Blood & Water- Coming June 30th, 2018
Today, I wanted to share the first chapter with you where you'll meet two very important characters.
The Chronicles of Alburnium stories take place a couple of hundred years before the events that happened in the White Road Chronicles. Be prepared to be reunited with a few familiar timeless characters...
Alburnium is divided into Provinces ruled by Regents appointed by King Shaydon. The Regents are commissioned to care for their portion of land made up of several smaller towns and villages. Each Regent's responsibility is to help their district thrive, keep them safe, and instruct the people in the ways of the Kingdom.
This is what is supposed to happen.
However, many Provinces deal with the threat of being overtaken by clans of Sorcerers, made up of hybrid humans, creatures, and fair folks seeking to gain power and possession of the lands from to the ruler they refer to as the Light King.
One such mixed-being Mage has traveled many years as an outcast until he meets met up with a particular Sorcerer who is in the business of stealing those gifted with special, powerful talents. The young Mage is eager to learn everything he can about his powers, but keeps the truth of his actual bloodline a well-kept secret. He wants nobody to know of his true identity before he is ready to make his move and begin taking over every Province not totally dedicated to the Light King.
The Lionheart Province three-book series is a retelling of the Grimm's fairy-tale- The Handless Maiden. I've taken this lesser told story and broken it down into three parts, and added a bit of Alburnium flair to it. I believe you'll love reading Kardia, Regent Leon, and Grunt's story.
For a limited time, you can pre-order Blood and Water at a discounted price of only $2.99. Once the book goes live, the price will go up to $3.99. Soon, I'll post more links to other distributors. Keep watch for that.
Here's a first chapter to give you a taste of what's to come....
“I’ll return by nightfall,” Wilhelm the Miller promised his golden-haired daughter of seventeen years who had followed him outside. “Perhaps today I’ll be lucky and bring home dinner, along with some choice logs people will be willing to trade for. I’ll head deeper into the Mire Woods today to places that haven’t already been scavenged by desperate hands.”
Kardia draped a full water bag over his shoulder. She was about to warn him to not go too far when the door to their cottage slammed behind them.
Mother sauntered out, a basket in one hand and a cloth pouch in the other. She shoved the pouch at her husband. “Don’t be foolish, Wilhelm. There are dangers in the Mire. The few scraps of wood you’re able to bring back are not worth losing you over.” She pecked a quick kiss on his whiskered cheek. “And I’ll expect you to return before dinner. Here’s some bread to tide you over. Kardia, I have a few chores for you to do while I’m gone.”
Dadda smiled and patted Kardia’s cheek affectionately. She wished he’d allow her to go with him, but he was so protective of her, their only child, that he wouldn’t hear of her setting one shoe in the Mire woods. Wild creatures, animals—and worse—were said to take shelter in the thick forest. Rebels who’d been shunned and run out of the Province towns sought refuge in the steep hills. She’d heard the stories about bands of sorcerers living in vast caverns deep beneath the stone and dirt. She hoped they were merely entertaining tales.
Kardia shuddered and pushed the thought from her mind. Turning to her mother, she said, “Dadda has asked me to sweep out the mill today. They’ll be gathering the winter wheat soon and he wishes for us to be ready—”
“Pixie fluff!” Mother clicked her tongue in disapproval. “Those who did manage to horde a few grains to grow will keep their bounty to themselves, foolish man. They will, however, likely come to me to bake their bread for them. That’s when we will reap a bit of reward for their endeavors. I gathered a good store of nuts before the squirrels snatched them all. They’ll never know the difference and I should be able to scrape up a nice bit of flour for ourselves when they do come.”
Dadda sighed with a bob of his woven wide-brimmed hat. “Which is why I’ll go into the woods and gather wood and hunt for game, my practical Asmita. It’s the best I can do at this time for my dear family.” He winked at Kardia, drawing a small smile from her.
Mother was the town baker and Dadda left her to do her work while he did his.
Kardia loved her kind father with all her heart. While she had her mother’s trim form and graceful mannerisms, she favored Dadda’s fair colored hair and green eyes. In every way, her parents were complete opposites, in looks, actions, and temperaments.
Dadda was a gentle giant of a man who, like her, longed for the good days to return and held onto the thin thread of hope that someday, the winds would turn, and change would come.
Ever since the village Prior had passed away two years ago, the town had been on the verge of destitution. Prior Johnnes had been assigned by the Regent of their province to care for the Meeting Hall and oversee the village. Johnnes had no family and it seemed the Regent who lived far away in the capital of Rodonal had forgotten the insignificant hamlet of Goia.
