Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hoorah!

I am ridiculously proud of myself right now. I managed by some miracle to finish the October Drabble Challenge, piling all those leftover words into two, semi coherent drabbles about the character I was meant to be writing about the whole time, anyway.

So yippee for me. I survived another schedule.

Dia duit,
~Penny



October Drabble Challenge -- Final Conglomeration

  Gavin didn't like seeing Kiara mad. He remembered the times when he would see her laughing with her handmaidens in the garden, or frowning in concentration over a book in the library. People said she was plain, not at all like a princess should be, but he never understood why they said that. What was beauty meant to be if not Kiara?
  His conversation with Kristian lingered in the back of Gavin's mind. Though he refused to acknowledge the captain's predictions, he could see Kiara was upset. She had been since they moved to the Western castle a week ago. Their new home.
  So Gavin searched for a way to cheer her. He knew little of women; he'd never had any sisters, or known many of the village girls. Certainly not well enough to be familiar with their behaviour. But he missed Kiara's smile, even though she never smiled at him. Now she didn't smile at anything, and he wanted very much to change that.
  As he crouched on the edge of the fish pond in the garden, disturbing the surface with a thin reed, Gavin considered jewelry. Women liked jewelry, and he knew Kiara, being a princess, must have an appreciation for finery. Along with the castle, Gavin had also received a portion of the treasury. There were bound to be gems there. Diamonds, surely. He'd always liked the clarity of diamonds.
  Then he'd heard of some men writing letters. Something about those letters made their wives or fianc├ęs quite pleased. What did one put inside them, though, that brought about that effect?
  He furrowed his brow, watching a bright purple fish slither away from its companion to strike out on its own toward the other end of the pond. Distracted, he tilted his head. How simple was the life of a fish. But then, how sad. They knew not of the things they missed, not being human.
  Hopping off the raised ledge surrounding the pond, Gavin paced down the path. Why settle for one when one can have both? A letter and a diamond. That's what he would send Kiara. And with it, he hoped, a smile.

  The letter took him only an hour to compose. The gem arrived a little bit afterwards, retrieved from the treasury by one of the servants. Though small, Gavin knew Kiara could have it set into whatever setting she wished, as that had not been done so already. Just a single diamond to do with as she pleased. Whatever made her happy.
  Giving the servant his thanks, he sent him away once again. And since he was at the desk already, he supposed he ought to look over the official documents laying there, waiting to be attended to. Though it all appeared to be in order to him, Old Dan, the head servant, kept insisting he give certain documents his attention. Something about winter, and future investments, and foreign relations, and barbarians. It would take some time for him to decipher the meaning of the flourishing language used by whoever drew up these papers to begin with. For a moment he decided it wasn't worth his time, but something twinged in the back of his mind.
  Carefully, Gavin lifted the first document, and began to read it line by line.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Conglomeration of Days

