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Welcome to Candlelight

At the gaping mouth of the cave Odella paused throwing her hood up so as to hide her face in the dark shadows of the folds, but Llana doubted it was necessary as they seemed to be arriving somewhat near twilight. 

“Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open child there is much to learn in Candlelight.”

Llana tried to search her memory for any reference to such a place, but came up empty handed.  Quickly they came upon the town itself which burned a flickering red against the night due to the immense number of candles burning in store fronts, on corners, and even in the trees.  Llana had to admit that the picturesque scene had an ambience she had never encountered before. As her eyes adjusted to the ruddy light, which seemed to shadow as often as it illuminated, it became obvious to Llana that Odella’s hood was necessary.  Everywhere she looked there were people going about their business as if it was high noon not midnight, however how they were able to do so remained a mystery to Llana as no sign hung from any of the doors they passed. Though the streets were crowded with people, many of whom went hooded, there was almost no sound.

The quiet was such that she could hear the bee’s wax scorching on the fresh wicks as they passed, unless a door was opened. Along with the tinkle of bells, which alerted the propitors of an indivuals entrance, such a mix of sounds would pour into the night that Llana had no time to process what might be occurring behind the firmly shut doors and shadowy windows. Odder still were the people. Few on the street would meet her gaze, but the shop keeps and venders more than made up for it with eye contact strong enough to make her squirm. Fear of the strangely assessing looks meant that Llana kept her eyes constantly roving sliding from one thing to another without actually focusing on what she was seeing.

However, as they rounded a corner one store front in particular drew Llana’s attention.  As she got closer she realized it was because the glass alternated between being filled with opaque smoke and being clear enough to look through.  With her fingers resting upon the glass she waited and as the pane emptied she caught a glimpse of the patrons.  Llana jumped back as if electrified and turned angrily towards Odella who was a good ten steps ahead of her now, “The Red Light District,” she shrieked distress emanating from her in waves.

A quick right to left head jerk confirmed Odella’s suspicion, if they didn’t move quick they would be alone on the street, not an ideal situation as they were still a ways from Appetence. Without a second to consider how the girl would react Odella grabbed her by her accusatory finger and pulled her into the very building whose window had been such an affront to her delicate sensibilities. Llana blanched as the door slammed shut and the pounding music reverberated up her legs from the floor boards.

“You sit and keep quite no matter what, this time,” Odella said in tones that brooked no argument while pointing to a dark corner booth away from the stage and door.

Hating herself for every step deeper into the debauchery she went Llana sat quickly and focused her attention on the polished black lacquered table top. In what seemed like a very long time Odella returned with a man dressed only in leather straps whose sly eyes and half smile made Llana flush and look away. Odella, however, did not flush nor lower her hood rather she leaned into the man and whispered into his ear and sent him off with a wave of her hand.

“What…”

“I told you to keep you mouth shut.”

The statement wasn’t shouted, but the scold in the words hit her like an open fist.

“We are looking for your answers, are we not? You have chosen at every fork in the road, have you not? So we would only be here if we needed to be, right?” Odella had asked questions but expected no answers as such she had never once paused. “Now do as I said and watch with open eyes and mouth closed we will talk later.”
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For other exerts from the story The Chains We Own click the links below

The first link in the chain

Chains that make no noise

Answers at the Y in the path

Finding the blood stone

Prolouge

This is a story about a young girl who has gone off in search of answers before making one of life’s greatest choices. Unexpectedly, she has found that truths and answers are not for the faint of heart, nor easy in the discovering. On her journey she will come into contact with individuals who will be able to teach her not only about the ways of the world she has mostly been sheltered from, but also how to find the strength to own up to your burdens and baggage whatever form they may take.

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Exhumed

    
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In the grey watery light Ann stood toe to toe with a dark chasm which reeked of two things fresh dirt, faint in the dew laden morning air, and decomp, a smell nearly impossible to miss.  Thinking of how the delicate wording of the dispatcher paled in comparison to the reality Ann radioed in, “Someone exhumed Peter Saunders.”  But why?

