Showing posts with label story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label story. Show all posts

16 August 2013

Fan Art Friday

I'm extending the due date on the competition by another week. The last two weeks have been really busy and irritating and difficult for me. But I'm here to do a little bit of positive at the end of the week, and hopefully bring you a little bit of sunshine to carry you through the weekend.

Welp, it's Fan Art Friday, and once again I am short on fan art... However! Never let it say that I shall be deterred!

I've had some requests on reference photos for a couple that I absolutely love: Josh and Gabe. I revealed them briefly about a year ago, thinking at the time that the very next book I would be writing would be Shifter Centric... come to find out, I have a lot of work to do before I can start writing SC - which is intended to be to HBL what the Ender's Shadow series is to the Ender's Game series. So! For your entertainment, and reference, here is more of Josh and Gabe.



My original version of Josh and Gabe

Andrea Hatch's version of Josh and Gabe

I hope you love them as much as I love them. ;) You get to meet them in the last parts of Hard Bank Left.

12 August 2013

Sneak Peak!

First things first! I recently watched Jack the Giant Slayer  and you must tell me...

Would she or would she not make an excellent Krys? (Green eyes aside) Just looking for your thoughts.

Speaking of which, I feel inclined to share with you a small snippet of what I've been working of in Tailslide. So, without further ado, here's a sneak peak at Tailslide:

My foot landed squarely in his face with a loud and satisfying crack. Blood began to gush from his nose, spilling all down his shirt. He doubled over, screaming and cursing and howling in pain. Without hesitation I snatched my dagger out from his belt and dodged toward the pile of crates. Above the crates was a zip line. The plan had barely started to formulate before I realized just how much this was going to hurt. But, it wasn't like I had many other choices.
With one great bound the zip line handle was in my left hand, but I wasn't free yet. Swinging my leg as hard as I could, I managed to clear a large stack of crates to my left, but not without sending my body careening sideways. The burning in my shoulder and wrist bit deep into the muscle and refused to release, but I couldn't let go, not just yet. The ground was still too far away and I was still recovering from my last great leap.
Legs swinging and flailing every which way, arm cramping, and knife held overhead, I sped toward the bottom of the line where a rather intimidating man waited, arms outstretched. My options flipped in front of me like a possessed Rolodex. One in particular stuck out and I went with it. It all started with swinging my back leg forward. The man below laughed at this. He wouldn't be laughing for long.
A split second before landing, tucked in my extended leg, forcing the excess energy into extending my other leg into a kick which landed smack in his xiphoid complex. The resulting crunch was not a pleasant one. No sooner did my foot make contact than I let go of the zip line bringing me hammering down on his already crushed sternum. As if that wasn't enough, I rammed my knife into his neck.
There was a time that I would have cared that I'd just taken a life, when the blood spilling across the deck would have troubled me to sickness, but that time had long since passed. These people weren't human. They kidnapped, experimented, treated my kind as animals all for the sake of aether. If us nightlings had to die for them to get their fill of aether, then by all means, I'd kill them first.
“Two down,” I muttered, pulling my knife from the man's jugular with a putrid spray of dark blood. “Who's next?”

09 August 2013

Fan Art Friday

I really don't have much for you this week. I've been very busy trying to coordinate this character competition. YOU HAVE ONE MORE WEEK PEOPLE! Please spread the word. So, for you, here is what I have for FAF.

In a word:


I know... not really one word... and I missed an apostrophe... but still; that's pretty much it. Hope you guys have a great weekend!

07 August 2013

My Obsession With the Insane

As you may know, I seem to write a lot of crazy. And by "a lot" I obviously mean every other character...The list seems to include at least one character per chapter that's a little bit off their rocker. And, though it might not be obvious at first, you'll quickly see exactly what I mean.

 Let's think... who are some of my special crazies?...
Elicith, Ero, Ve, Fes, Constantine, Drystan, Cassandra, Caps, Alasier, Maggie, Asper, and even Krys and Cadence are all various levels of mentally unstable.

So why? you may ask. Do you want the simple answer or the complicated one? Because the simple one is that aether affects the mind. A human mind can only handle so much aether at a time, overusing it, overdoing it, can cause a sort of psychosis, split personality disorder, or even drain your life.

You want complex?

Let's take the Dureri from my novella Adrianna. Obviously there's something unnatural about them, their actions seem to be outside the realm of normal human behavior. And yeah, sure, you can write that off as it being a simple matter of them not exactly being mortal in the strictest sense. But there's more to it. You can only torture people for so long without going just a little bit mad. Drystan is the best example of this.

