Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Greetings, readers. Thanks to a tip from a friend, contributor to, and follower of the Blogject, I have entered "Mere Acquaintances" in a serial novel contest. If you want to see it have a sporting chance at winning, visit and search for "Mre Acquaintances". Part of the judging is on popularity of the stories, so the more views, comments, fans, and subscribers it gets, the better.

I'm still working on getting the Blogject up to date on the posted chapters on the textnovel site, but by next week, I should be up to par with what's here on the blog. New chapters will still be posted here, as well, so don't be afraid you're going to lose this blog. That's just not going to happen.

Also, taking into consideration another criteria of the contest (story must have at least 50,000 words by 8-31/10)I will undoubtedly be stepping up chapter posting until then to ensure it has enough words. So get ready for extra chapters. We're going to start with two a week. Updates alerting you to new chapters will still be posted on facebook (for those of you who see them). SO get ready to have Saturday chapters!!!

Thanks for your time, and enjoy!

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twelve

Weslyn Gossard let her horses choose their own pace as they drew her wagon down the hard-packed dirt road from Necras to Abem. She had checked and rechecked her load of porcelains and mechanicals before heading out this morning to make sure the jostling of the wagon wouldn’t shake a gear loose of chip a cup or a vase.

But now, her goods were far from her mind. It had been days since the incident back in the city, and that man, Draegon, was still on her mind. She couldn’t help but feel bad about what he had had to do to keep his freedom-- giving up whatever life he had to become a Seeker. That was just another loss of freedom, in her mind. Just by looking at Draegon, seeing his eyes, she had known the truth of things. It was so upsetting that the fellow Jonal-- by his eyes a greedy, uncompassionate man-- should win out, forcing not only Draegon but also Roark into the Search. Her father had always said she had an eye for appraisal, not just for goods, but for people too. She had never really believed him-- about the people part, anyway-- until that day.

She couldn’t get Draegon out of her mind now, and it wasn’t just because of his eyes. Yes, they were very pretty eyes, dark green and full of emotion, but there was so much more to him, more that made her unable to push him from her thoughts. Overall, she was definitely attracted to him in a physical sense, and she kept finding herself sighing over his shoulders, his chin, even that strange pale hair. And then her thoughts would wander to his poise as he told his story, as he demanded to take the oaths. She had to admire his spirit.

Yes, her father was right. She could appraise people well, and she had judged Draegon correctly.

A strong bump that shot her up out of her seat and set her bottom back down hard brought her back to awareness of her surroundings. She was far off the road, her horses still at that lumbering pace of theirs, amidst the brushy plain lands of… somewhere between Necras and Abem. She couldn’t even see the road from where she was. All around her was just scraggly bushes and grass and… there, to the side and behind her and not all that far off, another wagon. Squinting her eyes, she tried to get a better look at it.

The wagon was drawn by what looked like a huge horse, far bigger than either of hers. There was no cloth covering, no carriage house… this wasn’t a merchant’s wagon or a transport wagon. It drew closer, and she could make out that it was followed by a small crowd of people on foot, and every head among them was light-haired.

Weslyn’s heart caught in her throat. It was a Keidenelle wagon! And they’ve seen her; they’re heading straight for her. She almost thought she could hear that gigantic horse picking up speed. It was a big black beast, racing toward her over the uneven ground. For the terrain, that kind of speed was dangerous.

But she would have to go faster than that if she wanted to get away with her life. She urged her team into a walk, then a trot, and finally into a gallop, ignoring the jostling of the wagon beneath her as the bumps and pits on the ground rattled her to her bones.

Lydia must have gotten a little too close to the tree the starlings were nesting in, because out of nowhere, a pair of them dive-bombed at her head, chasing her away and sending her running across the courtyard.

She could hear them gaining on her, but she dared not turn to look behind her. The first arrow to thunk into the side of the wagon startled her into yelping; the second arrow made her scream outright. They began to fall like rain. She was surprised to find herself wondering how they could shoot so well while running-- there was no way the owners of those arrows were all crowded into that one wagon.

She hunched her shoulders when she felt an arrow part the air a finger’s length from her cheek, then pitched forward as an axle broke and the wagon went straight down beneath her. She bounced against one horse’s rump and hit the ground next to the team, picked herself up without even trying to catch her breath, and ran. Part of her gave a thought for the horses-- hopefully they would either somehow free themselves or maybe be rescued-- and for her wares-- they’re not worth risking her life to save!

The starlings kept at Lydia, chirping frantically and swooping around her, until she tripped over Ryan where he sat in the grass. She toppled right into the middle of the space between him, Joanna, and Emery.