Without Prior Johnnes’ leadership, the Meeting Hall had fallen into disrepair and people were forced to take care of their own needs to survive.
So Dadda, who had no grain to grind in the mill, would venture daily into the wilds to provide for his family. He did so without hesitation or complaint, always saying this was only a season in their lives and eventually, things would change.
Kardia ate up his promises, feeding her own dwindling hope. Mother huffed at their optimism. But at least, with a grain of hope, Kardia held onto the morals Dadda instilled in her: to be generous and kind, helpful when the opportunity arose, and patient with those who weren’t.
Mother often called her foolish, as well.
Dadda brushed a kiss on Kardia’s forehead, ticking her with his bristly beard, then kissed Mother’s cheek before he turned and headed toward the river. He would follow its course until outside of the village common, then cross over into the woods by a narrow footbridge. She used to follow him when she was younger, begging to come along until he was forced to take a switch to her for her disobedience.
She’d never disobeyed again. The discipline had broken both their hearts, as Dadda wept nearly as much as she had. From that day forward, she’d vowed to never be the reason he cried a second time.
Soon she’d reach her eighteenth year and strived harder than ever to ease her parents’ burdens.
“Kardia, after you’ve swept out the mill, I want you to begin furrowing the garden. I saved a few seeds from last year. Let us hope they’ll take and provide something we can put in our stews besides the bitter roots we forage in the woods.”
“Yes, Mother. I’ll only give the mill a quick sweep. Get rid of the cobwebs, just in case someone—”
Mother smiled and pinched her cheek. “Just in case. Yes, yes.” She started toward town to haggle for whatever pittance she could manage for a bit of oil and candles. “Oh, I forgot,” Mother slowed her steps. “The mattock’s handle cracked last time I used it. I’d meant to mention it to Wilhelm and see if he could replace it.”
Kardia blurted without thinking, “I’ll repair it. No need to burden—”
Mother raced to her side, snatching her arm roughly in her claw-like fingers. “Hush, stupid girl. What have I told you about bragging about your…” she whispered the last word, “talent. I’ve warned you and will whip you myself if I learn you are not following my instructions.”
“Yes, Mother. Nobody has ever seen me do it. I promise.”
“They won’t see anything that doesn’t happen. Leave the tool fixing to your father. We’ll work on the garden tomorrow. Together.” As Mother turned to leave, she said, “Where I can keep an eye on you.”
Kardia watched her mother rush down the road like a hawk swooping in for the kill. Letting out a long sigh, she turned toward the mill to start her daily chores.
What was so wrong with being able to fix things? Dadda had been pleased when her gifting appeared on her fifteenth birthday. He boasted that it came from his bloodline, the House of the White Horse. His lineage consisted of powerful Healers, Illuminates, and Sanos, like herself, who had the ability to fix things and…heal people. Though Mother forbade her from trying, even when they themselves sustained an injury. That didn’t stop her from fixing her own cuts and scrapes, especially since the town Healer no longer opened his door to visitors.
Watching the skin heal over a cut right before her eyes was simply amazing.
But Mother insisted that she hide her talent, despite all the good she could do for people. Mr. Marlow, the blacksmith, would not have such a terrible limp now if she’d only been allowed to mend his broken leg. Perhaps people would even pay for her services if she’d only been allowed to use them.
Instead, both of her parents agreed that it was best to keep her special quality a secret for now. Father once said that perhaps they should consider making the journey to see King Shaydon, but Mother hushed him soon as the words escaped his mouth.
Of course, Kardia wanted to know more about this King. She’d heard tales of a ruler that lived in a grand city near the eastern coast of Alburnium. She’d wanted to know if the king was real and why would she need to go see him about her gift? And why couldn’t she use it to help people fix things? Evidently, it wasn’t a common gift. Like the elusive Illuminates, only a very few possessed such powerful talents.
Most, like her father and mother, had more common gifts, like being able to grow things or calm animals. Prior Johnnes had a gift of being a fine leader. The herbalist Miltie could make any seed grow and Mr. Tillus had a talent for knowing exactly how to turn those plants into concoctions that cured people.
But Dadda often said there were a few, even from his own family line, who’d been endowed with a talent like hers.
So many questions plagued Kardia’s mind that sometimes it was hard for her to concentrate on her work. Blowing out a long breath of relief at her mother’s retreating form, she headed for the mill house, grabbing the broom that rested against the wall of their little cottage. She’d made it from scraps of the thatch that sheltered their little stone home. Dadda hoped to someday be able to afford real wood shingles that wouldn’t drip when the heavy rains came.
