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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

GUEST POST: The Girl Drank Poison by Keith Blenman

Author Information: Keith Blenman hails from Detroit, Michigan. He works as a forensic investigation professor and helps manage a computer store. He’s been self-publishing fiction for twenty years. 

Order The Girl Drank Poison over here(USA) or here (UK)

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The Vecris is a new series set on a chaotic world orbited by seven moons. Each book serves as both a stand-alone adventure and an individual thread in an epic tale about a deity and her battle against the original stewards of the planet. Spanning centuries, kingdoms are built and fall to ashes. Continents shift. Yesterday’s forests become tomorrow’s deserts. The actions of individuals ripple through the ages. History repeats itself in an ongoing war in which every life participates as either a pawn or champion. Little by little, the threads will be woven. Little by little, a noose will tighten. 

Necromantica and Whisper: The Vecris is designed to be read the same way one would assemble a puzzle. There is no right order. Each tale stands on its own until the final few pieces come into place. That said, the first two stories focus on the same characters, and take place centuries prior to the latest book, The Girl Drank Poison. Necromantica and Whisper tell the story of a necromancer elf, Mornia, and her rogue companion, Lama Percour. Set in the final days of The Old Fortian Empire, Necromantica follows Mornia and Lama on a suicide mission through a battle between orcs and men. Their objective is to steal a magical, black stone with untold power from a holy king. 

Whisper is a companion novelette, set five years prior to the main events of Necromantica. The Fortian Empire has the king of a neighboring land assassinated. Mornia uses her magic to raise his body and offers him a chance at revenge. 

Necromantica is available on paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Audiobook coming soon. 

Whisper is available on paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and Audible audiobook

The Girl Drank Poison: A magic potion may spoil; its intended effects lost to time. The power of a potion, however, never fades. It contorts, deforms, and mutates, often leading to something monstrous. Thus, tragedy befalls Zellin Percour, a young woman tricked into drinking an expired love potion. Now, transformed into an abomination, she’s rampaging her way toward the town of Sleeping Bear, hellbent on finding the man who deceived her. 

Horace is enjoying his quiet life. He loves his wife, his children, and his shop in Sleeping Bear. He’s grateful that his violent past is buried deeper than the bodies left in his wake. But when a fool leads disaster to his door, he must revive his lethal talents or risk losing everything. 

Griever wields a weapon of untold power. She’s also only two feet tall. This makes her both the deadliest and most easily overlooked bounty hunter in the world. She’s caught the scent of her hero, legendary pirate Lorenzo Blade, and is eager to discover if the man lives up to his myth. Her trail leads her to Sleeping Bear, where she’s about to discover all manner of hell lying beneath the surface. 

The Girl Drank Poison is on paperback, hardcover, and Amazon Kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited). Audiobook coming soon. And with much thanks to the folks at Fantasy Book Critic, here is the first chapter. 

Part One: 

Most men know never to use an expired potion. The changes are obvious. A blue bottle turns black. Rather than fizzing, the fluid churns and folds. Sweet fragrances turn sour. Upon removing the cap, a skull shaped vapor emanates instead of the expected cloud of hearts. In the case of Degre Lievstone, such warnings had been abundant. Even as Horace listened to the man recount his woes, he could point out no less than seven details indicating Degre should have stopped himself. While he tried to cut the man’s tale short, there was no slowing the fool. Degre would speak his piece. He would be heard. Idiot that he was. 

Standing in Horace’s shop, Degre brandished the empty bottle, illustrating his tale with a torrent of wild gestures. He explained his tragedy to the man who’d sold him the potion several years ago. Horace sighed, leaning into his counter. He’d grown bored of Degre’s ranting from the moment it began. The day had been so peaceful. Business was slow given the season. For several hours, the only thing to open Horace’s door had been a breeze. He’d thought to close early, to head home and maybe spend time with his kids. It was just before he’d committed himself to that plan when Degre barreled in, the stink of ale on his breath. Now it was near closing time. Horace started to feel as though he’d be locking his door late tonight. Multiple times, he considered throwing Degre outside. He’d pondered the idea so long that it flourished into a daydream of tossing him, not just out the door, but into a pit of spikes over and over. The idea soothed him. Degre’s body flailing down into darkness, screaming until some jagged, metal shaft impaled him. As Degre’s tale droned on, the pit in Horace’s imagination grew deeper. Its spikes sprouted barbs. The places Degre became impaled grew all the more colorful. Sadly, in a world where customers were taught to believe in and assert their authority over retailers, Horace couldn’t just toss his worst patrons out the door. Without any actual torture pits on hand, he’d never hear the end of it. Degre would bang on his windows. He’d be back in the morning. He might even return with a small mob of drinking buddies to assure his refund. No, Horace thought. Such is the curse of commerce. Best let him purge his grievances now, then hope to settle the matter in a more sensible fashion. 

