Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The box that had my name on it needed a key. I guess I could have broken it open but, obviously, the box itself was most likely the gift so I didn’t want to do that. I told myself even though it was empty, I still wanted it to be able to open. But what I was really thinking was there just might be a false bottom. Not likely, it was too small. I was just letting my stupid imagination run amok. But I still wanted to be sure. To do that, I had to find the key.
Grandpa once showed me a hidden place. He called it an attic but it was simply access to above the ceiling. There was no floor, just insulation and ceiling joists. He said it would support a person walking around as long as they stayed on the joists. He used to hide a bottle or two up there and sometimes it was where he would shift when the need came on him. Told me I could use it too. But when my need came on me the desire was to run. Fast. Free.
The opening itself was in Grandpa’s bedroom closet. That cousin, or whatever he was, looked up there too, all for maybe thirty seconds. The idiot harrumphed, something he did a lot that day, when he dropped the thin square piece of wood that covered the opening back into place and then climbed back down. Stupid ass really thought he had discovered something, too, when he saw it. Couldn’t get a chair in that tiny closet fast enough to get his fat head up into that hole. I laughed when he swore because he couldn’t see a fucking thing. He dug in his pocket for his keys and used some little light he had attached to it to gawk around in the darkness. Obviously, he saw nothing of value.
But then I was standing in that same closet, minus the chair, holding a flashlight and a bucket. Standing on tiptoe on top of that bucket I was able to get my fingers under the rim of the cover and haul myself up. I had stuck the flashlight in the waist of my pants and once I pushed the cover to the side and made myself secure on two of the ceiling joists, I pulled it out and turned it on. There might have been nothing to see with that idiot’s little key light but I had a high-power LED beam that reached out and chased the darkness pretty much clean out of the attic. Of course, I had no idea what Mr. Moron was trying to find because the fucker never told me. If it was something big then his stupid little light was probably just fine.
I, on the other hand, was looking for something tiny.
Basically, a needle in a haystack.
I ran the light all around the walls thinking he might have stuck the key in a board or duck taped it to a two by four. But short of crawling around the entire parameter of the place I didn’t see anything. I’m not sure what I expected really, maybe a flash of metal or a sparkle or something. That’s what happened in the movies. But I had as much luck as freak face did, my search just lasted longer.
Maybe it would be somewhere else, like under a kitchen drawer or in a ceiling light fixture. I turned to jump back down, turning the flash at the same time and reached to shut it off when the glint caught my eye.
Well, I’ll be damned. It actually does happen that way.
I flipped the light back on and right there, taped to the top of the cover, with scotch tape, mind you, not duct, was a tiny key. Just big enough to fit a small wooden box lock. I reached out and pulled it off the board thinking it was not really hidden all that well. But then grandpa had never been impressed with my deductive reasoning skills. Obviously, he wanted to make sure I found it.
After one more look around the empty house I hurried back to my bedroom and dug out the box I had shoved under my bed. I never told mom I had it. I was too worried that, if I was right and there really was something inside the box under a false bottom, it might be about shifting and there were just two things I needed to keep to myself. My ability to become a wolf, and the fact I whacked off to the sight of penis’ and balls, not pussy and breasts. They were the only two secrets I had from her. Hell, the fact I was gay I never talked about with grandpa either.
The key fit. It turned hard but it clicked open and I lifted the lid.
Damn. It was filled with bubble wrap.
Really? But when the pimpleheaded jerk opened it, it had been empty. Even I saw that. Now it was full? How weird was that? I pulled out the wad and unrolled it slowly. The first ring that appeared, flashed what I thought at first was a really weird light but it was probably just catching the glow of the moon from my window. I had not turned on the lights in my room, afraid mom would wonder what I was doing in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter though. I could see just fine by the light of the moon. The ring I found was large. Except, instead of a band that would hug the finger, it had five claws, like an animal’s paw… no, a human hand. Maybe it was a combination, with the thumb holding a blue stone that looked like the moon itself. The thing was actually cool and creepy at the same time.
I placed the ring on the floor beside me and turned my attention back to the bubble wrap. I unrolled it further and another ring appeared. This one winked lightly at me, falling out and rolling into my lap. Picking it up I saw it, too, was large, and weird. This one had a traditional thick silver band, shiny and heavy. It had a boxy chopped kind of top that held a what I will call silver inlaid stone. It was shimmery, white and black at the same time. it seemed to be almost transparent, almost an optical illusion of great depth. They were probably the same type of stone. It was a trick of the moon light again is what I thought. Oddly enough, though, when I moved the ring a certain way, the stone would go dark, as if it rejected the light. I thought that effect was pretty amazing.
