The Thirsty Blade: Flash Fiction Dark Fantasy

Henry paused the metal detector where the beeping was steady, just like he’d seen on the telly, and dropped a button on the ground to mark the spot. 

Then, he carefully set the apparatus down, removed his coat, and set about digging. 

His son had called him a fool for taking from his pension to buy the thing, but Henry had a feeling in his gut that he’d find results. If not a buried Roman hoard, perhaps relics from a more recent century that could be worth a few more pounds than the machine had cost. And what else was there to do upon retiring from forty years of keeping a pub?

The spot he’d chosen, just far enough into the woods from the motorway that the sound of engines were a gentle growl, was mossy and overgrown. It reminded him of a fairy tale. The great twisted tree roots and a nearby babbling brook spoke to him of ancient mages and whispering Druids, although whether they’d been prone to whispers or taken vows of silence like monks, he couldn’t recall. Still, it had seemed the best place to start his hunting. 

When his spare hit something hard, he knew that he had been right to follow his instinct. Bugger his son for refusing to take chances and get the most out of life!

“Well, once you’ve stood behind that counter for another twenty-five or thirty years, perhaps you’ll be looking for adventure, yourself,” he muttered, sinking creakily to his knees. 

Dampness seeped into the cloth on his knees, and he knew the dirt and moss were likely to leave stains on his slacks, but the faint glint of metal in the clods of earth took away that care, too.

Henry reached into the hole to brush the metal clean. To his astonishment, it wasn’t a box or a decorative rod. It was a sword. 

“I’ve found bloody Excalibur!” He laughed aloud. 

Even though the little dell was shaded from the summer sun, Henry was sweating and his chest heaving with effort by the time he’d uncovered the rest of the thing. Whether it could be properly termed a broadsword or a longsword, he couldn’t be certain, but it was — or had been — a beauty. The hilt was intricately designed with inlays and carvings peeking out from under centuries of dirt and tarnish, and the blade was whole, though edged with notches and blackened by time.

“Poor old thing,” he told it, shaking a hanky open to wipe it down. “Not even broken. Put out to pasture and forgotten before your time, eh? Buried away from slaying dragons and rescuing maidens just when life was getting good? Well, I know how that feels. Indeed I do.”

The hilt felt friendly in his hand. Manly. Henry stood up with it and automatically straightened his shoulders, running the fingers of his open hand along its tarnished edge. One callused finger caught on a crack. He started at the little burst of hurt, nearly dropping the sword in shock. 

“Blast, wasn’t expecting that.” 

He leaned the sword on a tree trunk to fetch a thermos of clean water from his pack. It was short work to rinse his cut. Even shorter to realize that the place on the sword where it had cut him was . . . Clean.

Henry stared. “Blimey.”

He moved closer and adjusted his spectacles. Wiped them on the least bit of dirty shirttail, just in case. There was no mistaking, though — that small spot on the blade’s edge where he’d cut himself, a section no bigger than his thumbnail, gleamed as brightly as a polished mirror. 

“How could that be?” Henry wondered aloud. 

A wind rattled the leaves of the tree, and the summer sun seemed to disappear, leaving a dark chill behind it. Time to leave. Henry shivered, putting his coat back on for a moment before taking it off again. He laid it flat and wrapped the sword in it for the walk back to the car park. No need for anyone else to see his finding, after all. There would be too many unnecessary questions, if someone noticed him tucking a great dirty sword in the dented boot of his car.

When he got it home, Henry locked the sword in his old kit from the war, washed up, and had his tea. He knew he ought to go to bed, but his thoughts were still filled with knights and castles, so he sat at the old computer that his son called a relic and logged onto the World Wide Web to see if he could find some answers. 

How did one clean an old sword, anyhow?

He supposed he could call the curator of a museum, or an antiques specialist, but it was in the back of his mind that they might try to take the sword from him. And he simply could not let that happen. It belonged to him, now.

Henry hadn’t felt this good in years. So energized and full of purpose. He barely noticed the passage of the afternoon into evening, or evening into night. When his son phoned in the morning, as usual, he was still at his computer, and he didn’t take the call. 