“Your potion turned her into an abomination!” Degre said again; his tenth time doing so. With every repetition, he emphasized the potion had been Horace’s. Your potion. The potion from your shop. The potion you sold me. “And-and-and-and-now! Now! Look at the debacle on my hands! I barely escaped with my life. What am I supposed to do? I’ve no home to return to. My wife won’t awaken. My daughters, gobbled whole. Half the village was set aflame during my escape. Even if it remained whole, I could never show my face there again. Not after the horrors your potion left behind.” 

“So what you’re saying is, you’re in need of an escape fund. Some starting over money to replant your life elsewhere.” Horace let the conversation’s tiresome toll show in his tone. 

“What I’m saying is you sold me goblin goop bottled as a love potion. I require—no!—Demand! Yes, demand a full refund! In fact, I believe further compensation is in order given the severity of my circumstances.” 

Horace sighed. He made note of how Degre was a slight man, spindly in places he ought to have meat. In another life, Horace would’ve settled the matter by concaving his skull, but there was, unfortunately, his reputation to consider. Horace the pirate was long dead. Horace the drunk. Horace the monster. Once upon a time, he had more names than he could remember. He’d been a man of so many infamous titles, he hadn’t even heard them all. But that was another life. For near thirty years now he enjoyed his one, single name. He was Horace the Shopkeep, trader of goods common and rare. Most who knew him as otherwise had long since died out, many of them lost to calamities of their own making. Many weren’t entirely unlike Degre here. There was the part of him that thought, Sure, killing Degre would be a gift to the world. But Horace enjoyed his life here in Sleeping Bear. Granted, the town’s lack of a spiked pit was currently inconvenient, otherwise he’d settled in a good place. He liked his shop. His wife and children made him glad to be alive most days. Tempting as it was to crush Degre’s head in one hand, chop up his body, and scatter the chunks in several nearby pig farms, Horace refrained. He had a good life. For that he kept his violent tendencies locked away with only occasional fantasies of spike pits escaping. Instead of butchering Degre, he calmly reiterated the situation. “So as I’m clear,” he said, “I recall selling you that love potion all those years ago under less murky circumstances.” 

“All? Only a few years ago. I feared my wife would leave me,” Degre said. 

Horace held up a hand to silence his customer. He’d waited patiently for Degre to finish his ranting. Now he’d have his turn. “She didn’t though. At the last minute, you questioned whether or not you truly deserved her heart, and rather than pour the potion out, you kept it secret whilst debating its necessity. As it happens, your wife stayed without the brew.” 

“It shouldn’t matter how I used it,” Degre said. “The fact is I bought it from you, it failed, and now my life is in ruins.” 

“Please,” Horace said, holding up his hand again, affirming the need for silence. “So, in whatever knothole or hidden cubby you stashed it in, the love potion sat. Over time, it lost its shimmer. It turned from red to purple, and eventually black. All the while, your wife stopped being a bride and turned into a mother, a housekeeper, maybe a nag, I’m assuming, as she lost your favor. Moot as the point is now, I wonder how she stayed with you, loving you, despite your useless nature. She accepted your, well, let’s call them imperfections. All the while, you loved an idea of her, the perfect her. When she proved to be not the goddess in your heart but a woman, a human woman, you perceived her as no longer wanting you. I’m giving you more credit than you deserve, of course. She may have been perfectly content, but childbirth left her sagging in places while plumping in others. Hence the potion. Hence its eventual use on some barmaid.” 

