Fiction Friday: The Lioness and the Innkeeper’s Daughter

I’m spending January deep in revisions for my next Beyond the Tales novel, The Lioness and the Spellspinners.  You can read the whole thing (if all goes well) in the fall, but in the meantime I thought I’d share an excerpt.  The Lioness of the title is Karina, who’s on the run and currently stuck on a very small island.  She’s gone into town with Forrest, a local, looking for a ship…

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For such a small town, it seemed to take a long time to get through, but at last they reached The Wool and Spindle. It was the second largest building in town, after the royalty’s house. Two stories, a thickly thatched roof and a wooden sign hanging above the door. Karina glanced up at the sign as they passed under it. It showed, predictably, a sheep and a spinning wheel.

Inside, she let out a relieved breath to find herself on more familiar footing. Taverns are taverns the world over. It was a little cleaner and more light shone than in most of the places she frequented back home, but the scattering of tables, big fireplace, and long counter at the back were familiar enough. And it was blessedly empty, apparently too early in the day for hard-working, respectable townsfolk to be at the tavern. Which meant there was no one to stare.

She had started to relax when a girl came into the room, from a doorway probably leading to the kitchen. The girl’s face broke into a broad smile as soon as she caught sight of her visitors. “Oh, Forrest!” she trilled. “You haven’t been in to visit in ages!” Continue reading “Fiction Friday: The Lioness and the Innkeeper’s Daughter”

Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Three)

My recent experience with The Great Khan Adventure reminded me of a long-ago spoof I wrote of The Wrath of KhanRead Part One here and Part Two here.  Today the adventure concludes.  I do not claim to own Star Trek, any of the characters, etc.

We pick up the story shortly after Kirk’s epic shrieking to the skies.  You know when I mean.

[Some time later; still down in the cave.  Kirk has recovered from his momentary burst of rage.  Everyone looks pretty depressed though.]

David: Well this is just great.  We’re going to be stuck here forever.

Kirk: We’ll see.  Meanwhile, are there any McDonalds down here?  I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m starving.

McCoy: How can you think of food right now?!

Kirk: [shrugs] I’m hungry.  And what good would fasting possibly do?

[McCoy rolls his eyes.]

Carol: There’s no hamburgers, but there’s enough food for a lifetime in the Genesis Cave.

Kirk: The Genesis Cave?

Carol: The cave we created with Genesis.

Kirk: I see where you got the name.

David: Come on, I’ll show you.

[David, Saavik, and McCoy exit, leaving Carol and Kirk.]

Kirk: Carol, can I talk to you?

Carol: If you must.

Kirk: Why didn’t you ever tell David I’m his father?

Audience: Wooow!  Kirk’s got a son!

Carol: You ran off and left me for your career.  I didn’t want him doing the same.

Kirk: Oh fine!  Turn the guilt around on me!

Carol: You deserve it.

Kirk: Ouch.

Carol: So how are you feeling?

Kirk: Old.  Remind me to book an appointment with my hairstylist when we get out of this.

[Soon enough, Kirk and Carol join the others in the Genesis cave.  The group spreads out a bit.  Saavik wishes to speak with Kirk.]

Saavik: Admiral, I would like to discuss the Kobayashi Maru with you.

Kirk: Are you still thinking about that, Cadet?

Saavik: That is not logical.  If I were not thinking about it, I would not be speaking of it.

McCoy: [laughs] After all these years of Spock, and she still got you on that one.

[Kirk just looks at him.]

McCoy: Well, you did walk into that, Jim.

Saavik: Admiral, how did you handle the Kobayashi Maru?

Kirk: Well, I…

McCoy: You are looking at the only person to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru.

Saavik: HOW? [coughs]  I mean…how?

Kirk: Well, I…hacked into the computer and changed the settings.

Saavik: [stunned] You cheated!

Kirk: I changed the rules.

Saavik: You cheated!