  True to the king's promise, the feast was spectacular. He spared no finery, no extravagance, no splendor for the engagement banquet of Sir Gavin and his daughter, Princess Kiara. The giant boar of the wildwood had been cut and roasted to serve all gathered. The courtiers and huntsmen praised Gavin's feat with cheers of acclamation, glasses upraised in toasts to his might and power like he were the saviour of the kingdom. Even some of the soldiers joined in the accolades, swayed by the proof of Gavin's capabilities now displayed three times.
  The boar was the last, and now he was prince. Ruler of half the kingdom, and engaged to the princess of the other half. A princess who did not share the appreciation shown him by the others.
  She had avoided him all evening. Amidst the pomp and pride, a familiar sensation began to creep over Gavin, and at the nearest opportunity, he slipped outside onto the balcony terrace, leaving the glimmering dining hall behind.
  It surprised him that night had not yet fallen. Walking to the rail, Gavin stared skyward into the crimson tainted clouds of the mid-summer sunset. Ever constant, was the sky. Always changing, but always there. It breathed gently on him, the wind snaking against his skin and hair, and he closed his eyes for a moment. He remembered back to the lonely days after the plague. How sad and empty the village had been, like a tomb, and all the fresh mounds behind the old church.
  Reaching up, Gavin slipped the gold circlet from his head, and turned it over in his hands, watching the fading light reflect of its gleaming brilliance. Never had he held so much wealth in his hand before in the entirety of his life. Now it was his, all of it, half an entire kingdom at his command. Gained through cleverness.
  He smiled a little. His mother loved his cleverness. In the reflection of the thin band of gold he could almost see her face, but though he tilted the surface to better catch the light, it eluded him.
  She'd be so proud of him. This transformation from tailor, to prince. From boy... to man.
  Heavy footsteps approached from behind. Gavin turned. Dressed in full military regalia, Kristian strode toward him. The young commander needed not a golden circlet to inspire respect. Though Gavin gave no outward show of guardedness, inside he knew Kristian had not come to join him merely for the pleasure of his company.
  "Good evening, Captain."
  "So I'm told." The dark haired Captain of the Guard acquiesced to nod in greeting. "Absent from your own celebration?"
  "There's wine," Gavin conjured a smile. "They won't notice."
  "Indeed not." Slowing to stand beside the new prince, Kristian gazed out over the palace garden.
  Gavin resumed his stance, folding his arms, the circlet dangling from his fingers. In spite of himself, he straightened in the shadow of the warrior beside him. He glanced sidelong and caught the sheen of the buckle clasping the captain's cape about his broad shoulders.
  "Seven in one blow," Kristian said at last.
  Gavin blinked, shaking himself. "Hm?"
  "Two giants, a unicorn... And the Boar of the Wildwood that Supreme General Alexander himself couldn't wrestle to the ground."
  There was a pause. Gavin didn't know what he was meant to say.
  "Extraordinary." Kristian finally turned his head to look at him.
  Gavin met the captain's gaze with warmth and a smile, but found there only ice, like the foreign chill of the gold circlet against his palm.
  "You do not like me." Gavin tried, letting the smile play in his expression a moment longer.
  "I do not like liars. Or cowards."
  The smile faded. He wanted more than anything to wrench free of Kristian's intense scrutiny and leave him behind on the balcony alone, escaping to the adoration of the now hopelessly drunk banqueters.
  "It's denial then, is it?"
  "Convince me otherwise."
  "I have brought the proof before you and the King himself," Gavin said. "If you cannot accept the facts--"
  "The facts," Kristian turned to face him fully. "These are the facts I see. I see before me a boy, who has gained half a kingdom through deception. Your tricks, Sir Gavin, will not save you when true strength is required to care for the treasures you have acquired. Tell me, do you remember their faces?"
  "What?"
  "Those seven men you killed with one blow, do you remember their faces? Their expressions when you took their lives in a single strike? Did you bury them near their families, or leave their bodies where they fell?"
  Kristian's eyes burned now, Gavin could feel the flames licking towards his heart. His jaw tight, he clutched the circlet, and met the captain's onslaught with defiance swelling in his chest.
  "Would you like me to tell you what they were wearing, as well? Or perhaps the speed with which I ended their lives, the placement of their bodies as they fell, the scent that filled the air after their deaths."
  Kristian snorted. "You have never killed another human being in your life. I can see it in your eyes. You are weak."
  Gavin snapped. Unfolding his arms he faced the broad captain just as he had the giants in the forest, the boar, and the unicorn. "You stand here and speak of weakness like you were the one who met the challenges I have overcome. Do you hear the people shouting your name?"
  "Your tricks do not make you strong, they make you clever, and cleverness is no substitute for integrity. There will come a time, Gavin, when the people will shout your name in condemnation, not praise. You will lose everything. And everyone."
  "Starting with you, I assume."
  The Captain held Gavin's gaze for a few moments longer. "Starting with Kiara."
  Gavin's thoughts halted.
  Kristian left. The sounds of the banquet spilled out for a moment, then died down again as the servants closed the door behind Kristian once again, leaving Gavin alone with the sky by the balcony rail. A thousand thoughts whirled through Gavin's head like a swarm of angry bees.
  Kristian. Kristian!
  He was just jealous. The people must have cheered for him before Gavin came along. It was easy for the great Captain of the Guard to speak of strength as he did. He'd been strong all his life. Just looking at him anyone could imagine he could take on a horde of trolls without flinching. Bare handed.
  But Gavin. All Gavin had was his tricks. That's all he'd ever had.
  And Kristian was right. Who valued tricks?
  Were the truth to be known now, he would lose everything, whether it were discovered or he confessed. It didn't matter either way.
  Turning his back on the festivities, Gavin lifted the gold circlet once more. He tilted it, trying to catch the reflection again, but the illusion of his mother had vanished.
  Everything inside him trembled.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sugar Rainbows

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have the best Mom ever.

So all this week I've been very sick. Somehow, I caught the stomach flu virus and it laid me out flat starting from exhaustion, leading into aches and actually feeling sick, and now coming out of it with the tiredness and sore muscles lingering. During that period I couldn't think of anything I wanted to eat (that I thought would actually stay down) except canned mandarin oranges, and sherbet. Well, Momma went out shopping, and brought back not only two cans of mandarin oranges, and four pints of Haagen Dazs sorbet.

Now, for the unenlightened, Haagen Dazs is a wonderful, ice cream like substance. Some refer to it as ice cream, but really it's more like an ice cream double upgrade. Kind of like the automatic upgrades for your computer, except if Haagen Dazs were a computer, it would never need to be upgraded. In fact, it would be the reason all other computers needed upgrades, just so they can attempt to compare.

But all this comparing Haagen Dazs to computers is going to make my keyboard sticky. To continue.

I'm still tired today and the reason I'm writing this is because Momma just brought me up a bowl of Haagen Dazs sorbet with all four flavors in it. Lemon, mango, raspberry, and peach. Perfect amount of each.

But really, it's Haagen Dazs. It's not difficult to reach perfection from there.

Thank you, Mom! You may not have a sweet tooth, but you sure have a sweet heart.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bane

So here it is the sixteenth and I am ridiculously behind on my drabbles. I dislike giving up on things, so I don't think I'll give up on the whole October challenge just yet. Though technically I've probably already failed because I keep getting behind...

At any rate, I will get all the drabbles done for this month even if I have to do all of them in one sitting.

Just not yet.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Monday, October 14, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 12

  The creature crawled off to its lair during the night, but Una couldn't help keeping watch. Just in case.
  In the quiet of the night, the horrible roars of the beast, the blaze of its fire and cries of pain rang in her ears and thoughts. All she could do was watch, and so many times she lost sight of the red cross shield and thought for certain the young knight had met his end. Each time the shield would flash back into view, and her heart would begin beating again.
  Una wiped her damp cheeks, and pulled her shawl tighter around herself. She'd given the blanket to George, who lay motionless in exhausted slumber amidst the rippling waters of the spring. At first she wanted to move him; surely the waters would freeze him as the night grew colder. But Victor stopped her. In his gruff dwarven tones, mingled with the fairy accent, he informed her he would heal here. When she asked why, he just repeated his statement with confident insistence, then trotted away to gather the shield and sword.
  Whatever the little dwarf knew about medicine, or George, or even the spring itself, he didn't seem to think it necessary to share with her. As she could claim no greater knowledge in the field of healing -- especially not since, she remembered, this dwarf spent time learning the ways of the fairies -- she conceded to do as Victor instructed.
  One long day of fighting, and the dragon still lived. It would be back, too, she knew. It was always back. George had proven fearless this day... but now she wondered if his courage would be his undoing when dawn announced the monster's return.
  Closing her eyes and pressing her clasped hands to her forehead, Una prayed.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 11

I ought to be writing more about Gavin, but for some reason George keeps popping up. And since this next word prompt refuses to be used for anyone else, I might as well just write him again.