“Zellin,” Degre said. 

Horace motioned for silence again. This time though, instead of merely holding up his hand, he reached out and grabbed Degre by the collar. With a quick twist to the side, Degre’s head slammed into the counter. He fell back, sprawled onto the floor. He looked offended, as though he might have some objection to being roughed up, but Horace continued. “Of course. Zellin. How you honor her. It does untold wonders to repeat the name of the girl you poisoned.” 

“I didn’t poison her! She isn’t dead.” 

“Well praise be to the moons! Young Miss Zellin lives! For she was not poisoned. Merely tricked or forced at knifepoint to imbibe some rot that caused her to bring ruin upon half your village. What exactly would you say your potion turned her into?” 

“I… I—I do not know. A giant… thing. An abomination.” 

“Abomination. The young lady you pined for. Well, if that’s all, then thank the gods it wasn’t poison.” 

The two men stared down one another, only one of them right to do so. The other, Degre, lost his stamina for scowling as he realized this fight wasn’t one he could win. His lip began to tremble. He had no card to play. 

“Get out,” Horace said. “You’ll get nothing from me. So get out.” 

“Please-” Degre shriveled like the cold prick he was. “Please. If that thing finds me…” 

“I’d love to help you, sir,” Horace said. “But I’m afraid it’s closing time. My wife, whom I love with all my heart, awaits me at home.” 

Degre lifted a finger in objection, desperation on his face as he opened his mouth. “A drink then. If you won’t repay me what’s owed, then at least send me to The Black with a drink.” 

There was a trick to throwing a person; Horace was certain of it. There had to be some method by which he could support an adult man with minimum strain to himself—all while allowing for easy control of the flailing individual, even when casting him out to the mud. As it happened, despite Horace’s certainty of the skill existing, he had mastered no such technique. Strength wasn’t the issue, especially over the likes of Degre. Leverage perhaps. Maybe it was as simple as his age and a lack in finesse. The effort of throwing Degre outside became a clumsy several minutes of grasps and fumbles. Degre both begged for support and repeatedly slipped out of reach. Once Horace finally had a hold of him, the spindly bastard kicked over a shelf of exotic furs from the Southern continent. A barrel of locally made arrows busted in on one side. Racks of tools spilled everywhere. Horace was only able to stop the struggle because he’d managed to wrap an arm around Degre’s neck and squeezed half the life out of him. He didn’t kill the man. Although, when all was said and done, his feelings on the matter were mixed. While there was some delight in finally living his dream of throwing Degre to the street, and in watching the fool fight to breathe on the ground, the damage caused didn’t quite cover his victory. With the door safely locked, Horace faced the wreckage of his shop and uttered a handful of vulgarities. 

The majority of the store was fine. Horace reminded himself of that before giving in to his impulse to step outside to beat out whatever air Degre had left in him. The store was his livelihood. It was his world. At home right now, his children would be matching each other in cards as Ingritta prepared supper for the guests at her inn. His parents might still be awake, although they gave themselves to sleep earlier and earlier in recent days. The mess was an inconvenience, a trivial disaster, perhaps even a lesson for having bartered with that wizard some years ago. 

Horace’s shop began as a trading post back when his parents ran the inn. He’d returned to Sleeping Bear with Ingritta, the pair secretly avoiding arrest in dwarven lands. Together they’d been given a second chance at life. The plot of land originally belonged to his father but was gifted to Horace several months after his return. “Do with it as you will,” his father said. Their town was growing but still considered backcountry in those days. A few buildings set just far enough from the Glau River to not attract attention from the local eel troll population. Trappers and hunters were regular guests. Few people stayed long. Horace thought to build himself a cottage away from the inn’s traffic. Then it occurred to him that goods frequently traded among travelers. A shop to act as a hub for such business made sense to him. Within several years of his opening, people seldom bargained with each other as much as they’d buy and sell through him. Horace’s stock was, by all accounts, eclectic and ever-changing. He’d trade when he could, and despite being a day’s ferry from the nearest towns, his prices were always fair. He paid good coin for good wares. That earned him a reputation amongst all those who traveled along the river. Of course, few realized his family ran the only inn. Much of what Horace gave away, his parents received back within the hour. Sometimes, if he felt a traveler was prone to drink, he’d pay generously for their goods. He let his customers feel high in their luck as if they put one over on him. Sure as nightfall, they’d spend their newfound fortune—and often a little extra—on food, ale, and more ale back at the inn. There wasn’t much profit to the practice, but a little. It gave Horace some entertainment. 

