people to get and so Roshinderal set off to their house to get them.
As soon as they arrived, they took Jovinda and Carthinal, along with Blendin, his nanny, back to their house. Ellire took Jovinda and put her to bed in her old room with a soothing drink and soon she was asleep.
Jovinda remained in her room for the next few days. She refused to answer the door, so Ellire left a tray outside. Some days a little of it disappeared, but others Jovinda did not touch it.
Ellire tried talking to her daughter through the door, but got no response. She tried to get her to come out to see Carthinal who was wondering what was going on. The six-year-old understood that his father had been killed in the war and had been inconsolable for a few days, but then, in the way of children, he seemed to bounce back somewhat. He could not, however, understand why his mother was ignoring him. Ellire tried to tell Jovinda this, but either the young woman did not hear or she was still too much enveloped in grief that she did not care.
Three days passed and Jovinda had not responded to anything. The trays of food and drink had been left untouched and no sounds came from her room. No sobs, no crying, no prayers, nothing.
Kendo decided that he would go in. After all, no one could go without food and drink indefinitely, especially drink, and Jovinda had not drunk anything in three days. He knocked on the door. No sound from inside. He tried the latch, but the door was locked.
Frowning, he called again, and when he still received no answer he said, ‘Jo, if you don’t answer me I’m going to break the door.’
Still nothing. Kendo put his shoulder to the door and pushed. There was a cracking noise as the hinges gave way and he fell into the room.
What he saw there broke his heart. There was his daughter, swinging from the beams overhead, a belt around her neck. He quickly cut her down, but it was to no avail. She had been dead for quite some time. A couple of days probably.
He left the room and told Ellire not to go in and to keep Carthinal away. The boy had taken to sitting outside his mother’s room talking to her through the door, even though there was no response. He went out into the garden and sat under a tree thinking. Was there something he should have done? He ought to have broken the door down sooner. They should have insisted Jovinda come out and eat her meals with them. She was obviously brooding in there alone. All these thoughts went through his head until he felt he was going to go mad.
The funeral was held in the temple of Kalhera a few days later. The family was surprised at how many people turned up. Jovinda and Noni were popular figures in Bluehaven. Kendo knew he would never get over his guilt about his daughter’s death, but he buried it deep.
He said to his wife after the funeral, when everyone had left and Ellire was weeping softly to herself.
‘There’s Carthinal to consider, Ellire. He’ll need a lot of support and help. We need to be his anchor now that Jo’s gone.’
Ellire blew her nose. ‘Yes, of course. We’ll need to bring him up. We should sell Jo and Noni’s house and put the money in trust for him. He’ll live here now with us.’
‘Should we tell him how his mother died, do you think?’
‘No. At least not for a long while. The poor child’s had enough to cope with without knowing his mother killed herself.’
Thus Carthinal lived with his grandparents and they brought him up. No one ever told him how his mother died.

Jovinda and Noni Part 5 The Birth of Carthinal

newcoverwolfpack

 

Jovinda and Noni moved into the house Kendo had given them two weeks later. Noni’s father was generous enough to pay for some of the furniture, and although the house was not filled with furniture, they had enough.

The house was two streets away from Jovinda’s old home. It was a three storey house with a small garden and four bedrooms. The ground floor comprised of a living room, dining room and a kitchen. The hall ran the length of the house with stairs mounting up the left hand side.

At the front was a living room with a bay window and behind it was the dining room. The hallway turned right to a door leading into the garden. The kitchen was right at the back.
On the first floor, there were two bedrooms and a bathroom, more stairs up to the second floor and two more bedrooms.

Jovinda declared that she must have a nurse for the coming baby as befitted her station as the wife of a diplomat and daughter of the leader of the guilds and Noni indulged her. They spent many hours setting up the nursery and nurse’s room.

Three weeks before the baby was due, Noni and Jovinda interviewed several candidates for the job of nurse and appointed a woman in her early forties. Her name was Blendin and she came with excellent references. They decided she should move in right away so she was settled by the time the baby arrived.

The early summer had been hot. The baby was due on the fifth day of Sylissdar. That day came and went, then five more. Jovinda waddled into their living room wiping the sweat from her brow and flopped down into a chair. She rang a bell and a maid arrived.

‘Please may I have some water,’ Jovinda asked the maid, who left to do her mistress’s bidding.

Jovinda and Noni were not amongst the rich of Bluehaven, he being a junior diplomat, but they were well enough off to be able to afford a maid and cook. Jovinda had been most grateful for the help these servants gave her as her confinement approached. How she would be glad when she had this baby. It was so uncomfortable in the hot weather.
The maid returned with a jug of water and a glass. She poured a glass and handed it to Jovinda. Suddenly, a pain struck Jovinda. She gasped.

‘Please, Grella, go and get Blendin, then run to the Even Embassy and find Noni. I think the baby’s coming.’

The girl ran as fast as she could, and Blendin arrived almost immediately.

Jovinda had had no more pains and she wondered if it had been indigestion and not the baby, but then she was wracked with another.

‘It’s the baby coming, alright,’ said Blendin, nodding her head. ‘The pains aren’t too close together yet, so I think there’ll be some time before we need to send for the midwife. Let’s get you upstairs and have things ready for when we send for her.’

In this instance she was wrong, though. Shortly after arriving in the bedroom, Jovinda’s waters broke. Then the pains came thick and fast. No sooner had one pain faded away than another arrived. Jovinda began to cry.

‘Make it stop. Please, Bramara, make it stop.’

Blendin wiped the girl’s sweating brow with a cloth dipped in cool water.

‘There, there,’ she said. ‘It’ll stop as soon as the baby arrives. It shouldn’t be too long now.’

‘To the seventh hell with the baby,’ retorted Jovinda. ‘The little bastard is tearing me apart.’

She began to swear profusely and to say she cared nothing for the child struggling to be born. If her father and mother had heard those words coming from their well-brought-up daughter they would have wondered where she learned them.

‘I don’t care if there’s no baby, but please make this pain stop.’

Then she felt her muscles contract involuntarily and she began to push.

‘Come on,’ Blendin encouraged her. ‘Push hard. Oh, I can see the baby’s head.’

Jovinda gave one last enormous push and the head emerged quickly followed by the rest of the baby, all wet and bloody.’

Blendin held the child up so Jovinda could see.

‘A little boy,’ she exclaimed, ‘and he’s got your auburn hair.’ The baby let out a tremendous wail at being thrust from his nice safe place into the world. ‘And a good strong pair of lungs, too,’ she added.

Just at that moment, the door opened and Noni and the midwife arrived together.

Noni rushed over to his wife and looked at Blendin.

‘Is everything alright?’ he asked. ‘He came very quickly. Is Jo alright? Is the baby alright?’

Jovinda laughed through the tiredness that was now overcoming her.

The midwife took over the cutting of the cord and the inspection of the afterbirth while Blendin cleaned the baby and passed him to his mother, now grinning. Then the midwife turned to Noni.

