Thursday, December 1, 2016

Winterskin Book Tour Jan 9 - Feb 9

Very excited for my up and coming book tour with Enchanted Book Promotions!
Here's a peak at Winterskin's tour banner...

If you wish to follow Winterskin's tour, simply click here.
Winterskin,  the first book in the Kindred Souls five part epic fantasy series, debuts February 9th, 2017. Excited? I sure am!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

New Year, New Release

While 2016 isn't over yet...

2017 is right around the corner! I'm super excited to say that I've finished my second epic fantasy novel and will be debuting it early January! 

Here are some sneak peaks for everyone!

Happy holidays everyone! Let's bring in the new year with new words!
Post below about what you're writing or reading, I'd love to know!

Friday, August 5, 2016


Frostfall Inn
First Summer

For a time, the inn is full.

Snow melts, Mother Sun shows her glowing face, and a young green sprouts about the old building.

The sky is red this morning. Red as the sun rises slowly, it's face invisible against a crimson sea. I'm not sure if I'm the first to stalk downstairs, sleep blinding me as I rub my eyes. Vena woke up last night and pressed her nose to the window into the tiny hours of the morning as a horde of men marched by carrying this bright flame that glinted upon a sea of silver armor. She heard them scream—bellowing commands as men from the front plunged head first into the Wilds.

“Why are they going there?” I heard Vena wondered aloud, and I groaned that she should get back to sleep.

When I woke, her side of the bed was cold. The covers were tucked, and her clothing was gone, along with her slippers and her pack of tarots she keeps in our room now—under close watch in case someone decided they were of enough value to steal. The inn sleeps as I take a turn for the stairs that lead down into the storeroom. Natural light makes the room bright enough to see without flame, and I do not see her. I check the bar—the hearth. But Vena is no where to be found. I decide to rush upstairs to dress before anyone else wakes. I slip on a clean chemise and a loose overdress before sliding skirts beneath the thick cotton fabric and a pair of leather boots. I take my red cloak and hood.

“Vena?” I call — not too loudly. “Vena — are you here?”

I call down the stairs and into the hearth and the door to the outside opens a bit.

“The bird's are flying, sis.” She whispers through the crack. “I'm going to go see what they've done to the Woods.”


“Hold the door or come on!” And she is off. And I'm begging her not to run off like this—not with those men occupying the Wilds. Not right now! But she is off, and I watch her skirts trip her and force her to tumble — but she still runs. She's got a whimsical way about her that I can't understand— but today—that I have an urge to protect.

I rush to our rooms and open the lower drawer of our ramshackle vanity. Snatching a large key ring from it. I lock our door and rush down the stairs and into the outside. I saw her run towards the trees—that way—I hope I'm right about where she's gone. I sprint towards the path I believe she took and my eyes climb the towers of large oak trees and stooping ones with green fans for arms. At the treeline, I breathe and plunge in just as she would. Those soldiers have done something alright—I realize as a path has been cut through the Woods. Viciously. Like they were giants instead of little men wielding fat blades attached to strong arms. I'm sprinting—following their path because I know that's what she would've done—and as I follow it and follow it I have to ignore the voice in my head telling me to turn back. There is a screaming is connected—a loud crying—a miasma of voices that reach heaven and make the gods look down in confused terror. They're a collection of trolls—of men but they sound like monsters as I run closer and closer and I realize—I need to hide. A mass of bodies ends the trail and they're all armed. They're all cawing and yelling up at these house like structures built high on the trunks of trees and there's these people looking down on them—silent—scared—wishing these invaders would leave them alone and allow them to continue living.

Vena is nowhere, so I tip toe closer. They are human, alright, in their hot silver armor and with their huge weapons that clang against that hard protection of silver plates. Their staring up at the elves in the trees—yelling, stirring up noise and throwing it back at this silence they don't like. They're calling for them to leave—I realize—and a man stands tall against the fray, before the elves as their leader but his ears are too small. He doesn't jump from the pathway strung between two trees, but he wouldn't be afraid to. He stares each and every man down, his voice quieting the fray with his deep baritone.

“Leave.” The man commands. It is his only remark and the men below are forced into a hushed silence dripping with hesitant determination.

Flame juts from the horde and the man who holds it is immediately alone as his men part away. He holds the flame up for all to see and—with a pointed look at the stalwart man above—places it to the largest tree holding the wooden pathway up.

The screams. Oh, the screams.

On the wooden pathway, the elves scramble as the single man who lent them their courage dives into the men below and a war cry ensues as every man diverges on this one guy. If they come any closer I'll have to move away—without Vena. Where would she be? I watch the people above scramble as if I am a tree myself—frozen in time and useless in this space—until a hand settles on my shoulder and whirls me around.

“You found me.” She breathes, panting as if she'd been running. “We have to help them!”

Vena. Oh, thank the gods—it's Vena.

“How?” I hiss, shielding my eyes from the building flame. “We have no water and the snow here is sleet at best.”

Her hands are suddenly full of the stuff. “The dirt's wet too.”

They're dying and I want to move no closer. A lot of the men are dying against the one man—this better than human—man. I plant my hands in the mud below and come up with handfuls of the stuff. Eyeing the twister of limbs and—oh—blood, Vena places me behind her before whispering—go— and we're off. Rushing towards that single tree holding a whole village of tree houses up. They're elven, I decide as we sprint closer, but the man fighting for them

My hands burn as I place the mud into the fire and it does a little to stop it. Vena rushes off to get more as I barrel back, watching the flames burn and expand. A loud snap vibrates above and the bridge is coming down. Vena returns and we pat more mud into the flame and it still does too little to stop it. There's a woman trapped on this side of the bridge, she's too afraid to attempt crossing it now as it snaps and hisses from the flame. She's screaming and I want to block it out but as her eyes connect with mine, and I know I can't. She's gotta remind me she's still there. She's gotta do something.

“More mud” Vena mutters before rushing off to find some more. I begin patting dirt to it—anything to get this poor woman from the burning tree. We pat and we dig and we jump back from the flame.

“That's as good as it's going to get.” I finally tell Vena. I look towards the crying woman. Her face is blackened with soot. She looks to me, the elf breathing heavily as I open my arms. “You'll have to help me catch her.”

The woman looks from her left and right. She shakes her head and comes to the edge of the wooden platform. She looks over to the burnt bridge, it's hanging by a literal thread and she knows her best bet is jumping. But if she'll break her leg or her neck—it's a guess she'll have to take as she backs up and runs at the platform. Her eyes close and for a second, I see the wings of a white bird as it flaps by—avoiding this fire and this fight as men howl at being cut down. Blood smacks dirt and flesh smacks my face and throws me into the dirt. I hear something crack and I know it's my shoulder as I grit my teeth and fight the urge to heave. The elven woman pulls me up and thanks me in a foreign tongue—a lyrical language I can't understand. I ignore the burning in my shoulder and nod before Vena takes both of our hands and moves us into the bushes just beyond as the fighting careens our way.