  Laying on his back, all he could feel was his chest moving up and down. Somehow he was still breathing. In some hazy place between consciousness and unconsciousness, the pain couldn't reach him, though he knew the blood gently and slowly drained from his body, mingling with the water of the spring he'd collapsed beside. Above him, light. Fading. Was it day falling into night, or him falling into death?
  Up and down went his chest. Air still filled his lungs, then left, then rushed into his mouth and filled them again.
  "This is my quest, mother. I can feel it."
  The fairy queen's smile curved her gentle lips. In her eyes, a twinkle. Nay, a glimmer, like the glassy surface of Pixie Spring. "You whole life, George, I raised you for this very task."
  "You knew?"
  "I knew the vicious creatures would someday rise to ravage the land, and it was you, George, I prepared to become its downfall when that time came. It is here now."
  "Am I ready?" In spite of his surety that this undertaking belonged to him, he searched his mother's gleaming silver eyes.
  Tilting her head, she touched her hand to his chest, a single tear slipping down her cheek.
  His mother's face faded, replaced by Una's. Tears marked their paths of sorrow and fear on her cheeks, as well.
  "Am I ready?"
  He wanted to ask her as he stared up at her. Would he die here? Had he failed her? Would she forgive him? But nothing came except inhale, exhale, inhale....
  Over his armor and his place by the stream, the princess laid a blanket, and though her lips moved as she brushed back tangled hair from his brow, he heard not a sound.
  Then she was gone.
  I am ready. He thought with every rhythm of his breath. I am ready. More than just water and blood dampened the ground beneath his head, now.
  I am ready.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Aaron's Quest at Wonderland Books!

That's right, Aaron's Quest is available for purchase at Wonderland Books and Toys, Rockford's only independent bookstore. It's located in Edgebrook
Market on North Alpine Road, Rockford, Illinois. I love it, personally, and not just because they're carrying Aaron's Quest. It's a small little shop with ivy covering the front exterior, and inside it's filled with books for kids from tots to teens.

The recent explosion of Speculative Fiction into the mainstream story world is quite exciting to me. Walking through Wonderland Books and Toys, I found a shelf where my book, The Land Between Time, would fit in perfectly. Between the books about paranormal romance and post-apocalyptic depravity, the shelf practically called out for good wholesome stories like what I and many of my friends write. (Apologies to those who like post-apocalyptic; I do, as well, but I haven't run across many that appear to be well done.)

Looking at all those books, I have realized something. The old saying about not judging a book by it's cover; well, it doesn't seem to be completely true. There were so many amazing, eye catching, and intriguing covers for the books in that store. People do judge books by their covers, and often rightly, When it comes to cover art, the goal is to accurately convey the message and feel of that specific story to a buyer in one glance. That saying that pictures are worth a thousand word, that one is accurate. I can often tell whether or not I will appreciate the style of story being told simply by looking over the cover, or at the very least I'll get a general idea as to what the chances are of me liking it. It's very fascinating. Where 'not judging a book by it's cover' becomes more applicable is when one remembers that you cannot get the entire story simply by studying the cover.

Anyway, if you're in Rockford and love books, I recommend checking out Wonderland. I take Rosie there with me now and then, and I can barely manage to drag her out again!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 10

I sort of cheated today. I asked Rosie to write day 10's drabble, and to my delight she agreed. So here it is!


     Gillian held her breath; trying to make the puffy vapors she exhaled cease. Her heart pounded in her chest. The ridged bark of a tree stuck into her back and she felt her cloak snag on a branch. Carefully she raised her hand pulling the hood of her scarlet cloak back. She peered around the trunk, searching for her pursuers. Nothing. The cubs wriggled inside the basket she held tipping it forward Tripp toppled out and landed face first in the snow.

  “Stop squirming.” Gillian scolded lightly. Stooping down she set the basket next to her and picking up Tripp she lead him in her lap. Rager and Mia wasted no time in scrambling out and begin sniffling around. She sighed, a pleasant feeling warming her inside as she watched the two wolf pups fumble about in the thick snow. She stroked the silver band that ran from Tripp’s nose back to his ears.

  “Now that we are safe I think it best to find your mother again.” She said. Mia raised her head and peered at the young girl, her bicolor eyes giving what appeared to be an understanding look. Rager paid no heed to her and continued to shuffle about.

  Gillian brushed a wisp of sandy colored hair behind her ear and glanced the way she had run. The forest was still as ever and a gentle fall of snow started to cover her tracks. Mia had ushered her two brothers back into the basket but she paused and looked up at Gillian and a sad expression on her long face.

  “It will be alright.” She reassured her running her fingers down the pups back. Mia dipped her head than entered in after her brothers. A shiver went through Gillian , something in her eyes made her nervous like Mia knew something. She shook the feel and pulled her hood up and picking up the basket she scurried through the thickening snow heading towards her house. She was bound to find the mother near there.  

