Something New and Different

Hi there, adventurers into the Blogsphere. I haven’t done anything on the blog in a while. I couldn’t think of a topic that I either hadn’t already done or didn’t sound like something that would put the entire world, including me, to sleep.

I think a big part of the issue is that I’m not a fan of reality. It’s just somewhere I don’t like to be. I’m so much more comfortable in the worlds inside my head. People like me there, or at least who I am in those worlds, be it a pirate, an alien, a werewolf, vampire, faerie, or something I haven’t even gotten to writing about yet.

So . . . I’m going to try writing about those worlds, or at least some of them. I’m still thinking about asking a character or two to guest blog, but that’s an issue too because none of them would give a rat’s tail wag about a blog. Except maybe Galahad and Orchid, but that’s because they are rats.

For now, what I’m going to do is excerpts, sometimes including comments if I can think of something interesting, like the moment I came up with an idea or how a character came to be.

Tonight, though, I’ll stick with a scene from my self-published book Enchantment’s Endgame: Magic’s Guardian. This particular moment spans the end of Chapter One and the start of Chapter Two. Terraceleste has found her way through the Faerie Circle to Faerie Underhill, and been welcomed by the royal family, Titania, Oberon, and their son Maclyn. Well, a bit more than welcomed by Maclyn as you’ll notice. Maclyn’s best friend Puck–yep, him–has convinced Terra and Maclyn to join him in a bit of mischief that, as Puck has been known for, goes quite badly awry. It was a later scene I added because I thought Terra wouldn’t be comfortable falling into Maclyn’s arms quite so quickly, magic or no, and I’m glad I did, it ended up being one of my favorites.

Maclyn was quiet for a time, a smile growing slowly on his lips as he reached over to tug at a curl of Terra’s soft hair. He leaned towards her, close enough that his breath brushed against her face, rich with the scent of spices. “Maybe,” he murmured, “you’re thinking the same thing I am.”
Terra should have expected it, but she was suffering from a deplorable overabundance of inexperience. She jumped when his lips touched hers, pulling away in surprise and at the fleeting, horrified idea that he had read her thoughts.
Studying her face, Maclyn read amazement but no alarm. He grinned, wrapping one arm around her waist and pulling her against him, solidly yet with a grip she could easily escape. Of course no such desire existed; no, her racing heart was not from fear.
He brushed her mouth with his and this time she stayed still. Maclyn’s lips were as soft as the rainbow of silks they lay on, and his warm scent wrapped around her, more intoxicating than any wine he cared to feed her. It was heady, musky, like wildflowers and rain forests and smoke and . . . and freedom. She breathed it deep, trembling with a chill that wasn’t in the least unpleasant, giddy from the mixed effects of the alcohol and his nearness.
Terra was hesitant, unsure how to respond, until he prodded her with lips and tongue. She finally began to return the kiss, her hand rising unconsciously to tangle in his dark hair and he pulled her even closer, so that every inch of their bodies that could possibly touch, did.
