A Writer’s Favorite Word to Write

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There are a lot of words that a writer has at their disposal. In the English language alone there is a dictionary full of them, not to mention hundreds of other languages in the world. Some authors are even crazy enough to create their own languages, particularly in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Yet no matter how many words a writer uses, it is safe to say there is one they prefer to write above all others. It is the holy grail of words, signifying achievement.

That word is, simply, “END”.

Last night I reached that achievement. There is a big difference between completing a 1,000 word flash fiction story on this blog and a 10,000 word story. My serial blog series, Curse of Fierabras, was a longer achievement in terms of length but the satisfaction of concluding that was nowhere near the satisfaction from finishing my latest writing project because it wasn’t broken into fifteen posts.

That one word is the beginning of a transition, moving the project from an incomplete first draft into a work that is under revision. The easy task of writing the story is done, and now it falls on the writer and their beta readers to polish the rough patches of inconsistency and choppy dialogue.

But amidst the incoming waves of rejection (3 so far this month, including one just last night) there is a cause for celebration. It is a rejuvenating sensation that trickles through every fiber of my being, delighting in completion. The task of revision will come soon enough, but it can wait until I am done basking in this elation.

There are more stories to tell. Beta readers to recruit to read the story with a critical eye and offer honest input (a rare thing to find! Interested?). Smaller stories to revise and submit. And books to read. Always books to read.

But for now I shall share another sample from the completed story while I  revel in the joy that comes from writing one little word.

END

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Ava squatted low to the ground, observing the prints from a distance. Edgar had been right in his description of the tracks, but something didn’t seem right to Ava. She crept closer, skirting along the edge of some thick mud near the prints. She strained, leaning in as far as she could, staring at the tracks for a missing sign. When she realized what it was, she sat up with a scowl on her face.

“These are fresh enough,” she said slowly, “but something isn’t right about them. Edgar, what do you see that is missing?”

Edgar crept closer, hesitating to get too close as he peered at the tracks in the mud. “I see two prints there before it disappears into the grass and bushes beyond. Nothing is unusual about there not being more prints.”

“True, but how could it make these prints along that edge without leaving more in this mud down here? It would have passed right through this, and left an obvious trail behind.”

“Maybe it jumped?” Edgar offered.

“Maybe you forged these tracks to get me down here,” Ava said. She stared at Edgar, a cold glimmer in her eyes. Edgar looked away, fidgeting under her stare. He looked up to confess when a deep grumble in the distance made them both pause. Ava raised a hand, signaling for silence as she turned toward the noise. The grumble repeated a few moments later, answered by a higher-pitched whistling noise. Ava slipped a knife from her belt, handing it to Edgar before unsheathing her sword. She motioned for him to follow, stealthily moving toward the noises.

They ducked behind a large rock when they were close, listening for a change in the sounds. Hearing nothing, Ava peeked around the edge. “Goblins,” she whispered to Edgar when she pulled back, “three of them are asleep in the clearing. They must be a scouting party.”

“Scouting what?”

“I bet they are checking out the village, to see if we’re undefended now that father is gone. We can’t let them report back or we’ll have the whole horde swarming down on us.”

“But there are three of them and only two of us.”

“There is one on the left, just around the rock. You take him, and I will get the other two.”

“I’ve never killed a monster before,” Edgar whispered back, concerned. “What if I miss and it claws my eyes out or rips my heart from my chest?”

“It is sleeping. It’ll be dead before it knows we’re attacking. My father will be surprised when he gets home and sees three goblin heads.”

Ava motioned for Edgar to circle around the rock. She clutched her knife in her hand, creeping toward the sleeping goblins. They were as hideous and disfigured as she had always imagined, having heard her father describe them in a dozen tales. Their skin was a pale green and looked like rough, bumpy leather. Their joints were knobby, sticking out at angles that looked painful. Thick, pointy ears stretched above the crown of their heads and a long, crooked nose jutted from their face. She watched one snoring, seeing the rows of small, sharp teeth that could tear the flesh off a man with ease. Small patches of wispy yellow hair were matted down atop their heads, making them all look as though they were going bald.

