Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk VintageWe walked down the street in silence. Snow continued to fall, little whirlwinds picking at hair and clothing, and, before long, the streets of Sangeron were covered in a dusting of white. Around us, the society ladies with their fancy ruffs and their parasols scurried by, oblivious of everything but getting home before their hairdos were affected by the snow.

We turned down a side street filled with small shops. The storefronts were a bit more weathered, and the metal on the upper floors was a bit more rusted. The garbage bins were emptied a little less often, and more bits of trash blew in the wind. It wasn’t a poor area, not one of the ones where citizens slept in the streets and robberies were common, but it wasn’t a place my sister would ever frequent, either.

Madam Cora’s was a small tea room that saw few visitors. It was the place I normally patroned, though it was further away from the park than the café I’d visited earlier. For a moment, I wished I had just come to Madam Cora’s. It would’ve made it harder for Elbert to find me.

“A tea room?” he asked.

I nodded and smiled. “One of my favorite places. The Steam Whisper isn’t open yet.”

We entered the tea room, and the weight I’d been carrying lifted off my shoulders. A tiny bell tinkled when we closed the door, and Madam Cora came into the dining room with a tea towel in her hand. She was a slight woman, less than five feet tall, with wide shoulders and hips and a tuft of hair on her chin. Elbert’s eyes widened, and I chuckled at his surprise.

“A dwarf? In Sangeron?”

Madam Cora arched a bushy, brown eyebrow at him, and I nearly fell to the floor laughing. Part of me felt sorry for him because he was somewhat right. While the Xaggarene Empire wasn’t known for its tolerance, there were still plenty of elves and demons within its borders. Dwarves, on the other hand, were known for not leaving The Kingdom of Emerell. They were an insular group that had no love of outsiders.

“Ye’ve a problem with dwarfs?”

Elbert shook his head. “No, ma’am. I’ve spent a good bit of time in The Kingdom of Emerell, and I’ve always found the dwarven folk to be quite hospitable.”

Madam Cora nodded as if she approved then turned back to me. “How’re you doing, Muhulda, dear? What can I get for you?”

“Some tea and cakes would be great,” I replied. “Seeing as how someone took me away from my breakfast.” I shot Elbert a look he couldn’t misinterpret.

“All right,” Madam Cora replied. “You two have a seat, and I’ll be back in a minute.”

We made our way to a table and settled down under an incandescent lamp. Elbert leaned forward, and I suddenly realized he was much younger than I thought he was, much closer to my own age. What I’d assumed were wrinkles were, in fact, small scars. His eyes were a deep purply-yellow, as odd a color as I’d ever seen. His clothes looked like he’d pulled them out of a garbage bin, a weird mixture of sleeveless shirt tied in the front and trousers that looked like they were missing their lower half. His weapons were no joke, though. Knives ringed his belt and stuck from the top of his boots, and a chain with a heavy, spiked ball on the end hung at his side.

“What do you want from me?” I asked. “You’ve been following me around since last night.”

Elbert shook his head. “I’ve been following the ba’soray around for several days now, and it’s getting a little old.”

“Are those the demons with all the tongues?”

Elbert nodded. “I was sent because a nest of them was discovered near the dock.”

“But I thought most of the demons were in Moirena.”

“Most of them are, but these are more like animals than demons. They’re parasites without a lot of intelligence, in case you haven’t noticed. You can train a spitmoller easier than you can these things, and even the other demons try to eliminate them.”

“Where did they come from?” I wanted to know.

Elbert shrugged. “No idea. That’s why I spent most of yesterday evening drinking with them.”

“I don’t get it,” I admitted. “If they’re so unintelligent, how can they wander around drinking Melon Peckers and hitting Bleeding Grim?”

Madam Cora came with our food at that moment, and Elbert waited until she had gone to say more. He dug into the cakes she had brought like he hadn’t eaten in days.

“They have to be controlled by someone,” he said around a mouthful of cake. “The humans are hosts. That’s how they move around.” He took another bite. “That’s why I was with them last night. I was trying to get a lead on where they were going.”

“Then maybe killing them wasn’t the brightest idea you ever had.”

He took a sip of tea and shrugged. “Maybe not, but you don’t want one getting its hands on you.” He gave me a smile. “It was a choice. I think, the right one.”

