It is October (already!?) and we Quills are at it again. This time, the focus of our joint post is to share a book we loved, and read repeatedly, as a child. I don’t know about you, but it’s getting harder all the time for me to think back that far . . . In any case, for starters, I’m anxious to hear what my fellow Quills have for us.
Parker? What great read caught your fancy as a young one?
“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
― C.S. Lewis
I read and re-read many stories growing up. Some are still on my shelf today. Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry. Another is The Wolfling, by Sterling North, (best known for the children’s novel Rascal, a bestseller in 1963). It’s a coming of age story about ...
Thank you, Parker.
Robin, I’m sure you’ve something wonderful for us. So, please do share!
I was born into family of bibliophiles. Probably the best thing that ever happened to me. No matter where I lived (like way out in the sticks), I always had places to go, people to see, and things to do. I found them first in the family bookshelves. The doors to whimsy surrounded me, and I was not afraid to open them and explore!
And now, for my turn ...
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m cheating this time. You see, there is a great, great work for children, that I wish I had read as a child, but alas, I did not. I did not read it until I was an adult. However, from the very opening words, I can say that this tale is not just for children. In many ways, it is most especially for adults. (This is probably true of any great “children’s classic," don't you think?) And for some reason, this story has been on my mind of late. (I suspect it is time that I re-read it ...)
My choice is Where the Red Fern Grows. I remember the first time I read this story, as a young-ish adult. I was grabbed from the opening lines. The now-grown Billy of the story comes upon some dogs fighting, one of which is “an old redbone hound.” Rawls says, “It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.”
I guess when I first read this story, “young-ish” though I may have been, I was also old enough to appreciate the truth of that statement. The introduction continues with the now-grown Billy of the story bringing that old hound home, bathing him, and feeding him all he could eat. Then, comes this:
He slept all night and most of the next day. Late in the afternoon, he grew restless. I told him I understood, and as soon as it was dark, he could be on his way. I figured he had a much better chance if he left town at night.
I don’t like to make many grandiose, all-encompassing, statements, but honestly, I don’t see how anyone who has ever loved an animal can read this opening without crying their eyes out—at least not as an adult. A child could, perhaps, as a child wouldn’t have the experience to know the feelings that these few lines illustrate. In any case, for me, this is what The Red Fern Grows, is all about. Yes, it is a tale of a boy who wants two hunting dogs so badly, that he works and works for two long years to save the money he needs to buy them. (This, of course, is a lesson today’s youth is in dire need of learning.) And, yes, it is a story of waiting, and of loving, and of sharing. And yes, it is a story of loss. But for me, it will always be a story that evokes that painful, yet beautiful, nostalgic-like, bittersweet sort of feeling of having experienced something and then having lost it—even while retaining a life-long possession of it somewhere deep inside in the form of a memory that can (and does) bubble up at the most unexpected of times …
If you have not read this tale, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If your children have not read it, do yourself a favor, and get a copy to read with them. Oh yes, and do not wait another day, as you've memories to create.
How about you? What are your favorite books from when you were a child?
This month we Quills are writing about some of our favorite book opening lines. This is more difficult than it may seem to be at first blush, as there are so many fascinating stories to choose from. Nevertheless ...
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us this time around. Robin?
The internet is full of lists of “best first sentences.” That opening line garners a lot of attention. It has a lot of work to do! It’s got to set the mood and draw the reader in. No hemming and hawing, blushing, or flailing around for something to talk about. (So I would totally fail as an opening line…)
Luckily, writers can devote a little time to figuring out that all-important greeting before someone opens the door. Er… book. I’m going to skip past the Usual Suspects and head straight to my own shelves. Oh, the hand-rubbing and gleeful expressions! I love rummaging through my books and I’m in the mood for a little questionable book-sniffing. So I’m going to stick with physical copies this go-round, which is strictly unfair to the digital part of the collection, but who’s the boss? I’m the boss!
Let’s dive right into something a little terrifying…
For more, visit Robin's site at www.RobinLythgoe.com.
P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, always provides us with entertaining ideas. Unfortunately, he's out of commission for the moment, but I'll be sure to let you know when he returns ...
