Snippet #12

“You need to see the parade.  It’s amazing!”  Her face lit up with excitement, her round cheeks positively bulging with a happy smile.

“Yeah, it looks like it’s a lot of fun.”  I smiled too, adding my enthusiasm to the conversation.  George and Sera smiled back from across the table, their elbows resting on the formica.

“You wouldn’t know, you’ve never seen it.”  Her face went blank, her dark eyes dropping to her plate where she began to push at her half eaten hashbrowns soaking in ketchup.

“Huh?”  My smile scratched to a halt and I stared at her, surprised.

“Oh, you’ll say you’ll say you have, but you haven’t.”  She waved a meaty hand through the air at me, dismissing anything that might come out of my mouth next.

From the edges of my shocked vision I watched George and Sera glance at each other, their faces going slack as the happy conversation was knocked out of them.  George lifted an enquiring eyebrow.  Sera made a slight shrugging motion and picked up her own fork to poke carefully at her pancakes.  In two small sentences, the impromptu breakfast had become a train wreck.

The Mine – #5 (GW2 Fanfiction)

(Guild Wars is the property of ArenaNet.  I do not claim ownership over any location or character, except those that I have specifically paid for or are in agreement with me over their use.  While some NPC dialogue is taken from ingame, it has been modified and paraphrased to suit the story.  This is strictly fanfiction and is intended for entertainment purposes only, not profit.)

 

Having found his staff near a railed support beam by one of the the large motors, Ian quietly rejoined the group and began digging through his pack, looking for food.  Sitting beside him, Moon Moon thumped his tail fiercely against the mesh, his front paws drumming excitedly.

“Hungry, huh?”  Chuckling a little he held out a thick strip of spicy smelling meat.  At least the wolf wasn’t being judgemental.

Very politely, the Alpine closed his teeth on the food and slid it out of Ian’s hand.  An instant later he was hunched over, snarling and glowering at every other member of the group as he chewed frantically.

Sorting through the entire contents of her pack, with the unhelpful assistance of the snow owl, Zerela paused to stare at Moon’s antics.  Grinning mischievously she made a fast grab for the food, missing by a wide margin.

Amusement rippled through the group as Moon yelped in outrage and whirled around, putting his back to the big feline and tucking his tail beneath him.  His snarls became louder and his blue eyes slid deeply to one side, watching for another attack.  The owl walked closer, clearly intent on inspecting him he chewed faster.

“I feel the same way, buddy.”  Laughing, Ian pulled out a thick strip for himself and stowed the rest back in his bag.  Taking a seat on top of it, he took a huge bite and focused on the Charr’s growing collection.

“I wonder if the Dredge are a distant relation to Skritt?” Zerela pawed through the keys, small bottles containing questionable looking liquids and leather scraps, looking perplexed by the enormity of the assortment.  Her worn, dark leather pack didn’t look nearly large enough to hold it all.

“Uh huh.  And which side are you related to?”  Azumae raised her eyebrows at the ranger as she tipped a handful of, what looked like, trail mix into her mouth.  Her leafy hair seemed to brighten as she chewed.

“What’s that?”  Holding the meat with his teeth, Ian used his staff to prod at a large, squarish, iron key lying beside a carefully arranged pile of leather.  It looked heavy enough to use as a weapon.  “Did you bring that with you?”

“I found it on one of the Dredge.”  Zerela picked it up, weighing it in her hand.  “I think it’s Dwarven.  See the markings?”

“There are rumors of a couple of Dwarven strongholds here in Dredgehaunt.”  Eir finished off her small loaf of bread and licked at her fingers, the smell of tarragon hanging in the humid air around her.  She tried to look at the key but couldn’t seem to stop glancing toward the bridge.

Caithe came trotting up the far ramp holding a pistol in each hand.  “Snik is down below with seven Dredge and a golem.  He doesn’t seem to know we’re here yet.”  She sniffed the air.  “Who’s got tarragon bread?”