She found herself suddenly in the arms of one of the Keidenelle, and she beat at him with her fists as well as she could until she heard a woman’s voice. “Look, I don’t like his music much either, but that’s no reason to thwump him like that.”

Opening her eyes, Weslyn looked up into the face that had been stuck in her mind for days: Draegon’s. She collapsed against him, and the details of her morning rushed out of her so fast she could hardly stop for air. At least he seemed to understand.

“Keidenelle?” Draegon repeated. His face darkened.

“We can do one of two things,” said the woman’s voice. Weslyn suddenly noticed Draegon’s companions. One was the broad soldier Lady Ara had sent along to keep an eye on Draegon. The other was a slim, petite woman with a saucy look about her. “We can either stand our ground against these Keidenelle and hope to get rid of them, chase them off… or we can run.”

“With both our horses riding double,” the soldier put in. “We’d never keep ahead of them.”

“I’ve got two more horses back at my wagon,” Weslyn muttered.

“Where’s the wagon?”

She pointed. “On the other side of the oncoming Keidenelle band.”

There was only a moment between her lowering her hand and the sound of steel on leather. The big soldier had drawn his sword, and Draegon had produced some knives from somewhere on his person.

“You’re actually going to fight them? There are dozens of them!”

Draegon turned to her, his green eyes fiery. “And we’ll kill every one of them.”

“But aren’t you Keidenelle?”

The fire turned to ice. “I am no more Keidenelle than you are.” He looked insulted. “We fight."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Eleven

Lydia Rhys was born on July second. As a student, she had been very promising, graduating early, with colleges practically knocking down her door to offer scholarships. She took a few years off to let herself mature-- she attended cosmetology school in the interim-- so she would not be too terribly much younger than other college freshmen. But before she made her decision on where to go, or even what to major in, she fell head-over-heels for Robert, and was pregnant with her daughter not long afterward.

Lauren was three when Lydia divorced Robert and five when Lydia married Daniel. Lydia had managed to get out of a physically abusive relationship-- only to find herself deep in an emotionally and verbally abusive one. After two years of enduring, the abuse became physical, and she feared for her life and that of her daughter. Terrified, she eventually managed to get out of her second marriage and moved to start a new life with now ten-year-old Lauren.

They settled in Hapsburg, and Lydia landed a full-time job at a local bank to support her daughter. Lauren adjusted quickly, made friends, and excelled in school, just like her mother. A straight-A student, Lauren joined the band in sixth grade, played softball, and showed a promising future in law-- she was a fierce debater. Especially with her mother.

And then something happened when Lauren became a teenager. For all Lydia could see, Lauren snapped. The A’s fell to B’s then to C’s in a matter of months. The debating became mouthing off and then cussing out. At first, she tried to attribute it to being a teenager, but the change was so sudden and so drastic she couldn’t convince herself it was just the result of puberty attacking her daughter.

Lauren’s friends changed, and suddenly Lydia began uncovering secrets. Lauren was sneaking out of her classes at school-- and out of the house, even-- and smoking. And drinking, when she could manage it. At age thirteen!

Lydia sought professional counseling for her troubled daughter-- and for herself-- but things only got worse. Stress levels at work rose from downsizing and staffing issues, plus a corporate merger with another bank. She was having a hard enough time keeping herself stable, much less reining in the wild Lauren.

Then she found 17-year-old Brian naked in bed with Lauren when she came home from work one day a month before Lauren’s fourteenth birthday. When she confronted the teen about her “boyfriend” and their “actions” Lauren spewed that it was far from the first time she’d had sex.

Lydia snapped, and a week later, was committed to Ighosia Falls Insane Asylum by her social worker-- since there was no other family to do the deed.

Becca looked over Lydia’s background file and made her own paraphrasing of it all, trying to sort through the details to get to the real meat of her patient. Lydia had been a beautiful woman, no doubt, maybe a little tall for her weight, with very fine long dark hair and almost purple eyes. It was hard to reconcile the limp-haired, empty-eyed patient with the woman in the photo attached to her files.

She made a note of the daughter Lauren’s current location. She was in the custody of the state since her biological father and her ex-stepfather wanted nothing to do with her, and since all her grandparents were dead. According to the files, there had been no aunts or uncles to take her in; no cousins or even close friends had stepped in to watch over the girl. Becca felt the urge to weep at the thought of being so alone-- for Lydia and her daughter both.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Ten

The papers and video tapes made a huge clutter on Becca’s tiny desk, and the amount of material she suddenly had access to was astounding. She had never imagined that she would be doing a study like this, but both Dr. Anderson and the Board of Directors seemed eager to see what she would come up with. All this was Dr. Anderson’s notes on each of the patients involved. She stared, but her eyes didn’t really see them; she was more lost in chewing the eraser on her pencil-- a middle school habit she had never quite broken.