Kirk: I received a commendation for original thinking.

Saavik: You cheated!

Kirk: No need to belabor the point.  I think I’ve got it.

McCoy: No, Jim.  She has the points.  Two of them.

[They both give him a Look.]

McCoy: [shrugs] You couldn’t expect me to just pass that one up.

Kirk: Riiight.  So.  Anyone know what time it is?

Saavik: We have been here 2.000013 hours.  If you like, I can carry it out another 23 decimal place—

Kirk: That’s not necessary.

McCoy: [moans] Tell me I’m not stranded with her forever.

Kirk: You’re in luck, Bones.  None of us are stranded here!  I’m going to call Spock.

McCoy: And Spock is going to get us out of solid rock how?

Kirk: A transporter of course.

McCoy: Which won’t have power for two days.

Kirk: [superior] On the contrary.  Some regulation or other, I forget which, insists that we must communicate in code.  Therefore, hours like days means that two days actually meant two hours.

McCoy: And you don’t mention these things to me?

Kirk: Nope.  [flips out communicator] Kirk to Enterprise.  Multiple people to beam up.

[Everyone beams out.]

[Up on the ship, things are grim.  It seems that the Enterprise is partially repaired, but the Reliant is in even better shape.  Don’t ask how, considering the Enterprise has Scotty, but somehow this is true.  Kirk has the brilliant plan of entering the Mutara Nebula where, reasons unknown, the odds will be more even.  Battle ensues.  Kirk, of course, wins.  Unfortunately, there’s a slight hitch.  Khan, in his dying moments, successfully launches the Genesis torpedo at the Enterprise.  If it hits, it will create new life.  And destroy all the old life.  Unfortunately, there’s an even bigger hitch.  The Enterprise lost warp power, and can’t escape.]

Kirk: [into comm] Scotty, I need warp speed in three minutes, or we’re all dead!

Scotty: [over comm] Um, ye don’ mean that lit’rally, do ye?

Kirk: Scotty, I need warp power!

Scotty: I was afeared of that.  The radiation flooded the chamber, and I can’t repair it!

[Spock abruptly stands up from his station and leaves the bridge.  No one seems to notice.]

Kirk: Sulu, take us out on impulse!

Sulu: Aye, sir.

[David shakes his head.]

David: We’ll never make it.

Kirk: Don’t be a pessimist.  No son of mine has any business being a pessimist.

David: Actually, that depends on whether the characteristic is genetic or learned.  If pessimism is hereditary, you’re correct.  However, if pessimism is learned behavior then there is no connection whatsoever, considering I never saw you before today.

Kirk: [blinks] If he’s my son, why does he sound like Spock?

[Down in engineering, Spock enters.  Scotty, naturally, is there.  Also McCoy, even though he’s a doctor not an engineer and has no business being in Engineering.  Scotty seems out of it already.]

Spock: Where is the problem?

[McCoy points towards the chamber.]

McCoy: In there.  The radiation levels—

[Spock, taking gloves from Scotty, starts towards the radiation chamber.  McCoy, realizing what he’s doing, tries to hold him back.]

McCoy: Spock, no!

Spock: It is necessary.  Besides, I have gloves.

McCoy: The radiation!  You’ll be killed!

Spock: I expect so.  Even despite my gloves.

McCoy: I won’t let you!

[Spock pauses and regards McCoy.]

Spock: Perhaps you are right.

[McCoy relaxes, and Spock nerve-pinches him.  McCoy slumps towards the floor.]

Spock: If I survive this, I no doubt will never hear the end of this brief moment of illogic.  But right now I lack time to be logical.

[Then, cryptically, he puts his hand on McCoy’s forehead.]

Spock: Remember…

[Spock enters the chamber.]
[Meanwhile on the bridge, things are tense.]

Kirk: [solemn] I think this may be the end…

Sulu: Sir!  We have warp power!

