Thursday, September 26, 2013

Friday Flash # 62: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 10 -- Eye of the Storm

(Link to Part 9)

Edmond and I bolted through the last bites of the food and left dinnerware on the table -- though it picked itself up and scurried off to the sink where the plates and silverware seemed to be clattering in fear. The broom danced around in circles and then dashed for the bedroom and threw itself under the bed.

Outside the window, dark fierce clouds began bearing down on us, lightning crackling through the sudden darkness as the wall obscured the sky, sun and land in the way clouds never should.

I didn't know what to do. I could already hear the wind starting to howl like something alive. The house creaked, but that couldn't be from the storm, which hadn't hit yet. Then I saw doors and windows starting to shut and wooden shutters flapping into place, so maybe I didn't need to do anything at all.

A flock of birds, and other things that twinkled with bright light, flew through the window and went straight up to the rafters. I looked up to see sparrows and tiny people with wings clinging to the wood. Butterflies and more birds followed, until the ceiling filled with the startled, worried cries of the birds and the little people.

"Squirrels! Squirrels!" small voices yelled, hardly heard above the growing storm. A few pointed to the window.

Edmond and I dashed there to see two squirrels with four babies, barely hand-sized, fighting against the already growing wind. They could barely make a step forward against the swirling maelstrom that seemed to come from every direction. They wouldn't survive out there and the window began to close as I watched, wood moving to cover the glass --

"No! Wait!" I shouted, knowing the squirrels needed to get inside.

And the house stopped, the window still open. I didn't expect the cottage to obey, but I feared it wouldn't do any good because one of the little babies tore free of his mother's hold and rolled like a little furry ball across the yard.

Edmond leapt through the lower part of the window and darted into the yard. In a moment he had grabbed the little thing by the nape of the neck and ran back across the yard, though even he had a difficult time against the wind and growing debris. The entire group scrambled up and into the cottage just as the worst winds hit, already tearing a huge branch from the tree in the yard. Branches pounded the house as Edmond followed the last squirrel inside. I grabbed at the window, trying to force it down, but the glass wouldn't move and my shoulder hurt like hell.

"Close, damn you!" I shouted in frustration.

And it did. The window dropped shut, the wood shutters swept across, barely a heartbeat before something huge hit the wall outside. I dropped to the floor, afraid of what was going to come through despite the protection.

Lights had come on in the cottage, but even those little balls of power seemed to tremble with fear. Edmond nudged the baby squirrel off towards its family. I put a hand on his head and pulled a few twigs from his fur as he looked up, blinking.

"You did a good thing --" I began, half shouting so he would hear.

"Don't ever, ever, ever mention this to anyone," he replied, his eyes narrowed and his ears back. "If you do, I'll bite your toes off."

I took him seriously, though I suspected we weren't going to survive very long for it to matter. The cottage shook with the fury of the storm and the birds and things in the rafters were crying out in distress.

But then I heard something worse. Someone began to pound on the door.

"Let me in! Let me in!"

I got up and dashed forward, grabbing at the handle --

Edmond launched himself from halfway across the room, claws digging into my arm as he howled. I fell back, shocked --

"Don't be a fool! Don't open the door!" Edmond shouted. The storm grew worse and the pounding more frantic.

"It might be Davis --"

"Davis could get the door open! Anyone -- any thing -- that doesn't mean harm could get in!"

I backed away in haste and a moment later I hard something growl and curse, and whatever stood out there didn't sound friendly or safe. Lightning flashed through the storm, so bright we could see the light through the chinks in the wood. Thunder shook the place like an earthquake.

A swirl of little winged people swept down, frantically darting from one side of the cottage to the others. The glowing colors came from their wings, which seemed to brighten the more frantically they moved, until we were awash in strands of glowing, neon light. I settled on the edge of the chair, Edmond moving up beside me. The storm didn't ease and I suspected even the magic in this place would not keep us safe for much longer.