Curious, I put that second ring on my middle finger. I knew it was too big, it would just slip right back off, but that was when something I could not blame on the moon happened. It sucked itself in, hugging my finger tight. Scared the fucking shit out of me. I ripped it off my finger and threw it across the floor.
Breathing heavy, like I had run a mile uphill, I watched it roll away. As I watched, it returned to its normal size. It fucking changed, right there, lying on the floor.
The damn thing shifted.
I glanced down at the even larger ring lying next to me. For some reason, I didn’t even want to touch it. I set the box and bubble wrap aside and crawled over to where the other ring had rolled and picked it back up. This time when I slid it on, I knew what it would do, so kept it on my hand when it sucked itself in to hug my finger. Still scared me shitless but I breathed through it.
It felt tingly. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt a little weird with it on. Lightheaded. Breathless. I wanted to shift and run.
But I had school in the morning and running would have to wait. So, for just that night, I pulled the ring off, wrapped both of them up in the bubble and stuffed it back inside the box.
The next day I was up early, finishing my chores like a madman and all before I headed off to school, too. My mom was impressed.
“See what not complaining every time you turn around can do? You actually get stuff done.” she said.
Yeah, I would give her that. Mainly because I didn’t want to have to stand around yapping with my mother and the fact I didn’t want to come straight home after school. I needed to get out to the woods.
With the ring on my hand.
Something told me things would be different with the ring on my hand.
And oh, fuck, they were.
All that talk about moms knowing shit without being told, the ‘eyes in the back of her head’ thing, wasn’t really true. At least, not for my mom. But it wasn’t as true with kids who you spent all day, every day, with. Greg and Maggot, I never did know the asshole’s real name, were two of the worst bullies our school ever produced. Neither one of them were all that big which, of course, never made any difference with me. Some of the girls were bigger than I was. But those two ran the school like dictators and if you were in their radar, you were toast. That year I was always in their sights. From having my head shoved in the toilet one of them had peed in, to lunches, the really juicy ones, being dumped on my head, I never knew what to expect.
One time they found me in the boy’s bathroom, grabbed me and hauled me out to the hall. Somewhere they had gotten some rope and they tied my hands together around a pole near the lockers. Then they stripped my pants off and burned them. Right there on the fucking floor. They took out a lighter and set them on fire. Then they high tailed it out of the school before it set off the fire alarms which sent every kid in the school into the hallways. Most filed past me without making comment but not all of them did and soon I had an audience standing and laughing and pointing. I didn’t really know how many because I tried not to look up, but there were a lot. I was absolutely dying of embarrassment. Finally, some stupid idiot teacher took pity and threw his jacket over me. I know the hallway cleared due to someone else being a drill sergeant as two others tried to untie me. Someone from my class was dispatched to find my gym clothes which had mysteriously turned into a set of girl’s clothes, damn it, but I had nothing else. I had to wear them.
They called my mom, made it out to be my fault. I didn’t correct anyone. Fuck, they didn’t even ask who tied me up. I figured they knew. They gave me three days off for all the trouble I supposedly caused. I was to use that time to “think about my future”.
I was this messed up little kid who could shift into a wolf at will and fantasized about sucking dick. What future?
The afternoon after discovering the rings, I didn’t know I had been followed. I should have. Grandpa always said the nerves of a wolf were so much more sensitive than a human. Hell. I was clueless. I had pocketed the second ring, the one I had already tried on, when I left for school that morning. Laying as low as I could all day, I hopped my bike not three minutes after the last buzzer.
I rode fast out to Graham Park which was a large nature preserve. It was where I shifted and ran whenever I got the chance. I locked up my bike in the deserted parking lot and fished out the ring. I let it snug up on my finger, that same fear/thrill making my heart lurch, and took off toward one of the trails. I would have to strip and I wanted to make sure to hide my clothes.
I have to admit, I had been getting careless. No one ever went out there much, sometimes at night, but never during the day. Besides, I usually ran so far out into the woods no human would have followed me anyway. Looking back, however, I really had no one to blame but myself.
I stashed my clothes behind a tree stump about three steps into the woods from the path. Unless you knew they were there, you would never find them. People could pass right by it and never have a clue. But evidently Greg and Maggot saw me put them there. I never even had a tingle or anything alerting me to their presence. Maybe it had to do with my being so jazzed about the run and the fact I was wearing that ring. I knew there was something different about me with it on. I didn’t know what it was but I was determined to find out. I looked around, but obviously not well, and seeing no one, I turned my naked body toward the deep wood and starting to jog. As I jogged I let the change come over me and within a couple of seconds I dropped to four paws and stretched out. I was going to keep it short, just an hour or so, but I also knew how I could completely lose track of time when I was in my wolf form. The sky was starting to darken by time I made it back to that stump. I was slightly disappointed nothing had happened while wearing the ring. I didn’t seem to run any faster, didn’t take on any extra strength or sight. After a while I realized I totally forgot I even had it on. I only just noticed it again as I morphed back into my human form as I walked up to the stump.