His hair was even softer than his lips, like sliding shadows through her fingers. Warmth seemed to seep from his body and curl into hers, pulling her tight all over and forcing a small primal sound from her throat. She wondered what was wrong with her; she was most definitely not “that” kind of girl. What was she doing letting him wrap himself around her like . . . like . . . like something that wrapped very closely around something else? Was the wine even more addling than she thought? No, the tiny part of her that was still thinking was thinking clearly enough . . . another strong waft of his masculine scent breathed over her and the already distant thoughts became more muffled as she inhaled.
Maclyn rolled Terra onto her back with a nudge, keeping his mouth sealed over hers.
“Maclyn!” Puck’s enthusiastic voice called from outside. The curtain over the door rustled and the excited faerie bounded inside. Maclyn’s head jerked up, breaking the embrace with an annoyed sound between a grunt and a growl. Terra felt a rush of mixed disappointment and relief, partially waking from the handsome elf’s influence. Then she felt an even bigger rush of embarrassment; the prince, his face flushed, frustrated, and confounded, still held her trapped with his body, his thighs straddling hers.
Completely oblivious to their compromising position, even when Terra started kicking Maclyn to get him off, Puck threw himself beside them on the bed, bouncing on all fours.
“Maclyn, you have to see what I found! I’ve got the best idea! They’ll go crazy!”
Maclyn rolled away from Terra, glaring at his friend. “Puck, sometimes I’d like to . . .
Mother is going to lose her temper some day, you know.”
Terra sat up, slightly breathless and trying, quite unsuccessfully, put out the bonfire on her face. “What are you talking about?” she asked in a voice just slightly too high pitched.
“The perfect joke,” Puck answered triumphantly.
“I thought you’d learned,” Maclyn snorted, keeping a covetous arm around Terra’s waist. She was doubly glad of Puck’s effervescent presence when she found herself leaning unconsciously into the embrace.
“Never,” Puck said with a wink at Terra. “But I need help this time.”
“Of the professional sort, as the humans would say,” Maclyn grunted sourly, looking suspicious at Terra’s growing interest. “Because I’m not sure even Thistledown can help you.” His arm tightened around her, his thumb stroking just her hip with a caress that made her shiver.
“A joke? On Oberon and Titania?” she asked to mask it. “Is that . . . a good idea?”
Both men looked at her. “You have read the play?” Maclyn asked, his dark eyebrows raised.
“Oh. Right. Ultimate mischief maker. But as I recall, it doesn’t always turn out well.”
Puck snorted. “You and Maclyn. Old William at least had a sense of fun. Come on, it’ll be funny. Hilarious. It won’t hurt anything, I promise. It’ll just make them growl a little.”
Maclyn frowned at Terra, who realized a grin was spreading over her face. By now her interest was real and she turned large, sparkling eyes on the prince. How could anyone turn down the chance to be puckish with the original Puck?
Sighing, Maclyn stared skyward, silently imploring the heavens to grant him patience. “Well? What is it?”
Puck’s grin stretched impossibly wide and he bounced on the bed, leaning in close to relate his plan. Terra started to laugh before he was half finished, and soon even Maclyn’s mouth began to crook up at the corners.