My tea and cakes remained untouched on the table in front of me. I picked up the cup and took a sip, grimacing because the tea was cool. “Well, I thank you for that, but what does any of this have to do with me?”

He scarfed down the last of his cakes and eyed mine. I pushed them across the table and leaned back, waiting for him to get to the point.

“I asked you earlier why those things were after you.”

“And I told you earlier that I don’t know. I’ve never heard of them.” I leaned up and propped my arms on the table. “I serve drinks to a bunch of lowlifes and try to keep my sister out of my life. That’s the best I’ve got.”

“Friends? Lovers? Anyone who could have a tie with these things?”

I shook my head. “Not unless it’s Bramwell. He’s the only person I ever see besides my sister.”

“And what am I, dear?” Madam Cora asked. “Some ghighet you stop by and feed?”

Neither one of us had noticed her approaching the table.

“No, Madam Cora. I just meant that I don’t socialize a lot.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Well. Would you like more tea?”

“Yes, please,” Elbert replied. He gave her a smile that melted the frown off her face and made my heart skip a beat.

Madam Cora shuffled back to the kitchen, and I turned back to Elbert. “Why would they want me? What do they usually hunt?”

“That’s the thing,” Elbert replied. “There’s no type that they prefer. They’ll go after whoever or whatever they’re sent after. So, who would want you eaten by a bunch of demons? Any enemies? Pissed off anyone lately?”

“Only my sister.”

“Would she do something like this?”

Fury bloomed in my chest like a blood stain on clothing. “How dare you.” I rose to my feet. “She may be a selfish, self-righteous, annoying bitch, but she wouldn’t hurt me. She’d be too worried about it damaging the family name.”

“Anyone else?” Elbert acted like accusing my sister of trying to kill me was nothing.

I plopped back into my seat and banged my hands on the table. “No.”

Elbert leaned forward and tried to place his hand over mine. I snatched it away. He sighed and leaned back just as Madam Cora placed a plate of cakes and a pot of tea on the table. Elbert helped himself and waited, as if I had more information and was hiding it.

“Tell me,” I said. “What’s the sword do? It came out of nowhere and disappeared.”

Elbert continued to eat, and I wondered when he’d eaten last. His bright red hair and tufty little beard were mussed from the fight, and I could see faded scars on his face and arms. He shrugged and took a sip of tea. “It’s the Varunastra of Varuna. It’s a magical weapon that can take any form. I’m partial to the sword, so that’s what it becomes most of the time.”

I leaned forward then, my interest piqued. “What else does it do?” If I could find out about the Shadow Walkers’ weapons, I could sell the story to the highest bidder, maybe even get a job at one of the newspapers, and get the hell out of the Steam Whisper.

Elbert sat his tea down and looked at me with a strange expression on his face. “It does what it needs to do, and that’s all I can tell you.” He rose to his feet. “I’m going to see if I can track down the ba’soray. I suggest you stay inside as much as possible and give a lot of thought as to who wants you dead.” He laid some coin on the table and headed for the door.

I, too, rose and glanced at the coin on the table. It was more than enough to cover our cost, and I thought Madam Cora would appreciate the extra. I wanted to ask more, but he was gone before I could get the words out. Still, I had enough to get started on a good story, and I still had several hours before time for my shift at the Steam Whisper.

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

The café was a small place off the main thoroughfare. The ladies, those who had no need to work at places like the Steam Whisper, sat at round tables, sipped tea, and ate delicate little cookies. Long dresses with lots of frills and elaborate hair styles hit my eyes no matter which way I turned. I loved the café, but the clientele wasn’t my favorite group of people. They were too much like my haughty sister and her ‘husband in need of a secretary’.

I settled into a chair amid sneers of disgust. I was conscious of being different, of wearing trousers and boots instead of a frilly gown, but I was willing to bet I was more educated than any of them.

“Oh, my gods. Do you see her clothes?”

“What’s someone like that doing in here? Aren’t there taverns for her kind?”

The whispers, if they could be called that, cut into my already low self-esteem. I considered leaving, but I wasn’t willing to give the bitches the satisfaction. I took out my parchment pad and pen and shut the rest of the patrons from my mind, but it was no use. I was more concerned about Elbert and the demon than I was about writing. Elbert and the demon. That was it. My pen flew across the page as I detailed all that I had seen.