Reaching back into her bag, Eir ripped a loaf in half and handed one piece to Caithe.  

“Give me a few minutes.”  Zerela began stacking her collection.  “I need to get this stored.”

Four heads turned to stare at the amount of things spread around the Charr.  Between the new items and old, packing it all looked like a major job.

“Um… can I help?”  Thinking he could at least stack a few items, Ian reached awkwardly toward the pile.  Fast as a striking viper the Charr gave him a hard swat with the back of her paw.  “OUCH!”  Snatching his hand back he held it against his chest, grimacing at her.

Azumae frowned and tapped Zerela on her nose.

“Bad kitty.”  

Her expression widened as the Charr rose to her full height, ears flattened to her head, holding tightly to the sword she had knocked Ian’s hand away from.

“Touch me again weed and I’ll sever your stem!”

The necromancer took a half step back, keeping her eyes fastened on the Charr’s.

“I was just trying to help.”  Ian glared at the ranger.   The skin wasn’t broken but the small bone on the outside was throbbing.  “You could have just said no instead of breaking my hand.”

“It’s not broken.”  Zerela pointed at the glyph on his belt.  “Even if it was, you are a druid.  Heal yourself.”

“That doesn’t mean you can just bust me up when you feel like it!”  Angrily he turned away from her.

“You need to work on using your words instead of your actions.”  Standing well back, with her axe in hand, Azumae gave Zerela a stern look.  “Humans aren’t like us.  They are frail.”

“Don’t lecture me!”

“I’m not frail!”

Ian and Zerela shouted simultaneously, their voices drowning each other out.

Quickly Eir stepped between them, her body blocking their view of each other.

“Enough!”  Her voice was low and harsh.  “Snik is too close to risk alerting him of our presence.  You two need to suck it up.”

“Yes.  We lost our element of surprise once already.”  Caithe looked directly at the Charr.  “Let’s not lose it again over petty arguments.”

Zerela stood still for a moment, glaring at everyone.  Finally she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking very much like deflating circus toy.

“Fine.  Here are some words for you.”  Stepping carefully around the Norn, she held up the sword for Ian to see.  “It’s soulbound to me.  I’m not sure you could even pick it up if you wanted to.”  She looked at his wounded hand with sincere regret.  “I didn’t mean to actually hurt you, I was just trying to protect you.”

His anger abated a bit at this.  Still, he would have been happier if she had just told him not to touch it.  Ignoring the pain in his hand he looked closer at the sword.

“What does it do when someone other than yourself tries to hold it?”

“I don’t know.  Nobody has tried before now.”   She turned a bit, displaying the weapon as the others leaned in to peek.

“What is its talent?”  Caithe ran her eyes slowly up and down the weapon.

“What do you mean?”

“Soulbound items usually have a specific strength they enhance.  What does this one do?”

“This is soulbound too.  The sigil helps boost my healing.”  Feeling a little knowledgeable, Ian pushed the staff toward the Charr.  “Go on, take it.”

Looking uncertain, Zerela reached for it.  As her hand closed around it her ears flattened again and her eyes stretched wide, her muzzle wrinkling into a growl that didn’t quite make it out.  For a few heartbeats she stood there, holding the staff, looking ready to be knocked off her feet.  Then she relaxed and looked a little sheepish.

“I thought I would get zapped or something.”  Ian smiled at her.

“For you it is just a staff without power.  Nothing better than a club.”  It felt good to be able to say something that didn’t make him sound dumb.  Ever since they had walked into this place he had felt like the odd man out.

“Do you want to try the sword?”  

Quite abruptly, the Charr thrust it toward him and on reflex he reached for it.

“NO!”

“NO!”

“NO!”

Three voices rose in unison.  Eir, being the closest, pushed Zerela’s sword arm down.

“Let’s not let weapon bonding get the better of us, shall we?”  Caithe pressed forward and steered the Charr back toward her packing.  “Zerela, you need to get your treasures together so we can move on.  Druid, give her a hand but try to not touch anything vital.”