But my clothes were not there.
Shit! This was the stump, right? I walked out to the path and turned around a few times. Yes, damn it! It was the stump. I went back and checked again, thinking I simply missed them, knowing of course I didn’t. Praying they would appear anyway, like they were playing a trick on me or something. I even dug in the leaves thinking they could have buried themselves.
Shit. I was in trouble.
I stood there feeling like an idiot. What the fuck did I do now? I sure as hell couldn’t ride back to my house, a good six miles through town, stark naked. I wrapped my arms around myself wishing for even those girl’s gym clothes.
“You looking for these?”
The voice was unmistakable. It was Maggot. I had been standing with my back toward the trail, watching the stump as if by some magic the damn thing would chuck up my clothes. I quickly turned at the sound of his voice, cursing my so called “wolf senses” which obviously were absolutely useless. I should have at the very least heard someone approaching. Even my human senses should have been able to do that.
But it wasn’t just Maggot. I knew it wouldn’t be anyway. Right beside him stood jerk off Greg with a big ass grin on his stupid face. They were standing about ten feet away, just up the trail. Greg was the one holding my clothes.
My first thought was to cover myself but the only thing I had to do that with were my hands and it was a little late for that anyway. My second thought was the fact they had to have been there the whole time, waiting for me to come back. Other than my bike in the parking lot, a non-descript rusty old thing, entirely without any kind of personal mark on it at all, I had a hard time believing they knew I would be here. They had to have followed me from school.
My third thought was – how much did they see? Just me getting naked to run in the woods or did they see me change. Even if they hadn’t seen me shift when I first set out, I hadn’t even checked for bystanders when I arrived back. I shifted like it was the most natural thing in the world.
But they must have seen me the first time. They were way too calm to have only seen that shit now.
Monday, April 3, 2017
An interview with King Diagus from
The Servant Crown
We are talking with King Diagus Amar of Blade Rain. Thank you for having us, Your Majesty.
So, let’s start with this castle. Blade Rain. Pretty intimidating if you ask me.
(Looks around) No. Just your average 300 room castle.
(Smirks) Aren’t they all?
Oh! I would love to see a ghost!
(Cocks his head narrowing his eyes) I would just let them be if I were you.
Let them be? No! Let’s not! Please, tell me about some of the ghosts that walk these halls.
(Grinning) Not my stories to tell but you’re welcome to stay the night and see if any of them might indulge you.
Really? That would be wonderful!
Speaking of ghosts, what can you tell me about Ice Dragon Pass? Is it truly cursed?
How do you know?
Stories from the unbelievers who arrogantly go in late, thinking they would prove otherwise, and actually make it back out. Oddly, the stories vary. From shadows coming to life to pitfalls suddenly opening underneath travelers, to shifting pathways that lead to dead ends, no two accounts have been the same. But it only proves the curse does exist with stories like that.
Why is it cursed? Who cursed it?
That knowledge was never passed down. I’m afraid no one knows why…or who.
Wow. Really? That seems so strange.
I thought so, too. But I have read every book in this castle, every account of every session of every king since when they began to write these things down. I’ve talked to minstrels, young and old, who would have the knowledge in songs or poems that the books do not and …nothing. It’s as if the spirits don’t want us to know.
Wouldn’t it make some sense that it was a witch, perhaps from Dark Marsh, that did it? Who else would have the power?
(Shrugs) Maybe. Dark Marsh is a very mysterious place.
What can you tell me about Dark Marsh?
Not much. I’ve only been there once and honestly don’t plan on visiting again any time soon.
(Nods) Yes. You were there once when you save Tama and Aydin, his son.
Actually, Aydin is my son, Tama’s nephew. And I wasn’t the one who did the saving.
(Sigh) Again, I’m not sure. I really wasn’t much of a witness. That would be a question to direct to Tama.
Is he here?
Of course. With his ability to attract trouble, he is no longer allowed out of my sight.
Are you serious?
(Laughs) No. He might be smaller than me but he is very capable of taking care of himself. And our little man.
Ah, the little man. What’s it like to be a father?
(Laughs again) I’m still learning. I will tell you one thing, it’s exhausting.
I understand he can wield a little magic?
No, not Aydin. But he does have a toy rabbit that Tama made. That thing seems to be filled with magic. It seems to act as a strong barrier between Aydin and evil. Probably a good thing in this…haunted castle. (Wink)
Oh. We’re back to that, are we? So, tell me, have you seen any?
Ghosts? Nope. Tama has though. At least, that’s what he tells me.
Being a healer he seems to be much more aware of things like that. He has a way with plants and herbs, things like that. He has a vast knowledge about many things that are natural and maybe more than a few that are un-natural. (Shrugs) I don’t question it.