“Terragon.” I mutter as I catch his face—those familiar cold eyes. “It's Terragon!”

The woman becomes a statue at the mention of that name.

A head rolls as steel slices through flesh and bone like paper—and before I force my eyes to close, we see his face painted with a brush of fresh blood; his eyes are a bloodshot crimson and forced wide as the head of a bold spear projects through the side of his chest. Ripping through chain mail. Ripping through ropy white sinew and veins. Blood — it's everywhere as I turn to heave up last night's dinner. It's pink and red and gooey as I cough more up and wipe my mouth of it. Vena squeaks, but says nothing as she watches the elven woman with the sooty face stand as if she were a snake forced from her basket.

He rears on the spear thrower and forces his sword through the man's neck.

The woman is on her feet now, flame erupting around her palms. Her shouts are the cry of a river as she breaks through the brush and commands lengthening ribbons of licking flame. The men cry out in rage—in a rumbling thunder of fear. Black smoke slithers from blackened earth and the ground shivers as she rears the ribbons of red back and repeatedly lashes them—again, and again and again. Vena forces her face into the dirt—her hands over her head and I mirror her—terrified. Fear prickling my flesh, creating goosebumps. Frightened that those whips of ember and flame might whirl our way. The soldiers' screams turn to stabbing screeches and I try to block it out—I clamp my hands to my ears and I try.
“I've brought you enough time!” We hear Terragon cry. “Now—run!”

It's not to us—it can't be—but we hear stampeding feet and open our eyes only to watch elves rush by in a haunting army of white.

And then she's gone too—the ribbon woman—along with her kin and what is left of the army licks their wounds. Vena grabs my arm and I wince as she pulls—my shoulder's bad—but this guy's worse. Terragon lays there—dead—as what is left of the armored men regroup, pick through their dead, and make a sharp right towards the city of Vrosa. As they leave, Vena pokes her head through the foliage. I follow, and we see that they've left his body alone.

Vena comes to standing and pulls me up by my waist. Her grin is all determination as we take cautious steps towards the fallen man.

“He's familiar.” She muses, squatting down. She places two fingers to his neck. “And also alive.”

“Terragon.” I tell her. “Remember him?”

She shakes her head as she takes one arm and motions for me to take the other. “Think you can pull him on home? With them gone I'll gather some stuff. We can patch him up and he can owe us later.”

“My shoulder's busted.”

“Then use the other one.”

We hoist him up and he's heavy weight—dead weight—and Vena positions him on my good shoulder so that I can balance and drag him.

“I won't be long. Maybe I'll catch you on the way.”

I nod as his head lists to the side. Blood flecks his face—his leather coat—everything and it smells awful. It's like I'm bringing back a dying animal as I drag him away from the place that should have been his death bed. A patch of wet dirt, a circle of men burned or beheaded—

“What a place to die.” I tell him. “You must be either very stupid or very courageous.”
He doesn't respond, and I take his silence as him having a little bit of both. I remember him cutting down those people in the woods. Just thinking of how close those bodies came to me makes me want to vomit, yet today—after seeing so much death and smelling flesh burning—I think, well maybe I'm a little hungry after all of this. It's really very tiring. Carrying a grown-dead man and all. And suddenly I breathe in sharp and there's the kiss of cold steel at my throat. I don't even dare to swallow.

“Put 'em down, dearie. You don't know what this monster has done.”

My eyes dart around—looking for a face to add to the hand that holds my life. “He looks p-pretty human to me.” I stutter in my attempt to have some courage. “Sir.”

The man gurgles a chuckle but presses the steel to my throat and I swear a droplet of blood poked through skin. “Put 'em down...”

With a hiss and a whistle, the steel is away and the man who held the knife dances before me as he avoids a stray arrow. I see this as my chance and knee him in the codpiece before sprinting away as best I can with this dead weight slowing me down. I hear panting and I think—oh, he's got me, this is it! But the weight of this guy lightens and I see Vena's grin as she throws a long bow to the ground and helps me speed up.

“Did I take too long?” She teases.

“No.” I chuckle. “Not long at all.”

We set him up in the only free room in the inn in a little truckle bed, sitting him up a bit just in case stuff comes from his mouth when we aren't looking. Vena went to work mashing this and burning that, creating salves for all his wounds. She cut his shirt away once we laid him down, and we traced his scars like rivers on a map. A crossing here and a trail there. She took the salves and the mashed up creams with a horsetail brush—the instrument soft and kind of warm—and patted the stuff to his open wounds. He made no move to wake up—even when we did hear a harsh hiss come from his skin. He made no move to cry or to curse—it was like dressing a body for death, but healing it instead. For life. There's a loud rap at the door below this floor and I rushed downstairs to see what all the fuss was about. Our two patrons from last night have gone and left a bit of silver on the bar counter. I swing open the door and see a parade of elves in white, the woman from before leading the group.

I count them. “We might not be able to house all of you.” I tell her and I am met with a sly smile.

“We've come for the wyvern slayer.” She drawls in a feathery accent. “Not to sleep.”

And they are the first of many that come to this man's aid.

I bring them upstairs to his rooms and she is the only one who enters. She breaks into elvish and I attempt to ignore the conversation the woman and Vena share as if I don't stand here listening. She hovers over the man's broken body and brings a white light from her hands that swirls and shifts like living art.

“She's healing him?” I blurt. And Vena simply nods with a wide, dumb, smile on her face.

“An elven shetani.” The other girl whispers—awed by this beautiful display of white magic. “One of the few in this world, at least.”

There's a low hum as she brings her hands to rest on every part of his body. The door to his room slowly opens as more elves from that burning tree city poke their heads in and leave boxes or trinkets at the open door.

“He is like a god to them.” Vena muses, never taking her eyes from the shetani's beautiful hands. “He's helped them in more ways than one, in more lives than one, and they have watched over him ever since.” She turns to me. “We have watched over him.”

So she did remember him, I think as I nod at her words. But she lied.

The healing continues well into the night as Vena and I find our bed and fall into a dreamless sleep once again. We wake to noise downstairs and rush down the stairs to find a jar filled to the brim with silver and a couple pieces of gold. Necklaces, bracelets—gowns and slippers—drape from the bar and the hearth is full with elves, horn heads—even Arguntites go from bench to bench, talking and laughing with each other. We take to the store room and return with cheese and bread. We search for ale—hot—and hand out vodka on the house. They all wish to stay—and the elves who came yesterday—they've all gone just as the shetani woman promised. But when we go to bring soup to the injured man upstairs, the shetani and an older looking elf have both laid hands to Terragon's body and are muttering in Vena's language as a white light ensnares them in a rose embroidered circle.

“They're finishing up.” Vena narrates, squeezing my shoulder. “With their magic he'll heal up to what he used to be, for sure.”

I nod, and I go back downstairs to attend to our sudden flood of patrons.

