Born of sea and sand


Photo via Visual hunt

Born of sea and sand,
Walking in the dawn.
Listening to the waves,
As they crash against the shore.
I watch as seals play freely among the swells,
Longing to join them.
But I shed my skin long ago,
And now must pay the price.

Was it worth it?
For him, I don’t know.
But to see my children,
Hear them laugh,
Watch them play.
Casting my skin into the sea,
Swearing never again to become what I was born,
It is enough.

My children are different,
Neither completely of my world nor his.
The love of the sea and the forest
Wars within them.
I see it in them every day as they run
First to the water and then to the trees.
My sons love the green,
My daughters the blue.

I wonder sometimes
If my daughters will take my place.
If one day they will shed their human skin
And swim among our family.
But they are not true born,
They do not have the protections I did.
Just as my sons carry not the totems of my husband.
But one day our children will find peace.


Wednesday Snippet – The Miner and the Lady


Photo credit: Poulepondeuse via / CC BY-NC-ND

Dairine is an only child and has long been the center of her father Lord Gwillym’s life. Now an interloper has entered the picture in the form of her new stepmother Lady Ethne. A curse has fallen on the child and only the magic of her rather unusual friends and her father’s love can help her.

It was late, and Gwillym was tired. He started towards his chambers. He heard running footsteps behind him. He turned around to see the healer. “My lord, we’re losing her.”

Gwillym ran into his daughter’s room. She was gasping for breath and her whole body shook. “What happened?”

I don’t know. We’ve been giving her tea and broth every few hours to keep her strength up. We just fed her as we usually do. Within minutes she was like this. We’ve done everything we know how to do,” the healer said.

I’ll be back.” Gwillym strode out of the room. He ignored everyone and made his way into the forest. He went to the altar. “What else can I do? She’s dying and I can’t stop it.”

There was silence for a moment, and then the forest came alive. The ethereal being appeared, followed by the gnarled man and a woman no bigger than his hand. “Someone has poisoned her with dark magic,” the ethereal being said. “The little magic we have been able to do is useless against it.”

Then what am I supposed to do?” Gwillym asked. “I swore an oath.”

You did, and we have a way to help her,” the tiny woman said. “But it’s going to take you being alone with her once more. Use whatever excuse you must. But no one else must see you.”

What is it?” Gwillym asked.

The gnarled man handed him a few leaves. “Place these leaves in her mouth. They will dissolve quickly and she’ll be able to swallow them. We’ve put as much of our magic as we dare into them. We cannot guarantee they will work, but it’s the best we can do.”

Gwillym took the leaves. “I’ll do as you say. Thank you.”

Send the little one out to thank us when she’s well,” the tiny woman said. They faded back into the forest.

Gwillym returned to the keep. “My lord, she’s stopped shaking but her breathing has become even more labored,” the healer said.

Send everyone out of the room,” Gwillym said. “I want some time to say my good bye in private.”

Of course, my lord.” The healer bustled everyone out. Gwillym walked inside. He saw Ethne at the foot of Dairine’s bed. She had a dressing gown wrapped around her nightdress. “Ethne, I need some time to myself here.”

I hate to think of you holding her if she were to die,” Ethne said.

Please,” Gwillym said. “I need to have this time with her.”

Very well,” Ethne said. “I just pray she lives long enough to hear your farewell.” She walked out, her nightdress fluttering around her ankles.

Gwillym searched the room carefully before sitting down at his daughter’s side. He pried her mouth open and placed the leaves on her tongue. They dissolved quickly and she swallowed them. Gwillym held her in his arms. He kissed her sweat soaked forehead. “I know you can’t hear me, Dairine. But I want you to know I’m sorry. This isn’t natural. Your friends have said as much. This didn’t start happening until she came. You were right. I should never have brought her here.”

Gwillym laid her back down. She gave a shuddering sigh and went still. He bowed his head. The healer opened the door. “My lord?” Gwillym stood and stepped to the side so the man could see. The healer approached the bed and started checking her over. “My lord, her breathing has eased. I don’t know if this was a passing thing or if it will happen again. But for now she seems to be safe.”

My dad


This is a stock photo. My dad doesn’t like having his picture online in very many places.