Sun setter. It meant something to them all, but what? The phrase wasn’t given any importance in Dr. Anderson’s notes; then again, incoherent mumbling was to be expected from people in a place like Ighosia Falls.

Becca disagreed with the good doctor’s thoughts on the phrase. She had the feeling that it was actually one word, but it would be hard to prove. It was hard to pick out spaces between words when people talked, but there were differences in the ways people said two words and the way they said one. What Dr. Anderson was certain was a two-word phrase, she had a hunch was one longer word. But that still got her no closer to uncovering the significance of it. Why were the patients so obsessed with it? There had to be a connection.


The hulking, broad-shouldered blacksmith was carrying a long cloth-wrapped bundle when Zanthys let the man into his chamber. With a flourish, the tradesman pulled back the cloth and unveiled the sword, exactly as he had described. It was Sonsedhor, down to the last detail. Zanthys grinned broadly as he ran a finger along the steel blade.

“No steel finer, M’lord,” the blacksmith said gruffly, at the same time caressing each word as he talked about his work. “Balanced true, and sharp as a cold wind. But far below what M’lord should truly carry. If I might say, a sword with more decoration would better suit M’lord’s station. A fine carved bone hilt with gilding and silver chasings, beaten brass and gems, gold, carved wood, whatever M’lord’s preference! Even other tempering methods would make a finer sword for M’lord to wear at his hip. Etchings along the steel could make M’lord a sword to hand down to his heirs.”

Zanthys shook his head at the man’s suggestions and suppressed a scoff at his frequent bows. He wrapped his hand around the hilt and lifted the sword. Lifted Sonsedhor. The though made his grin reappear; he could feel it broadening, trying to split his face in two. For all his rambling, the man did good work. At least, by Zanthys’s untrained eye, he did. This was the first real sword he had ever actually touched. Even as a curious child, his fingers had never touched anything more than a dinner knife. The weight of it, the knowledge of what such a weapon could do, filled him with a feeling he couldn’t quite describe.

“I suppose I will take you up on that offer,” he said to the still-complimenting blacksmith. Make a sword grand enough to suit me, as a great lord of Morena. I want one that I will not be ashamed to wear when I take my father’s place. And I want it in two days. Or less.”

The man scurried away, and a moment later, a servant had been summoned and sent of with orders to call on the finest leatherworker in the city.

He couldn’t make himself put down his Sonsedhor replica until the leatherworker was announced. He explained to the man what he wanted: two fine scabbards, one for this sword, one for the sword the blacksmith was set to making at this very minute. Both were to be the finest leather and decorated in thread: the plainer sword’s in gold, and his own in gold and silver. And maybe a few gems on his, too. He had to stop himself calling the plain sword Sonsedhor in front of the man; that could ruin everything. But he was adept at making people hear what he wanted them to hear.

“Two days,” he finished, sending the man back to his shop.

At first, Vale ignored the nurse who brought him his food. The chicken, buttered corn and peas, roll, and the little dish of pudding went untouched until they had grown cold. It was when the nurse came back and tried to talk him into eating that he lifted his eyes and looked at her from underneath scowling eyebrows. The look was menacing enough to make the nurse take a step backward.

With nothing left to do but wait, Zanthys decided to take his horse for a ride in the city. His ears were tuned to gossip, and he picked up enough to make him giddy. The city was abuzz with rumor that one of their own natives had already declared himself Cheyne reborn. The seeds had sprouted perfectly. There was a deep sense of cold satisfaction in knowing that the rumors were his own doing. Now all he needed was the scabbard.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Nine

Dr. Anderson sat in her husband’s recliner with a snifter in her hand and the lights dimmed, staring at the blank television screen and seeing nothing but Joanna Bailey with her face pressed to the floor, completely limp but somehow beyond the nurse’s ability to lift and replace in her chair. She heard Ryan Pellin’s humming and footsteps as he dashed through the courtyard for no obvious reason. She heard “sun setter” mumbled in the voices of each of the five patients, and nothing else.

Whatever was happening with her patients, it wasn’t improving. She couldn’t say for certain if it was really “worse” for the most part, there were no injuries. None of them seemed to be out to hurt themselves or anyone else, but this behavior was so out of character for them. It was nothing she had seen before from any of them, and the lack of cause was infuriating. And the fact that she hadn’t been the one to notice the repeated phrase…

Becca was speechless when Dr. Anderson informed her that the board had voted to allow her to do some independent-- but guided-- study on the “sun setter patients”.