The word has spread that Terragon the Wyvern Slayer sleeps here. Heals here. And they bring exotic meats and cheeses, seeds to plant fruits and even a full grown apple tree. They bring newly made benches to make up for what was broken, and blankets made of unique fleeces and cotton to replace the old bedding with. New patrons come—workers that live in the Wilds but are forced to work in Nauvire or Nouis—to populate the inn. They don't come begging to see Terragon as though he were some piece of work in a gallery, but they offer their respects in items given to us or left on the counter of the bar once they leave.

And then it happens again one night—angry soldiers drunk on rage and vodka decide to maul another family, another father and scare children—but the other patrons won't have it. A horn head stands in the elves' defense and the rest of the hearth stands with him. Instead of roughing the guys up, the group forces them out into the warmth of the summer night and the guys are gone. Only to come back in the morning with a larger group to threaten us with rocks and mean words. They protect us again—the horn heads and others—by chasing them away with their own horses and war cries. Vena holds my hand as we watch the soldiers being chased away and she smiles, asking if this isn't the best feeling ever. And it is. A warm heart. A full hearth. And people willing to stand up for that one piece of hope in a dying world. It is a great feeling. A wonderful feeling.

One morning, the shetani finally leaves Terragon's bedside.

“Take this.” she tells me, taking a necklace from her drop sleeve and holding it out to me. “It will give you the power to control wind—for a time.” And I cup it in my hand.

She is a harp sweetly strummed as she stands tall and fluid. “Thank you.” I tell her before pocketing the trinket.

To Vena she offers a ring with the power to control fire. Vena curtseys low to the woman and as she comes up the shetani presses a light kiss to the shorter woman's forehead before muttering her goodbyes in that fluid language of hers. Vena mimicks the words and shows them out.

They are gone before I can even reach the third stair.

We take up watch next to his bedside once the elves leave, bringing him food three times a day—usually soup so we can make sure he doesn't choke.

“They said he'll be asleep for a few days—maybe weeks.” Vena tells me one night.

“We just have to take care of him like they've taken care of us.”

“Exactly.” Vena nods. “Exactly.”

Skin changers give us a dog.

“A mastiff.” The one with colorful drawings on his face insists. “Tis a special kinda dog, girl!”

I scoff but the thing's taller than me when it gets on it's hind legs.

“I'll call you Bunny.” And they laugh at that.

Vena doesn't really like dogs, but she makes an exception for Bunny. He's a big old softie—licking the faces of every person in the hearth, but when it comes to a stranger hitting on the door his bark is deep and powerful. It silences the room before he bounds up and greets the stranger if I greet him nicely. He's a nice pet to have around. A guard dog, the skin changers told me.

“Just tell 'em—tnang! And he'll go crazy on whoever you point at.”

Tnang. I'd have to remember that.

When Vena goes to the storeroom downstairs, she trips over old furniture. Broken furniture. She comes up bleeding and I decide it's about time we either threw that stuff out or fixed it.

“With what?” she grumbles, cleaning her wound outside. “I don't have glue or magic, so I don't suppose we'll be able to fix anything.”

“How about we repurpose it?”


I drag a broken bench up and clean it off a little—there's dried blood on the rough wood and I scrub it best I can before leaning it up against the side of the inn.

“What's it's purpose now?” Vena smirks.

“We'll grow flowers on it. We can use this to guide the stalks away from the shade of the roof.”

Vena nods, her eyebrow raising. “And the rest of the broken stuff?”

“Leave it all to me.”

And I use the broken chair legs as kitchen utensils, forcing bread and dough flat. The backs of the chairs are useless so I burn them in the hearth and the wood burns hot for a couple nights before it dies down. I take passion fruit seeds and plant them near the broken bench outside and watch as the vines lift themselves onto the wood of the bench and constrict it—using it as a lever to reach more sun and they flourish into beautiful reds and rosy pinks.

I find that I sleep less and less as I watch over Terragon or the plants. The moon shines silver when it's Vena's turn to take watch and I don't wake her up—not this time. I let her sleep and when she wakes in the morning to find me staring out Terragon's window, she crosses her arms.

“You didn't wake me up.”

“You were tired.” I tell her.

“And you aren't?”

There are birds outside and I watch their little blue wings take flight. I turn to Vena with a soft smile. “I'll take watch from here. You're a great hostess, sis. You watch over the inn.”

She flushes pink for a short while before bounding up to me, placing a kiss on my cheek, and nodding before she finds her way out. I snap to Terragon as I swear I heard a hum, but decide it's my crazy head running on no sleep making up sounds—wishing he'd wake up already.

Nights pass and I sleep sitting up or on the hardwood floor. It's nice—sleeping without Vena—but nicer when I feel the sun kiss my cheek when I wake up. Or when the door behind me opens and in saunters Vena with a bowl of hot soup and a chicken leg for me. I barely leave that room, reading things Vena brings in to me in silence for a while before opening my mouth and speaking what I read just in case he can hear me. Just in case my words bring him home and that elven shetani is somehow watching. I look at pictures sometimes too, or simply out the window. Sometimes I watch how the sunlight hits his square face and the growth of ashen blonde whiskers on his chin and face. His hair is long and growing longer as he stews in that bed all day. His muscles don't seem to flatten, but I'm sure they do. And there's marks all up and down his grizzled chest, bite marks and claws that've cut deep. Sometimes I wonder if those are all from wyverns and dragons. Sometimes I wonder if those are from women he's held too tight, or children he's been afraid to let go. But I stop my wondering when I hear a chorus of chairs hit the floor downstairs.

Almost jumping down the stairs, I run to see a group of humans wearing matching sigils and colors standing toe to toe with a horn head—and there's Vena attempting to get between them, but she can't. The horn head isn't letting her.

Within a moment I am by her side and tugging at her arm. “What's happening?”

“They're from a group in Nauvire—extremists that want all non-humans purged.”

I scoff. “Then why come here?”

He's a red head with an eye missing and a tuft of flaming hair jutting from his sharp chin. “Because we heard this used to be an upscale establishment.” He spits, crooking his head at me. “Until these non-human shits took it over!”

The man's companions cry out at that, backing the man up as he attempts to stand against the brawny mass of a horn head leagues taller than him.

“You're the first human we've seen all night.” The red head snaps. “Why ain't there more of you? Why's you got this bug eyed bitch manning the bar when there could be respectable humans doing her job?”

Behind him, his men hum their agreement. And I've had enough. I've completely and truly had enough.

“You need to leave.” I tell him, locking eyes before bringing mine to the door. “Door's right there.”

The man's chuckle is dark and deep as he brings his eyes back to the horn head.

“You heard her.” The taller man growls. “Leave. Or you'll have to deal with me

“With all of us!” Our patrons chime in, and once again I feel big—gigantic as this mass of power cheers us on.

The men gather themselves together as they realize that they are severely outnumbered. They clamber towards the door, blades drawn, back to back in a circle.