The door opened, and cold air blasted through the café. The women complained until they saw who stood in the doorway, then their complaints crescendoed to a roar. The man in the doorway didn’t flinch. His eyes raked over the place; the sneer on his face reflected that of the women. With two steps, he was at my side. He grabbed my arm and tightened his grip when I tried to pull away. He dragged me from the café with no regard for my comfort. My parchment pad was left on the table.

“Let go of me.”

He didn’t answer.

I struggled, but he was much stronger than me.

“Muhulda, what is going on here?”

I rolled my eyes and tried again to pull my arm from Elbert’s grasp. He didn’t pause.

“Let go of my sister right now, or I’ll call the Enforcers.”

Elbert stopped and turned around. He blinked a couple of times then realized we were twins. “Stay out of it,” he growled.

Matilda’s boots banged against the cobbles in a staccato beat that echoed my heartbeat. “I will not.”

Elbert sighed and stopped, but he didn’t let me go. Matilda reached us in seconds and raised her arm to slap him.

“I wouldn’t recommend that action.” Elbert’s voice was quiet but cold, and I quit struggling in surprise.

Matilda, too, sensed the danger and backed away. “What do you want with her?”

“We have to talk.” Elbert didn’t say more.

Matilda turned to me, her eyes wide. “What have you gotten yourself into now? Just wait until I tell Mother.” She turned back to Elbert, her hands on her hips and her fur wrap blowing in the wind. “Well?”

“Well, what?” Elbert snarled.

“What has she done?” Matilda approached this the same way she approached everything—with the idea that she could just buy or bully her way out of it.

Elbert looked back and me with questions in his eyes. I just rolled mine. “Tell her or don’t. I don’t care.” He stared at me for another minute then let go of my arm. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said to me. “You’re in danger.” Then he turned back to my sister. “This doesn’t concern you. Period.”

Matilda huffed and tossed a stray end of her wrap back over her shoulder. “Well, I never…” She glanced over at me. “Do I need to call the Enforcers?”

I shook my head and willed her to shut up and go away. No one was more surprised than I was when she did.

“Well, I’ll come by and see you in a bit, Mully.” She stomped away.

I whirled on Elbert. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? I’m not your wife, your sister, or your bitch, and if you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.”

He stood there with his arms crossed and snow falling on his head. Even in the cold, his arms were bare. “Those demons are after you for a reason. What is it?”

“I don’t know! What part of that don’t you understand?”

Elbert shivered once and looked around the crowded street. “Is there somewhere we can get something to eat around here. It’s freezing.”

I rolled my eyes again. “Come on. We can’t go back to the café, not after the way you barreled into the place, but I know another place.”


Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

I dressed and grabbed my parchment pad and cloak. There was a small park just a few blocks from my flat, and I hoped that being outside, even in the cold, would spark my writer’s instincts. Even better if I could see something that would make a story. A good one.

A steam carriage creaked by just as I was leaving. Steam belched from a stack over the engine, and a solitary man sat hunched and shivering on the driver’s seat. The curtains to the carriage were closed, and I idly wondered which of the city’s many hoity-toits was riding around town. Then I let the though pass as the bells from the Arcana Maximus rang the end of morning services. People would be filling the streets, all wrapped in their winter coats and scarves. Some would head straight home for dinner, while others would take time to stroll the parks and enjoy the crisp scent of fresh-fallen snow.

Walking to the park released some of my anger, and, by the time I got there, several others were strolling by the partially frozen creek. I found an empty bench and settled in to watch my fellow citizens.

An older couple wandered by. She wore a long dress with a flaring skirt and plenty of lace on the trim. The navy blue contrasted with her pale skin and made her look old and doughy. He, on the other hand, was a dapper older man in a dark suit and top hat. Watching him walk, I was pretty sure the cane he carried was more for effect than necessity. I smiled. The older citizens of Sangeron, the ones who held onto the ideas of class and culture, never ceased to amuse me. It was the same mindset my parents and sister had, and I often wondered if they realized just how pointless it really was.

From the other direction came a guy, younger than me by a few years. Hair the same deep blue as my own stuck up in all directions. A scar ran down his cheek, still pink and shining, and he wore a long-barreled pistol at his side. Bright eyes the brilliant yellow, so common in the demon races, shone with an eerie light, and I wondered just what he was doing there.

“It’d be a good source for an article.” I muttered the words under my breath and bent to my parchment to make notes.

