Archive for March, 2012

Springtide dawned heavy with clouds, which was encouraging to nobody. Indeed, everyone in town was apprehensive as they went through the day. Oh, it wasn’t ominous as such – not yet. But the leaden skies didn’t bode well for the clear, starry night that everyone hoped for.

The old seer always said that the stars told about what was, not what would be; that the only way anyone, even he, could predict the future was in light of the present. And sometimes, people tried to encourage themselves with that. Even the gloomiest of visions did not mean that the future would stay so dark.

But the world didn’t change overnight, did it?


The day had been lively, even noisy – brightly-coloured cloth strewn over every surface that would support it, children laughing and playing, youth and adults playing at all manner of competitions. The sun was warm, the breeze was mild, and the hills were green again after the winter’s chill. What wasn’t to celebrate?

Now the fires were lit, the sun was sinking under the mountains to the west, and the sky was darkening; it was time for the games to be set aside, time for the energy to settle down. The people gathered around the bonfire, mothers gathering their children close, and one by one, chattering voices fell silent.

When all that remained was the hiss and crackle of the fire, the wise woman emerged from her hut.


It was all quite sudden. One moment, Allan was making his way down a quiet country lane with a light drizzle wetting the earth; the next, there was a body pressed against his, his own name echoing in his ears.

The one who’d collided with him was smaller than him, and incredibly light even for that size; so it was that he only lurched back a step rather than tumbling into the mud. Laughing, he sought the shoulders of the one suddenly embracing him, giving them a squeeze. “And a good day to you as well, Raskin,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re looking well.”

The storm drake seemed to suddenly become aware of the fact that he’d just seized Allan in a tight embrace in the middle of the lane – and while it was no city street, teeming with people, they were certainly attracting some attention. His grip loosened. “Ah… forgive me,” he said, rather more softly than he’d called Allan’s name. “I suppose I’d grown even more fond of you than I had realized.”

“No harm done,” Allan assured him. Lacking horns of his own to touch to Raskin’s, as friendly male drakes were wont to do in greeting, he settled for giving one a firm rub. “Even if I wasn’t expecting quite so, ah, intense a greeting, it’s very far from unwelcome.”


“Give your fears to the fire,” the old seer called to the passersby. “Give a name to your nightmares and see them consumed! Find the courage to face whatever you must!” And some of the people going by would pause, and scribble something on a scrap of paper, and toss it into the brazier while the old man smiled.

“You, sir!” he called out to one in particular. “Yes, you, traveller. Your heart looks heavy – come, put a name to your innermost demons and consign them to the flames. You’ll feel better for it, I assure you!”

“Have you taken leave of your senses, old man?” a young warrior passing by hissed. “That’s the Dragonslayer, the bravest man in the land! He’s not afraid of anything!”

The man who’d been called the Dragonslayer snorted, cuffing the youth on the shoulder as he came up to the seer’s little stall. “The graveyards are full of people who aren’t afraid of anything,” he observed, tapping the fingers of one hand atop a scrap of paper and turning a charcoal stick in the other.

“Aha.” The seer nodded slowly. “It’s a wise man who grows to your age living by the sword.”


“This cost us time,” Davik said. “We need to get moving – but where?”

Taren whirled toward one of the captives, seizing his jaw. “You. Where has your master gone? If there’s an answer in you, we’ll get it one way or another.”

The man had just seen his fellows subdued in the space of half a minute, and sported quite a few bruises himself; he was utterly terrified. But he shook his head against Taren’s fingers. “N-no! I won’t…”

Davik sighed. “He gets credit for loyalty, at least,” he observed, tugging off his gloves and tucking them into his belt.


She came to the steaming springs and found a man already there.

Sky-clad, sitting at the pool’s edge with his legs in the water, he was breathing heavily when she arrived. Any doubt she might have had over what he’d been doing vanished within the space of a few more steps.

She felt her cheeks heat. Whatever had possessed the man, to indulge his lusts like that, out here open to the wild? Her breath caught in her throat from the shock of it.


None who looked down the lane failed to notice the procession. In the blowing snow, perhaps the mourners themselves were a bit less obvious, the white of their robes against the whiteness of winter, the people made visible mostly my glimpses of hair or skin. If the robes had been all they’d had, they would have been easy to miss indeed.

The quartet of bearers at the procession’s heart, however, seized any eyes that drifted their way, carrying a litter on which lay a form wrapped in a bright red shawl.


It was Deck’s first time past the wall, and it was well worth the wait.

Nobody lived in Rian’s Green without knowing about the wall. It was a stone barrier twelve feet high, capped with fence that went higher still, and it surrounded a space five miles across in the middle of the city. All homes, businesses, warehouses, and whatever else were outside the wall.

Inside was virgin land. It wasn’t a park in the sense that most cities knew the word. Those were cultivated, tended, shaped. The Greenwardens, though, maintained only a few rough trails – and even those tended to shift over time. This was wilderness – a small packet of it, to be sure; but it was a place that had been left almost entirely to itself since the day Rian’s Green was first settled.


Working for the Duke of Barklan wasn’t a bad lot, really. The Duke was stern and intimidating, and his rage could be a terrifying thing to behold – especially around the full moon, when it could make for a great deal of work mending torn drapes or sheets or clothes, or in the worst cases, moving in new furniture. Everyone feared what that temper might do if it was ever turned against them.

But the Duke had always been careful to send his people away when something roused his ire. He was very careful about that.


Derek emerged from the diner into the late-afternoon sun and blew out his breath.

What a day. At times like this, all he wanted to do was sleep for a week.

Oh, well. Someone needed to step up to the plate.