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I’ve Been Duped!

“Its Beauty is its Deception!”

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY simply because it was attractive?

Maybe a new car? A relationship? The dream job?  And let’s say you get it only to discover that the car still breaks down, the relationship comes with baggage, or the perfect job is managed by crazy people?

Well, I have! As a writer, I draw upon these experiences to craft my stories. Sometimes I regurgitate it unfiltered through a character and let them deal with the consequences. Now THAT’S fun! Other times I become the magician, getting you to focus on the shiny, red scarf in my left hand while my right hand is preparing to WOW you with a rabbit. Well, not a real rabbit, unless of course that’s part of the plot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now…or is it? 🙂

(For those following the “FREE Book” posts, here’s the conclusion to Chapter 01, Tears of Min Brock.)

Quinn lifted his throbbing head and glared at the women. “Why must you two be so loud?” he thundered.

Elabea remembered a time many summers ago when his eyes sparkled with life, but that was before he went off to fight in the Dark War. Now they were opaque and lifeless. Spying the parchment in the fire, he asked Elabea, “Where did you get that?”

His eyes became icy.

Backing away, she meekly answered, “It was attached to an arrow stuck in our door. What is it?”

It is from the land of lies!” he slurled.

Claire!” Elabea whispered, noting that despite the flames, the parchment was not burning.

“Don’t say the word!” Areall yelled, her placid expression now like churning rapids. Turning her fury on Quinn, she shouted, “Your night of drink is making you talk too much!”

“I’ll talk when and how I like!” he yelled back.

While they argued, Elabea knew this was her chance. Darting to the fireplace, she grabbed a small stick on the hearth and plunged it into the coals.

“Stop!” Quinn roared as he struggled to rise from his chair. “Leave it!” Becoming dizzy, he slumped back down.

“Amazing,” Elabea muttered as she dragged it onto the cool hearth. “It’s not burnt and is even free of soot. It’s so…beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Areall replied derisively. She crept toward the parchment as if an evil spirit possessed it. “Its beauty is its deception!” she snarled. Unwilling to get any closer, she whispered,“Burn it! Destroy it or you will curse us. The Cauldron will know and see. They will come!”

Elabea calmly picked it up. “They’ve never come before! Besides, how can something so beautiful be evil?”

Areall reached for her but Elabea was too quick. She raced out the door.


Night Mystery…more Free “Tears”

Here is today’s portion of Chapter 1, The Moon King from Tears of Min Brock…

Elabea rolled her eyes and began banging her bowl again. Areall gently stopped her drumming, and with a patronizing smile, returned to her chores.

The conversation was over.

After a moment of silence, Areall asked, “Would you like to continue learning how to knit?”

Elabea let out a dramatic sigh. “You know I hate to knit! And why aren’t you willing to discuss this? Why do you pretend all is well?   Do you really like the night raids and wearing this?”

Elabea yanked at her tunic.

Areall flashed her another belittling smile just as Elabea’s father, Quinn, stumbled out of the bedroom. Bumping his forehead against the low threshold, he muttered something unintelligible. Rubbing his sore head and mumbling angrily, he staggered toward the fireplace. There, he fell into a wooden chair to begin another day, sitting and staring into the glowing embers that held no answers to his misery. Like the days prior, Quinn would slip further into despair, an occasional grunt about Min Brock shattering the silence.

“Father,” Elabea said, knowing when he was hungover it was better to leave, “I’m going to the meadow.”

Like the other parents of Hetherlinn, Quinn and Areall had banned her from visiting or climbing the oak. Despite their threats and even subsequent punishment, Elabea continued to visit. Overcome with their own personal pains, they resigned themselves to defeat, hoping against hope that the Cauldron would not discover their wayward daughter.

Quinn waved a rubbery arm while Areall huffed disapprovingly.

Elabea threw the door open. The cold breeze took her breath away; she pulled her shawl closer. A rustling sound near her ear made her turn to inspect. Embedded in the door’s rough plank was an arrow. Wrapped about its shaft and secured with a leather strip was a parchment. It was twitching in the breeze.

The THUD I heard last night must have come from this arrow!


Oracles! A Rebel’s Heart! More Free “Tears”

Here is the next installment of Chapter 1, The Moon King, from Tears of Min Brock

“The vapors from the Cauldron of Ebon travel far and hear much!” Areall whispered. “You should respect the Oracles, my daughter!”

Areall did not remove her hand until she was convinced Elabea would humble her tongue. Finally, she dropped her hand and returned nonchalantly to her chores.

Elabea stared at her mother. “Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“No,” she curtly replied.

“Well–I am,” Elabea snipped, her curiosity piqued. “Nothing happens in Hetherlinn, or all of Allsbruth for that matter.”

Areall spun around. Her eyes narrowed. “‘Nothing’ is good, Elabea. ‘Nothing’ means no more war. ‘Nothing’ is a blessing to life.”

“If this is life,” Elabea said while thumping her spoon, “then life stinks!”

Areall sighed and decided upon a different tactic. Pulling up a chair, she sat across from Elabea, hoping a calm discussion would end this battle of wills.

“Do you remember the stories of your youth?” Areall gently asked.

“Yes!” she bemoaned as her spoon beat a rhythmic cadence on her bowl.

“Then you remember that the Dark War ended the tyranny of the King of Claire. Since that day, the Ebonites and the Cauldron have guarded and guided us. The Cauldron’s drone is a gracious reminder of all we’ve been blessed with.”