Yesterday was my dad’s 82nd birthday. I called him and wished him a happy birthday on Friday, since I knew he was going to be out all day. Even at 82 he still gets around. He loves going for picnics and drives all over southern Idaho. He says he’ll keep going until the doctors tell him he can’t anymore.

That day is coming sooner than any of us would like to admit. Dad has diabetes, a bad heart valve, and is losing his sight. He’s being treated for all three things, and if all the doctors’ advice and all his medications are taken correctly, we should have him for a few more years. For which I’m grateful, because – like with my mom – he is not the dad I grew up with.

The dad I knew as a child was a workaholic. He was never home. He would work late. Even when he was home he was never “home”. He had days where he’d be distant from all of us. It was hard to be around him sometimes because he watched what my mom did and didn’t do anything to stop her. He let her abuse us and to me it seemed he just didn’t care.

But I do have more pleasant memories of him than I do of my mom. One of my favorites was sitting with him and my sister when he’d get out his guitar. We’d sing all sorts of songs. Folk songs, church songs, whatever he felt like playing. None of us could hold a tune in a bucket, but it didn’t matter. With him playing his guitar, it was magical.

Then there were the summer camping trips. He’d take a week off from work and we’d go up into the mountains. He’d pick a campground and we’d set up camp there. We’d play in the river, fish, cook, play games, and go for hikes. We just enjoyed ourselves immensely on those trips. We’d have picnics and fishing trips on weekends too, since he was a government worker and they didn’t work weekends. Well, most weekends at least.

Now my dad doesn’t play his guitar anymore. The arthritis in his hands has long since made him give it up to my niece. She plays it for her girlfriend and their friends now. Dad still goes camping and fishing in the summer, but he no longer pitches a tent. He has a camper trailer that he takes for him, my stepmom, and my younger sister. He just can’t sleep on the ground anymore. The arthritis in his back won’t let him.

In my mind, I see two people when I think of my dad. I see a man who turned away when his wife abused their children. Then I see the man who was there, in the moment, living and loving and enjoying life. I saw more of him when he retired from the IRS, but not as much as I’d have liked to see because he ended up taking two jobs just to support the family.

Then, after my mom died, he retired from his final job and has not gone back into the work force. He lives off his retirement incomes and does his best. He takes care of my little sister because my mom would have wanted him to. He loves all of us and now plays an active role in our lives. I love him and I hope to have many more years with him, though I know that death stalks him as inevitably as it does us all.

I have a love/hate relationship…


…with medications.

I’m taking several right now. There’s the ones for my seizure disorder, the ones for my bipolar disorder, the ones to help with my chronic headaches and stomach aches, and the ones to help with the pain in my left side (that I STILL have no clue where it came from or how to get rid of it). I currently have nine pill bottles sitting on my table. One is a “take as needed” medication, and I’ve only taken one so it isn’t too bad. But the others have to be taken at certain times in the day.

I try to keep myself on a rigid schedule, but sometimes that doesn’t always work. I’ll forget to take the morning dose, which includes my stomach medication, so I’m sick to my stomach during the day. Or I’ll skip my night dose and wonder why I slept so badly. It’s really hard sometimes to remember.

Then there’s the second guessing myself. Did I already take the meds? Doubling up on a dose isn’t really a healthy thing with some of these meds. I don’t want to overdose on them in any way. What if I already took them and I’m taking them again? Should I not take them and just say I took them? Do I take them and run the risk of taking them a second time? These are the thoughts I get running around through my head quite often, especially in the morning when I’m trying to get ready to go out and tend the animals. I take my meds before I go out, but sometimes I’m so tired that I can’t remember two seconds after I’ve taken them if I’ve done it or not.

Why am I bringing up meds? Well, yesterday I went to my med manager – finally, after 9 months of arguing, fighting, and constant pressure on people – to see what she could do about my meds. I told her the issues I was having – i.e., they don’t fucking work anymore – and that I was tired of all the mood swings. I also told her that my therapist and I felt I was more Bipolar I than Bipolar II. I told her about some of the side effects the pills were having (like the Zyprexa putting me to sleep during the day) and expected her to figure out what I needed from our nearly hour long conversation.