Kirk: Get us out of here!  Fast!

[Sulu does, and they manage to escape the Genesis torpedo, which detonates behind them, into the Nebula.  This will, in a very short bit of time, create a new planet.  Everyone sighs with relief.]

Kirk: Looks like we survived certain death after all.  Again.  [taps a button]  Engineering.  [a moment passes] Engineering?

McCoy: [over comm] McCoy here…

[Somehow, McCoy has recovered from nerve-pinching much faster than one would expect.]

Kirk: Bones, tell Scotty he’s a miracle.

McCoy: [hollow sounding] It…wasn’t Scotty.

Kirk: Spock, then.

McCoy: Spock…he…  [urgent] Jim, you better get down here.

Kirk: In a minute, Bones, I have to—

McCoy: [near frantic] No, Jim!  Get down hereRun!

Kirk: [uncertain] Well…all right, I’ll—

McCoy: Stop talking!  Move!

[Kirk does.]

[In engineering; Kirk comes running in]

Kirk: All right, what’s the proble— [he sees Spock, still in the chamber] Spock!

[Kirk tries to rush into the chamber after him.  Scotty and McCoy restrain him.]

McCoy: Jim, no!

Scotty: It’s too late…the radiation…

Kirk: Damn the radiation!

McCoy: It’s too late to help him, Jim!

[Kirk goes to the glass side of the chamber.]

Kirk: Spock!  What will we do without you?  We’ll lose fans by the droves!

Spock: Don’t…worry.  My death…is logical.

Kirk: That doesn’t make me feel better!

Spock: Sometimes…the needs of the many…outweigh the needs…of the few.  Or the one…

Kirk: Spock!

Spock: Live long…and prosper…Jim…

[Spock dies.]

Audience: Nooooo!  Spock!  [sobs and wails]

[Kirk sits against the chamber wall, and looks blankly at Scotty and McCoy.]

Kirk: [stunned] He’s dead, Bones.

McCoy: I know…

[Spock’s funeral; the crew has gathered to pay their respects.  Kirk is giving the eulogy.]

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.

[McCoy nudges him.]

McCoy: Uh, Jim?

Kirk: Not now, Bones.  This is very dramatic.

McCoy: But, Jim, about the speech—

Kirk: Please, Bones, you’re spoiling the drama in my speech.

McCoy: But, Jim, Spock wouldn’t like your panegyric!

Kirk: [blinks] My what?

McCoy: Eulogy!

Kirk: I beg your pardon, I think I know Spock, and I—

McCoy: After debating with the man for years, I can state for a fact that he wasn’t exactly proud of being human!  Every time he acted human he’d get embarrassed, and then wind up even more embarrassed because he’d been embarrassed, since embarrassment is a human emotion, and emotions made him embarrassed.

Kirk: Wait, wait, you lost me somewhere…

McCoy: He wouldn’t exactly want it said at his funeral that he had a very human soul.  Trust me.  When it comes to Spock’s soul, I should know.

Kirk: Well now, come to think of it…  Let’s rewind a bit here…

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…Vulcan.

McCoy: [shakes head] No, Jim.  You’re still not hitting it.

Kirk: No?  Okay, here we go again…

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, I can say for sure he was…a great guy!

McCoy: [shrugs] It’ll work.

Kirk: Great!  Hit it, Scotty.

[Scotty plays “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes.  In the background can be heard sobbing, some from the crew, mostly from the audience.]

Kirk: [saddened] Send his coffin into space.

McCoy: [muttering to himself] I have the strangest feeling this is a bad idea…  [shrugs] Well, no logical reason not to send the coffin off.  [He does not seem aware he has said anything odd.]

[The coffin is sent off.]

[Later, in Kirk’s quarters.  The door chimes.]

Kirk: Come in.

[David enters.]

Kirk: Oh.  Hello.

David: Hello.  I just wanted to tell you…after watching you fight Khan…I’m proud to be your son.