A Song of Ice and Fire Book Review, Books 1-3

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This summer I have been working on reading through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The first book had been purchased on my Nook for a few years now, and I always found excuses not to start reading a long, extensive fantasy series. I knew that the books had grown in popularity, thanks to the televised version’s success on HBO. I came into the books with minimal knowledge, having only heard faint whispers about the content (such as how everyone always says “Winter is coming” in the book). I also should point out that I still have not watched a single episode of the television show, nor do I know if I will.

I thought it would be fitting to start posting the occasional review as I read through some books, and what better review than to recap the first three books in this highly regarded series? I have witnessed, firsthand, the greatness of Martin’s writing and can count myself lucky that my favorite character since Book 1 has not been killed (so far).

A Game of Thrones

It was a struggle for me, personally, to adapt to the way that Martin mapped out his book. I hated how each chapter changed the point of view to a different character, preferring the perspective of some over the others. But as the book moved on I started to get caught up in an endless cycle. At the start of a chapter I’d frown because it was involving a character that I was not particularly fond of. By the middle of the chapter I was sucked into what was going on. When the chapter ended, I found myself wanting more of that character to continue. That is, perhaps, one of Martin’s greatest successes with the book is making the reader interested in every chapter, even when the character is not a personal favorite.

The characters and the world come alive in the novel. It is, by any account, an excellent first novel in a series. It establishes a lot of the important elements without making the reader feel overwhelmed by the locations and cast of characters and the political alliances introduced. It is a novel quite unlike any other I have ever read. How many other sagas end their first book with the death of one of the established main protagonists?

A Clash of Crowns

This book took everything great about the first book, added in some new elements, and delivered a masterpiece. It introduces one of the most interesting characters with the Onion Knight. At first I was unconvinced about him, but by the end of the book I ended up liking Davos a lot. He is a hard character to dislike, possessing many admirable qualities.

If the Starks were the centerpiece of the first book, then the group of kings and their armies were the centerpiece of this one. It would be no small task to juggle writing a book of this complexity, keeping timelines and character locations/allegiances straight. But I honestly didn’t see any place where I noticed things being out of place.

In spite of being on the “wrong” side of things, I couldn’t help but grow to like Tyrion a lot over the course of this novel. He definitely stepped out into his own light as a character, displaying a lot of the clever wit and ability to play the game with the best of them.

A Storm of Swords

The Red Wedding. This book should really be called A Sea of Blood from All the Dead because there are a LOT of deaths in this book. He really does not hold back in this one, killing off the major and the minor with disregard. Yet all of it continues to push the plot forward, especially as many secrets and plots are uncovered or hinted at. Mysteries from the first book get some attention in here, bringing the wonder to an end.

I was completely shocked that Jamie Lannister became one of the characters who was featured with his own chapters. I could have bought into the idea of Brienne of Tarth right away, and for much of the book it would have shown the same things because their stories run parallel. But by the time he reunites with his father, it becomes a little clearer and I found myself showing some sympathy toward the character that spent most of the second book imprisoned.

Ygritte was an awesome character, and she made the chapters about Jon Snow a lot more interesting and fun. Because he knows nothing. :)

I love how the book wrapped things up, leaving many question marks to be addressed in the fourth book along with a trail of bloody (and not-so-bloody) deaths to get there. My favorite character is free from the Dog and is headed North (if you’ve read the books, you’ll know who it is. I’d hate to name them, in the chance that George R.R. Martin reads their name and decides to kill them off).

I’ll probably pick up the fourth book from the library on Saturday. I’ve heard the next two books aren’t as good as the first three, but I hope that I heard wrong.

More Monster Hunter

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For those who have been following along for a while, you’ll know that the Monster Hunter series came about in the second half of last year. It was my second attempt at a serialized story and has received incredible support from my readers. It is difficult to get my brain out of Monster Hunter mode, now that things have really begun to pick up and take off. So I thought I’d summarize what we have so far, as well as what to look for in the future (both on this blog and off of it).