A shadow fell over me, and I looked up to see the demon. He scowled, an expression that marred the fine lines of his face. From up close, he resembled those I’d see the night before, just younger. It wasn’t so much his facial features as it was the way he carried himself, the slightly ‘off’ look in his eyes.

“What do you want?”

He scowled again. “What’s say you let me show you the town?”

I rolled my eyes and stood, forcing him to back up. “What’s up with all the invites lately? You guys understand that I live here, right? I’ve seen the town.”

He growled, a low, deep-throated sound that vibrated in my blood. Fear inched its way up my spine and oozed into my nerves. I pulled my cloak around me as if I was cold and used the cover to pull the knife from my belt. Inwardly, I sighed. This sure felt like a repeat of the night before.

“Don’t be like that,” he said. “Just let me show you the town.” The more he spoke, the more I could tell that Lethatu wasn’t his first language. He spoke like he was trying to remember the words, like his tongue didn’t want to make the sounds.

I shifted so I could move away from the guy and sighed again. Now, I’m tall, but he towered over me, well over six feet, and I was tired of craning my neck to look up at him. “Look. I had two guys use the same line on me last night. I wasn’t interested then, and I’m not interested now. So, you guys just leave me alone and let me get on with my life.”

I walked away with a quickness. The guy’s boots crunching in the snow followed me. I cursed and turned, ready to fight for my life, but someone else stepped between him and me. I cursed again when I realized it was Elbert. Why the hell was the Shadow Walker following me? How’d he known I would be here?

“You really don’t wanna do that.” His voice had a slow drawl to it, one I’d never heard before, and I wondered if he came from Corleon or Moirena, somewhere not here.

The demon thing mumbled a little, his words mangled by the tongues in his mouth, and Elbert laughed.

“Tough shit. Walk away, and you live. Stick around, and you die. It’s that simple.”

The demon muttered something else and lunged for Elbert. I’m ashamed to say that a girly scream escaped my lips, but I quickly swallowed it. I backed away and let Elbert deal with the creature. I had other things to do, after all, and I had no desire to get mixed up with the Shadow Walkers, no matter how tight their bums were or how gracefully they moved. I could just imagine Matilda’s high-pitched, high-falutin voice telling me how much Shadow Walkers were beneath us with their crass ways and base social functions. I mean, really, they fought monsters, of all things. How gauche.

Elbert looked to be holding his own, so I headed out of the park. I’d really wanted to spend some time writing, but the demon thing with a mouth full of tentacles prevented that. So, I headed toward a nearby café instead. Maybe there I could focus on what I wanted to do without interruption.


Finding Peace

img_20170228_094517Most of us have a lot going on at any given time. We have jobs, families, and responsibilities of all kinds. We rush and we hurry, then we collapse at the end of the day. It’s nothing new. It’s the way things are.

I’ve spent the last few evenings reading the Lois Lowry series that begins with The Giver. I’d read the first book, and taught it to sixth graders, but I’d never read the others. There just hadn’t been time. When a friend of mine loaned them to me, I decided to kick back and get them read, to find out what happened to Jonas after he left the Community.

The books are good books, literary, but there isn’t a lot of action. They aren’t books that are going to keep  you on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next. Not really. But they’re peaceful books, books you’d like to curl up in a chair with and leave off all other sound.

Reading these books, without the TV or music playing, has brought a bit of peace back into my life. There was no need to hurry, and I found that I even curled up in the chair in my bedroom to finish reading the last one (at 3 am). It was a time simply to be, and I’m grateful for it, for it reminded me that I’d been pushing too hard, rushing too much, and carrying a load that was far too heavy. It gave me time to reflect and to rest, something we all need now and again, something I would like my books to provide readers – a place to escape and to just be.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

Characters with a Mind of Their Own

img_20160428_203226Well, I spent several hours working on ‘the story that never end’, and I’m torn on what to do with it. One day it seems fine, like something I can complete and revise, but other days it seems like I should just scrap it and move on to something else. Even the characters aren’t wanting to stick to anything. One of the main characters wants to change where he lives back and forth between two places, and I can’t seem to get him to settle. One of the female MCs is doing the same thing. I’m wondering if there’s another story in there, one that takes place between Wolf in the Shadow and this one.

At this point, I’m asking for opinions on the first chapter. I haven’t revised it yet, so it’s a bit rough from the last rewrite, but I would appreciate some feedback.

Thanks so much.