Kirk: [beams] Oh how wonderful!  A bonding moment!

[They hug.  An unidentified voice shrieks from above.]

Voice: [shrieks] Kodak moment!

[A hundred camera bulbs go off, blinding Kirk and David.]

[Later; the Enterprise is on its way back to Earth.  Kirk and McCoy are standing on the observation deck, looking out at the stars.]

Kirk: I still can’t believe he’s gone.  Life just won’t be the same without him.

McCoy: I know, Jim.  But all we can do is go on.

Kirk: [solemn] Yes.  It’s what Spock would have wanted.  And while this is the end of the movie, somehow I don’t think it’s the end of humanity’s journey.

Audience: [grumbling] It just better not be…

[The Genesis planet: The view pans over tropical plants and flowers.  Everywhere there is life.  The camera comes to rest on Spock’s coffin, in an obvious bit of foreshadowing.]

Audience: Okay, so when’s the next movie?

Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Two)

My recent experience with The Great Khan Adventure reminded me of a long-ago spoof I wrote of The Wrath of KhanRead Part One here.  Today the adventure continues.  I do not claim to own Star Trek, any of the characters, etc.

By the way, I’m much fonder of Kirk than this spoof occasionally implies…consider it lovingly poking fun!

[Upon the Enterprise‘s arrival at Regula I, all attempts to hail the scientists fail.  Kirk decides he should beam down, and wants to bring McCoy, for vague reasons.  Saavik insists on coming along.  They board the research center, only to find the scientists are dead.  They continue exploring.]

McCoy: Jim, I’m getting life signs!  In this large container over here.

Kirk: Let’s open it up!  Sure, it might be a trap laid by Khan, but we’ll just take that risk.

[They open the container, and find Chekov and Terrell.  They seem dazed.]

Chekov: Admiral…it was Khan

Kirk: Duh.  Are you all right?

Chekov: Do I look alright?!  We’ve been controlled by Khan, who took over our ship and stuck slugs in our ears!  We are not alright!

Kirk: Uh…I’m sorry.

Chekov: Thank you, I appreciate the thought.

Terrell: Khan…he was on Ceti Alpha V.

Kirk: Sure, I put him there, remember?

Terrell: But we beamed to Ceti Alpha VI, which was actually Ceti Alpha V, and no one knows why we couldn’t tell the difference between Ceti Alpha V and Ceti Alpha VI, but there he was.

Kirk: Wait, wait, Ceti Alpha V was really Ceti Alpha VI, and Khan migrated from Ceti Alpha IV to Ceti Alpha VII, and—

Terrell: No, no, Ceti Alpha III…no, Ceti Alpha VI, or was it Ceti Alpha V?  Maybe Ceti Alpha VII was really Ceti Alpha…oh, who cares, he was there!

Kirk: Got it.  Continue. Continue reading “Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Two)”

Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part One)

My recent explorations through the Star Trek universe on The Great Khan Adventure have reminded me of some writing I once did, long ago and far away…  I don’t remember exactly when anymore, but I think it was the first year or two of high school.  I decided it would be fun to spoof the Star Trek movies.  Mostly I spoofed the bad ones (you know which they are), but I had some fun with The Wrath of Khan too.

I don’t claim that this is deep or insightful or even great literature (and it’s not proper screenwriting format either) but you may find it amusing…  Oh, and fanfiction disclaimer, I don’t own any of the characters, etc., etc.

STAR TREK II: THE SOMEWHAT PERTURBED REACTION AND SUBSEQUENT ACTIVITIES OF KHAN

[The bridge of a starship; a young Vulcan woman named Saavik is in command]

Communications officer: We’re picking up a distress call from the Kobayashi Maru.  They need help, but they’re in the Klingon neutral zone.

Saavik: Hmm.  If we enter, we could very easily start an intergalactic war, with dire consequences for the entire galaxy.  Logically, we should not enter.   I am a Vulcan.  Therefore, I should be logical.  [considers] I think I’ll enter anyway.