Tama has seem ghosts wandering these halls? Has he been able to identify any?
Like who? Past kings? Past queens?
Have there been?
Well, I did read about an account from a past king about a tree he found in Raven Bog. The tree was large and formidable and in the way of a road the king wanted to build. The king ordered it cut down but his men all refused. Seemed there was an image of a face in the trunk and they all considered it sacred. The king looked for and found the face. I understand it was quite clear. Eyes, nose, mouth. Even teeth. But evidently the king was not impressed. The king ordered once again to cut it down although it took him a while to find enough men to do it. He then had it made into a footboard for his bed. (chuckle) Wouldn’t you know, the carpenter used that particular piece of wood with the face on it. Put it right there in the center so it could stare up at the king while he slept. Now, kings are not normally frightened of much. But after only a single night in that bed, the king had the footboard moved to a different bed in a far away room in the castle.
(Whispering) What happened to him?
The way the story is told, the king said the face in the footboard came to life in the middle of the night. It opened its mouth wide enough to swallow a man whole. It evidently tried to tip the bed so the king would roll right in, but its rotten, stinking breath woke the king and he was able to jump from the bed just in time, scraping an arm in the process. After hearing all the commotion, his guards rushed in but they found nothing out of the ordinary…except their king sitting on the floor with a bleeding arm. The face in the wood had returned to – well – not normal exactly. Seems there was a tiny trickle of blood coming from its wooden mouth.
Blood? Is the footboard… is it still in the castle?
I’m not sure. I can’t imagine it’s not, but no one knows where it is. The servants say they have looked for it for years but none of the beds have a face on the footboard. However, the rumor is, it is on the hunt for human blood. Once it had a taste of it, it wants more.
It wanders the castle. It might be able to travel from room to room, bed to bed, which is why no one can find it. (A door closes in the distance but a window rattles close by)
(Jumping and then looking frantically around) Maybe it’s wise we change the subject?
(Diagus yawned and stretched) Maybe it’s wise we head to bed. It’s late. I’ll have a servant show you to a room.
Ummm…a room? Bed? No. I mean, I don’t see any reason I need to stay overnight. I have plenty of story right here for my blog.
Ahhh. You mean you don’t want to catch a ghost?
Someone once told me to let them be! That’s what I always say, too. Let. Them. Be!
Find Buy Links
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Monday, March 6, 2017
The Servant Prince
The Servant King
and the brand new The Servant Crown
Blurb:Prince Joron of Blade Rain was kissed by a man he had no idea was King Aric of Claymoor Doom. Of course King Aric had no idea the one he kissed was even a man since Joron was dressed as a woman. Disguised to escape the newly crowned king of Blade Rain who just happens to be Joron's brother, Joron is swept off his feet by Aric when he is rescued by him from an assault. Aric is also swept off his feet by the beauty of the "woman" and that one amazing kiss. Aric, who is led to believe the beautiful woman he kissed is actually the princess, immediately goes to the king of Blade Rain and offers for the princess’s hand in marriage and his offer is accepted. Unfortunately, King Aric is now betrothed to Liarta, Joron’s sister. But an emergency has King Aric racing home without finding out the mistake he has made and now Joron must ride to Claymoor Doom to renegotiate the offer since Liarta is in love with someone else and does not want to marry King Aric. Imagine Aric's surprise when he discovers the prince is the one he thought was the princess! So Aric does the only thing he can think of. He will release Liarta from her obligation of marriage, but only if Joron takes her place...in the marriage bed! Find the buy link HERE
Blurb: Things are going well for King Aric. He had Joron safely hidden away. Diagus, although a continuing threat to Joron, had left his castle empty handed, and the Cetin Gang was headed for his dungeons. He should be thrilled but – something was not right. He could feel it.Sure enough, when he returns to Claymoor castle, he finds Joron has been kidnapped and he must ride immediately to rescue him. And knowing the culprit, it was not going to be an easy task. However, Aric has a trump card; a letter from a dead king. Seemingly nonsensical at first, it now points a finger directly at a murderer and Aric is convinced Joron is next. Somehow he has to find him and get Joron back into his protective arms before it’s too late.Unfortunately, there are other huge pitfalls just waiting in the shadows. It turns out Joron is the true king of Blade Rain and Aric's long dead wife miraculously returns to claim Aric as her own. Between all the lies, murders, and life altering revelations, is there hope for these two at all? Find the buy links HERE
And the BRAND NEW
Blurb: King Diagus of Blade Rain is in a bind. He is duty bound to produce a royal heir and the only way he knows that can happen is if he beds a woman. Definitely not his idea of Happily Ever After. In fact, far from it. Except instead of walking down the aisle with the princess he has arranged to marry, Diagus is off in the wilds of Claymoor Doom. But there’s a good reason. Rumor had it there was someone near Gray Valley with Diagus’s stark blue eyes. A possible relative and therefore an heir? Was there a chance he might not have to marry a woman, after all? Regrettably, Diagus finds no one matching the rumor’s description. What he does find is a heinous, black magic plot for murder and Diagus is the next on the list.