Lissa Dobbs


Sister Gabrielle Corcoran darted behind Shadowhell, glancing over her shoulder to see if anyone had seen her. The building was quiet, the only sounds the occasional cry of a child or the hollow bark of an n’kita.


Gabby propped against the rough wooden wall of a housing complex and leaned her head back to catch her breath. For a moment she considered the folly of her actions; Sisters of the Arcana Maximus weren’t allowed out into the city of Freywater, and never after Middle Night Contemplation, but Gabby had to know the truth. She’d simply heard too many whispers over the last few months to remain cloistered within the Arcana.


Gabby pushed herself away from the wall and turned to face the Warren.  A hedge barred her way, but Gabby knew that beyond this barrier lay a labyrinth of half-built structures cobbled together of wood and metal.  Chimneys belched coal smoke that hung in the air, a perpetual fog the gas lamps couldn’t penetrate.  Detritus from wasted lives lay in piles that reeked of despair and destitution, and creatures best left unexamined crawled among the filth.


Rumors told of biotic experiments gone bad, of humans with minds twisted by scientific experimentation, monsters with no conscience and no sense of rightness.  Demons, elves, and other unmentionable creatures ran rampant through streets none dared oversee.  All this Gabby had heard as a Sister of the Arcana, but most of it she brushed aside as nothing more than the rampant ramblings of minds with nothing better to do. 


But what if I’m wrong?


Footsteps echoing on the cobbled street in front of the building kept Gabby frozen where she was. Voices, barely heard, drifted on the breeze, and Gabby held her breath while her heart tried to escape from her ribcage. Enforcers. It had to be. For they were the only ones likely to be strolling Freywater at three hours after midnight, especially with the rumors of animated corpses on the loose.


Gabby shivered as she waited for the voices to fade into nothingness. There had been a lot of rumors lately, enough to penetrate even the cloistered halls of the Arcana Maximus. Rumors of elves crossing the Borderland Mountains and harassing the smaller towns north of Freywater led to whispers that the Ibunana, the head of the Arcana, had petitioned the emperor to reinstate the ban on all magical people. Gabby wasn’t sure if she believed it, not that it affected her, but just the thought of the empire being invaded terrified her.


Gabby strained her ears, and when she was sure the Enforcers had gone, she took several deep breaths to calm her nerves.  The malodorous stench of rotted food and excrement assailed her nose.  She choked and covered her mouth with her hand.  


She trembled and looked up at a sky that was nothing but swirling gray. Doesn’t matter now. 


Then, with a sigh, she crossed the dusty street and plunged into the Warren.


Darkness closed around Gabby. She squeezed her eyes as the miasma of misery crushed her chest, then she gasped and forced herself forward on shaking legs. The ground beneath her seemed to radiate despondency, and Gabby had to constantly fight the urge to run. A discarded board reached for her legs and caused her to stumble, and the ramshackle constructions around her tried to trap her in their grasp.


A baby cried, and a cat rowled, and Gabby stopped, straining her ears to locate the distorted sounds. Shadows moved in the corner of her vision, and Gabby jumped as she tried to see what was there. But all that appeared was yet another pile of rubbish.


Candlelight flickered in a small wooden shack ahead, and Gabby made her way toward it. She used the feeble light to dodge a mound of refuse as high as her shoulders and to avoid puddles that reeked in the summer heat. She knew her mother had died in a hovel near the city wall, but Gabby had no idea just which home had been hers. 


“I wish I could just come during the day,” she whispered to the darkness.


More sounds, distorted by the haze and night, reached Gabby’s ears. Her legs trembled and her gut twisted around a solid mass of terror. Something thunked then shuffled, and Gabby froze where she was. She tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear and strained her eyes. She could dimly make out hovels cobbled together with scraps of wood and bits of paper, each a testament to the tenacity of its residents. Mountains of garbage rose around her, and Gabby’s imagination provided myriad possibilities of what could be hiding behind them. Or within them. She reached into the leather pouch at her waist and removed the forbidden knife.  She held it loosely, ready to use it if need be.


Gabby had no sooner convinced herself that she was being ridiculous when a creature emerged from the darkness bit by bit, the reek of death preceding it. It was a small child, a girl, dressed in a navy dress trimmed in pink. Long fuchsia hair matted with gore framed a baby doll face the color of creamed coffee. Gabby relaxed for a moment, prepared to help the child, but the malicious hiss that showed a mouth full of serrated teeth caused Gabby to stumble backwards and land on her butt in a puddle. She noted the child’s bleeding eyes and the vine-like stitches on her arms and legs and the way the girl shambled forward. 