Dia duit,
~Penny

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 9

He was much heavier on land than in the water. Arm around his chest, Ariel dragged the prince and herself further from the breaking waves, onto the warm sand. Her muscles ached and trembled and her hair stuck to her face, limp and stringy surrounded by air instead of water. She could hardly believe she'd swum so far, and pulling him behind her, as well.
  There. This ought to be far enough to avoid high tide. She dropped him, and scooted away. The breeze chilled her scales just as much as the sand warmed them. Brushing her bangs out of her eyes, she laid her head against his chest.
  Yes, his heart beat steadily. Much more slowly than her own. And her breathing... She wasn't used to the air. It rasped in her throat and left it drier with each inhale.
  He stirred. Ariel started, flicking her gaze to his face. Something rattled in his chest, rising, and finally spurting forth in a heaving cough. Humans weren't meant to breathe water. Ariel thought frantically for what to do to help him.
  "Don't move," She put her hand on his shoulder. "You're safe now, you're on land. There's air."
  His body shuddered, and several moments passed before he stopped coughing.
  He didn't open his eyes. Ariel had hardly gotten a look at him when she'd seen him in the thrashing waves of the storm. Now she examined him. He was a prince, she knew, for she'd heard him called that by the men still on the ship. The sun shone on his face, which had a strange, darker tint to it. Like his hair. Black as night through the surface of the ocean. Though it seemed he had the form of someone strong, the storm must have exhausted him, for he lay limp and Ariel would have thought him dead were it not for his chest like bellows rising up and down.
  Then she heard the footsteps. She didn't know why, but it frightened her. Another human.
  In a flash she dove across the sand for the water. One more thrash, and she disappeared beneath the surface. But she still wanted to see. Skimming the shallows, the little mermaid swerved around a cluster of coral, and once again raised her head out of the water to see.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 8

  A Compaion... Ah, for companionship. Kiara leaned against the railing of her balcony and took a deep breath of the rose scented air, closing her eyes. Her father was talking about marriage again, matching her to various princes of the realms and renowned captains and generals.
  The idea made her smile. Resting her chin on her hands, she gazed down over the palace garden, rich with blooming flowers of every shape, size, color, and scent. So far she had refused three of the suitors her father had put before her. She would not be so easily given away to anyone less than perfect. Not in the slightest! She would search through a hundred men... No, a thousand. A million! Happiness wouldn't come easily, would it? Her father was always talking about sacrifice, how sometimes good must be foregone in favor of better, and better for best. Well, he ought to be proud she was taking his advice to heart. Perhaps she would remind him of his words next time he expressed frustration over her stubbornness. Would he have her unhappy for the rest of her life, chained to a man she could not love?
  Of course not. She dismissed the thought, straightening as a figure entered the garden alongside the King himself.
  Now there was a man to consider. The Captain of the Guard. Young and handsome, tall and broad and strong, a warrior fit to rescue a damsel in distress. She blushed at the thought of it.
  She found herself wondering what he was like. She didn't know him very well at all. He would have to be gentle, of course. Many warriors she'd met were far too insensitive. But not too gentle, like the impossible minstrels and troubadours who knew how to do naught else but fawn and sing.
  The princess rolled her eyes in disgust at the mental image, and returned her attention to far more pleasant things.

Well. I succeeded in creating another character I dislike very much. In case you were wondering, this is the princess from the Gallant Tailor story I'll be doing for NaNo.

Yay for character redemption.

Dia duit,
~Penny
 

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 7

"They're making an event of it," The Queen said. Her majestic, gauzy wings shimmered though she sat perfectly erect in the throne. George stood nearby, behind the throne, watching the three old fairies receive their instructions from his mother, as eager as they -- and perhaps moreso- to hear why this special audience had been called.
  "They have issued formal invitations to you." She held up the notes in question. Stepping forward, George took them, and descended the dais to the throne room floor to hand each letter to their intended recipients.
  To the first, a fairy woman with years beyond imagining written in her eyes, he handed the brown envelope. In this realm names were seldom used, but rather a combination of color, texture, and scent unique to each fairy. In his fourteen years he had learned to recognize this strange system, and thus was able to offer the correct invitation to the correct person.
  The second was a shorter fairy, plump and round eyed like a fawn, and to her George gave an envelope of silky yellow, and for the last, the youngest of the three, he gave the one made of blood crimson. Of the three of them, she was the only to smile, a glint of excitement in her silver eyes.
  George bowed, and returned to his place. Each fairy opened and examined the contents of the invitation, then Brown spoke.
  "Your majesty, we are honored. It will be a long awaited pleasure to bestow gifts upon the newborn princess."
  The Queen dipped her chin gracefully in acknowledgement.
  "Are we to understand," Yellow began. "That your sister has not been invited?"
  A moment of silence drifted through the throne room until the Queen rose, her wings twinkling like star bells, and descended. "You are. My sister has not been invited, and this bodes ill. With this task I have given you comes a great responsibility. Should my sister sour this gathering with her presence, it will be for you to undo what harm she may bring to the child I am sending you to bless. Her safety I entrust to you."
  With sober expressions, the three fairies lowered to their knees and sat back on their heels, heads bowed in acceptance of the task the Queen placed upon them. With two fingers, George's mother touched each of their foreheads. They rose, bowed, and left, their feet making only the smallest of sounds.
  George joined his mother, concern furrowing his golden brow. "Can they protect the princess from Aunt, mother?"
  The Queen sighed. "They will do what they can. But I must also find her a Prince, for I fear there will still be need of one in spite of our precautions."
  "Mother, send me," George begged. "I will guard her with my life, if need be, I swear it."
  His mother's lips curved into a smile, and her eyes softened as she brushed errant curls off his brow and rested her gentle ivory touch on his cheek.
  "Your time will come, my son, I promise you. But it is not this day. For today, I have another in mind."
  George tried to hide his disappointment, born of the yearning in his heart, though he knew she could see it anyway. "Allow me to fetch him for you, then."
  Her laugh was soft like a cat's. "Aye, George. You may deliver my message to his parents realm. His name is Phillip, and like the princess, he is young, but like his father, he bears the markings of a clever and stalwart heart. Travel with Keilmir and be back by noonday tomorrow."
  "Aye, Mother."
  While only a small task, George set off as if he'd gotten his wish to protect the princess himself.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Monday, October 7, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 6

