Friday, December 28, 2018


Leisle and I were Chosen for the Assembly in the same season, the winter we turned a dozen years, and were from the same rural mountain range. I was a Mage of some talent, but she was my Tender, the one who fed me power from flames and allowed me to cast magics I could never achieve alone. I knew from the beginning that I was lucky to have her, for only one in twenty Mages are allowed to bond with a Tender. But it was not long before I realized how blessed I was to have this Tender in particular, how favored by fate I was to know her at all.

I can still see her the day of our first casting. Eyes closed and hair blowing from the magic she pulled off the candle in her hand, she looked like an angel to me. The slight smile she wore only when Tending haunts me to this day, filling me with a bittersweet longing for a girl who was never truly mine.

Leisle cared for me. Tenders usually do care for their Mage, and she cared maybe a little more than is the norm. More than once, she called me sister. It cut me to the core every single time, knowing that she loved me but not in the way I loved her. That she saved for a boy named Addeus.

Addeus was pretty and clever, his words were like music, and his soul was filled with dreams. His empathy and his kindness were of the rare variety more likely found in a children’s tale than in real life. If Leisle were determined to be with a man and not with me, then I would wish for her a man like Addeus. But his parents… They did not agree.

Addeus was of a class where money and standing are more important than things like beauty and affability and closeness to the virtues of Goddess. It didn’t matter to his family that Leisle was gorgeous, graceful, and filled with love both for their son and for humanity. And rather than valuing her rare talent, they saw it as a flaw, for it meant a life spent working in public service, something they considered beneath them. How someone as wonderful as Addeus was born into such a family I could never fathom.

It was decreed by Addeus’s parents than he would marry the daughter of a family friend. The woman in question was attractive enough in body. She paled compared to Leisle, yes, but so did every other woman I’ve ever met. It was her spirit that was ugly, though. She was petty, vain, and easily affronted by the slightest of things. She cared for no one, not even the lapdogs she surrounded herself with, as evidenced by the fact that she once had one killed for barking when she had a headache.

Addeus defied his parents and married Leisle at a public justice the very day after his engagement to the horrible woman was announced. His family promptly disowned him, which he had expected. Between Leisle's income as a Tender and the job he had been offered at a tavern we frequented, the pair would be fine without family money.

I wish the next line was that they lived happily ever after, raising a small family that included a daughter with tending talent who they named after me and a son who went on to become one of the greatest songwriters in our nation’s history. They didn’t though.

The slighted bride’s family took great offence. Disowning Addeus wasn’t sufficient, they held. They wanted him to truly pay, to truly regret the harm they imagined he’d done to their daughter. So they took from him the thing he valued most, the thing that happened to be what I valued most as well. They took our Leisle.

Her body was found in a park partway between the Assembly building where we spent her days with me and and the small apartment where she spent her nights with Addeus. She died quickly, the police said, brought down by a swift poison injected through a tiny dart. It didn’t hurt, they said. So we had that to comfort us as we tried to recover from our world ending.

Killing a Tender is considered treason, a crime even the wealthiest of families can’t get away with. And they didn’t. The jilted bride survived, but her father was put to the ax and his wealth confiscated by the crown. I don’t know what happened to her. On charitable days, I hope she learned the error of her attitude toward life and found happiness as a priestess or somesuch. Most days, I just hope she suffered.

Addeus never remarried, nor made up with his father. When the old man died, the older brother who inherited everything reached out to Addeus and welcomed him back into the family. With the portion of his father’s wealth his brother shared, Addeus founded a shelter for children orphaned by the Annexation Wars. He painted a picture of Leisle on the wall and tells the orphans she’s a saint of kindness who watches over them from heaven. On my weekly visits, I never tell them otherwise.

I was lucky enough to be matched with a second Tender after a magical plague ravished the ranks of Mages. Her name is Vella and we’re as close as sisters. I also have a wife, a woman so wonderful she lights candles for Leisle on the Night of the Dead without any hint of jealousy for my first love. I like to think I’ve lived a life that would make Leisle proud and I can only hope that there is a life after this one so that we shall meet again.