The corpse lunged, arms outstretched and fingers clawed. Gabby tried to raise her knife, but the creature dove at her before she could do more than scream.








The city of Freywater was dark, the only sound the chug of generators that kept necessary equipment running. Detective Timothy Hawkins trudged along muddy roads on his way home from his shift with the Enforcers and wished the city would add cobbles to this part of town. His black cloak billowed behind him in the gentle breeze, and the black pants and shirt of the Enforcer uniform lent him a commanding appearance. The bronze trimmed chest plate, the maces across his back, and the sword at his side caused him to look downright deadly. At least in his own opinion.


He paused a moment beside the Fading Jug Tradepost and contemplated stopping for a Fizzy Drink, then he shook his head and continued onward. He shivered when he passed Neverfair, one of the housing buildings common to Freywater. The structure loomed above him, its bottom built from stone and wood, while its upper floors were corrugated metal. Like the other housing buildings in this part of town, Neverfair was a tall building that somehow managed to look squat.


As he neared his building, Timothy stopped. The wind tickled the leaves of the few nearby trees, and tiny frogs plopped in puddles. Conversations buzzed in the neighboring homes, whispers that grew and faded, but Timothy could discern no cause for the sudden arresting of his attention, no reason for the stirring of the hated magic within him.


A scream echoed through the haze, high-pitched and grating. The sound bounced off the buildings around him and returned as a pitiful cry. Several n’kitas took up the cry, but no one lit a candle or lamp.  The Warren held its breath and waited for the danger to pass, not daring to interfere.


Timothy took off into the Warren. His boots pounded the ground, and his breath came in gasps as the exhaustion of his long shift drained what little energy he had. 


He skidded to a stop and pulled a mace from the holder on his back in one fluid motion.  He swung the mace with a grunt and connected with the head of a little girl. Timothy grimaced and jumped backwards as bits of bone and brain matter exploded from the creature’s head. The woman on the ground in front of him tried to protect her face, but one of the corpse’s eyes bounced off her cheek anyway. The woman’s sea green eyes widened, and tears ran down her face.


“Are you hurt?” Timothy asked. He squatted in front of her and tried to make out details in the faint light.


The woman shook her head, and Timothy extended his hand as he stood. She grasped it and rose to her feet without speaking.


“Why are you out here, Sister?” Timothy asked in a deep whisper.


Timothy looked more closely at the woman and noted her soiled gray skirt. Her shirt buttoned high on the neck, and she wore a black leather bodice with belts over her left shoulder. A dark gray cape rested across her shoulders, and a small leather pouch hung from a belt at her waist.  Her heart-shaped face was a mask of terror, and bits of blood and mud speckled auburn hair. Eyes wide and breath gasping, she stared at Timothy with a complete lack of comprehension, and Timothy feared she’d go into shock.


“I didn’t think they let the Sisters out wandering.” Timothy checked his clothes for corpse bits then looked back at the Sister.


He watched as she examined her own clothes with shaking hands, then she seemed to come to a conclusion of some sort and looked back up at Timothy. There was a resolve there that bespoke of an inner strength not yet tested, and Timothy was reminded of another, one he had known long ago. “They usually don’t, but I needed some information, and this was the only way I had to get it.”


“By creeping through the Warren in the middle of the night? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? Do you know what kind of people live here?”


Gabby’s eyes widened, and tears again began to flow. “I’ve heard the rumors, but just because people are poor doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.”


Timothy made a disgusted sound and turned away from Sister Bleeding Heart. “Sister, I know you’re taught to believe in the good in people, and no one knows more about the good in some of these people than I do, but there are those here who would slit your throat just for the knife in your hand.”


“But –.”


“Sister, listen. Whatever information you think you need isn’t worth the risk you’re taking by being here.”


“I came to find out about my mother!” Gabby’s cry echoed through the silence, and Timothy reached for his knife before the sound died.


“What about her?” he growled. His eyes never stopped moving.


“They told me she died because of her heart, but I’ve been hearing whispers around the Arcana that it was something else. No one will tell me anything, so I came to find out.”