As for the magic potions, well, Horace was perhaps more marveled at the idea of doing business with a wizard than he should’ve been. Degre’s demand for a refund was his second incident, although the previous one had been a more immediate calamity. Several years ago, two vagabonds had challenged each other to a duel in Maifain. The more boastful of the pair asked for a potion to give him an edge, and Horace complied with a draught that would harden his flesh. The vagabond drank too much and found mid-battle that he was unable to sweat. He won the duel but drowned in his own juices a few minutes later. It became clear to Horace then that magical items were too risky to carry. At least for a man hiding from his past. The shattered bottle of expired love potion staining his floor reaffirmed it. He grumbled to himself, not caring to think on it. Degre left his storefront in shambles. Horace had half a mind to drag him back inside to help clean. If only that wouldn’t involve having to spend another moment with him. With a grumble of several small curses, Horace knelt and started refolding the fallen furs. 

“Hello!” a small, scratchy voice said. 

Horace jolted, turning to the door, swearing to have locked it before Degre could slither his way back in. And sure enough, his shop remained shut to the world. Perhaps he was simply vexed, agitated for the mess, and hearing things because of it. Perhaps the noise was simply the floorboard giving under his knee. His gaze drifted throughout the room. There were tools, weapons, and fabrics for attire. He had bows and arrows. There were sacks of assorted smoking leaves. He had dishes, medicines, trinkets for children, dice, and cards. He had an assortment of jewelry, although none on display was too elegant. His finest things he kept stowed away, hidden from all but himself. Horace gazed over his wares, passing the little noise he’d heard off as nothing significant. At least until it returned. 

“Hello!” it rasped again. 

That time Horace had a sense of direction from the voice. He looked to the far side of the furs, near a rack of assorted shirts, trousers, and coats. But still, he saw nothing. “Hello?” he said to the nothing. 

“Hello!” the nothing answered. 

In the darkest of shadows, Horace saw someone move. Someone tiny, barely tall enough to itch Horace’s shin. The little figure approached slowly. The shape of it almost seemed to waddle, with its head bobbing at every step. As it approached, lantern light met the figure’s furry, clawed feet. Then short legs and a long torso. It wore a grape colored shroud to its side, cloaking its right arm. When the face finally emerged, it was that of a weasel, rounder than a weasel though – plumper. Its fur was mussed and its ears were larger than the average weasel. Horace had to blink several times, taking in the new creature. It had been ages since he’d last seen a ferrelf. How one came to be in his shop was confounding to say the least. Despite his mood, he greeted it pleasantly with a nod and some words of welcome. Something he’d say to anyone who stepped foot in his shop. “Ah. Master ferrelf. I didn’t see you there. What brings you in this evening?” 

Once it stood fully in the light, Horace noted the ferrelf’s fur was unusual for her kind. She had salt and pepper streaks, angled in slashes. It almost looked as though dirt had spattered across her, except that her coat had a uniformly bright sheen to it. Her back hunched to her right, and her eye on that side twitched between blinks, yet she was a pleasant-looking creature. Of course, any man who said otherwise of a ferrelf was clearly broken in some way. Even when something looks off with them, such as the one before him, they were as adorable as puppies and kittens. Horace forgot his outrage at Degre as he took in his new guest. Finally in the light, she stood on a fallen raccoon hides and gazed upon them for a long while. Long enough that Horace began to question if the ferrelf was worried about being skinned herself. But before Horace could offer any reassurances that he’d never take the hide of another person, the ferrelf said in a soft rasp, “We wish to roll around in these furs. But such delights aren’t why we’ve come.” 

“Ah. We? Have you more of your tribe in tow?” Horace glanced around, wondering if he missed other ferrelves in the shop along with the one he was speaking to. 