Which was why Peter came round at 10.

“Dad! Have you been sitting there all night?”

Henry turned in his chair to gaze blearily at his grown-up child. “Oh. Peter. Hallo. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“You didn’t answer your phone. Had me a bit worried, you know.” Peter tsked, looking over Henry’s shoulder at the computer screen. “What’s this nonsense you’re looking at now? Swords?”

“Yes, yes! You’ll never believe what I found!” Henry pushed away from the table and rose with little of his usual difficulty, in spite of the hours he’d sat in the chair, and went to his kit. Peter was close behind, demanding answers in a steady stream of belligerent remarks, mainly the usual claptrap about wasting money and remembering to keep putting extra by, for the sake of the future.

“Well, if it is worth something, ithe sword will be your inheritance instead of bits of my pension!” Henry snapped. He pulled the sword out, his hand comfortably gripping the hilt as though it had always done so, and turned on one bended knee to show his tarnushed treasure to his son.

He underestimated how quickly he could turn. Was used to his bones creaking and his joints aching. Peter was standing too closely, as he’d been wont to do for years, invading Henry’s space in an effort to be helpful. 

The blackened and uneven blade sliced cleanly through Peter’s side, cutting kidney and intestine right up to the ribcage, where it caught. Henry and Peter stared at each other. Then, following his instinct, Henry put his weight behind the hilt, changed his grip, and thrust the blade upward, cleaving his son’s  chest in two. 

Peter’s mouth fell open and then his head dropped down as though he wanted to watch the sword’s gleaming metal sliding free of the sheath of his body. Henry couldn’t take his own eyes off it, barely glancing as his son’s corpse hit the floor. Under the layer of swiftly clotting blood and matter, threads of fabric and bits of skin, the blade shone almost like new. And then, before his astonished gaze, the blood disappeared. He blew the dried bits of material off the sword, marveling at its craftsmanship and beauty.

“Now that’s a way to clean you up, isn’t it?” Henry whistled, long and low. He turned the blade this way and that, noting how the shine ended where the blood had stopped. He rose to his feet, his back straighter than it had been in years. Henry felt like a new man.

But when he experimentally dipped the last of the tarnished bits in his son’s open wound, there was no noticeable effect.

“Ah, I think I understand, my sir,” Henry told the blade. “I worked in a pub for forty years. I know a thirsty customer when I see one. And only a fresh pint’ll do, won’t it?”

He stepped over Peter and headed for the door. The young fellow who lived next door, who’d kicked his car and dented it — Henry could often hear him outside, strutting about with his mates. He couldn’t wait to see what the bastard lay-about thought of his new sword.

Wishes and Fools: my NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 1 Story!

A few months ago, I teased this one because I didn’t want to post it until I knew how I’d done. No feedback just yet, other than two most excellent beta readers (love you, Tar and Jenny!), but it did place 10 out of 15. The story for Round 2 this weekend is under way; I’m currently struggling with an ending.

Here, for your reading enjoyment, is my 1,000 word flash fiction fantasy with a setting of a mountain stream, and milk as my object!

Wishes and Fools

Synopsis: When a hero desires to win another’s heart, the lore of his village says to petition the Wee Folk of the mountain stream with a gift of milk. He completes his journey, but his skepticism, greed, and impatience prove to be his downfall when he unintentionally murders one of the Fae, and he must pay for the crime with his own life — although not in a conventional way.

The old mothers of the village have always said that when you want something badly enough, an offering to the Wee Folk is as sure to help as anything.

I remain skeptical. But every morning the winds sweep down from the mountain and over the fields of flax as golden as her hair, and every evening the sky rises dark and sparkling as her eyes. Her lips are the red of the wine in my cup, and her bosom soft and fragrant as two rounds of bread by the fire . . .