‘Your wife, it seems, had an easy birth,’ Jovinda grimaced at this. It had seemed very hard to her. The midwife was continuing. ‘It’s lucky your nurse has some experience in delivering babies, but I think your wife would have been fine even on her own. It’s woman like her who ought to have all the babies.’

Jovinda yawned, then said ‘Oh no. You say it was easy, but to me it wasn’t.’

‘Trust me, girl,’ replied the midwife, ‘There are women who are in labour for days, and then the baby has to be pulled out, or even cut out.’

Jovinda shuddered at this thought, then as Blendin passed the little boy to her, she held him out to his father.

‘See, Noni,’ she said. ‘See what we’ve made. A lovely little boy. What shall we call him?’

‘I think Carthinal is a good name, what do you think?’

‘Carthinal,’ she felt the name on her tongue. ‘Yes an excellent name.’

She looked into the little boy’s eyes, all pain forgotten, and said, ‘Welcome to the world, Carthinal.’

The Wolf Pack Interlude

INTERLUDE

Yssa woke still feeling tired. She must try to relax a bit more. She had been working far too hard on those books Carthinal and Basalt had found. They were very interesting though. She found it hard to leave each evening. Yesterday, Rollo had insisted she eat dinner with him. “For old time’s sake.” he had said.

She had agreed to do so. She and Rollo had been lovers once. He had been lonely after the death of his wife. She knew Randa did not remember her, the child had only been three or four years old at the time she and Rollo had been seeing each other, and she had not seen that much of her as the child spent a lot of the time in her nursery.
In the early days after his beloved wife’s death, Rollo had not wanted to look at the child he blamed for this event. He had provided her with all the creature comforts she needed with the best nurses that money could buy, but he rarely went near the nursery to see his daughter. It had been Yssa who had told him that a child needed love as well as food, shelter and warmth.

She persuaded Rollo to visit his daughter more often. Fairly soon, Rollo discovered his love for the child, and, to assuage his guilt at neglecting her in her earliest years, he lavished her with not only love, but attention and showered her with gifts, giving in to her every whim. Thus Randa had grown into a beautiful, but spoiled child who had become a beautiful, but wilful and snobbish young lady.
The door opened and admitted Emmienne. She and Tomac had arrived about three sixdays ago from Bluehaven. They were Mabryl’s other apprentices that she had promised Carthinal she would take under her wing. They were proving to be very good. The girl, Emmienne, had taken to bringing her tea each morning along with hot water for her to wash, and Tomac was excellent at lighting fires. She could hear him busying himself doing that job at the moment. She smiled at Emmienne.
‘Thank you.’ she said. ‘Put the tea there. I’ll be up in a minute.’
The girl did as Yssa bade her and then left. She was a plain girl, Yssa thought—about  seventeen, with a slender figure and chestnut hair. Tomac was younger. He was fourteen, and had a shock of jet-black hair, which he found difficult to keep tidy. He tried to keep it tied back, but it kept escaping its confinement. She smiled. She liked her new apprentices very much, and if she were honest, she liked the attention they gave her too.
After drinking her tea, Yssa rose. As she did so, a feeling of nausea and giddiness overtook her. It had happened once or twice recently. She hoped it was not some illness or other. She did not want to lose time on her translations of the books. She dressed and the moment passed.
Later in the day as she gave some instructions to her apprentices. She wanted them to try to learn a simple spell when Emmienne asked about Carthinal.
‘When did he leave, Yssa?’ she asked.
Yssa looked at her. She wondered if the girl had a crush on the half-elf. She would not blame her if she had. She herself had fallen under his spell and she hardly an impressionable young girl.
‘He and his companions left on the twenty second of Khaldar. That will be five and a half sixdays.’
Something began to dawn on her when she spoke of that time. In her mind she did some quick calculations. She realised that she had not had her monthly bleeding since before that date. She had been working so hard on the books that she had not realised. What with the translations and the new apprentices to settle in she had been so busy. Now she realised what her nausea and giddiness meant. She was pregnant. She had little doubt. She was always regular as clockwork, and now, she calculated she had misssed two bleedings. She paled. What should she do?
Yssa finished her lesson with the two apprentices and then said, ‘You two have worked hard since you came to me. You deserve a break. Take this and go and have a good time in Hambara.’
She threw a bag of coins towards them. Tomac caught it deftly, and thanking her profusely, the pair rushed from the room, as anxious to be gone as Yssa was for them to leave.
Once alone, she contemplated her position. She did not want a child. She had never felt maternal in any way, but having an abortion seemed quite out of the question. Elves have a reverence for all life, even that of the unborn and Yssa was no exception in this respect. She was going to have a child, and she could not turn back. How had she been so careless? Her work, even before the finding of the hidden books had absorbed her so much that she had forgotten to take the herbs to prevent pregnancy.
As she thought about it she thought she should go away, back to Quantissarillishon, the elven capital, and to find refuge with her parents. Her mother would be scandalised at first, of course, but she would soon come round when she thought of a grandchild. She could leave the child there, to be cared for by her parents, and Carthinal need never know. She did not want him to feel he had any obligation to her or the child. The mistake had been hers and hers alone.

As the day wore on, she began to see that it was not that simple. She could not just go running off home like a little girl with a grazed knee. She had obligations here. She had taken on two apprentices, and she did not want to let them down after they had lost Mabryl in such tragic circumstances.

She considered the translation. No one could do it like she could, and the importance to magic could not be exaggerated. No, she must stay here. She still need not tell Carthinal though. He would probably be back before her pregnancy became obvious, and then he would go back to Bluehaven where he probably had family and friends.She suddenly realised how little she knew about this charismatic half-elf who had captured her heart in spite of herself; she, who thought herself so worldly wise.
During the next few days, she seemed distracted. Rollo noticed and she confessed her pregnancy to him.
Then she asked him, ‘Rollo, if someone were going to have your child and did not tell you, how would you feel if you later found out?’
‘You are considering not telling the father I take it?’ the Duke replied.
Yssa nodded.
‘I won’t ask who it is,’ he continued, ‘but if it were me, and I found out later, I would be very hurt and maybe angry too.’
‘Yes, I thought you’d say that,’ sighed Yssa. He had not solved her problem and she continued to think hard.

Jovinda and Noni Part 4

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Jovinda had promised herself that she would tell her parents of her pregnancy the very next day.