"I know who you are!" a voice bellowed, the sound louder than wind and thunder. "You cannot hide from me!"

I leaned closer to Edmond and spoke at his ear, hoping I couldn't be heard outside, even though I had to speak loudly anyway. "Does he want me? If I go out, will the rest of you be safe?"

"I wouldn't count on it," Edmond replied, glaring at the door. I feared as much. "Others will notice this! He's desperate! Not much longer!"

But we didn't have time. I heard a great rending sound and a moment later the entire tree hit the house, some of the branches breaking through the roof and scattering everything that had taken refuge up on the rafters. Even the swirling little people stopped and then flew in a rainbow streak for some far corner of the building.

And I could hear something scrambling up the wall, tearing at the tree that had broken through.

We had no time left.

996 words

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Writing Things, Note 1

      I write quite a bit. Anyone who knows me realizes that I'm not afraid of the blank page. Why should I be? These are only words, and I decide if anyone else sees them or not. Failure? There is no failure in writing except not to write what calls to you out of some misplaced fear that it won't be perfect and right. Does that mean writing poorly is acceptable? No. But it doesn't mean that perfection has to come with the first draft.
No artist becomes good at a craft without practice, and that includes writers. Practice does not mean being purposely sloppy. You have to try to write well, but know that you won't have the real feel of writing until you do it. Afterwards you look at your weaknesses and keep writing.

Here's the great part. It doesn't matter if you have trouble with the story because you get to redo anything that doesn't work. Unlike the portrait artist who has ruined the canvas, you get to erase parts and reword sections.

Being prolific means a person cannot be afraid of words or even what others will think of those words if they ever see them. Don't expect everyone to like your work, no matter how near to perfection you manage to get. It's easy, of course, to pull an 'angst-filled artist' tantrum and destroy the imperfection of your work, drawing all the sympathy you can from friends.

That won't make you a better writer.

A person doesn't have to be prolific or fast to be a writer . . . but the person does have to write. Traditional or Indie, it doesn't matter. If you do not put the words down, finish and edit, you are not going to reach your goal.

So what is the secret to actually sitting down and writing the things in your head? The trick is to sit down and start writing. Yes it really is that simple to start. No, it is not that simple to get good at writing, but until you apply yourself to the art, you won't know how to do it. You can read every book on writing, you can ace every grammar test, and you can quote every good bit of writing you know -- but until you sit down and work, you will not be a writer. This means writing complete stories, not just little tidbits of perfection that don't add up to anything.

When you start out as a writer, you don't always need a plan. That's right -- this is me saying you don't have to outline your first stories. Some people are intimidated by outlines and others simply don't understand how they work. If you are the type who works well to a plan, go ahead and work one out. If not, or if you aren't certain, let the words flow. Get used to putting things down on a page and seeing how writing looks and feels before you worry about anything else.

You cannot ruin a story by not writing it perfectly the first time. You get to write and edit and rewrite until you get what you want. Sounds boring? Well, get used to the fact that your work will not be perfect in the first try and then start embracing the idea that it's fun to edit, because it is. Oh, I know -- another one of those 'angsty author' things that I'm going to ruin. Do you want to know the worst excuse I've heard for not editing? The person said they couldn't stand to read the story once it was done.

Well, if you hate the story so much you can't even read it, how can you expect anyone else to like it? Why did you even bother?

So get out there and write. Learn to enjoy the process of creation just for itself. Write just for you. Don't worry about the audience at this point. You are your own first reader, and if you can't write something that you enjoy, how can you expect anyone else to want to read it?

Learn to enjoy writing. That's your first lesson in how to be, if not a successful writer, at least a happy one.

Go have fun.

How about you?  What are your thoughts?  Is writing too much work or too much fun?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flash Friday # 61: Surviving Elsewhere Part 9: The Calm before the Storm(Serial)

(Link to Part 8)

I awoke to the sound of Edmond arguing with someone -- some thing, actually, that had a high-pitched voice, their words invading my nice, calm darkness and pulling me back to the real world.

