Amberwoods Station – Part 3

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Anila leads you down the hall to a door. You hear a few gasps at the Gothic style wooden aperture. “I told you he’s a vampire,” she says. “But this is more for show than anything else. He’s actually a lot older even than the stories of Dracula. I don’t know how old he is, though a few of the people from his Multiverse do.” She knocks on the door.

“Come in Anila,” a deep, rich voice says.

Anila sighs and pushes open the door. “Maverick and Wyld Kard did come remind you of the rules, right?” she asks.

“Yes they did. I’m rather displeased that Nariel felt it necessary to send those pests to harass me, but I suppose I do have a tendency to ignore the directives of the station’s central core.”

The speaker is probably one of the most gorgeous men you’ve ever seen. His black hair is short and neatly trimmed. The beard on his face looks a little rough but is still well kept. He’s sitting with his shirt open showing off a magnificently well built body.

Anila sighs again. “Khey Lan, you know you look a little silly, right?”

Khey Lan grins, flashing a set of fangs. “I’d say our unexpected guests are pleased by what they see.”

Anila glances over her shoulder. She rolls her eyes. “Don’t get too enamored with him. If you’re not careful he will put you on his dinner menu.”

“You’ll ruin my fun if you keep this up, elf girl,” Khey Lan growls. Even that sounds sexy, and it goes deep into your soul.

“Get on with it, Khey Lan. I need to show the rest of the station to our guests and they need security clearance,” Anila says. “I also want to introduce them to the station’s core.”

“She’ll just love them. She always loves visitors to her domain,” Khey Lan says, his smile back. “Now then, let me see here. Which Multiverse are you from?”

“Nariel says they’re from 218,” Anila says.

Khey Lan raises an eyebrow. “A Multiverse where no magic exists? Where creatures such as us don’t exist as anything but stories?”

“Yes, and some rather poor ones at that,” Anila says. “I hope this will wake up their imaginations a bit more. I’m sure the station core would appreciate it.”

“You talk about this station core like it’s alive,” the priest says.

Khey Lan growls, this time without the sense of amusement in the last one. “She is alive. She is the creator of this station, and our Multiverses. You’ll be respectful or, rules be damned, I’ll tear your throat out.”

“Khey Lan, security clearances,” Anila says. “I’ll deal with this.”

“Fine.” Khey Lan presses something on his desk. Where he touches lights up, as if he were typing on a keyboard built into the surface. “They’re set. Go ahead and finish your tour. Watch out for Vixen. She’s on the warpath again. I think someone just killed one of her children.”

“Another one? How many does that she-wolf have?” Anila asks.

“I’m not sure,” Khey Lan says. “Last count was nineteen, but you know she’s virtually immortal. It doesn’t help that she’s one of the core’s first discoveries.”

Anila nods. “She is rather overpowered compared to the rest of us.” She turns and looks at all of you. “Let’s go. I can take you around safely now.” She leads you back out the door.

“Who is Vixen?” another passenger asks. “And why did you call her a she-wolf?”

“Do any of you know what a dire wolf is?” Anila asks. Several of your companions say yes. “She’s a shapeshifter from a multiverse named Dykaithra. She goes from a rather tall woman to a dire wolf. She’s extremely powerful and not easily killed. So far she’s ‘died’ twenty three times and has managed to return each time.” She shrugs. “That’s the core’s gift to her, though I’m wondering if it’s more of a curse these days. She’s watched three husbands die and, as you heard, multiple children. Also her best friend abandoned her several years ago so she’s really testy.”

“I am not testy.” A heavily accented voice echoes down the hall. A Japanese woman who looks like she easily stands over six feet tall stalks towards Anila. “I am angry. I am bitter. I am cynical. I am jaded. But I am not testy.”

“I was being polite, Vixen. I didn’t want to call you a raging bitch from hell, but if you want me to I can,” Anila says.

“That fits better anyway,” Vixen says. Emerald green eyes fix on you and you see your death in them. You shudder and swallow hard. “Who are these people?”

“Guests,” Anila said. “I just got them security clearance.”

“Well, keep them out of my way,” Vixen says as she continues past you. As you turn to watch her go, you see a katana and a wakazashi strapped to her back, and two more blades that look like long knives attached to her belt.