“I can help.”  Azumae stepped toward the pack, stopping abruptly as Zerela looked sharply at her.  “If you like?” she added.

The Charr opened her mouth to speak but Caithe cut her off.

“Azumae, I could use your assistance over here.”

“Garm and I will monitor the bridge while you guys pack.”  Eir sounded worried.  “I don’t want to be surprised by more Dredge sneaking up on us.”  The Norn and wolf set off toward the first ramp.

Kneeling beside Zerela’s collection, Ian watched the two Sylvari as they stepped carefully around the dead, moving to the far ramp.  He was positive the necromancer didn’t like Caithe very much.

“Do you think they would be friends outside of this mine?”  Zerela spoke quietly, with her head down while she stacked items.

“You see it too?”  He pushed a small tower of leather squares toward the ranger.

“The necro always looks like she smells something bad when Caithe is near her.”

“Yeah, and see how her hair kind of bristles?  Reminds me of how Moon’s back hair stands up when he is threatened.”  His observation was met by a low chuckle from the ranger.

“I guess not all Sylvari are automatically friends with all the other Sylvari.”

Surprisingly, they finished packing quickly, all the items going into the bag.  Ian stared at it in wonder.

“How did you get all of that inside there?”  The bag didn’t even look like it was bulging.

“There’s a human I met in Lion’s Arch awhile back.  He sells runes that expand the inside of a bag.  You can put more stuff in and it doesn’t feel heavier or stretched.”  Zerela gave him a toothy grin.

“Sheesh, I need to meet this guy.”  His own pack, while not filled to capacity, was still very limited.  Treasure was not his ultimate goal but, if he actually found any, he had to save room to carry it.  A simple rune that could make the bag bigger on the inside but not increase the weight would be well worth the long trip to acquire.

“Heads up, here come the plants.”  She wriggled a bit, getting her pack positioned then, pushed at her muzzle with her hands.  She lowered them to reveal a comic look of anticipation.

“You’re a terrible person,” Ian said with a laugh and knelt to slip his arms through his own bag.

“All set?”  Caithe stared suspiciously at Zerela for a moment, her eyes narrowing before continuing.  “We will be splitting up for this one.  Azumae and I will be taking the ramp down by the bridge while you three go down this one.”  She pointed to the narrow walkway she and the necromancer had just returned from.

The ranger glanced between the two stated locations, her expression darkening a little.

“We could have gone down the first ramp and skipped this battle entirely?”

“So it appears.”  Caithe met Zerela’s look without any sign of argument.  “Had we scouted better we might have known.”

It wasn’t a lie.  Ian knew they had all missed the implication of the first ramp and simply focused on the Dredge they had seen.  He tactfully refrained from pointing out the thief had been the scout.  They all knew it.

“Well, scorch my stones!”  Grabbing her sword, the Charr seemed to move in multiple directions at once, jerking to a halt with each step like she was hitting a wall and looking like she wanted to hurl her weapon at something.  Finally she just stopped moving and stared down at the platform, ears jutting at half mast, huffing the warm air.

“Okay then.”  Caithe drew her pistols.  “Rangers, lay traps when you get close, all of you.”  She looked pointedly at Ian.  “The more traps the better.  Our necromancer will lay down poison and cold from our side.  Nobody shoot until after Azumae and I have engaged them.  Then all of you rain arrows on them.  Druid, you will drop back after that and tend to us where you’re needed.”  Now she looked at Zerela.  “After the initial barrage we will need you to work some magic with your sword.  Are you up to it?”

Everyone jumped as the Bloody Ranger whistled her blade through the air fast enough to alarm all three animals.

“I am ready to slaughter something!”

“Good.”  The thief managed a wry smile.  “Hopefully you guys will be a surprise for them.  They will have their eyes full of us.”  She gestured to herself and Azumae.

Adjusting her quiver, Eir waved Garm to her side and told him to heel.  Obediently the black wolf sat at her feet, looking up at her expectantly.