Tama’s pregnant sister claimed to be carrying the child of a king. Not just any king. The mighty king of Blade Rain. She was determined to get out of the very poor house of Hilman and into the lap of luxury. But fate had its own agenda. Sadly, Tama must raise his nephew all by himself after his sister unexpectedly dies in childbirth. It’s not a problem, though. He loves Aydin as he loved his sister – with all his heart.
However, Tama’s lazy and abusive father, Beourn, is angry and extremely disappointed. Being the grandfather of a crown prince, he was looking forward to moving to the castle and living a life of extravagance. With his daughter’s death, that was no longer possible. So, he does the unthinkable. He kidnaps Aydin with the intent of selling him to the rich and powerful king. Tama is stunned he would do such a thing and chases after Beourn to rescue Aydin. But he doesn’t get far before he is confronted with a beautiful man being viciously attacked. Of course Tama has to help. If he doesn’t, the man will surely die. Except Tama quickly learns the man is far more than just someone in trouble. In fact, the man is a king and will change Tama’s life. Forever. Find the buy links HERE
Saturday, February 18, 2017
THE SERVANT PRINCE
BLURB for The Servant Prince and The Servant King: Prince Joron of Blade Rain was kissed by a man he had no idea was King Aric of Claymoor Doom. Of course King Aric had no idea the one he kissed was even a man since Joron was dressed as a woman. Disguised to escape the newly crowned king of Blade Rain who just happens to be Joron's brother, Joron is swept off his feet by Aric when he is rescued by him from an assault. Aric is also swept off his feet by the beauty of the "woman" and that one amazing kiss. Aric, who is led to believe the beautiful woman he kissed is actually the princess, immediately goes to the king of Blade Rain and offers for the princess’s hand in marriage and his offer is accepted. Unfortunately, King Aric is now betrothed to Liarta, Joron’s sister. But an emergency has King Aric racing home without finding out the mistake he has made and now Joron must ride to Claymoor Doom to renegotiate the offer since Liarta is in love with someone else and does not want to marry King Aric. Imagine Aric's surprise when he discovers the Prince is the one he thought was the Princess! So Aric does the only thing he can think of. He will release Liarta from her obligation of marriage, but only if Joron takes her place...in the marriage bed!
THE SERVANT KING
THE SERVANT CROWN
BRAND NEW! Diagus gets his story! March 6, 2017
BLURB COMING SOON!
Sunday, November 27, 2016
The Servant CrownThis will be the third book in the series. The first two, The Servant Prince and The Servant King (Ice Dragon Tales) is not available right now but will be again soon, along with The Servant Crown, Diagus's story. I don't have a blurb just yet but I do have a very unedited first chapter. Here it is. As always, I hope you like it. I expect to have both Ice Dragon Tales and The Servant Crown out early next year. Let me know what you think.
Tama was the last to leave the graveyard. His father, angry and disheartened, had left at least fifteen minutes earlier, right after the priest said his final Commitment Prayer. Even the priest at that point, with a quick nod to Tama and a brief, harried look around, gathered up his robes and fled as if some demon chased him. Sadly, other than the grave diggers, who worked to cover the grave even as Tama stood there, the wet dirt making a hollow sound as it hit the coffin, the three of them had been the only ones who bothered to witness Kelay’s burial. Of course, the continuous February sleet didn’t help, making the ground greasy and treacherous. Still, Tama was sad for Kelay that no one else came.
Tama sighed as he trudged through the freezing mud to the heavy iron gates of the cemetery. Although women died in childbirth all the time, he was still in shock his sister had suffered such a fate. She had been strong and healthy right up to the moment she announced she was in labor. The woman who had suddenly appeared days earlier, a woman who identified herself as a midwife, gave no indication there was even a problem, only that Kelay had given birth to a robust and strong son. Except, minutes afterward, something went horribly wrong.
Exactly what, Tama had no idea, and his father was ignorant as well. Tama should never have left the house. He had been told the birth would take hours yet so he decided to tend to the animals. He had been in the barn when Kelay breathed her last. Sensing something wrong, Tama hurried back to her room only to catch the midwife packing her wares and hastening out the door, his father wailing that he had lost his precious daughter and a baby crying heartily on the bed next to a lifeless Kelay.
To think, even carrying a crown prince couldn’t save her.
Yes, that was the story Kelay had told them. She had been impregnated by a king. But no one other than his father truly believed her.