I won’t tell anyone. No-one has to know that I have sought blessings on the mountain, from the Little People. Perhaps, one day, when her golden hair has silvered and my hands are weakened, I will tell her how my longing drove me to the hidden stream near its peak, where no water should flow, bearing a gift for the Fae stolen from my grandmother’s she-goat.

I leave before sunrise. There is enough light cast by the setting moon and the earliest blue of morning to see my way along the slender trail as it winds along the waist of the mountain. So few walk this path, there are places where it all but disappears. I know the way, though.

We all know the way.

My feet tread the ground in time to the beat of my heart. I pass the first marker,  touching the mass of boulders where the muscle of the mountain bulges forth, and I press on, following the path as it ascends through a field of slippery shale. It is here, the old mothers have said, that trolls made their home until the Wee Folk came and drove them all away.

A rope bridge provides passage over the second marker, a cascading waterfall so high above the valley that its waters disappear into an underground river well before they ever reach the village. I check that my pack is secure and grasp the sides of the bridge tightly.

In the middle of my crossing, strong gusts swirl up from the chasm, blinding me with icy spray. The bridge shivers and sways, and I lose my footing, falling to my knees on the twisting fibres. I feel the flesh split and scrape on my legs, splinters digging into the soft skin between the callouses on my hands.

I pass the test, crawling the rest of the way over the bridge. It is tempting to lay still on the solid rock, breathing in the scents of lichen and damp stone, but I am so close . . .

The air is thinner here, where the path is steepest. The sun breaks over the horizon as I keep my weight close to the steps on the near-vertical cliff. It is as though each brief platform had been carved as stairs for giants.

And then, the final ledge ends not in another sheer wall, but opens out into a miraculous plain. Here, the snow field meets the bare rock and the granite is darkened with sheets of water. There are patches of soft grass that grow wider near the stream, and tufts of strange, fragrant flowers.

I stumble forward, my footsteps loud in the stillness — not even the wind dares to blow in this place. The gurgling laughter of the impossible mountain stream makes me shiver. Hurriedly, I crouch by the streambed and work open the leather knots of my pack.

I pour the milk into the bone cup I’ve brought, and say the words. “Please, let her love me as much as I love her,” I add in a whisper.

And then I wait.

What happens next? The old mothers were never clear. I expect a fairy to appear, smiling knowingly; an elf to come forth, nodding sagely.

I am so weary, I put my head down on my arm. I dream of her, dancing, whirling close to me and then away again. Always away.

The bright light of the sun wakes me, now fully over the horizon. The stream gurgles and laughs at me.

I am a fool.

Enraged, I rise, prepared to kick the stolen milk over the precipice. But it wouldn’t do to waste it. Instead, I take the cup to drink it down myself.

Too late, I see the little figure clinging to the edge inside.

I feel its wings flutter madly against the roof of my mouth, sharp nails grasping at my teeth and my tongue. But I have tossed back the drink as I would my ale, and in another swallow, the Fae is gone.

I fall back, stunned. My stomach twists, and I pound at my midsection, willing myself to bring it up, but there is nothing to be done. I lay in a heap, sweating, my heart racing.

I must get home. The old mothers will know what to do.

I try to rise, but my legs refuse me. My pulse thunders in my ears; the twisting in my gut now a burning pain. I shudder, my back arching; I am a fish on a hook, pierced through the shoulders; my gasps and cries come to my ears strangely, as though they belong to someone else . . .

I am spent. Thirsty. The leaping water beside me giggles and beckons, but I roll over, looking for the bone cup. My tunic feels too heavy, falling over my head like a tent; I pull my arms out of too-large sleeves to crawl. The soft grass cradles my naked waist and legs, for I have left my breeches and boots, too.

The cup looms before my eyes as a near-empty barrel, glowing pearly white with milk film. I put out my tongue, laving up drops of the precious liquid.

There are footsteps on the path. I see wisps of golden hair flying free of her braid.

I must hide my nakedness. I make to rise, and a wind aids me.

The thrumming pressure at my back is not the wind.