In the first novella, Adrianna, the character of Drystan is explored a little. He's described as obsessive, clingy, and impulsive. He's described as hating who and what he is. At first glance this is brushed off with an explanation that may seem a little too easy: he views the body as sacred and doesn't like seeing anyone hurting - let alone doing the hurting himself. If you haven't read the book yet, please do so. Just keep in mind that this description of him isn't a cop out, I'm just holding out on you. ;)

Later in the series Drystan's psychosis deepens as he becomes more obsessed with Adrianna and goes down a... questionable path.  I try to make it a little unclear as to why this is (after all, I have to keep challenging your mind, don't I?), however I will say this, being Dureri isn't all that it seems. Sure there's the glamor and the immortality and the inability to feel pain, but there's a little bit of a side affect that most Dureri don't even notice: split personality disorder. (This is explored in Adrianna, so if you have questions, go read the novella.)

The mind doesn't have the capability to deal with the whole new set of input, heightened senses, all the goodies of being Dureri. So, the mind creates a divergent personality that can cope with the entirely new life. Over time the two personality sets merge - usually as the trauma of being changed lessens - sometimes this creates a super genius like Renee, Gilgamesh or Nereida. And sometimes you get a messed up jumble of a person like in the cases of Cassandra and Drystan.

For other cases, you're just going to have to read through the stories, aren't you. ;)

05 August 2013

The Question that is Adrianna

So, I've had some questions arise as to when I would write a squeal to my novella, Adrianna.So, here are my plans: I have a series of 5 more novellas lined up. By the time they're all done I'm going to reprint them into two full books. I'm still working out the details of the story... which is a really fancy way of saying that I've hit a block of where the first chapter of the next book will go.

However! I can tell you that the next two novellas are titles Dawn and The Hidden War. If these give you any idea about what the topic of these stories are... well then you're a step ahead of me. I only have the vaguest of ideas on what to put in these novellas. This is mostly because I know exactly what's going into the 4th novella and I have no idea how to get there! As you may be able to conceive, this is more than a little frustrating for me, and explains my hiatus on the Pocketful of Pain series...

That said, I can leave you with some pictures of actors that inspired the PoP crew.







And introducing...!


If you haven't read Pocketful of Pain: Adrianna yet, you can snag a copy at Chapter One.

01 August 2013

The Busy Week of Busy-ness!

As some of you may have noticed, I didn't blog on Monday or Wednesday. What some of you may not have noticed (and I mean, really, how could you notice unless you've been spying on me?! *gasp*) that I've been editing a lot of Hard Bank Left lately! I've come to several realizations, not the least of which being who the bad guys are/bad guy motivation. (I refer you to this last Friday's blog.)

I've also been thinking a lot about Krys's family relations, and her discontentment at home and I realized - though I really have no idea how - that Krys is the middle child of three. This has put a number of plot twists in my head that I really can't wait to share with you... but you're going to have to wait until the middle of Tailslide to hear about them! Muahahahaha! xD But seriously, it's killing me not telling you right now!

In other news! The first two chapters of HBL will be available for public reading in the up and coming magazine Book-it! from Chapter One. I'm so stoked. I've been working with the editor to get an exclusive look to the story, including but not limited to pictures. It's been really fun and I hope you enjoy the effort. If you don't live in Utah and are looking for a copy of my story in the magazine, you can pre-order your copy of the first issue here, subscriptions are available.

Also! super awesome bonus material alert I am holding a competition for best Steam Punk! If you are into cosplay, are an artist, or you have friends who are, this is for you. 

In Hard Bank Left, Target Lost, and Tailslide there are a ton of fight scenes. In these there are characters the have special physic abilities. The winner of this competition will get the opportunity to be written into one of these three stories as either a good guy or a bad guy with one of these abilities. Here is your chance to be immortalized in fiction!

To enter into this competition, you must submit a picture or drawing of you or one of your original characters/alter-egos to no later than August 15th. The winner will be announced the next day in my usual Fan Art Friday post.


  • The character must a specific mental ability. For a list of powers, check out my wiki page. This doesn't have to be demonstrated, just let me know in the email.
  • The character must demonstrate that they are in the Shadow Cast world by having one or more of the following objects: 
    • has objects that glow cyan
    • has an elaborately decorated key
    • has a mix of steampunk and cyberpunk tech (ie a musket and a flexi)
  •  If a bad guy, the character must demonstrate some sort of military insignia
  • If a good guy, the character must stand out as being eccentric in some way (ex. they're crazy, have no sense of style, or are a gypsy)
  • optional bonus material (please note that bonus material doesn't count toward your actual score, but it sure makes your character fantastic)
    • awesome Nerf  - glowey paint gets double bonuses!
    • making jeans look steampunky
    • dreadlocks
    • eye patches
    • kickawesome scars
    • bizarre eye color
    • curly orange hair

As a final note, keep it clean (we have young and/or impressionable audience members). I look forward to seeing what you have in store!