Kelay wanted out of Beourn Hilman’s house. Beourn was their abusive, gluttoness, lazy father. She felt her only hope was finding a husband. Once she reached of age, she began her search. However, in Elven Port, there were no great opportunities for the likes of the Hilman family. Those with money had options. But with no possible dowry, Kelay had few prospects. So, unfortunately, she chose to frequent the ale houses, carousing with the sailors, pirates and ruffians. Tama knew Kelay obviously did far more than just drink with them, though. Sometimes she didn’t come home for days. So how she knew her offspring had royal blood Tama had no clue. But he was also aware women were mysterious in that respect so neither he nor his father ever questioned it.
She had been so happy, making her plans to travel to Castle Blade Rain to tell the king herself. But only after the baby was born. “To be sure,” she had said. “To be certain.”
Their father, too, had beamed as Kelay’s belly grew round and heavy. “He will be a big baby,” he boasted to her at least once a day, giving Kelay any of the extra food, encouraging her to eat heartily. “He will be a boy the king will be proud of.”
“Aye, father, he will indeed.”
“Why do you have to wait, Kelay?” Tama had asked her early on. “You have certainly told enough people already, have you not? Why not travel to the castle and tell him now?”
“You fool, Tama! How can there be proof he is the father before the child is born? I need to wait to see the baby’s eyes. That will be the proof.”
“Oh yes! King Diagus’s eyes are the bluest blue I have ever seen. Surely the baby will have them and no one will question his birthright – or mine.”
Tama had scoffed at that. “How is it you are so certain the baby is a boy in the first place and what possible birthright could you claim, Kelay?”
“Women’s intuition, my brother. And my birthright comes from the fact I am the child’s mother, of course! The rumors are the mighty king of Blade Rain needs to marry to produce an heir but takes no woman to his bed. Fate may have it that he is waiting for me. He will make me his queen, you wait and see.”
Tama had doubted that particular scenario of Kelay’s intuition, where the king would marry her. But, the part about the baby being a boy and having amazing blue eyes had both been true. If the king had eyes this color then even Tama would have to believe Kelay’s story of how she became pregnant, however sordid.
Tama was now sad, though, that even he had a bit of that “woman’s intuition”. His doubt had also been true. Kelay would not be marrying the King. It broke Tama’s heart that the big strapping baby, who cried out in a strong voice right from the start, unfortunately was calling for a mother who would never come.
He smiled when he heard the baby’s wails even before he arrived back to the front door of the cottage where they all lived. He was most likely hungry again. There had been a nursemaid called in by a caring neighbor to help with the feedings directly after Kelay’s death. But unfortunately that lady did not have enough milk to feed both her son and Kelay’s hungry boy so another had to be located. In the meantime, Tama had fashioned a bottle of sorts out of a wine skin, allowing for the baby to suck cow’s milk from it. The child had become content immediately, cuddling into Tama’s chest, slurping loudly as he took nourishment. Tama knew in that moment, he loved the small child as if he were his own. Even rejoicing silently that a new nursemaid had yet to be found.
Tama entered the small house and went immediately to the cold storage where the cow’s milk was being kept and filled the makeshift bottle. He then went to the cradle where the baby fussed from and picked him up. He glanced at his father who was sitting by himself and staring into the fire in the hearth, saying nothing, not even acknowledging Tama’s arrival. Tama sighed. Ever since Kelay had announced she was pregnant with a king’s baby and her assurance they were all soon to become royalty and move to the palace, he had no time for Tama other than to shout out the endless chores needing to be done and to beat him for his slowness to finish them all at once. Day after week after month he endured his father’s irrational behavior while his sister enjoyed lazy days, additional blankets and surplus food when there was any. Even to the point of Tama going hungry if he was late to the table due to any number of delays which his father often made sure of.
He loved his sister but was dismayed at her willingness to encourage their father’s harsh actions against him.
“It is for the greater good, Tama. You will soon never be hungry again!”
Another oddity was that Beourn had insisted Kelay have a Christian burial. Not that any of them had attended a church. But, it seemed, Beourn was not going to tempt God’s wrath by simply burying Kelay in the field in an unmarked grave. No. Beourn absolutely insisted she be in hallowed ground and be personally blessed by the local priest even though it was not free and coin was a rare visitor in their house.
“You will have to take the baby to the castle.”
Tama had sat down at the tiny table in the kitchen area to avoid having to be in his father’s sight line. Even though he was doing a most important chore, feeding the king’s baby, he was afraid his father would insist he do one of the tens of other things he had already listed out for him this morning, nearly preventing him from attending the burial. For a moment, since pleasant conversation was infrequent between them, Tama wondered who the man was speaking to. Seeing no one else, he repeated what he thought he heard. “You want me to take the baby to the castle?”