Note to Reader-

I am trying something new and hope you will help me along the way.  I am trying to build a story around a series if flash fiction episodes, however much more interesting to me is that I plan to do this one word at a time.  The title “exhumed” is the word I started with.  I am hoping for you, the readers, to provide my next word.  In this way writing the story will be as much of an adventure as I hope reading it will be.  Thank you in advance for participating, and as always please leave comments so I know if I’m still on the right path.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson hated his name, the over protectiveness of his mother, and math, but he loved taking walks with Grayson.  Once school was out and before dark fell they were always together perusing the neighborhood, unfortunately no woods or forests could be found so the two of them enjoyed the fields best.  The neighborhood had been raised on the closest portion of Old Man Darrey’s farm which meant that it was not far enough away from town to grant Lew his much desired wooded terrain yet not close enough to town that his worrisome mother would allow him to ride there and wonder the shops.  This was also the reason that three out of four sides of the neighborhood were fields.

Currently Lew’s favorite field was the one growing corn.  He and Grayson would run out into the tall crops until his sides burned, catch his breath, then play tag.  It was better than playing in the bean fields because beneath the corn was a world of green pillars and deep brown ruts where Lew could escape the persistent call “Charles where are you?” from his mother’s kitchen window.  He never felt bad about disappearing into the fields because of Mr. and Mrs. Larson who owned the property nearest to the corn who were constantly out in their yard gardening, the husband always waved and winked while his wife always called out “You boys have fun now”.  Lew knew that if his mother should venture out to find him the Larson’s would put her fears to rest, so he gladly let the hours slip away.

It seemed that Grayson and Lew had a kind of non-verbal understanding, if one got tired the other would wait and Lew would always bring the snacks.  It had worked out well so far and now that it was true summer the two had begun leaving earlier in the morning so as to reach a good resting point before the heat washed over them.  Today Grayson lead Lew to the edge of the corn field where it joined with the beans, other than that everything was the same as always.  They walked out for about an hour when Grayson froze in his tracks, in the time it took for Lew to see what Grayson was looking at it was already too late “N…” was all he could get out.

The rabbit sensing that danger had intruded upon it’s bean heist darted away and Grayson took chase.  With the only real choices left to Lew being get running or get pulled; he did his best to keep his feet and ahold of the leash as Grayson cut a ragged path after the rabbit.  Just when he felt he could run no further nor keep the leash in his raw red hand a moment longer the big mastiff came to a sudden holt.  Lew walked the last few steps to the vine-covered fence and peered down, even Grayson’s instant whining could not break the spell.  “We found it at last boy,” Lew said while scratching Grayson behind the ear, but his eyes never left the large dense copse of trees with a tiny silver twinkle of a stream at its heart which lay spread upon the floor of the slight ravine.

By the time the two were making their way back home Lew was still shaking his head as he tried to puzzle out how he had never found his way to the trees before.  “Well,” he said to Grayson “no one will ever believe me when I tell them a rabbit lead us to our wonderland.”

A Description of Me

Am I more than just the sum of my parts?  Do I exist beyond them in some intangible way that only I understand for it is me?  Am I a fact or fiction?

More than not I choose to believe that I am, but this is of course a vain hope, rather I survive with an emphases on thriving.  It is not that I am, however, but that I must be.  Though words can be hallow and cheep we need them almost like air as we wander through life hanging labels on all that we encounter, so if you must name me call me Mirror for just like my name sake I am nothing without your inference and I can change at will with each new observer and event.  I am truth though rarely do I brandy it about, for you see I fear it as it comes into existence just as you do only more so as I know it will be my undoing.

If at the end I am still nothing, inconsequential and unknown, I will still be better for this.  For how many of us take the time to unravel ourselves, much more fun in my experience to peer behind someone else’s curtain looking for fuel or answers, but this will be my long reveal.  I will wallow in my self loathing, pity, and discontent if for no other reason than it is mine and I can, and I will strive for the much more vexing task of shedding light upon my self assured, aware, and confident side.