Looking at Moon Moon, Ian wondered if he should have brought a tether?  He had never thought to try and train the wolf.  He didn’t know where to begin.  If Moon exposed them early though, it could be a disaster.  He looked to see what Zerela was going to do about her bird.

Cradling the owl in the crook of her arm like it was baby, she began to rumble softly, deep in her throat.  The owl closed its eyes and appeared to go to sleep.  Zerela looked up smiling, obviously pleased with herself.

“She will be no trouble until the fighting starts.”

“Let’s get moving.”  Caithe set off toward the bridge with Azumae following behind.

Watching them leave, Ian wondered if splitting them up was the right thing to do?  What if the Sylvari became wounded?  He couldn’t heal what he didn’t know about.  Don’t be stupid!  Everyone has the ability to heal themselves at least a little.  

Just before the pair dropped out of sight, the necromancer glanced back, her opaque eyes brushing against his.  Stubbornly he looked away.  He wouldn’t forget that shove so easily.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

Monologue #11

I feel like the warm weather has stunted my growth.  My writing is suffering because I want to open the windows and play games and stuff.  I’m just not miserable enough! 

Several years ago I noticed a link between my personal level of unhappiness and my writing.  The more I hated things the more I wrote.  When I was comfortable and content, I wrote less.  This still seems to be true even though I am now old enough to take responsibility for my own motivation.  I just get tired of hating everything all the time.  That takes a lot of energy that could be put to better use on things like cooking or carpet cleaning, both of which are things that need to be done.


My wife has taken possession of my NaNoWriMo draft of Smashing Pumpkins and is in the process of editing.  I’m curious to see what her suggestions are.  I set it aside in favor of working on my Guild Wars 2 fanfiction piece, The Mine, for a bit, hoping the side project would clean out my eyes a little so I could get a renewed perspective.  This is my first novel ever and I’m quite anxious about it.  While I have enjoyed The Mine a lot I know I need to tear myself away and get back to my novel.  But the weather is so nice.  And my carpets need cleaning!

Snippet #11

Garret froze in the fake leather seat, his left hand plastering itself to the upholstery as if it were glued.  His heart smashed wildly against his ribcage, beating itself senseless while the rest of the body was immobilized in terror.

 

LOOK UP

 

The instruction flashed rapidly on the screen in front of him, the color of the letters changing from white to yellow, the orange followed by red.  A simple prompt from the mechanical marvel he had been burning to touch.  Feed a dollar into the slot and pull the handle.  Watch the reels spin.  It was just too easy to pass up.  

 

LOOK UP

 

They had walked by the open doors countless times, always cracking jokes about the poor suckers inside, going broke and getting too old to move off the chairs. Jokes!  For God’s sakes, they were just jokes!

 

LOOK UP

 

Beside him, William sat slumped in his own chair, his head lolling awkwardly toward Garret.  Where his eyes had been, two charred cavities remained, thick, yellowish fluid spilling over and down his slackened cheeks.  

 

LOOK UP

 

Garret’s fourteen year old brain refused to make a decision.  He shouldn’t be here.  Every muscle strained in place with indecision.  Run!  But if he ran he would be leaving William behind.

 

William is dead.

 

LOOK UP

 

He shouldn’t be here.  He was just fourteen.  He should be home playing Halo or something, not here trying to get a cheap thrill from a slot machine.  He needed to get off the chair and run as fast as he could.

 

LOOK UP

 

No.  

 

William had followed the instruction.

The Mine – 04 (GW2 Fanfiction)

(Guild Wars is the property of ArenaNet.  I do not claim ownership over any location or character, except those that I have specifically paid for or are in agreement with me over their use.  While some NPC dialogue is taken from ingame, it has been modified and paraphrased to suit the story.  This is strictly fanfiction and is intended for entertainment purposes only, not profit.)

Dropping back, Ian tried to breathe normally, shifting his grip on his staff.  He noted the dark stains on the wood from his sweating palms.

Caithe crouched at the base of the ramp, peering over the top.  “There are sixteen soldiers on the catwalk,” she informed them.  “Zerela, use your long bow to shoot the closest one.  Garm will act as a decoy.  Hopefully we can pull the skirmish over this way and not draw a lot of attention.  Reaper, can you place marks between the catwalk and the ramp?  If things get out of hand, maybe we can bottleneck them there and leave ourselves an escape route back this way.”

Azumae rose slightly and pointed her staff at the metal floor between them and the catwalk.  Feeling her magic gather and release reminded Ian of diving into Lake Delavan on a hot day, the cold water suddenly enveloping his steaming skin.  He wondered if it felt the same way to her?

Nodding agreement with the plan, the Zerela slipped an arrow from her quiver and eased forward, nudging past Eir who was crouched in readiness, holding her sword across one knee and gripping a large dagger in her off hand.  Pausing to remove the owl from her bonnet, the Charr passed the bird back to Ian.  “Keep her close.”  

Feeling honored to be entrusted with the pet of another ranger, Ian gave her a solemn nod and lifted the owl up to his shoulder.  Digging for a stable purchase on the smooth leather armor, the bird squeezed his shoulder tightly, her talons gouging deep enough to leave permanent impressions.

“Garm, to me.”  Inching up the ramp Zerela stayed close to the wall and crouched on one knee.  Muzzle crinkling slightly in concentration, she notched her arrow and took careful aim.

Feeling the magic gathering, Ian kept his eyes fixed on the ranger.  He had used this spell himself a few times so he knew what was coming but, each time he saw it he was still surprised.

Releasing her shot with a tight, twang of the bow string, Zerela vanished from sight.  The nearest dredge barked in pain, the ranger’s arrow sticking in his side.

A sudden shifting of the air above his head ruffled Ian’s blond hair, causing the bird to dig even deeper into his shoulder.  He was positive the Bloody Ranger had just jumped over them all.  

Trotting forward to the catwalk, Garm planted his feet, yipped at the soldiers and wagged his tail.

Three dredge stopped working and gathered around the wounded one, two of them looking blankly at the arrow in his side.  Garm yipped again and danced in place, pounding his feet excitedly.  All four stared at the lupine.

“Where did the wolf come from?”

“Stupid moles!”  Hissing in disgust, Zerela rematerialized between Ian and Eir.  She reached for another arrow.  “How many times do I have to shoot?”

Azumae covered a snort of laughter with her hand.  Seeing Caithe’s sharp look of caution, the necromancer shrugged.  “So, I have a droll sense of humor,” she whispered.   “Throw me to the warg.”

Ducking his head to hide his smile, Ian couldn’t help being impressed at how the necromancer didn’t seem affected by the legendary status of their prickly thief.

“I’m going to stick this one right in his nose.  Maybe they will take better notice?”  Rising to her full height, Zerela took aim and launched a quick, powerful shot at the same Dredge then ducked down again.  Whistling through the air, this arrow thunked into an eye socket, knocking the life right out of the soldier.  His body dropped limply to the mesh. The three standing soldiers looked from their fallen comrade to Garm, surprise on their faces.  

Huffing irritably, Zerela rose and stomped up the ramp, waving her bow above her head.  “Hey!  He didn’t shoot you, I did!”

“Intruders!”  The three Dredge grabbed for their weapons as they yelled to their comrades and began firing.

Grinning nastily, Zerela fired back rapidly, each arrow finding a target.

With a deep sigh, Caithe reached for her guns.  “So much for stealth.”  The Sylvari rose and headed up the ramp.  “Plan B, everyone.”

Feeling his flesh erupt in goosebumps, Ian rose beside Eir and Azumae and lowered the business end of his staff.  Melandru be with me.  The prayer was automatic, a desperate plea in the face of a storm.  His next thought was there is no plan B!  Then Garm howled and all thoughts stopped.  The fight had begun.

“Moon go!”