Chapter Two

Either I mistake your shape and making quite
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery; . . .
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck.
Are you not he?
-A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare

TERRA PEERED AROUND a thickly foliaged bush, narrowing her eyes at the huge wood and canvas shelter that Puck and Maclyn pointed out. It seemed a dangerously long way from their hiding place, but the clearing was surprisingly bare; she must have been locked in that blood-heating wrestling match with the prince for longer than she had thought. Still, there was an occasional straggler staggering his or her way through the pink light of the rising sun, and more than one who had found their rest out in the open. “Are you sure this will work?” she whispered out of the corner of her mouth. “There are still people awake. And what if they come out before . . .”
“No one will pay us any mind,” Puck reassured her cheerfully. “The few in any shape to notice either won’t care, or will cheer us on. And our King and Queen won’t come out.”
“But . . .”
Puck and Maclyn exchanged grins. “Trust him,” the prince said, then paused thoughtfully. “Perhaps not trust him . . .” He jumped back before Puck’s punch could land.
“All right, boys, we’d better get started,” Terra prompted. “We’ve got work to do.”
“Yes ma’am!” Puck barked.
“Quiet!” Maclyn hissed. “Not everyone is quite as distracted as their majesties. Come on. Have you got them?”
“Of course. I know my business.” Puck reached under the bush and pulled out three large seed pods that looked a little like giant milkweeds.
“This?” Terra yelped. “We’re supposed to use this to . . .”
“Don’t forget where you are,” Maclyn interrupted. “We’ll have to be careful not to use too much. And it’s a little unstable, so keep it away from any direct flames.”
That sent off a small twinge of alarm. “Unstable? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
“Once it melts, it’s as harmless as air,” Maclyn reassured her. “No one would be foolish enough to hold a torch to it.”
She still hesitated. “You’re not going to chicken out, are you?” Puck demanded.
The elf smiled, taking some of the sting out of his tone, but Terra scowled and grabbed one of the pods. “What do I do?” she snapped.
Puck showed her how to crack the pod along a natural seam, exposing a space filled with glittering white grains. A cool breeze wafted up from it, bringing a clean, fresh scent. “Snow!” she whispered, delighted. “It’s really snow!”
“These plants germinate in intense cold,” Maclyn explained. “So they create their own. There’s enough inside to last several months, long enough for the seeds to sprout and the plant to flower.”
Terra cocked her head, brow creasing. “Wait a minute. Flammable snow? Are you trying to . . .”
“Snowseed snow isn’t frozen water,” Puck interjected.
“Oh.” Terra held the pod a little further away from herself. Maclyn laughed. The sound vibrated up her spine, making it impossible to glare.
“Ready?” Puck prodded.
“This,” Terra observed, “is mean.” Choking back a giggle, she peered around the bush to make sure no one was watching. The only faerie in sight was fast asleep, curled up on the ground at the edge of the clearing. Without waiting for her partners, she darted into the open, running low towards their target.
The three of them crouched together in the shadows. “Stand back a little,” Maclyn advised. Terra obeyed, and all three opened their pods wide, aiming them at the base of the shelter. The snow piled up quickly, swirling out in triplicate blizzards, the cold wind whistling shrilly.
“They’ll hear us,” Terra murmured nervously.
“No they won’t,” Maclyn and Puck chorused with identical lecherous grins. Terra blushed the hottest yet, ignoring Puck’s snicker. Really, if any more blood rushed to her face tonight, she was going to faint from loss of blood pressure.
The snow drifted until it reached halfway to the roof, in a heap that completely surrounded the shelter. The supply seemed endless; Terra stared into her pod, finding it still three-quarters full. Just peeking out of the ice was a large round object, shiny black against the white. “Don’t let it plant itself, or winter will come early this year,” Maclyn warned. “I still remember the last time there was an infestation.” He shivered and plucked the dark seed out of his pod.
Forcing her hand past the cold wind, Terra dug into the pod. The seed was round and perfectly smooth, like a large ball bearing, and cold enough to steam in the warmer air outside its small home. She tucked it into her pocket, blowing on her aching hand as she stood back to view their handiwork. “Puck, you’re a master,” she chortled.
“What doing?” a bright little voice asked, interrupting Puck’s bow. Rosebud skipped to his side, her wide eyes gleaming up at the brown elf.
“Where’s Thistledown?” Maclyn asked, looking around nervously. “She won’t tell them, but if they ask . . .”