“Before you ask, she’s a ninja trained by two very elite ninja clans,” Anila says. “I’m not going to give you her whole history. It’s in the archives if you want to see it. Now, let’s keep moving. The station is huge and we have a long way to go before we get to the core.” She starts moving forward again and you have no choice but to follow her.

to be continued…

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Amberwoods Station – Part 2

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As you follow after the petite young woman, you hear one of your traveling companions squeak, as if she’s choking off a scream. You look over at her and feel your blood run cold. There’s a window right next to you. As you look out it, you see what you would swear is a bridge leading to Mars. Yet the sky doesn’t look quite right.

Anila comes up and looks out with you. “Oh for…” She pulls a tarnished silver mirror off of her belt. “So glad these things became so much useless junk a long time ago,” she mutters. She rubs her finger across it in what might be a pattern, if only you could wrap your mind around the view you’re seeing.

“Anila, I thought you were on guide duty,” a soft, lilting feminine voice says.

“I am,” Anila says. “But we have a problem.”

“What kind of problem?” The soft voice grows sharp.

“Bridge 273 came disconnected from Multiverse 14 again,” Anila says.

The voice, still quite soft, swears just as fluently as anyone you know – yet none of the words are familiar. “Who’s on maintenance in that sector? Do you know?”

“No,” Anila says. “I asked Donnevon who the security commander for this sector is and he suggests the Silver Wolf and Crimson, but I don’t know if that’s true either.”

“Give me a moment. I’ll be right there,” the soft voice says.

Anila grins. “You’re going to love this,” she says. “I hope you’re not afraid of ghosts.”

“They don’t exist,” one of your traveling companions says with a sniff. A quick glance shows he’s a priest of some sort. “I should know. I deal with the dead every day.”

“You deal with the corporeal dead,” the same soft feminine voice says from just behind you all. “You do not deal with those who pass on the Net.”

When you turn, you’re confronted by a beautiful Romani woman. She smiles sadly at you. “Anila, Donnevon was wrong, as usual. I swear Lia needs to keep a closer eye on him. His memory is going.”

“She says it’s just fine in their part of the Multiverse,” Anila says.

“That’s because he has access to the central cores of all their ships through that armor of his,” the woman mutters. She looks at you. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I always forget this part. My name is Nariel.”

“Who – what – are you?” the priest asks.

Nariel smiles. “That’s something you’ll have to visit my little piece of the Multiverse to find out. I wouldn’t recommend coming if you’re a technophobe though. It won’t be for you.”

“Nariel, focus. Do you know who’s in maintenance so we can get that fixed?” Anila says, pointing out the window. “Or who’s in charge of security on this level so I can get these poor people cleared?”

Nariel blinks. “Oh, no wonder I’m confused. These aren’t the visitors from Multiverse 618, are they?”

“No. 618’s guests got crossed with this group’s plane. I’m guessing 618’s passengers landed on whichever 21st century Earth this group came from,” Anila says.

Nariel looks at you, but it’s almost as if her eyes aren’t seeing you. Then she blinks. “Maverick says they’re from Multiverse 218.”

Anila cringes. She looks at you. “You might be better off staying with us. I’ve seen all of the news reports from your Earth. So many governments in chaos, war looming in so many places. At least this place is sometimes peaceful.”

“Don’t poach, Anila. You know we’re not allowed to do that,” Nariel says with a grin. She blinks again. “Maverick says our resident security manager for this area is…” She pauses with obvious glee. “Your favorite vampire.”

“You expect me to take them to see him?” Anila shrieks. “Every time I get anywhere near him he starts talking about how good I smell.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve sent the other two ahead to remind him of the rules. You’re off the menu,” Nariel says. She sees a few frightened looks and the priest starts fingering his cross. “First, my friends are taking care of the whole ‘if they walk they’re food’ thing with him and second, that cross won’t work, priest. When here, forget everything you think you know about vampires. Not all worlds in the Multiverse work that way, and if you try to act like they do you’ll get killed.” With that cheerful bit of news, Nariel waves and vanishes.

Anila sighs. “Well then, let’s get moving.”

“What’s so wrong with vampires?” a teenage girl asks. You look over and have to keep from groaning out loud. She has a copy of a certain book in her hands. It’s obvious it’s well read judging from the broken spine and well worn pages. “Vampires are cool.”

Anila looks at her, sees the book, and starts laughing. “That book doesn’t even have its own Multiverse, it’s so bad,” she says, still laughing. “Little girl, if you believe that tripe, you too will be in for a rude shock. No vampire anywhere in any of the multiverses that connect to the Amberwoods Station are like that. If you even try to compare them to those things in those books? I’ll let them eat you.” She skips a little before resuming her brisk pace. “This way, please. I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to make sure you’re all settled before I can do any of it.”