“Hear me!” Snarls the red head. “This won't be the last of us—not with this inn of filth festering on our soil. The Sons of Freedom ain't friends of non-humans, and if this inn sides with our blood born enemiesHe spits onto the stones as the door swings open with a slam. “—then rest assured that we'll be back—with heat.” He turns to his brothers. “Get the horses.” Three horn heads follow, watching the men as they stalk back to the stables.

“Why even allow their kind in anymore, sis?” I snap, rearing at Vena. “They're nothing but trouble.”

“Oh.” Her head cocks. “Oh—you mean, humans. Your race?”

I open my mouth to speak, but I don't have the words.

“We're open to anyone who needs a warm bed, sis. Anyone.” She crosses her arms. “With what I described to you in Nouis, I'd think you'd understand that.”

I'm shocked and I sputter, but I nod. I don't know if she's right—but something will prove her right or wrong in due time. Something always does.

Vena's made chickpea soup this morning and I'm waiting for her to finish adding her little touches of magic and herbs. It's been some time and finally she ladles it into a nice porcelain bowl and I bring it up the stairs to Terragon's room. Pushing the door with my healed shoulder, I open my eyes to an empty bed and a naked man with his hand and weight leaning against the far wall. He's looking out the window when I drop the bowl and destroy my slippers and feel my heart give way as his blue eyes snap to me. His face is a mask—blank and faraway. I don't even think he sees me.

Footsteps fall and Vena and Bunny are up there in a second. Vena's cleaning up the mess and rushing clothes to Terragon and pulling me away and out of the room.

“I—I didn't think he'd wake up.” I tell her, truthfully. “I saw him as a doll—a doll we cared for.”
Vena slightly cocks her head at this, her smile is sweet. “Well, now you see him for what he is.” She tells me. “A breathing, living—killing, thing.” And her voice is harsh at the word, killing, before her tone reverts back to its usual sweetness. “Let's leave him alone for a bit, yes?”


And she drags me downstairs to clean. Bunny stays, guarding the door. That big floof of a tail wagging as if his best friend waits behind that door.

Terragon is a ghost for a while. Listlessly stalking around the inn at night—opening and slamming doors when we attempt to sleep. When the patrons are up and the hearth is full, he is nowhere to be found, hiding out somewhere with Bunny—that dog relentlessly follows him. It's almost as if he's forgotten about me and thinks Terragon is a better buddy than I.

Weeks pass and he attempts to look normal. He takes it upon himself to wash clothing and bedding—without telling us, I might add. Making Vena and I look like fools when we think the bedding has been stolen only for it to reappear the next day with a strangely fresh lilac scent. We find out it's him when we spy him dragging a bundle of it down the river bed not so far from us. He cleans nice, scrubbing at counter tops and table tops when everyone's gone to bed or gone out. I've caught him a couple of times snatching old food from the table tops and feeding it to Bunny as he cleans—so that's how he stole Bunny from me! Old food—why didn't I think of that? He quickly becomes a welcome addition to the inn and we are grateful for him—he's earned his keep, yet he stays. He hasn't said more than a few words to us—yet he stays.

I catch him on the porch one evening combing that ashen hair. It's gnarled and I can see the knots from here.

“Stop.” I tell him and he looks to me, slowly. Grumbling. “I can fix it without ripping half your hair out. Would you like me to?”

He looks down at his hands. Hair gnarled knots of hair cover both palms. It's like straw.

“Fine.” He grunts and I go to find that jam Vena uses in my hair. Along with a comb and maybe a brush.

Finding it, I come back to the porch and see him staring towards the bright horizon. It's fading from yellow to orange now as it slowly darkens. I sit down behind him and rub the jam into my hands. It smells tart like beeswax, fighting his musky scent. My fingers bend through his hair and immediately I'm stuck. With a comb, I play the tangles in his hair gently like the strings of a harp and make it through the first of many tangles. Rubbing the jam through his scalp and the rest of his hair, I take the brush and begin to work my way through it when he snorts as if he's sighing the wrong way. It happens again and I stop to peek around to his face.

He's asleep. A snort comes from me this time as I force back a chuckle. He's asleep!

The comb finds it's way back to my hand as I pull my fingers through the straighter parts of his hair like the fine strings of a long and slender lute.

The sky is a purple vat of daisies when I finish for the night, and he sleeps like an overgrown child not wanting to get up.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Here it is, the second chapter! I hope you all enjoy!

Frostfall Inn
First Snow

It's like white candy out there, the snow. At my back, the door creaks open and god blows his wintry breath into the inn before it shuts—slam—so hard it rattles the bones of this old place. From the deep grumbles of the inn's new patrons, I assume they're men as they sit heavily upon a rickety bench. Weapons cry out with a hard clang as they find their seats and rest in them. Probably sitting close to the center for the warmth of the fire. There's more movement as the stairs to my right creak with a woody sound. I hear the voices of last night's patrons, a family of four, the young ones giddy for tonight's dinner as their parents usher them down the stairs.

The low murmur of the men stops short.

“Welcome!” Vena says, I turn to watch as I tuck an old rag into the belt of my apron. “Welcome to Frostfall — are your horses stabled for the night?”

Are they toys? They look like toy soldiers—the men—stuffed into their fancy cotehardies and high frocks. Vena approaches them with that tender way of her's as she clasps her hands before her and smiles expectantly. A single pair of eyes flash to me before the one with chestnut hair opens his thin lips.

“They're alright.” It's a short reply—curt. Vena stumbles a bit, but catches herself.

“Something to warm ya'll up?” She offers, and the family takes their seats slowly. The childrens' high voices echo round the small hearth and their parent's cringe. “Spiced ale?”

The man nods his reply before turning back to his companions. They size Vena up before turning to look at the family of four. Their gazes are dirty, and it's disdain I smell as I give my back to the scene and my full attention to the dishes behind the bar.

“Did you see that?” Vena comes close and whispers before bending down to take four mugs into her arms.

“I felt it.” I murmur, peeking over my shoulder. “Cold's got to 'em.”

“Well let's see them warmed up!”

Can't help but smile when her lips turn up—Vena's toothy grin is worse than a cold the way it infects people. But not tonight. The girl gives them spiced ale warmed so it steams, and they simply nod at her approach and go silent until she droops and slithers back to the bar defeated, but ready to try again with that winning smile of her's. The family of four—a young couple with two bright children—take to her almost as if they were related. Making jokes and speaking some shared foreign language before Vena decides she simply must rush back to the cupboard to get something those cute little kids would adore. It's almost like magic when she leaves—as if the magic has left the room as weight presses down on the air all around. The tension's heavy and it's black and it smells like the red color of anger. I take my place at the bar with a smile that's so large it hurts, and I realize I'm being stared at.

He's got a small face, slender and long. He crooks a finger longer than a lock of my hair and I scuttle over.

“You in charge 'ere?” He trills out. “Or is she runnin' the place?”

Why? “We're together.” I tell them. “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah.” This guy's a rock, with huge hands and a body like a mountain. “We don't like their kind here.”

I'm following the jut of his chin and I realize—there's only a family here. What could they have done wrong? Had too many kids?My smile becomes cracked and anxious. I know the grin's only going to half of my face cause the other half is a storm of confusion.