Ogre Hunt was where it all began, posted in four parts. The completed story currently stands at 4,101 words and will be under revision shortly.

A screenshot of my Monster Hunter project in Scrivener.

A screenshot of my Monster Hunter project in Scrivener.

The Doppelganger series just concluded last week and spanned across seventeen posts and weighs in at 8,518 words. There will be a lot of work to do in the revision stage to smooth the transition between some of the posts, since many of the early ones were written to fit into a particular prompt.

I’ve written three poems, sharing two of them on here throughout four posts, and that project comes in at 2,871 words in length. Look for a future post to hold the sonnet titled Remembrance.

Finally, I have started work on a story involving Ava at an early age. This comes prior to her father’s death and shows the friendship between her and Edgar, her spitfire personality, and her deep love for her father. In writing the 2,320 words I have so far, I have gained deeper clarity and understanding for these characters and the world they are in. This past week I’ve mapped out how this story will progress to its conclusion and I can’t wait to get it all down. Although this story is being held back for attempts at publication, I will still post an occasional snippet of this work-in-progress (one is included in this post, too, at the end!)

The next few Monster Hunter posts will be from Edgar’s perspective, taking place shortly after Ava departs from Talesin. Look for more detail in the Museum of Monster History, a deeper understanding of Edgar and his motives, and a preview of the upcoming plot for the next series of Monster Hunter in those posts.

Finally, be sure to check out the Facebook page for Scholarly Scribe. I’ll be making an effort to be more active with that, sharing little Monster Hunter quotes and information. And now, here is a short sample from my Origins story about Ava.

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She reached for the bundle, biting her lip. The silky cloth contained something hard and heavy inside, a shape and weight that seemed somehow familiar. Ava peeled away the layers of fabric, squealing in delight at the new treasure in her possession. She grasped the hilt, the symbols engraved in the leather painfully pressing into her skin. The sheath was made of the same tanned leather as the hilt, making it appear to be one seamless piece. She pulled it free, a soft ringing sound filling the air as the weapon slid along the leather. She recognized some of the ancient glyphs that ran along the length of one side of the steel; her father had the same symbols of strength, victory, and protection on his own sword. The other side contained a single glyph, naming the blade so that the foes might know the means of their demise, but she didn’t recognize the symbol.

“This blade belongs to you now, Avalina,” her father said, brushing a strand of her red hair aside with a calloused hand. “Do you remember what I taught you about the tenets of a swordsman?”

“Yes, father,” she replied with a heavy sigh.

“Let’s hear them.”

“A swordsman is a weapon unto himself, the sword is merely a tool. A swordsman uses his sword to ward evil, never to cause injustice. A swordsman keeps…but father, I’m not a swordsman. I’m a swordswoman!”

His hearty laugh in response warmed Ava more than any fire in a hearth, and soon they were both laughing without control. Her father wiped tears from his eyes, trying to regain a serious demeanor. “Do not torment that boy with your sword, Avalina. Remember all that I have taught you, because while I am gone you will be the protector for this village.” He took the sword from her, tracing his finger along the name of the sword. “The sword is named Seraphina, which means ‘burning fire’. Let it be the torch that guides your path and keeps our home safe.”

He handed the sword back to her and she stared at the glyph, marveling over the intricate design that contained the name. Seraphina, she thought as a smile crept onto her face. She said a prayer for the sword to be blessed, to grant her the ability to serve and protect the ones she loves and cares about. Her father watched her in silence, his slate eyes filled with a warmth she had rarely seen since her mother died. He pulled her into an embrace after she finished the prayer, the bare metal of Seraphina cool against her midriff. Ava didn’t want to see him go, but she staved off the urge to tell him so. She needed to be strong for him.

Flip Flop Fiction – Thieveses

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This past week I have been honored to collaborate with SAM at My Write Side on a tale for her new Flip Flop Fiction series. What happens is we work together on a story that takes a familiar literary character and flips them into another literary world. This transportation comes courtesy of the Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and this week I chose to send Gollum from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings into a new world. It was a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll check it out and leave some comments over there on this new story.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out on of my favorite ongoing works of fiction: The Elven Games. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better Fantasy Fiction on web!