You hear the teenage girl sniffle as she tucks her book back in her bag. The others are all looking at you and each other, confusion obvious. A few steal glances out the window at the free floating bridge. You decide that all you can do is follow along and see where this goes. Perhaps you’re all dead in a plane crash and this is a delusion brought on by your brain starving for oxygen. Or, just maybe, this is going to be far more interesting than that boring conference on index card manufacturing your significant other finally got you to agree to meet them at.
to be continued…

It’s been a while…

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Hey everyone. So it’s been a while since I posted here. Let me assure you it’s not because I’ve been meaning to neglect all of you. Life just seems to keep getting in my way – that and I’ve got one hell of a crunch to get my novel done in time for my June publication date.

As you can see, the blog got another overhaul. I’ve decided to incorporate both my fantasy and my science fiction into one place. That place is Amberwoods Station. As the tagline says, it’s the “waystation for the characters from all the worlds created by Alison Guynes.” And Alison Guynes is, well, ME.

I have so many stories knocking about in my head that I decided I wanted a collective umbrella to put them under and – ultimately – publish them under. So Amberwoods Station now exists. It exists on Facebook as both a business page as well as a group. My DeviantArt page, as soon as I figure out how to change things up a bit, will reflect this as well. And the website I abandoned working on several months ago will also bear the Amberwoods Station name.

I have a good friend who’s working on my logo for me, so right now the images you see on this site are placeholders until I can get the full work up done. Also, as my publication date gets closer, you’ll be seeing more hints of my cover art, snippets of The Tiger’s Keeper (aka Tiger, Tiger), and other fun stuff tied into everything I’m doing.

So watch this space closely!

You never know who or what will show up. 😀

Amberwoods Station – Part 1

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(I know I said no more novels. Believe me, this won’t be one. I hope. XD Amberwoods Station is the name of the online store that will be centered around me and my books that I plan on eventually starting. I may even do a couple more little stories from it once I finish this one. Who knows?)

“Welcome to Amberwoods Station!” As you debark from what you THOUGHT was an ordinary airplane, you’re greeted by a cheerful young woman with almond shaped blue eyes flecked with black who stands at around the height of an average woman’s shoulder. Her blond hair is pulled back in two braids so you can see the elegantly pointed ears adorned with some very ornate gold jewelry.
“Anila, make sure you show them around this time,” someone calls. He’s tall, taller than anyone you’ve ever seen. His hair is the color of ink, and he is blessed with one amber eye and one green. His distinctly Asian look is at odds with his muscular build, and the military uniform he’s wearing doesn’t look like any you’ve ever seen.
The girl he called Anila sticks her tongue out at his back before turning back to you. She’s still smiling, but there’s something more in those blue eyes. The black seems more prominent and there’s a lot of pain and sorrow there that wasn’t there a moment before.
“Oh, you want to know who that was?” Anila asks, and the pain is gone. “That’s Commander Kuen Nakano. He’s part of the Sector Military Strategic Command.” She tilts her head and smiles. “If you want to know which Sector, you’ll have to wait to enter his universe.”
]
Universe? What the hell is going on here?
Anila smacks her forehead with the heel of her palm. On her wrists you can see odd marks, almost like writing but not in any language you’ve ever seen. “I really hate when the multiverse shifts like this. I wonder where the poor sods who were in the transport that was supposed to come here ended up. I hope they’re having a better day than you are.” Anila takes a deep breath. “Guests, you’d better follow me. There’s a lot for you to learn, and you’re going to be here for a while.”
“Anila, you were told to show them around.” The man who’s speaking now is shorter than Anila, but he appears to be built like a rock wall. He’s wearing some kind of high tech armor that looks well used. As you look, the armor moves as if it’s alive. You take a step back and his head snaps around. “Are they a threat? Do I need to eliminate them?” The armor begins to creep up his neck.
“Donnevon, stand down,” Anila says firmly. The man’s eyes go blank, and then his armor settles back into its old position. “There was some kind of error with the transportation system. I need to report this and have our new arrivals cleared for further exploration of the station.” She pauses. “I’ve never had this happen before. Who do I talk to?”
Donnevon looks at her. “I would say your best bet will be the Silver Wolf and his breeding partner,” he says. “I believe they are the security commanders of this level.” He pauses as well. “Or there is always…her.”
Anila blanches. “I’m not taking them to her unless I have to,” she says. She turns back to you. “I’ll take you to Gar and Lira. He’s one of the Wolves, and she’s a Wilding. It’s really funny. They’re both extremely low tech people. I mean, they come from a land even more primitive than mine. At least our magic is capable of making our lives simpler, much like your technology. In their home, magic is still very much a frightening thing and only a very few are allowed by law to use it. Lira’s one of those. Gar is her husband. Ignore the whole ‘breeding partner’ thing from Donnevon. There are no actual marriages in his world, or so he claims.” Anila shrugs. “His world is way more high tech and bloody than I can handle. So I only peek through the gate when it opens as someone travels through.”
Finally, one of your traveling companions gets the courage to speak. “Young lady, this game has gone on long enough. I’m going to be late for my daughter’s wedding,” she says.
Anila raises an eyebrow. “If your daughter lives in the mundane reality of 21st century Earth that I’m guessing you’re all from? You’ve most likely already missed it. Time here is, um, tricky. I think it’s only been a day or two since your vehicle disappeared, but I could be wrong. That’s something someone in Multiversal Space and Time Management should be able to figure that out for us.” She turns and starts down towards what you swear is a corridor in a space station. “Come on, this way!” She beckons and slowly all of you follow her.