“We are all that remains of our tribe,” the ferrelf said. “Without your company, we are alone.” 

“I see,” Horace said, not understanding at all. But he remained polite. “Well, if there’s something particular you’re looking for, I am closing up as you can see, but I’d be delighted to assist you, Miss…” 

The ferrelf bowed. “Griever,” she said. “Our name is Griever Blackhand. There is a coin we wish to earn. Yes. A coin here holds our name.” 

The hairs on the back of Horace’s neck stood on end. Those words. Those old words. After the briefest pause, he busied himself folding and stacking furs. “A coin you say?” As he spoke, he kept his eyes on his work. “Most folk who walk in my door are looking to spend a few coins. But if you have something my customers might take an interest in, I’m certain we can trade.” 

The ferrelf flopped to her side, onto a thick skunk fur. She smoothed her face against the softness. Her tail wagged. “Maybe we’re mistaken,” she said, rolling to her other side. “You said your name is Horace, right?” 

“I don’t believe I took the opportunity to introduce…” Horace trailed off. Maybe Degre had said his name while they were arguing. How long had the ferrelf been in his shop? 

“We’ve never met, but we know you by other names,” Griever said. “Lorenzo Blade. Bone Crusher. Temple Bane. The Drinker of Sheriff Blood.” 

Horace’s face grew hot as the ferrelf listed his old titles. “Enough!” he snapped, punching his fist into the floor near Griever’s face. His reaction startled even him. Damn Degre to The Black for getting him all worked up. He’d have never lost his calm if not for that fool. 

The ferrelf let out a little dook. She smiled at the blushed knuckles grinding into hard wood. She inched her head forward and licked the back of Horace’s hand. “You didn’t tell us your name,” Griever said. “But we smell old breaks in your bones. Light scars in your dark flesh. The tattoos on your back were made with ink from near the Western seas. But the ones on your chest are salty like the Hyoka Isles. On your palm is the blue scar, a marking left by Villquilm the Red when you stole his wand. Does it still glow under moonless nights?” She paused. When he didn’t answer her question, she went on. “You told us your story well before we spoke. It’s not quite as legends boast, but familiar enough that we already knew it.” 

There was little sense in arguing with the ferrelf. Horace felt a sinking in the pits of himself. It was as though something deep down had just been stolen. Something Griever took and was now dangling right before his eyes. His first impulse was honest enough. He should kill the ferrelf and add her hide to the rack. But no. If this creature had found him, surely others were looking. Perhaps Griever was agent to another’s will. He could pin her down easily enough, wring some answers from her and resort to his first impulse in due time. He decided to play his mind softly. Ferrelves were known for their slipperiness in a fight. He’d have to get the drop on her. So with a small groan Horace said, “I smell of a long day’s work, friend. Two days perhaps. Nothing more. Tell me why you’ve come again. A coin you say? Who told you I’d be one to offer such a thing?” It was as good of an admission as any. 

A coin was just that. Be it a pence, a jade, a copper fleck, or even a shell off the ground. To earn a coin was to request something with both little to no value, and immeasurable worth. In certain circles at least. Coins were revered by the sort of people Horace had long since abandoned. The greatest thieves, plunderers, and assassins, or at least those claiming such greatness, could earn coins in one of just a few ways. The most widely known was to accept a contract for an impossible deed. To kill a king. To slay a dragon. To steal from a vault said to have been secured with countless curses and charms. Some folks, of a certain sort, would post bounties and offer minor rewards for such great feats. Only those who were boastful ever accepted them. Only those who wished for nothing more than to see themselves told of in myths and legends. Most who took such challenges were never heard from again, most. There were some who had chosen the impossible and earned their legends for it. Horace included, back when he was Lorenzo Blade. 

“Only you can offer it,” Griever said. “You earned yours—” 

Horace tapped a large finger over the ferrelf’s mouth. “You needn’t mention such myths here,” he said. 

“Not speak of them?” One of Griever’s ears sank. “Sir, where we travelled from, they sing dirges of that day. We’ve seen puppets recreate it for children. Not the part where you ringed his throat with his brother’s bladder, but we felt the moral was still conveyed.” 