Well my med manager isn’t convinced I’m Bipolar I rather than Bipolar II. She didn’t believe me when I told her what happened when they tried to put me on Seroquel. (I think that’s how it’s spelled.) She didn’t seem to believe that I just grew out of meds working. Instead she thought the doctors didn’t try a high enough dose of them. And now, even with the side effects of the Zyprexa being explained to her, she’s doubled my dose of Zyprexa to begin with. She’ll add or subtract from the others as needed, especially after my neurologist appointment next month if they decide to take me off my anti-seizure med, which has been doubling as part of my anti-mood swing meds for three years.

Needless to say, I was a little flummoxed. I told her that I didn’t want to sleep my day away and Zyprexa makes me fall asleep at the drop of a hat. She told me that taking a nap during the day is fine, as long as it doesn’t interfere in my work. Then I told her about my just sitting down and dozing off without even trying. She told me to get up and move around for a few minutes each time that happens to avoid that.

Useful advice but really, you’re doubling the dose on a medication I’ve already told you gives me problems? And I still have to go in tomorrow morning for a fasting blood draw. She didn’t tell me that’s what it was and I went from one side of Newport to the opposite end of Lincoln City, which is a fair distance, only to find that out. So between now and tomorrow morning I can’t have anything other than my meds and water. Yay for me.

I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s been doing this a lot longer than I’ve been taking Zyprexa. But if it severely impacts my life, I’m calling her back and telling her that. I won’t let a medication stop me from doing what I need to/what I love to do. That is not going to happen ever again.

We need to be advocates for ourselves when it comes to medical situations, whether it’s for physical ailments or mental health issues. Very few of us have someone else to go to bat for us. We need to become educated on our medications, our conditions, what treatment options there are out there, and what we can expect down the road. We need to let our doctors know we know this and don’t let them bully us into things. I think I may have done that today and I’m already regretting it. I see her again in a month. We’ll have to wait and see what happens then.

On a lighter note, I’ve taken up vlogging again. They’re nothing special, but here’s the first of my new batch of vlogs. I’d love it if you checked it out. I’ll be posting on random topics once a week. I’m not going to script them out or anything like that. It’ll be just whatever crosses my mind. I may also do some other types of videos too, like knitting instruction videos or something later down the line. Not sure yet. We’ll have to see. Anyway, here’s the link to the video and this is me saying have a great weekend!

Oregon Coast Chronicles Episode 1

Let’s talk social media


Let’s talk social media. No, I’m not going to tell you all of the benefits or all of the drawbacks to it. You’ve heard all of those before and I’m sure you’ll hear all of them again. Instead I want to tell you what social media has done for me.

I am an introvert, I suffer from PTSD, and I am bipolar I. That doesn’t make it easy to be around people. I’ve always had a hard time making friends and keeping them. In fact, of all the friends I made during my high school years, there’s only one I still talk to. The ones from my college years are all gone.

I used to play in a table top RPG group. That was both fun and difficult at the same time. Fun because I could use my imagination freely. Difficult because I was around people that got really exuberant at times. Loud voices are one of my triggers so it could sometimes lead to me needing a few minutes of quiet to compose myself. A lengthy trip to the bathroom was usually my way of dealing with it. Or sitting inside while everyone else went out to smoke.

But we moved away from those friends and I became even more isolated. I was drowning in a sea of loneliness but was too anxious to do much. I tried going out with Tims but he and his friends were often loud and that didn’t help my anxiety. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then came Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. And suddenly a whole new world opened up for me.

I met my two closest friends on Facebook – Joelle and Deborah. Joelle and I started talking when I asked a question about BDSM. Deborah and I started talking because we were in one of the same writing groups. Joelle and I now talk to each other every day through IM. Deborah and I exchange daily emails, she’s come to visit me once, and I plan on making a return visit since she’s only about two hours away from the farm.

I’ve also made a whole host of other friends, people who notice when I’m offline for a while. People who are there to talk to when I need a shoulder to cry on. If I post about my depression, they offer support. If I talk about something exciting, they’re right there to celebrate with me. They wish me a happy birthday, something my own family (other than my husband…he doesn’t forget) couldn’t even manage this year.

Social media has made it so I can socialize, have friends, and talk to people I’d certainly never have had a chance to before – such as my friends in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Hell, even in different parts of the US and Canada. I’d never have gotten to know any of you without social media.

