Tally the Betrayals

This tale calls me. Plus I think it’s a short story. (No, I never know for sure, until I write it.) But if it’s short, I could complete it in a few weeks! Tempting!

ETA March 2016: I’m now writing Tally, and it is not a short story. It’s a novel, and probably a doorstopper novel! Stayed tuned. I’ll blog about my progress from time to time. ๐Ÿ˜€

photo of Sint Baafskathedraal in Ghent

I bear the mark of Gaelan on my face, as do my brethren. But I alone, amongst all in the battalions under my lord Karbreys, bear that name. It is fitting, for I betrayed them all to their deaths. I am Gael. I am kin-slayer.

There in the bowels of the mad tower I crouched, listening to the scratching of my own quill pen. I tallied ingots of copper, ingots of tin โ€“ tin so rare. Who would believe the record keeper could be more lethal than the warrior.

The stone foundations around me echoed the metallic beating of swords, of shields, of helmets. My lord Karbreys was winning this war. His trolls mined copper ore from veins beneath the tower and smelted it with foreign tin arriving from afar, borne on galleys rowed by slaves. Every ingot in received its mark in my ledger. Every ingot out โ€“ tin and copper married to make bronze โ€“ I tallied likewise.

Who was to know that the bronze was weak? Not the four parts tin to ninety of copper demanded by the smith’s recipe, but three tin for seven and ninety copper. The blades hammered from these ingots would bend, and how would the warrior who bore one fare then?

Channeled by the tower’s tunnels, the roar of the blast furnace deafened my thoughts. Who would I betray? My kin who brought Lord Karbreys victory? The peculator stealing the tin?

Oh? Did you think it was I? Secreting nuggets away in some fastness?

No, ’twas another. Should I betray him?

Or must I betray our enemies, crushed beneath Karbreys’ might? Our enemies, those with pure faces, the ones from whom we come, trailing glory, before Gaelan marks us as his own.

* * *

For more fantasy samples, see:
Fate’s Door
Blood Falchion

For a science fiction sample, see:
Dream Trap

 

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Dream Trap

Fourth in my series of story openings. Inspired by a nightmare. Beware!

Hot! by Martin Cathrae

Something was wrong. Very wrong.

She shivered even though she wasn’t cold, feeling a frisson of horror move though her.

The street lights glowed dimly, obscured by a faint mist in the growing dusk. She looked right, looked left. No traffic, even here at a corner. Just the same patched asphalt lined by low anonymous brick buildings and deserted.

She shivered again and stepped from the curb. Why didn’t her footsteps sound as they should, hurried slaps of shoe leather on paving? The world seemed strangely muted.

She reached the opposite curb, stepped up on the buckled surface of a sidewalk in poor repair. Should she turn? Try another route? These soulless streets chilled her.

A drift of muffled laughter snatched her attention. There! Up ahead.

She broke into a run, leaving the humped sidewalk for the more level roadway. A warmer glow of light flickered in an abandoned lot. Firelight? Here?

And where was here? She didn’t know. Only that it was unfriendly, empty, and nowhere known to her. I’m lost.

Five men huddled around the rusted steel barrel, ragged coats unbuttoned, mugs of โ€“ coffee? yes, coffee โ€“ wrapped in their knobby hands. She couldn’t smell the rich aroma of the brew. Wished she could taste it, real and hot. How did she know it wasn’t liquor? It should be liquor. These were homeless men, warming themselves around trash burning in a barrel.

She approached them, tripping over a half-buried fragment of tire tread, feeling the scritch of brittle grass against her ankles. Why did her body feel so lethargic? Why was she cool, as though blown by the breeze of a ceiling fan, but not cold? It was winter.

She tried to speak, โ€œPlease. Please help me,โ€ but nothing came out. The men didn’t see her. They gestured to one another, laughing again at a joke, their pinched faces illuminated by humor and snapping flames.

Please. See me. Let me in.

She was running again, unnoticed by the men, running from their unconscious rebuff.

* * *

For more science fiction samples, see:
Dragon’s Tooth
Fox in the Hen Coop

For a fantasy sample, see:
Witch’s Sweet

 

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Witch’s Sweet

Third in my series of story openings. Is your mouth watering yet? ๐Ÿ˜‰

photo of cake with flowers and butterfliesWhen Esther cursed me, it ruined the demon summoning, it ruined the party, it ruined everything!

The first I knew of it was when the cake โ€“ all twelve fabulous layers of luscious cinnamon-spiked lavishness โ€“ came out of the oven smelling like roses and rain water and rich garden loam.

Hello? A rain-scented garden is all very well in its place, but! Not as the centerpiece for a midnight ritual tea!

My nose twitched and I sneezed.

It was supposed to smell of vanilla and nutmeg and sweet. That bitch of a witch of a sister of mine! She’d cursed me! All because I’d snitched great-gran’s earrings from her stash โ€“ my sister’s, that is, not my gran’s; great-gran’s dead! โ€“ to wear to the coven’s festival of the harvest moon, blast her. She’d no right. Those earrings are mine as much as hers.