“It’s not like they won’t know anyway,” Terra snorted. “It’s a little late to worry now.”
“You speak true, oh wise one,” Puck agreed blithely.
“Mother sleep.” Rosebud peered into Terra’s pod. “Cold!” she squeaked, jumping back and landing in the snow. Surprised, she stood very still for a second before her cupid mouth spread into a smile and she began to wade knee-deep through the tiny frozen grains. After a minute she began to shiver; clambering out, she snatched Puck’s Snowseed pod and scampered away, giggling like the most adorable of mad things.
Maclyn started to go after her, but Puck stopped him. “Let her play. She’s out in the open; she can’t hurt anything.”
Maclyn hesitated, watching the young elf dump a pile of snow on the ground in front of her and toss the pod away while she patted the stuff into different shapes. “I guess she’s all right,” he said reluctantly. “But we don’t need that stuff all over.”
“Don’t worry so much,” Puck advised. “You’re as big a curmudgeon as your father. Just wait and watch the show. They’ll notice something soon. That cold is going to seep in pretty fast.”
“Curmudgeon?” Maclyn muttered. Terra smirked, patting his shoulder in mock sympathy and leading them on the retreat back towards their hiding place. They hunkered down and watched from the thick branches, waiting for the royal couple to emerge.
Sitting in the grass, Maclyn pulled Terra into his lap, wrapping an arm around her in an undeniably possessive gesture. Terra leaned back against him comfortably, wondering why a display that she would have found provoking from anyone else just made her insides tingle with a pleasant prickly feeling.
The prickle magnified when his hands began to drift. The caress was casual and didn’t touch anything indiscreet, but it made her stiffen and arch her back against him. What was it about him that made her hand wind in the soft, mossy grass under them, her fingers tearing out blades and digging into the earth underneath? What made her allow it without decking him a good one?
The chuckle that rumbled from him was masterful, conquering, completely sure, and the sidelong smirk Puck threw him was both knowing and amused. Annoyance at them both cooled some of Terra’s out-of-character ardor. Jaw jutting with a touch of defiance, she shifted her weight back, directly over a certain sensitive part of his anatomy, with a jostle that was anything but gentle.
Maclyn grunted in painful surprise. Puck clamped a hand over his own mouth to muffle the laughter that rocked his shoulders. “You’re playing with the big girls now,” Terra purred, settling back in place more gently, in a way that brought a gasp to the prince’s lips.
“Careful, Mac,” Puck said with a half-grin of admiration aimed at her. “I like this one. She’s not going to let you get away with anything.”
Terra smiled to herself, shocked at her own daring and sudden playfulness. Maclyn hugged her from behind, holding her tight and immobile while he kissed her earlobe, tickling it unmercifully. She squirmed, and then went still, her gaze caught by a bright glow that she glimpsed between the branches sheltering them from discovery. Whatever it was floated through the air, heading for Rosebud and trailing what looked like blue and white flames. She elbowed Maclyn in the chest. “What’s that?”
Puck froze, his face turning slightly green, his legs tangling when he tried to jump to his feet. Maclyn looked up and groaned out loud, pushing her off his lap. “It’s a ghost fly. Damn, I haven’t seen one around here in ages.”
“Is that real fire?” she asked, very carefully.
“No, but . . .”
The “but” catapulted her off the ground and sent her sprinting towards the little girl who still played elbow-deep in the sparkling snow. Untangling himself, Puck followed with a strangled creak from his dry throat. Maclyn joined the race as soon as he got his legs under him and he drew even with Puck, but they couldn’t catch the horrified girl.
Terra had never even dreamed of running so fast, or of strength flooding her limbs with sudden energy like rocket fuel, but the ghost fly landed on the snow pile before she could reach Rosebud. She heard a crackle and an ominous hiss like a shorting electrical wire. Blue and white fingers spread out from the fly, steaming as they went. Putting on an extra burst, her lungs burning, Terra scooped up the child and the discarded Snowseed pod, and kept running.
The explosion picked her up and threw her; she curled around the tiny faerie to protect her from a hard landing, trying to get her feet under her. She hit after what seemed like a long, lazy flight, her left leg folding under her, fire tearing its way through her knee. She managed to slow their momentum and roll, landing on her back instead of on top of the little elf, losing her wind and bruising her rips. Covering the little girl’s rusty head to protect her from the clods of dirt falling around them, she stayed still, feeling crushed and useless as she lay gasping, until a whimper prompted her to release her tiny burden. She pulled herself into a sitting position, trying to look unruffled, but she couldn’t stop a grimace of pain when the movement shifted her leg.