“Yes. That king must accept this baby as his own and give us gold in return.”
“Gold in return? What are you talking about, father?”
He turned then, with that fierce look of craziness he always seemed to have when he looked at Tama. “Of course, gold, my daft son! What else? Sheep? Cows? We cannot afford to keep such lavish things. You must ask for gold. Then return with it and we will finally live the way we should live, being related to a king.”
“Why would he give me gold, father? Are you suggesting I leave the baby with him?”
“Yes, yes, of course, boy! Leave the child, take the gold and come home. An easy task.”
“I thought the intent was to live in the castle.”
“Without Kelay there is no longer any hope of that. The only thing left is to obtain gold for the child.”
“But have you no care for this child? No love? He is your grandson!”
The man slowly removed himself from his chair and walked toward Tama. For the first time in a long time Tama did not recoil. He held the baby, the king’s child. His father would not dare to touch him now. But then his father looked at the child as if he looked upon something fearful and Tama was no longer sure. He said quietly, “You will go in the early morning. Having to negotiate the Grey Mountains, Blade Rain is a good week away by fast horse. You will not have a fast horse.”
Tama looked down to the baby’s face as he hungrily sucked at the milk, his little hand clinging tightly to Tama’s shirt, his sweet blue gaze seeking Tama’s. “How will I keep him alive on that long of a trip? The nights are frigid, yet. The baby may not survive. Let us wait for a few weeks, until it is warmer.”
The older man sighed heavily. “Yes. I suppose. It can’t be helped.” But he huffed then. “Think of it, my son. We will soon be rich.”
“We are without Kelay. Now you want to rid us of her son. Is wealth the only thing you cherish?”
His father laughed but it sounded sad.
Or maybe Tama simply imagined it.
The days passed swiftly after that and spring became summer. Tama’s days were full, he was far too busy to discuss a departure time with his father.
“After I get the crop in, father. Wait for that at least.”
“I need to take care of the weeds, father. The crop will most surely die if I don’t. Give me a few days.”
“The sun is too hot to take the boy out. We need to wait for a break in the weather.”
And as the days and then months flew by, the baby grew. Tama named him Aydin, which was elven for “prince”, something Tama’s father was unaware of. He just seemed happy to be able to call the child by other than “Kelay’s boy”. Soon Aydin was sitting up and “talking”, calling Tama “Papa” and Beourn, “Boppa”. Thankfully, Aydin was eating solid foods now and Tama was able to allow his father to once again sell the cow’s milk, making him very happy. It brought a small amount of coin into the house, coin Beourn fiercely guarded in a jar somewhere in his bed chamber.
And as always, Mrs. Bustress, Elven Port’s most wealthy resident, was their best customer.
“I just had to come by and see Aydin’s beautiful blue eyes again, Beourn. Quite the looker he will be when he grows up. I’ve been telling everyone that for months!”
“Yes, Mrs. Bustress. I believe so, too. Now you said you wanted all the milk?”
“Go to bed, Tama.” Tama’s father told him one evening after Tama had finally gotten Aydin to sleep. Tama was bone tired from the constant stream of responsibilities that his father heaped on his shoulders. He had not slept well in too long, keeping an ear open for Aydin. The boy was teething and had bouts with fever and night terrors and Tama needed to be there to calm him. His father couldn’t be called on to help, either. Not only because of his laziness, but because, sometimes, Tama had the thought Beourn believed the child was cursed. Rare was the time when he would even touch the child, much less hold him or comfort him.
“Yes. I plan on it. Is there any supper for me?”
“Alas, boy, I am sorry. There is only a crust left of the bread you made. Here.” He handed a nice sized chunk to Tama who was grateful to have anything at that moment.
“Thank you. But, I am surprised. There has to be meat from the rabbits we caught in the traps, no? And what about the turkey I was able to shoot with my bow and arrow?”
“Ahhh, yes. I will cook all those up tomorrow and you can have as much as you want. I will even rise early and make a hearty breakfast of cakes and eggs.”
“Cakes and eggs? We have no flour for cakes and I thought you sold all the eggs once again to Mrs. Bustress when she came by the other day.”
“Yes, I sold her most of the eggs and in return, she gave me flour.”
“You saved eggs for us this time? Well, then! I will most assuredly look forward to a grand breakfast before I begin my day. What a treat that will be! I can hardly wait. Thank you, my father.”
His father had oddly grinned then. Looking back, Tama should have known better. It had been the first time since before Kelay had claimed to be pregnant from a powerful king that his father had spoken so politely to his only son. The first time in a very long time he was offered any form of kindness. Oh yes, he should have been on the aleart. For when Tama awoke the next morning, concerned he hadn’t been roused in the night by Aydin, he discovered the baby and his father gone. The cradle was empty, his father’s bed never even slept in, all the food had disappeared and their one and only horse, Rego, was missing as well.