“The family over there?” I point.

“The elves.” Hard eyes on a thin face and I see a scar cutting through his forehead that furrows. “You allow their ilk here?”

I shrug.

“Is there a problem?” Vena's appeared and she's confused bordering on frightened. Maybe she's been watching this conversation from the bar—I can't be sure. But if she's on edge, so am I. So I let her speak. “Food will be ready momentarily—I just seasoned it with something a little special—”

This guy has the glare of a frustrated snake, as his companions cross their arms or bring fists to the table. “We were talkin' to the human, girl. So be on your way.” The words are like venom and my mouth drops open.

Vena's smile meets the twitch of her right eye. “R-right, then.” She says, backing away. “Supper will be ready soon...”

I see her flee to the bar and the slender faced man watches her with those hard eyes of his. “You know what they've done?” He asks. “To Nouis? To Vrosa?” The mountain man grunts at this, shaking his head as the slender faced man finishes. “Don't you know?”

Dumbly, I shake my head. “No, sir.” But his long eyes begin to widen. “No, I do not.”

This does not help. My words never do and the guy turns his back to me. Ignoring me.

“...can I get you anything...?”

“Same thing the elf got us.” Snaps the mountain man. “Be quick.”

And I fly. I meet Vena's hurt eyes before I bring them the warm mugs and retreat back to the bar.

“They'll be gone soon.” I whisper. “This is no place for them, and they'll realize it and they'll be gone.”

“Post haste.”

I nod. “Post haste.”

The days have been good for us. The hearth has been full of happiness—but tonight drags on and on. The family is somber and quiet, as if they can feel the pressure in the room as the men opposite them continue to drink as their voices become louder and louder. It's disgusting—it makes me want to stomp over there and tell them that there are children here, but they continue on about what they've killed and what they've gutted. They go on about a woman they've raped or a beast they've killed for their stupid dinner.

“I should go free their horses.”

Vena rounds on me. “You will not.”

“They need to leave.”

“They'll stay as long as they like!”

Dinner is served—some sort of roasted meat—and as Vena serves a tray to the family and finally the men, peace falls light as snow when Vena returns to the bar.

“Maybe it was their hunger?” Vena tries. “Maybe it was that that made them so disrespectful.”

But they ruin it when a tray slams to the cold stones of the hearth and the hard faced man stands to slide his sword from his scabbard. The children freeze in their bench as their father slowly realizes that he has to stand—for his family, he must. Vena and I are like children—freezing as a man decides that tonight may be the night he takes revenge for whatever the elves have done.

“This is no place for yer kind—not here.” The man hisses. “This was a respectable place once!” He spits at Vena and I as we cower behind the bar, the tips of our fingers lightly touching the wood as we keep our eyes up.

The elven man stays quiet — oh, he is beautiful. Probably thirty times my age, but he looks like he could be in his twenties. His wife is a mirror image—almost—and his children are little sprites if tiny angels ever felt fear. They're afraid of this man—of this human that's like a long and slender shadow that threatens to destroy their peace. The elf has no weapon on him—he relinquished them to us, as all patrons are supposed to—but these men were allowed to slip by the wayside.

I can only blame myself as the slender man raises his sword and slurs, “You killed more than ninety uh us. Saw my brother splayed on the street—deep pockets where his eyes should've been. You know what that feels likeThe elf moves away from his family and the slender soldier follows, keeping his curved sword level with the other man's blue eyes. “—to stare death in the face. There were no eyes to close—his lids were gone, his eyes missing.” His arm shakes a bit and the blade trembles. “—what d'ya'll do with them eyes, hm?”

“I've done nothing—”

“Being what you are is sin enough.” At this his friends stand. One tall enough to take the ceiling off this place, the other with enough bruises to boast that he's been in every battle. “You—your ilk. You all deserve to die for what you've done to us—and why not start now? Why not?”

The first punch thrown is a blow that could have shaken the stars from the sky and it comes down hard. The children are crying—screaming—as their father pleads with them...don't come closer, stay over there! It'll be okay, we'll leave from here and—all three dive onto him like heavy water that's trying to drown him and Vena holds me close as we stay behind the bar like cowards attempting to avoid their anger. The world's wrong and we've felt the first lash of it as the elf attempts to lay silent and the men continue beating him senseless. He's a doll, I think, he's not a breathing thing but a doll to punch and they are ripping into him senselessly. It's not fair—and oak breaks with a shrieking crack over bone and I feel it. I feel it and flinch as Vena buries her face into my chest and cries like a child. We can't let this continue. We can't.

“Vena.” I take her chin and my hands move to her shoulders. “Vena—they need to leave.” Her nose is red and I realize she can't do this—but she can't say it. She can't admit that she is scared—not with words.

A hard breeze hits the bar and they've opened the door. A body hits the ground with a thump and pairs of feet rush like wild animals out into the night.


And she stands. Red nose and all—sniffling like a large child. She clinches her fist as I kneel, and push myself to standing. I cross my arms as I watch her stomp over to the three men—their knuckles bloody. Chairs are broken and a bench lays to it's side. The wood splintered.

“Gentlemen—” But she isn't given a choice as to where their knuckles land when a hand reaches for her. A sharp crack ripples through the night and her chin flies up before her body falls down.

I rush to her side—no care, no fear. I drop to the floor and cradle her head in my hands before I look up to the towering men—fiends—creatures. Whatever you call a man who takes in peace and breathes out evil.

“This was a good place!” I choke out and tears run down my cheeks. “A good one!”

“Well, we ain't leavin' till we're good and ready.” Knuckles crack as the slender man leans over me, his hands firmly pressed into cotton pockets. “And it'll be on the house.”

They retreat and I'm holding my friend—my best friend—until I see her huge eyes open up and her red lipped grin. She's bleeding and I use my apron to stop it. I'm hiccuping and wishing that everything was alright. We will never live this down. Those elves will tell the world and more people like those men will come wandering in — thinking this is a brawl house, thinking this isn't a reputable place. Vena licks her swollen lip as I whimper.

“Go.” she whispers. “I'm going to clean up—this.” her large eyes flit towards the hearth—as her face bleeds. “I'll be alright.”

I wait till she stands and smooths her skirts out, and when she smiles I rush out into the cold. I hike my skirts up a bit and pull the arms of my chemise down as I look into the firelight and the darkness. Snow's howling and the wind hurts, but I see the family hobbling through the snow and I go after them. Wishing I could do more. Wishing those men could've done less.

“I'm sorry.” I breathe. “I am truly sorry—I apologize for what's happened—”

Emerald eyes are vipers as the elven woman shoots me a look. “Tinny, get four silvers from my purse.” She sings. “Pay the nice lady.”

Chubby hands grasp my fingers and I look down at the little sprite. She holds that exact amount in the center of her little palm and hands it to me. Her eyes turn to the snow as if she's afraid to look at me. As if she's disappointed.