For more information, visit Parker at www.PSBroaddus.com.
And now, for my part.
I found this subject fun—and challenging, as there are so many great lines to choose from. In the end, I chose to go with a couple very well-known openings—followed by a lesser known line, namely (uh-oh, hear the self-promotion here!) one of my own. The reason for my last choice is that I worked very long and hard on the line, and in the end, am so thoroughly satisfied with it, that I’d like to share it with you (and, in truth, I can't think of a better time to do so).
Here is my first opening line.
I chose this line because it so completely captures the spirit of the early 19th century (1813, to be exact) in which the marvelous title, was published. Also, the line seems so far from the early 21st century thinking for the younger crowd, that I imagine it must tickle the fancy of contemporary readers of that age. You see, I find that today’s young often seem to favor living a single life. That said, the pendulum may be swinging once again, as some young ones are discovering that perhaps it is good to have a life mate with whom one can share duties, responsibilities, difficulties—and the celebrations, accomplishments, and joys, that come with a life lived fully. (Perhaps this is the consequence of the parents of these young ones finally coming to appreciate that they’d like a bit of their own independence back, which is easier to come by when their children choose someone with whom to spend their future … Maybe?)
For my second line, I’ve chosen what might well be the most famous opening line of all time. Yes, it is an oldie—but these mere 60 words say a great deal about what passed before the beginning of this story, as well as of what is to come in the next pages. So here is the opening for a marvelous reading (and one well worth your time I might add!) .
I’m profoundly interested in the history of the French revolution(s) and the vast differences between that history and the history of the U.S. revolution. Insofar as Dickens may have referenced the French history as a season of Darkness here, I think he was spot on.
Now, for my third opening line, which as I mentioned, is from one of my own stories. (For fun, I’m actually going to give you the first two sentences.) Here goes!
I watched in my imagination, the scene that played out with this opening, over months and even years. When it finally came time to write it, my fingers set out before me, the highlights of what I had seen. From there, I painstakingly reviewed, played with, and revised, the line, repeatedly. The process was a long one, but in the end, I believe the opening captures the flavor I sought. What do you think?
If I had not included my own line here as my third choice, I might well have included either of the following quotes, also from terrifically good stories.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Finally, for the fun of it, I thought I’d share a couple opening lines for tales I’ve not read, but that I want to read because of these opening lines.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
I begin with writing the first sentence—and trusting to Almighty God for the second.
Don't you want to know what comes next?
What do you think? What are your favorite opening lines?
It is almost impossible to believe, yet true, that August is upon us. The days are growing shorter, the nights longer, and for the most part, also cooler. I am looking forward to a much needed get-away before summer's end, but for now, I'm excited to bring you the August post for A Drift of Quills. We are back to what has quickly become our favorite kind of post, and it seems to be yours, too. What kind is that? Why, flash fiction, of course!
This time around, Robin Lythgoe, selected the picture that we used for inspiration. It is always great fun to read the wildly different stories the three of us come up with to go with the chosen picture for these posts, so prepare yourself!
Below is the photo.
We Quills all seem to view the parameters of flash fiction a bit differently. My personal goal is to stay within 1000 words - if at all possible. Today, I've managed to do just that - coming in, I believe, at 998 words, title and all! But before I share my flash fiction story with you, I'm anxious to read what my fellow Quills have for us all. (Make sure you follow the links for each of Parker and Robin to get the full story for each.)
P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, is sure to have a great read for us, and no doubt it will be loaded with wit and charm. Take it away, Parker!
The Standing Stone
Next—and to consider our theme for this post more seriously—I return to a work I’ve mentioned repeatedly over the years. It is my favorite work of all time: Les Miserables. (It is a work against which I seem to measure all others. In fact, I’ve considered re-reading it annually. It is so worthy.)
From Les Miserables, I’ve two—make that three—favorite villains. The first two are the Thenardiers. To avoid going too long for this post, I’ll just say what great theater those two make. They are horrible, horrible people, but on stage … Well, get ready to laugh!)
His mental attitude was compounded of two very simple principles, admirable in themselves but which, by carrying them to extremes, he made almost evil – respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it.
