Wow, I pretty much abandoned this site, but life got busy. I’m working at a school in a PDD preschool room and I got my teacher license.
I’ve also been lazy about writing, so things are in various states of completion (or non-completion, rather.)
I think my characters are mad about this. But anyways…
The other night, I was searching my hard drive for The Faerstone, the sequel to The Brumal Star. I could not find it anywhere and then lo and behold, it popped up on a search in a random folder. I probably thought I was being clever and organized but managed to hide it from myself.
This tiny manuscript is far from being complete, but I do have the first couple of chapters finished. Apologies for wonky formatting.
Sorrel the Chirelien flexed his wings as he waited under the Warde’s oak tree in their front yard. He’d been outfitted with a custom leather saddle (“but you can forget about a bridle and reins, thank you very much. Nobody’s pulling on my head.”)
His request was only fair. The giant bats were unused to having riders.
Lorica ran her fingers along the smooth verrew wood of Jamison’s crossbow. The undulating cursive script decorating it to ensure it would never fail was still as clear as the day they’d been painted on.
“Are you sure you want to part with this?” she asked.
“I’d feel better with it in your hands,” Jamison said, checking the girth’s buckles again. “Just in case, of course.”
“Don’t shoot anyone unless you really need to,” said Lorica’s father, Edmund. As Captain of their township’s law enforcement, Reathe Guard, Edmund wished to prevent any unnecessary weapon use.
Especially when his only daughter was traveling to her mother’s homeland of Cirreket for the first time.
Lorica made a face. “I won’t!”
It never occurred to her to. Hopefully the dangers Edmund warned her about were exaggerated but at least she’d have Sorrel with her.
Getting the Chirelien into Cirreket unnoticed was her biggest worry. Nobody there had ever seen one, as far as she knew.
Edmund’s old army friend, Sergeant Reese Gage, was going to meet her once she reached Cirreket’s capital city. From there, she would be visiting the mage school, Cirrakel Araskolsa.
“Post a letter the moment you land,” Edmund said.
“I will,” Lorica said.
“You’re sure you have everything?” Edmund asked. “Traveling papers, money?”
She smiled. “I’ve got everything I need. Don’t worry.”
Edmund put his hands on her shoulders. “At least I know you’re leaving this time.”
Lorica gave him a half grin. Her last experience away from home had been hastily planned and had ended with her, Jamison, and their bat friend Scout nearly getting killed.
The first thing Lorica Warde noticed when she arrived in Cirrakel, the capital city of Cirreken, was the grotesque stink of gandraa dung. Gandraas— bulky, herbivorous pack animals with glossy deep brown hides and horns that spanned fourteen arm-lengths, were native to this southern land. They ate a quarter of their weight in grain a day and then relieved themselves all over the cobblestone streets.
It had taken them a little over a week of flying to get there. By traveling at night, they avoided most people so as not to raise any suspicion. Lorica had left Sorrel to rest in the tall grass at the base of the Verena Mountains on the outskirts of the city.
Lorica swatted away the flies buzzing around heaps of dung and pushed her way through the throngs of people crowding the avenue in a riot of colors, smells, and sounds.
People rushed by, hurrying to get from one place to the next but hampered by the swell of bodies. Parents scolded their children and vendors yelled instructions at their workers as they took orders.
The jingle of coins being pressed into hands, the hiss of meats being cooked over open fires, tangy smell of the roasting yellow vegetables called fuiral that grew in this region surrounded her.
“Hot daurebread for the red-haired miss,” called a man in Cirreken. His dusty
robes swished as he pointed to his cart filled with steaming, golden brown folded triangles. “Fresh from the oven to your mouth.”
Lorica breathed in the cinnamon bite wafting in the warm air. Her stomach growled. She hadn’t eaten since she and Sorrel arrived early that morning. “How much?”
Although she’d practiced Cailreth to Cirreken currency exchange with her father, making change with the denominations was tricky.
“Three poerets. But I’d give you as many as will fill your belly if you’d entertain me at my home for a few hours.” He winked and flashed stained teeth.
Lorica grimaced. “Entertain?”
The man stretched out his callused fingers to stroke Lorica’s hair.
She swerved out of his reach. “What are you doing?”
“You don’t wish for me to touch? I don’t see many with hair that color.”
“You can’t be serious,” she said. “My mother had hair the same color, and she was Cirreken born. It’s not that rare.”
The man’s smile vanished. “I thought it would bring me luck.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” she said. “Don’t try that again.”
“You don’t mean that,” he leered, and reached over to stroke her hair again.
Lorica slapped his hand away. “I said don’t touch me. Who do you think you are?”
Gasps came from watchers the next stall over.
His dark eyes grew cold, like two black stones. “You disrespect me. You won’t get away with this. Someone, summon the guards!”