So here goes my attempt at being me, Mirror.

I sit before the glass a study of self-absorption as I watch myself.  I can see the fear in my eyes and smell it radiating out from me in small waves; distance, I’m going to need distance for this.  So, now I sit behind and to the right of Mirror watching her as a small smile plays on my lips.  They move almost soundlessly, “Take a breath Dear this might sting a little.”

Chains that make no noise

Out of the quite sounds came a small and rather uncertain voice, “where are your chains?”

If Odellia hadn’t been sitting across the table from the girl child she doubted she would have even heard her but as it was Odellia had very little choice but to answer her.  “I am wearing them,” she held out her right arm in such away that the sleeve fell back exposing her wrist and the flash of pale metal in the light, “and where child are yours,” she answered.

“I am no child and I have no chains,” Llana looked confused and sounded offended as she barely suppressed a scoff, “why am I here?”

“I thought you sought answers girl.”  As her words hung in the space between the two Odellia took to eating.  Llana, however, showed no enthusiasm for the meal before her as she stared unabashed at the wrist and neck bands that she could see spark in the low fire light.

“They make no noise… are they light then,” Llana asked hopefully suddenly meeting Odellia’s piercing gaze.

While she knew that the girl could not help but be curious this was a conversation she wanted no part in, and as her anger got the better of Odellia struck back with a question of her own.  “Why would the chains have to be heavy to be heard or better yet light to go unnoticed?”

Llana sat open-mouthed as if struck so much sting had been in the words; dumbfounded she lowered her eyes to her plate.  “I…”

Odellia cut her off before she could even begin. “Eat.  We start tonight and believe me you are not ready.”

What the jeweler reveals

Chapter Seven

It was mid afternoon before he had enough time to complete his errands due to the amount of time and effort he had put into making the trip seem unplanned.  Drono hated being rushed and that was exactly what was happening today.  He had gotten up at dawn to meet Landon as he went on duty to let him know what he needed of him, unofficially, and to give him the necessary funds to make it happen.  Dronocum had then continued on to the Master of the Gurad’s quarters where he explained Landon’s pending departure.  He also sent two hurried messages, one to Haddie and one to the kitchen, for a resplendent brunch to take place after his morning rounds.  “Stupid brunch,” he quietly mussed to himself almost running to keep his appointment.  It had taken more time and effort than he had expected to give to it, but it had solved one rather tedious and problematic problem, that of a sulking Haddie.

Drono tried to rationalize with himself as to why he had circled the market before reaching his destination, which had put him in the situation that required him to be less than unobtrusive as he jogged through the crowd.  It wasn’t very likely that Digitalis would be wondering that market after all, but it was a chance he would take because there were still so many things he needed to know.

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Shreeann smiled broadly as Drono walked into the store and off to the side with his hood still up as the rain had yet to stop, but the smile slid sideways as she realized she couldn’t allow herself to curtsy in acknowledgement.  With strained words Shreeann watched as the lady left with her bag and child in tow not even noticing him.  He laughed out loud as the door was shut and locked behind the little boy.

“I am so sorry Your Highness,” Shreeann said in a rush of words as she turned away from the door stumbling into some mess of curtsy and bow.

“Don’t be Shreeann I enjoy a bit of anonymity now and again.  Now where has that husband of yours gotten to I have much to talk to both of you about.”

“First allow me to share with you what you ordered, and then we can discuss why else you are here, if it pleases you Sire,” Edwin said in casual tones walking out of the back room not even breaking stride as he differentially inclined his head.

“Of course, of course Edwin.  What has already occurred can wait a little longer still, I assume, right,” Dronocum said with a raised eyebrow as he approached the counter.

Edwin began slowly, “Based on what we talked about earlier and what I saw yesterday I believe these will suit your purposes, exactly,” here he paused to allow himself a rather self-indulgent smile, “if I may say so.”  He then snapped the lids open of the hat boxes in front of him each of which held a circlet.