Writing prompt #6 – Black sails of despair

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Writing prompt #6 – Lovelorn

Osgar stood on the dock, watching the horizon. He heard a snort behind him. “You need to stop this, Osgar,” a rough voice said.

Osgar looked over his shoulder. His cousin Abbas was just out of arm’s reach, hands on his hips. “Why should I?” Osgar asked.

“The fleet was lost. They’re not coming back,” Abbas said. “Besides, you know she doesn’t love you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Osgar said, feeling a stab go through his heart. “I still want her to come home safely. Not to mention my younger sister is in that fleet, as are your three sisters.”

Abbas scowled. “That’s true, and my parents and I have accepted the fact that they’re not coming back. Your parents have accepted the fact that Echo isn’t coming back. Why can’t you?”

“I can feel it in my soul,” Osgar said. “They’ll be home soon. I just know it.”

Abbas laughed. “Osgar, you traded your soul away long ago for the power to woo women. She’s the only one immune to the power you gained after that bargain.”

“There was no bargain, Abbas. You just don’t have any refinement in your interactions with women,” Osgar said, returning his focus to the horizon. He frowned. “Abbas, does that look like black sails to you?”

Abbas walked up next to his cousin. Osgar could see it in his posture that he was only there to humor him. Suddenly Abbas stiffened. “By the Sea Gods, Osgar. Those are black sails.” Abbas scratched at the scraggly beard on his chin. “But we don’t have any ships out right now.”

“Except for the lost fleet,” Osgar said pointedly.

Abbas turned and bolted back for the village. Osgar continued watching as the ships grew closer and closer. As they drew even with the docks he saw just how much of a miracle it was that they’d even made it home.

Great gaping holes showed in the worn gray wood hulls. The black sails were in tatters, and some of the masts were held together by metal bands. The women on the ships gave a ragged cheer as the men and children came running down to greet them.

Gangplanks were lowered to the docks by most ships. Those that didn’t have one anymore dropped rope ladders. The women abandoned the ships and ran into the waiting arms of their families.

Osgar bit his lip as Nadire, the object of his unrequited desire, limped off her ship. She was followed by Anara, Osgar’s younger sister. Anara saw him and flung herself into his arms, sobbing and shaking.

“It’s okay, little sister,” Osgar said, stroking her hair. “You’re home safe now.” He looked up at Nadire. “Welcome home, Captain Nadire.”

Nadire looked over at him. “Thank you.” She frowned. “Are you Anara’s husband? I don’t believe I remember seeing you before.”

Osgar’s heart broke. “No, Captain. I’m her older brother. I’ve spoken with you a number of times in the village.”

Nadire shrugged. “I speak to so many people I hardly remember any of them.” She strode through the crowd gathered towards the village and, presumably, her house.

Osgar continued smoothing Anara’s hair as his family joined them. His parents were crying, trying to pull Anara into their arms. She released Osgar and collapsed into their embrace. Osgar started crying himself. Everyone thought they were tears of joy, as theirs were. His were the bitter drops of a devastated heart.

