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The color of the turning leaves struck me suddenly. Something in how some were still green and others were red and yet others just a shade orange reminded me of treasures of gems and coins. Thinking of it, I suppose that must be what I do enjoy about fall. It’s like walking in the king’s strong room but without all the guards. No one questions me for being amongst these riches. And the way the sun plays betwixt the leaves and splashes out onto the mountainside reminds me of camps passed with my father. The deer bouncing through the open fields, dashing at the sound of my footsteps brings peace to my heart. There is so much to this time. Looking at the red spreading across my leather I realize how fitting it is that my end comes at autumn.
This tale was rejected by Realms of Fantasy and R. L. Hubbard's Writers of the Future, but both told me to try again. It is about youthful arrogance and the price paid for a grave mistake. I've retooled it a bit and submitted it again to Realms of Fantasy. I'll admit that since I first submitted it eight years ago, that I'd forgotten that I sent it there in the first place. Maybe they'll pick it up this time! Nope. Didn't happen. That's okay. It's funny how much less the rejections sting when you've got other work lined up!
Alani (working title; excerpt)
The ceiling was dark like all the others in the village but this wasn’t just any place. This was Maarzon’s personal habitat. Alani watched a shadow bounce upon the beams above her as the fire crackled and senyant wood filled the air. It was a sweet scent that made her heart beat with remorse. Those ancient trees deserved better than that.
“You don’t wrestle with your binds.” Her grey-haired captor spoke from the coverings of a shiny, bronze-toned hood. “A woman with a will is a dangerous thing I’ve been told and you not the least of them.” His voice carried sarcasm as effectively as the wing flies the bird. “But here you are. Daughter of Beset and mute of the music.”
She lain there already hours others couldn’t count. She was sure of the time though. Half passed the eighth evening hour. Alani was a living timepiece, more accurate than the sun dials and less foolish than the farmer. Although she said nothing, she was fully alert. Her mind was swept with calming incantations as she absorbed the foul wizard’s plans.
“No matter. Your status marks you well enough as a suitable sacrifice.” He stirred some concoction in a hanging cauldron. Between his smooth fingers he crushed a mint of some kind. “Your blood will please His Lordship and I will gain a favor he will not refuse. The Amulet of Herzon will be strengthened five-fold. The power of light will be in my hands as is the power of darkfall.” He released a powder from a white satin pouch.
Alani didn’t bother to test the leather straps holding her. She knew they were too strong to escape by force. She waited, welcoming the restless minutes. She repeated a number of prayers and patterns. Her eyes were wide open, but she was no longer simply staring at the ceiling as Maarzon thought. She was concentrating, hearing a song all her own.
“Soon, my dear. Midnight will be upon us soon. I believe you’ll enjoy the thrill of life more than anyone you’ve ever known before you sleep your final sleep.” He had started talking to her as if she were a loved one upon a grave illness over the third of an hour.
One more minute until the ninth hour. Alani let time sweep over her. The seconds passed and the moment was then hers. Without a word she sat straight up, not breaking the braces, but passing through them. She lengthened her nails and walked up behind the engrossed mage. “The music plays now for me,” she said.
The bewildered man turned, dropping his latest ingredient straightway to the floor. The hood fell back, revealing his ill-retained youthful face and widened green eyes. Not a shriek escaped his lips as Alani took her hand across his throat. So deeply did she cut him that he crumpled immediately, only momentarily clasping his wounded flesh before he faded away.
The Ruling of Ezrod
Matreese thought about the question the boy had asked. How did she ever come to reign over her feared companion? Curious question it was and one she cared not to answer, but it was there and she had to say something. At once the day she learned of Ezrod came to her mind.
It wasn’t that long ago. Not to her. Sure several friends had come and gone, each taking their turns at the doors of the Life After, but time was not so short for her. She could see in her mind’s eye the forest deep. Beautiful with greens and yellows she ventured to the heart of the forest. Her family was busy with other things and did not notice that she had gone. It seemed to her that the whole world disappeared, transporting her to her own land.
She felt music in the ground on which she walked. Sweet, serene, lovely music. As she walked on she danced, twirling and leaping, avoiding the brush of the undergrowth. As dusk came upon her she had no fear, just joy. And as she succumbed to the sounds of euphoric melodies she knelt down at the edge of a pool of water. She looked in it. There was light there. Cool, gentle light. It was alluring, irresistible. She reached into to it enjoying the sensation of the liquid as she did.
She gave no pause when her hand fell upon a rotund surface. Instead she explored its shape, thinking it much like a plump egg. With her other hand to aid the first she drew from the small lagoon her discovery. It was cooler than its surroundings and much heavier now that it had been brought to surface, but she did not lay it down. She explored with her eyes the many patterns of lines drawn about it. Colors she’d never seen and those that she had loved. Standing there she heard a voice like none other.
“I am yours and you are mine. You have heard the Song of Drachtnon and have answered. This night forth you and I are one.”
Her hands felt icy, but without pain as the shell disintegrated before her eyes, revealing a wondrous being. She had heard tales, but the winged ones were fierce and had abandoned human-kind long ago. But she knew what she saw and could not deny what she felt. She was no longer herself alone, but also more. She felt what she later learned was the Sending of Drachtnon.
“Dear boy, I do not reign over Ezrod any more than he reigns over me.” And in that thought was truth like that the boy would likely never himself see.
Chenlock Maelin has seen many things. Her sister's death, her father's guilt, and her entire life changed before her eyes. Yet that is not where her journey ends. In many ways, that is where it truly begins. Wandering the countryside in search of a place or people she can call her own, Chenlock finds more than her wildest night visions could have prompted her to imagine. In a realm so like and unlike her own, she learns of a great challenge some newcomer has accepted, and soon she is drawn into a world of magic, beasts, and a tangled web of history unlike anything she's ever encountered.
Shadowline has been in the works for a number of years that won't be admitted here. It is scheduled for completion in September of 2010.
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