Flip Flop Fiction #3 – Thieveses

The Siege of Glorian – Part One

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Victory was nigh. The army amassed outside the walls of Glorian had suffered countless casualties and were no closer to breaching the stronghold than they were a fortnight ago. The loss of morale among the troops outside the walls was causing them to break out into skirmishes among their own ranks. The chaos out there delighted First Commander Ryko. Surely this lopsided victory would bring about a promotion.

He slapped the shoulder of an archer as he passed along the ramparts, the taste of success stamping a smirk on his face that erased years from his face. He made small talk with his men, noting many of them looking bleary-eyed from the long night. He was certain that his own hazel eyes mirrored that exhaustion. He had been running almost nonstop for two weeks, as the growth of his new peppered beard showed. They would soon be rewarded with an afternoon off-duty. The surrender would be coming soon.

Or a retreat. Either way, this battle was done.

A commotion across the wall caught his attention. Some of his own men looked unsettled, quarreling with a shadowed figure. Ryko let out a sigh and started toward the scene, determined to break the argument before his foes caught wind of the conflict. The lack of cohesion might inspire them to renew their own fractured assault.

As he drew near, Ryko was able to distinguish the shadowy figure cloaked in gray. He cursed under his breath. Why was that damned wizard always showing up and stirring up trouble at the most inopportune times? And why didn’t he wave his wand over the wall and turn their opponents into charred ash, or something wizardly like that? All he ever did was run his mouth and cause problems for Ryko and his master.

“Commander Ryko,” the wizard said, taking a step back while bowing his head slightly. The men arguing with him spun around, their faces reddening at being caught unaware by their commander.

“Wizard Hollinder,” Ryko uttered, “what form of mischief brings you to Glorian?” His men smirked at the icy accusation.

“No mischief at all,” the wizard replied with another deferential bow of his head, his white beard reaching down below his knees, “I was merely instructing your men that the battle is far from over.”

Ryko’s jaw dropped for a moment at those words, but he quickly recovered his composure. “It would appear, Wizard Hollinder, that you are as unskilled in the strategies of war as you appear to be in the business of being a wizard. Their armies fight amongst themselves, a large portion of their force has fallen, and they are no closer to breaching our walls than they were in the beginning. Only a great fool would continue to wage a pointless campaign, and that fool would quickly lose his entire army to casualties and desertion.”

“If that were the only information I was basing my decision on, commander, then I would heartily agree with you. You fail to consider alternative ways in which these walls may be breached, and my unskilled wizardly arts have divined the method of their next attempt.”

“And what exactly have you learned?”

“He claims they are going to attack the west wall at sunset,” one of the soldiers blurted out.

“That is the thickest wall along the perimeter!” Ryko exclaimed, shaking his head. “There is no way that your boasts of clairvoyance are accurate. No bomb can penetrate that stone.”

“You underestimate your enemy,” the wizard said. “A mistake that even a novice would avoid.”

Ryko spun on his heels and marched away from the wizard, hatred bubbling through his veins. In a few hours they would all see who was right when the army surrendered. This war was over, even if a crazy old wizard thought otherwise.

The thundering of drums echoed in the air when the sun began to set a few hours later. A puzzled frown creased Ryko’s face as he peered out at the rallying army below. The men rushed toward the front gate, armed with siege equipment and an array of weaponry. Ryko signaled for his archers to take aim, his skilled eye watching for the proper moment to unleash a torrent of arrows upon the masses below. The gap closes quickly and he gives the signal, smiling at the familiar twang of a thousand bows loosing their arrow in unison. The cries of a hundred wounded men fills the air and the smell of fresh blood reaches his nostrils. To Ryko, it was the smell of success.