26 July 2013

Fan Art Friday!

Continuing with the bad guy theme: Constantine. The baddest bad guy ever - supposedly. In truth I know little about this guy. I know his history. I know his basic appearance. I know what has happened in his life. But his motivation is still a mystery to me. In writing HBL I had a close encounter with him... But this still leaves him a mystery to me. Thankfully, the edits I have in mind for Hard Bank Left give me the space to make Constantine the silent predator. I have very few pictures of him, but I'll share what I have.

There you go. That's pretty much it... only a little older. He's pretty much a scary business man. Aaaand I really need to work on him. *sigh*

But I do have pictures of The Twins. Yeah, that's right, The Twins. They're a pair of grotesquely evil torturing Dureri that I'm going to cover in Target Lost. I'm not going to tell you much in hopes that you'll find out in the webisodes. But, here are the reference photos that I totally love!

24 July 2013

The Implications on the Soul: The Creation of an AI

Over the years I've written many science fiction and semi-sci-fi (steampunk) stories that involve the creation of an artificial intelligence. Some are more in depth than others, but all involve the basics behind my belief in a soul and how the soul works.

In my faith, a soul is what happens with an intelligence enters a spiritual body. The soul is then placed in a physical body creating a "living soul." (Mind you this is my personal beliefs based on the teachings of my church.) So, what defines an artificial intelligence? Mainly the artificial part.

Now, I must clarify, my faith-based definition of "intelligence" is what I am going to refer to from now on as "the spark", and the "spiritual body" we are going to call "programming" or "the program".

Current AI programming is pretty obviously just that, programming. It's essentially a fully functional spiritual body, a body meant for the housing of the intelligence or spark, that can operate independently, but has no self-driven purpose. This in and of itself has helped me have a more complete understanding of my own existence, let alone the nature of God. But all that aside! A spark must enter an AI program in order for the program (either of its own accord or of Heavenly Design) in order for the AI to function as an autonomous, self-aware being. This is something I explore in depth in a sci-fi novel I've been working on for a while now. (Yes, you shall just have to wait and see!)

But, once a fully sparked, fully self-aware AI is born, what is the best way for said AI to become part of society i.e. how do we give it a body. This has been a point of contention between my husband and I.

He believes that this soul can enter the body of a brain dead person, or can possess a body forcibly. I see both of these as possession. Spiritually speaking, there's no God involved. The spark enters the body with no additional work necessary. This is where I get a little frustrated. It'd be like transplanting someone's memories into someone else's mind. If any of you have watched Fringe then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that putting some one else's brain matter in to a person's brain, it literally makes them crazy. The existing wiring doesn't know how to interpret the foreign matter. Now imagine putting someone else's entire brain into a body and then connecting it to the existing wiring... not a good combo!

I believe that a more purist way of looking at how to make a body for an artificial intelligence. Think of Fifth Element with Leeloo had to have her body reprinted. (Yes, I know the science is wrong.) Think of having an entire artificial human. Think of building a body by manipulating the elements into proteins and then manipulating those proteins into a DNA sequence until you have a completely artificial body with no soul. This is where we cross the line into killing God... taking his place. It's dangerous ethically, but it's the next logical step in our evolution as human beings. But still, this empty human shell, void of any prior memories, void of any prior programing, is perfect for the installation of an artificial intelligence. This would perfectly fit the bill for giving an AI soul human form. Is it any wonder that our human souls only enter this world through new born babies and not through the preexisting bodies of the brain dead?

I'd like to hear your views on artificial intelligence, the soul, and what way would be best to give AI a chance at being a fully functioning member of society. Thoughts? Opinions? Awesome books and TV shows? Let the discussion commence!

20 July 2013

Fan Art Friday

Wow... is it Saturday??? Where did my week go? No seriously, my husband has a different work schedule on Saturday than he does the rest of the week, so I was freaking out when he got up at 8 and I thought it was 10... yeah, that was a bit of a shock.

So! Fan art Friday... again, I have little fan art to present, but I figured I might keep up with my theme of sharing what inspires me. (Seriously, I have a bunch, so I'll keep it coming.) So, it's bad guy day!