The similarities between the two were what hit Drono at first but slowly he saw slight differences.  The first circlet had the grace of a coronet, it was made of a metal which shone like white light and the bands wove through each other in a way that brought to mind the swirl of leaves in a strong wind; it was very traditional almost light and airy.  However the other one made with rose gold and yellow gold bands that did not follow the same path as before instead they fought each other almost like the brier vines; though it was more wild with an earthy weight about it every inch of it demanded attention.  “Edwin these, these were more than I could have hoped for.  It would seem that you have quite outdone yourself.”  Drono let his worry over the next part of their conversation fall away as he tried to earnestly show his gratitude, “I am in your debt.”

 

I am a Ruolf, and as I pen this fact I am vividly aware that I am now disregarding the major tenements of my kind which I have known by heart for centuries.  I only state this sentiment incase one of you should happen across my story; know that I am of sound mind, conscious of the possible ramifications, and that I continue on regardless.  Perhaps more to the point you may call me Anona.  

Now for the unknowing as a Ruolf I am long-lived, this year will mark the completion of my fifth half century, I am smallish, no larger than a two-pound loaf of bread, and I am rarely visible to humans.  Allow me to explain.  For some time we Ruolf’s have been operating under Rye’s Contract of Co-Habitation which mandated that all travel be done in a less than visible state and outlines all sanctioned human interactions, which are regrettably few and far between.  Now don’t get me wrong there have always been sightings, but as we have passed from popular mythology no connections have ever been made, my sincere apologizes to the Brownies who have unwittingly become our fall guys and girls.  This mistake comes from the fact that we also live indoors whenever possible and our deep ties to baking, though most other household chores hold no real interest for us.  You see we Ruolf’s are sustained on a hearty diet of bread, pastry, and assorted baked goods it has been this way since we were first able to help ourselves to the controlled fires of humankind.  As such we can, if necessary, rough it on the grains themselves however if given the choice a Ruolf will always choose bread.  As we are constantly cautioned against befriending humans many Ruolf living arrangements are never noticed by their larger roommates.  The only fool-proof way to determine if you have been visited by one of my kindred is through a keen sense of smell.  

If you have ever baked from scratch you might have an idea what smell I am referring to, but if not let me elaborate.  This smell is a perfect mixture of butter, sugar, and warmth, the only comparable smell that I have found is that of warm iced sweet rolls.  Smelling a Ruolf while baking is a sure sign that all is well in you kitchen as we have become quite the connoisseurs, and while we can choose to go unseen we have no control of this aroma which only gets stronger if we are hungry or happy, both signs of a delicious meal in the oven.   

However, in today’s world of carb consciousness we have had to spread ourselves rather thin.  I now go months without spotting any fellow breadies  as I travel.  I see this to be directly correlated to the lack of bread making in the home, I’m not placing blame mind you just stating my observations.  With Ruolf’s becoming increasingly rare I am now breaking the rules and reaching out even if only humankind receives my message at least we will be known again. 

Though Fierya had decided to immerse herself in the project he had left for her rather than come to dinner with Landon and Auria, he now, at least, had a clear picture of what had happened on the little distraction he had thought a good idea.  Distraction was a perfect name for what had happened because he now had three more people to deal with before the ball, and that was only two nights away, now that the early morning hours were upon him.

Edwin and Shreeann were no problem to talk to, with the ball only days away his appearance at a jeweler’s would not arouse Haddie’s suspicion.  Landon wouldn’t mind a day off of duty to prepare all that he would need to travel soon, and while he was at the market Drono was sure he could take care of all that need to be done at the tanner’s shop at the back of the market which they had visited the other day.  However, he had no idea how he would be able to meet with Talis to find out about the charm his daughter now wore around her neck and what it meant that she had it.

Finally Dronocum had to lie down, as sleep threatened to take him at his desk, thinking that no matter how complicated all would wait till light.