Well, not so much real. I turned and found Edmond arguing with a squirrel. Color me surprised.

"Listen, you poor excuse for a mammal --" the squirrel . . . chittered, his voice getting higher and the words coming faster. "I could take you in any competition --"

"Ha! You have more fur on your tail then you have cells in your brain," Edmond replied.

"You -- You -- You --"

"Hey guys," I said. "Either hold it down or take it out outside, okay?"

"Sorry," Edmond said and gave a nod to the squirrel who leapt off the windowsill and hurried off. "Davis!"

Surfer Dude came into the room. He looked harassed, which made me feel guilty since I appeared to be his only patient. Or maybe it was Edmond and the squirrel that were driving him crazy. I stretched out and realized I was in a bed now, and wondered how he'd managed to move me. No, it still had the covering and general shape of the chair, but had morphed into something longer and wider. Cool.

I felt better. My shoulder ached a little, but not much.

Davis put a leather bag on a table by the door and came to look me over. He was silent at first but then gave a nod of relief.

"Maggie was summoned back to the city," he said, then seeing my worry, he smiled. "Nothing wrong. It's part of her job as a messenger. She'll be back in a couple days and then the two of you can decide what to do. I'm glad you're looking so well, though, because I have to go to a nearby village. They have an outbreak of drustlies. The spontaneously shape-shifting children are driving the parents crazy. And we don't want this to spread."

"Right," I said.

"You're strong enough to get to the bathroom and use the shower," he said and waved a hand across towards another door. "And forage in the kitchen for food. But I want you to stay here at the cottage until I get back. Don't wander out of the yard. Edmond will stay here with you, and if there is any problem, he knows where to find me."

I nodded, feeling a bit odd about staying here in this strange place. However, at least it wasn't a place that was trying to kill me. That counted for a lot.

"I'll stay here unless Maggie says otherwise," Edmond said. "And the same for Mark. Or if I see a reason we have to go. Things have been odd."

"Yes, true," Davis agreed. I still couldn't get used to the idea of a wise cat.

Davis gathered up his bag, paused at the door as though trying to think of other things to say, and then gave a single nod and headed out. He walked past the window and out into the yard where I could still see him from the chair/bed. He whistled and the motorcycle came out at a bouncing run that looked like a puppy called to play. He secured the bag to the seat, climbed on and kicked on the engine. The wings unfolded and they took off.

So here I was, alone in this strange house with Edmond. I noticed that the broom was sweeping up in the kitchen and decided that was enough weirdness for now. I napped for a while longer, Edmond coming to sleep on the side of the pillow. I thought about suggesting he sleep at my feet, but my brain caught up with my mouth just in time. Besides, there was pillow enough for both of us.

Later I got up and showered. The hole in my shoulder was almost entirely healed though it felt sore to move my arm. The cut on my head -- which I had mostly forgotten -- was nothing more than a thin white line where the bullet had come close to killing me. Having them both healing was good . . . but it didn't take away from that moment when the memory of what happened hit me. I closed my eyes, remembering Sheriff Creston's gun aimed straight at my head.

Trembling. For a moment I didn't dare move at all, trying to remind myself I was safe. As long as the big wolves didn't come here and the tree outside the cottage didn't take exception to me being here, right? Should I be worried about the broom? How about the door?

I grew up knowing Elsewhere was very close by. All the kids talked about going there, but I'd never had the draw to crossover until I had no choice. I'd secretly wanted to go to Japan and learn about the other half of my family. I looked up into the mirror, wondering if I looked like him -- and for a moment I thought I saw another face looking over my shoulder.

I left the bathroom in a hurry, my heart pounding.

"Okay, Mark?" Edmond asked, his head tilting as he stared.

"Yeah, Fine. Is there food here for you?"