You've heard me make references to her, and seeing as how she's playing a bigger role in HBL, it's high time you guys see my inspiration for Ero Gleilien. This character, like many of my characters started off as something completely different in a completely different universe. Ero was originally a crazy Wild Elf in an RPG that had a major schtick with goblins. The best image I can give you of what she used to look like is this:

courtesy of Ashli Hara

But then I started writing a sci-fi novel and Ero became a care free pilot with an attitude that went a little something like this:

I still love this character, but I found in writing HBL I needed Ero and her partner Caprisha to fill a role, so she turned into more of a staunch bounty hunter working with a federal agent. Of course, all that would be a cover for her true self - a Commandant in the Shadow Cast's private military. (No worries my other characters got renamed, they have not gotten lost in the mix up!) So, now Ero looks a little something like this:

mixed with a little of this

 Yeah... I know, figure that one out. But I had a dream and somehow it worked! So, you'll just have to read on and see what I have in store.

10 July 2013

The Damsel in Distress: Jeldhen

Alright, so most of you are familiar with the "damsel in distress" cliche and how it objectifies those that are captured, blah, blah, blah. If you really want to get into it here's a feminist vlog that addresses this concept in depth (I strongly recommend that you take the time to watch the series later, though they're rather lengthy):

The essence of the cliche is that women are reduced to objects or victim states as a plot device to propel the story forward and motivate the main characters (namely men) into defeating the bad guy.

I've had some people voice concern over the squeal to Hard Bank LeftTailslide - being little more than a cheap use of a trope to motivate Krys and force her to confront her darker side. I can see where this idea comes from. All you have to do is read the description of the book and this is the first concept conjured. I want to assure you that this initial bulrb is intentionally misleading with the intention of forcing the reader to come to their own conclusion as to what Krys's inner darkness is. But, yes. Jeldhen does get "kidnapped" and Krys is intent on rescuing him.

Now, without giving away too much *inhales deeply and tries not to burst*, in the first book, Krys is put into a situation where some damselling occurs, but it is clear throughout the book that Krys has the ability to take control of the situation and simply has to figure out how. She is never objectified in the reader's perspective - though she is objectified in the eyes of her captors. I did this in an effort to draw attention to what women go through when being brutalized or victimized. However, rest assured that her kidnap is not merely a plot device, it does serve a higher purpose - and no, it's not the purpose of making Jeldhen come after her. There are greater powers at work here. What that is, though? You'll just have to read and find out!

In Tailslide *again holds breath and attempts not to explode* Jeldhen has already been captured, forcing Krys to confront her so called "inner darkness". Here's where one might draw the line between the damsel in distress motive and the sire in distress:

When a woman is put into the damsel position and the main character is a man, the essence of the theme becomes (as Anita points out here) is that the man is driven by a loss of masculinity due to an implicated failure of his duty to protect the ones he loves. While this is not wrong, nor is it a misrepresentation of what husbands, boyfriends, and fathers would truly experience if put through a member of their family being kidnapped or killed, this is not what Krys, nor on a whole women, go through when put in the reverse scenario.

When Jeldhen is kidnapped, Krys - much like any male counterpart in a similar scenario - is anguished over losing her best friend, experiences feelings of inadequacy in her ability to protect the ones she loves, and overall feels as though she has lost all control. However, she does not allow these things to stop her from progressing as a person. She is not solely driven by her need to prove herself, or a need to get her best friend back - though this is certainly how it seems at first.

Krys does not go on a solo, destroy all Shadow Cast killing spree (even though she would really like to). Instead, she steps up to her tasks as a Keyper and does what she has to to bring them down without unnecessary loss of life. She does not become a super soldier, even if she is capable of it, nor does she become the universally praised hero that wins metals and gets all the recognition. Krys is the epitome of an every day soldier with a cause, and (hopefully) someone young people of every gender can look up to.

01 July 2013

Steampunk and other such things

 Steampunk: what you may not know

For just about anyone that is interested in anything Turn of the Century, you may or may not be familiar with the term "steam punk". For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, here's a little video that may answer some questions:

Okay, now that this one singular interpretation of the word "steampunk" I am here to clear up a few things! While each different author or creator in the steampunk genre have their own view on what the definition of "steampunk" is, we can all agree on one thing: retro-futurism. 

I know some of you are looking at this word and wondering what on Earth that could possibly mean. Let me clear it up for you - or elsewise confuse you just a little bit more. retro-futurism can mean either of two things (and often both at the same time). The first thing retro-futurism refers to is this "what would the future look like if it were designed by the great Turn of the Century thinkers?" Namely, the future as Edison, Tesla, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs saw it.  The second, and possibly more controversial view of retro-futurism, is a future built of reflections on the Turn of the Century. 