I have wings.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Flash Fiction: Heart-Right’s 100% Guarantee

Worried that your child may not choose the best life partner? Concerned about a potential Romeo-Juliet tragedy? Why take the chance? At Heart-Right, our professional DNA Design team can ensure that your precious bundle never has to worry about heartache or heartbreak in his or her adult life. With our patented system, falling in love with the right person is no longer an uncertainty — it’s a guarantee!

I stared at the contract in my hands. By the stove, my mother cleared her throat, her hands busy with the frying pan and the spatula. 

“You bought me a life partner before I was even born?”

She studiously pushed the bacon around. “That’s not how I would put it. Your father and I didn’t have a very stable relationship. We knew so many people, too many people, having problems. We just wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t have to go through that. I mean, it’s not like we paid for you to have enhanced vision or extra digits, you know.”

“But, Mom . . .” I flipped through the pages again, re-reading the terms. “This is . . . totally different than picking my hair colour and leg length from a catalogue. I mean, how on earth does a company even make a promise like that? This was twenty-odd years ago! Have they been tracking me?”

“Honey, everybody is tracked. You know that.”

Frustrated, I slammed the papers down on the table. “That’s not what I meant! You paid money to these people for some crazy scheme to make sure that one day I’d have a perfect love match, something that you’d approve of –”

“No, not just for our approval,” she replied testily, turning to face me. She brandished the spatula, ignoring the drips of fat onto her clean bamboo floor. “To save you from the problems of trying to find someone right. I don’t want you to end up being abused, like your grandmother did, or all alone like your Aunt Mitsy.” Her voice broke and she threw the spatula on the stove. “I don’t expect you to understand until you’re looking to get pregnant yourself, or until you actually are expecting a child of your own. That’s when you start to wonder what your baby’s future is going to be like. Wouldn’t you do the same?”

I shifted in my chair, slumping down. “Yeah, but this whole idea — it’s not possible. It can’t be.”

“The technology has been tested and it’s been successful for twenty-five years,” she sniffed, wiping her eyes. “We did our research before we registered and paid our money. We considered it an investment, like your college fund.”

“So how does it work?” I gestured around the kitchen, empty except for the two of us. Her pet canary sang a cheery tune in the sunlight. I wanted to throw it, in its cage, out the window. “Where’s my Prince Charming? Do I get a note in the mail or something? ‘You are cordially invited to meet your soulmate.’ I mean, what if I already met him — or her — how would I know? What if that person got killed or died from sickness before we even met?”

“Page six of the contract: if the party of second part is deceased at any time before contract fulfillment, or within five to ten years of the party of the first part’s birth (according to the parents’ discretion), a replacement partner will be selected and conditioned for the partnership agreement.” She turned off the stove. 

“It sounds like you’ve memorized the damned thing.” 

“I’ve read it over often enough,” she shrugged. She strained the bacon pan into the bio-energy generator. “More, lately. You were supposed to have met your husband by this point, but we hadn’t been notified of it.”

Damnit. Fucking tracking! I got up, not bothering to put the chair back under the table. There wasn’t a lot of space to pace in my mother’s food prep area, but I managed, even while avoiding the fat spot on the floor. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this before?”

“I did! Well, I tried,” she protested. “Don’t you remember the stories I used to tell you?”

“Yeah, but I thought those were . . . fairy tales, Mom!” I snatched a piece of bacon and sucked on it furiously. “Jesus . . . I started dating in high school!”

“Yes, you did,” she sighed. I watched her pat the dishcloth around the bacon to soak up the grease. “Every time, I thought, ‘this is it!’ But then you’d break up. I was actually thinking of suing the company. I mean, the whole conditioning of the fetus through DNA manipulation is to make sure you’re only compatible with one other individual. But you — you’re compatible with everyone!”

I almost left the kitchen at that point. “Don’t make it sound like this is my fault!”

“Well, I don’t know whose fault it is.” She thrust the pan into the sink to soak. “The procedure is foolproof, 100% effective. They were getting down to three weeks left in the agreement to set up your first date with your ideal partner, genetically matched and psychologically designed to be the right one for you. If it didn’t happen, I was going to sue them for false representation. But it did! Your match arrived this morning!”