Image is Candle by Felysia Chew (aka Miyuki) who posts to DeviantArt as Ufo-galz. It was posted as a prompt on my Wording Wednesday group on MeWe.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Coney Island Adventure

There’s a roller coaster in Coney Island called Thunderbolt, but everyone knows it’s not the real Thunderbolt. The real Thunderbolt, a loopless wooden structure, was destroyed in the 1980’s by a government that sited public safety concerns. I’m kinda like that second Thunderbolt, except I’m named after my grandfather and not an old ride. I’m called Skarroan, but even I don’t think of myself as the _real_ Skarroan. And like the second Thunderbolt, I’m much more daring than the older version. My grandfather would never have dreamt of leaving our ghetto and making his way to Brooklyn just so that he could steal hot dogs from the original Famous Nathan’s and climb on a bunch of amusement rides. No, the real Skarroan lived his life as he was told, keeping out of the human’s sight and thus their minds.

I did go to Brooklyn though, one afternoon in my fifteenth year of life. All it took was an invisibility potion and a subway train. And isn’t that amazing? I didn’t even have to change trains to get from the borders of my limited little world to a land of amazement and hope. Once upon a time, when people would sail into New York harbor on their journey to this country, they saw Coney Island before they saw the Statue of Liberty. Coney Island was where the welcome to America sign belonged.

I wonder sometimes whether the people on those boats were really as welcome as the textbooks would have us believe. Of course, none of them looked anything like me, and maybe that helped. My kind came later, seeping in through cracks in the universe to find ourselves in a world that didn’t even believe we existed. “Go back!” the humans screamed. “We can’t,” my great-grandparents explained. Even if the portals worked both ways, which they don’t, the world my forefathers fled from would have killed them if they’d gone back. The fact that no one has come through in nearly a century backs up the claim that the world they knew was dying, as do the stories of the last people through.

The Merreller couldn’t return from whence we’d came, so the humans reluctantly let us stay. They put a lot of rules into place, cordoned us off our own neighborhoods, and tried to forget we were there. And my ancestors had to go along with it, because what choice did they have? It was that or fight the humans, become the monsters they labeled us. The taking of intelligent life is a sin to my people, the way it apparently isn’t to humans despite their holy books saying otherwise. We’re vegan, for crying out loud; we’re not going to start a war.

Now, the astute amongst you have probably noticed that I claimed both that I’m vegan and that I went to Coney Island in part to steal hot dogs, presumably to eat. And both things are true. I only knew two things about hot dogs going into that day: they get eaten in mass quantities in a widely publicized eating contest, and they aren’t actually made from dogs. It was only once I was at Famous Nathan’s that I realized hot dogs are made from a different animal, a cow. Appalled, I left without taking any, so I still haven’t ever had a hot dog.

Nathan’s was a disappointment, but I still had the rides to look forward to. Except… I didn’t. What I actually had to look forward to where a collection of little signs informing me that the attractions were closed until April. This explained why there were so few humans around, I supposed, but was a bit of a downer.

Coney Island wasn’t living up to my wild expectations, but I still had plenty of time left on my invisibility potion, so I jumped a gate to get onto the subway and rode to Times Square. It was crowded there under the dazzling array of lights and I worried about people bumping into me. But they never did… After a few dozen humans redirected themselves to avoid hitting me, I realized they must have known I was there.

I walked up to a group waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street. “Excuse me,” I said to one of them, a female with a fluffy white coat that reminded me a bit of my Aunt Migardi.

She looked straight at me and as she responded, “Yes?”

“Um… So, you know I’m here?”

Based on the human dramas I watch on TV, her squint meant that she was confused by the question. “Yeah.”

“And you aren’t upset?”

“No. Should I be?”

“Well… My kind… It’s illegal for me to be here.”

She shrugged. “You’re not hurting anyone.” And that’s all she said because the instant the light switched, she joined the herd migration across the street.

I smiled as the human left me, and even though everyone around me saw and undoubtedly noticed the big, pointy teeth that supposedly terrified humans, no one screamed or yelled or acted like they were having a heart attack.

On the way home, I told all of this to a man on the subway. He chuckled. “It’s New York,” he said, as though that explained everything.

Needless to say, that was not my last trip out of the ghetto.