The white wolf bolted up the ramp and flew onto the catwalk, charging the nearest soldier.  Panicking at Moon’s sudden action, the owl launched into the air, clearly aiming for the Charr’s bonnet.  Having no time to react, Ian watched in horror as she sailed toward the Charr.  Surprised, Zerela paused in reflex to catch the bird.  That moment cost her as one of the Dredge hurled a net, landing it securely over Charr and owl.

Ian felt sick as Zerela froze with her pet in her claw, both of them stunned into immobility.  Lowering his staff to focus on the spot directly beside her, he released the magic and felt himself jerk forward at blurring speed.  As he jarred to a halt the excess energy of the spell flowed outward, melting the netting like it was made of sugar and, soothing its former captives.  Ian groped blindly for the wall, trying to brace himself as his head spun for a second.  That spell was definitely not his favorite.

The Dredge who had thrown the net ran forward, sword in hand, eyes fixed on the Charr.  As he stepped off the catwalk the metal beneath his feet exploded in a mushroom cloud of poison fumes.  Unable to prevent it, the soldier inhaled.  Instantly his pale, moleskin became tinged with putrid green and he bent over, retching uncontrollably.  Eir leaped forward, the metal floor shaking with her weight, and drove her blade down through the back of his neck.  Before he was fully down, she yanked the sword free and thrust it into the next soldier.  More Dredge poured toward her from the left side of the catwalk, all firing guns and stun beams.  The Norn dodged and blocked with amazing speed, her sword and dagger moving so fast they could barely be seen.

Pulling herself together Zerela launched a barrage of arrows over the bulk of the soldiers.  Her face was carved in stone while her eyes sparked with hatred.  The snowy owl dove past Eir, tearing frantically into the face of the nearest Dredge.

Getting control of his balance, Ian shot a wisp into the fray where it found a target, a Dredge with a net in both hands, and began to circle him, draining his strength and throwing off his aim.  Taking advantage of the wisp, Caithe shadow stepped to the weakened soldier and put a bullet into his face.  There was no time to call a victory though as two more soldiers charged her.  Switching spells, Ian sent a surge of energy toward them, molding it into a mass of rolling vines that tangled their feet, drained their strength and locked them in place.  Switching quickly to her sword, the thief sliced their throats.

All light on the catwalk seemed to become sucked away as Azumae took the form of a Reaper.  Her features were indistinguishable as she slid through the soldiers.  Black, smoke-like magic curled around her in tendrils.  Three Dredge fell dead almost instantly.

Ian froze for a second.  Reaper magic was new to him.  It felt like a vacuum, reminding him of stepping through an Asura gate only, nastier.  Trying to hold his staff steady, he wondered if the Reaper would even be affected by his heals?  She looked like a different being altogether.  Maybe she didn’t even need to be healed?

Garm howled again, his fearful noise being echoed immediately by Moon’s icy one.  Better suited to the lower vision, the owl swooped through the air with her talons bared, ripping any dredge she could reach.

Abruptly the light returned and Azumae staggered as the dark mists faded away.  Bracing himself, Ian aimed for a spot beside her and triggered the astral spell again.  The dizziness hit him on the stop.  He staggered against her as the overflow gushed around them.  At least the spell fixes what it breaks, he thought as his head cleared.  

The necromancer straightened abruptly.  “Get back!” she growled and shoved him away from her, back the way he had come. “I don’t need your help.”  Spinning away she immediately blasted out a powerful spell, drawing on the living force of five Dredge at a time, the magic so strong that red lines seemed to flow out from the soldiers in streams, directly to her.  The Dredge stumbled, their knees folding as their strength drained away.  

The force of the shove turned Ian partway around, tangling his feet and twisting his ankle. Sprawling face down on the catwalk his breath rushed from his lungs.  The elder wood staff slipped from his grasp and skittered away as a net landed heavily over him, pinning him down, the edges of his warhorn digging into his hip.  He lay still, gasping for air, trying to move.  His limbs felt like they had fallen asleep, every attempt to use the muscles sending that fuzzy, nerve clenching feeling rushing through him.  His chest refused to expand.  He was suffocating!