 

The following morning, Jovinda got up with a feeling of dread in her stomach. How was she going to tell her parents of her pregnancy and how would they react.
She put it off until after the mid-day meal. When they retired to the sitting room, she screwed up her courage.
‘Mother, Father, I have something to tell you,’ she said. She paused and took a deep breath.
‘What is it, Jo?’ Kendo asked.
The girl’s eyes filled with tears. ‘There’s no easy way to say this,’ she said as the tears fell. ‘I’m pregnant.’
Her mother gave a gasp, then surged to her feet and slapped her daughter across the face.
‘You little slut,’ she said. ‘Who’s the father? If you even know!’
It was Jovinda’s turn to gasp. The tears that had started to fall at her mother’s reaction turned into anger at the implication held in those words.
‘Are you saying I’ve slept with lots of men?’ she said. ‘I would never sleep with anyone if I was not in love with him. There’s only one man and that’s Noni. He’s the father of my child.’
‘That’s immaterial,’ her mother retorted. ‘One man or ten, you’ve brought disgrace to our family. Your father was likely to get re-elected to the leadership of all the guilds in the city in the next few months. A scandal like this could lose that for him. And what about our friends and neighbours? What will they think?’
Kendo gently took hold of Ellire’s hand as she raised it to slap her daughter again.
‘Let’s talk about this calmly,’ he said, leading his wife back to the chair she had occupied.
He looked at his wife. ‘First, Ell, my dear, our daughter’s mistake is unlikely to have any impact on my election to the guild leadership. Secondly, there are things that can be done about this.’
Jovinda looked at her father. She was still angry at her mother’s reaction and she did not like what her father was implying.
‘Are you suggesting going to a witch and getting rid of the child? This is a new life growing in me. I refuse to kill it.’
Ellire had calmed down a little at her husband’s words.
‘Jovinda,’ she said. ‘That is the perfect solution. No one need know. Have you told anyone yet?’
‘I’ve told Noni and Salor. And it isn’t the perfect solution. This child has two parents. Me and Noni. He has the right to have a say in what happens to it, just as he would if it had been born. He says that elves revere life and will not take it unnecessarily. Abortion would be unnecessary in this case. Anyway, he wants to marry me.’
At this, Ellire began to cry. Kendo took her arm and led her to the door with the instructions to go and lie down, then he came back to talk to Jovinda.
‘Darling, please don’t take any notice of what your mother says. This had been a big shock to her, as it has to me, too. I didn’t think it of you. Still, it’s happened and we must decide, calmly, I might add, what the next step should be.’
Jovinda looked up into her father’s eyes.
‘The next step is that Noni and I will get married. I would truly not have had it happen like this, but it has. I don’t regret what Noni and I did. I don’t think I really regret being pregnant except for what you and mother think. Noni and I will get married whatever you say. I don’t need your permission as I’m over sixteen. I would like your blessing, but with or without it I will marry him.’
Kendo sighed. ‘I see we have no choice. There will be a scandal for a while, but people will forget. There will be something else to take its place. I wish this hadn’t happened, but it has. I will go and talk to your mother now and see what I can do. You’d better keep out of her way for a bit.’

Noni’s father was no more pleased than Jovinda’s parents, but all three came to accept that the marriage would, no must, as Ellire said, take place as soon as possible. The baby would be due in the spring.
Jovinda wanted to wait until Bramadar 1st, the first day of winter and the feast of Bramara, the goddess of the familt. It was thought to bring good luck to couples who married of that day, but all the parents thought it would be too long to wait. After all, it would not be possible to pass off the birth as premature if they waited so long.
It was not the wedding that Ellire had foreseen for her daughter. She had thought of a large wedding with lots of guests, her daughter looking radiant and beautiful and her husband a shadowy figure in the background. She would have been the perfect hostess dressed in beautiful clothes bought specially for the occasion.
Now, instead, was this shady marriage. Oh, it was in the temple of Bramara, but there were few guests. Salor attended Jovinda and a young elf she had not seen before attended Noni. Salor’s parents were present as well as Noni’s father and another couple of elves. The only thing that was as she had foreseen was Jovinda’s radiant expression. Her daughter did look beautiful, she had to admit, with her hair flowing down her back, brushed to a gleaming copper. Her eyes shone, as did Noni’s deep blue ones. There was no doubt they loved each other deeply.
After the ceremony they all went back to the house she shared with her husband and ate a meal before Kendo stood up and tapped his spoon on a glass.
‘I would like to just say a word, please,’ he said. ‘We all here know of Jo’s pregnancy, and I must say that we were none too pleased when she told us, but we have come to terms with that now.’ He looked hard at Ellire as if challenging her to argue. ‘We are now looking forward to welcoming our grandchild in the spring. So, to show that we are now happy with our new son-in-law, we have bought a house for them.’
Jovinda stared at her father open-mouthed and Noni’s eyes opened wide.
Kendo was continuing though. ‘The house is not large but it is big enough for three and has a garden. What’s more, it’s not too far from here so when our grandson or daughter arrives, we can see lots of him or her. Here are the keys, Jo and Noni. I hope you like it.’
Before he could sit down, Jovinda jumped up and threw her arms round him, nearly smothering him.
‘Oh, Thank you, thank you, father,’ she cried. ‘I know you didn’t mind us staying here, but to have our own place…’ She broke down crying with happiness as Noni hugged her and said his thanks to his father-in-law.

Will Jovinda have a boy or a girl and what will her parents think of their new grandchild?

The next episode will be on the third Tuesday in May.

Please leave a comment as to what you think of the story of Jovinda and Noni so far. I will get back to you as soon as I can.

 

The Wolf Pack Tomb

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TOMB

The Wolves continued their search after the disappearance of the Guardians. They were all subdued. They found it difficult to believe that Sillaran had created the undead warriors. The whole idea was anathema to them, as it would be to most right thinking people at that time.
‘I can’t believe Sillaran were evil,’ Thadora mused. ‘All th’ stories  ’bout ’im an’ Sauvern said ’ow good they was.’
‘Maybe thinking was different then,’ Carthinal replied.
Asphodel then spoke in a quiet, thoughtful voice. ‘Sometimes, good people do evil things, and sometimes evil people do good things. Equally, good can sometimes masquerade as evil just as evil often masquerades as good. I think this is what is happening here, evil being used to further the cause of good, just as at the temple in Hambara, good is being used for evil purposes.’
The others did not fully understand what she was getting at, but all of them decided to keep it to think about later.
Soon they came to a clearing in the wood. In the centre of the clearing were three grassy mounds. There were two smaller ones, with a larger one in the centre. Each of the smaller ones was about seven feet high in the centre, and circular. They estimated that they were about forty feet in diameter. The centre mound was much larger. It was twelve feet high and fifty feet in width, but instead of being round, it was about one hundred feet long as far as they could estimate. They walked all round the three mounds to see if they could find an entrance to any of them, to no avail.
‘Well, what now? We’ve not got the tools to dig our way in,’ said Carthinal, sitting down on a fallen log and scratching his head.
‘There must be a way in somewhere. According to the prophesies the Sword would be needed again,’ said Basalt. ‘I can’t believe that Sillaran would not put a door or at least some easy way in since he obviously knew of the prophecies.’
‘That would make it too easy for tomb robbers, in spite of the Guardians,’ put in Asphodel, sinking down beside Carthinal.
The half elf jumped up, startling her. ‘That’s it!’ he exclaimed. ‘A door, but hidden or disguised.’ He hit his head with the heel of his hand in exasperation. ‘I should have thought of that straight away. Come on Asphodel,’ He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. ‘We’re going secret door hunting.’
The others looked at them.
‘We c,n all ’elp, right?’ said Thadora. ‘I know elvenkind ’ave much better sight, an’ an almost uncanny feelin’ f’r these things, but even you c’n miss things sometimes. We might just find somethin’ you didn’t notice.’
So eventually, Wolf found three hidden doors. They were cleverly disguised with soil and vegetation, but they were there. They decided to search the largest tomb first, as it was the most obvious one to hold the body of a king. They scraped the soil away to reveal a wooden door.
‘Don’t open th’ door yet, let me check ter make sure there’s no soddin’ traps on it,’ said Thadora. ‘It’d be a pity if we got bleedin’ killed just opening th’ door.’ She examined the door and lock carefully and then declared it safe. ‘But there’re traps I’ve not seen before, an’ this is very old, so there’s p’rhaps traps folk ’ave forgotten, so we should still be careful,’ she added cautiously.
Fero volunteered to open the door. He approached it with caution, and standing to one side, he flipped the door open with his sword. The group stood for a few minutes, and then they cautiously entered the large tomb.
All drew weapons instinctively as they passed through the door. Once they were inside, they realised they needed some light. Thadora slipped out and gathered some dead branches from among the trees and returned for Carthinal to light them with his useful little cantrip. It took a while for one of the branches to begin to burn, but eventually they had some light. A passage stretched out before them. On each side and at the end were doors. They opened the door on the left, having first had Thadora check there were no traps. This she did and then Fero opened it in the same manner as he had opened the main door. When they peered in, they saw a coffin. In one corner were some weapons and armour. There was a shield, chain mail and helmet, also a sword in its scabbard and a crossbow and bolts. They walked over to the coffin. On it was inscribed the words,