Elabea stopped thumping her spoon and listened. She had become so accustomed to the drone’s perpetual nature that she no longer heard it. As she listened, she realized that it was always there, just like the air that she breathed, day and night, winter and spring. Its tone reminded her of the wind howling through the hollow of a dead tree, low in pitch, monotonous. Ominous.

“That’s why,” Areall continued, “we must try our best to obey the Oracles of the Cauldron.”

“And what about their night raids?” Elabea huffed. “What have we done to deserve those?”

“It’s for our own protection. They simply need to tally us to make sure no one has—”

“Listen to you!” Elabea interrupted. “Can’t you see that we’re prisoners in our own village?”

“Oh, Elabea,” her mother answered with a sigh. “I only wish you could see life through my eyes.”

“And I wish you could see through mine!”

Silence.

“I suppose,” Areall added, “we’ve lost some liberties, but those are but inconveniences compared to the peace and prosperity we now have.”

“Peace and prosperity?” she huffed. “The Oracles decree we can only travel five arrow shots from our village. The Oracles determines what we can talk about. The Oracles forbid you to teach us how to read! The Oracles demand–”

“Enough,” Areall interrupted, her voice almost a whisper. “Such curiosity can lead to a rebellious heart.”


Ghost or Just Her Imagination?

TearsCover_w_Spine copyWelcome to my 300 x 2 book giveaway!  Twice a week I post 300 words from Book I of my War of Whispers series, Tears of Min Brock.

Previously–Elabea, a girl of fourteen summers, witnessed a strange anomaly outside her cottage window. Was it a ghoul or just her wild imagination? Read on to find out…

“Last night, I saw something…or someone…riding out of Hetherlinn.”

“Probably just an Ebonite warrior on a night patrol,” she sighed as she plopped the bowl down in front of Elabea.

“I know what they look like, and he was definitely not one of them.” She picked up a wooden spoon. “He was larger than any man I’ve ever seen, and he glowed blue like the moon.” She dug into the creamy broth.

“You must have been dreaming.” Areall’s voice was overly tired.

“I’m not a child,” she snapped. “I’ve seen fourteen summers and in another four, I’ll be permitted to marry…” In a more sullen tone, “If anyone will have me.”

“Perhaps the moon was playing tricks on you,” Areall interjected, not the least bit interested in the conversation. After all, Elabea’s curiosity could be relentless, like a wolf in winter, desperate for a meal.

“At first, I was frightened, but soon…”

Her thoughts drifted to the eventful night.

“Whatever he was,” she continued, “he was magnificent!”

Elabea twirled her spoon as her imagination began to work. “Is there a Moon King?” she asked.

“Moon King?” Areall chortled. “There hasn’t been a king anywhere since the Dark War and…” Her rosy cheeks suddenly faded to white as if death had touched her flesh. In a serious tone, she abruptly added, “Let’s talk of different matters.”

“Could he have been something of old, something from the Dark War?”

Her spoon stopped twirling as she pondered the next question, one she was certain to get in trouble for asking.

“Mother, could he be from Claire?”

Areall’s eyes widened with fear. “Never mention that nation again! You know the Cauldron’s Oracles ban discussions of things that might be or might have been!”

“I know,” she answered, her spoon spinning again. “But do you really think the Cauldron can hear inside our cottage?”

“Yes!”

“Then why hasn’t it seen me at the oak, or heard Galadin and me talking about Claire?”

Areall clasped her hand over Elabea’s mouth. “Shh!”

Elabea looked into her mother’s buggy eyes. She had seen this look many times before. It came with every question she asked concerning the Cauldron, Ebon, the Dark War and the forgotten land known as Claire. It was the look of fear.


Free Tuesday! 300 x 2 Fantasy Giveaway

Tears_of_Min_Brock_Cover_for_Kindle

Good afternoon! Here is today’s portion from Tears of Min Brock. We’re still in Chapter 1, The Moon King. Thanks!

Morning came too soon, and she groggily climbed out of bed. She tiptoed quickly across the cold planks and threw on her brown tunic. Woven from a thick cloth, it resembled a floppy bag more than it did a dress. It was the required outfit of Hetherlinn as ordered by the Oracles, creating uniformity and squelching individualism.   She often wondered if the other nations had to dress similarly.

She pulled her wavy cinnamon-colored hair out from beneath her tunic and it fell past her shoulders. Her eyes looked like morsels of dark chocolate that reflected a fiery heart, and her smile was inviting, while a few freckles—sprinkled like nutmeg—adorned her creamy cheeks. Although Elabea was an attractive girl, she did not consider herself pretty. In fact, aside from an occasional compliment from her mother, many in Hetherlinn, especially the widow Mithe, insulted her on a daily basis. As a result, she accepted their demeaning comments as true.

Slipping on warm wool stockings and then her boots, she quickly strapped a thick leather belt around her waist. With it snug about her, it at least gave her the sensation of wearing something more stunning than a sack.

She stepped to the square opening in her floor. The warmth from the kitchen fire below embraced her while the aroma of breakfast porridge made her stomach rumble. She descended the rickety ladder and the rungs creaked with her weight.

“Mother,” she asked as she dragged herself to the table near the fire. “Did you see anything last night?”

“No,” Areall answered dully as she scooped porridge from the large black pot. Like everything else in their cottage, the fireplace was simple and primitive by order of the Oracles. Rough in places with some cracks here and there, it was anything but elegant. Black soot covered the stone, rising up to the thatched roof.


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