Victor Hugo provided the rationale for Javert’s conduct. Having been born in a prison to criminal parents, Javert became an officer of the law because of his hatred for the very group from which he came. Hugo tells us that Javert’s life is/was one of “privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity—never any amusement.” Perhaps Javert is one of my favorites because Hugo made him so understandable. So once again I say—and I say it every chance I get: if you have not yet read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Your introduction to the antagonist, Javert, is just one of the many, many reasons to check out this great, great classic.
Parker took our challenge to new heights, in that he has provided various alternate beginnings to his prior work, Nightrage Rising. If you've not read it yet, here's your chance to jump in. If you have, you're sure to enjoy the beginning from these various new perspectives.
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright, P.S. Broaddus 2019
Tigrabum Fendor had never been, nor ever would be, an ordinary cat, thank you very much. He examined the new pin that had been placed in the latch and chuckled silently. When would they learn?
He pried a paw between the crate and the pin and wiggled the latch. The addition of a pin added a finesse requirement and five extra seconds before he freed the lid. He hopped up on his hind feet, resting his forepaws against the crate to look around the dock. Nobody had noticed him yet. He hooked his paw under the lid and lifted. Hundreds of blank, white eyes stared up at him, cold and unfeeling.
Now, we move on to see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us. Robin?
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright, Robin Lythgoe 2019
I have come to the conclusion that all great people have their rivals. Qahan Nijamar, the mythic hero of yore, had his Ashlock; the pirate Maid Mihriban had her Princess Pakize; I have Raza Qimeh. Or at least he likes to think so. Most of his success stems from the fact that no one would believe someone as tall or broad or loud as he could ever be a quiet, agile, wily thief. Typically, he’s a mere thorn in my side. Like now, for instance ...
And now, it's my turn!
Fantasy authors often create their worlds in a first volume, and then use those creations in a number of volumes in a series. Occasionally, an author might write spin-offs, providing a whole new series around a lesser character from the original. These tales might precede the original, run parallel with it, or come later in time.
I’ve decided to use our inspirational picture—and Parker’s challenge—to tell a parallel story. In essence, I'm “adding a scene,” if you will, to Oathtaker. That said, I didn’t want to give anything away for anyone who has not yet read that story. Thus, you’ll find a blank space in my new scene. Also, I’m not giving you a full-fledged, stand alone story, as I prefer to do with flash fiction (and as I’ve done with my prior flash fiction tales), because I am unable to do so with a “parallel” scene. Even so, I hope you enjoy it …
To set the stage, in Oathtaker, Volume One of The Oathtaker Series, Mara travels with a group of friends, seeking safety for the infant twins, Reigna and Eden. The group makes its way to the City of Light. There, they can easily visit sanctuary and spend time studying. Mara knows their ultimate destination is the camp that Lucy created and then shielded with magic. Still, while reports from Ezra’s spy network tell Mara that Lilith is still some distance away, she wants to learn all that she can. Eventually, she sends everyone in her group, except for Dixon and Nina (who is wet nurse to the twins), ahead to Lucy’s. They take the great scepter with them so as to get it to safety as soon as possible. Later, Mara, the infant twins, Dixon, and Nina, will join them.
In the original Oathtaker, just as Jules, Samuel, Basha, Therese, and Adele, are leaving The Clandest Inn, someone new shows up there. The portion of the story reads:
Excerpt from Oathtaker
by Patricia Reding
“I’ll take the map,” Jules said.
“Don’t make any markings on it,” Dixon cautioned. “We wouldn’t want anyone to know where you were headed.”
Nina sat down. “It seems like someone is always coming and going,” she said as she glanced Jules’s way.
“It can’t be helped, Nina.” Mara rolled up the map. “I want to get the scepter to safekeeping. I probably should have sent the group off sooner.” She handed the scroll to Jules whose gaze rested on Nina.
His chair scraped against the floor as he pushed it back. “We can still get an early start—and we’ll need to if we’re to make it to Aventown before nightfall.” He tucked the map under his arm. “I checked at the stables earlier. Our horses are saddled.”