Navigator: Klingon ships approaching.

Saavik: Oops.

[Battle ensues.  When the smoke clears, Saavik’s ship is destroyed.  Fortunately, this turns out to be just a test on the holodeck.  Kirk enters through a broken wall, looking very impressive silhouetted against the light.]

Kirk: Nice work, Cadet Saavik.

Saavik: The ship blew up.  Everyone died.

Kirk: Don’t worry!  That was supposed to happen.

Saavik: That’s illogical.  Also pretty stupid. Continue reading “Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part One)”

Fiction Friday: Into the Forest with the Storyteller

Long-time readers may remember that in 2011, I wrote a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” for NaNoWriMo.  Recent readers of The Wanderers have also met those princesses from another angle.  That NaNo novel is in the process of growing up into The Storyteller and Her Sisters, the companion novel to The Wanderers that I plan to publish in the fall of 2014.  I’ve been working on revisions this past week, so an excerpt seemed appropriate.

In this early scene, Lyra (the narrator and the Storyteller of the title) and her eleven sisters have gone exploring beneath their father’s castle…

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A hundred yards along the tunnel, we reached the Gate.  The Gate was a great beast of iron bars and curling decorations, cutting across the tunnel, blocking the path to anything beyond it.  Vira’s candlelight didn’t reach far enough to show anything but more tunnel on the other side.  There was a lion’s head molded into the top of the Gate, and I had never been able to escape the feeling that it was looking at us.  I’d never seen it move, unless you count one very disturbing dream.

For fourteen years, the Gate hadn’t moved at all, not even the rational way gates are supposed to move when someone tries to open them.  There wasn’t any sign of a lock, but the Gate simply wouldn’t shift no matter how we pushed.  Not even a wobble.

Until the night in question.  Mina, the first to push, thought she felt it move.  The rest of us gathered around, and the more of us who tried, the more it seemed to sway and give.  Finally, when all twelve of us took hold of a bar and pushed, the gate swung neatly open, like two wings sweeping to either side.

You may not be surprised.  For us, it could hardly have been more shocking if a blank wall in our bedroom had opened.  Even though we kept trying the Gate, we were very used to the idea that it was never going to open.  I turned to Talya next to me and grinned.  She bit her lip and gave only a half-smile in response.

“Now what?” Laina said, the first to break the silence that followed the Gate opening.  The amount of detail in our plans for this eventuality had about matched our expectations of it actually happening.

“Let’s go back,” Talya said, wrapping her arms around herself.  “Let’s close the Gate and go back.  It’s dangerous through there, you all know that.”

“Our whole lives are dangerous,” Laina said.  I could see my own excitement reflected in the gleam in her eyes.  “We have to risk this.  It’s the best chance at escape we’ve ever had.”

“It may mean something that the Gate finally opened,” Mina pointed out.  “Magical things rarely happen randomly, and if a magic door opens it only makes sense to go through it.”

“But you know what could happen,” Talya whispered.

“We’ve talked about this from every angle for years,” Laina groaned, “are we really going to do it again now?  We’ve always agreed that it would be worth the risk if we ever had the chance.  Besides, it was all right for Mother so it can’t be that dangerous.”

“Laina’s right,” Vira said, raising the candle higher.  “In all practical ways, we decided this a long time ago.  So let’s go on and see if it’s how we remember it.”

I didn’t remember it, at least not with any certainty that I wasn’t just imagining memories.  But Vira had been ten years old, fourteen years before.  She remembered.

We all went through the Gate, Talya clutching my hand again, though even she had given a reluctant nod in the end to going forward.  I squeezed her fingers tightly, but for me it was anticipation, not dread.  I had been hearing about this my whole life.  I had always wanted to see it for myself.  It was like an adventure, like one of my stories.  People in stories didn’t turn back because the adventure was dangerous.