During the third volley a cry of alarm was raised along the western wall. Ryko’s face creased with a frown as he dashed along the wall, crouching low to avoid the stray arrow fired over the wall. The wizard was waiting for him at the post, a smug smile on his face. He waved his gnarled stick toward something distant along the horizon. Ryko turned toward it, squinting as he tried to make out the moving object as it moved up a hill.

The sunset struck so brilliantly into the traveling carriage when it gained the hilltop, that its occupant was steeped in crimson. Ryko cursed when he recognized the contents of the carriage, all color draining from his face. He shouted commands to his men, directing everyone to take aim for the carriage.

The sunlight reflected off the carriage again, displaying a dozen barrels of explosive black powder for everyone to see. Ryko grabbed a bow himself, taking aim with his men as they launched a volley of arrows.

To be continued…

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I used to love the choose your own adventure stories when I was growing up. It made me feel like I was part of the outcome, even though it was all scripted beforehand. So today I thought I would let my readers have that same power. The story will have one of two things happen at this point:

Option#1 – The archers manage to hit the barrels of powder with flaming arrows, causing it to explode far from the walls.

Option#2 – The archers are unsuccessful in their attempt to prevent the explosion, causing severe damage to the west wall of the stronghold.

It is up to you, readers, to determine which outcome will play out when the story continues. Leave a comment below stating which option you would like to see. Either way, expect to see some more action playing out in the second half of this story!

This comes from the weekly Master Class writing prompt. For this week I chose a line out of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and we were free to use it anywhere in the post. I hope you enjoyed it, and be sure to check out some of the other excellent writing that is turned in this week!

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First Watch

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The night air was brisk, cutting through the cloak draped over his frail figure. A fire burned down in the center of the camp, the flames flickering into the air as it consumed the dry logs, but its warmth seemed to do nothing to combat the chill in his bones. His companions slept around him, rolled snug in a ring around the campfire. Their snores echoed softly into the dreadful night, overridden by the hoots and shrieks of the wildlife around them. He jumped at every new sound, a small dirk trembling in his pale fingers.

He shouldn’t be like this. After all, he was the son of a knight and his grandfather was a knight. He was pretty sure the knighthood could be traced back across dozens of generations. Warrior blood ran strong through his family’s veins, but somehow it decided to skip a generation the night Tyriel was born. It resumed three years later when his sister, Rhys, was brought into the world. Everyone knew that she should be the one out here leading this expedition, but his father would hear none of it. He said it was time that Tyriel stepped up and earned his keep as the future heir to the tower.

The men with him all thought he was craven, and Tyriel wished that he could prove them wrong just once. But it was hard to be courageous and bold when every sound in the forest made him panic. He feared an ambush at every turn, saw rabid eyes in every beast, and felt cold steel swinging down every night when he slept. And now, after three weeks, they finally forced him to take a watch during the night. They gave him the first watch, reassuring him that if there were to be an attack it would come during second or third watch instead. Tyriel didn’t believe them.

It was dreadful out here, under the open skies and among the wilderness. Even though the open land stretched far beyond his sight in each direction, he felt more confined here than he had been at home. Things had been much better when he had been hidden, snug within the safe walls of the tower, buried beneath stacks of tomes in the library. Nothing bothered him up there, apart from the thick layers of dust, because no one else held any interest in the ancient books and scrolls. But Tyriel felt that the information contained in them was far more important than knowing how to swing a sword or shoot a bow and hit a target on horseback. Knowledge was a superior weapon, and he would prove it if he could ever get his nerves under control.

A log in the fire popped, making Tyriel jump to his feet. His dirk fell from his hands, the clattering of steel on stone startling him further. An owl hooted in the darkness and Tyriel spun toward the sound. His eyes hunted the depths of the blackness before him, willing the haunts of the night to reveal themselves to him. When nothing emerged from the depths he squatted down, retrieving his dirk. He felt, for the first time in his life, an odd comfort in having a weapon in his hand. He eased back to his perch, peering into the perilous night with a new sense of calm under his command.