The catwalk fell away as Ian felt his pack gouge into his shoulders like something was trying to tear it from his body.  For a heartbeat he hung in the air, bewildered at what was happening, then he was lowered onto his feet.  Air rushed into his chest.

Sword flashing in the dim light, Eir sliced down the next net sailing toward them.  Giving the Dredge that had thrown it a pissed look, she whipped her off hand forward, hurling her dagger into his grinning mouth.

“GET DOWN!”  Zerela shouted.

Ian dropped back onto the mesh, Eir right beside him, and the Bloody Ranger fired across them, hard enough to knock back another rushing Dredge.  The armored mole flew a solid eight feet through the air, crashing against the far side of the catwalk.  In a flash, Eir was on her feet and charging.

Scrambling upright again, Ian hobbled behind the Charr, favoring his ankle, and snatched the warhorn from his belt.  The chance to sound it was past though.

“How many left?”  Caithe shadow stepped toward Ian, her face showing deep lines of exhaustion.  Immediately he triggered his glyph, letting the magic flow around them.

“Just two!”  Azumae yelled and hurled her daggers, dropping the count to one.

The remaining soldier, seeing his odds, turned to run.  Garm, Moon Moon and the owl landed on him in a bloody fury.

The five would-be-rescuers stood gasping on the catwalk amid the bodies of their enemies.  Every face was drawn and shadowed.  

Limping to the center of the group, Ian counted to five and triggered the glyph again, sighing slightly as his ankle finished mended.  He stared directly at Azumae.  The lines of her facial marking, the skull of her profession, stood out in her exhaustion.  He hadn’t noticed them before.  She didn’t meet his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Caithe waved Ian toward the far side of the catwalk where he had fallen.  “Druid, find your staff.”  Turning away from him she directed her next words to the others.   “Rest a bit, you’ve earned it.  I’m going to scout ahead a bit while… Zerela loots the fallen.”  The thief’s face twisted into a tired smile.  “You fought well ranger.”

Zerela grunted softly in acknowledgment and stroked the feathers of her owl, now cradled in her arms.  She also did not meet Ian’s eyes.

Shoulders sagging, he turned away from the group, his boots making heavy sounds on the wire mesh of the catwalk as he searched for his weapon.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

Snippet #10

Wait, what!

“Excuse me?”

“I’m just saying,” Jen continued doggedly, “That if you ever sleep with my brother, it’s over.  We’re done.”

Inhaling deeply through her nostrils, she looked around the room for a few seconds, letting herself process this new and, very late to the party, facet of Jen’s personality.  That annoyingly correct, inner voice was screaming I told you so.  The move had been too flawless.  Even their furniture had gotten along.  Her red plaid couch had combined with that hideous, green, recliner much better than she had anticipated.  Both of them had looked at the combo with surprise.  Then they laughed until tears ran down their faces, discovering they were each prepared to verbally crap on each other’s style choices.

And now?

Setting her cup down on the so-last-decade coffee table, she stood and picked up her sandwich plate to take it to the sink.  Her parents were night owls, they would still be awake at ten thirty.  She could feel Jen’s eyes burning into her back as she left the room.

“Alyssa?  Where are you going?”

Maliciously she jangled her keys, making a bit of a production out of gathering her jacket and bag.  On impulse she turned to face the kitchen doorway, knowing Jen would be standing in it.

“Look, it’s been great and all but, really, I’m not prepared to have someone play judge and jury over my past and make me feel bad about stuff all over again.”  Her stomach lurched a little as Jen went pale, sensing her intent.  She had been so cute!  That bobbed red hair that swooped a little across her forehead was so damn attractive.

“Jesus Al, it’s not even that serious.”

“Not that serious?”  She locked onto Jen’s eyes, mentally drawing crosshairs on them.  “That particular expression is used abusively by people who don’t want to take responsibility for what they just did!”  Grabbing the doorknob, she wrenched it open and felt cool, fresh, night air pouring in.