Ryan and Emery sat on the grass near a flowerbed in the courtyard. Becca watched them from a window, taking notes and making comments to a handheld tape recorder for later reference. For the past few days, the two men had spent almost all their time together in the courtyard, but then whenever they were indoors, they passed by each other with hardly a glance. Half the time, Vale seemed to be spying on them. Becca would see him out of the corner of her eye, peering around a wall or over the back of a couch or a chair. Joanna maintained her distance from them, but seemed to also always be watching them, whether indoors or not, sitting and observing from her chair. Lydia appeared to have completely lost interest in them.


The plains stretched on to the horizon, unbroken and actually pretty boring. Necras was out of sight of the camp Roark and Draegon had made. Roark had to admit the bard could at least take care of himself, even if he was somewhat infuriating in his behaviors. He seemed completely content to wander, leading but not saying where exactly they were headed, if he even had any idea where he was going. He would hum now and then, or sing softly to himself while they traveled-- to Roark’s mind anyway-- aimlessly.

But at least he was able to build a campsite and a fire and didn’t have to have his back watched constantly as Roark had been afraid. And the tune he was strumming on his hand dulcimer as he sat by the crackling flames was relaxing. Roark had never had much of an ear for music, but even though he didn’t know the song he was hearing he could at least say it was music.

The other noise that reached him was something he did have an ear for: movement. The light of their little fire didn’t extend far, the moon was new, and the stars were obscured by thin clouds, so it was really the worst possible light for Roark to scout in. But it was the best kind of light for someone to ambush them. He limbered his sword in its sheath and squinted out into the darkness, searching and straining his ears for the sound of the movement again.

Draegon looked lost in his music, and the horses in their grazing. Roark refused to be so blasé about his situation. He took his sword from its scabbard and set to it with his whetstone, giving whoever was trying to sneak up the impression that he was unaware of his or their presence. He prayed there was only one.

Becca watched as Joanna suddenly and slowly began wheeling her chair along one of the walkways, inching closer and closer to Emery and Ryan.

Roark thought the rustling stopped, and he strained his ears to pick up any other sounds. But then he found it, only quieter than before. Whoever this was wasn’t too terrible at stalking; just not good enough to sneak up on him. He could almost feel the intruder at his back. Draegon was still strumming his hand dulcimer.

The approaching sound stopped, at his best guess, a handful of paces behind him, probably well out of the firelight’s small reach. He tensed his legs, ready to spring.

“If you mean to do us harm,” Draegon suddenly spouted, “we both know you’re here, and you won’t catch us by surprise. If you don’t mean us harm, show yourself now, and we might consider letting you go uninjured.”

Unable to stop his movement as quickly as he wanted, he spun, only to find himself face-to-face with the contortionist, Kemeny. She had a knife in hand and had managed to get closer to him than he had thought-- another half a pace and she would have been within arm’s reach of him had she wanted to stab him.

“Sit down, Kemeny, and put away the knife. Roark, either finish sharpening your sword or put it away. And you sit down, too. You look silly standing there with your jaw open.” The faint notes from the dulcimer gave a light accompaniment to Draegon’s voice. Roark wondered if he meant the music to do that so perfectly. “What are you doing here, Kemeny?”

The slim contortionist crossed her legs beneath her and settled onto the ground near the flames, extending her hands out for warmth. “I don’t know why, but when you came, I just… I suddenly realized how stuck I was. I felt trapped. I felt like I was in a box, only it wasn’t like in my shows. I can squeeze myself into a tiny wooden crate and feel nothing, but I felt like… like I couldn’t move at all, and I didn’t like it. The Traveling Sights-- they were something I suddenly realized I might never wriggle my way out of, so I left while I could.”

“While our dear Master Jonal Keffinen’s back was turned, you mean,” Draegon
said, sour notes punctuating the man’s name.

Kemeny nodded. “And I’m not going back. Ever. So I decided, since you’re the one who helped me realize how stuck I was, I would come with you.”

Draegon flicked one sour note and stopped playing abruptly. He opened his mouth at the same moment Roark felt his open to spew protests, but Kemeny only raised a hand and shut them both back up.

“I’m not after glory, and I’m not after the sword. I’m not in Keffinen’s pocket, just in case you’re thinking he’s sent me after you. I’ll stay out of the way, I promise.”