  "Are you George?" She spoke with folded arms to hide her uncertainty.
  The man she'd been directed to looked very little like a knight, let alone a dragonslayer. In fact she barely convinced herself to call him a man at all, if he really was as young as he looked.
  Straightening, he swiped back sweaty blond curls and set the head of the axe on the ground, leaning on the handle. "George is my name, aye. May I be of service, my lady?"
  Una wasn't quite sure what to make of him. It was said he was raised by the Fairy Queen herself, and he did have the peculiar fairy accent, but here he was chopping wood outside a little hut hardly fit for a nobleman.
 As she opened her mouth to answer, someone bumped her from behind. Starting, she pulled to the side, her veil catching in some low hanging twigs. A dwarf grunted at her and waddled past with a chunk of log on each shoulder.
  "Victor," George abandoned his task and covered the distance between them in a few strides. "Please forgive Victor's manners, my lady,"
  "Not at all." Una lied, currently more concerned with her veil than etiquette. It had belonged to her mother and she would never forgive herself if it got torn, especially for so trivial a reason as this.
  "Allow me,"
  Unable to disentangle herself on her own, she gave the young man a nod, and with her permission, he fiddled with the twig. Una frowned, unable to see, hoping he knew enough to be cautious with the gauzy material. But after a moment, she felt it come free.
  "There," George stepped back to a more suitable proximity.
  She reached back and ran her finger over the affected area, and, feeling the fabric still intact, Una offered a smile. "Thank you."
  "It is a pleasure to be of service," He said, and Una believed him. He seemed to say it more sincerely than others, who said it merely as one of many appropriate modest responses to gratitude.
  "What else can I do for you? I assume you didn't come here to get caught in branches."
  Una masked a smirk, folding her arms again. "Indeed not. I am here on an errand of grave importance."
  It sounded so strange saying this now. She'd rehearsed a speech in her mind during those long months it had taken here to travel to the Fairy Realm, over the ocean, through storms and sea monsters, dark foreboding woods, and long, scorching stretches of desert.
  All to be standing before this young man. George, he was called. Simply George. A name as unimpressive as himself. He bore neither the stature nor the countenance of one who could withstand talon, fang, and flame from the horrifying creature that plagued her homeland.
  And yet..... in his bearing, and even his eyes, which were not the soft brown she'd expected to find, there was something noble. Nay, not the appearance of a knight, but, perhaps, the heart of one.
  George waited in patient silence for her answer. She looked at him, long and hard. The Fairy Queen had vouched for him; he was the only man in the land with courage enough to stand before the monster that threatened to destroy Una's kingdom. He was, by rights, her only hope.
  Drawing herself up, and meeting this young man's gaze with the soberness of what she was about to say, Una spoke,
  "Sir George, Knight of the Fairy Realm, my name is Una, daughter of the King and Queen of Cambria. I have travelled long in search of one strong and great enough to free my people from a terrible affliction; a monstrous creature so powerful it makes even our most seasoned warriors tremble in fear."
  George's expression became intent and serious.
  "In my travels, I have heard of one name above others; yours. Upon arriving here, I spoke with the Fairy Queen -- your Mother -- and without a shadow of hesitation, she bade me come here to you, and implore that you would assist me. I do not ask this lightly. The dangers that await you on this journey and in Cambria are beyond description. It will take a special courage to achieve victory."
  Una once again beheld the strange knight before her. During her discourse he had not moved, nor flinched, nor hardly blinked, utterly intent on her words. Nay, more than her words; her plight, and that of her people.
  At last, she nodded, her voice only a murmur. "I do believe you have that courage."
  And, to her surprise, she found she did. If she were to be faced with a row of the finest knights in all the realms, she would still choose this simple young knight with the fire in his eyes.
  "Your highness," George said. "I will go."
 