Yes, social media can be a real time sink. It can be a distraction at the wrong moment. It can be used to bully people with impunity through anonymity. There is a dark side to it. But there is still so much good in it and I appreciate all it has done for me. And I want to thank all of you for your friendship and your care over the time we’ve known each other, as it has meant the world to me. I hope for many more years with all of you and one day to maybe even meet more of you in real life, with the ice broken because of our social media experiences.

Monday Musings – Depression and other life bits


I’m not sure what I want to say today. I’m not sure I have anything to say. But I didn’t want to let another Monday go by without some kind of blog post, since my blog schedule is supposed to be Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I’m terrible at keeping up with that though, for two reasons. One, I can’t think of blog topics to write about. Two, it just feels like no one reads my blog anyway so why should I bother.

Except I do know that there are those of you who read my blog. You leave me comments. If we’re friends on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll send me notes there. You’ll share/retweet my link. But still, the most views any of my posts got this past week was six. That was Monday Six views and I have 31 followers here on WordPress, plus whoever drifts in from Facebook and Twitter. Friday only got 3 views. I’m just wondering what I do this for.

My depression has started to rear its ugly head again. I’ve been (somewhat) successfully fighting it off for the past few days, but as of Sunday night, it’s hit back hard. It doesn’t help that I’m in constant pain with no real idea why or how to resolve the issue. It’s one of those things that I just have to ride out until it’s over. I’m on day five though, with no sign that it’s getting any better. I suppose the fact it isn’t getting worse is a plus. I would just like to wake up and have no pain and not be depressed.

I do get to talk to the med manager (FINALLY!) on Thursday morning, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m hoping she does something, but right now from what my therapist was saying there might not be a med change at this visit. I’ve got no freaking clue why that would be, since I’ve needed a med change since, oh, LAST YEAR. But we’ll have to see what happens. I’ll let you all know about it on Friday.

I did manage a successful experiment on Sunday night for dinner. We raise rabbits, as some of you might remember from my farm posts. Well, we’ve been systematically butchering our rabbits. We did two probably about a month ago, and we did two on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week. Sunday night we ate the first of the two from last week.

I needed something to do with them, and as they’re pretty old rabbits, I needed something that would stew it. I only used one, but I took a slow cooker chicken and dumplings recipe and made rabbit and dumplings instead. Oh my chocolate covered blueberries did it come out good. I adjusted the recipe a little to make it taste better. But it was the first soup/stew I’ve made where I didn’t use some kind of bouillon or broth. It was the meat and the rest of the ingredients that made up the soup that flavored the water.

What I’m really proud of are my dumplings. The last couple times I tried chicken and dumplings, my dumplings were slimy masses of goo no matter how long they cooked. This time they were a little soft on the outside – but not slimy – and bready on the inside. That’s the texture I was looking for. It took longer for them to cook than the recipe said it would, but it was worth it. The whole thing turned out wonderfully. I am definitely going to make this again, probably using chicken next time but still. It was really good.

My writing is going okay. I’ve started a side project to my novel Fury which is kind of a prequel. It gives more insight into Fury’s dad, but it’s also helping me get to know more about the main villain in Fury’s sequel and how she became what she is in Fury/Fury 2. The layers of her personality that are coming out are something I didn’t know about her until I started talking to her and writing this.

Well, that’s enough rambling from me today. Everyone have a wonderful week!

Fiction Friday – Lycantha Blossoms


Here’s part two of last week’s story. I hope you enjoy it.

Ailsa opened her eyes onto a darkened room. She knew without calling her mage lights that she was alone. She rose to her feet and drifted out onto her balcony. She looked down, judging the distance to the ground. It was far enough that she would die when she struck the courtyard below. She rested one hand on the smooth marble rail. Not that way, ne salan, a voice whispered into her mind.

“Torgeir?” Ailsa whispered, her disbelief plain.

The pale spirit of her murdered soul mate appeared before her. Not that way, ne salan, he repeated. Your father seeks comfort from Illior, and he finds none. He will find even less in the sight of his beloved daughter’s body should you jump.