Or maybe it was the perfume bottle I spilled on her bedroom drugget? Her fave perfume, she’d said โ€“ all lilac and violet and lavender and bowery. And her favorite rug as well. (Sad moue.)

Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was because I’d told Benvolio โ€“ gorgeous Benvolio โ€“ about the time she’d mistaken a vial of dog poo for cleansing mud and massaged the goop into her hair and scalp. Pew! She’d stunk for three days before the funk wore off. But whatever it was โ€“ I could think of at least five more reasons โ€“ she’d cursed me! The rat!

I’m Callie, by the way, and I’m good at charms and talismans and rabbit’s feet and any kind of good luck conjure you care to name. Which made it all the more galling that a curse got through. Sisters are special that way.

It took me forever to re-do the cake. When it finally emerged โ€“ a second time โ€“ fragrant and chocolatey and lovely โ€“ yes, I switched recipes โ€“ the way a dessert of special awesomeness baked by moi is supposed to be โ€“ hah! โ€“ I thought that was the end of it. Hah, again! Of course you know it was the beginning. But I didn’t. Not then.

* * *

For more fantasy samples, see:
The Green Knight
The Thricely Odd Troll

For a science fiction sample, see:
Last Tide

 

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Dragon’s Tooth

This is the second post in a series of story openings. I’m hoping to get my readers’ views on what they’d like to see me write next!

photo of night sky

Her hand hurt. And her wrist. In fact, her whole right arm and shoulder hurt, stretched out to the side like that and angled up. Pulled by some steady and unyielding force. She struggled to raise her gluey eyelids, but couldn’t quite manage it. She was floating, towed by her arm.

The hush of air moving in close confines sounded in her ears. The slight funk of unbathed human made her wrinkle her nose. She swallowed, wishing for water to wash away the sour taste in her mouth.

Where am I?

She tugged against the pull on her arm. It was so uncomfortable, her hand turned like that with its back leading, and something rigid guiding her fingers into an awkward array, digging into the flesh.

What is this?

This time her eyes made it open.

Oh!

The begemmed scarf of a thousand stars spread across the dark of deep space, gleaming in soft reflections on the ceram-glass of her faceplate.

โ€œThis is why I .ย .ย .โ€

Why I what? She couldn’t remember.

She looked back past her trailing hand. Darker there, fewer stars. No shuttle. No station. No .ย .ย . planet.

Over that shoulder and to her back? Endless space.

Somehow she didn’t want to look ahead. Didn’t want to see what drew her on so inexorably. She struggled again against her trapped arm.

And looked.

Oh, gods! What was that?

A whirl of faintly sparkling dust? A current of shadows? The maw of a star dragon? She hardly knew, but it was power. And danger. And death.

She began to fight in earnest, throwing herself against the alien brace that wrapped her gloved right hand, working to slip her fingers and palm out of the metal’s embrace.

* * *

For more science fiction samples, see:
Fox in the Hen Coop
Last Tide

For a fantasy sample, see:
Legend of the Beggar’s Son

 

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Fate’s Door

I’ve got so many stories I’m longing to write, and I can’t decide which one to chose next. So I decided to ask my readers! This is the first post in a series of story openings. Take a read and … vote! ๐Ÿ˜€

ETA: I wrote Fateโ€™s Door in 2015 and published it the November of that year. It’s a doorstopper, which many readers assure me is their preferred length. ๐Ÿ˜€ Fate’s Door is currently available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback edition is coming soon.

Breaking Wave, Asilomar State Park

A long green comber rolled the man’s body, flaccid and pale in the water.

Nerine could almost smell the tang of the ocean, hear the roar of surf on an unseen, but nearby shore, taste the salt air on her lips. Or was it merely the salt tears running down her cheeks?

She’d stepped up behind her mistress. Well, Nerine answered to all three, but Tynghed was kindest.

She’d noted the rooks cawing in the Tree. Did they see visions in the well of destiny? Sense the dooms meted out there?

The shrouded norns had first watered the Tree, dipping from the spring’s chill outflow. Now they posed beside its deeps, meditating on the images they saw reflected. What did they see? Did they see Altairos, the sea-king of Zakynthos? Did they see what Nerine saw?

She steadied her quivering lip and felt Tynghed’s hand, stealing from within the fate’s cloak, slipping behind her to clasp Nerine’s hand.

Oh, god, oh, god, it could not be! Altairos drowned in the waves of his beloved ocean? And yet she knew it was. The breath of life would pass from him this day, and she would lay out the blue and green silks with which the norns would weave his fate. โ€œI won’t. I won’t do it,โ€ she breathed. But she would. The Spinner, the Weaver, and the Cutter commanded her obedience. How could a stranded sea nymph defy them?

โ€œI must!โ€

* * *

For more fantasy samples, see:
Tally the Betrayals
Ravessa’s Ride

For a science fiction sample, see:
Dragon’s Tooth

 

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