Before I get into my ‘click here, check this out’ portion of the post, I would like to give you a token of my appreciation. Several of you have been liking these blog posts and following along – it’s not much, but it’s a start, and I appreciate each one of you. For those who are interested I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Elden, one of the lesser but still very important characters from Tragedy. Enjoy the sneak peak!
Elden leaned his weight against the newly-stained wooden banister, looking out over the bar scene below. He swirled the tincture of fire in his glass as he watched from his perch. The establishment, while not necessarily new, was well-kept and recently repainted. Smoke and soft chatter wafted up to his quiet indoor balcony, keeping him company like an old friend. A young woman played a pleasant song her violin against the far wall, just beyond his view. Two bartenders worked in tandem behind the L-shaped bar, a handful of young people gathered around ordering drinks and talking. The tall bar tables were abandoned at the periphery – everyone wanted to be close to everyone else, except him. Solitude suited him.
Taking a drag from the minty Covash smoke between his lips, he smiled to himself. While most of the dozen-or-so people in the room were having a good time, there was discord off to the corner of that bar between the slender, fair-haired Willow and her painfully thin summer-colored boyfriend, Douglass. Willow was on the offense again, her tree twig finger pointed squarely at Douglass’s chest while Douglass hand his hands open, his whole body curved away from her. Elden could read the cluelessness plain on Douglass’s face.
It would have been easier to feel bad for the sap if he wasn’t the thousandth man in Vail to get tangled up with Willow. Elden made it with her for a solid week before Willow’s malicious nature drove him away. It was all well enough – the sex was good, and he only expected to get a night or two out of it at the maximum. He considered the experience overall as a win.
Douglass, on the other hand, was never the brightest kid in Vail. He had an undying belief in one day finding a woman and having a family, even as he destroyed his body with covash and lylic. He was the last of the romantics.
In the year since he arrived in Vail Elden had made many acquaintances, but no real friends. To even think that he might someday find a person to settle down with was preposterous. He had yet to meet a man or woman who could accept the fluid nature of his existence. Six years ago at the age of 16 he left his home in the border town of Chall to travel the world. In that time he had lived in at least a dozen different places. Each time he found a place to stay, something seemed to happen. He would save someone falling off a roof, or he would shatter the entire bar’s stock of glassware, and suddenly wherever he was living lost its hospitable charm. Surviving an entire year in Vail without incident was nothing short of miraculous.
Elden glanced about his dark little corner, a six-foot-long space with two broken down tables and sets of chairs. Only card-players ever came up to the balcony, and even then only on third nights. No one ever bothered him when he took over the space. He tossed back the rest of his drink, distantly missing the way it used to burn his throat. Too many years of drinking the swill numbed him to the sensation. Even the energizing buzz from the tincture’s herbs barely touched him anymore; they only served to keep him sane.
Night air blew through as the front door opened below him. At the base of the staircase to his dark, abandoned balcony was the doorway to the outside, and in the doorway stood an intriguing young woman. Her auburn hair was spun back in a bun to reveal wide cheekbones. Underneath her cloak she was dressed in the work clothes of a healer, or perhaps an engineer – he could never tell the two apart. He could visualize her curves, the kind he hadn’t ever seen on one of the local girls. She had to be either a traveler or new to the town.
He almost yelped when she looked up at him like she could hear him thinking. Her eyes were striking – the color of new spring lilacs, with a sheen of intelligence. She screwed up her lips to one side of her face thoughtfully. As quickly as she commanded his attention she suddenly broke from it, approaching the bar to place her order.
She maintained a forcefield-like barrier between herself and the others around her. No one came close or spoke to her. She watched them, just as he watched them. She sat there a few minutes examining the others around her before her drink arrived and she turned her attention back on him.
His curiosity sufficiently piqued, Elden took one last puff from his light before he gripped the edge of the banister and hopped over it to the stairs below. He was not a large man, standing 5’11” with the physique of someone who clearly spent more coin on tincture than bread. His boots landed softly on the wood, calling for glances from only a handful of patrons who quickly shrugged it off. They expected such things of him anymore. Vail was getting too comfortable with his presence.
The girl kept sidelong eyes on him, a mug of ale in her hand. Her intensity was almost a deterrent, the way she analyzed him without a word. He put on his best lazy, alluring half-grin, to make it look like he didn’t notice. Men and women instinctively moved away when he walked up beside her. It was for best, for certain; if they didn’t move, he would have had to push them. No one enjoyed that.
Domini, the large, black-haired bartender at that side of the bar gave Elden a casual wave.