“I can’t live without you,” Ailsa said. She began to sob. “It feels like my own soul has been ripped out of me. I can’t breathe and I feel so cold.”

Illior does not require such a thing of either of us, ne salan, Torgeir assured her. Go to the garden. He faded away.

Ailsa crept out of her door, her slippered feet making no more than a faint hiss against the stone. Kelledron was sleeping in a chair beside the door. She held her breath as she moved past him. She ran down the stairs. There were no servants with prying eyes to see her.

No one was in the hall leading to the nursery. Since her departure from there some seasons earlier, it was left empty. She made her way out of the glass doors that led into the garden. She made her way to her Life Tree, where Torgeir’s spirit awaited her. “I’m here,” she said.

Ne salan, Torgeir murmured. He smiled at her. Will you place your trust in Illior?

“Yes,” Ailsa said without hesitation.

Then come to me, ne salan, Torgeir said. He held out his arms. Ailsa trembled as she stepped across the short distance into his arms. As their hands met, she returned his smile. He pulled her into a loving embrace. Soon all she could see was light.

“Father, Ailsa’s gone. I can’t find her.” Kelledron was frantic. He ran into his father’s study. Thanolos and the twins were brought to their feet. “She got past me somehow. I swear I cast the wakefulness charm but something put me to sleep.”

“Illior only knows what kind of strength Ailsa has in her madness,” Thanolos said, absolving his son of any wrong-doing in his sister’s escape. “We have to find her.”

The whole family split up, looking for any sign of the missing girl. Kelledron searched the garden. In the corner, next to her Life Tree, he found his sister’s favorite bracelet. “Father.” His voice rang through the air.

Thanolos, Eliana, and Hania hurried to join him. Ailsa’s Life Tree withered, showing that she was dead. Ailsa’s sunstone bracelet gleamed in the light of the moon. “She’s gone,” Thanolos said. His voice broke.

“Where’s her body?” Eliana asked, tears falling down her cheeks.

Something brushed against Kelledron’s hand. He looked down to find himself staring at a flower he didn’t know. He called up a mage light so he could see them better. They were delicate blossoms of the palest azure with startling golden centers. They smelled of sunlight and his sister’s favorite perfume. Just looking at them comforted him. “Father, look.”

“Where did these come from?” Thanolos asked.

“Lycantha,” Eliana said, her voice full of wonder.

“What is that?” Thanolos asked.

“Illior took Ailsa,” Hania said. “He wasn’t going to force her to live without Torgeir. He’s left us this flower in exchange for her body. It is called a lycantha blossom, a spirit flower. It will wrap around her Life Tree and flower during the warm seasons. Its seeds can be planted elsewhere, the vines growing up in the garden. A lycantha only grows in the ground of the House the spirit came from.”

There was nothing else to say. The twins returned to the manor while Kelledron and his father stood beside each other, staring at the blooms. Kelledron reached down and hooked the vine over one of the branches. “There,” he said. “Her Life Tree will continue to live, if only in these little flowers.” The two men walked back to the house.

Swallowing my pride


So Saturday I did something I never thought I’d do. I set up a Gofundme and a Patreon. I did them for two different reasons. The Patreon is to help me bring in some income above my disability to help around the farm. I intend to write/publish short stories for my patrons there. I’m going to have to figure a way to do up the things nicely, but I’ll come up with something.

The Gofundme is because I’m at a point where something has to be done about my mouth. That isn’t going to be cheap, I don’t have the money for it, and it’s going to be a while before we have any kind of income of that level. It needs to be dealt with now, and I finally had to just do it.

Asking for money is hard for me. I used to ask my dad for money, and it killed me every time I did. I hated asking him because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pay him back until much later, if at all. But he was always generous and helped us out when we were in a tight spot. Wayne takes care of all the bills, but sometimes we need something extra and I have to ask him for money to work with groceries because we’ve run out of our grocery budget. I hate doing that too. But sometimes asking for it is the only way to go.

I’m that way about asking for help as well. I hate asking for help. I’d rather do something myself. But there comes a point when I just can’t do it and I have to ask. By then, what should have been an easy task might have become much harder because I wasn’t willing to admit I couldn’t do it by myself.