"Some fish for both of us," he said and walked over to the stove. I opened the oven and found food already on plates and ready to eat. I took them to the table, not even considering putting the food on the floor for the cat. Besides, I wanted his company. I wanted the distraction. Edmond settled on the table across from me and waited politely for his food.

"So what now?" I asked as Edmond took dainty bites of his fish. I had corn and rice too. Really good food.

He looked up. Glanced at the window and then back at me. "Eat faster."

I looked out the window. A huge, dark line of clouds was heading our way far too quickly. Even I knew the storm wasn't natural.

1000 words

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Monday, September 16, 2013

New Release: Badlands

The small settlement on the world of Caliente is suffering from a devastating drought and the two segments of the population are coming to blows over the remaining water. Someone has to be daring to keep everyone alive and Carmen del Santo Palo, a leader of one of the gangs, is reluctantly taking up the challenge.

Carmen is faster and smarter than a lot of the other gang members, but she's also begun to realize she has no future beyond being the leader of a gang. She'll see her people through the current round of troubles, but she doesn't know what will happen afterwards.

Besides, the future may be the least of her problems. She has to survive first.

Badlands is a novel in the Inner Worlds Council setting (Here are the published IWC books in chronological order). It was originally written back in 1989 during a drought in the area where I live. I remember sitting by the window where I am sitting now and thinking about it being hot, dry and miserable. And here we are, back in a drought again 22 years later. Sometimes it's amusing how these things work out.

Vita's Vengeance and Badlands are related, but only through a later book that I hope to have rewritten and edited soon. You can read the first two in either order, but both should be read before Rat Pirates is released. This little sequence within the IWC timeline has always been a fun, exciting round of books to work with, and I'm glad to finally have the first two in a state where I feel good about releasing them.

I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Merry Go Round Tour # 26 -- Research

Oh yes, the wondrous world of research where you think you are looking up something on Victorian England and end up digging through the history of Sargon and his successor, Rimush. You pull yourself back to Victorian England and end up reading Bleak House and studying fishing cycles in the North Sea. Oh yes. Research.

I love research. I have a huge library of hardbound books, most of them history-related and a few science-related. I have quite a few travel books that go deeper into the ecology of a place rather than a list of the best hotels. Through them I study different types of habitats and the types of plants and animals you're likely to find there. Desert? What type of desert? Wetlands? Are they marsh, bogs, swamps -- what? Every type of habitat comes in various flavors, just as every ancient civilization had it's on, unique face. Once you move past the generic, you are likely to create something special and exciting.

The problem is that I rarely write anything actually set in a real-world place or time. That doesn't make the research any less helpful. Even when you're creating a world from scratch for your fantasy novel, it helps to know how things work. With that in mind, I don't devote my research only to when I need specific information. I read a considerable amount of history, science and anthropology just as a regular part of my reading material. I pick up things and file them away for later use, and while they sit around in my brain, they mutate and grow and sometimes entire new novels come out of the oddest things.

(Some predatory birds will not hunt within a certain radius around their nests, keeping the area clear of dead things. So a field mouse living at the base of the tree where they keep their nest is actually safer than he would be farther away. Oh yes, that's worked into one of my fantasy books when I created a culture for a non-human group.)

Specific research? If I don't have a book on something, I'll order it. That's a lot easier in the age of ebooks and my wonderful Nook. But even so, I'm likely to have something, somewhere on any subject I'm going to write about, especially since I have four sets of encyclopedias. Wiki? Yes, I'll look there for a quick answer, but I do a lot of my research the old-fashioned way with books and notes. Wiki is great for a quick answer, but if I want to go into depth I'll grab several books by different authors and get a good cross reference on things. I am most likely to find what I need in my own house, which helps. That's because I write about things that interest me. Why shouldn't I? I use ancient history to build fantasy and science fiction societies. I use real-world animals to put together something alien. These may not be obvious (and usually shouldn't be) in my work, but the background is there.