I watched my mother reach into a drawer and pull out a sealed envelope. A relic from another time, printed on real paper just like the contract. She offered it to me.

“I  . . . I have to pee,” I said lamely. I left the room, moving awkwardly down the narrow hall. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. 

What if I refused to go on the arranged date?

What if I went, just to satisfy my own curiosity (and her nagging), and it turned out we weren’t compatible after all? She’d definitely sue them at that point.

Because there was one thing I hadn’t told her. I didn’t know how to tell her. I was already in love, had been for years, and it was a precious jewel I kept close to my heart, away from her prying eyes and gossipy tongue. 

Cold prickles washed over me. 100% effective — what if I met this guy, and I did fall for him, just like my designers had planned? Biologically and psychologically matched from pre-birth . . . could I handle being in love with two people at once? Was that even possible? 

It wasn’t fair. The whole point of the program was that I wouldn’t have to choose. 

I locked the door the bathroom and studied the window, debating whether I’d be able to fit through it as well as I’d been able to when I was fifteen.

Guest Blogging on Unwritten!

Join me with Mysti Parker and have a scientifical look at vampires and witches and their potential for breeding. You could win a beautiful handmade beaded necklace with pendant by HMC. Here’s the link: http://mystiparker.blogspot.ca/2015/02/lets-get-scientifical-10-when-witch.html

Lady-wolf: the Untold Story

We had always kept our distance from the two-legs — they were loud, they stank (usually of fear), and they couldn’t communicate. But the prey had been hard to find for a few days, and we were hungry, as were our pups. My mate’s stomach was growling as loudly as I’d ever heard him when he had to warn away coyotes.

So when the two-legs had quieted down, well after dark, we followed our noses to the scent of food.

Although there was no moon, the faint glimmer of starlight coupled with the orange glow from the fire help us find fish spines on a rock, and crumbs of something yeasty on the beaten ground by the hot place. Strange clear round things, too, like small bones that had been cleaned of their marrow. I sniffed one and sneezed at its oddly acrid scent, like broken mushrooms after a rain. Nothing edible there. While my mate licked hopefully at the fish spines, I padded over to a sack that smelled promisingly of food. There was a small hole in it that my claw was able to rip open just a little bigger, letting slimy guts spill out. Not particularly appetizing, but better than nothing.

As I was pulling the innards further out, a wind rose that blew the bag away from me. It tumbled end over end toward the strange cave where the two-legs were sleeping. I snapped up the morsel I’d taken and followed the rest, easily fastening my teeth around its neck to drag it away.

The two-legs inside must have heard me, or maybe it had to mark its territory. Suddenly the big leaf moved aside and its ugly face was there, its eyes staring into mine over its flat snout. We both froze. I’d never been this close to one of them before. I let my hackles rise and growled in warning, advising it to keep its distance. I thought I could scent that it was a male, but there was female odour as well. I could smell yeast here, too, very strong, and that odd smell like mashed fungus. I wasn’t about to get closer to find out more, but then I heard a sound in the cave. Maybe it moved, or something else, but I didn’t like it. I let my teeth show, growling louder, and heard my mate answer in kind.

After too many rapid heart-beats to count, I decided to take a chance on moving back. I put a paw on my prize, intending to drag it away also by snagging it with my nail. But there was a second sack there, something else next to the first I had chased, and it was heavy. The two-legs said something loud, and reached out quickly to stop me. I snarled, snapping a stronger warning.

The stupid two-legs gripped my prize and yanked it back. I got close to its stinking face, fighting for what was mine. My mate responded, approaching, and then when the two-legs looked away, I seized my chance to sink my teeth into its forelimb. I expected it to cry out, but it did something else: it bit me back, fastening its jaws on the tender skin of my ear. Instead of the two-legs yelping, I heard my voice in the pain. Surprised and hurt, I spat out its dirty tasting body and scrambled away, leaving my prize — and my pride — in the dirt.