The Pendant

Fierya hated to admit it but the speed at which Auria ordered all the necessary things for them both amazed her, which meant it had taken very little time to make it back to the front of the market.  However, it seemed that there was one last stop to make before this little trip was over, but no one was taking the first step to get there.  Landon and Auria were whispering quickly and quietly much to Fierya’s enjoyment it looked like Auria was on the loosing end of the discussion, but before she could guess why, Landon started talking to the other guard.

“Since you covered for me when I got caught up at the back of the market,” here he paused while Chrestop smiled widely, “let me return the favor.  The ladies would like to look in at the jewelers before we return and the four of us will be a tight squeeze why don’t you relax here and then when we all go back neither of us will feel cheated.”

Chrestop agreed and went quickly away from the group which now headed toward a small shop with windows filled with interesting and ornate items.  Once inside the shop the cramped feeling dissolved away leaving behind an open room filled with glass display cases which caused the space to seem as if it was floating.  Immediately a small bejeweled woman rushed out form behind the counter.  “Your highness, what are you doing here,” the woman asked in hushed tones.  “We, we did not know, we were given no message.”

Auria raised her hand to quiet the now frantic woman before speaking, “No notice was sent ahead of me Shreeann you need not worry.  I came quietly in order to not be noticed.”  Here Auria paused to give the small woman time to realize that there were others in the room.  “We,” she gestured to Fierya, “have need of a few things.”

“Of course you do, forgive my thoughtlessness your highness, I’ll bring Edwin out.”

“Is that what you two were arguing about?  What to do when she recognized Auria.  Well why are we flirting with such danger, according to the window this is nothing more than a pretty bits and bobs stand.”

“Fierya, we are here to find your focus.”  Auria said from across the room already peering into a display case.

“What here could possibly help me focus, Auria?”

Landon tried to smother his laugh and failed.  “No, Fierya it will become a focus not give you focus.”  He turned towards the other girl and sighed loudly, “Auria get over here you can search later.”  She looked back reluctantly at the counter but walked over to the small group anyway.  “This is my focus,” Landon said as he held his hand out, “It is a stone that for some reason, which I do not understand, amplifies my abilities.  It is also a sign of my power and rank.”

Auria smiled an apology as she too held out her hand to Fierya.  Fierya while confused was still able to register how finally crafted these items were.  The stone on Landon’s hand was a swirl of greens and browns and had a heavy and solid look to it, but Auria’s stone was delicate and looked almost like trapped smoke.  “They are very different from each other.”  She reached out to touch Auria’s ring fascinated by the design which appeared to be in constant motion.  Auria jerked back as Fierya touched the ring and shouted in surprise, “No you mustn’t!” But she already had Auria in hand.  Fierya looked up to see them both exchange worried glances.  “I wasn’t going to hurt the ring I just wanted to look at the design better,” Fierya said in hurt tones as she released Auria’s hand.

“You touched it?”  The question fell from Landon’s mouth like lead.  “Fierya can you touch mine?”

Auria was wringing her hands and looked terrified but Fierya ignored her and took up Landon’s hand turning the ring this way and that in the light.  “Is that your family crest on the side?  Auria had no such markings on her’s.” Fierya finally asked as she let go of his hand.

“No it is a mark of my rank.”

That was all that could be said as Shreeann returned with Edwin, a broad-shouldered bespectacled man.  “Auria what a pleasant surprise for us both I think.  I hope you don’t mind but I caught word from a rather important bird that you might be in need of something worthy of a ball.”  With a flourish he procured a small box which when opened sparkled in the light.

“They’re gorgeous Edwin I’ll be sure to wear them thank you.”  With those words Auria ran forward and hugged both man and woman who helped her put on the new earrings.

“Landon I trust all is well even if they are confusing,” Edwin said looking at Fierya.  Landon turned a shade of red that was very unbecoming as he tried to avoid the non-question, “Why yes things could not be better Edwin, yourself.”

“Interested at the moment quite interested,” was the man’s only response.