“I'm sorry.” I repeat, and the woman finds my eyes again.

The wind is biting and the snow freezes my bones. They keep going, though, into the darkness—into the cold. There is no mention of anger. No mention of frustration or pity. Emerald eyes glue me to this spot until I no longer see them and they become a beacon of lime melting away into the wintry night.

“I'm sorry.” I repeat to no one other than myself, because I am disappointed. Because I am scared.


Vena comes to my bed that night, her face swollen, her body shaking. There's nothing I can say as she climbs in and hugs me. We fall into a dreamless sleep, and are woken in the tiny hours of the morning by a screaming wind and harshly laughing men as they slam doors and throw glasses to the floor with a hard crash. Together, we cower. Together, we pray that they take nothing of value—that they leave and never come back. Together, we realize how useless we are. How useless compassion and hospitality is in a world where evil makes it's home and sits—waiting for a hope that it can squash.

When the noise stops, we wait before venturing down into the hearth and into the storeroom.

“What's left?” Vena calls from below.

“The ales gone.”

“So's the bread.”

“They took your collection—”

“Of what?”


“But not the cards?”

Standing tiptoe, I open a cupboard. “Not the cards.”

“Couldn't take the frozen meat.”

“Thank the gods.”

“But everything else—it''s gone.”

She couldn't go—not now. Not while the Inn was in this state.

“I'm going to Nouis.” Vena repeats, her hand comes to my shoulder and my eyes—well I can't look at her as my vision blurs with tears. “I'll be back within the week.”

“But you—”

“We need supplies, Sora.” Vena persists. “Or we'll starve out here.”

“Let me come with you.”
At that she throws back her head and laughs. “And leave the inn without a keeper? Are you crazy?”

“No—I'm scared.”

Both of her hands are on my shoulders now and she's smiling. “Everything will be fine. I'll buy back what was stolen and everything will go back to the way it used to be.”

But she lies. She lies through the skin of her teeth and her eyes know it. When she walks out that front door and makes the turn towards the garden city of Nouis, I know things will change because there are bullies pressing us to. And now there won't be an us — but a me. And I'm scared those men will come back—or their friends or men like them and they'll beat up another poor elf with his family watching—frightened that they'll be drawn into the fight too. Frightened that instead of that mountain of a man pressing his boot to the face of the father, he'll be bashing in the skulls of his children as well. I just can't have that—the shame, the fear. I can't. Not without her to back me up.

Back at the inn, my head's bowed and I'm so sad. My heart flutters and skips a beat when there's a sharp rap at the door and I shout that I'm coming. Quickly, I throw open the door—but this time, there's no smile on my face. There's no welcome in my arms or my attitude. My eyes flash with fear. My heart raps like this patron's knock and I'm frightened.

“Any spare rooms?” Pipes a creature with horns upon his head.

“Can we yoke a donkey 'ere?” Asks his companions.

“No.” I whisper and I say it again, “No.”

They are shocked. “But the stable's empty—”

“There's—there's no room.”

Before they can question again—before they can peer around and realize what they already know, I gently bring the door to a close.

“Please leave.” I whisper. “Please.”

That little girl's disappointment is on my mind again, her little green eyes stuck to the snow at her feet.

They sigh heavily before stomping away and I imagine that small sprite of a child stalking into the darkness of a wintry night.

In my head, she's an icicle — cold and blue. In my head, it's my fault and her father has passed. The chill got to him and god took him away. A broken heart got to her mother, and she stood still as he passed. As her children passed. And as her daughter froze to death, wondering, “When will the world be alright?”

“There are no beds.”

They have the high ears of high elves. Snow melds with the salt of their sandy beards and their eyes are glassy and wet.

“Please.” One mumbles.

There are no beds.”

Humans. No horns. Or maybe silver bloods—it doesn't matter.

“Stables are back there.” I tell them. They nod and I peek around the corner for more. Afraid of who could slip in with them.

It's all snow and footprints from here.

The wind howls like a dog of night. Snow falls and swirls as a twister of white. It is dark when the door is slammed.

I rush from the bar. Horns jut from these new patrons' heads. No—you can't be here.

Brrrrr!” One shivers as he sits down heavily.

I rush to their table, head bowed, arms limp.

“How much for a room?” One asks.

“We're full.”

“Huh?” replies his companion, looking around. “You don't look full.”

“We're full.”

The other horn head's gaze hardens and he jumps to standing. “With that badge on your door, you'd think you allowed our type.”

The other scoffs.

I see them out and pray—dear gods—no more. No more. It's cold and wintry out when the horn heads stalk out into the night. A hard gaze lowers on me when one decides he'll have a word. Of course he'll have a damned word.

“It's not right.” he says. “It's not right, and I can see it in your eyes that you know it. But you're a coward—and the worst kind too. The kind that can't fess up to her fear, so runs away from it instead. You're hurting a lot of people doing this, you know. Not all of us were involved with what happened out there—in Nouis and Vrosa. Not all of us are evil.”

I take his words with a trembling lip and those hard red-gold eyes look back at me with scorn that's a punch to my gut. When his companion drags him along, forcing him to turn around and get going, I turn and take the door. I breathe—I've gotta—and slam it hard behind me. The door's to my back when I slide down it—tears trailing down my hot face—as I bring my head to my hands and wonder how I became this way. Turning them away for their own safety—what kind of liar am I? What kind of person am I? To make those men go out into the dark of night simply because they have horns on their heads. Simply because they are not like me. Simply because they aren't human.

What kind of person am I?

I am the worst kind of person.

I am a coward.

I see her before she sees the inn—Vena is a little speck on the horizon riding a brown horse pulling a carriage. Opening the door, I watch her arrival with an open mouthed grin. She waves with both hands, eventually jumping from her horse and rushing into a squeezing hug. Our breath comes out in steamy puffs as she pulls away and looks me right in the eye.

“It'll be okay now.” she says, blue eyes glistening. “I've got food!”

She is quick and relentless in getting the inn restocked. She asks if there have been anymore fights—anymore humans quarreling with non-humans and if there have been any patrons at all. I can't bring myself to tell her the truth of what I've gone and done here, so I tell her that there hasn't been much action at all. Nope. People have just cruised on by here.

“It's awful up there in Nouis.” she says as we take a bench. Hot bread occupies our table and I take a poker and revive the fire to our left.

“How bad?”

Horrifying.” she shakes her head and brings her hand to her white hair. “I had to bind my ears to my head just to get past the city gate without a badge.”

“A badge?”

Vena nods. “There were chain gangs, sis. The minute I walked through those glass doors and felt that weird heat from Nouis magic, I saw a chain gang of elves marching on through. People were throwin' things at them. Just booing them and wishing them the worst, and I thought—what could they have done, you know? They're all chained up!”

“So?” My chin rests on my hands. “What happened?”

“A public hanging!”

“A what?”

Her eyes widen as she bobbles her head. “Yeah. Not of the elves — but women, shetani.”


