I’ve sent SHIFTY to Per Bastet Publications’ formatter and production artist to knock into shape and upload for publication. It should be available for purchase before the end of the year.
SHIFTY is a collection of short stories set in the world of SAGE, my fantasy trilogy. There are excerpts from the trilogy on what it pleases me to call my SAGE page.
ANYWAY, some of the stories are previously published, and some are new for the collection. Some of them feature places and characters from the trilogy, and some of them are in places only mentioned — or not mentioned — in the trilogy but that I know are there, and feature entirely new characters or bit characters from the books.
This sample is the beginning of the first story in the book. It features Kinnan, who is one of the main characters in SAGE.
A Deserted Place on a Desolate Night
excerpt from “The Gleaming Ones”
by Marian Allen
Kinnan stumbled in the darkness and fell forward, scabbards clattering against the stony ground. He had wit enough to shield his face with his left arm, but the jagged rocks jabbed and cut or bruised him from chest to ankle.
He cursed the rocks, cursed the darkness — even cursed his comrades for not being where he wanted them to be.
We’ll meet between the northernmost Dragon’s Claw and the next.
But where, exactly? And when, exactly?
Such vague appointments were common among detachments during border skirmishes, but the last engagement had left him wounded, and his tumble onto the rocky ground started his gashes bleeding again. Finding the others went from being an intention to being imperative.
He pushed up and back on his heels and waited for his head to stop spinning.
His fall had also parted him from the high, rocky outcropping — the “Dragon’s Claw” — he had been following.
All he could see was dim moonlight on rope-like weeds and rough ground. He stood, satisfying himself that his sword and knife were secure.
If he followed the incline of the land upward, he would reach the trees or, at worst, one of the cliff faces. That would give him sufficient shelter to wait his comrades’ arrival.
Limping, oozing blood and curses, he put one boot in front of the other, as he’d done in many another such state.
He froze, startled, as faint white forms appeared above and ahead. A moment’s scrutiny and reason turned the forms into mist racing downhill from between the trees. Heartened in spite of the eeriness of the sight, he hurried toward concealment.
One thread of mist reached him before the others. It seemed to wrap itself around him, cloaking him in a welcome invisibility. Clammy droplets formed on his every hair. He shivered in their chill coating.
With one arm raised to guard his face from branches or another fall, he shuffled up the slope and between the trees. The only sounds were the crunch of his boots on scree and then on undergrowth.
A wisp of sound, as insubstantial as the mist, said, “This way.”
Kinnan stopped, uncertain if he had heard a woman speaking or had made the words out of layered sounds and imagination.
“This way.” The voice was nearer and clearer. “I’ll lead you.”
Should he answer? Suppose the voice spoke to someone else, near and unseen, possibly someone no friend to himself? This part of Istok was supposed to be deserted, uncontested, unwanted by Istok or by his own land of Layounna. By what strange collision of fate had he come across another intruder in a deserted place on a desolate night?
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character is lost at night in unfamiliar territory.