"Purists" who consider themselves "true steam punks" tend to lean more toward the first definition. These steampunks focus more on the "steam" than the "punk" part of their cultural name, and, in fact, will even go so far as to get on people's cases about whether dieselpunk isn't an entirely different sub-culture than steampunk, even though they exist in the same era, and a diesel engine works the exact same as a steam engine, just with a different fuel. These people are the ones that seem to simply relive the late 19th century with large fancy machinery. This is best reflected in the film Steamboy - which, if you've ever watched it, is pretty self-explanitory on this front.

The other group tend to put more emphasis on the word "punk" than the word "steam", not really caring about sub-sub-cultures. These are the overly creative ones that create an alternite reality where steam age devices still function and airships still roam the sky. The most prevelant in this group seem to be in the music field. Abney Park, for instance , even go so far as to create an entire back story for their band which explains their sudden transition into the steampunk culture.

These two groups, however, intermingle frequently and, in spite of many contentions on the subject of all things concerning steam and punks, they still manage to have a good time. 

For further explaination on the steampunk culture, or if you're interested in getting more involved in the steampunk genre, I'd recommend the following two websites:

The World of the Shadow Cast

 Now, in spite of all this bickering between the purist steam punks and the jazzy fun-loving steam punks, there's a class that seems to pretty much get shunned by steampunks with a shrug of "well, I don't think that really counts." This narrow-minded view of steampunkery leaves a good number of stories and creative works that might be considered steampunk outside the realm of steampunkery. Take, for example, my world.

The Shadow Cast Chronicles, as you may know, takes place "less steam, more punk" retro-futuristic/alternate-reality society. For those of you still thinking that the stemapunk genre is what happens when goths discover the color brown, you might be a little surprised by the brilliant colors and flavorful characters in my stories. You may even think that my world would be better classified under the catagory "cyberpunk", but that's where I'd like to tell you that you're, sadly, mistaken. (Cyberpunk is a topic for another time, so don't even get me started.)  Allow me to share with you some fantastic little peaks at things you might find in my world:


 In conclusion, I suppose what I'm trying to say is: if you're looking for a simple definition of steampunk, you're looking in the wrong place.

17 June 2013

Announding Tailslide Webisode Prequals!

In the creative process of Tailslide, I have realized that there are some things that may need a little more explaining, not the least of which being Cadence's brother - Jarreth. Chances are that you're going to have a lot of questions that can only be answered in the first book: Hard Bank Left. No worries there. HBL is getting its first publication through Chapter One's bi-weekly Magazine: Book-It! Look for the publications at the end of the month in Utah.