“Gallaron
Faithful beyond death.”

‘One of the guardians I suppose,’ whispered Kimi. If she had been asked, she would not have been able to say why she whispered, but it seemed wrong to break the silence of this place.
They pressed on and entered the door on the right. There, they found similar weapons and armour, and a coffin bearing the same words, but the name of Lanroc. Another of the guardians it seemed.
Full of anticipation, they went to the final door. It opened readily, and there was a third coffin and armour and weapons, but instead of crossbow and bolts, they found a longbow and arrows. They cautiously and reverently approached the coffin, certain that here was Sauvern, the great King. How great was their disappointment when they saw another inscription to a Guardian. This one read,

“Craddok
Captain and Friend
He was loyal enough to guard his king
even beyond the grave.
He went to his fate willingly and with joy.”

‘It look like only Guardians here,’ said Davrael. ‘Sillaron want hide body, he put in one of smaller tombs maybe?’
‘Suppose ’e were so keen ter ’ide it ’e put a bloody false inscription on th’ coffin?’ Thadora responded.
‘No,’ replied Fero, ‘I don’t think he’d do that. Remember there were prophecies about the Sword being needed again.’
‘I think Fero’s right,’ Carthinal said decisively. ‘Let’s go search the other tombs.’
So they went through the same procedure again. Again they had the same results. One of the smaller tombs held five coffins and the other four. The only difference was a hand written, very faded inscription on one saying,

“Stranger. if you have got this far, you are the prophesied ones
and our task is finished.
We no longer need our armour or weapons.
Take whatever you need with our blessing
Bry, the youngest guardian.”