I tend to take this route with my mood swings too. I let things get out of control without saying anything until I’m at the point of a meltdown. Then what could have been handled with some extra help – either by my counselor or my husband…or both – is so big that it takes a long time and a lot of energy to deal with.

Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and do what we don’t want to so we can make things work. I hate asking for help, but if I want things to run smoothly I have to do it. I hate needing to be on disability, but I can’t do the traditional work outside the home that is usually required to be considered a constructive member of society so it’s necessary. I won’t say I’m not grateful for it. It’s been a literal life saver over the past four years. I just wish things weren’t so badly broken in my mind that I needed it.

If you find yourself needing to do something you don’t really want to, something that hits you right in the pride button, stop and assess the situation. Is it really so bad that you have to do it? Whether it’s asking for help, breaking down and doing something you’ve been putting off because it’s unpleasant, or taking care of a problem that needs attention, just do it.

Yes, setting up the Gofundme and the Patreon did hit me in the anxiety button as well as the pride one. But I pushed through it. I don’t know if either of these are going to work for me. We’ll have to wait and see. I really hope, if/when you have to do something that affects you as this has done to me, you can get positive results out of it. That is the ultimate vindication for doing something that makes you uncomfortable.

Fiction Friday – Ailsa

Wisteria-Tunnel-Kawachi-Fuji-Garden-8This is Part One of a short story I wrote about the elves on another continent in my fantasy world. I hope you enjoy it!

Ailsa Wintersong stared out over the dark forest, her eyes full of tears. She wrung her hands together, her nails cutting fine lines into her delicate fingers. The woman beside her took hold of them and pressed them against the window sill. “Ailsa, he’s not returning,” she said, her voice carrying her irritation. “Why don’t you accept that Illior has other plans for you?”

Ailsa pulled her hands free. “You’re wrong.” Her voice choked in her throat. “The High Priestess confirmed that Torgeir and I are soul bonded. He’s coming back. He has to.” She turned and fled back into the house.

“That was incredibly stupid, Rada,” Kelledron said. Ailsa’s elder half brother, and heir to the Wintersong line, was leaning against the gleaming wall of the House’s hereditary manor.

Lady Rada Wintersong glowered at her stepson. He took every chance he could get to remind her that, while Ailsa was a highly honored member of the Wintersong household, Rada herself was considered little more than an outsider by the rest of the House. The Law of Blood granted familial rights to the children of a second mating, but not to the mate in question.

“Well, oh wise one, what do you suggest?” she asked, biting off her words.

“I was going to suggest asking Aunt Eliana and Aunt Hania what to do,” Kelledron said. “They’ve been out in the world more than the rest of us. Perhaps they have some ideas.”

“Then go pester them,” Rada said. She turned on her heal and flounced off. Kelledron ventured deeper into the house until he came to the parlor where his twin aunts were sitting.

“Aunt Eliana, Aunt Hania, are you busy?” Kelledron asked, keeping his tone respectful. Of all his family members, his twin aunts were his favorite. His own mother died when he was very young and the two of them took over raising him, teaching him all there was to know about being a Day Elf. Once he was old enough to pass into the care of a proper tutor, the two Bards once again left Sunhaven for the farlands. They returned every few seasons to let their loved ones know they were alive.

“What is it Kell?” Hania asked.

“It’s Ailsa,” Kelledron said, sitting down between the sisters. “She’s soul bonded to Torgeir Darksun, but Rada keeps trying to force her into another marriage.”

“Was it confirmed by the High Priestess?” Eliana asked. Kelledron nodded. She shook her head. “We have noticed Ailsa looking more and more distraught. What’s happened?”

“No one really knows,” Kelledron said. “There was a small group sent to establish the new waypoint at the other end of the forest. Father told me that Torgeir and Ailsa were going to be asked to be in charge of it. Two survivors made it back to let us know that the Crimson Elves attacked the caravan. They swear that Torgeir and one other were taken prisoner.” He shook his head. “That goes against everything we’ve ever been told about them.”

“The Crimson Elves are insane,” Eliana said. “You never know what those – those beasts – are capable of.”

“Eliana’s right,” Hania said. “The question remains though, what do they want with living prisoners?”