It was at that moment that Fierya decided that she was tired of this and of this man way of turning all comments in to barbed questions.  “I am uninterested in buying a trinket to use when I have a talisman of my own.”  The words had the desired effect as every one of them stopped what they were doing; however, they all then turned to face her.  At first she was as shocked as the others not knowing where she would have gotten that idea, and then she felt the warmth at her breast and relaxed.

Edwin regained his composure first and gesturing grandly at the rude girl and spoke, “My I see this talisman?  You see a beloved piece of jewelry is far from the talisman which you shall require if you are to be among these two.”  He smiled wanly as Fierya reached around her neck pulling on a long gold chain.

Fierya was as curious as every one else as in all the confusion of her first days here she had neglected to examine the necklace like she had first intended.  The chain ended below the breast in a pendent.  The pendent was shaped like a teardrop and was the color of a sunset with a woven knot carved into the center.  Fierya was lost in her emotions, a gift like this was irreplaceable and priceless and without meaning to immediately wondered at how her mother could have possessed something such as this, but only said “It was passed down to me from my mother and foster-mother.”  Auria inhaled sharply when she saw it sure of its import, but not of its meaning.

“I…I’m, I am so sorry miss I had no idea,” Edwin stumbled as he tried to think.  “Of course that is a talisman I would never dream of suggesting otherwise, however it is not in a setting perhaps we can have one made for you by the ball.  I shall call on your father Auria and seek his advice on this, I think, and you shall finally have a use for the setting I made for you years ago if I understand what is to take place at this ball.”  He smiled and winked trying to lighten the mood which had fallen on them all.  “I do have a small ring with a fire ruby in it, as I assume that you may want to keep this one as a pendent, in wearing the ring you can still appear to keep to the traditions of the day.”  Edwin eyes were wide as he took up a bit of leather to fold the stone in before taking the necklace Fierya offered him at arm’s length.

Fierya did not understand the attention now being placed on an object which she knew nothing about, but she changed her mind immediately about the man.  “I would like that very much.”

Just as Landon started for the door he heard the man make one last comment and it stopped him dead in his tracks, “Sir?”

The man turned surprised by the question perhaps thinking himself alone, “I only said that the one with the red hair must have roots.  It’s a shame I couldn’t just give her the belt, but I would want the King’s anger on me.” He smiled slightly almost like a question.

“You would have given it to her?”  So unprepared for such generosity Landon lacked his usual candor.

“Yes, it was to be for my daughter, but she died before I could make a gift of it.”  The man’s face closed in with grief but he continued.  “Growing up around this,” the man’s arms swung wide, “I was always pulling wooden swords out of her hands so her mother could wash them.  So, when she was old enough we sent her to the Umbel and their Canna, I’m sure you’ve seen ‘em though I guess the guards usually call them warrior women like they’re another breed.” Exasperation had started to leak into the man’s words which gave the impression that each one drug it’s feet as he uttered it.  “She was so excited to be living with a Canna Mother.  She earned her sword and I started the belt, then everything went wrong; we were told she was dying.”  Landon’s face fell as the man continued.  “It was years ago now, but maybe you’ve heard the story nearly a legend I’d think for the oddness.  She was standing guard at a cutting and a girl child was taken, didn’t even have a name yet,” the shock of hearing the same ludicrous story again told as fact must have registered on Landon’s face because the man stopped to explain.  “That’s right some send their girls like that.  Well when it happened she followed after the bandits and was even with the group that found the girl, she rode the whole way back with the girl-child in the saddle with her.  When she got back she fell into a kind of delirium, we only just made it in time.  Before we got there she had managed to write a letter for us and one for the Phlox, who came and blessed her herself.  All we were ever told was that she had become a prophet by fire.”  The man could clearly see the question on Landon’s mind because he elaborated.  “I know it doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to lose her, but she had scorch marks on her shoulder above her heart and covering her hand so it must have been true.  The story goes the child sat among still live flame and blackened men unhurt except for the tips of her fingers on her right hand.  The girl with the red hair let me find some peace today.”  Here he paused the intensity in his gaze holding Landon in such a way that all else fell a way, “The belt will be here when she has the coin to get it.”

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