Adele groaned. Moody for days now, she’d intercepted Mara at every turn, each time with yet another argument for why she should stay behind. She’d even gone so far as to ask Mara to check with the oracle about whether to send her with the others, but the Oathtaker thought the idea preposterous. Why would the oracle bother over such a detail?
Bundled up in shawls and capes, they all made their way to the stables.
Dixon, late for an appointment with Ezra, clasped Jules’s forearm, urged him to keep everyone safe, then returned to the inn.
Mara and Nina each held one of the twins as the travelers mounted. Mara grasped Eden’s arm and raised it in a mock wave. Nina grinned, then followed suit, waving Reigna’s hand at those departing.
As the riders left the courtyard, a man in black, on a large rust gelding, rushed toward the inn. He nearly collided with Adele. Mara winced at the encounter, glanced briefly at the newcomer, then turned her attention back to her departing friends.
Adele stretched so far back in her saddle, that for a minute it looked like she was riding backward. She appeared troubled.
“Poor Adele,” Mara said as she, Nina, and Samuel, headed back to the inn.
Just then, the man in black nearly ran into them.
“Excuse me,” Mara said as he jostled past.
He glanced at her briefly, then went inside.
Arriving in Aventown
by Patricia Reding
Copyright, Patricia Reding 2019
The moon, now full, lit the way for the traveling entourage as it entered the village of Aventown. Dixon had described the town as “sleepy,” and so it seemed to be, in that few lights shown through any windows, although the hour was not yet late.
Clip. Clop. Clip. Clop. The travelers’ horses drummed a steady rhythm as they made their way down the cobblestone street, announcing their presence to anyone in the least interested. The sound startled Adele from her musings. Then just as she turned her thoughts inward again, unexpected laughter interrupted her reverie.
“What’s so funny?” Basha asked Jules who rode at her side.
“It looks like someone here held a contest for the wildest place names. See there?” He pointed. “It’s ‘The Pain in the Glass Pub,’ and next to it is ‘The Brewed Awakening Inn.’”
Still chuckling, he pointed once again. “Oh, look there! It’s the ‘Knead a Massage Parlor.’”
Basha, and her charge, Therese, laughed along with him.
Then, “Oh! There’s one!” Basha exclaimed as she gestured ahead. “See there? It’s the Quick Voyage Book Store.”
“And there’s the Inkwell Tattoo Parlor,” Therese added.
“These are great names,” Jules said.
“Yes, the place certainly seems friendly enough,” Adele offered with a pout.
“I guess we’ll know soon enough,” Jules said. Then, “There’s the inn ahead,” he added. “Earlier, I thought its name peculiar. I mean, who would use a name like ‘The Night Mare” for an inn, anyway? But, Dixon said I’d understand when I got here. Now I believe I do!” He waved his arm. “Come on, then, let’s make sure they have room for us.”
After confirming that there was indeed room at the inn, Jules sent the women ahead with Samuel to get a meal started. Then he assisted the young man in charge of the stables with feeding and grooming their mounts before he headed back inside.
Meanwhile, Adele remained in quiet thought while she helped to prepare dinner. Still upset about having to leave the twins, however, she left her own meal uneaten. Instead, she sat in a rocker in the corner, musing.
Shivering, as the inn’s stone exterior made for a damp and cold interior, she pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders. Her rocking remained slow and steady as she searched for some semblance of serenity.
“Is all well, Adele?” Basha asked her.
“Something bothering you?”
The young woman bit her bottom lip, then shook her head and said, “Nothing. Just thinking.”
Adele could not get the image of the man who had arrived at the Clandest Inn just as they were leaving, out of her mind. She was certain she’d recognized him, and the thought of his being anywhere near the twins, worried her.
After some minutes of silence, Jules spoke up, addressing no one in particular. “I made arrangements with the innkeeper, who as you all know is a spy in Ezra’s network, to send a messenger back to the City of Light to update Mara and Dixon on our progress according to the itinerary we'd prepared earlier. I know we won’t have the luxury of doing so everyday, but I’d like to keep them as informed as possible.”
Adele turned his way. “You’re sending Mara a messenger?” she asked. “This evening?”
“That’s the plan.”