Here is a trick that might help you if you need to do research on some area that you know nothing about. Don't go look for the most extensive, scholarly work for your first time through. Look for something aimed at teens in school. This will introduce you to the basic facts and give you a list of things you can narrow down and research more carefully. You'll get far more out of a fast, easy introduction to a subject than you will to something boring an deep. Librarians can help you here. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to collect large libraries that spill over into two houses (we bought the small house next door where Russ keeps his office and his American History books, which number well over a thousand on their own.)

A couple years ago I realized I needed some information on Egypt. I admit that Egypt is not one of my favorite ancient civilizations, mostly because it is the one studied most often in school and it got boring after awhile. Give me Elam or Akkad and I'm a happy little person. But I needed Egyptian information and I wasn't certain I would be able to find enough in my own library.

Half an hour later, I had more than 15 books sitting on my desk, all of them dedicated to Egypt, and I hadn't even touched the encyclopedias. I hadn't even realized how much I had collected down through the years until I needed them.

So my research routines are rarely fixed. I study all the time. At some point I might need to go and refresh my memory on some point, and it's always far more handy to have the books on hand rather than having to wait for the library to open and hope that what I need happens to be on the shelf. Besides, libraries have that distressing habit of wanting their books back.

Take notes. Get those wonderful little flags you can put on pages, marking something important (this is really nice if you own the books, so you can go back to that place as often as you need). If you are really serious about the research, use more than one reference because no book or website is ever going to give you the full story. Be careful of multiple websites because many of them are simply grabbing information from other sites, and there is no real research into credibility.

And if you are writing anything except nonfiction or historical fiction, remember that even disproved theories can be helpful to a writer. Think of them as little touches of alternate-earth possibilities. These can sometimes be great points where you start a culture for your novel.

Read anything that interests you. This isn't school and you aren't going to be tested. However, the more you are willing to learn, the better your writing will be. 'Write what you know' should really be 'write what you can learn -- and be willing to learn anything.'

If you want to get to read about other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Flash Friday # 60: Surviving Elsewhere Part 8: Help (Serial)

(Link to Part 7)

Maggie pulled a chair over and took my hand, her fingers warm. I'd started to tremble; wound, cold, very odd place where the broom moved away from the door on it's own and my cousin's wings fluttered slightly with agitation.

"I'm sorry Mark," she said and leaned over to brush the hair from my eyes with her other hand. "I didn't have the strength to carry you out of there. I didn't expect trouble to find you."

"Did fine," I mumbled, trying to stay awake. Just feeling safe had taken the last of the energy from me. "Got help."

"And you used enough magic on that wound to keep him alive this long," Davis added. He came back with a wooden box under his arm and carrying a tray with tea pot and cups.

"Edmond helped," I added, seeing the cat sitting on a table across the room. I wanted to stay on the good side of the cat.

"You all did well. You were smart enough to listen to Edmond. Not everyone does." Davis sat the tray down and poured tea for us. His hand hovered over one cup before he held it to my lips. I could see tiny lights flickering through the liquid. "Something to help you relax and numb your body while I work, Mark."

Numb sounded good. I sipped. It was good tea; warm and just sweet enough. An odd feeling swept through me like cold fire -- not unpleasant, but strange. Davis put the cup aside. Now his hand hovered over my shoulder and my body thought I ought to tense, but I couldn't quite make the connection.

Davis gave a nod, his long hair falling forward. "Good. That worked quickly. Help him drink a little more. I'll have this done as fast and safely as I can. Then we'll talk about why this happened and what he's doing here."

I felt a different sort of distant panic that those words, but Maggie had me sip more of the tea and everything went a step or two distant at that point. Dr. Motorcycle Dude waved his hand and another little table scurried over beside him like a puppy called to dinner, the items on its back bouncing and dipping, and one book flopping down on the floor. It scurried after the table and climbed back up.