“She-witches—the demigoddesses, you'd know if you knew your history. But anyway

It's like the Drasurri never freed that—blighted city—from a she-tyrant in the first place. Yeah, she was shetani, but that doesn't make 'em all evil, you know? There were more gangs than that—at least three—all chained up and bruised. One older man tripped and some men-at-arms rushed to beat the living daylights out of the poor guy! I guess it meant something that he was elven, but still!”

“Well I don't understand.” I say, shaking my head and lowering it. “What have the elves done?”

“You mean,” She leans in closer. “what have we done.”

Sometimes I forget. I nod.

“Everyone is scared, Sora. Everyone. And no one is more frightened than the people who are free. The rock throwers. The ones throwing old fruit and calling for the deaths of these people already chained, already dead inside while they walked those damned steps to those gallows—they accept it, the ones sentenced to hang. But everyone else—everyone else is afraid.”


She shrugs, grabbing a piece of bread. “I don't know and—better yet—it doesn't matter.” she takes a nibble. “But, d'you know what this means for us?”

I shrug, mirroring her and stealing a piece of the loaf.

She swallows and suddenly, she's standing. Her hands are planted on her hips and she's smiling that smile of fierce determination. “We help them! We make sure everyone knows our doors are open! We welcome the travel weary—but why stop there? We have beds! We'll open to the homeless as well! To the refugees of this, and those fleeing whatever is going on up there! We open our home.”
Motivation is a cold and I grin up at her—I've caught it—oh no. I've caught the sickness and I can't help but to want to live up in her ideas—in her dreams and in her world. There's no fear—or maybe she looks past it. Maybe she sees the fear and she thinks that she'd rather walk through that crowding cloud instead of fearing it and staring at it until it gets bigger and bigger and swallows your world whole. Maybe we'll have more fights here. Maybe we'll see more bloody fathers and disappointed children, but we'll also see people gracious to be brought off the road to winter. We'll see people with gratitude in their eyes and warmth in their hearts with the thought that at least everything hasn't gone to shit. At least some people stand strong in their holds and welcome those that truly need a warm hearth and a comfy bed.

And we will be that. I will put my fear aside and we will be that.

“Let's get to work, then.” I tell her, standing as well. “We're going to have a full house if we start offering free beds, too.”

Her gaze is fierce and fiery, her grin sharp. “Lets!”

Friday, July 22, 2016


And there would come a time where evil ran rampant as men prepared for their last days by nourishing the land with the black of their sin and the steel of war's swansong...”

First Winter
The Road to Frostfall

I ran from that place—fast as lighting. I balled up my apron and ran.

“You can't be going at this time of day!” A shrill voice hollers. “You'll freeze in them woods!”

But I'm far gone—in here, anyway. My head. I've got my red hood and cape on. Gloves too, and I'm going—fast as my legs will take me. I'll make it to the tree line, I tell myself, I'll make it to the Wilds and I'll just tiptoe right on through those lurkers and get there the next day.

“I've got a job!” I stop. I cup my hands and yell back. “I won't be back—don't worry bout me, misses!”

I keep going, not bothering to hear what else she's got to say—I've got to get to these woods! Snow's ankle deep and it slows me—but barely. Just barely. I've got nice leather boots and cotton stockings on my legs—this damned skirt does nothing to keep the heat in, but I've got this cloak of red and I can just wrap myself up. I'll be fine. Now—everything's going to be perfect.

She said come immediately. Not tomorrow. Not two weeks from now. She said immediately. Like the job might go away, or she might go away, or the whole thing is just going to be a farce if I get there later than I ought to be. Come immediately, she said. Immediately. So, here I am staring up at the tall oak trees that make up the Wilds. I'm looking into the shadows they make and thinking to myself, I'll be fine if I just go kind of slow. They won't catch me—they won't even realize me. And before they smell my blood and catch a whiff of my scent I'll be gone—through the trees and past the Wilds and into that bitter snow close to Nouis. I'll be at Frostfall and home—not just for a season, but forever. Gods, it'll be nice to stop moving, I think as I plant one foot in the forest—then the other one. Ice crunches beneath my boots and I stop to turn back—to look at the Edgewood Inn. I wave, and then, I am gone.

Maybe I'll see it in another life, but hopefully not this one.

Blue fades dark and soon there is no natural light. I snatch a low hanging branch from a tree with a snap and make fire with the flint from my bag. It takes some time as I kneel and the foliage rumbles—fanning in and out as if god decided to snort a little through it. It's a lurker—gotta be—and I snap the flint and the wood faster—quicker—suddenly I'm boiling hot and my heart's slamming against my chest. Then—fire and I turn on my heel. A rabbit springs out and I sigh. Nothing. It's always going to be nothing.

I can't stop for fear of lurkers—for fear of creatures that scoop you up and take you home for dinner, draining you dry until you're blue in the face and black in the eyes. I know the path—day or night—I've walked it so many times. My own mini-pilgrimage made season after season. When it's cold up there I go down here and over and over until I'm tired of the same darned tree—it's branches gnarled like the hands of a witch; or the same darn sword in a stone, an old grave for a fallen soul. The hilt of the rusting sword sticks up like a cattail, and I kneel down one last time to offer prayers of solitude and peace.

“Tonight,” I tell it, “is my last night stopping by.” I bring my hand to the snow palm first. “Maybe we'll meet again in the next life.”

Hours pass and the road seems longer than before—maybe because it'll be my last time traversing it. The path is almost free of travelers—no one has the guts to walk it at night, not with the lurkers and other creepy things—but not me. Not Sora. I've got my luck and I've got my ways, and I've got my wits about me. I'm not about to be no red blood's dinner tonight, not I. But as the path continues and the snow starts to gingerly fall, I feel the need to sleep as my eyes get heavier and heavier.
And then a song escapes my lips: “Amidst a blanket of stars and a chorus of rain...”

At that I wake as the snow lightly falls. It's cotton and I open my hand to catch it.

“...amidst a sea of white, She slumbers...”

Above, the stars are little rocks of crystal flung into a huge blue deep. Between the branches of stretching trees and the curled brown leaves of some that cling to what little trinkets they have left, the stars wink and they glitter. Like a million little eyes. Snow dots my vision and I blink it away. They are cold tears that bring feeling to my numb face. I'm numb everywhere. The fire on my little branch is dying and I need to create a new one. Throwing it to the snow, I stomp it out and reach for a new branch. Light gets rid of the shadows again as the snow lightly crunches around me—I don't know where that noise is coming from—and I freeze like a little mouse. In minutes it's silent again as I feel my heart slow. So I go on walking.

I go on singing: “Within a forest asleep...within His needlepoint teeth--”

A whinny—a neigh. The hard stomp of cold hooves on frozen ground and I run to the side. My flame does not go out and the horse does not come—it is far behind. Wheels of a carriage—a hard, “Gettup!” and the snap of a whip—the bite. I flinch when I hear it—oh, that poor beast. It stomps, it sighs and the movement stops. The creature is petting the ground—loudly, but what isn't loud in absolute silence? And I hear foot steps, a pair.