The night crept by in silence as Tyriel struggled to remain awake. His watch was nearly over, judging by the flames of the campfire. It had been an easy watch, like they had said it would be, once he had his nerves in check. He was a far cry from becoming a knight, but at least it could be said he was no craven fool anymore. He felt control, a new sensation, and he relished it. He welcomed what the night had in store for him now, thinking there was no sight nor sound that could rattle his resolve.

He could hear the wind’s menacing howl before he felt its icy tendrils caressing his body. The dwindling flames in the campfire struggled to cling to life as the wind relentlessly assaulted their camp. Thick clouds blanketed the moon and stars above as the final embers were snuffed out, leaving Tyriel shrouded in darkness. His newfound confidence drained as the night sounds emerged in a terrifying crescendo. Bushes rustled, twigs snapped, and noises echoes from every direction. He spun toward each sound, holding his dirk with white knuckles, his tongue mute in spite of attempts to sound an alarm. He stumbled toward his companions, hoping to rouse them before the evil closed in upon them. He sensed it drawing closer with each ragged breath, his throat tightening as the seconds passed.

The toe of his boot caught the edge of a rock, bringing him crashing forward. As the ground raced to meet his face, a sense of dread overwhelmed him. He had failed as the first watch, just like everyone expected.

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The chirping of birds greeted Tyriel as he regained consciousness. He shielded his eyes from the glare of the morning sun in the horizon. A numb pain flared when he ran his hand across his scalp and he noticed a smear of dried blood on the rock where he fell. But he was alive.

A new joy flowed through him as he felt the joy of success. He had not failed, after all, and led them all into the hands of death. He was still alive, and relatively unharmed. Perhaps he might even volunteer for a watch tonight. He took off toward the creek to wash his wound and ease his thirst, but along the way he got a nagging sense that he overlooked something. He shrugged it off to lingering nerves and drank deep from the flowing water, feeling relief as the cold liquid hit his dry throat.

And he realized what was bothering him. He ran back to the camp, weaving around fallen logs and hurdling rocks. He arrived and doubled over, gasping to regain his breath while his eyes confirmed what his mind had feared: everyone was gone.

But their stuff was still here, and the horses still tethered, as though they collectively woke up and wandered off into the forest without him. But he knew better than that. They were lost to the dark creatures during his watch. How was he ever going to explain this to his father?

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This post is my entry into this week’s Master Class session, run by one of the infamous Fab Four members. We were challenged to use the line “Things had been much better when he had been hidden.” from Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Not only that, but it had to be in a “fourth” position, and mine so happens to fall on the 20th sentence of this post. Be sure to head on over to SAM’s blog and check out the other entries this week!

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For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Kirsten gave me this prompt: Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens..

I gave kgwaite this prompt: The rain assaulted her skin with heavy droplets as she crouched in the cover of darkness.

Fab Four Fables: A Merchant in Oria – Part One

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A new month means a new round of the Fab Four Fables. This month I had the honor of starting the story, and anyone who knows me knew that I would select either Fantasy of Sci-Fi for the genre. At the end of my story I will pass the baton on to another member of the Fab Four to continue the story. And, if you are new, the Fab Four is made of myself, Eric, Shannon, and SAM. So, without further introduction, here is A Merchant in Oria:

Genre: Fantasy

ox-wagon jpg    Kheldar had grown up hearing legends about the magnificence and glory of the eastern Dwarven kingdoms. They had captured his heart and his imagination since he was a toddler, paying close attention every time his father told the stories about his adventures there. His siblings always preferred tales of warriors battling dragons and other monstrous beasts, but Kheldar was different. Which probably explained why now, twenty years later, he was following in his father’s footsteps as a traveling merchant while his brothers were all knights in the king’s court.

He had tried for years to get enough trade to take him down the Great Silk Road, but the economic demand for his goods kept him bustling around the southwestern reaches of the continent. Kheldar knew that, in time, his occupation would allow him to see the beautiful kingdoms and cities across the world. But he had still been impatient to see the dwarves. And now he was on his way, traveling down the Great Silk Road, with a wagon full of wood and cloth and spices to trade for gems and ore.