There were a number of arrows that they decided would be very useful and Fero and Randa examined some longbows that they stated were very well made. These they appropriated in place of their own. It felt wrong doing so, but in view of the inscription they felt they were permitted. The crossbow mechanisms had corroded and they were useless, so they only took bolts for Bas’s cross bow. The rest of the weapons and armour were rusty and useless.
After Asphodel had said a prayer over the remains of the guardians, as they all felt right and proper now they were truly at rest, they left the tombs.
Once outside, the little company sat down on the grass to discuss their next move.
‘This just ’as ter be th’ right place, right?’ sighed Thadora. ‘Lake, Guardians, tombs, even a nymph, but where’s the main soddin’ tomb? Sillaron ’as ’ idden it a little too well if yer ask me. I c’n see no sign of any other burial mounds.’
They sat for a time in silence, each trying to puzzle out the mystery. Then Carthinal got to his feet and pulled Asphodel to hers. ‘Secret doors and hidden passages again. Sillaron hid his journal in a secret room, the doors to the tombs were hidden and so he probably did the same here with Sauvern’s body. Come on Asphodel. Elf blood is the best for seeing secret doors. Let’s go look,’ and with that, he strode back towards the middle tomb.
‘I’ll come too,’ called Thadora, ‘It’s an occupational requirement of thieves. Findin’ ’idden things, that is.’
‘And me,’ said Basalt. ‘We dwarves know stones and can sometimes spot things, especially in stonework.’
Eventually, all eight went to look once again, but it was Basalt who noticed the slight gap in the slabs on the floor, and the hollow sound his feet made as he walked over it. The gap was so small that it was barely discernible. Even Carthinal and Asphodel with their superior eyesight had not noticed it. It was just in front of the coffin in the furthest room. Asphodel quickly found the lever that opened it and when she pressed it, there was a grinding noise and the floor opened. One of the slabs tilted until it was at an angle, and fitted into a slope leading downwards. Stale air wafted up from below.
‘We’d better give it some minutes to clear that air and for it to be replaced by some fresh stuff or we could just about suffocate,’ the dwarf advised.
‘Then let’s go eat while that’s ’appenin’,’ Thadora suggested as her tummy rumbled. ‘I’m so bloody well starvin’, I don’t know about the rest of you.’
Everyone thought this a good idea, so they exited the tomb once more.
A half-hour later they passed through the now familiar passage and stood at the top of the slope. Fero drew his sword. ‘I’ll go first,’ he stated. ‘I can be quiet and stealthy.’
‘I’ll come too,’ This was Thadora. ‘I’ll check there’s no more traps, see. I c’n be quiet and stealthy too, Fero,’ she said to the ranger who looked as though he was about to stop her ‘I know, Red Cub,’ he replied, ‘But it maybe dangerous. We’ve no idea what’s down there.’
‘Poof! Th’ ’ole mission’s bleedin’ dangerous, and what if you stumble across a trap unknowing and get bloody well frazzled?’
So the two went quietly ahead. Halfway down they stopped and beckoned to the others that it was safe, and they followed, weapons at the ready. They continued in this mode, Thadora and Fero going ahead and making sure all was well and the others following, until they reached the bottom. Here the slope levelled out and they found themselves on the banks of an underground river. The surface steamed gently, like a pot on the coals, giving the air a misty and mysterious air.
‘This must be the river that feeds the lake,’ whispered Fero.
They continued along the banks of the river until they saw the wall ahead drop down to only a few inches above the water. The river rushed out from under the wall at such a rate as to make it impossible for anyone to attempt to go through to any caverns that may exist beyond. It seemed they had come to another full stop. They peered around them.
‘Do you think the river has risen since the tombs were made?’ asked Kimi. ‘If so, it seems we are truly stuck, unless we swim through the water, on the off-chance that it comes out.’
‘No way!’ exclaimed Basalt, with feeling. ‘I’ll climb mountains and get nearly frozen to death in the snow, pass through lava tubes of a volcano, obviously only dormant, even face undead warriors, but never, never will I voluntarily attempt to drown myself in an underground river on the off-chance that I’ll find air before I die.’ He folded his arms over his chest and planted his feet firmly on the ground as though he expected them to drag him into the water at any minute.
Then Thadora called out, ‘We may not ’ave to, silly bugger. I c’n see a dark patch up there, which is p’raps an entrance ter another passage.’ She turned to Carthinal. ‘’Old up th’ torch so I c’n see better.’
It was still inconclusive, so Thadora volunteered to climb up to see.
‘Be careful, Red Cub. That wall looks difficult,’ warned Carthinal.
‘Oh, th’ climb’s easy enough,’ she scoffed. ‘Plenty o’ ’and and foot ’olds. Much easier than scalin’ th’ wall of a bleedin’ ’ouse.’
The others looked a little uneasy at the reminder of her profession, but Thadora was oblivious to this, as she was already part way up the wall.
The climb was about fifteen feet. Once there, Thadora disappeared, and then her face reappeared and she waved and called down that there was another passage, as she had thought, going off at an angle of about twenty degrees from the direction of the current passage. This made it just to the south of west, and probably into the hill behind the tombs.
The others were too busy watching Thadora to notice the river until it was nearly too late. There was a sudden sound, and a large shape rose up from the centre of the water. It was a warty creature with large bulbous eyes and a formidable mouth, which it opened and flashed out a long tongue like a frog or toad. Asphodel just noticed it in time to throw herself onto the ground and roll off to one side, or she would certainly have been caught. The creature withdrew its tongue, and readied itself for another try.
Davrael and Kimi notched arrows to their short bows and let fly, but the arrows skidded off the thick skin of the creature. And a bolt from Basalt’s crossbow followed their arrows. To their surprise, Fero and Basalt’s shots stuck.
‘Well, I’ll be a hobgoblin’s breakfast!’ exclaimed Bas. ‘These arrows and bolts are truly good.’
Davrael and Kimi found their arrows were no use at all against the monster. Carthinal sent a couple of his small energy bolts against it, and they managed to do some further damage. The creature roared in pain, but readied itself for another attack. This time, it aimed for Fero, whom it obviously saw as one of its main tormentors. Fero had to take evasive action then and missed his shot, but the tongue also missed him by a hair’s breadth. Carthinal used the staff to fire off the silvery bolts of energy, and to his surprise it released six of them. Then, as the monster shot its tongue out again, this time at Carthinal, a knife came flying over their heads, turning in the air to embed itself firmly in the toad-like creature’s eye. With another roar, it slipped beneath the surface of the water, which turned a pinkish colour.
From above, they heard an expletive. ‘Shit! That were a good throwin’ knife wasted,’ Thadora called as she scrambled down the wall. ‘I ’ope your ass is worth a good knife, mage.’
‘What, in all seven hells was that thing?’ said Davrael, leaning against the rough wall of the cavern and breathing hard, ‘And what it do in here? If no us, what it eat?’
He looked surprised as the others laughed.
‘Your Grosmerian is improving, Davrael,’ pointed out Fero, ‘If you are now beginning to swear in the language.’
‘I learn from best,’ he replied, smiling. ‘I listen Red Cub there and learn. But I not like that thing in water.’
‘“That Thing,” Davrael, may have come in as a youngster. Maybe it has a tadpole stage, like true frogs and toads,’ Randa said thoughtfully. ‘As to what it eats, who knows? Fish can probably swim in here from outside, and maybe the odd aquatic mammal. Maybe there are fish living in these caves. I’ve heard of such things. They are white and have no eyes, as it’s so dark that eyes would be useless. There may even be another exit from the tunnel Thadora’s found and things come in and fall down here.’
‘Have you seen that thing in your father’s books, Randa?’ Kimi enquired of the other girl.