Writing prompt #5 – Blood is a prison

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Writing prompt #5 – Captive

Ezras paced around the small tower room. He went to the door and tried it, but it remained locked. He kicked the door a few times but it remained stubbornly intact and the only thing he did was bruise his foot.

He resumed his pacing. How long had he been trapped in this tower? A year? Five years? Ten years? He growled, flexing his fingers. Once again he attempted to cast a spell to blast through everything to get to the stairs. The bindings on his wrists and the chain between them glowed and pain shot through his hands and arms. The spell faltered and died.

Ezras looked down. The scars from all of his previous attempts had protected him from serious harm, though there were the usual blisters forming. He shook his hands, listening to the chain clank, and resumed his pacing.

He went to the narrow window, barely more than an arrow slit in the gray stone wall, and prayed to the gods in what little he could see of the sky. He begged them to curse his sister and her line for the cruelties they’d heaped upon him at the death of his father, the rightful king of Praetoria. Ezras was the heir chosen by their father, but Efrosyni had other plans. No sooner was their father entombed with the rest of the sorcerer-kings of his line when she and her Bloodmancer husband wrested control of the grieving kingdom from Ezras.

Ezras was confined in the tower with only the barest of necessities and a handful of books as company. He’d been sealed inside and left to rot while Efrosyni and her husband polluted the land, murdered the common folk to fuel their power, and destroyed the thousand year legacy of peace and prosperity their ancestors had fought to protect.

Ezras started pacing again, noticing for the first time the smoothness of the wood where he’d worn down the floor from his footsteps. His circuit of the room brought him near the door. To his surprise, he heard voices – unfamiliar ones – outside on the stairs.

He stepped back to the center of the room and waited. He heard a key turn in the lock and the scraping of a heavy metal bar. The door swung open and he found himself face to face with a group of men and women in mage robes, but of a design he’d never seen before.

One of them – a woman who appeared to be in the latter years of her life – gasped. “Prince Ezras?” she asked.

“I am,” he said. “Who are you? How long have I been in this accursed tower? What has happened to my demon spawn sister and that inhuman beast she married?”

The woman smiled sadly. “I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me, Your Highness. The last time you saw me I was only a few years older than you. I am High Magus Sung-Hyun, though when you knew me I was just a Journeywoman.”

Ezras narrowed his eyes as he thought. “Yes, I remember you,” he said. “You were the precocious elementalist with the rare talent for combining two opposing elements.”

Sung-Hyun smiled. “Yes, and that ability – which you encouraged me to explore and embrace rather than hide – earned me my place in the Mage Council, where I’ve been for the past ten years.” Her smile faded. “Your Highness, I don’t know how to say this gently, so I will be blunt. Efrosyni sealed you in here with a mixture of time and blood magic. While you may not have recognized the full passage of time, it’s been sixty years since you were deposed.”

Ezras leaned against the door frame. “Sixty…years?” he asked weakly.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Sung-Hyun said. “Efrosyni, her husband, and her entire line were eradicated only five years after your imprisonment, but even at the end no one would tell us where you were. This tower was invisible to us until a few days ago, when the most recent mage storm tore the last of the old palace down.”

Ezras put his shackled hands to his chest. This was becoming more and more disturbing. One of the other mages motioned to a soldier with them. The soldier struck the chains from Ezras’ wrists. “Sung-Hyun, what are mage storms? The old palace? What’s happened?”

“Come back with us to the council hall and I’ll explain,” Sung-Hyun said, holding out her hand.

“High Magus,” one of the younger mages said, a look of contempt for the disheveled prince. “You have better things to do with your time than to talk to a prince from a bloodline we’re better off without.”

“My time is best spent comforting an old friend and helping him adjust to a world that would never have been if his sister hadn’t destroyed the natural balance of things with her madness,” Sung-Hyun snapped. She turned that same, sad smile she’d worn a moment before back on Ezras. “Please, Your Highness.”

Ezras took her hand, though his heart was heavy. He knew he was trading one prison for another. His sister’s chains were broken, but the bonds of the past and his own blood would weigh him down for eternity.

 

Writing prompt #4 – The curse of immortality

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Writing prompt #4 – Eternity

Mysie walked through the streets of the ruined city. Around her the ghostly sounds of children’s laughter, women dickering over things in the market, and men arguing in the inns with their voices carrying even through the din of the other sounds. She instinctively moved out of the way when she heard a cart coming up behind her. She waited but nothing passed her.