Davis pushed a few things aside and sat the box down, lifting the lid. I saw sharp metal things catch the glint of the sunlight and my mouth went dry. Maggie put a hand to the side of my face and turned me away from the box. She put the tea to my lips again and I had to sip. Davis tore away part of my shirt and I glanced to see the ugly hole in my skin, but I looked away again.

Something poked at my shoulder. I shuddered because I knew it should hurt, but didn't. I felt nothing but a sort of dull pressure as something slipped past skin and muscle. Then he touched the bone and the dullness radiated through my arm.

"You did a damned good job, Maggie," Davis said. He sounded as though he was concentrating on something else and I decided I did not want to turn and look. "Your magic kept everything from bleeding too much and kept the bullet in place. It hit the shoulder bone and that's cracked but not broken. This will heal easily."

He began bandaging the shoulder already. The relief made me giddy. I hadn't wanted to think I would die, but there was always the whisper in the back of my mind. Now I felt myself relax for the first time since I shot Tommy Creston.

Davis was going to ask soon. I decided to get it out of the way.

"Two girls and one guy had been killed by some kind of wild animal," I said suddenly, looking at Davis. "We were all told to be careful. I was heading home and cut off the path, going through the woods. We live out on the edge of town, down past the gully. I came on Tommy and Mary Hale. He had her down and . . . "

I stopped and shook my head. It hadn't seemed real at the time. It felt less so now.

"And?" Davis asked, his eyes narrowed and his face more serious than I'd seen before.

"He had torn her apart. I think -- I think he had claws. And when he looked my way, his eyes flashed with red. I knew he was going to kill me. So I shot him. Killed him."

I was starting to feel ill. Maggie put a hand on my arm and I think she was even trying to calm me with magic, but it wasn't doing very well this time. All I could see was Tommy's distorted face, the red eyes -- the gun in my hand.

"Damn. Don't tell me they have another werekin epidemic over the other side," Davis said and shook his head with worry. "It's a good thing you had the gun --"

"I didn't," I said, startled. "I wouldn't ever carry a gun."

"Then where did it come from?" Maggie asked.

"I --" I had to stop and think, but nothing seemed clear. "I know Tommy carried a gun in his backpack. He used to show it around. I must have gotten it from there. I just don't remember."

Davis nodded. "Drink more of the tea. And then sleep, Mark. You're safe here."

I let Maggie put the tea to my lips. Lights still played in the little bit left in the cup. I drank them down.

"Something isn't right," Maggie said. Her voice sounded odd.

"We'll discuss this later." Davis took the cup from her hand. "Mark needs to sleep now."

And I went to sleep. Just like that, but my last thought was about the odd look on Maggie's face. Once again, I felt as though I had missed something.

999 words

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Flash Friday # 59: Surviving Elsewhere Part 7: Found (Serial)

(Link to Part 6)

I was too exhausted to move as I watched the motorcycle turn, the wings flapping. Yes, flapping. The wings spread out wide on either side, golden and tipped with black. I watched the feathers catch the light as the cycle swept downward. Someone was riding the cycle, his hair golden hair streaming backwards.

It wasn't until he had landed that I saw the second figure gliding down as well.

"Maggie!" Edmond shouted and bounded into the tall grass. Soon I could only see his tail emerging at each leap as he charged out to meet her.

I tried to push away from the boulder and failed. I didn't even have the energy left to shiver and I wasn't certain how I kept my eyes open. I focused on the man climbing off the motorcycle that had landed a few yards away, the wings folding against the bright chrome surface.

Tall, thin, long hair falling back over his shoulders -- motorcycle dude. He could have ridden a flying surfboard and looked perfectly in place.

Maggie rushed past him and caught hold of me, magic spreading up over my shoulder and dulling the pain and maybe stopping the bleeding again. She was pale and her eyes large with worry.

"Why didn't you stay where I left you! We almost couldn't find you again!"