Timothy sighed and rubbed his face with his free hand. Gods preserve us against all curious women. “Okay Sister, what was your mother’s name, and I’ll see what I can find out for you. There’s no need in your risking your life.”


“Lucy Corcoran.” Gabby lowered her gaze to the ground and nodded her head. “Thank you, Detective.  I appreciate it.”


“Anything else?”


“Anything else what?”


Timothy rolled his eyes. “Any more information you can give me?”


“My father was a stone mason and died when I was little. Mother always said he left plenty of money, and she always had a job. I don’t understand how she could’ve wound up here.” Gabby waved her hand at the cramped buildings that closed in upon the muddy street.


“How long have you been with the Arcana?”


“Since I was thirteen winters. About fifteen years.”


Timothy raised his eyebrow in askance. “And you chose to go?”


Gabby shook her head. “Mother insisted. She never told me why.”


Timothy simply stared as something about the young woman tickled the back of his mind. Something she’d said, perhaps, or some oddity of energy from the Spear of Victory he carried. He wasn’t sure.


Timothy was quiet for a moment, then he sighed and took Gabby by the arm. “Come on, let’s get you back to the Arcana before your Ibunana finds out you’re gone.”




Muhulda Urswyk – Unlock the Truth

Muhulda Urswyk VintageI recently had the, ehem, honor of interviewing Shadow Walker Arianna Henderson. I’ll have to say that it was an eye-opener. Read the full interview below.


Muhulda: Good morning, Arianna. I’ve heard you’ve just returned from a tour on the Greydawn Spirit. Can you tell me what it’s like to travel the void?

Arianna: Well, it’s big and gray and full of void serpents. What else do you wanna know?

Muhulda: I’d like to know why the Shadow Walker guild employs ships and people to patrol out there. What do you do? How is the expense justified?

Arianna: Well, the expense is for the Shadow Walker guild to worry about. As to the why? (Arianna leans forward. There’s a glint in her eyes that this reporter can only interpret as madness.) How would you feel if a hundred-foot serpent with poisoned fangs that could possibly breathe fire came flying over Sangeron right now and leveled half the buildings?

Muhulda: I don’t think I’d like that very much. But isn’t protecting our borders, both from within and without, the job of the military?

Arianna: (She leans back and crosses her arms at this point.) Don’t you think they have enough to worry about? And how far out into the void do you think they go?

Muhulda: I would think they would stay close to the borders.

Arianna: (Her eyes light up, and she again looks mad.) Precisely. They stick near the border. We go further out. You have no idea what’s out there, what could be coming for us at any moment.

Muhulda: And what, exactly, is coming for us? This sounds like some kind of bizarre conspiracy to me.

(Arianna laughs at this point, and it makes this reporter’s skin crawl. There’s no doubt that this woman is stark raving loonies. Is this the kind of people the Shadow Walkers regularly recruit?)

Arianna: Sweet cheeks, you can sit there and judge me all you want, but, let me tell you, if a swarm of pixie mites got through to the Xaggarene Empire, most people would be dead before they knew what was happening.

Muhulda: And what’s a pixie mite? (I had to chuckle here, for the concept was simply ridiculous.)

Arianna: It’s this tiny little spirit that looks like a pixie. The thing is, though, when it touches you, it sucks out your life force before you can do anything about it.

Muhulda: You don’t look like you’ve had your life force, in your words, ‘sucked out.’

(Again, that laugh.)

Arianna: Of course not. I know how to fight them.

Muhulda: And how, exactly, do you fight them? Do you use poison? They sound like bugs.

Arianna: I use a sword. Others use their magic or their weapons from the gods.

Muhulda: A sword? But I thought all Shadow Walkers had weapons. Why would you need a sword instead?

Arianna: Because my ‘weapon’ isn’t one. I carry the Cauldron of Plenty from the Dagda. It gives me the power to heal. I don’t use it to fight.

Muhulda: So, the Shadow Walkers don’t use physicians?

Arianna: Of course we do. I can’t be everywhere at once. Now, if it’s life-threatening, then I’m the one who deals with the injury, but I don’t handle the lighter stuff. I don’t have the energy.

Muhulda: So, there’s a limit to the amount of power a Shadow Walker has?

Arianna: Well, yeah. Did you really think we were made into some all-powerful, invincible people? Really? We’re just normal people who’ve been given a gift and chose to use it. That’s it.