‘No, Kimi, never. I’ve no more idea than you as to what it was. I just hope it has no friends around.’
At that thought, they all turned once more to the river, but there were no further signs of life.
‘Well so much for the idea of going down the river then. Good job we didn’t decide to do that. I’ll go with Thadora’s idea any day,’ said Basalt.
They laughed.
‘You wouldn’t want to go up the river if there was nothing worse than a friendly otter,’ teased Fero, his black eyes twinkling in the light from the torch he was carrying.
Bas replied with a ‘Humph!’
Thadora had by now come down the wall. ‘Well,’ she exclaimed, ‘I suppose th’ wall an’ that passage’re th’ only way forrad, so up we go.’
Davrael groaned. ‘I’m not sure I can do it, Mouse,’ he whispered to Kimi in their own language. ‘I did not know I had this height thing.’
‘Are you a warrior and a horselord, or just some kind of wimp,’ she replied, also in the language of the horselords. ‘The only way to overcome your fear is to face it, as you said to Carthinal. So face it warrior.’
Thadora had taken the rope from Fero and was climbing nimbly up the wall again. She reached the top, tied the rope onto a natural rock pillar and let the end snake down over the lip of the opening. ‘Use th’ rope ter ’elp you climb,’ she called down.
Fero was the first one up, and he climbed well, scarcely using the rope to help him. After him came Randa and Asphodel, followed by Basalt.
Carthinal turned to Davrael. ‘Warrior,’ he said, using the formal form of address used in the Tribes, ‘You helped me when I was in need of support. Now I will return your words to you. Face your fear. Decide why it frightens you. What is the worst thing that can happen?’
‘I fear feeling I made to jump. I fear I give in to it. I fear I fall, or jump, I not die, but be maimed for all my life. Cripples in Tribes considered dead. They no use to our society,’ then in almost a whisper he said, ‘Women whose husbands crippled be free to remarry as they widows.’ He looked at Kimi, pleading in his brown eyes.
She put her arms round him. ‘We’re not on the plains now, Davrael. Those rules don’t apply here. And they’d never apply to us. I’ll love you whatever you are, and wherever you are.’
‘Come on, you three. We’ve a Sword to find,’ Thadora’s voice came from above and a curly red head poked out over the cliff face.
Davrael took a deep breath and stepped to the rope. He grasped the end and began to laboriously climb up, keeping his eyes always on the silhouetted figure of Thadora above him, who, realising that her face was helping, remained peering down at Davrael. He stopped once, half way up, and the others thought he was going to freeze as he had on the bridge, but then he continued to climb, and eventually made it to the lip of the opening and hauled himself over. He lay on the rocky edge for a few minutes, and then rolled away and sat up, breathing heavily, with sweat beading his forehead. Thadora, in her demonstrative way, hugged him and praised his bravery. Then Kimi climbed up followed by Carthinal and they were all in the upper passage.
Once they had all gathered their breath, and Davrael had once more regained his equilibrium, they set off along the tunnel that opened before them. It was very dark, but dry. Fero and Thadora walked in front, Thadora keeping an eye out for anything that may resemble a trap. Behind them came Basalt and Asphodel followed by Randa and Carthinal. Davrael and Kimi brought up the rear, keeping a check behind in case they were followed by anything. They could not see very far ahead, even with the makeshift torches they carried with them, and so had no idea how long the tunnel was. Thus they very nearly stumbled on the monster before they saw it. It was a large caterpillar-like creature, white in colour, with many tentacles around its mouth. As soon as it saw them, it reared up on its hindmost most legs, like some caterpillars do, in preparation for a strike. Fortunately, Fero and Thadora saw it and shouted for the Wolf pack to halt.
‘Carrion Crawler,’ Randa whispered to Carthinal. Then she called to those in front. ‘Keep away from the tentacles. They have a poison that will paralyse.’
Carthinal seized the mana, and the now familiar silvery missiles shot from his fingers to hit the creature just beneath its raised head. At the same time, Davrael and Kimi released their arrows. Kimi’s hit, but Davrael missed. Fero and Thadora were scrambling backwards out of the way of the head, which was now descending towards them, and Basalt and Asphodel were also moving backwards. Unfortunately, Thadora tripped on a slight hollow in the floor of the tunnel and fell directly under the creature’s head. The tentacles struck. By this time, Fero had reached a safe distance and let off a shot, along with a bolt from Basalt’s cross bow and a stone from Asphodel’s sling. All three missiles hit. The final arrows from Davrael and Kimi, along with one from Randa dispatched the creature.
Fero rushed towards Thadora. ‘Come on, Red Cub,’ he said, ‘You’re all right. The thing’s dead now.’
Thadora made no response, just lay motionless on the ground. Asphodel pushed Fero out of the way. She knelt down on the ground beside Thadora and gently felt her pulse and checked her breathing.
Then she felt all over her for wounds. ‘Bring a light here, someone,’ she commanded.
In the light of the lamp she looked for any signs of wounds, but found none except for a rash of reddish pinpricks on Thadora’s neck where the tentacles had hit the young thief.
‘She’s alive, at any rate,’ Asphodel told the others. ‘Her breathing and pulse are steady, and I can see no wounds except for these marks where she was hit. The poison is fast acting though. She went down immediately. Randa, do you know about how venomous the poison is?’
‘I’m sorry, Asphodel,’ replied the girl, ‘I can’t remember what the book said. As I told you, I used to browse the books as a child. I wasn’t looking for practical information, so I didn’t take much notice of details.’
‘I don’t think it will be fatal to creatures the size of humans, elves and dwarves,’ Asphodel went on. ‘If it were, then I suspect Thadora’s vital signs would be less strong, and showing signs of fading. I think she’s just temporarily paralysed. At least I hope so.’ she thought to herself.
It was just as Asphodel said. After five minutes or so, Thadora’s eyes moved and looked around the Wolves, gathered around her, then slowly she regained her movement.
When she could speak, she said, ‘It’s kinda cool that you’re all so worried ’bout me. Thanks. No body ’cept Mam ever seemed bothered afore.’ Then she sat up carefully. ‘Me neck’s bloody sore though,’ she told them.
Asphodel tried a healing, praying to Sylissa for ease for Thadora’s pain, and Thadora said she felt a little better. Some of the stinging had passed away. She was still a little groggy on her feet, but expressed her view that she could carry on.
So they continued down the tunnel, but at a slower rate and with frequent stops to look and listen and they met no further denizens of the underground. Then the tunnel did a sharp left turn. They could see that, a dozen or so feet ahead, it ended, not in a stone wall, but with an iron bound wooden door. Thadora approached carefully, looking and feeling for any traps. The others stood back as she instructed them.
‘Take care, Red Cub,’ called Bas. (The name given to her by the yeti seemed to have stuck.)
In reply, she gave him a jaunty wave. She reached the door and inspected it on all sides before turning her attention to the lock. Careful examination in the light of the torch seemed to indicate that all was clear, so she tried the door. It was locked. She searched the lock again, and spotted a simple trap. If she had tried to pick the lock, a needle hidden in it would have struck her. She carefully removed the needle. It was probably poisoned, so she placed it in a leather wrapper in her pouch of thieves’ tools so that she would not inadvertently prick herself with it later. After a final check, she inserted a lock pick and quickly had the door open. The others came forward. They looked into the cave beyond, and saw no dangers apparent, so they cautiously entered.
Carthinal held his torch aloft and its flickering light illuminated the cave with leaping shadows. It was not a large cave, and it seemed to have been worked to make it larger. At least, that is what Basalt said when he examined some marks on the walls.