My mate found me later, attempting to lick my wound, but my tongue wouldn’t quite reach. He obliged by cleansing it as best he could. Every lave of his tongue on my hurt reminded me of the shocking strength of the two-legs jaws trying to rip my flesh from my bones. I knew I would never go near their kind again, no matter how hungry I might feel.

The bites took a long time to heal. Flies swarmed over my hurt ear, where pain rumbled like thunder. But by the time the lesser light was rising nearly full and round in each evening sky, it pained me not at all. I felt wonderfully energetic and playful, approaching my mate for penetration when he didn’t expect and increasing my range of hunting until I was angering our neighbouring families. I tumbled and played with our litter until they were worn out and slept where they fell. I couldn’t help it, though; it felt like the glow of thousands suns under my skin, powering my muscles and pushing me to run as fast as I could. I had to run, because then, when I stopped, I would be able to do the other thing that I couldn’t resist, and that I knew my mate would not understand.

Grasping a firm twig in my maw, i traced shapes in a space of dirt I cleared with my tail. A winding path, like the river carving through the valley. Lines crossing each other and blending downward into one thick reach, like the veins on a leaf or the tall trees that rose about me. The unnatural hump that had been the two-legs’ cave. My jaw made these images clumsily, and I found that I could hook my forepaw around the tip of the tool, and by moving it carefully and slowly, I could do it better.

It disturbed me, these moments, and I would eventually rise shuddering, uncertain of the reason or the purpose behind these things.

It was when the lesser light rose in its fullest that I learned the truth of the two-legs’ curse on me.

The pups, my mate, and I had settled in for the night. I had brought home a fat rabbit and our bellies were full. But as they snored in our den, the white light in the forest beckoned me. I wanted to stay warm and safe, listening to my family breathing, but the desire to go crawled on my fur like a thousand insects. There was no comfort in remaining. I silently and swiftly ran away up the mountain, seeking a private place in which to howl my discomfort away.

And then I stumbled.

I fell, as I ran. Nothing had ever happened to me like that, at least not since I had been a pup. I got up to run again, and my forelegs wouldn’t grip as they had done before. I dragged myself, whining, my bones burning, to a clear flat place on a rock, and lifted my nose to the sky.

But my nose no longer angled before my eyes, jutting proudly before my face. I shook my head, trying to rid myself of the painful tingling, as the black tip shrank away and my teeth and tongue with it. I raised a forepaw, panicking, confused, and scrambled back as I saw the hairless limb waving in the space where my nose had been. The limb ended not in my fuzzy paw, but in something flattened and naked, my knuckles stretched and unfamiliar. My bladder released in my fright, and although my skin wrinkled for hackles, cold air whisked across my neck where the raised fur should have been. A strange sound ululated from my throat — neither a bark, nor a whine, but a low keening wail. I fell back, and in my panic, I recognized an absence of pain where I ought to have jammed the bone of my tail. I twisted around to see, and to my horror, my beautiful thick tail was gone, swallowed into a strange smooth round surface. I tumbled over and over, crying out as the mountain rock and brush left stinging scratches on my suddenly tender skin. When I finally skidded to a stop in a cradle of stone, the light of the moon revealed my new body and I wept.

How would my children feed from me, with only two bulbous mammary glands where six had been? And how could my mate accept me, without my fur? I curled forward, protecting the underbelly which had grown long and felt so hollow. When I tried to stand, my back legs were ungainly and awkward, hitting the ground in two places, bending at an unnatural angle. And I was cold, so cold. I missed the warmth of my family, our bodies piled together in the heat of our den. Something leaked onto my face and ran from my nose, and I knew I must be dying. Wolves did not leak in this way. I was sick and I would not be able to return to my home.

The night wore on. I managed to find grips on the rock, moving slowly as I grew accustomed to myself. The freezing wind tore my breath from me. My body ached and shivered. The fur which had been left to me was long on my head, shorter than a newborn kit’s on my legs, matted patches between my legs and under my forearms — not nearly adequate for protection. If I was now a two-legs (for that certainly seemed to be the truth), I understood better their reason for building hot places when they lived in their strange caves. Why their dens were filled with bedding like a bird’s. Naked, they could not survive.