10 June 2013

Tailslide: Chapter One

~ ~ ~

Sometimes, when you've faced death and you're just on the verge of insanity, you come up against a darkness. Sometimes this darkness consumes you, leaving you wallowing in a depression so deep that hell itself seems like a relief. And, sometimes the darkness becomes a strength. Because sometimes the darkness is all you have. When they took Jeldhen from me, I fell into a black pit and smiled. The Shadow Cast considered me a criminal, they had taken my best friend and my humanity was already in question. What more did I have to lose?
“Are you leaving so soon, Krylsorta?”
“I'm heading out as soon as the sun rises, Mizella.”
“One more day, Krylsorta. It couldn't hurt.”
“I've waited long enough.”
“You are not fully healed.”
“News bulletin, Mizella, I'll never be fully healed from this. Now, please, tell your people to cut down the winds so I can leave. I can't stay here one more day, one more hour. I'm leaving and that is final.”
I could feel her approaching objection to the notion that her people were keeping me tied down, but when she spoke, her tone was gentle. “But, Krylsorta––”
“No buts! I'm leaving. Jeldhen has been held captive by the Shadow Cast for almost three months. You can't stall me any longer. All the repairs on WindSong are done. You've healed my wounds. I've even traveled with you this far. But the southern Utah Territories are not Adelaina. I have to carry on.”
“You can't.” Mizella's rich Mediterranean accent had never sounded so blunt.
“And why the bloody hell can't I?”
“It's not in your contract. It's not in your oath. You have sworn to protect our secrets. What do you think they'll get out of you if you're caught? Huh? And even if you aren't, how do you expect to get Jeldhen out of there without completely blowing your cover.”
“You say that as if they don't already know what I am.”
“Alright. So I cannot convince you to stay. At least take one of us with you. What about your sister?”
“I'm not taking anyone. Lia needs to stay here with you. I can't have her getting involved. I've already gotten enough friends into this and look what's happened. Jeldhen, Fes and Elicith are in custody of that bounty hunter. Ve is missing and Cadence is dead. No. No one else is coming with me.”
“That is most unfortunate, but you cannot let the mistakes of your past push you into a worse one now. Take someone with you.”
“Are you volunteering?”
Mizella shook her beautiful, darkly curled head. “No, I have duties here. Grandmother is getting very old. We will need a new Chovihano soon.”
“Whom would you then?”
“What about your friends? The ones that helped us get out of Chicago?”
“Josh and Gabe? No. I can't get them involved in this.”
“They're not far from here.”
“I don't care. I'm going alone and that is final.”
“I see.” With that Mizella tip toed out of the vardo, leaving me to finish packing.
Winter had torn by with all the ferocity I'd come to expect of my recent life. It wouldn't have stopped me, the storms and the snow. Weather had never really been a bother to my flying, but when the Romani are involved in creating those storms... I knew they would be targeting me specifically. Mizella, my Romani guardian, took offense every time I implied such thinking. I'm sure they had their reasons, protecting their own kind. They'd been through so much over the decades, what with the wars and the persecution. Being forced back into the shadows was far from the top of their list of desires.
I tightened the straps on my satchel where it lay on the bed. The majority of my belongings were still on WindSong, not that the Romani had allowed me to sleep there. Something about insulting their sacrifice. I didn't complain. Just being near my little ship brought back such pain that not even the warm food and bright spirits of my companions could keep it at bay. The vardos were warmer in the depths of winter anyway.
Satisfied that all was packed, I took one last lingering glance around the vardo that I'd shared with my sister for the last three months. The two bunks on the far side of the little wagon were strewn with brightly designed quilts and shawls of varying sizes and shapes. The motif of intricacy spread into the wood framing of the beds and out along the walls. Hand cravings of delicate flowers and twisting vines looped and swirled throughout the room, winding their way over spice racks and cupboards and chairs that seemed to sprout out of the floor so similar were they to the wood of the vardo.
In the corner by the door, was a little coat rack which seemed to hold far too many coats and scarves and hats for its diminutive hooks. On the last peg, the one closest to the door hung two jackets of such stark contrast that it seemed impossible to belong to the same person. Both of these jackets were mine. The first, the one from my old life, was a crisp, gray, starched dress coat that flowed to below my knees in the back. Buckles ran all down the back, giving it this rebellious look in contrast to the flattened French collar and cuffs. I'd loved this coat for as long as I could remember. Jeldhen had given it to me on one of our many trips through France. It suited my old life, stiff, controlled, with just a hint of trouble. But so many things had changed about me, I suppose that explains the second jacket.
Pulling the first jacket off the peg, I folded it neatly, and tucked it into the front pocket of my satchel. The second jacket I tugged off with the love of a girl who found comfort in the little things. I slid my arms into its soft leather sleeves, let the pliable fabric settle across the shoulders and move over my skin until it found just the right way to sit. The tassels swished under my arms and across my back as I picked up the satchel and slung it over my shoulder.
Mizella made it, intricate, white, hand stitchery and all. The red-brown die she had used went well with my hair, she had said so one night when she was washing it. It was some sort of little tradition of hers, bonding with me by washing my hair. That was the night I'd insisted that she cut it, against all protestations. It sat short over my shoulders, only just brushing the collar of my leather jacket.