‘Not very good work, though,’ he opined. ‘Done in a hurry, I’d say, and not by dwarfs either. Even in a hurry, dwarfs make better work than this.’
They walked round the cave, which was about fifteen feet across, and roughly circular in shape. In the centre of the cave was a large stone sarcophagus. They walked slowly towards it. They were not sure why, but hurrying did not seem appropriate here. Nor did talking. There was a feeling of righteousness and goodness about the place.
‘A bit like a temple or other holy place,’ Thadora was to say later in describing their quest.
They spread themselves around the sarcophagus, each subconsciously standing at one of the cardinal points of the compass. On the sarcophagus was a brass plaque. It was engraved with some kind of writing, but had corroded somewhat with age. Carthinal leaned over and rubbed it with his sleeve. Some of the corrosion came off, and he read,

‘“Here Lie the Mortal Remains of
The Greatest King Ever to Serve the Land
King Sauvern I
By his Side Lies His Famous Sword, Equilibrium,
Awaiting Its Call to Action Once More.”’

‘Does that mean we have to remove the lid of the Sarcophagus?’ asked Kimi. ‘That doesn’t seem right. To disturb the last rest of a great King.’
‘That’s what is implied,’ replied Carthinal.
‘Then we’d better get on with it then,’ said Basalt, ever practical.
They pushed at the stone lid, which was extremely heavy, but eventually it moved to the side. When they peered inside the coffin, they saw the bones of what had once been a tall man. The body had been dressed in chain mail armour, and had had a beautifully worked helmet on his head, made to look like a winged hawk, with the head and beak forming the nose piece, and wings stretched backwards. A shield and a sword were grasped in his hands, bony fingers holding on tightly. It was a hand-and-a-half sword, sometimes called a bastard sword. There was a large ruby set in the pommel and the grip was ridged with what looked like gold. The quillon was knobbed at each end, again looking like gold, with decoration on each side. The blade had a blunt section, called a ricasso, at the top end just below the quillon and the blade had a double fuller running down the length.
‘We can’t disturb him,’ Randa whispered, ‘It would be sacrilege.’
‘If anyone can, it must be us,’ Carthinal replied, also in a whisper. ‘We are the prophesied ones it seems, and now the Guardians have gone, anyone can get in here.’
‘I suppose you’re right, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.’
Carthinal reached in carefully to grasp the Sword.
Suddenly he withdrew his hand. ‘It burned me,’ was all he said, looking surprised and hurt. Thadora and Basalt suppressed chuckles.
‘Let me try,’ Basalt said, trying not to laugh at Carthinal’s discomfort, but when he reached in, he could not lift the Sword at all. It seemed to him to be incredibly heavy.
He struggled and tried, all to no avail in spite of his strength. Eventually, he gave up, puffing and panting. By now, Thadora could not contain herself, and was nearly exploding with giggles. Kimi and Fero had also joined in with her amusement. Now Fero decided he would try, but received an electric shock for his pains. By now, they were beginning to feel they were not the right people. Randa decided to have a try, and then after her, Thadora said she would try, but that would be the last. There was no one else since the horselords did not use swords.
So Randa approached the last resting-place of Sauvern, the king who had united Grosmer and defeated the Raiders. To Randa’s surprise, the Sword came out of the skeleton king’s grasp easily, almost as though he had released it to her, and she lifted it up in salute to Sauvern. She swished it a few times and declared it to be perfectly balanced and the most incredible weapon she had ever held. Then she looked round at the others and it was her turn to laugh. The expression on their faces was one to behold. A mixture of incredulity and amazement on all their faces, mixed with not a little envy on the faces of a couple of the Wolves.
They were still looking surprised when they heard a sound. Those with their backs to the door, turned and the others looked in that direction, all ready for action. They saw, silhouetted in the doorway, the figure of a tall man. He was wearing a robe, which looked to be made of red silk, and was belted at the waist by a soft leather belt. An empty scabbard hung down at his side. Over his shoulders was a cloak of red velvet, and on his head was a circlet of gold, with the symbols of all the gods surmounted at intervals. He was holding a sceptre indicating rulership in his left hand. The strange thing was that he seemed to be here, and yet not here. He was near enough to touch if they reached out, yet he seemed very far away. Also, not one of them felt afraid. They knew this was not an evil apparition. None of them was able to explain this afterwards, but they all agreed that this was what they felt.
Then the figure spoke. ‘I am Sauvern. The gods have allowed me to wait for your coming before being born again on the Wheel of Life. I have returned to your plane briefly, although my time is short. You are those prophesied who are to come to claim the Sword.’ He turned to Randa. ‘The Sword has chosen, and will remain with you, my lady, until the day you die, unless you prove unworthy. No one else will it permit to touch it, as you have no doubt found. Use it well.’
He then turned to the others. ‘Your task is not yet finished, your destiny not complete, so the gods tell me. They will not permit me to see what you must do, but the Sword and Swordbearer are needed at this time. Your paths will have many crossroads where you will need to make decisions that may impact on the future. Already you have all made important decisions that have brought you together. Many of those decisions, I believe, were decisions involving some act of independence. This spirit of independence in each of you is what makes you what you are, and ironically makes your companionship the stronger. The time ahead of you is uncertain indeed, and fraught with dangers. You will be tested in the future. You must all face dark times ahead, but you must be strong and overcome these trials. Remember your sworn oath. The gods heard you and accepted it. You must always remember you are the Wolves.’
With that, he slowly began to fade. As the apparition disappeared, they heard these last words. ‘Take whatever you need from my tomb. All is yours. Swordbearer, I give you this.’
The tooled leather scabbard fell to the floor as the apparition finally disappeared.
After standing for a few minutes, Basalt was the first to recover his senses. ‘Well, you heard the man,’ he said to Randa. ‘Go get the scabbard, girl, and put the Sword away.’
Randa walked slowly towards the said piece of equipment as if she thought it might vanish any moment as its previous owner had. She slowly picked it up and examined it.
‘It’s a fine piece of workmanship,’ she said, as she donned it and sheathed the sword.
‘Of course it is,’ Bas responded. ‘It belonged to a king, didn’t it? Can’t expect him to have just any piece of old leather made into a scabbard.’
The others had recovered by now, and were again looking into the sarcophagus. They were still reluctant to take the armour, which was amazingly, still bright and shining as was the helmet and gauntlets. Then Davrael reached in and lifted the helm off the head of the skeleton.
‘A bird of prey,’ he said. ‘The totem of my tribe is hawk.’
‘Put it on, Davrael,’ Carthinal urged. ‘Sauvern, or rather, his ghost, told us to take anything we needed.’
So Davrael slowly lowered the helm over his head. The wings swept back over his head, and the head and beak of the bird came down to protect his nose. Its claws were made to cover the ears on each side. With this helmet and the tattoo on his face, Davrael looked truly fearsome.
‘If I didn’t know you, I think I’d be afraid,’ Kimi said to him, smiling, ‘But I know what a pussy cat you really are, even if you try to pretend otherwise.’
Davrael looked at her, put on a fierce expression and lunged towards her. ‘You know what pussy cats do to little mouses,’ he said as he lunged.
She jumped backwards, letting out a little squeal, then let him catch her up and swing her round. ‘Ouch, Davrael. Those claws hurt,’ she complained, as he hugged her to him, and he reluctantly let her go.
The others were looking at the mail and gauntlets still in the coffin.
‘The chain mail may fit you, Fero,’ said Basalt.
‘No. Chain mail will make too much noise when I’m tracking and hunting. I prefer to stick to leather,’ the ranger replied.
‘Same fer me. It’d be no bleedin’ use to a thief, even if it’d fit me,’ said Thadora.
‘It’s too big for a dwarf,’ said Carthinal. ‘And no use to a mage either as it would interfere with the magic.’
‘That leaves Davrael, Randa and Asphodel as I’m sure it wouldn’t fit Kimi; she’s so tiny,’ Thadora put in.
‘I’ve already got chain mail,’ Randa pointed out. ‘I think the only one it will fit is Davrael.’
‘Unless it’s elven chain,’ mused Asphodel. ‘Sometimes enchantments are put on by the elf mages to make it fit anyone.’
‘Is that true, Asphodel?’ asked Basalt. ‘I’ve heard tales, but never quite believed them.’