“You can’t just touch people whenever you want,” she said.
“Disrespectful bitch! I will see to it that you’re properly punished.” Spittle flecked his thin lips.
Sellers in neighboring stalls stopped what they were doing and stared. Passersby slowed down to watch, murmuring to each other. It wasn’t every day they had this kind of excitement.
“What are all of you looking at?” she said. “He has no right to touch me.”
Rage clouded the man’s face. He lunged towards her. His wooden cart crashed to the ground. Daurebread rolled off the cart onto the dusty street. A few people grabbed them and stuffed them down their clothes or into their satchels. The kooras birds that had been lazily pecking at crumbs among the cobblestones scattered to the faded awning overhead.
The vendor clutched Lorica’s shirt and tore the sleeve.
“Hey, what are you doing!” she shouted, twisting away from him. “Get your hands off me!”
He waved his free hand. The other he had clamped onto Lorica’s shoulder. “Guards, arrest this miserable tripe!”
He kicked and swore at the people trying to scavenge his daurebread.
Two guards dressed in bronze breastplates over scarlet tunics strode up to them. The sun glinted off their conical helmets. They had curved swords in leather scabbards and shields decorated with concentric rings.
“What’s going on here?” asked the taller, older of the two. He had sharp, angular features and precisely trimmed facial hair.
Lorica wrenched herself out of the vendor’s grip, casting filthy looks at the open-mouthed crowd of onlookers gathered around them.
“This bitch disrespects me,” croaked the vendor. “She thinks she’s too good for Raivan the daurebread seller.”
Lorica stared daggers at Raivan. “He thinks he can touch me whenever he wants!”
The other guard ignored him and instead studied Lorica’s face with an expression as inscrutable as a snake’s. His blue eyes flicked over her dusty clothes and curious-looking crossbow with symbols etched into it, but what especially caught his interest was her Cailreth Army-issue pack.
“I recognize that pack. You don’t live here, do you?” he said.
“No, I’m from Cailreth.” She stared at his unlined face. A sweaty lock of black hair stuck to his forehead. How could he be one of their city guard? He didn’t look like he was much older than she was.
“What about the crossbow? Magically enhanced? Have you got a permit for it?” he asked.
Heat crept into Lorica’s face. “I do.”
“This foreign bitch—” Raivan started to say.
“Enough!” the bearded guard said.
“Let’s see your traveling papers,” said the blue-eyed one. “What business do you have in Cirrakel?” He rested his hand on his sword’s pommel. It was in the shape of a snarling panther: Cirreket’s national symbol.
Lorica rummaged in her pack and handed the papers over to the guards.
“Tarquin, look at this,” the bearded guard said to his partner. “Says she’s a healer.”
Tarquin read her papers. “Fully trained? I’ll believe it when I see it, Faas.”
“I’m here to visit the Araskolsa,” she said. “I came to study as part of my work.”
“Healer?” Raivan spat. “Probably a charlatan like all the rest.”
“I’m not a charlatan,” she said. “I trained as a physician’s assistant until I earned—”
Shouts and screams and broke out behind them. Lorica heard the whooshing of very large wings. Her stomach dropped.
The crowd dove out of the way, knocking each other over as they fell. Some made signs with their hands to ward off evil.
“Demon, demon!” someone shrieked.
Lorica groaned. So much for Sorrel’s promise to stay hidden until she could make it back to the rock shelter at the foot of the mountains.
“Get away from her,” Sorrel hissed.
His wrinkled snout revealed his gleaming sharp teeth. He clawed lines into the dark cobblestones. His tail swept the ground in serpentine movements.
Lorica clenched her fists. “Sorrel, I told you to stay put!”
The guards drew their swords.
“What—what is this?” Faas shouted.
“Tell them to put away their swords, Lorica,” Sorrel said.
“Stop!” Lorica shouted. “Put your weapons away.”
“Sorceress!” Raivan said, pointing at her from under his upturned cart. “She speaks to the creature as if it understands.”
She spun around and glared. “Of course he understands.”
“Tell them again to put their swords away,” Sorrel growled, “before I use my teeth.”
“Guards, please withdraw your weapons. Sorrel thinks your threatening us.”
“Tell them I will use my teeth,” Sorrel said.
“That thing has a name?” Faas said.
“Calm down, Sorrel.” She went to take a step toward him. The guards’ swords clinked together as they formed an “X” to bar her way.
“We aren’t through here, Lorica. What is this creature and what’s it doing here?” Tarquin asked.
“His name is Sorrel, and he’s a Chirelien. He came with me from Cailreth,” she said.
“I would prefer that he address me,” Sorrel said. “But I suppose that can’t be helped.”
“You know they can’t understand you, Sorrel,” she said.
Sorrel lowered his head with a growl and shook his shaggy, black mane.