With one last hesitation, I glanced up to look at myself in the heavily embellished, full length mirror. There was something about the woman staring back at me that screamed feral animal. From the heal of her boots to the hunch of her shoulders this woman appeared every bit the cat ready to pounce. Dark red hair tumbled around her face, casting shadows across her dark blue eyes where a story of sadness and rage lay hidden just below the surface. What had happened to me? What happened to the headstrong woman with her posh clothes and long childish braid? Three months ago I had been enjoying the warm autumn of the Greek Isles with my friends. Granted, there was a secret agenda to that visit...
There it was, the answer to all the questions that had haunted me. Duality had followed my life from the time I knew exactly what I was. It was slowly killing me, living two lives, one where I was a normal cargo merchant who pretended not to be in love with her best friend. Another where I was a fire queen with mad fighting skills that was losing battle after battle in a long war for her people's freedom. No wonder I was so brassed.
I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts before facing the world that I was certainly not ready for. Slower than necessary, I pushed the springed door out. The cool wind of a sunny spring day swept up around me, kissing my cheeks with that last little bite of winter before dancing off to throw some leaves about. I didn't used to think of wind in such a personified way, that is not until my winter among the Romani and their uncanny control over all things weather.
“Good morning, Krys.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. Leaning against the exterior of the vardo was Lia, my little sister. She looked taller, more mature, more confident. Her unruly black hair was pulled back into a knot at the nape of her neck. Her normal attention to fashion had fallen into the lax form of blue denim, peasant blouses and long draping cardigans. That particular day her usual look was accompanied by work gloves and a felt hat. I guess I wasn't the only one that had changed.
“What do you want?” I bounced down the stairs and letting the door slam shut behind me. Without waiting for an answer, I headed toward my ship, my one hope at getting out of this caravan. Lia followed with an excitedly hopping gate.
“I'm coming with you,” she said with a grin, as she passed me.
“No, you're not.”
She turned around, walking backwards, her hands shoved deep in her pockets. “Yes, I am.”
“We've been over this, Lia. You're not coming with me. I'm going alone.”
Lia stepped in front of me, effectively cutting me off. “As if you're the only one that cares about Jeldhen's safety? Right. I'm coming with you.”
I made to move around her, but she sidestepped. Left with little other choice, I moved the other way, but Lia slid in front of me with a look of mockery. Seeing how that wasn't going to work, I attempted to brush by her, but Lia, being Lia, wasn't about to take that. She stuck her arm our in front of me.
“Krys, you've got to let me come with you.”
For an instant, I stopped fighting to get past her. “Why are you so insistent on this?”
“Why are you?”
“Because I'm not going to endanger any more of my friends for my own fool's errand.”
“I'm not a friend, I'm family. And I'm worried you're going just to get yourself killed. Because frankly, I don't trust your crazy British self not to get you killed.”
Ignoring her evident concern, I insisted on making my case clear. “You being family only makes it worse! What would I tell your mum if something happened to you?”
“That I'm fifteen now, which makes me an adult and old enough to make my own decisions. Besides, Jeldhen is my family too, whether you like it of not. One day you two are going to get hitched and I'm going to be your maid of honor and then Jeldhen will be my brother. And how do you expect me to live with myself if I'm not there at just the right moment to help you rescue Jeldhen, huh? How am I ever going to be your maid of honor if Jeldhen is in some messed up prison for the criminally bizarre?”
I blinked at my sister with baffled gratitude. Leave it to her to make helping me a selfish thing matter... even if everything she said was little more than a fabrication of her mind. “Alright, if it means that much to you.”
I expected her to jump and strangle me with one of her crazy American hugs, but she didn't. She just smirked in satisfaction. “I'll go tell the others.”
“Oh no. I'm not bringing anyone. You know what happened last time.”
She looked disappointed, but understanding. “Alright.”
“We take off in twenty minutes. If you aren't there, I'm leaving without you.”
“You've got it.”
I fully anticipated her meeting me up at WindSong with a gaggle of able-bodied warrior women. They wouldn't dare ask the men to go with us, not with the cultural taboos of mingling men and women. Either way, I wouldn't have been able to handle more than the two girls, not after what happened to Fes.
Finally free of my sister, I plowed through the caravan which had nearly tripled in size between here and Chicago now bringing the number of vardo up to forty. If I saw one more person, if I heard one more voice trying to convince me to take someone else with me, well, let's just say that all bets were off as to just how fire proof the vardo were.
Slithering through the tight gaps between the vardo proved more difficult than anticipated. Most of the wheels came up to my shoulder height, giving me plenty of space beneath the gypsy wagons to duck into should someone happen by. I hadn't gotten through the innermost tangled ring of wagons before I was forced to change course. Tucking my arm under, I rolled beneath the vardo to my left to avoid making contact, but the boy was already there, his dark eyes watching me in the predawn light.
I knew him at once as the same boy that Fes had embraced when we'd first joined the little caravan. This was Fes's husband, the very boy I'd been avoiding for three months. Seeing those dark, mysterious eyes brought back memories of Fes and it became hard to breathe. Her voice had haunted me since the destruction of Chicago.
The way Mizella told it Fes had been nearly decapitated by one Commandant Ero Gleilien before being dragged from the smoldering wreckage of the Chicago library. I had been there, had heard the screams, had set the building ablaze, but that image seemed beyond believable. Something happened to Ero that incapacitated her, I remember hearing her body hit the floor, but my mind was too taxed to remember.