Dia duit,
~Penny

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 5

  All is darkness, all is haze. Furious clouds hurl forth spears of rain, flashing lightening and cursing every living thing beneath with deafening peals of thunder that crack and rumble and echo, shaking the earth.
  Her little heart trembles with cold and fear. So wet has she become that her tears no longer show. The forest looms and howls around her, clothes clinging to her skin, and solitude to her soul.
  Then there are gentle arms. Big arms, that reminded her of her father's. They draw her close, and suddenly she can't feel the rain anymore, pressed against a warm, broad chest and covered by a thick cloak and firm embrace.
  She recognizes the scent; he'd always smelled like woodsmoke and soil. Her step-mother's huntsman.
  Why he's here, Snow doesn't think to wonder. Her small fingers curl into his jerkin and she buries her face against him.
  "You're safe now." She hears his deep voice in his chest. "Don't cry."
  But all she can do is sob, though now not from fright, but from the overwhelming relief and gratitude that safety brings. Soon they subside, and in his arms, protected from the anger of the skies, she falls asleep.
  Her dreams swirl in her mind, vague and intangible, and when she awakes, she forgets them all. It's not raining anymore, and she's not wet. Sitting up, she looks around with wide eyes, and finds herself within a little hollow surrounded by trees. Through the treetops, the sky is blue, as if the storm had never been there, and for a moment Snow wonders if she had dreamed it.
  The leaves rustle beneath her as she gets to her feet. Her legs are wobbly. Glancing around, she searches for the huntsman. Had she dreamed him, too? A wave of loneliness washes over her, and tears sting her eyes.
  Then she sees him. He's lying on his side a few feet away against the hollow wall; the textured brown of his cloak had hidden him.
  Joy fills the little one's heart, and in spite of her shaky steps, she hurries over to him and drops down to her knees beside him, resting her hand on his broad arm.
  Yes, he's asleep. His chest rises and falls with each breath. Reaching over, Snow carefully pushes back his hood to see his face.
  He'd always reminded her of a bear, an effect especially amplified by his unkempt brown hair and close cut, scruffy beard. He has thick eyebrows, too, and Snow knew that if she ever saw a bear, it would remind her of the huntsman.
  She smiles, staring at him, making sure he's really there. All together the loneliness is gone.
  Patting her hand on his bearded cheek, she whispers, "It's morning!"
  A moment passes before he stirs, eyebrows first. They twitch into a frown, and then his eyes squeeze tight, and finally open. Snow smiles at him when his gaze swivels toward her.
  "It's morning." She repeats.
  He just blinks at her, and grunts. Shifting, he pushes himself up. Snow scoots back; he really is big as a bear, she thinks, looking up at him from her place on the ground beside him.
  He looks down at her, inspecting her before asking, "Are you all right?"
  Snow bobs her head up and down. "I was scared, but I'm not anymore."
  This makes him look longer, and there's something in his tree trunk colored eyes that makes her frown.
  "Were you scared, too?"
  Instead of answering, the huntsman shifts his gaze. He reaches into his cloak to his belt, and slowly slides his long hunting knife out of its sheathe. She'd seen it before, once, when she'd gone by his hut with her nanny and he was using it to skin a rabbit. Now he grasps the hilt, and with a glance at her, stabs it into the ground.
  "No," He answers.
  Snow smiles. "Thank you for finding me."
  "You're welcome," And a smile makes a tiny curve in his beard. He puts a hand on her shoulder. "You can't go home, now, Princess."
  Somehow she knew this, so she just nods, her smile fading a little. "Where can I go?" But more importantly, "Will you come with me?"
  "I will take you to a safe place," He says. "But I cannot stay."
  "Will you visit?"
  He hesitates. "We'll see. Now come."
  He stands, towering over Snow White even as she shuffles to her own feet. She grabs his hand before he can walk away, worrying that his long legs would carry him away faster than she could run, and thus the two set off.

Dia duit,
~Penny

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 4


Well, I've named the tailor, now. His name is Gavin. I'm still coming up with a nickname for him, as the villagers will use that more than his real name, but I thought this might help clear up any confusion for when I write about him outside of his official fairytale. Like now.

For some reason, Gavin didn't like winter. It wasn't that he minded the cold. No, he had plenty of coats to keep him warm, and knew well how to make clothes that would ward away the chill. He was snug as he plodded home through the fresh snow like goose feathers blanketing the village. White everywhere, and stillness. Silence. Not even the wind whispered along the street to disturb the thousands of floating snowflakes in their journey downward to join their kin.
  Gavin slowed, gaze raising. Against the starless indigo of the evening sky he could almost imagine that the pinpricks of the stars had been snow all along, and were now dropping to earth all over the land. Would there be stars again in the Spring? How many times could the sky empty itself before there wasn't anything left?
  Slipping his hand from his pocket, Gavin held out his palm. He hadn't worn his gloves today. Winter chill curled around his skin. He watched as a single snowflake drifted toward his hand. It danced as it fell, lower, softer, lovlier, until it touched the heel of his open hand, and vanished.
  Gavin stared at the spot. It was gone. There was nothing there, now, but a tiny droplet he couldn't even feel. The star had died.
  Glancing behind him, he could see his footsteps along the lonely street being covered over by the tiny inhabitants of heaven, as one would reverently bury the dead, with sorrow and silence and empty skies.
  Slipping his hand back into his pocket, Gavin turned forward again, and continued towards home.
  He'd never liked winter.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 3

She spent the days on the porch with her sewing, staring out at the sea and the shore. Neil would watch from the doorway as the sunset twinkled off her deep black eyes. The longing and beauty in her face both captivated and concerned him.
  She'd been happy. He knew because he'd asked, and she'd looked at him with those same eyes and said yes. She couldn't lie with those eyes, he found that out early on. Yes, she'd been happy all those years. But now she was restless.
  Neil didn't know if she could control it. The sea was a part of her. It was where she belonged, truly. If he could find her sealskin he would give it to her; her longing was enough to break his heart. Aye, he loved her, as any man ought to love his wife, but he found that was the very reason he was willing to let her go.
  Turning back into the house, Neil crossed the room to the hearth as she began to sing. The notes of the song drifted through the room like magic, and Neil made up his mind that tomorrow morning, and break of day, he would sail out in search of his wife's kin, and, he prayed, her sealskin. She'd been good to him all these years. Now it was time to return the favor.