She looked down at the ground. No carts would drive across these jagged stones. A mule couldn’t even cross them. She’d had to leave her beast tied to a branch in the forest that was no more that two meters from the edge of the fallen outer walls.

She lifted her head and resumed her slow and steady pace. It didn’t take long to get to her destination. It was a small building, its roof and door long gone. Even the windows had finally shattered, though the last time she’d been there they were still holding on.

She walked in, mindful of the debris scattered all over the floor. She stopped and looked around. Memories showed her a house with pale yellow walls and curtains of a darker yellow cloth. The floor was a rich amber, sanded wood with a dark red and gold rug sitting on top of it. A rocking chair sat in one corner near a well made brick fireplace. A sturdy straight backed chair sat on the other side of the fireplace.

Two happy, healthy children played with their toys on the carpet while a woman sang cheerfully as she fed the baby. The man – their father and the woman’s husband – sat in the straight backed chair whittling a boat for one of the children.

As Mysie moved farther into the house, her foot struck something. She glanced down. It was the boat. It had been painted blue and red before being given to the boy and now the paint was faded and badly chipped. Mysie sank to her knees and picked up the toy. All of the emotions she’d held in check during her progression through the city broke free. She clutched the boat to her chest and sobbed, rocking back and forth.

Her home, her friends, her family – all centuries gone. The last Emperor dead not long after. The Empire had collapsed, leaving the country in shambles and ripe for conquest. What had once been the jewel of the world was now broken up into several smaller portions, all at war with each over for more land and resources.

Mysie cried for several minutes until she had no more tears. When the grief was once again under control she found her eyes and chest hurt. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. She stood and looked at the boat. She started to set it on an exposed beam. She stopped, looked at it again, and then put it in a pouch on her belt.

Once before, she’d told people the gods had cursed her with immortality. They’d scoffed when she said it was a curse. They could only see the possibility of gaining unimaginable wealth, having as many spouses as they wanted over the years, leaving a large family line behind them, or watching their enemies die. They didn’t know the pain and sorrow she endured as she watched those she loved die while she remained forever young. They didn’t realize the horror of watching endless wars, and the bodies that piled up because of them.

Immortality was no gift. It was a curse. She screamed to the gods daily to take it away from her. They ignored her and left Mysie to wander the world in misery for eternity.

Writing prompt #3 – A thief’s mistake

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Writing prompt #3 – A working-dad desperate for money to feed his family turns to robbery, only to find that he’s chosen a wizard as his victim.

Germanus watched as Jacira cut thin slices of the one loaf of bread he’d been able to bring home that day. His wife had a pinched look around her eyes, evidence of the hunger the entire family was feeling. Jacira stirred the pot where a very thin soup was boiling. It was water, some chicken bones Germaus had scavenged from an inn’s refuse pile, and some wrinkled vegetables he’d gotten at the market for a few pennies.

Lileas and Kiaran staggered up to the table. Germanus wanted to cry. His children were getting weaker and they were dangerously thin. Winter was coming and he feared that none of his family was going to survive the bitter cold.

The food was served and his chilren ate with the ravenous delight of the starving. “Mother, I’m still hungry,” Kiaran said, looking up at his mother with wide green eyes.

“Me too,” Lileas said, her blue eyes full of hunger and pain.

“Jacira, give the children my share,” Germanus said. “I’ll eat at breakfast.”

“Germanus, you were working on the cathedral today. You have to be hungry,” Jacira said.

“I am, but the children come first,” Germanus said.

Jacira refilled the children’s bowls and gave them the other two slices of bread. “You’re right dear, of course. The children should always come first.”

Lileas and Kiaran ate the rest of the food. “Now, off to bed with you,” Germanus said. “You have your lessons in the morning and I don’t want you falling asleep again. Your teacher doesn’t appreciate it.”

The children ran to their beds and curled up under the quilts. Jacira came and sat down across from her husband. “Germanus, this can’t go on,” she said in a soft voice. “The children won’t last the winter, and I’m not sure you and I will either. They’re getting too weak to even go to their lessons. What are we going to do?”

Germanus looked at a small chest in the corner of the room. It contained tools from a long ago life, a trade he’d given up when he met Jacira. Jacira followed his gaze. She turned back to look at him, a stricken look on her face.