“This isn’t some walk in the gardens, Kemeny,” Draegon finally stammered. “This is serious. Who knows where we’ll end up, where this adventure” --his eyes flicked at Roark-- “will lead us? There might be danger, and I don’t know if we can really protect you, especially if we run across some Keid… bandits.”

She put her fists on her hips. Even sitting, she managed to make herself stand taller, so she seemed to be looking down on them like a mother at two little boys who had been telling lies. “I have just now taken my freedom and my fate in my own hands, Draegon. As a free woman, I have the right to go where and when I wish. And if where I want to go just so happens to be the same direction you’re going, then so be it. Of course, I’d hate to be traveling alone when there are two so very fine gentlemen so nearby. But know that I will follow you no matter where you go, and if some bandit makes off with my head, I’m blaming both of you!”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Eight

Dr. Anderson listened patiently as Becca Smitts spewed out her conjectures about the behavioral changes in the patients Ryan Pellin, Emery Landers, Vale Stapleton, Lydia Rhys, and Joanna Bailey. In watching recordings of their interactions with each other and their time alone, she noted that each of them had frequently used the phrase “sun setter”. Since all of them had done it at one point or another-- Ryan using it most often and Lydia the least-- it had to have some significance. But her research only brought out the literal meaning, or perhaps a setting sun as a metaphor for death. But her instincts told her it was something different to the patients. They spoke of it with some emphasis, as if it were proper-- the name of something.


Life around Necras finally returned to normal, and it infuriated Senne. The majority of the Seekers had left a week ago, the stragglers within the last four days. But some remained, a handful who seemed more interested in sitting in taverns, trying to keep the festivities going by drinking themselves into a stupor every night and picking right back up when they woke in the afternoon. She had trouble believing that her quarry was one of those who lingered, but there was always the chance, so rather than throw her lot in with someone who had already departed, she had chosen to remain and hope that one of the stragglers was the one.

What it really came down to, though, was that she was at a loss of where to go from here. Her master had said Sonsedhor’s master was one of the Seekers in Necras, but she had had no hints pointing to anyone in particular. It would be found, and where would she be when it happened? Still in Necras, waiting for one of the braid-wearing men with his face buried in a mug of ale and a serving girl’s bodice to suddenly produce the sword from underneath his chair? That thought brought a sneer to her lips. Maybe she should have followed after some random Seeker.

She ignored the hoots and lewd suggestions aimed at her as she walked through the common room of the inn, past the Seekers who were already out of control of their mouths even though it was still an hour before dark. She walked undisturbed to another inn, where she rented her room. The simple curtains at the window were pulled back, letting in the warm mid-evening light. Light that fell on the far-from-warm figure of the Dark Father himself, leaning back on his elbows on the bed, dressed in black accented by metallic blue and gold embroidery. He looked not at all pleased.

What more could she do than fall to her knees before him? She did, pressing her face to the floor.

Becca’s discussion with Dr. Anderson was cut short somewhere in the middle of discussing possible meanings for “sun setter” by the notification that one of the patients was having some sort of an outburst. When they reached her room, they found Joanna on the floor of her room. She had fallen from her wheelchair and was on her knees. The woman’s injuries had not left her completely immobilized, but movement from the waist down was very difficult for her.

She was crying, but whether it was from pain or something else wasn’t something she would explain. In fact, she didn’t seem to notice anyone around her at all.

“Have you already found my sword?” The Dark Father was outraged she could tell, although there was still no face to go by, only the black nothing where a face should be. “Or have you given up already? Is this task, simple as it is, too difficult for you?” She could hear the sneer on his nonexistent lips, feel the contempt coming off him in waves, settling on her shoulders like a mountain of weight. She pressed herself further to the floor, trying to flatten herself against the floorboards, or better yet, to sink into them and disappear. “You have proven yourself to be well below worthless. Give me one more reason why I should not strike you dead where you grovel.”

Silence. Did he want her to speak? He had asked questions, given her an order to answer him. “I… you… you gave me the powers…”

“And I can take them away, if I chose. But that would take more effort on my part than it would to destroy you. So I ask again, why should I not strike you dead? You have made me ask twice, flea. I will not ask a third.”

“I am faithful, master,” she blurted, her voice quavering and weak and desperate. “I can find him. No one else…”

“Do you think you are the only one searching? Are you so arrogant to think you are my only servant? Don’t you believe I have others? Dozens, hundreds of servants, both human and not? With your behavior, you’ve fallen below even the beasts! Get out of my sight!”

Her body twitched. This was her room, and he could come and go as he pleased, she knew, but he had ordered her away…

“Get OUT!”

Without even bothering to gather her skirts to keep her from tripping, she flew out of the room, out of the inn, out of Necras completely.