“May I send one, as well?”
Jules glanced at Basha who then addressed the young woman. “There is no going back, Adele. Mara will catch up with us at Lucy’s soon enough.”
“No— I mean, yes, I know all that.” Suddenly overcome with a longing for the infant twins she’d grown to love so deeply, a tear ran down Adele’s cheek. She wiped it away. “I just— May I send a message anyway?”
Jules shrugged. “So long as you don’t mention where we are or where we’re going.”
Adele waited for Jules to finish writing his note, then took up his quill and ink. For a moment, she couldn’t think just what to say. She didn’t want to alarm Mara unnecessarily, but that creepy man was too close to Lilith for her liking.
Adele bit the end of the quill. Finally, she penned: Mara. Had to write immediately. Thought I saw _________ as we left the inn. He’s trouble. Use care.
She wondered if she should say more. Should she tell Mara how the man frequented Lilith’s chambers? About how the two of them laughed at Lilith’s threats of cruelty? Should she tell Mara about how he stood by when Lilith did the most despicable things, and that he did nothing to intervene? In truth, Adele didn’t have any more evidence about him, or against him, than she’d had when she left the palace. While there, Dixon hadn’t seemed particularly concerned about him—and he’d not mentioned the man since he’d escaped from Lilith’s clutches. So, maybe there wasn’t cause for great concern, after all.
Still, she argued with herself, Dixon couldn’t possibly know everything that she knew.
Confused, she shook her head.
“You need anything Adele?” Basha asked.
The young woman sighed. "No. Like I said before, I'm fine." With that, she turned back to her missive and added: We're all well. Once done, she signed it, Adele. Then she folded it, affixed a wax seal to it, and handed it to Jules.
So, what do you think of our latest flash fiction efforts? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
First up today is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Take it away, Robin!
Next is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What have you for us this time, Parker?
Finally, I have some thoughts . . .
Hugo lived in a time of social upheaval and his works reflect that, as they include commentary on social issues, misery and poverty. He greatly influenced later writers, far and wide, including Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not only is Les Miserables replete with beautiful, poetic prose (such as, by way of example, the following: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.”), but it also speaks out about “speaking out.” Perhaps because it seems difficult to engage in genuine discussion about hearty issues these days, I though I'd share a few of my favorites on that topic:
Not being heard is no reason for silence.
You ask me what forced me to speak? A strange thing: my conscience.
It is not easy to keep silent when silence is a lie.
As with stomachs, we should pity minds that do not eat.
My next quote comes from someone likely considered less of an author and more of a philosopher, although certainly he wrote, and that is John Locke (1632-1704). Locke wrote on topics including the consent of the governed, the labor theory of property, and the concept of separating church and state. His works influenced others, including some of the founders of the U.S., namely Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps my favorite John Locke quote is:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse ... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .
I’ve one more quote here (sometimes attributed to John Locke, other times to other sources), before I move on because it is another I’ve repeated many, many times over the years. It is: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Or as I like to say it: “Your rights stop where my nose starts.” The idea here is that “rights” are something a person possesses innately, by reason of existence, through no doing of that person’s own, and having required nothing from anyone else. Thus, “rights” include, for example, the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion of choice, and to defend yourself. When you exercise those things, you take nothing from anyone else. It costs your neighbor nothing to allow you to speak; it costs your community nothing for you to worship in your chosen way; it costs your fellow citizens nothing to allow you to defend your life. By contrast, something is not a right and cannot be a “right,” if it requires anything from anyone else. To demand that another provide something to you would be, essentially, for you to make a slave of your neighbor. And so, “your right stops where my nose starts” means that you do not have the “right” to demand anything from me, including my labor or the fruits of it, for your benefit, nor may I demand the like from you. That doesn't mean that we should not help one another. Rather, it means that we cannot force others using the power of the state (which really means, at the threat of the loss of liberty or life), to give from the fruits of our labor to others ... So in the end it seems that this simple quote evokes deep meaning ...
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for an undetermined period of time, what three books would you want to have with you?
All that said, getting stranded on a distant island sometimes sounds like a holiday. I wonder how long I would procrastinate starting a signal fire ...