“No!” Tama had whispered into the early dawn, his heart in his throat. How long had his father been planning this; begging for Tama to hunt this past week, even after he had been successful with the traps? How had Tama slept through them leaving? He usually slept so lightly. But the chores had been enormous and endless and last night, right before Tama trudged off to his loft, his father had even shared a small bit of his ale. Could his father have raided his healing herbs pouch and concocted a sleeping potion? Again, how had he missed it?
And how would he catch up to them? They surely had at least a few hours head start. Even if they had only a single hour it would still be impossible. They were on horseback, Tama, on foot. But it didn’t matter. He had to catch up to them before his father gave the baby away to the king of Blade Rain.
Tama quickly rumaged through the cottage to find anything his father may have left that would help him on his journey. He rolled up a change of clothes in his sleeping bag along with his flint and small ax. He next grabbed his knife and his bow and arrows, hoping to take down at least some small prey by time he laid his head down tonight seeing his father left him no food at all.
His stomach growled and he cursed his father for lying to him. He had fallen asleep with the thoughts of filling his stomach this morning. Not going hungry yet again and chasing off to rescue his child.
Yes. His child. Aydin was his. The little tyke was only months old but he made Tama’s life so bright and happy, giving him up to a total stranger, even if he was a king, wasn’t an option. He looked forward so much coming home to those little arms that would wrap powerfully around his neck. And he simply loved covering that cherub face with kisses.
“Papa home!” his little voice would sound out.
“Oh yes, my big boy. Papa is home.”
“Tico, tico!” and Aydin’s little fingers would “tickle” Tama wherever he could reach.
Tama’s heart would swell each time with great happiness at Aydin’s energy. He couldn’t help but take the time to play with him, even when Tama was dead tired from the day, tickling him and making them both laugh. Often to the dismay of his father.
“You’re spoiling the lad. He needs to be taught life is full of work and pain, not laughter.”
Tama cringed at his father’s constant berating of him although he wondered whether Beourn knew much of work anymore. However, if anyone knew those harsh words were truth, it was Tama.
“However, being the lad will soon be sitting at the king’s table,” his father continued, “he just might escape such things. Speaking of which, when are you going to do what I told you to do months ago and take the child to the castle Blade Rain? The weather is once again becoming unpredictable. Another couple weeks and it may become impossible to move through the Gray Mountains.”
“Father, why speak of this again? Aydin is happy here with us, is he not?”
But he had known the old man was not going to let it go, knew the lure of his imagined gold they would be offered in return was too strong. Why had he not heeded those thoughts? Why had he not done exactly as Beourne had done; taken the child, the food, and Rego, and strike out on his own, leaving his father to pitch and moan all by himself?
The final thing Tama took was a pretend rabbit Tama had made for Aydin out of leftover white rabbit fur. He had fashioned a body and head with long ears and even managed to blacken the fur where the eyes and nose should be. He stuffed it full of aromatic herbs and specially dried forest gatherings. Then he laid the rabbit in the moonlight seven times, inviting the protection spirits to enter, invoking them to keep the bearer of the rabbit safe from all evil. Aydin loved the thing and even slept with it every night. Beourne had, of course, chastised Tama for wasting his precious time with the project. But when Tama saw how Aydin took to the talisman, he beamed at his father.
“See? The boy doesn’t think I have wasted my time.”
“He is only a child! He has no mind to understand the responsibilities of an adult. You are daft if you accept a mere smile as payment for your labors!”
Still, that was exactly how those smiles felt for Tama. And the smile was always there for him, no matter what it was that Tama did, even for just the act of coming in the door after a long day. Those little hands and knees would carry him immediately to Tama. “Pay, papa, pay?”
“Oh yes, my sweet Aydin. Of course, papa will play.” And they would bounce the rabbit around the floor pretending they were a rabbit family in the deep wood. Aydin would actually squeak his enjoyment and hug the fake rabbit again and again. Kissing it as often as he would kiss Tama. It was no surprise his father would leave such a happy thing behind.
Tama looked over his field of alfalfa as he readied himself for departure. He had been thinking to begin the harvest soon. After keeping what he deemed he could for their own horse and cow, he fully intended on trading the rest for needed winter supplies including seed for the following spring. He had even thought of negotiating for a pair of new boots, having patched and repatched and re-repatched the boots he had on. But he doubted he or his father would be back here to this place. He would stop in town and tell Mr. Olson at the feed mill to send someone and take in the harvest instead. At least someone would benefit from it. Maybe tend to the chickens and their one lone cow, too.
If his father ever returned – well, he no longer cared.
Tama turned toward the south and hurried toward the castle Blade Rain.