Image prompt is Coney Island Dreams by Subway Doodle. It was offered as a prompt on my MeWe Wording Wednesday group.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

At the Train Station

When I make it to the train station and find the right platform, I see Aunt Janelle before she seems to see me. I say “seems” because she’s the type of person who is ultra-aware of everything around her, so the fact that she’s scowling at the pleasant-looking gentlemen who just tipped his expensive-looking hat to her rather than looking my way says nothing. The man smiles widely at my aunt’s disdain and I find myself a little envious she’s the one who’s caught his attention. It makes sense though; she’s gorgeous and athletic and not fifteen years old. And, of course, she would have an undeniable air of bad-assery around her even if her mechanical hand wasn’t gripping the chain of a Warden’s Beast, so what man wouldn’t be more drawn to her? And why would I want a man with that little sense, anyway?

It’s the Beast that reacts to me first, his hyena eyes landing on me from several meters away. Despite all his training, he lets out a happy yip, sending a trail of drool flying through the air. Around me, people freeze up in alarm before realizing the creature isn’t launching an attack, and I rush forward to keep him from making more noise.

“Bailar!” I greet the animal as Janelle moves her attention to me. I have a treat in my pocket for him, but his muzzle it tight enough I’ll have to wait until it’s removed.

“You’ll spoil him,” Janelle tells me, her voice full of fondness.

I scratch behind Bailar’s ears and grin at my aunt, but she’s still watching the dapper man. He’s moved on from flirting with her and is striding confidently up the train platform. Keeping half an eye on the man, Janelle pulls her image-viewer from her belt and clicks through the faces of the kingdom’s most wanted criminals. She stops on an image and curses.

“He’s wanted?” I hazard to guess.

“Oh, yeah.” Putting the viewer back into its holster, she tells me, “Watch him,” and starts to cast her eyes around the station. The train has been here long enough that most of the incoming passengers have drifted off and it’s not leaving soon, so new passengers haven’t shown up yet. So, what, I wonder, is the man doing here?

“Don’t wanted people usually try to be more subtle?” I ask.

“Usually” she says tersely. “See that couple he’s heading toward?”

“Yeah…” I’m not sure what she’s picking up on that I’m not. “They’re heading toward that train.” My eyes widen. “But it’s still cooling down, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So why are they here so early, and without any baggage or servants?”

“Exactly.” Janelle rubs a fleshy finger along the hilt of her pistol, something I’ve noticed her doing while deep in thought before. “And I’d be willing to bet that if they turned around, I’d be able to find a match for them in the wanted scrolls, too.”

At the end of the platform, the station clock strikes the hour. We only have twenty minutes to get to my grandmother’s house in time for my cousin’s bridal dinner, and I don’t think we’re going to make it. Aunt Janelle is never off duty and I could never resist following her for as long as she’ll let me. But it’s just a bridal dinner. We’ll probably make the actual wedding tomorrow. Probably.

“So what’s our plan?” I ask as Janelle taps something on the little radio transmitter all Wardens have on their person at all times.

My aunt raises her eyebrows at me. “My plan is to stay here making sure they don’t anywhere until the Portsland police get here. I’ve already alerted them and I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

I blink. “You mean we’re not going after the criminals?”

“I plan not to.” She grins. Then she leans over and slips off Bailar’s muzzle. He’s too well trained to go anywhere, but he can run now if he needs to. “But with luck, things won’t go according to plan.”

My eyes track up the platform, where the suave man has stopped paces from the couple and shifted his cane in a way that makes it clear it’s a weapon. “Would that man pointing his cane at someone change things if we thought that the cane was actually a gun?”

As Janelle looks up, her grin widens and she lets out a chuckle. “That it would. Bailar! Gun!”

The hyena yips once, sharply, then sprints toward the gunman. His target doesn’t even glance over, instead firing straight at the woman’s back. Turns out the cane wasn’t a gun, though. Instead of bullets, it sends out pulses of energy that leave gaping holes in people. I try not to look at the hole in the place the woman’s back should be.

The woman cumples to the ground as the man with her draws his gun.

“Stop!” Janelle calls, having rushed closer but then stopped to take aim. “Kingdom Warden! Drop your weapons!”

Neither man pays the slightest bit of attention. One has already let out a second pulse of energy and the other is busy collapsing.

Even as Bailar bunches up to leap on the man, the he tips his hat towards us and vanishes into thin air.

Bailar stumbles to a stop as Janelle curses. And I couldn’t agree more; using sorcery is just unfair. Somehow, I don’t think Aunt Janelle’s seen the last of this guy. And I can only hope that when she sees him again, the cane won’t be turned to her.

This weeks prompt is Steampunk Witch-Doctor by Angelique Shelley.
It was offered in my Wording Wednesday group on MeWe.