Beyond the Gate, we quickly didn’t need Vira’s candle anymore.  Around two more turns in the tunnel, it opened up into a broad cavern.  Shortly beyond the tunnel’s mouth, we came to the forest.  The trees were set out in an orchard of orderly rows, and the trunks of every tree shone like moonlight, casting a shimmering light throughout the cavern.  Above the trunks, the branches and the leaves were silver.

I don’t mean they were gray, or resembled silver, or were some variety of tree with silver in its name.  I mean they were silver.  They looked like some kind of elm, but made of a glittering metal.

It wasn’t a surprise.  Vira had remembered the trees, and so had a few others of my oldest sisters.  Hearing about it and seeing it, that’s two very different things.  Somehow, I had never quite believed in this forest until I saw it myself.  Talya’s hand got tighter around mine.

We slowly walked down a wide pathway between two lines of trees.  The trees grew up out of the cavern floor, and if they had ever shed a leaf, it wasn’t visible on the bare rock around them.  Mostly I was looking up.  I stared at those silver leaves above us, and almost without my noticing, my thoughts began to drift towards all that I could buy with just a few branches.

I wanted to keep looking at the silver trees, but at the head of our group, Vira kept pushing onwards.  Long instinct made us all follow her, and soon the moonlight-like silver forest gave way to a brighter stretch of trees.  These trees shone like sunlight.  These trees were made of gold.

They glittered and shone and enticed.  With a handful of these leaves, I could buy dresses and jewelry and shoes…  I blinked, momentarily confused.  I didn’t even like shoes very much.  It was Nila who was obsessed with clothes, not me.  And yet I suddenly wanted gold, lots of it, to buy piles and mountains of beautiful things.  So many beautiful things.

The gold trees ended too, and a third forest began.  This one glittered like starlight.  This one had trees made of diamonds.  I looked at the nearest branch, seeing delicate sprays of flowers and buds, crusted with shining stones.  A single branch had enough diamonds to make necklaces for all twelve of us.

With that kind of wealth, I could do anything.  I could buy castles and horses and armies…and books, I could buy so many books…and entire countries if I wanted to…and I wouldn’t need anyone, not Vira, not Mina, not Talya…

I was still holding Talya’s hand.  I looked down at our hands, then looked at her face.  She was staring up at the diamond trees with a mesmerized expression.  I looked around at my sisters.  Vira and Laina, their expressions were grim.  Mina and Rayna looked confused, as confused as I was feeling.  The rest looked entranced.

I was thinking thoughts that I knew I wouldn’t think.  Buying books, that was me.  That was a constant wish.  But buying armies, buying countries?  And while I sometimes (all right, often) wished to not be dependent on my sisters, the thought had had a nasty undercurrent to it that I didn’t recognize.

I should have recognized what was going on right away, but knowing the theory of something doesn’t always help when experiencing the reality, especially when the nature of that reality is to twist a person’s thoughts.

There was something very wrong with those forests.  They were beautiful.  And they were poison.  And it was an indication of how strong they were that they had pulled us in, made me completely forget the danger for a few moments, even though we had walked into the forest expecting it.  Vira had remembered the poison too.  It was the results of that poison that had reached into the world above, and had made our lives what they were now.

Fiction Friday: A Sea Serpent and a Prince

I haven’t done a Fiction Friday in a while, and since I’ve been chattering on about my upcoming novel release, The Wanderers, it seemed only appropriate to share an excerpt, no?

This scene is towards the middle of the novel.  Julie, Jasper and talking cat Tom have just made a deal with a Sea Queen, which involves rescuing her sea serpent from Prince Randolph.  Jasper and Tom met Randolph on a previous adventure, and were not impressed.  Not every sentence here will make sense out of context, but I think enough is comprehensible…

Julie, Jasper and Tom exited the water abruptly.  One moment they were skimming along just above the sea floor under the power of the Sea Queen’s magic.  The next, they fell out of a wall of water to land in a heap on wet but not at all submerged sand.  Julie’s hair fell in tangles around her shoulders, and Tom shrank to a third of his former apparent size.