For today, she’d tackle her chores and do her best to make sure both her parents were pleased with her when they returned home. The last thing she wanted to do was cause them more burdens than they already had.
* * * *
“Listen to me carefully, Grunt.” Master Fajer gazed into the glowing ball perched on the table inside their traveling wagon. Sweat dotted his bald head covered in red markings. The star within a circle was his own special mark. “You must lure the girl to the tree. I don’t care how you do it, she must remain there until I send Marlin to you.”
The apprentice glanced up at the cardinal pecking at the pile of seeds scattered at the bottom of its cage. “Master, won’t you at least tell me what interest you have in a stupid village girl? I never took you for the type interested in unions.” He took a step backward, knowing he was overstepping the line they’d established between the two of them. Fajer the Charmer had taken him on as an apprentice because he showed real abilities with conjuring. But he was nothing more than a servant boy and Fajer was quick to remind him of this fact.
Grunt, as he’d come to be known, had spent the last few years living with the Wizards of Lalet, but he hated their incessant rules and boring routines. After spending a few years learning what he could, he set out on his own, seeking someplace he could finally fit in.
When Grunt first met up with the traveling sorcerer, he was repulsed over how Fajer engaged in peddling fake medicines, conjuring simple tricks to amuse crowds, and wheedling his way into the smaller towns that weren’t against such entertainments. Grunt didn’t understand why such a powerful sorcerer wasted his time with such frivolity.
However, Fajer found Grunt interesting and offered to show him real enchantments he’d never do before the common crowd.
“I’ll teach you how to gain more power than you have now, little grunt. You’ll only need to do as I say, when I say, and we’ll get along fine,” Fajer promised.
Grunt was willing to bide his time and see if the conjurer had anything interesting to show him. So far, he wasn’t too impressed.
Fajer stood, glowering down at him. He wore a traveling cloak instead of the ornate robes of his order called The Brethren. Would Fajer be heading into the little hamlet today? And why did he need that silly girl to be near the dying White Tree?
“You do what I say, Grunt. I’ve told you before, that until you’re willing to be truthful with me, I’ll not offer my complete trust in you. What interest I have in that girl is my concern, not yours.”
“Master, I’ve given you my name, I don’t know why—”
“Bah, that is not your true name. Am I supposed to believe your parents’ named you after a worthless weed? Someone with your powers will have a dignified name.” He swung back his hand, but Grunt ducked out of the way, expecting the move. “I’ll never use your fake name, understand? Until you’re honest with me, you’re nothing but a grunt! Now go! Do as I say or don’t bother coming back. If this fails, I’ll beat you senseless and leave you in the woods for the vultures.”
“Yes, Master.” He started to walk from the camp, then stopped, thinking he needed something that might gain the girl’s interest. She might not be willing to talk to a stranger.
While Fajer put away the seeing-globe, Grunt went to his sleeping cot and lifted the straw matt to reveal a narrow storage space where he kept trinkets and other things he’d found during their travels. Taking out a small mandolin with a broken string, he tucked the instrument under his belt and hurried outside before Master accused him of loitering.
From what he’d gathered from Fajer’s mutterings as he watched the Miller family, the girl liked music and was good at fixing things.
Grunt took off at a jog, following the narrow trail through the woods. He followed the sound of rushing water. There should be a bridge somewhere that he could cross to get into the village. He’d need to be careful and try to avoid being seen. He liked staying in the shadows and keeping a low profile, always fearing he’d be recognized and taken back to the Light King in Aloblase.
No, he’d kicked the dust of that city off his feet and vowed never to return unless he had a powerful army behind him ready to take it over. Someday, he would find a way to make that happen.
For now, he’d follow any wizard willing to take him on. He’d learn everything there was to learn and explore the reaches of his powers. Fajer promised to show him ways to expand those powers. He had better keep his promise.
When he came to the bridge, Grunt spotted a man with a wide-brimmed hat passing over. Ducking behind a thick oak, he waited for the gentleman to pass. The fellow whistled a happy tune until he reached the woods and grew quiet. From his belt, the man withdrew a long knife, took a cautious look around, then went on his way following the same footpath Grunt had used.