So when I saw a two-leg place with a fire, I had to swallow my revulsion and panic in order to get close enough to be warmed.

As before, the beings were gone. I could not smell them this time, or smell any food right away. The heat drew me in. There was a pelt by the fire, something scratchy and the colour of blood, left hanging on a strange bush. My teeth were unable to pull it over me, but as I had done with the stick in the dirt, I was able to use my forepaws to stretch the pelt onto my body. Between the pelt and the fire, I was soon able to stop shivering.

I do not remember falling asleep, but it must have been true, because a touch on my shoulder woke me. Again, I tried to growl, but a high-pitched noise hummed from my throat instead. Two-legs were looking at me, making soft sounds. I snapped my teeth, moving backward away from their outstretched limbs. Behind them, the sky was still dark. I felt dirt under my nails as I clawed the ground. I looked down at the marks these long knuckles could make, and felt calmer. I made furrows, digging, and traced the spiral of a cut tree stump, while the two-legs made more noises.

The shock of understanding — it exploded in my chest, when one of them made a sound I could interpret: “Water.”

I looked up at a hollowed bone, filled with clear water. “Aa-der,” I intoned, and crawled forward, hanging my tongue out. It was difficult to lap the drink into my mouth. I tensed at the feeling of the bone touching my teeth, but when the water poured in, I found it easier to swallow. When the two-legs took the bone away, I whimpered. I watched as more water was poured into it from a sack, and then it was offered to me again, this time with a soft touch on my forepaw which made me flinch back.

The smaller two-legs was holding a bone, too. I watched as it curled its ugly knuckles around the bone and raised the liquid to its mouth. Astounded, I realized that this was something I could do, too. I dropped the bone and spilled the water with my first few attempts, but I had always learned things quickly. I found that I could drink like a two-legs, after all.

“Who?,” they kept saying to me. “Who?” Like monstrous owls changed by sorcery into poor mockeries of the birds they had once been.

“Where?” It sounded like a growl, but wasn’t. The noises were intelligible, but I did not know their language. “Hurt,” they said, but what did it mean?

They gave me food, hard like tree bark but tasting of berries and wheat. They built the fire, placing more sticks on it, so that I would not be cold. These were not the terrifying two-legs of my nightmares.

So when the sky brightened and I shuddered back into my normal form, perhaps their screams were also to be understood. As soon as my four legs were under me, my tail brushing the air once more, I ran from them as fast as I could, retracing my path back to home. Far better that I had frightened those who had bitten me, changed me, than my own offspring and pack.

Book Review: Cinderella’s Secret Diary (Book 1: Lost)

I wasn’t sure what I expected when I started this book last night — perhaps some light reading, or humour. Instead, I discovered a powerful reflection on the power of love, betrayal, hope, fear, innocence lost, and magic. I enjoyed the language, though it felt stilted at times, and I was absolutely captivated by the twists in the plot. I will definitely recommend Cinderella’s Secret Diary to my friends. Ron Vitale has written a moving and honest examination of a woman’s heart and power.

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Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005IHDX18/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

Book Review: Hearts in Exile

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There is so very, very much to love about this book. Mysti Parker has outdone herself with this tale of love lost and found again, tragedy and courage, hope and ruin. The characters are beautifully written, and I fell right into the setting. It was difficult to pull myself out of Tallenmere and go to work; I wanted to devour this book whole in a single reading. There are echoes of Tolkien, The Princess Bride, and “The Tempest” in this work. It is a romance / fantasy of the highest calibre. While I enjoyed A Ranger’s Tale and Serenya’s Song, by a narrow margin Hearts in Exile is my favourite of Parker’s novels so far. I await No Place Like Home next year with much anticipation.

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Hearts-in-Exile-Tallenmere-ebook/dp/B00DEJZ8UG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381285265&sr=8-1&keywords=hearts+in+exile