A Bard’s Life

The little half-elven girl bounced on the floor, watching her mother stitching on a shirt. “Tell me the story again, Mama?” The human woman laughed. She set a stitch and then smiled down at her daughter. “It was years ago, my little Sherri, that I met a wandering bard. He was the most beautiful elf I had ever seen.” Sherri hugged her small flute tightly, eyes wide as she listened to the story. It was her favorite, had always been her favorite. She liked to imagine that one day this great and glorious bard would stride back into their small home and be a part of their family. That he would take her under his wing and teach her to tease out the bardic magic she’d already begun to play with. She loved the way the music shaped in her mind, loved the feeling of an instrument in her hands. But she had no teacher. No one who could show her how to control what she had and learn more.
“Mama, tell me the story again?” Sherri clung to her mother’s hand, trying anything now to get her fading mother to speak. The woman was sick and it was ripping the young half-elf’s heart into pieces. There was nothing she could do, even with the fledgling magic she felt stirring inside her, it was doing nothing. Her mother coughed and smiled. “Don’t you know the story by heart, my little one? I’ve told it enough.” “I want to hear you tell it, Mama.” The woman smiled and squeezed her daughter’s hand, beginning the tale again.
Sherri ran, trying to ignore the pain in her throbbing shoulder. She had been stupid. Stupid and slow. The merchant had caught her trying to knick a bit of food and all she’d gotten for it was a beating. Now she was still hungry and she was in pain. Then her foot suddenly connected with something and she sprawled on the cobbles. Rolling to her back, she looked up into the eyes of an older half-elf boy.
“You’ve got the makings, girl. You just need some lessoning. Come on, girl, and I’ll teach you how to get fed and not get thrashed.”
She hesitated for a moment and then took the offered hand. It was a chance, and that was more than she had right now on her own.
This was the second time she’d had to climb out a window in the middle of the night. It was easier than the first time. At least this time, she wasn’t trying to leave her gang. But it was for the same reason, she supposed. She slung her battered lute over her shoulder and started to scale down the side of the building. It was a damn good thing she had no fear of heights, or she would be having problems. She regretted having to leave. This place had been good to her. She had been fed, she had been safe. But once again, another man had wanted more than she was willing to give. She checked her pack and her blades as her feet touched the ground and then headed for the woods. A few miles that way, and soon enough, she’d find a road. There were other places, she supposed. She would just have to find one.
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Called Home

Jennifer took a deep breath, then another. Her mind was reeling as she tried to process everything that was happening, at the words the woman standing in front of her was saying. Finally, she haltingly managed to say something, anything.
“You…you have pointy ears.”
The other woman, Aislinn was it? She brushed a curl of auburn hair back behind her ears.
“Yes, I do. And so will you, when I take the glamours off of you, your Highness.”
Jenny winced just slightly at the title and hugged her books a little tighter against her chest.
“Yeah, right. Uh…cool. But I need to get to class. Like, now.”
Aislinn reached out to grab her arm.
“Did you not hear me? We must return to the Otherworld so you can take up your rightful mantle and rule beside your mother. The war is over.”
Pulling away, Jenny laughed nervously.
“Right, sure. Whatever you say. This is the most intense invite to a D&D game I think I’ve ever gotten. And thanks, but I’ve already got a campaign I’m in so…”
There was an odd feeling in the air for just a moment and Aislinn sighed.
“So be it, but if you wish to change your mind, I shall be around.”
Jenny turned away then and ran to class, laughing to herself. She didn’t notice the smile on Aislinn’s face, didn’t notice the other students look at her oddly now, didn’t notice that the rounded tips of her ears came to a perceptible point now.


Aislinn watched as her princess ran off and smiled, reaching into her pocket for the spell stone that would allow her to call home.
“The princess resists for now, but she will be home soon, your Majesty. Of that, I am quite certain.”

A Prelude to Murder

Master Byron Galewind leaned over his desk, his ledgers spread before him. He only had a few more rows of accounts he would like to have settled before the guests began to arrive. Glancing at the window, he knew he was cutting it close, but Tywin would forgive him. He always did, after all. At the thought of his husband, a tender smile crossed the half-elven man’s face. Just these last few rows and then he would dress for the dinner party they were hosting together.


Tywin Galewind practically floated through the estate in his new vivid purple robes bedecked in stars. He looked the very image of a master wizard, even if he only knew the most basic spells of the illusion school. He could hear quiet conversation in the formal sitting room and wondered who had arrived. What he found was his adopted Tiefling son, Gareth, chatting with his sister-in-law, Sadry. Gareth was hugging his pull-string dog tightly to his chest and he had a nervous smile on his face. Sadry, a full Elf to her brother’s half, looked up and smiled brightly.
“Ty!” She hugged him tightly and he laughed, returning the hug. “It’s good to see you. Will my brother be joining us or is he still-?”
“Buried in numbers, I’m afraid. But never fear, he promised this time.”
Tywin looked around to find Gareth again, but the little boy had vanished. He had a rather unnerving habit of doing that, but Tywin assumed it was just a relic of his time on the streets. Or a piece of his demonic heritage. One of those. Instead, he spotted Cogsworth. Smiling at the Gnomish butler, he turned away from Sadry.
“Yes, Cogsworth?”
“Lady Belissa of Runnerspring has arrived, Master Tywin, and she’s absolutely insistent that you see her immediately.”
Tywin sighed just slightly.
“Of course she is. Sadry, I-”
“Don’t worry about it, Ty. We both know how your cousin feels about me and Byron.”