“Need anything E?” Domini’s booming voice asked.
Elden shook his head, strands of slightly-too-long golden brown hair brushing over his eyes. “Good here Dom.”
The girl was amused even by his brief exchange with the bartender. She raised one eyebrow, sipping her ale delicately like she might sip tea. “Can I help you with something, then?” she asked. In her voice he could hear the hint of an accent, one he’d heard from people raised outside the cities. A country girl.
“Might be,” said Elden. He offered a hand to her, which she shook with a light touch, her pale skin contrasting against his olive-tan hands. “You must not be from here.”
“I’m from Alta,” she said smoothly, withdrawing the hand. With her accent it was unlikely she was from Alta, a sizable city on the Kaldari border, but it was no matter. “Came here for work.”
“Oh yeah? What sorta work?”
“Not the kind you’re looking for,” she said with a laugh.
Feigning insult, Elden guffawed. “Have I said something unwelcome? I don’t think so.”
“No, you haven’t said anything of that sort.”
The way she responded was curious, like someone who was lying by omission. If he were looking for something serious, he would have walked away immediately. He could see that she was trouble on legs. It didn’t stop him with Willow, either.
“You’re not in here looking to make friends, are you?” he challenged her.
“Neither are you,” she used a grating matter-of-fact tone, “I’m an alchemist, since you really want to know.”
“So you’re here to fix the town.”
“Town would have to want fixing.” She look him up and down critically. “So would you.”
“Nothing broken here, hon.” He gestured with flourish, “I’m the most put-together guy you’ll find in Vail, that’s a fact.”
“Oh, no doubt,” She laughed at a private joke. “Where are you from?”
“Nivenea,” he lied.
“I spent a while there,” she said. “Nice place. Why’d you leave?”
“That many gifted people in one place makes me nervous.” Half-truth, this time. He was gifted himself, but not in any way that people respected. His parents were gifted, too, but like most of the divinely gifted, they had a narrow definition for who did and did not fit in their world view. Elden was never able to meet that standard.
“So what do you do here?”
Grow covash and piss on the law. “Handy man. I do whatever people need.”
A subtly as he could manage, he used his mind’s eye to travel the outline of her body. He pulled her towards him only by a half centimeter, gently. It was something he had done a hundred times before on other potential partners; usually the slight decrease in distance between them encouraged discussion.
She was the first person to ever react to it directly. She jerked, pushing further away from him. His mind’s feather-touch disintegrated against any amount of her strength. The sizzle of anger was in her eyes when she looked at him.
She couldn’t know it was him, could she? No one else ever had. Coincidence, maybe. Either way, his interest evaporated. He was hunting for deer; she was a panther.
“Well, it’s been lovely, but I have places to be,” he winked, “Handy work and all that.”
Before he could turn away she grabbed his wrist, her fingers locked tightly against his skin. She narrowed her eyes. “What’s your name?”
“Elden,” he blurted unintentionally, and regretted it. Something told him that he didn’t want her to know his real name. “What’s yours?”
“Delia.” She abruptly let go.
An awkward pause grew between them. He didn’t know what to do with his hands or his face. After several long seconds he finally withdrew from her. He saluted Dom casually on his way to the door, walking slowly even while he wanted to bolt.
I know what you are, an unwelcome voice intruded on his thoughts. It sounded like Delia’s voice, but she had not spoken. He physically shook himself all over to clear his brain, bewildered. He’d had hallucinations before, but rarely were they so clear.
Maybe he needed to slow it down after all. Folks said that years of tincture could cause strange reactions in people, and he was coming up on 4 years of a bad habit. He banged the bar door open, letting the icy air filled his lungs. He didn’t look back.
Now to the shameless plug part of this post. 😉 I don’t like always doing straight-up promotion posts (and I hope that I haven’t been boring you with too many of those), but I feel like it’s worth noting that my short story Fathers and Sons has been re-uploaded with a chapter from Forsaken Lands attached to the end. If you haven’t already picked it up, it’s only $0.99 on Amazon. If you like it, please review!
On the novel front, I’ve been making some headway on Forsaken Lands 2 as well as doing more cleanup editing on Tragedy with the help of my husband. I will be uploading it to Amazon as soon as the cleanup and the cover are finished. Although I will be out of town on a job next month, I will continue my work on the editing and try to get in a blog post or two. It is my sincere hope that I can get the novel out by the end of September (if not earlier).
To those following and liking this blog, I thank you for listening. Please chime in if you want to hear more or less of what I’ve been talking about. The feminism post was pretty popular, so I might do another post like that in the near future.
Peace and long life, friends.