Faas raised his sword. “Stay back, stay back.”
“What exactly is a Chirelien?” Tarquin demanded. “And how the hell did that thing get so big?”
“They’re giant bats,” Lorica said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s a long story.”
“Your mutant bat needs to be contained,” Faas said. “If he doesn’t come quietly then it will be on you. And you’re going to have to come with us.”
Bile stung the back of her throat but she remembered her father’s words: Stay calm and don’t lose your head, even in the face of chaos. “What for?”
“For disturbing the peace,” Faas said.
“That’s ridiculous!” she said. “I’m not guilty of anything.”
Sorrel lashed his tail. “Lorica, get on my back. Let’s get out of here, now!”
He moved to get closer to her but a fruit seller nearby had armed himself with a whip. He cracked it at Sorrel’s back.
“Sorrel, look out!” Lorica yelled.
It was the noise more than the smarting sting of pain at the base of his tail that made Sorrel scream and rear up. His wing caught on the stall’s sun-bleached awning and gouged a hole in it. The awning collapsed atop the tiered bins, rolling them forward. Lemons, limes, and oranges rolled everywhere.
Sorrel lunged at the fruit seller and grabbed the whip in his teeth and yanked it out of his hand. People scattered in a frenzy to get away from his claws and teeth.
“Sorrel, fly! Get away from here!” shouted Lorica.
He spat out the frayed whip. “What about you?”
“I’ll take care of myself!”
“I’m not leaving you here with them,” Sorrel said.
“Get out while you can,” she said.
Before the guards could react, Sorrel launched into the air. His tail clipped some of the roof terracotta tiles and sent them smashing to the street. He soared over the marketplace stalls and disappeared over a brick wall.
“Time to go,” Faas said. The guards sheathed their swords and crowded Lorica.
“Wait,” she said. Her mind raced as she scanned the area for an escape. More guards had arrived and blocked her from all sides.
Faas and Tarquin clamped on to Lorica’s arms and steered her down the crowded street. Dirt mixed with sweat and leather stung her nose. She struggled to get out of their grasp but they were too strong.
“Stop fighting,” Tarquin said. “Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”
Faivan trailed behind them. “What about me? She disrespected me!”
Tarquin whipped his head around. “Go back and clean up your mess, old man.”
“I want to press charges!” Faivan shouted. “Destruction of property!”
Terror curdled in Lorica’s stomach. “Let me go, I haven’t done anything wrong. Where are you taking me?”
“You’re going to the jailhouse until we figure out what to do with that creature,” Faas said.
“You’d better not do anything to hurt Sorrel,” she said.
“You almost caused a riot,” Tarquin said.
“None of this is my fault,” she said. “It all started because the bread seller propositioned me.”
“Well, you’re lucky you didn’t take him up on it, because then you would have been in worse trouble,” Faas said.
“Didn’t you say you know someone from Cailreth Army in the city?” Tarquin asked.
“Sergeant Reese Gage,” she said in a shaky voice. “He knows my father, Captain Edmund Warde of Cailreth 17th regiment.”
“Lucky you,” Faas said. He confiscated her pack and crossbow.
“I can’t believe this,” Lorica said. “This is unjust! I would punch the lot of you in the face if I could.”
“Why don’t you take it easy, Miss Warde,” Tarquin said. “Thing will be much easier for you if you quit fighting.”
“You won’t catch Sorrel,” she said in the haughtiest tone she could muster. “He’s too smart and quick for any of your soldiers.”
“Perhaps we’re more interested in you right now,” Tarquin said, trying not to grin at Lorica’s red face that now matched her fiery hair.
“All of you are going to be very sorry,” she seethed.
They arrived at the jailhouse, and Lorica was escorted to a cell. It was cramped, dark, and smelled like piss. The jailer clanged the door shut.
“Your temporary home until we can get in touch with your father’s friend,” Faas said.
“It’s lovely,” retorted Lorica. “When my father and Sergeant Gage find out about this, they’ll kick your asses into next year!”
Fass and Tarquin climbed up the narrow stone staircase that led up to the jail’s courtyard. Lorica’s swears and shouts echoed nearly all the way to the top.
“You know, we could have just told her to leave the city,” Tarquin said.
“True,” Faas said, “but I’m curious about this girl’s alleged healing abilities.”
“Why didn’t you ask her to demonstrate, then?” Tarquin asked.
“I want to see how she measures up against the Ghaadeks,” Faas said.
“The Ghaadeks? That cult, you mean?” Tarquin said. “They’re the real charlatans, if you ask me.”
Faas raised his eyebrows. “Be careful how loudly you say that. If the wrong person overheard you…”
Tarquin scowled. “I’m not afraid of them. Besides, we need to contact that sergeant before the so-called healer screams the whole jail deaf.”