Julie got to her feet, wet skirt clinging to her legs, and looked around.  They were on bare sea floor, in a trench formed by walls of water rising dozens of feet above their heads on either side.  The trench was maybe a hundred feet across, and several times that long, the floor covered in mounds of sand and wilted seaweed.  At the far end, she could see the serpent coiled like an enormous snake, while Randolph stood before it with sword drawn, his back to them.

“Damn,” Jasper remarked.  “He must have a useful enchanted sword.”

“You think he used it to part the ocean?” Julie said.

“Can’t explain it any other way.  Randolph just isn’t that talented on his own.”

If Jasper was right, the sword was giving him a considerable advantage.  Julie didn’t know much about judging the health of giant sea monsters, but she thought it looked ill.  It was snapping at Randolph, but its movements were sluggish.  “It’s probably sick outside the water,” she said.  “So to rescue it, we’ll have to move it back into the sea.”

“You want to move a giant serpent?” Jasper said.  “I’ve seen buildings that were smaller.”

Tom unhelpfully added, “I’ve seen entire towns that were smaller.”

“All right, so maybe we don’t move it,” Julie said, keeping her chin in the air and a positive tone in her voice.  Someone had to be the optimist.  “We’ll move the water back around it.”

Jasper caught the idea and the optimism.  “We get the sword from Randolph, and if he can part water, why can’t we put it back?”

Tom groaned.  “We’re going to get wet again.”

“You can’t get any wetter,” Julie said.  “Come on, let’s go steal a sword.”  Continue reading “Fiction Friday: A Sea Serpent and a Prince”

A Man and a Cat Walk Into a Bar…

I’m always sharing my reading news around here…  Meanwhile in writing news, I’m currently working on three novels–which is making my head spin a little!  Two are at different points in the revision stage, and one is still being planned.  In the midst of all that, naturally the logical thing to do is work on a short story.  Though at least it’s a short story related to one of the novels!

It uses characters from the novel, but the story is meant to exist independently.  I wrote most of it, only to get a bit stuck maybe 75% of the way through.  So I thought I’d toss the first page up here and see if sharing it inspires me to write that last stretch…

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When Jasper and Tom walked into the tavern, they attracted no immediate attention.  It may have looked a little odd when Jasper opened the door for the orange cat and let him walk in first, and even odder when Tom made an efficient line between the tables, chairs and boots directly to the bar, springing up to sit on top of it.  But the tavern’s inhabitants were intent on their drinks and their conversation, and didn’t pay any mind to the newcomers.

Jasper followed Tom to the bar, where the tavernkeeper looked them both over, didn’t comment on the cat on his counter, and just said, “What’ll it be?”

“One ale and a bowl of milk,” Jasper answered, prompting a snicker from his nearest neighbor.

But it wasn’t until Tom said, “And have you got any fish?” that heads starting turning.

Jasper hid his grin behind the mug of ale the tavernkeeper had handed him.  Eventually the fun of shocking people with a talking cat was going to wear off, but after a month of traveling with Tom, it was still amusing him.

“I, uh, yeah, I think we do,” the tavernkeeper managed, staring at the tabby.

“Excellent.”  Tom sat down, sticking his nose in the air with his most regal attitude, plainly aware that the entire room was looking at him.  “One order of fish, please.  Any kind will do, only not too spicy.  Spicy food makes me sneeze.”

“Right,” the tavernkeeper said.  “So…d’you want it raw?”

Tom bristled, tail lashing.  “No, cooked!  What do you think I am, a savage?”

“He thinks you’re a cat,” Jasper pointed out.

“That doesn’t mean I can’t have refined taste.”