Choosing a mere three books is serious business. I think I’ll go with something old, something new, and…
Here goes ...
The 1000 pages or so of Les Miserables are filled with personalities and descriptions that pull in the past, thread in the present, and foreshadow the future. Altogether it reads like poetry, as follows:
If you have not read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are not generally a reader of classics and find the challenge a bit daunting, give yourself permission to skip the parts that don’t speak to you or that are hard to follow. For example, skip over the complicated historical and political issues if you like. Concentrate on the people, and on Hugo’s spellbinding descriptions of their past and present lives. If you rise to the challenge, I am confident you will not regret it.
While it’s hard to pick just one great Dickens work, perhaps there is nowhere he is more amusing than in the opening pages of Great Expectations, first published in 1861. I know. I know. It is intended to be a serious work—and it is, and the opening sets the stage for all the seriousness to come. Still, there is also great humor to be found there.
Once, years ago, when my two youngest were about eight and ten or so, I started reading Great Expectations out loud to them. (I love to read out loud and I do so with a great deal of, shall we say . . . flair, or perhaps, drama would be the correct word here.) Through the first chapter or so, as I read (and this was not my first reading of this work!), I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face and my stomach hurt. Yes, I know that the story opens with poor Pip staring at his parents’ tombstones. But consider the way Dickens sets forth those facts from Pip’s point of view. Not only do we see with the eyes of a naïve child (who has nevertheless already suffered greatly), but the images we see are, in a word, hilarious. Sad—and hilarious. For example, consider Pip’s contemplation of his father’s tombstone:
Then of his brothers, Pip thinks:
To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle …
Imagine one the age of young Pip already concerned about making a living … Yes, this passage is sad because in that day, making a living was such a struggle. Even little ones felt it. But there is also something humorously intriguing about the way Pip ponders those things.
Then, there is Dickens' masterful way of summing up the entirety of a person or thing through a few short words. Try the following. Keep the flow going so that the first two sentences move at a normal, almost slow, pace, while from there, it gradually moves more quickly, quickly, quickly, then ends with the last clause slowly ... Ready? Read:
by Patricia Reding
Copyright Patricia Reding 2019
Aiden Piper journeyed from the Burara Wilds, back home, where six years earlier, Fenella’s father, Nigel Duke, had forced Finn Mock to put a spell on him. It happened the day before he and Fenella were to exchange their vows in the cobblestone-paved Dorberg village square. As a consequence, Aiden and his love would remain divided until they broke Finn’s spell. But Nigel, taking no chances, had paid crimpers to trick Aiden, drug him, and then set him aboard a ship that hauled him away.
Soon after awakening in chains, trapped into sea service to the cruel pirate, Wyn More, Aiden fell victim to jungle fever. For months he knew only the mercy of forgetfulness that unconsciousness granted him. But eventually his illness passed and his memories returned. They harassed him unceasingly. He longed for Fenella and the revenge he would have when he returned home where he knew she waited for him.
When the opportunity arose, Aiden jumped at his chance to escape. The cliff from which he dove was higher than the three tallest trees imaginable standing one atop the next. Still, he’d have taken the risk even if that distance had been doubled. Fortunately he resurfaced alive from the water below.
Aiden didn’t have a single copper buckle to his name. Nevertheless, he headed for Dorberg, rendering his services along the way in exchange for food. Occasionally, he picked a pocket, but only after confirming that his mark was truly wealthy, and even then, only when in dire straights. He’d never forget that gelid morning when he awakened, shivering, to find his boots missing. Then there was the time he went for almost a week with naught to eat but a half loaf of stale bread ...
Back in Dorberg, Aiden’s first stop was The Tipsy Dove Inn. Entering, he jingled the buckles in his pocket that he’d won at dice. He was proud to have played without cheating—well, mostly so, anyway.
Sitting in a corner, a hood obscuring his face, he watched his old friend, Payton, tending bar. He surmised that Payton had wed Bronwyn Glynn, daughter of the previous barkeep, as she was waiting tables. Sadly, the intervening years had not treated the now-buxom lass kindly.