"Big wolves," I said, trying to pull my thoughts together. "Sheriff Creston. Unhappy trees. The frog didn't talk and the naiad didn't drown me. That's a win, right?"

And on cue, the wolves howled again.

"Davis!" Maggie shouted, turning to look over her shoulder.

"I'm here," Motorcycle Dude said. He put a hand to my forehead and frowned before he pulled back some of the cloth at my shoulder. Even with Maggie's magic, I felt the pull and a twinge of pain. "Can't do anything here. Let's get him on the cycle and head for my place. Fast."

"Yeah," she agreed. No one asked me. I wanted to rest until I heard the wolves closer again and decided resting somewhere else might be nicer.

Motorcycle Dude -- Davis -- gave a whistle and the motorcycle came closer, rolling over stones, the wings fluttering slightly. They had me on the seat before I could even gather the words to protest. Maggie grabbed up Edmond who gave a sigh.

"First a fish. Now a bird. When did I stop being a cat?"

"When you started talking," Davis and Maggie chorused.

I grinned. Edmond was already burrowing his head into Maggie's arm. Maggie, still holding on to Edmond, helped me settle better on the seat. Davis swung himself on behind me.

We took off immediately as the wolves bounded into the glade, some leaping at us as we took to the sky. I tried to turn to find Maggie and nearly fell until Davis caught tighter hold of me.

"Careful. Maggie is up. Don't worry; I wouldn't leave her behind. We don't have far to go."

Should I trust him? I had no choice. I looked down for a moment and watched the glade disappear behind another stand of trees. As we went higher, I thought I saw buildings in the distance in what appeared to be a haphazard array. The landscape directly below took on the design of a crudely-drawn checkerboard of fields and trees. I couldn't take it all in and decided to close my eyes instead. Everything moved in odd ways and I couldn't be certain if it was me, the world, magic. . . .

I slipped far away for the rest of the trip, only faintly aware of the roar of the cycle, the beat of the wings and Motorcycle Dude's arm around my waist, anchoring me in place. Safe, I supposed. The wolves couldn't get me here.

Unless they had wings. That seemed possible. I would need to ask.

When the cycle started to descend, I opened my eyes. Not far below stood a lovely cottage straight out of a storybook. The motorcycle dropped onto the neat grass and Davis immediately took me from the seat and started towards the building.

"Get the door open!" Davis shouted an arm around my waist as we stumbled forward.

A grey squirrel dropped from a tree and charged straight at the door, taking a prodigious leap and hitting it full force with all four paws. The door snapped open.

And then snapped back, hitting the squirrel who rolled away like a furry bowling ball. He quickly got back to his feet, shouted what was plainly a curse in squirrel speak, and charged again.

"Broom! Block the door!" Davis ordered.

The squirrel charged and the door snapped open while a broom moved inside, blocking it from closing again.

"Sorry," Davis said. "The door and I are having disagreements."

"Right." I watched the broom and the door with trepidation as we passed.

"Mark." Davis settled me into an overstuffed chair. My head spun and my shoulder ached. "I need to ask something before Maggie gets here."

"Yes?" I said, looking into his worried face.

"She doesn't know about your fae blood, does she?"

I stared at him, blinking. "What? What do you mean?"

He seemed to stop breathing as he leaned closer, looking me full in the face. "Damn. Hell." He glanced out the door, still held open by the broom. Maggie came down and Edmond leapt from her arms. "I'm going to do something extremely rude, and I apologize. I couldn't do this if you weren't so weak, but I think this is important."

"What --" I started, worried.

He put a hand on my forehead, cool fingers against my fevered skin. "Forget everything from the time we came into the cottage until now."

I blinked and looked around, startled. "Did I black out?"

"Yes," he said, but I thought his voice sounded odd. He stood as Maggie rushed into the room. "Keep your wings folded and sit with him. I need some supplies."

I watched him hurry away, wondering what I'd missed.


997 Words
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