Dia duit,
~Penny

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 2

Their voices laced the draft of air wafting beneath the throne room door. She stood in the hall, hand against the cold wood, well aware of the silent guards nearby flanking the double doors.
  "See the evidence, my son,"
  By the time her Mother-In-Law's words drifted to Audrey's ears, it came as a faded echo. Still, she heard. And listened.
  "Your children gone; your heirs, my grandchildren. Destroyed by that witch who has you under her spell, as well! Why else would you be blind? I saw the moment I laid eyes on her; she says not a word because the fairies have cursed her lips and she sends away her own children three times now to whatever dark depths she came from herself."
  The accusations burned in Audrey's chest. The old woman had trampled her before with words thornier than the thistles she wove with her bare fingers in the dead of night. Not a word could she say in defense; a single utterance, and in that moment, her brothers would die.
  Audrey strained to hear Edwyn's voice, his firm tones reproving his step-mother's poisonous views. For three years she had longed to tell him of her plight. But his kind eyes and gentle touch spoke of a love that knew no words, and though she knew he couldn't understand, it didn't seem to matter to him.
  She had never needed words to love him, nor he her.
  That's what she thought.
  Now his voice didn't come. All she heard was silence surrounded by the winding of Lady Rosalind's thorns.
  Why, Edwyn? Her heart trembled. Her hands, her arms, her lips. It was not betrayal she felt, nor anger, but sorrow. How she longed to speak! To call his name and reveal the real witch to him, the woman who wasn't even his mother that manipulated his good heart towards evil. It had been so long since she'd uttered a word that she wasn't even sure if she still had a voice. Would he even hear her?
  Audrey knew what would happen next. After three years of blind faith, the lies and deceit and weight of responsibility to his first promise -- the promise to his kingdom -- finally forced the bond of wordless devotion to fade. Somehow she could already feel the flames licking her toes as she ran down the hallways.
  This was the end. She would go if she had to, but not without completing her task.
  Bursting into her chambers, she raced to the bed and dropped to her knees, reaching underneath and dragging out the locked box. The key hidden in her bodice opened it, and without a thought for the stinging pain, Audrey grasped all six thistle shirts and clutched them to her breast.
  Today was the last day. She prayed with all the heart she had left that God would guide her brothers to her before it was too late.
  The guards arrived.

Dia duit,
~Penny

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Drabble Challenge -- Day 1

Well, so here is another self imposed schedule for me to keep up, now. We'll see how I do.

To explain, basically a drabble is a short spot of fiction writing based on a keyword. I think it's anywhere from 50 to 300 or so words. What I plan on doing with my drabbles is writing from the perspective of a legendary or fairytale character, since I miss doing legend posts and such. One character in particular might pop up more than others, and that is the Gallant Little Tailor. I'm going to write a retelling of his story for NaNoWriMo this year. (Yes, I am doing it again. We'll see how far I get this time. And for those of you who thought I was writing something else for NaNo, I was, but it got too complicated, so I switched to the tailor's story.)

Now for drabble number one.

Day 1 -- Beginning.

  It seemed to him that seven at one blow was not a beginning. It was just special; an achievement. He sewed each stich with excitement and enthusiasm, running over his feat in his mind over and over. A belt. Yes, a belt, to proclaim his achievement. How many others had killed seven flies in one sweep? He wondered. Flies were such pests, one wished one could kill all of them at once.
  But seven! That was surely near enough. He had done a great service in ridding the world of seven of those little black pests. Perhaps some of the villagers would see his belt and ask him to do it again.
  At this thought, he paused. Perhaps he ought to leave a space in case he succeeded in killing more of the creatures. He glanced over to where his newly purchased jar of jam still sat on the table by the window.
  No, no new invading bugs. He returned to his needle, thread, and leather, whistling a cheerful tune.
  To him this was not a beginning, this was just a rather pleasing day. He never would have guessed what was coming next.

Dia duit,
~Penny

For The Greatest Good -- Part XXII (Dana)