My fight, from Navy Pier through the Library, drained me beyond the point of exhaustion. Only vaguely the memory drifted back to me of a man called Terrance speaking to me, but the consuming fire that had burned inside me blotted out all details of the event save one: Fes's voice echoing through the marble halls, screaming my name.
I tried to push the sound of her strangled pleas for help to the back of my mind as her young husband approached me through the narrow channel in which I stood. My hands began to shake uncontrollably, my heart raced. Fear, genuine fear, surged through my veins. Send me the Seekers and the demons and even the armies of hell, but I could not face this boy. Not again. I can't explain my fright of him, not fully anyway. Maybe I felt I needed to give him a decent explanation of those night's events, of why I hadn't saved her when she called for me, an explanation I couldn't give. Or maybe it was just that I knew I owed him a rescue mission. Well, I was about to embark on that mission and, though I was hell bound on delivering Jeldhen from horrors worse I'd suffered, I would get him back his wife.
Given that determination and the goals I had in mind, I should have been able to face him without so much as batting an eye. Our previous encounters, however, had left me on the bottom side of the sinking ship that was this boy's mental state. If I had been broken by the loss of Jeldhen, I could only imagine what it must have been like for this sixteen-year-old to loose his wife of only a few months.
In a panic, I rolled onto the ground once more, forcing myself to slither on my belly until I felt I'd reached a safe enough distance to escape his unforgiving gaze. How I longed to be in the air again, above the threats of being grounded, of having nowhere to run.
On my feet again, I ran through the gap between the inner circle and outer circle of the gypsy wagons. WindSong was just on the other side and a little to the south. Her patch-worked metal body, barely visible over the tops of the wagons, glinted ever so slightly as the sun peaked over the tops of the looming mountains. The light crept from the far wast of the valley, bringing with it the brilliance of a new day, and all the drudgery that came with it.
“Promise me something.”
The boy's strong voice was hard to ignore. The plaintive undercurrents struck a nerve that I couldn't quite name, but it was not enough to make me turn around. WindSong was well within sight, waiting for me. I would have started running, frantic as I was to get away from my little problem, but his arm was around my wrist. He'd have to stay in isolation for two weeks for touching a female, but the look in his dark eyes told me that he didn't care.
“Let go.” It was a warning more than a command.
“Not until you promise me something.”
“I'm not taking you with me, if that's what you're asking.”
He shook his head, sending dark mahogany curls tumbling over his eyes.
“Then what is it?”
“Promise me that you'll bring her back.”
It occurred to me then where the cord had struck, where the trail of memory lead to. I'd taken that tone with Jeldhen all those months ago, when I'd begged him not to take the assignment that had gotten him into all those months ago. Once I'd known how it felt, that overwhelming desire to keep your loved ones safe. That feeling seemed dead in me, but that didn't stop me from knowing exactly how this boy felt.
Our eyes locked and I no longer thought of him as a boy. He was barely more than a year younger than me, yet this whole time I had thought of him as little more than a child. Fes was his family. It was his duty to protect her. I'd seen the look on his face when we brought her home, he loved her. He would do anything for her. There was little difference between us in that respect.
“What's your name?” It had only just occurred to me that I'd never asked before. I'd always referred to him as 'Fes's husband', or 'that boy', or 'you', never by a name.
“Temki. My name is Temki.”
“I'll bring her back, Temki. That I promise you.” It occurred to me then that some part of me wanted him to come with me, the part that hadn't completely given in to the black depths inside. He could be an asset, or he could get in the way.
His dark eyes bored into mine with such intensity that the very earth beneath my feet seemed to temporarily give way. The grip of his hand around my wrist seemed a choke hold, taking away my strength. The thought that he needed to come with me intensified until I had all but spoken the words.
“I know what you're doing,” I whispered. “And it's not going to work.”
Temki's grip lessened and I could feel him about to let go entirely when someone walked by and jabbed me in the elbow.
“I thought you said you'd be leaving without me if I didn't hurry up, sis. Now look who's running late.” Lia continued to walk by, laughing a little. She had a box in her arms.
Curious as I was about the contents of the box, I didn't bother asking Lia about it. Instead, I made a snap decision. Turning to Temki I spoke quickly. “I'm not sure exactly what that talent of yours is, but I'm sure we can use it to get Fes out. Go get your bag, tell your family you're coming with us.”
“But, you just said––”
“Forget what I just said. You're coming, just... don't get in my way, alright?”
Temki nodded once and we released each other's arms.
What was I doing? I didn't know if I could trust him, if his emotions would get in the way of my mission. What if he had his own directive? There were too many variables to calculate, too many strings to attach. He could be a fly on wall, waiting to attack us in the dark when we slept through fitful dreams. Given what I assumed was his ability, I knew he had a power over me. I'd have to threaten him, give him a thrashing. That's the only way to get through to them, the only way to get Jeldhen back. I had to kill him, Constantine.
“Snap out of it!” The shout came from my mouth, though I didn't remember speaking it.
“Are you okay, Krys?” Lia called back.
“Yeah,” I muttered as I caught up to her. “Yeah, I'm fine.”
“What was all that about?”
“Temki's coming with us.”
“Okay... So, where's he gonna sleep?”
“Haven't thought of that yet.”
“And what happened to this 'I'm not taking anyone' business?”
“I'm not really sure.”
“Do you wanna tell––”
“I don't really want to talk about it right now, Lia.”
She gave me a testy look as we neared WindSong's underbelly, giving me the distinct feeling that if something were to go terribly wrong she would wholeheartedly blame me.