Lady Belissa of Runnerspring didn’t like many things. She didn’t like that her cousin had married a commoner. She didn’t like that he associated with merchants. And above all else, she didn’t like that half of those merchants would like very much to put a blade between the ribs of either her cousin or his husband or, preferably, both. So, when she arrived at the Galewind home, the first thing she did was check in with her agent.
“Well, Cogsworth?”
“All has been well, my Lady. And I ensured that the Masters were never even aware of the last assassin that came for them.”
“Good. And this boy?”
“I’ve done a full background check and he is as he appears to be.”
Belissa nodded slowly.
“Very well. In that case, I wish to see my cousin.”
Cogsworth bowed deeply.
“Right away, my Lady.”


The last usual guest waited. He was unsure that he should be there, but by that same token, he should be seen in public while his plan went forward. In the end, Dennis Chandler arrived at the door and was led in. He paid no mind to the maid as she went up the stairs, even though he knew who she truly was. He’d seen to that some time ago. And it hadn’t even been difficult to replace the girl they’d had working for them with one of his own. He asked the Gnome they had as butler to get him a drink and settled into one of the comfortable chairs to enjoy the tense silence between Belissa of Runnerspring and Sadry Galewind. He wondered how quickly they would turn on each other when his plan had come to fruition. He would almost lay odds that Sadry would accuse Belissa of causing it. He hoped the Priestess had her bow ready.


Byron didn’t close his ledgers. He merely sprinkled sand across the ink to help it dry faster and went to change into his most elegant clothes for the evening. He didn’t see the girl come up behind him, wouldn’t have thought a thing of it if he had. As the blood pooled on the bed under him and he faded into the darkness, Byron’s last thoughts were to regret breaking his promise to Tywin.


The last guests had only just arrived, a group of adventurers from the local guild. Tywin and Byron had invited them on a whim, hoping that real adventurers would liven up the party some. With the guests all waiting in the formal sitting room, Cogsworth began to relax. With them all in one place, he could watch Chandler. That was when they all heard the scream issuing from upstairs. It was the maid.

Magic Lessons

“Hey! Songchaser!”

Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.

“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”

“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”

“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”

“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”

“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”

Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.

“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“

“…Simple…”

“It is!”

Thomas flushed, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”

“Sorry…”

“No, no, do go on.”

Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.

Clara

He set down his tools and flipped his goggles back onto his forehead. Done. Absolutely perfect and done. Now to fire up those circuits and see how this guy ran. Something like speaker feedback ran through Tiernan’s mind as his other-senses, the ones attuned to machinery and moving parts, blazed to life and he looked at his latest creation again. Not a male…not a guy… He’d built a girl. This robot was very definitely and decidedly female. He pulled his goggles back down and grabbed his tools. He couldn’t fire her up until she was really ready. Moments later and he’d completely retooled her chassis. He set his tools on the workbench again and moved around to activate her. It didn’t take long before the whirring of gears filled the air and she soon stood on her own. She turned slowly and gave him a smile. It was only then that he realized two things. She was naked…and she didn’t have a name yet.


“Mama! I need your help!”

Tiernan burst into the wagon, cheeks purplish from blushing and breathing hard. Brannagh just looked up from her washing the dishes and smiled at her son.

“Calm down, calm down, what happened?”

“I…in my workshop…and I don’t know how to make dresses.”

“…Why do you need to know?”

The Elven woman stepped back from the sink, drying her hands on her apron as she went to the shelf to take down the pattern book.

“I built an automaton and she feels like a girl, so I made her a girl, but now she’s naked and…and I left her alone…oh shit.”

“Tiernan, language.”

“Yes, Mama.”

She smiled at her son as she flipped through the book.

“Well then, let’s make her something quick and simple so you can get her dressed and then later I’ll help you make her a much better dress. How does that sound?”

“Perfect! Thanks, Mama.”

The Mechanist hugged his mother tightly, calming rapidly as she chuckled and told him to fetch her sewing kit while she went for the fabric.

I’ve Seen Nary a One

Watching the skies
hoping to see
the tiniest glimmer
of scale or of wing
they ride the winds high
over forest and dell
hunting on the breeze
for treasures of yore
never have I seen them
but ever do I try

In the forests there exists
another of long ago
a great beast of legend
whose might well you know
the horn shines bright
on a moonless night
to guide lovers lost
their hooves knell like bells
as they step light on forest paths
but never have I heard the sound

In sylvan holds
live those who know
the magic of song and dance
the ones who weave their art in trees
and guide the plants aloft
the sylvan folk once traveled out
but nary does now

in cavern hold lives
those who know
the song of metal’s chime
life in the forge fire
hammer’s metronome
to sing with steel and iron
armor forged and blades cast
in a cavern underground
once found their way to markets ours
but nary anymore