Part XXII – Account by Dana MacDonald
 
 
  The few hours that remained of night passed without disturbance. Kearney was asleep by the time I returned. I made no move to wake her; I did not feel she would take my premonitions well. So strong were they that Set’s interference was doubtful.
Finding still no desire to rest, I stood several paces away from where she slept. I leaned on the blunt end of my lance, staring out into the dim light of early morning. Dawn’s light had yet to fully break, leaves whispered by on a faint wind. A feeling of disquiet settled on me, small at first. Yet it grew, gradually.
Something’s not right. Perhaps we’ve stayed too long… but that would be ludicrous. We had ample time ahead of Ross, and horses would be of little advantage in this foliage.
The call of a horn broke the uneasy silence. The note shifted to a higher pitch, and then cut off.
The sentry’s warning call!
Before I had time to call out in answer, men’s cries and shouts of alarm echoed throughout the forest, followed by a sudden clash of arms. I leapt forward onto a small rise on the hillside and hefted my lance.
   “Northerners! To arms, they’ve found us!” I shouted. Penny leapt up, standing and drawing her sword in nearly the same instance. The shrubbery around us came alive with frenzied activity as men awoke, swords were drawn and arrows strung.
   “A shield wall, hurry! John, where are you?” I called out, searching the faces of the warriors around us. No reply reached where I stood; from the crest of the hill to my right, a group of swordsmen crashed through the enshrouding foliage. Sounds of thick fighting rang out behind them, and Ross’s livery was clearly displayed on their garments. I stepped back from the rise to stand beside Kearney. Several dozen of my fighters gathered around us, forming a defensive line on the uneven terrain.
   “Sorry for the rude awakening, Kearney,” I said above the sounds of clashing steel and battle cries. “Someone’s trying to capture us again.”
Kearney took a step back and gripped her sword in a readied stance. “I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve seen enough of Ross’s prison to last me a lifetime. How far are my brothers from here?”
A multitude of potential replies came to my mind, but the approaching soldiers arrested my attention and I answered hastily.
   “They’re not there, Kearney.”
   “What?”
   “Watch yourself!” I shouted in warning. The approaching fighters reached our line, and I leapt forward to catch one of their front-runners off guard. My engagement came a mere moment before Ross’s soldiers met the line of northern fighters. The hillside erupted into a chaotic struggle for survival, sword against lance and arrow upon shield. I exchanged blows with the fighter I’d engaged for several moments before a strike to his unguarded side brought him down. I took a brief moment to find Kearney amidst the struggle. She was at the fringe of the fight, rallying the outliers to solidify our position. A slash to my right caught my immediate attention, and I jumped backwards to avoid losing my head. Another slash; I deflected it with my lance and thrust, forcing my attacker to jump backwards.
We need to leave. They won’t let anyone here save Kearney and I live.
Another group of warriors came over the crest of the hill, and I chanced a glance. John charged down towards our struggle, over a score of our fighters behind him. Their advance caused a momentary pause in our conflict. I seized the chance and struck a blow to my opponent with the blunt end of my lance, crumpling him.
   “John!” I shouted. “Get out of here! Take any you find remaining, flee!”
The stalwart captain fixed me with a pointed stare, even with the chaotic conflict broiling around us. I stared back, willing him to understand, to comply. He gave short nod, and then pushed into the scene of conflict. That done, I moved back to join the net of defenders Kearney had gathered. The skirmish nearest to us was nearly done with; sounds of the main conflict raged still beyond the hill’s crest. A gap showed in the diminishing group of opponents before us. Kearney seized the chance and darted forward, ducking between small pockets of combat
“Kearney! Don’t, get back here!”
I sprinted after her, scanning the forest around for any signs of ambush. Kearney halted a short distance ahead beside a tree and looked out into the greenery. A momentary jolt of warning slowed my pace, just as an arrow struck the tree Kearney crouched next to. She ducked behind the trunk and glanced up at my approach.
   “Dana, what is going on!”
I halted beside her and looked for a clue to the arrow’s source.
   “We’re under attack, looks to be a force about three times the size of my cohort. What’s left of it, rather; come on, we need to go while we still can.”
She nodded and jumped up to retrace our steps. I followed beside her as she asked,
   “Where can we go?”
   “Away from here,” I replied. “This attack is meant for us, I’m certain. So long as we escape, they’ll leave the others alone and chase us. Good plan, aye?”
   “You had me at the word ‘escape’,” Kearney replied as she sheathed her sword. “You’d better lead; make sure we get out of here.”
I slung my lance over my shoulder and took the head. My clan warriors streamed by on either side, heading towards the main sounds of battle. They ignored our passage, tribute to their experience. I glanced back over my shoulder and chuckled.
   “Bad choice, attacking my folk in a forest. They’ll have them running rings trying to contain them all.”
   “Good.”
Semi-aware of it as I was, the guiding nudge of my gift veered sharply, and without warning. I skidded to a halt, stumbling to keep my balance. I stared in the implied direction, directly off our previous course to the right.
   “That’s odd. I thought…”
I stepped forward, slowly, without finishing either the thought or sentence.
   “Dana…”
I stopped. Her suspicion was well grounded. But there was little I could but go forward; Set’s touch on my sense of direction had grown subtle in recent times, and I had not the skill to detect it half the time.
   Unless…
I turned to face Penny.
   “Kearney, this is going to sound odd, but I need you to search my mind.”
She blinked, and replied,
   “What?”
   “It’s… complicated. I’ll explain later. Long story short, guardian knights can affect each other’s abilities. I need you to tell me if Set’s influencing me at all.”
She nodded, confusion replaced by a sense of focus.
   “Alright. Look at me.”
I met her eyes. Her gaze shifted to an almost distant look, yet at the same time piercing. An unfamiliar wind of whispered thoughts flowed within my mind, like the voices of a multitude given by one speaker. It was light, a gentle touch, no more. Yet it brought back unbidden memory of times only a few years recent: the lance of Set’s mind, burning, piercing, agonizing beyond expression of pain…
I willed the thought away, even as the whisper of Kearney’s probe receded.
   “If he was there, he wasn’t strong. Whatever influence he had has either faded or gone.”
I nodded and turned back to the foliage, feeling somewhat unsettled.
   “Right. Thank you. Our way should be about here somewhere…”
A pained groan drifted out on the air, very close. Kearney glanced at me and then moved towards the sound, hand on her sword. I followed close behind, both of us stepping around a thick tree trunk. There, propped against the trunk, was a wounded northerner; one I knew well.
   “Thomas!”
I leapt past Kearney and crouched beside the young fighter. His chest heaved with labored breaths. The broken shafts of two arrows were embedded in his chest.
   “Oh, Thomas…” I managed. “I should have left you home, you were nearly too young to come with us…”
The fiery-haired youth managed a pained smile.
   “Nothin’... For it, sir.”
Kearney stood beside me, silent. This lad was no older than eighteen years; death in battle was tragic, but for one just at life’s beginning…
Thomas coughed and grimaced.
   “Coward… shot me from behind a tree. I didn’t even notch my blade.”
I swallowed hard, managing to keep my expression contained.
   “Thomas, I’ll get you somewhere safe, just wait.”
   “Don’t start with all that, sir, I know I’m done in…”
The young northerner took a rasping breath, and then reached towards Kearney with a clenched fist. I watched, somewhat confused.
   “M’lady… if you would… I think you were meant to have it.”
Penny knelt, took his wrist and accepted whatever object Thomas offered, and then took his hand with her own.
   “Thank you…”
Thomas smiled with drooping eyelids.
   “Won’t the cap’n jump when he finds out I was right…”
   “He will,” Kearney replied. “You did well being so stubborn about it.”
He offered no other words. Several moments passed in silence, before Kearney laid his limp hand on his chest. Then she stood, shoving the object into her belt pouch.
   “Which way?”
I stood as well, taking several moments to focus even for that.
   “Right. Um… that way.” I gestured off into the woods. “That’s… that’s where we’re supposed to go.”
   “Dana.”
   “What?” I replied, glancing at her. Her answer was quiet, but resolved.
   “We have to go. He didn’t die so we could end up the same way.”
She stepped past Thomas and nudged my arm in the direction I’d indicated. I nodded and stepped forward. I could not bear to look back.
   “Aye…”