Maclyn and Puck lay sprawled together on the other side of the crater, Puck’s head pushed under the prince’s chest, Maclyn’s arms covering them both with what poor protection they could offer. Pushing himself up dazedly, Maclyn untangled himself and rose to wobbly feet, pulling the smaller elf with him.
Terra tried to rise too, but her knee gave out and she fell back with a pained cry that she cut off, clamping her teeth over it.
Neither man was fooled. Puck and Maclyn stumbled to her side, brushing off the dirt and grass that littered them all. “Terra! Terra, are you all right? You’re hurt!” Maclyn cried, dropping to the ground beside her to look for any obvious injuries.
“Just my leg,” Terra grunted, trying unsuccessfully to straighten it. “I don’t think it’s . . .”
“What’s going on?” a deep male voice roared, causing Rosebud to leap into Puck’s cradling arms and hide her face against his chest, her whimpers renewed.
The conspirators turned to see Oberon and Titania excavating their way out of the shelter, digging and wading through the snow heap. They were both decidedly rumpled, and the king’s face was red with rage. It was Titania’s face that inspired the real terror, however, especially when she spied Puck.
“This is your doing, Sprite, I know it is,” the queen snarled, very unqueenly in her anger as she reached them, hard-faced and damp, her clothes clearly thrown on with haphazard speed, her hair mussed and tangled about her shoulders.
“Mother . . .” Maclyn started.
Titania ignored him, whirling the full force of her fury on the brown faerie. “What did you think you were doing bringing these here?!”
Puck couldn’t answer, just kept his eyes lowered, cowering before the queen with all his mischief washed away. Maclyn tried to get her attention and she finally noticed Terra on the ground, her face white with pain and fear. The snarl on Titania’s face deepened and she knelt beside the human girl. Terra winced away from the queen’s violent cyclone of an expression.
“I’m not angry at you,” the queen answered her, each word followed by a low growl. “You’re hurt, thanks to the fool’s antics. Let me see.”
“I’m all right,” Terra insisted. “How’s Rosebud?”
“She’s fine,” Puck said, bouncing the little girl cuddled in his arms. Her head rested on his shoulder and her arms wound around his neck, holding tight to him with her wide eyes locked on the furious queen.
Titania threw Puck a single glare that made the tiny girl flinch and squirm. Puck withdrew, turning to take the full brunt of the expression, cutting off Rosebud’s line of sight.
“Get Thistledown,” the queen ordered. “Do something useful that takes you out of my sight. She’s been injured.”
Puck disappeared quickly and silently, ducking out from under the scrutiny of Oberon who for a moment looked more sad than angry. Terra didn’t notice the gathering crowd attracted by the commotion until they parted, letting Puck through and flowing shut behind him, cutting him off in a way that made Terra flinch. The king’s eyes followed as long as they could but he remained silent, conceding the situation to his wife. Terra opened her mouth to protest, but before she could make a sound she was shushed by both Maclyn and his mother.
“Don’t argue. It just encourages Mother,” Maclyn said with an attempt at lightness. Folding the skirt of her dress up, he hissed at the swollen, already purple mangle of her knee.
Terra jerked away, bristling at him, shaking and feeling increasingly ill. “I’ll be fine!” she insisted, ashamed that her voice squeaked. “Rosebud could have been hurt, and it would have been my fault!”
Murmuring low, Maclyn cradled her much as Puck held Rosebud, careful not to jostle her leg. “This wasn’t your fault, don’t be silly. No one was hurt. The little one wasn’t hurt. Because of you. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. And it was smart of you to grab the pod. If that had been caught in the ghost fly’s fire . . .” he shuddered, letting her imagination finish his sentence.
“This whole place would have been blown to pieces,” Titania stared gruffly. “We eradicate the Snowseed plants when we find them growing anywhere near. Where that little . . . I’d like to know where he found them.”
Terra squirmed. “Please, your Majesty, I was just as much at fault. Puck didn’t . . .”
“I know well who came up with this idiotic excuse for a joke, and I know what that charming hobgoblin can be like. You had no way to know the danger.”
Terra’s eyes flicked from Titania to the silently hovering, flush-faced king. “But I . . .”