Was this the prey Fajer waited for? If so, Grunt needed to hurry if he was to get the man’s daughter to the right place at the right time. His steps quickened as he rushed over the bridge, then followed the road leading to the communal area. He stayed hidden within the trees lining the narrow footpath. The mill sat right next to the water. She would either be in the house, doing chores or maybe in the mill that hadn’t turned in several months from the looks of things.
Dust flew from the narrow doorway, pushed out by a broom clutched in the hands of a beautiful maiden. Grunt paused, watching her. He’d seen images of the mill family in the globe, but they were mere shadows of the real humans the device reflected. A device that Grunt was sure Fajer had stolen from a Curian.
His master insisted it was a gift, but he knew better. Curians didn’t offer gifts to anyone. More than likely, his master had slit the unsuspecting Curian’s throat and stolen what he could off his dead body.
Eventually, Grunt intended to get that globe back. It was Curian-made and belonged to someone with Curian blood. Like him.
The girl stepped outside and wiped cobwebs and dust from her clothing and long, blond hair. It reminded him of spun silk braided down her back. What did Fajer want with her? She couldn’t even be twenty years yet. Grunt’s stomach twisted over what that old wizard might do with such a young maiden.
For a moment, he considered walking away, except… he had nowhere else to go.
Even if he did walk away, Fajer would find another means to get what he wanted. Well, maybe she was one of those snooty girls that looked down their perfect long noses at everyone else. Maybe she was selfish and conceited, or demanding and cruel.
A butterfly tumbled past her bringing a delightful giggle from the girl. She followed it a few steps, commenting on how beautiful it was and wishing it a good day.
Grunt blew out a long breath followed by a curse. She didn’t seem like the ill-mannered type at all.
“Very well, let me think this through for a moment.” Grunt tugged at the thin beard covering his chin as he contemplated his options. If he did walk away, he’d be without home or sustenance. Once again, he’d walk the land as an outcast. At least with Fajer, he had an in with the other sorcerers in the region. Turning on Fajer now would label him untrustworthy. He’d have no hope of eventually joining someone else from the Brethren Order.
He cursed again. No, he needed to do this. He’d not let anybody, or thing, stand in the way of his ultimate goal. Especially not some stupid, young girl.
Who really cared what Fajer wanted with her? Grunt decided that he wouldn’t let himself care. And standing here debating and fretting was doing nothing but wasting time. If he didn’t have her near the tree at the appointed time, all this musing would be for naught.
Grunt straightened his back, smoothed down his blue velvet jacket, and stepped out from the shelter of shadows and onto the path leading past the mill. “Greetings this fine morning, lass.” He held up his hand.
As expected, she stepped back into the mill, holding the broom protectively in front of her. He tried not the chuckle over the absurdity of her using it to defend herself against him.
“Peace, dear child. I’m but a traveling entertainer passing through your fine village. Would your mill, by chance have any grain to trade? I haven’t much, but perhaps I have something that might interest you.”
Her gaze darted right to the mandolin now tucked under his arm in plain sight. Ah, he’d guessed right about her interests. When she glanced at him again, he was taken aback by her green eyes that reminded him of a meadow in summer. She tilted her head slightly to the side, “I’m afraid there is no grain yet. What little is grown here is usually kept by those who grow it.”
Grunt folded his arms over his chest, making sure to keep the instrument in her sights. “Then why, may I ask, are you slaving away inside when there’s no point? It’s much too fine a day to stay inside a dusty and unused building. Don’t you think?”
“Indeed, yes, but there is hope that some might need our services. I see your mandolin has a broken string. Do you play it much?”
He fought to keep his mouth from forming a smile. “This old thing? I have played it some, but… I had hoped to trade it for food. You see, I’ve been traveling many days through those horrid woods. This isn’t a good season to find much sustenance, I fear. I was so relieved to come to your town.”
She bit her bottom lip, causing his heart to stumble over a couple of beats.
Silently scolding himself, he forced his thoughts to stay on task. “I can see by your expression that I have little hope of finding anyone willing to trade this old noise box for something substantial. Am I correct?”
Her shoulder jerked upward. “Yes, I fear you are, sir. And though I would love to trade for an instrument such as you possess, I fear we have nothing of equal value. Like most folks here, we are barely scraping by.” She continued to stare at him, her brows furrowed. “Oh dear, I do so hate to turn anyone away. Perhaps I can find a bit of bread, though I fear it’ll be stale. Or—”
“I noticed,” he interrupted, needing her to stop. She was willing to share what scraps they had? He swallowed down the lump forming in his throat and forbade himself to allow any feelings for the waif to surface. Emotions were a man’s ruin. Allowing his heart to feel would be his downfall. He’d not allow it.