‘Only one way to find out!’ said Carthinal. ‘Someone must try it on whom it seems not to fit.’
Asphodel was chosen. Kimi was unsure about using chain mail. She had never needed any armour at all until she had left her home, but Davrael had insisted that for her safety she should not only wear armour, but also learn to use the knives she now carried. He had been teaching her on their travels. (She had already been accomplished with the bow as she had hunted with her brothers, she said.) She had agreed to wear leather armour.
So Asphodel removed the leather armour she was wearing and donned the chain mail. At first it seemed to swamp her, but then a strange thing happened. The armour seemed to shiver, and then the rings seemed to slowly shrink, pulling it to a perfect fit. It was indeed elven chain mail with an enchantment on it to fit anyone. It felt so light that Asphodel felt as though she were not wearing armour at all. She pulled the tabard with the holy symbol of Sylissa over her head and was ready to continue. There was now the question of the gauntlets. Were they magical too? Randa had the Sword, Davrael the helm, Asphodel the chain mail. Carthinal could not use armour for fear of interfering with his magic, and Fero declined. The three remaining Wolves decided to try them on to see whom they would best fit. So Thadora came by a pair of beautifully fitting leather gauntlets. She was unsure about them at first, thinking they may hinder her movements when drawing her bow that she had been practising under the tutelage of both Fero and Davrael. Then she decided to give it a go as they would protect her hands in close fighting, so minimising any damage that may affect her lock picking skills.
So the Wolves left the tomb. They passed the body of the carrion crawler and climbed down the rope they had left back at the passage with the river. Thadora untied the rope and descended last, carrying it with her. The descent seemed very easy to her. Much easier than the ascent had been. When she reached the river bank, she once more protested the loss of her throwing knife, but declined to follow Basalt’s suggestion that she go into the water to reclaim it. They once more ascended the slope, closed the trapdoor, and exited the tomb.
When they got out, they were surprised to find it growing dark. They set up camp before the largest mound, and prepared to eat some of their dried rations. There was a rustle of wings over their heads, and Muldee descended before them.
He spoke to Asphodel in his version of elvish. ‘They’ve gone! The Guardians. What did you do? How did you defeat them?’
She translated for the others, and replied, ‘We came here for a purpose. It seems we were expected. The Guardians have finished their job and have gone to their rest.’
‘About time,’ Muldee replied. ‘Their presence here was spoiling the whole valley. Well, now you’ve finished, I expect you’ll be leaving.’
Asphodel laughed. ‘Are you so keen to be rid of us?’ she asked him.
‘No! Not at all,’ replied the little creature. ‘My brothers and sisters and I have been talking, and we’ve decided we should know more about the world. So they’ve elected me to be the explorer. I’m coming with you!’
The others looked at Asphodel’s amazed face and immediately asked for a translation. When she had done so, she laughed at the faces of the others. They looked as amazed as she supposed she must have done.
‘Is this a good idea?’ queried Basalt, remembering the antics of the dragonet in the water, and how amused he had seemed to nearly drown them all.
‘I don’t see how we can stop him,’ replied Fero. ‘He’ll follow us if we don’t agree, and I for one would like to know exactly where he is.’
‘My thinks too,’ replied Davrael, remembering his own loss of dignity at the hands, or maybe one should say, claws, of the young creature.
So they reluctantly agreed for Muldee to accompany them. The dragonet then went on to say that they would not find their way out of the valley without him anyway as it was not straightforward. With that, the creature flew to the fire, and curled up next to it, and within moments was fast asleep.

Jovinda and Noni part 3

Here is part 3 of the story of Jovinda and Noni, Carthinal’s parents. Since I missed last week’s post entirely in the end, I am continuing with my normal schedule with the third week of the month.

 

Jovinda went about her chores humming to herself. That afternoon she was going to see Noni again. It had been a week since she had last seen him. It was not always easy for them to arrange their meetings. Noni had his work to do and also they had to keep their meetings secret from their parents.

Salor helped the lovers. She thought it was exciting and romantic. She gave Jovinda alibis whenever the pair were to meet, and if the girls seemed to be meeting more frequently than previously, Jovinda’s parents did not seem to notice.

Noni could not get away as often as he would have liked, but every time he had any time to himself he and Jovinda would meet. Usually they went to the woods out of town. It was quiet there and there were many places they could be totally alone with little fear of discovery. The summer passed and the trees began to put on their autumn colours.

‘What are we going to do when winter is here?’ Jovinda asked one day. ‘It’ll be cold and wet. We won’t be able to sit on the ground then.’

Noni looked at her and stroked her auburn hair. ‘Something will turn up, darling,’ he said. ‘We’re meant to be together. I feel it deep inside my soul. Nothing will part us, not even winter.’

He was right, of course. As the last leaves fell from the trees and the summer warmth left the land, Jovinda came to a terrible realisation. She had missed her monthly bleeding. It was now time for the next one but still nothing happened. She had been in such ecstasy that she had not thought about anything other than Noni. Now she realised she was pregnant.

How could she tell her parents? What would they do? Would they disown her? How would Noni react? Would he stand by her or would he abandon her? Oh why had she been so foolish. She had not thought about possible consequences when they had made love in their glade in the wood. Now she was suffering the results of that lack of forethought.

‘I’m going to see Salor,’ she told her mother after she had finished her chores. She left the house and hurried to her friend’s home. Salor had become engaged to a young man during the months that had passed and was due to be married in the spring. He was the son of a friend of theirs and they were delighted with the engagement. They had been going to suggest the pair get married when the young people themselves said they wanted to get married.

It was so different from Jovinda and Noli’s experience that Jovinda was a little jealous. She would not change Noli in any way, though, even for approval by her parents.

She arrived at Salor’s house and was admitted. Salor took her to her room where she burst into tears.

‘Jovinda, what’s wrong? It’s not a problem with Noli, is it?’

Jovinda dried her eyes and sighed.

‘Well, it is and it isn’t. Oh, Salor, I’m in so much trouble. I’ve missed two monthly bleedings.’

Salor put her hand to her mouth.’That means…’

‘Yes. I’m pregnant.’

Salor looked at her friend with eyes opened wide. ‘I didn’t think you’d be so foolish, Jo,’ she said. ‘How did you not think this might happen?’

Jovinda’s eyes began to leak tears again as she tried to push them back. ‘I didn’t think. Oh, Salor, it seemed so right. We love one another and soon kisses weren’t enough to show our love. What am I to do?’

‘Does he know?’

Jovinda shook her head. ‘I’ve not seen him since I realised.’

‘Will he marry you? Or do you want to go to a witch woman and get rid of it?’

‘I don’t know,’ wailed Jovinda, crying again.

Eventually the girls decided that Jovinda must tell Noli. He was as much to blame as Jovinda for the predicament she was in. Salor privately hoped that Noli was not one of those men who ran away from responsibility. She had seen young women left with an unwanted baby when the father decided he did not want a wife and child. He had his fun then ran. The girl concerned never regained her reputation. It was different if the man married the girl. Oh, there was scandal at first, but later people either forgot the child was born rather early or deliberately forgot when the wedding had been.

Salor helped Jovinda get a message to Noli and the pair met at their usual place the next day.

It was cold. The fallen leaves made a multicoloured carpet on the ground in the glade where Noli waited. He pulled his cloak round him as he wondered what Jovinda wanted to see him about so urgently. He heard a crackle in the leaves and turned to see Jovinda crossing the glade. He opened his arms and she ran into them. They kissed passionately before saying a word.

He looked into his lover’s eyes and saw they were red. She had been crying. Had her parents found out about them? He held her close and waited for her to speak.

‘Noli,’ she said through her tears, ‘I’m pregnant. I am thinking of going to a witch woman to get rid of it though.’

For the first time since they met, Noli became angry.

‘You will not kill this child,’ he said, and he stalked to the opposite side of the glade.

‘It is a new life beginning. Who knows what great deeds it could do, or how important its decendants could be. We elves will never destroy a life, even an unborn one.’

‘But, Noli, what are we to do?’

He came back to her side and put his arms round her again. ‘We’ll get married, sweetheart. It’s what I would like and I hope you would like it too.’

‘Of course I would like that. We can have this baby and then lots more.’

Noli laughed. ‘I hope so. Elves aren’t very fertile as a rule. I suppose it’s because we live so long. If we had too many children we’d soon overrun the world. But an elf and a human…who knows?’

They parted after discussing whether Noli should go with Jovinda when she told her parents. He wanted to be there to support her, but she said she thought it would be better if she told them alone.

Jovinda walked slowly back home having resolved to tell her parents the very next day.

How will Jovinda’s parents react to her news? The next installment will be on the third Tuesday of April.

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