No one recognized Aiden, but then he’d yet to cut his scraggly locks or to trim his beard. Also, he remained underweight following his recent adventures. Still, he kept his hood up. Nigel mustn’t hear of his return too soon.
The evening grew late when, unexpectedly, a waitress shuffled to his table. Glancing up, Aiden went speechless. There stood Fenella, so close he could smell her sweet breath.
“Shift change,” she said, setting down a mug of bock roughly. Some sloshed out. A towel in hand, she wiped the table clean. “I’m waitin’ your table now. Need anything ’fore the kitchen closes?”
Aiden struggled to contain his delight in seeing her, but caution won out.
“Bread ... please,” he whispered, eyes downcast.
She set off, then seconds later, delivered his order.
The sight of Fenella encouraged Aiden. He knew how to break the magician’s spell, as Finn Mock had included that information when he’d cast it. Such was required of any mage who didn’t want to risk his life operating contrary to the rules. So to reunite, Aiden and Fenella would have to face Nigel together—since he was the party responsible for the spell—and confirm their undying love for one another.
At closing, Fenella removed her threadbare apron, then tossed it over the bar. “To home!” she exclaimed as she departed.
After leaving payment, Aiden rushed to the Duke estate, grateful for his familiarity with it. At least something good had come of his having served as secretary to Nigel in years past!
He made his way to the man’s study through secret passageways he’d created for his former employer. There, he went about his task, pilfering no small fortune from a lockbox he knew of. Then he absconded—like the thief in the night that he was.
The next morning, his pockets full of coin, Aiden set out for the public baths, then to the barbershop for a grooming. Lastly, he visited the tailor, grateful to find some premade clothing available for purchase. Now he could meet his love!
Throughout the day, Aiden listened for news of Nigel or Fenella. He rejoiced when he discovered the two would dine at The Tipsy Dove Inn that evening.
Handing a street urchin a short unsigned missive along with the last of the buckles he’d stolen from Nigel’s lockbox, Aiden instructed the lad to deliver the note to father and daughter while they dined. It read, “Awaiting you in Nigel’s study. Hurry home! Grievous news.”
At evenfall, sporting striped trousers, a wool cape, and the finest boots available in Dorberg, Aiden returned to Nigel’s study. He poured himself a glass of his former employer’s finest claret. It’s color, bordering on purple, glistened in the firelight. Gazing into its depths, Aiden anticipated the moment he’d reunite with Fenella.
He added a log to the fire. Its crackling flames flickered. Satisfied, he emptied his glass in one swallow and then refilled it again before settling into Nigel’s favorite chair, a tentative smile on his face.
Loud voices soon sounded out from down the hall, interrupting his thoughts. Initially unintelligible, they quickly grew nearer and clearer.
As Aiden stood in anticipation, Fenella’s voice rose out above the shouting, clicking of heels, and clanging of weapons.
“Duncan!” she cried. “Father got a message! Was it from you? Oh, what is happening? Hurry, my beloved husband! Hurry! Hurry to Father’s study!”
Aiden’s grip on his wineglass loosened as he grasped the facts. Fenella loved another. No longer could he face Nigel together with her for the two to swear their undying devotion to one another. No longer could they break Finn Mock’s spell.
With that, Aiden’s glass slipped to the floor where, like his dreams, it shattered.
The Sword of Seysan
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright Robin Lythgoe 2019
The Trickster Guardian
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright P.S. Broaddus 2019
It happened like this.
The Best and Worst Things About Being an Author
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to say.
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In fact, I’ve found that the time of day is far less critical for me than is the prospect of being interrupted. If I know that interruptions are likely to come to me, it is almost impossible for me to get in the correct frame of mind to write. (This explains a lot in terms of my writing over the past months, as my husband was in the hospital a few times this past fall, and when not in, he was home almost continuously. Thus, interruption-less time has been pretty much nonexistent.)
In short, I find that the hardest thing about being an author is getting enough solitude to be productive.
Now for the good news!
So, what is the best thing about being a writer? For me there are two "best things." (Yes, I know that only one thing can really be "the best," but you're following, I'm sure...) Each of these two things is so good that I think it is the best until I consider the other. Thus, I must address them both.
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