“It’s all we have left, love,” Germanus said. “What else are we going to do? Until I can find work that pays a living wage we’re going to continue to go hungry. I won’t see our children die for want of food and warm clothing just because my employer is a skinflint who won’t give his employees more than the bare minimum required by the law.”

“Just don’t get caught, my dearest,” Jacira said. “We won’t survive if you’re in prison.”

Germanus kissed her. “I’m not completely out of practice,” he said. “I won’t get caught.”

Germanus opened up the chest and pulled out items he thought he’d never be using again – lockpicks, a small crowbar, climbing gloves, a rope, a grappling hook, smoke potions, and a set of clothing that vanished in the shadows. He changed into his thief’s outfit and walked through the door into the night.

Germanus slipped from dark patch to dark patch, watching for a likely place to hit. He couldn’t strike out at the ones in his area. The vast majority of those who lived there were as poor as he was.

He moved into the wealthier parts of town. He moved through the alleyways, looking in windows and keeping an eye out for the Night Patrol and household guards. As he grew discouraged by what he found, he peered through the window of a nondescript looking house to see inside a vast treasure trove of unique items that could signify great wealth.

He tested each window on the first floor and found them all securely locked. He glanced up and saw that all of the windows on the second floor were open. He used his grappling hook and climbed up the wall. He checked a couple windows and found one that looked like it led into an empty bedroom. He slipped inside.

He pulled a tiny candle out of his pocket and lit it with a match. The room was plain and unadorned with the kinds of fine things he expected to find. He shrugged, thinking it might have been a servant’s room, and cracked the door a little bit.

The hall was dark and no one was about. Germanus slid out of the room, closing the door silently behind him. He crept along, moving as silently as he could, looking through keyholes and under doors until he found one that appeared to be empty of people but full of treasure.

He pushed the door open and went in. The door slammed behind him and a rope rose from the ground and wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his body. A man dressed in rune covered robes and several heavy looking amulets materialized in front of him. He walked over and retrieved Germanus’ candle before settling into a chair. He steepled his fingers. “Tell me, little thief. Who are you and why have you entered my home uninvited?”

A compulsion so strong settled over Germanus that he knew he was under a spell. “My name is Germanus Calabrese, Master Mage. I’m a mason by trade. My family and I have very little. My employer pays only what the law requires so we are starving. I can’t let my children die, so I took to thieving again to supply us with the money to fill our larder so our children would be able to survive while I looked for other employment.”

The mage scrutinized him closely. “Well, you certainly are close to death. If you’re this way I can only imagine what your wife and children look like.” The mage tilted his head to one side. “No matter how noble your reason, you still were intending to steal from me. What do you think your punishment should be?”

Germanus met his gaze with no fear. “Do whatever you wish to me, Master Mage. I care not. But give my family the means to survive and I will meet your price.”

“You’re a brave man, Germanus Calabrese. A caring and loyal one too. I could use a man like you in my endeavors,” the mage said thoughtfully. “The work I’d have you doing would be hard, dangerous, and dirty. Your unusual skills would come in quite handy in fact.” He made a complicated gesture with his fingers and the ropes fell to the floor. The compulsion was gone as well. “I will take you into my employment. Your wages shall be fifteen silvers a week. That should be enough to help support your family, to get them into a better place.”

“Thank you, Master Mage,” Germanus said. “I will serve you until the end of my days.”

The mage smiled. “That is good to know.” He stood and walked over to a small chest on a side table. He pulled out a coin pouch and counted something into it. “Here are twenty silver, your first two weeks’ wages. You won’t receive your normal pay for those two weeks as this is a loan against those. This should help your family now, and once you’ve paid back the loan you will be given your normal pay.” He handed the pouch to Germanus.

“Thank you again, Master Mage,” Germanus said, taking the pouch and bowing.

“You will call me Master Berker,” the mage said. “Now, leave and return to your family. I expect you back here at nine o’clock in the morning.”

“As you wish, Master Berker,” Germanus said. He clutched the pouch to his chest as he hurried out of the house. He felt a rush of joy, and a tremor of fear. He didn’t know what the mage would make him do, but now his family would be taken care of and he wouldn’t need to worry about his children starving to death any more.

Writing prompt #2 – The forgotten

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Writing prompt #2: A neglected god or goddess attempts to reclaim his or her former glory.

Nadzeya paced around her once glorious palace. She paused and looked at one of the columns. The black marble was cracked and the glittering veins of gold now resembled tarnished copper more than the precious metal.