Before Kelledron could answer, a terrible cry filled the house. The voice, familiar only to Kelledron, was full of such grief, rage, and pain that the three elves broke into tears. “Ailsa.” Kelledron was on his feet in an instant, knocking servants aside as he charged down the corridor, his aunts right behind him.

Ailsa was lying at the foot of the stairs, blood trickling from her nose and head. “He’s dead,” she wailed. Her whole body shook. “He’s dead.”

“What’s this nonsense about?” Rada asked as she came to her daughter’s side. She reached down and slapped Ailsa. “What are you talking about?”

Hania’s sword hissed as it left its sheathe. Rada gulped hard and backed away from Ailsa’s prone form. “The Law of Blood doesn’t apply to you, Rada,” Hania said. With a flick of her wrist, she slashed Rada’s face.

“What’s going on here?” Thanolos Wintersong asked. He was Kelledron and Ailsa’s father and the head of the House. “Hania, why is my wife bleeding?”

“She assaulted Ailsa,” Hania said. “Who is clearly suffering from a rather violently severed soul bond.”

“What?” Thanolos asked, turning his attention to his two children.

“Torgeir was captured by Crimson Elves,” Kelledron said, reminding his father of the recent tragedy. “I think they just killed him.”

“They slaughtered him, like an animal,” Ailsa said, whimpering. Her eyes were wide. “I saw it. I felt it.”

“Eliana, can you – ?” Thanolos asked.

“Kell, carry your sister up to her room,” Eliana said. “I’ll be up in a moment.”

Kelledron lifted Ailsa into his arms. He looked at the stairs for a moment before summoning a floating disk in the sapphire and silver hues of his House colors. He stepped onto it. It lifted him up the stairs without jarring his sister. Eliana took the more conventional way up.

“Now, Hania, why is Rada bleeding?” Thanolos asked.

“Rada, or so I’ve been told by the servants, didn’t approve of the match that Illior decreed for Ailsa,” Hania said. “Kell told us that Rada wanted Ailsa to choose another husband. Torgeir’s disappearance was tearing Ailsa apart.”

“Do you know what happened to her?” Thanolos asked.

“She must have fallen down the stairs when the Crimson Elves killed Torgeir,” Hania said. She lowered her sword and looked over at her brother. “Thano, it’s very rare that the surviving member of a shattered soul bond lives long past the other one.

“I know.” Thanolos looked down at his hands for a moment. “How long do you think Ailsa has?”

“It depends on her spirit,” Hania said. “If she wants to live, a moon or two. If not, I’d give her no more than a sennight.”

“What are you talking about?” Rada asked. “There was no soul bond. That was just the Darksun’s way of trying to take control of this House. Ailsa’s not going to die just because he’s dead.”

Thanolos turned to Rada. She could see the barely controlled rage on his face. “Leave my House,” he said. “I took you as my second mate only because it was required of me by the Council. Your father got his male heir, and I was given my daughter. The contract was satisfied. You are no longer necessary.” He turned to his sister. “Hania, if she’s not out of here in one mark, kill her.”

“As you wish, Thano,” Hania said. There was no disguising the satisfaction she felt at that command. She put her hand on the hilt of her sword. A bloodthirsty smile twisted the corners of her mouth up. Rada realized that there was a chance Hania wouldn’t wait for the mark to be up. She paled and, not stopping to collect any of her things, ran from the manor.

Thanolos made his way to his daughter’s room. Kelledron was standing outside, his pale blue clothing stained with blood. “Aunt Eliana said no one’s supposed to go in right now,” he whispered. “She’s trying some complicated magic on Ailsa. She says that soul bonding isn’t unheard of among the Plains Elves, and that they have ways of preventing the death of the other half. She says it should help.”

“I hope it does,” Thanolos said.

“I overheard you ordering that woman out of our House,” Kelledron said.

“If she returns, she’s dead,” Thanolos said.

“At least we’re rid of her,” Kelledron said. “I wouldn’t have put it past her to have me murdered so Ailsa’s husband could have inherited House Wintersong.”

“We’d never allow it,” Hania said as she joined them. “Eliana’s working something unusual I take it?” Kelledron told her. “If that doesn’t work, nothing will.” The three of them retreated to the small chapel dedicated to Illior to pray for the souls of the dead and the life of one young Elven woman.