That was enough. Whoever this ferrelf was and wherever she’d come from, Horace heard all he could stomach. She knew his past. She had to die. He reached for the creature, ready to crush her skull. It’d only take a moment. One quick squeeze and then he’d have peace. He lunged. The ferrelf dropped to all fours, but Horace was too fast. His fingers spread, grazing Griever’s fur before clamping down— 

—and the wind was knocked straight out of him. Horace was thrown back against the floor, pinned against his counter. He gasped, trying to suck in air but something pushed against his chest. Through tearing eyes, it looked like a giant hand had grabbed him and was squeezing the life right out of him. Horace flailed his limbs as best he could, to try and find a grip or some escape. But there was none. He was pinned, right up against his store counter. Fighting for even the tiniest of breaths, he blinked several times and let his tears fall. He saw the thing that held him more clearly. It was indeed a hand. A giant, clawed hand had burst through the floorboards and was crushing him. As his eyes welled up again, he looked to the ferrelf. Griever watched him, still on all fours, a crooked smirk on her face. Something was off. Her right arm, the one she’d kept under the grape shroud, it looked to be a stump. It seemed to have wisps of black and gold smoke emanating from it. 

Griever dooked. “You’re fast,” she said, standing on her hind legs again. As she lifted off the floor, the hand pinning Horace released. It sank back into the ground, leaving the shopkeeper to gasp and hack. He slid sideways onto the floor, gathering what air he could. He eyed the ferrelf, watching her arm as the little shroud draped back over it. He couldn’t say for sure, but where he saw a stump before there was a hand. Not a normal one, but something jagged with an onyx luster. It took him several minutes to recapture his wind. All the while, the ferrelf stood in a pleasant silence. Once Horace found his voice again he asked, “What— Hells? What in The Black was that?” 

“What was what?” 

“That hand! That creature you’re hiding under my floor! What was that?” 

Griever glanced at the floor and shook her head. “There was no creature,” she said, some puzzlement to her voice. “Unless you mean us. Are we a creature to you? To most, we’re a person.” 

Horace coughed a few times. “That beast!” he gasped. “That thing you summoned. What ripped through my floor?” As Horace said it, he realized there was no hole in the floorboards between him and Griever. The boards were in place just as they’d been before. Or perhaps not? As he studied the space, where the hand came from, there was no hole sinking into the ground, no break nor even a splinter removed from the boards. And yet, they weren’t altogether right. It was as though his floor had suddenly warped, the rings of each board twisting into the next. The boards themselves bent into each other. If what had grasped him was a sort of creature or demon, it hadn’t been of a natural sort. 

“There was no beast,” Griever said slowly. She blinked at Horace a few times. Her ears lowered as her eyes thinned. She viewed the man with clear suspicion for a lingering moment and then perked at a sudden realization. “Did you think our hand was a creature?” she asked, lifting her arm from under the grape shroud. The ferrelf’s arm looked armored in jagged, black stones. She outstretched tiny, clawed fingers at Horace. They looked like gem shards. Far too thin to be gloved fingers, but each with digits that Griever waved, balled into a fist, and stretched again. Nothing seemed to connect her joints. They were simply sharp gems grinding each other. Horace had no words. He couldn’t even be certain of what he was looking at. He just watched as the ferrelf waved her hand, lowered herself slowly, and grazed the gem fingertips over a skunk hide. She then paused and pushed down. With a little smirk, the ferrelf sank her hand lower into the fur. Too low. It looked unnatural to Horace. It was as though Griever was down to her elbow in a pond, with wisps of black and gold light rippling around her. As she sank deeper, fingers begin to protrude out of the opposite edge of the hide, large fingers, each one the size of Griever. Soon a whole hand, made entirely of skunk fur, emerged from the hide. It arose high over Horace, the fingers spreading, balling into a fist, and then spreading again. Then, as Griever lifted herself, the skunk fur hand slipped back within the hide. A big, fanged grin spread over Griever’s face as she picked the hide off the floor and flapped it in the air. Neither the floor nor the fur had a hole in it. 

“What?” Horace stammered. “In the Black?” 

