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.

 

It’s Release Day!!!!

ebook-red-and-greenEthan has settled in to life as a Shadow Walker, but as Yuletide approaches, he’s anxious to get home for the holiday. And the best part? His friends are going with him.

But life as a Shadow Walker is full of unexpected surprises, and when a new student brings an enemy into their midst, Yuletide plans are put on hold. Ethan and his friends have to deal with the threat and protect Land’s End from the wrath of an angry god.

EXCERPT

Ethan shrugged and ducked around Kayne. “Kayne, we just now met him. I haven’t had time to think about it yet. Now, can we just go see what Mr. Merriweather wants?”

Kayne laughed. “You’re afraid we’re in trouble, aren’t you?”

Ethan looked back over his shoulder. “Aren’t you? How many kids do you hear of going to his office?” Ethan stopped and looked at Kayne. “Remember last time?”

Last time they had been in serious trouble for sneaking out and looking for Cronus. Mr. Merriweather had made them tackle the cleanup of the lobby and had grounded them, but he had lifted the punishment when Ethan and Kayne had saved Faylen.barnabas-black-and-white-vintage

Kayne scratched the back of his neck and shook his head. “Well, I actually wind up there a lot, come to think of it.”

Ethan laughed. “That’s because you always do stupid stuff, then you’re shocked when you get caught.”

Kayne laughed along with him. “Okay. I’ll give you that.”

The boys stopped in front of Barnabas Merriweather’s door and knocked. They waited until they were called, then they entered.

 

Other books in the series: (available in eBook and paperback)

The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: A Walker is Born

The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: Cronus Attacks

Learn more about Ethan’s world, read free stories, and download printable coloring pages and word searches at http://www.lissadobbs.com.

Meet Ethan Grimley III

Name: Ethan Grimley III

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Ethan Grimley III

Age: 12 winters

Appearance: strawberry blonde hair, green eyes

Family: Ethan is the son of Gregory and Eva Grimley. He had an older sister, but she died when he was little.

Hometown: Land’s End, Moirena

Current Home: Ymla, Corleon

Favorite Subject: Combat

Friends: Kayne Soulton, Faylen Icebreeze, Electa Norris

Favorite Teacher: Damion Simmons

God/dess: Gaia

Pantheon: Greek

Weapon: Harpe

Weapon’s Features: The Harpe of Gaia gives Ethan strength and accuracy beyond his skill. It also glows and can provide light.

Favorite Activities: Ethan loves hanging out with his friends. He enjoys practicing his combat skills and playing kickball.

Favorite Foods: Ethan loves fist meals – meat, cheese, and veggies between two slices of bread. He also enjoys griddle cakes, candy, his mother’s bread and pastries, and warm soup on a cold day.

Fears: Ethan is afraid of not measuring up to others’ expectations of him. This causes him to charge into situations without thinking about dangers and consequences.

Greatest Desire: Ethan wishes more than anything to be the greatest Shadow Walker that ever lived. He wants to fight monsters and other creatures, and he wants to travel to all the lands of Grevared.

 

 Read more about Ethan and his adventures at http://www.lissadobbs.com