His oxen were getting worn down from the years. He had inherited them from his father, just like he had inherited the wagon and tarps. He hoped this would be the trip that would pay for some much-desired upgrades. Hand-me-downs were great for apprenticing and establishing himself as a novice merchant, but if he wanted to really hit the big time he needed to look the part. He heard the dwarves were overly generous with their payments when they took to the merchant. He had no doubt he could charm the lot of them.

The band of merchants he started his travels with had all left along the way; they were still seeking profits closer to home. And they would find some profit in their trade, but he knew that they wouldn’t be capable of fathoming the riches he’ll have loaded for his return trip. He might need to trade in the oxen long before he made it back home. These ones wouldn’t be able to handle the load, at least not for more than a day or two. Kheldar grinned when he remembered the warnings that Aang, the oldest of the merchants, tried to pass along to him. Kheldar knew they weren’t true, because his father never included that in his stories about the dwarves. There was no way they murdered humans in the streets. That sort of activity sounded characteristic of the troll tribes in the northern mountains, not a civilized kingdom of blacksmiths and jewelers.

Besides, the dwarves honored the merchant’s code of protection that was put into effect during his grandfather’s lifetime. They wouldn’t dare kill him and risk starting a war.

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Three days later, exhausted and covered in a combination of earthy elements, the kingdom of Oria came into view. His energy came crashing back into his mind and body at the sight of the magnificent kingdom, but his oxen failed to share his enthusiasm. They meandered along the road, stopping a few times to rip up some fresh grass to chew, at an unbearably slow pace.

It was just as splendid as he had always dreamed: castle spires and entire neighborhoods were chiseled into the surrounding mountains, encircling a large area. Groups of dwarven workers passed in and out of open mine shafts, digging for fresh gems and ores. The pounding of hammers against anvils rang through the air, reaching his ears miles before he reached the city gate. The only thing he hadn’t imagined was the massive pillar of charcoal smoke hovering in the air, seemingly bereft of movement.

For some reason the presence of the smoke bothered him because it contradicted the image his father had presented to him. Did he simply fail to mention that detail, or was this a new addition since his father’s last trip? Kheldar tried to shrug it off as they rolled into the city limits.
Dwarves on either side of him stopped and stared as his oxen plodded along the road. Clearly they weren’t used to visitors. Kheldar flashed his youthful, charming smile and waved to them in an attempt to win them over and warm their demeanor. It didn’t have the effect he expected; their faces darkened with sinister scowls and they crossed their arms. He continued to present a positive image as he rode deeper into Oria, trying to ignore the poor reception. He noticed the occasional house or building that had a sign on the door saying “Humans not welcome”. Could Aang have been right about the dwarves?

After a while Kheldar realized the inevitable: he would need to ask someone directions to the merchant’s guild. He dismounted from his wagon and walked over to one of the local’s houses. The top of the door reached up to his chest. The house was so low to the ground that he could see the dust and debris collected on the roof of the building. He hunched down to knock on the door and ask the citizen for directions.

The door opened and a stout dwarf stood beneath the frame. Thick black hair hung down below the shoulders and their beard dangled over their belly. Muscles bulged beneath a beige cloth tunic and calloused hands clenched into fists. Kheldar stammered slightly, squirming under the intense glare of the dwarf.

“Um, excuse me, sir-” Kheldar said. Before he could continue the dwarf slammed a fist into his jaw, leveling him on his back.

“I’m not a sir,” the dwarf said, spitting on Kheldar before she slammed the door shut.

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THE RULES:

1. No one will be privy to the story until it is posted.

2.The next person won’t know who they are until they are tagged, when the post goes live.

3. The person publishing the most recent part must adhere to the following:

  • choose the next person to write the story
  • keep the title and stay within the genre provided
  • provide an image of their choice at the top of their post that relates to their piece
  • the story must continue as a whole and not combined with any other prompt or meme

4. There is no word count or time limit.

And so now comes the unveiling of my choice to have…Eric write the next portion of this story.