“You can’t do that either?” Griever asked, sounding more dissatisfied than sarcastic. She studied her own onyx fingers before lowering her hand, letting the grape shroud cover it. “I’ve never met another person who can.” 

“This surprises you?” Horace found himself staring at the shroud, somewhere betwixt mortified and marveled. “How long have you…” he trailed off, uncertain of exactly what he was asking. How long has your arm been a collection of crystals? How long have you been able to grow arms out of skunk furs? Why would you even think anybody could do whatever in The Black you’ve just done? 

“What day is this?” Griever said, her expression suddenly the puzzled sort of strain that stems from intense calculations. “I suppose I’ve had The Dark Salt for a dozen? Yes. A dozen... twelve-hundred years or so.” 

“That’s not…” Horace shook his head. It didn’t matter. “The Dark Salt? Why is it called The Dark Salt?” His mind wandered as the two of them discussed the ferrelf’s hand, mostly to questions he was uncertain of wanting answers to. He wondered if Griever had meant twelve-hundred years or dozens of twelve-hundred years. Ferrelves, immortal as they were, had little sense of time or anything outside of their immediate surroundings. Either answer would’ve been rational for such a creature to spout, and neither made much difference. Griever had had that thing she called The Dark Salt for far longer than Horace, or even Horace’s people, had been alive. Depending on the course of the evening, he imagined Griever would have it long after as well. He couldn’t help but size up the creature. Like all ferrelves, Griever was tiny. Long, clumsy in form, and short in stature. Had she not possessed that peculiar arm, she’d be a little match for Horace. A quick squeeze is all it would take to end the creature. The question forming was how to find an opening for such a quick squeeze. What could Griever do with such an arm? What couldn’t she? He’d seen an arm grow from both wood and skunk fur, so it stood to reason, if Horace managed to grab the ferrelf, Griever could just as easily form an arm out of him. Not even the moons could say what would happen if the creature turned her hand on herself. 

“It tastes like salt,” Griever said, holding her hand of shards before Horace again. “Lick it,” she said. “Go on. Lick it.” 

“I’ll take you at your word,” Horace said, a lurch in his gut at the thought of some magical hand springing from his tongue. The more he considered—truthfully—what little he’d seen of Griever’s arm, the more he felt a hole within himself. This ferrelf, this oblong rodent, had surprised him. Bested him! In an instant. And what’s more, she seemed indifferent to her victory. Horace had made a move to attack her, and yet Griever held her weapon aloft, proudly offering it for Horace to taste. Little by little, yet all too quickly, Horace felt the hole within himself growing. His past, his ancient history, now so distant that it felt like another life, perhaps even the dreams or memories of someone who shared an ale with him. It had finally found him in the quiet town of Sleeping Bear. Surely the moons had shone their judgment on him, and this Griever was the instrument of their will. “Let’s just be done with it,” he uttered, more to himself than the ferrelf. “You know my past. I cannot hide it from you. So tell me, what is your aim with it? Do you wish to kill me, ferrelf?” 

Griever retracted her arm. “You want to battle? Is that how we’ll earn our coin? Vanquishing the legendary Lorenzo Blade?” 

“Your coin?” Horace perked himself a little. “You’re serious then? That wasn’t something you were just saying? You weren’t sent here? You have no intentions against me?” 

“Our intention is to earn a coin from you. Is that for or against? We had said exactly that in all seriousness. About the coin, we mean.” 

Horace was dumbfounded. From the way the ferrelf twitched her whiskers, it seemed they both were. “You’re sincere? You wish only to earn a coin?” 

Griever’s eyes thinned. Diplomatically she said, “We also wish to roll in these furs. But if only one is possible, the coin is our quest.”


ILike2ski2 said...

I've read all three and really enjoyed them. They are all different. Nacromatica I enjoyed the action, the complexity of a 2 person relationship with love and common purpose, and lastly the power and strategy of the necromancer. Whisper I read after Nacromatica and gave an entirely different perspective on the interaction between the necromancer and post life. The Girl Drank Poison I had to laugh at the mind of Griever, the FerElf... What a character... Pretty scary the "untold power" with the mind of a simpleton. All three very creative and fun to read.

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