“I noticed the tree behind your home. Is it yours?”
“Oh, the White Tree?” She set her broom against the wall beside the door. “It is on our property. It used to grow healing fruits that helped the people of Goia, but—”
“Yes, I know what a White Tree is for. It will produce fruit when in need so long as…” he left the rest unsaid, wondering if she’d finish the rule for him.
“I’m afraid it’s dying. I’m not sure why. It hasn’t produced fruit in ages.”
He held out the mandolin. “How about a trade, my dear? This for a look at your tree? All I ask is that you accompany me. I would feel as if I were trespassing if you do not.”
“But sir, I know for a fact there are no fruits growing or ready to be picked.”
“Perhaps I can coax it. As I said, when there’s a need, it will comply.”
It would also comply with the touch of a Logorian, which was the other half of his bloodline and his deepest, most dangerous secret of all. Nobody could ever know his true lineage, which was why he’d given Fajer a fake name, and one he intended to use from now on. He’d never share his true name ever again. Far as he was concerned, that name and his past were dead to him.
“Whether the tree produces or not, the mandolin is yours. My gift for your desire to help and for gracing me with your time on this busy morning.”
She smiled then and motioned for him to follow her. “I’ll only take it if you are able to find something to fulfill your hunger. I would like to see someone coax that tree to life, I’ve sorely missed watching it bloom this time of year.”
He followed her, enchanted by the brilliant smile that lit up her delicate face. He almost wondered if she weren’t born of the fair folks or was part-Being herself.
As he stood before the bare tree with its stark white branches and few remaining star-shaped leaves, visions of a pair of similar trees, much more vibrant than this one flashed through his mind. The other bountiful White Trees had hung over the golden throne where the Light King sat, waiting for him to approach.
Grunt shoved the memory out of his mind. No! Do not go there ever again. He would never bow to any authority. Never! For now, he tolerated Fajer’s attempts at control, but a time would come when he’d make his move and show his real power.
“What is your name, kind sir?” She asked as they headed around the mill toward the piece of land behind their home.
There was a stone cook-stove directly behind their house. Did they also control that? At one time, her family must have been quite well-to-do. Past the small cottage, one of those Meeting Halls stood in disrepair. From the dark windows, it seemed abandoned.
No wonder Fajer had picked this town. It was the kind he liked to come into, offering his services and causing the people to be indebted to him. Then they’d become his slaves.
Did he have such plans for this tiny town? Normally he did share those plans. So why was the sorcerer’s interest settled only on this young girl?
No matter how hard Grunt tried, he couldn’t fathom his master’s reasonings. “Most call me Grunt. It suits me, I suppose.”
Her mouth dropped in surprise. “No, it does not! I would never take you for someone like that. You are much too refined.”
Why did it please him that she was indignant over that name? What did it matter? He chuckled but didn’t dare to look at her earnest face. “And what, may I ask, is your name, kind lady?”
He examined the tree, looking for any bit of life remaining. It was close to expiring.
The sooner the better. He was almost reluctant to use his charms on it but would need to do so in order to keep her occupied. Hopefully, Fajer would succeed quickly and send Marlin to his rescue.
If the father was as gullible and good-hearted as his daughter, Master should have no trouble coaxing what he wanted from the man. Grunt only needed to keep her here a short while longer.
Finally, he turned to her and found she watched him with a wary smile.
She quickly ducked her head, staring at the ground as she said, “My name is Kardia. My family is of the White Horse. I was born here in Goia. Too bad you come now instead of when it thrived and was a wonderful place to live.”
Grunt found a leaf tipped with green. Perfect. “It happens, I’m afraid. The little hamlets that border a Regent’s jurisdiction are usually forgotten. He almost mentioned having his Master come to help but stopped himself. Fajer had never said he intended on taking over this village. His only interest lay in the girl.
There didn’t seem anything special about her. She was much too…kind…and good, for Master’s tastes.
Pinching the tip of the leaf, Grunt concentrated on wishing the branch to grow. Produce, he commanded it with every bit of authority he could muster. It would obey him. Or at least, it would obey his Logorian blood. His Curian side would help, too. They were supposedly masters of creating things out of nothing, from what he’d heard. The Curian Elders never allowed him into their precious Halls of Knowledge to find out exactly what they were capable of. Or what he might be capable of.
However, he knew when he came across a relic created by them, such as Fajer’s all-seeing globe. His blood would scream out from within his veins, MINE!