Muhulda: And how do think Barnabas Merriweather does with running the guild? Does he train the new recruits? Does he make sure those who are supposed to ‘protect us’ are competent?

Arianna: He’s great. He has a lot on him, but he does it all. (She leans forward again, and this reporter can’t help backing up a little. There is something too uncanny about that glint in her eyes.) We get training, and there’s the school, after all. New Shadow Walkers who come to us can take classes there even if they’re adults. Others have learned on their own. (She shrugs.) It works.

Muhulda: And when will you head back out into the void?

Arianna: I’m not sure. I have another mission down in Freywater for a bit, then I’m sure I’ll be back out there. I love it. Sure, it gets a little dull sometimes with all the endless gray, but the creatures that come out of it keep me hopping. I like that.

Muhulda: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the Shadow Walkers?

Arianna: Is there anything else you’d like to know?

Muhulda: No. No. I think that’s all for now.

Arianna: All right, then.

(The woman stands and tosses her hair, which is candy pink, over her shoulder. She sashays out of the office and winks at me from the door. This reporter must admit to being terrified. This woman is obviously insane and should be locked in Josephus Halidon’s Home for the Insane and Destitute. Why she’s allowed to interact with normal, decent folk, I’ll never know, but something needs to be done to ensure that these Shadow Walkers are upstanding citizens.)

Meet Timothy Hawkins

steampunk-880408_1280Name: Timothy Hawkins

Age: 23 – Wolf in the Shadow

Race: Human

Weapon: Spear of Victory

Pantheon: Celtic – Lugh

Profession: Enforcer

Hometown: Freywater

Childhood: Timothy came  from an average family in Freywater in the Xaggarene Empire. He attended school at the Arcana Maximus, where he was often in trouble with his best friends Justin Harper and Daniel Klesko.

Personality: As Timothy grew older and the burden of the Spear weighed more heavily on him, he lost most of his carefree attitude and settled into a life of little but responsibility. While he still spent time with Justin, his friend’s juvenile behavior got on Timothy’s nerves. He was forever telling Justin to grow up. This slowly eroded their friendship, as Justin saw no reason being responsible couldn’t be fun as well. After their assignment in Black Crystal, Wolf in the Shadow, the two parted company. From that point onward, Timothy trusted no one, and his relationship with the Shadow Walkers became more and more strained.

Favorite Foods: Timothy is a big fan of boar and stewed coniklo. He also has a sweet tooth and will devour anything made with sugar. He particularly likes jelly candy and fruit-filled chocolate.

Favorite Pastime: Timothy is a workaholic and spends as much time as possible at the Enforcer office and patrolling Freywater. He is the only officer who dares to enter the Warren, and he has as a special relationship with the people there. Sometimes, this gives him leads and helps him solve cases he wouldn’t otherwise be able to solve. On the rare occasions he doesn’t work, Timothy wanders the woods outside of Freywater.

Deepest Desire: Timothy’s most secret desire is for his one true love to come home. He misses her more than he ever thought possible, and there are times he longs to lay down his ethics and hold her in his arms.

New Game in Grevared

Magic and Machine Cards

When it comes to my world and my writing, I like to be fully immersed in the experience. That means I don’t just have maps and tons of notes on creatures and cultures, I also like to get into the daily lives of the people who live there. I have a page on my website for holiday recipes, and I’m hoping to add more as I come up with them. (I’m still looking for some squid so I can make talakilkonna tail.)

One of my most recent projects was to come up with a game to be played in the taverns and pubs. I already had ‘Ware the Dragon, a jacks-like game played by children, but I wanted something for adults, something they could gamble with, so I sat down and fiddled around and came up with a game that currently has no name.

‘Ware the Dragon

I’m still working out all the details, but I do know that you try to get your cards to total 15. There are two types of cards – magic and machine. Each player has both kinds of cards, but they decide at the beginning who will be magic and who will be machines. All magic cards affect the ‘magic’ player, and all machine cards affect the ‘machine’ player. This can create some issues as your opponent can affect your total or wipe out your points all together. I want to add some other cards that interfere or assist with game play, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

I’m considering offering a printable PDF version of the cards for those who join my insider’s list on my website, but I want to work out all the details of the game first. (Right now, new members get a copy of ‘The Old Woman and the Disappearing Crevice’ – Note: this story plays a central role in one of my current WIP’s.)

Best wishes!