It was all that Frane’s fault. He’d slipped his priests in to her lands and polluted the minds of her followers. They’d turned against her to join the ranks of his flock. Her temples and shrines were destroyed, the clerics that remained loyal slaughtered, and Frane stepped into her place.

As a result she was trapped in her realm. There were no songs, no souls offering her worship – they had been claimed by Frane as well due to the ancient laws governing the gods – and her power had been diminished to the point where she could barely light the lamps.

She went to her seeing pool, one of the few pieces of magic that still worked for her. She waved her hand over the surface and the world below appeared to her hungry eyes. She watched the various lands, her heart breaking as war after war filled her vision.

She was about to end the spell when she heard soft crying. She frowned and focused the pool in on the sound. It was a woman with several daughters standing beside three graves. The woman was in her elder years. She was clinging to one of her oldest daughters, a plain woman with brown hair and green eyes. She was sobbing as much as her mother. Another of the grown daughters was holding an infant and sobbing as well.

The younger children – Nadzeya realized that some of the youngest most likely belonged to the oldest daughters – were crying and yelling at the graves for their fathers to wake up.

“Mother, where are the gods? Why have they abandoned us?” the daughter with the infant asked. “Why didn’t they save them?”

“Frane abandoned us long ago, when Empress Lilibet made human sacrifice against the law. The priests declared war on her for her heresy. I remember the brutal response from the empress to that. She sent the army in and they ruthlessly slaughtered over half of Frane’s priests. He abandoned us and no other god or goddess has come forward to take his place. We’re cursed by his disapproval as far as they’re concerned and they want nothing to do with his ire.”

Nadzeya smiled slowly. She gathered what was left of her power and reached out to the women. Her spectral form appeared to them. Not all the gods are afraid of him, she said. I will serve the citizens of this land, if you will have me.

“Who are you?” the old woman asked.

I am Nadzeya, Goddess of the Shadows, Nadzeya said. Frane is my mortal enemy and I have no fear of challenging him.

“Goddess, will you help me?” the daughter with the infant asked. She held out her child. He was covered in burns. “He is dying and no healer will do anything.”

Nadzeya knew she had to do something to cement her authority among these women, but she wasn’t sure she had enough strength to do a full healing. She took a deep breath and pulled as much power as she could from the land around her. To her surprise, she was filled with a portion of her former strength. It wasn’t enough for her to fully manifest, but she could do the healing.

She stretched her hands out to the infant. Power flowed from her and surrounded the baby. The blisters vanished and the red bled away from his skin. The child, who’d been whimpering the entire time, fell silent and relaxed. He opened his eyes and smiled at the goddess before closing them again and falling into a peaceful sleep.

He needs rest, but he is healthy again, Nadzeya said with a gentle smile. A hint of excitement filled her. Could this be the start? Would any of these women be her first clerics?

Three of the older girls moved forward and knelt before her. “Goddess, we ask that you accept us into your service,” they said in unison. “We will serve you for the rest of our days and spread your word and deeds to the rest of our community and beyond, if necessary. Your name shall be spoken by every lip in our land and you will be revered by all.”

Nadzeya’s strength increased slightly, giving her enough energy to solidify a little more. It wasn’t enough to bring her full body to the human world, but now she could touch them. She put her hands on each of their heads. When she did, their homespun clothing turned into the gold and white robes of her clerics.

Go forth and spread the word of my gospel, my daughters, she said. I will do what I can to help this land, but I need hands here to aid me. The more you can turn to my service and the more who will join your ranks the more power we can bring against the enemies of your ruler and Frane if he should return.

“It shall be as you say, my Goddess,” all three of the young women said, rising to their feet. They hugged their mother and sisters before heading towards a small house.

Nadzeya figured they were gathering supplies for the first leg of their journey. She smiled at the elderly woman. I will watch and guard your daughters, good woman. I will protect them as much as I am able. I will help them find those to serve as their bodyguards so those who would seek to do them harm find themselves stopped and left to face justice.

“Thank you my Goddess,” the elderly woman said, bowing. “You have given us hope when we thought there was none less in this world. We never thought that was possible.”

Nadzeya felt the tug on her soul, meaning she needed to return to her world. You will see me again, my children. She returned to her world, tired but exhilarated. She looked around her palace. The gold seemed to be shining a little mo re and some of the cracks were smaller. A new land, new clerics, and a new chance at regaining her former glory. She laughed. Frane wouldn’t know what hit him.

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