Someday it would be.
Kardia, who gave away her name much too easily, gasped when the twig sprang to life between his fingers. It grew into a bud. He concentrated harder. Produce more!
Electricity burned through his arm, singeing his fingers, but the bud opened to a beautifully fragrant flower. The scent reminded him of the glowing, cobblestone streets of Aloblase, of the scent lingering around the throne room.
His eyes burned with scalding tears that he quickly blinked away. Do. Not. Think about that place!
It no longer existed to him.
“Oh, look,” the girl exclaimed. The flower withered and formed into a fruit. He waited until the fruit grew to about half its normal size before rleasing the branch. That was big enough. More than enough. With dismay, he realized he would now have to eat it.
Forcing a smile on his face, he handed the instrument to the girl. “A deal is a deal. I now have something to, um, eat. So in trade, this now belongs to you.” He gave a bow as he presented it to her.
She slowly took the mandolin in her delicate hands. Her fingers ran over the fingerboard, then grasped the broken string. For a moment, he thought he saw a slight glow between her thumb and forefinger, but she jerked her hand away too fast for him to be sure.
“It’s so lovely. What fine wood and such craftsmanship.” The head had been carved into the shape of a ram with curling horns. “I…I can’t possibly accept this.”
To his surprise, he wanted her to have it. If any other person had held the instrument, he probably would have taken it back gladly, but the loving expression on her face as she examined every inch and carefully plucked the remaining strings made him secretly hope someday he’d hear her play.
If Fajer got his way, would he let her live? Grunt hadn’t thought about that. What if he planned to … a need to protect her rose up in his heart.
Perhaps it was good that he stayed with the sorcerer for now.
“It’s yours, please accept it. You’re right, it is a fine instrument and needs someone who will be willing to care properly for it. I believe you’ll do just that.”
She hugged it to her chest, her smile breaking his heart. “Thank you so much. I’ll cherish it forever. I’ve tried making my own a few times, but this…. This one is… yes, I’ll take very good care of it.”
He had no doubt. Plucking the fruit from the thin limb, he held the red, pear-shaped ball in his hand. Don’t think about it, just eat it quick. Maybe it would do him some good. That was the fruit’s purpose, wasn’t it?
“Well, thank you for allowing me to take from your tree.” He searched the surrounding trees for any sight of the blasted cardinal. What was taking so long? He wiped the fruit on the front of his shirt, biding his time. If he waited too long, he risked it turning bad and rotting in the palm of his hand. That would be horrible. The stench! Not to mention the stain it left behind.
Kardia, who still hugged the mandolin to her chest, watched him with mild curiosity. He offered her the fruit. “Would you like to half it with me?”
She shook her head. “Oh no, a deal is a deal, as you said. I know how hungry you must be, having traveled so far. And I know this fruit will do you a world of good. Please, enjoy it. I had something for breakfast and will be fine until we enjoy our dinner tonight.
With a nod, he bit into the fruit. Sweet juices filled his mouth and dribbled down his chin. For a moment he was able to close his eyes and enjoy the rush of strength, of peace, and a sense that all was right with the world. Greedily, he took another bite until only the seed inside was left. He spat the seed into his palm then gave it to her. “We shouldn’t throw that away.”
She nodded and accepted the tiny tear-drop shaped seed. “I’ve heard one should never throw away the seed of a White Tree. I’ll keep it somewhere safe.”
His mouth suddenly filled with the taste of bile. He gulped and hoped that blasted fruit would stay in his stomach. A loud chirp from a nearby tree caught his attention. Finally, Marlin. Time to go!
“Thank you, lass. I hope you enjoy your gift.” He bowed when she reached out and rested her hand on his arm. Her touch was soft, and her eyes brimmed with gratitude.
“What is your real name, kind sir? I know you are no grunt. Not after the wonderful thing you have just done. Please?”
He took a step backward until her hand fell away. His stomach roiled like a pot of burning stew. He needed desperately to get away from her and this place. Blast Fajer! This had better be worth it.
“The name I go by…” Fiery bile rose up his throat. “…is Darnel.”
With one more bow, he bid the maiden goodbye. Then he turned and bolted down the road until he reached the safety of the woods.
Soon as he was hidden within the foliage, he bent over and vomited the contents of his stomach. Sinking to one knee, he heaved a couple of more times until the fruit was completely out of his system. Yes, he’d been able to get it to grow. However, once eaten, it had known his deception and paid him back.
What else would today’s little performance cost him?
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.
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