Frank Hall of Hydra Publications asked me if I had any short stories set in the world of SAGE. I had a couple, and I wrote a third. I’ll probably add some more stories that fit in with the overall title of the collection — Shifty — and publish it myself.
In this excerpt from the short story “The Gleaming Ones,” a young Kinnan has gotten separated from his militia detachment and has been taken in, healed, and fed by a mysterious and beautiful woman of the land of Istok.
“The Gleaming Ones” – excerpt
by Marian Allen
When every grain and drop were consumed, he put his bowl and spoon on the floor beside him and said, “What’s your price? You’ve healed me, dressed me, fed me. What do you want from me?”
“All I ask is that you listen.”
“Easily done. Listen to what?”
She answered as if she had said the words before, many times, until they were worn smooth, like pebbles in a stream.
“We were dancing to the harp and the tambourine when they came. They came for my brother, Askendar, a man so handsome, so skilled at his work,” and here she touched her necklace, “the Gleaming Ones coveted him. A man so foolhardy, he danced to the harp and the tambourine without bells on his clothes. So they came for him, and they took him. They have him, still.”
She fell silent.
Kinnan was silent, too, fitting things together. “So you hunted for a hero to go rescue him.”
“And you tell me I haven’t found one.” She gave a long, quiet sigh.
The warmth of food and spice was in his mouth. The warmth of healing was in his flesh. The warmth of gratitude was in his heart. Still….
“You ask me to risk my life for your brother.”
“I ask you for nothing.”
“But if I do it?”
She met his gaze. “I would be grateful.”
A soldier knows what a woman means when she promises her gratitude to a soldier.
Kinnan reached across the low flames and stroked her cheek with the back of one hand. As he touched her, a tear broke free of one lavender eye and ran down to meet his finger. He jerked away.
“Your tears are cold.”
“They come from my heart.” She blinked. Her damp lashes caught the firelight and glittered. “Askendar was my life.”
Gently, he bent to her and kissed her chilly tears away.
“I’ll bring him back to you,” he said. “Tell me how.”
She rose, smiling, and opened a cupboard made into the wall.
“Put on these bells,” she said. “Put on this cape and fasten it with this brooch.”
The bells were larger and clumsier than hers and were strung on a sash that fastened about his waist. The cape was dark gray and filmy, barely large enough to cover his shoulders. The brooch was enameled copper, the enameling a swirl of green and yellow.
“The brooch will attract the Gleaming Ones,” she told him. “The bells will protect you from them, and the cape will let you see.”
~ * ~
Links to buy or read excerpts from the SAGE books are in the sidebar of this blog. SHIFTY will be announced and will appear there when it’s available.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Your character owes a debt to someone, who asks for repayment in an unexpected way.