“Foot steps went this way.”

“Are they alone?” The voice of a woman. High pitched. She squeaks.

“Yeah. Definitely.” A man. Low and rumbly.



“I heard a singing.”

“Mansa here did too.”

I lay in wait. Could they be searching for me?

“Probably lost.”

“Probably tired.” She sighs. “Here, kitten!”

They're looking for me and I shiver. They sound human enough but I can never be sure. Even monsters seem human at times. Snow breaks like crushed ice and I shiver. My fire will alert them and the foot falls tread ever closer—so close and my flame hisses as it scorches the snow black. Fire crackles and hisses—shadows grow as tall as the towering trees and I hear them walk ever so quietly. One begins to whistle as their horse sighs heavily—it wants to get back on the trail. It knows this is no stopping point. Why do they search for me? Do they wish to help me? It would be nice—I realize as I shiver—to have some food in my belly and a blanket around me. This red cloak does nothing now to keep out the chill and it's cold—oh, so cold. My teeth clang together and they clatter as I hold my body close.

“Bring Manse up.”


And the creature trots. A man whistles. Bushes rustle and birds take flight into the night.

They're whistling my song.

Within a forest asleep...

“Within His needlepoint teeth, within a blare of silence, She slumbers...”

Feet fall all around me and the snow brakes—it cackles and howls in it's cold and icy way. There's more than two of them—maybe four—maybe ten or more as the night attacks me with rustling bushes and fleeing vermin. But I hear two voices. I hear one whistle and one sing and another set of foot falls—more snow falling and trees rustling—the forest is attacking and I have no way of defending myself. What could go wrong if I showed them where I am, right now? If they are not my only attackers—if there is some lurker in the forest while they search for me, what harm could these human lookers pose? What harm? I shiver, I shiver, I shiver and I'm numb as the forest spins.

“And with every cut.”

A hard crunch, a swift bite of snow.

“And with every slice.”

I gasp — my lungs can't take it and I cough. A hand—cold and icy—slithers around my mouth and for a moment I do not breathe.

“And with every howl,”

A curt shush. I bring shaking hands to a hand larger than my face and attempt to pry but the hand only squeezes harshly.

“...brought silent.”

He turns me around and I stare into eyes colder than a wintry dawn. His face is pale—his beard sporting a coat of glittering snow. A hard face, a grim set of shoulders with the hilt of a large sword peeking out from behind. He brings a gnarled finger to his lips—shhh!

“She slumbers.” The woman finishes. “Oh, Mother Sun, she slum--”

The man is silver lightning—jumping out in a flurry of motion—a twister of silver and blue. Peeking from the bushes, I see them. A man and woman, their hair ashen, their faces beautifully grotesque as they twist in anger at the hunter. He draws a single sword and the scabbard hisses like an angered snake.

“You weren't the blood we smelled.” The woman hisses, arching her back. Her hands extend and claws erupt from gnarled, pale, fingers. “You aren't the meat.”

“Don't you get it?” Hisses the other. He stands erect, hands free, his feet planted sternly. “He's trapped us. We won't survive this. Get on, Sara! I won't be fightin' no sicarius today.”

The man gives them no choice when he charges sword first, grunting as he takes his first swing at the woman who smacks him — nails first. Her head goes rolling and I duck down—unable to see anymore as a wet gurgle seeps through the silence of the falling snow. The woman's partner lets out an inhuman scream as he too is cut down. Hot blood hisses through the cold snow and I'm about ready to let free yesterday's dinner as their horse nervously pats the ground and whinnies as the blue eyed stranger stomps back towards my hidey-hole and offers a hand.

My mouth's open—I'm frightened as my heart juts from my chest in rapid beats. “W-why?” I manage to stutter out.

He looks to his hand and I take it. “Good money.” Is his answer.


Taking hold of the spotted mare, he cuts what connects her to the old carriage and pulls himself up onto her back. “Where ya headed?”


He gives me a look.

“The Inn up the road. I'll show you.”
I ride second, keeping hold to him and to the horse as we careen down the trail towards my final destination. My final walk through these darned woods and I witness a murder. Snow slops onto my head and I shake it away. Those...people obviously had a sour deed on their minds if this man—this Sicarius—decided to cut them down were they stood—defenseless, I might add. The woman changed though—transformed into something monstrous—but her partner...

They smelt my blood.
The path diverges and the tree line ends.

“There!” I point and we take the fork in the road as it leans towards the right. The inn is a speck on a snow laden hill and as we ride closer and closer, I see the old, two story, place and think—home. It is a welcome sight as the sun climbs into a white sky—brighter than all the rest of the stars as they fall from their places. Snow peppers my eyes again and I blink the flakes away. A door slams, wooden and rickety, and I notice Vena waving like a little girl. I try and fail to stifle a grin, I chuckle and I catch myself as the rider looks back at me. A single eyebrow raised as though to question, are you and this elven kin? Her ears stick out brazenly because she is not afraid to show what she truly is—and she should never be.

We ride a bit closer and I hear him murmur, “Non-human sympathizers...”

Vena is close enough. Her eyes are dancing, her smile wide as she looks up to the stranger and plainly states: “The Frostfall accepts all kinds—anyone and everyone who needs a warm bed. We will always oblige.”

I jump down into her waiting arms and she hugs me tight. “You came!”

“Not fast enough?”

“Too fast.” she giggles, pulling me away so she may get a good look. Vena is the blanket of snow the ground clutches tight on cold, cold, nights. She is my sister—my one anchor in this world. “Every season I miss you...but no longer.” Once again, she pulls me in and I smell cinnamon on her breath...nutmeg. My grin is so wide that it hurts.

Vena is a good host. She takes the sicarius' horse into the old stable around back and serves him. I step into Frostfall's halls and immediately take a seat at the large fire Vena has already stirred up. The floor is stone—cold to the touch—but the benches are warm as I take a seat. And soon the stranger is sitting across from me with a mug full of spiced ale as Vena takes a seat right by me.

“It's on the house!” Vena grins, clapping her hands. “For escorting my sister.” she says, her voice becoming low. “Thank you.”

“That too,” The stranger replies as he points at me, “is on the house.” Before downing his mug, tossing a few silvers Vena's way, and abruptly standing. His cheek is bleeding and we stand with him—unsure as to if we should offer help exiting or some sort of medical aid. I follow Vena's lead.

“Would the kind stranger like to offer his name? So that we remember to give you a free mug whenever you stop by again?” Vena offers as he slides on a coat of leather. His boots have tracked mud upon the stones. Blood too.
The stranger thinks for a bit, mulling this over as he slowly slides on his thin coat.

Vena nods expectantly as I stand dumbfounded.

Stalking to the door, Vena and I inhale expectantly as he pulls at the handle and the door creaks.

“Terragon.” He grunts and the door closes with a wall shuttering slam. 

Thank you all for reading this! I will post a chapter every Friday! I hope you look forward to the next!

All the best,