Maclyn’s sharp nudge cut her off. “It was a plant that was ready to go to seed,” he supplied quietly. “Puck uprooted it after he harvested the pods. We all removed the seeds from these, so there was no danger of another growing.”
Titania’s face stiffened at the thought that some good might have come out of Puck’s mischief. She tossed her head, refusing to acknowledge the statement. Oberon sighed quietly above their heads. Terra looked uncertainly at Maclyn, who could only shrug.
Returning at a fast trot with Thistledown in tow and Rosebud riding his shoulders, Puck avoided Oberon and Titania’s glares, hunkering to the ground beside Maclyn. Thistledown’s face paled when she saw the scene of devastation, brushing Rosebud’s red hair on her way past, but she didn’t pause before kneeling beside the injured girl, gently moving Titania out of the way. She shook her head at the damage, prodding around Terra’s knee with sure, calloused fingers. “You really managed to mutilate it, didn’t you, my girl.” It wasn’t a question, not even a rhetorical one, it was a statement of hard fact, delivered in the slightly cold tone of one intensely focused on anything but conversation. Her tone softened and her eyes met Terra’s for a swift moment as she paused in her examination. “Puck told me . . . I won’t forget it was you who protected my daughter.”
Guilt twisted itself ever deeper. “But I . . .”
“Now hush and let me work.”
Terra didn’t understand until Thistledown took hold of her knee in both hands, gently working the joint with a surprisingly strong grip. The manipulation made Terra arch back against Maclyn’s chest, not in pleasure this time, but at the same time an odd feeling of hot and cold weaseled its way under the pain. She watched with some interest, the realization slowly dawning that the faerie woman was actually glowing, a nimbus of pale light forming around her, brightening until the aura overflowed from her hands onto Terra’s injured flesh, sinking in like a balm.
“Wha . . .” Terra tried to yank her leg out of Thistledown’s hands.
“She’s a Healer,” Maclyn explained, holding her still. “Just wait.”
The pain flared until it seemed white-hot blades were cutting the knee apart, making tears burn in her eyes. Maclyn rocked her gently until it began to fade, slowly erased by soothing warmth until at last Thistledown pulled away, leaving Terra’s leg whole and nimble.
Terra flexed her knee cautiously; it moved smoothly with no hint of discomfort. Maclyn got to his feet, pulling her with him. She stood gingerly at first, gradually putting more weight on it until she was standing on one leg. She gave a little hop, staring down at what, a minute ago, was a misshapen blue mess. “Amazing,” she whispered. “Thank . . . I’m sorry. I mean, you did a wonderful job.”
“Good. That’s taken care of,” Titania said briskly. She crossed her arms, turning an imperial face on the conspirators. Oberon stood just behind and to the right of his slender wife, still looking the lesser threat despite his greater bulk. Titania’s gaze swept over the three, landing squarely on Puck.
Squealing, Rosebud slid off his shoulders and hid behind him. Puck stood contrite, staring at the ground as his queen advanced. “Do you have anything to say in your defense?” she grated.
Puck’s shoulders slumped and he didn’t answer, not even a negative shake of his head. The queen’s fists clenched; at the moment she was unrecognizable as the sweet, gentle-faced woman who danced in a circle of friends only a few hours ago. This was a different creature, filled with icy rage and what seemed to be a hot hatred for the elf, buried deep and festering.
“Please . . .” it was hard for Terra to speak, fear of being made to leave, or worse, tying her throat in painful knots. But she couldn’t let the full force of that wrath fall on her friend. Shaking off Maclyn’s restraining hand and ignoring his emphatically shaking head, she barged forward to stand between Puck and Titania. “Please. It wasn’t his fault. It was mine. My idea . . .” she trailed off, seeing that the woman wasn’t even going to try believing her.

Me again. Nope, Titania is still not fond of our knavish Puck. The story gets a bit more exciting later on, with danger and the Unseelie Court and even a car chase. As the first original novel I ever completed (how long ago? None of your bee’s wax), it is also the one that has gone through the most changes. The first draft was actually done on a typewriter. Cutting and pasting ended up being quite, quite literal for the first major rewrite, but fortunately after that I had the luxury of a hard drive, floppy disks, and . . . I am aging myself, aren’t I? Shutting up now.

Still, it was fun. Hope someone out there enjoys it.

Here’s a little more information on the series.

Good night, and sweet writing!

Almost forgot. Pic credits for book cover are as follows:
Eyes from:© Joseasreyes Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Trees:© Magicinfoto | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos