During this time of Stay At Home, I am offering a daily excerpt of a story from my upcoming collection, Hearts And Stones.
Here’s the Scoop:
DAILY post of a draft manuscript page of Fractured Stone in the upcoming collection. It’s not done and needs work. ONE PAGE IS NOT LONG, but I’m trying to make this last until the collection comes out. I WILL NOT POST ANY REVISIONS, AND I WILL NOT RESPOND TO COMMENTS, NOT EVEN PRAISE.
Intro to Fractured Stone in the collection Hearts And Stones:
This story is a short sequel to Heart Duel, as requested by a friend. Holm has been disinherited and lost his family, status, and basic identity and now must make a new life in Gael City with his HeartMate and their cats.
Gael City, Celta, 403 Years After Colonization, Summer
Holm Holly–no, NOT Holly–Holm Apple stood on the wide sidewalk in the small and bustling town of Gael City and stared at the modest building. He’d thought he’d been coping well with his disinheritance, but from the churning in his gut he realized he’d lied … and more to himself than everyone else, he suspected.
This step, the renting of this building as space for a fencing and fighting salon, naturally to be the best in the city, would turn his life in a different direction. A final acknowledgment that he no longer belonged to the Holly Family. That his status as HollyHeir, a man who would become a FirstFamily GreatLord, the highest of the high, had vanished.
“Maybe we’re moving too fast and I shouldn’t have brought you here yet,” said the woman beside him. The absolute best part of this new life, his HeartMate, his Lark. She murmured the statement more mind-to-mind with telepathy than the whisper he heard.
He unlinked their fingers and put his arm around her waist, savoring the feel of her pliant body against his own as much or as more than the brush of her mind, and their emotional connection. “No, you’re right. We must get on with our lives.”
Holm had lost himself, and though he pretended, he hadn’t really made a new self. He’d made plans without expecting them to happen. Now he had to follow through, become someone else. Grow.
Drawing in a deep breath of air not-at-all like Druida City’s, he smelled the dust of a smaller town, the earth of the mountains to the north, a fresh water river instead of a nearby great salt-ocean.
“I think this building will do well,” he croaked, and stepped up to the one story structure that showcased large shop-like windows in the front. He’d have to protect that glass with strong Flair, psi magic, and definitely allow no training to spill over into the front room. Write a stipulation in his contracts with clients that any breakage would be paid for by the culprit.
Lark moved with him, then up to the door. She murmured passcoded spellwords to drop the shieldspell and allow them in.
They stepped over the small ridge of threshold into the space, thick with the scent of cleanser and wood polish.
To Holm’s surprise, the entry room comprised the full width of the building but only extended about three meters deep, making a wide but shallow foyer. The pale blue smooth upper walls accented the dark wood wainscoting on the bottom.
The near wall in front of them sported a pair of double-doors. When he pushed them, they swung back and forth easily on their hinges. He strode into a large, empty room with floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the left wall, and the right wall interrupted by two doors, one reading “Men’s Dressing Room,” and the other, “Women’s Dressing Room.”
The shining wooden floor smelled new. “Your father doesn’t own this property, does he?”
“I don’t know whether my father owns this property, but he did refer me to it. Actually, I think he consulted with your G’Uncle Tab who runs the fencing and fighting salon in Druida, and asked what was needed,” Holm’s HeartMate said.
“Father’s note said this had been an exercise space for dance and theater artists.”
Holm stared at the mirrors and figured they’d have to be specially shielded for his business.
At that moment his and Lark’s FamCats, young orange tabby brothers, tumbled into the room. As soon as they all had arrived in a glider, the toms had leapt from the vehicle to run around the building and check out the landscaped grass and bushes. Each storefront on the street stood separate from its neighbor.
Our space! the young cats yelled telepathically. Meserve, lazier and fatter than his brother–Holm’s kitten who’d been pampered and spoilt by the Holly Family–cuffed Phyll. My space. *I* am Trainer Cat.
Holm blinked, as usual his immediate family demonstrated more flexibility than himself. In Druida City, Meserve had been “Flying Cat,” since he and Holm had taken up the hobby of solar sailing.
The cats rolled around wrestling, breaking away, pouncing on each other as Holm prowled to the mirror wall, placed his hand on the glass. He sensed no spells, simply glass. Nothing to protect the wall from flying bodies.
The mirrors needed shielding at the very least. Better would be coating spells that could set various types of walls over the glass–wood or plaster or permacrete–to be cycled as Holm needed.
And that would be expensive.
His brain stopped. He had no money, no gilt, at all.
GreatLord T’Holly, Holm’s father, had confiscated Holm’s personal account as belonging to HollyHeir, as it had. Holm hadn’t separated his own noblegilt salary, the money he’d received from the Councils for any quests they sent him on– minimal–from any other funds.
He’d rarely given personal money any thought. Anything he’d needed had been charged to the Holly Family accounts.
He’d always worked … for his father, GreatLord T’Holly, learning how to be a good lord, how to handle their affairs and property. He’d also worked at the Family enterprise owned and run by his G’Uncle Tab, The Green Knight Fencing and Fighting Salon, training and giving private lessons, taking part in melees, whatever G’Uncle Tab needed. And Holm had performed work for the NobleCouncil for his annual noblegilt.
But Holm had never actually been paid by his Family for HollyHeir duties. Or had a bank account not linked with his Family. Had never had to consider whether he could actually afford to purchase something.
He’d been so blindsided by the disowning, so emotionally staggered, that he hadn’t considered his “individual” money … Well, he’d never considered any of his gilt personal. All went into the Family coffers, and he charged whatever he needed to the Family.
Now he had nothing.
Where would he get the money, the gilt, to pay someone for the shields? And they wouldn’t be the best shields, because the best practitioners with the most Flair for everything lived in Druida City. If he wanted the best, he’d have to bring them down … and he had no idea how to pay them.
“What’s wrong?” Lark asked, and Holm realized he’d folded over, hands braced on knees, panting as if he’d fought several hearty bouts in a row.
“I have no gilt,” he ground out.
Laughter rippled from her, and it speared him that she didn’t share his consternation. She patted him lightly on the back, and sent him a wash of comfort … tinged with amusement. “That’s all right, I have plenty. Not only the noblegilt the Councils pay me for my services, but a very nice salary for being the new head of the Gael City HealingHall.”
“I’m glad you have money. Good,” he said through stiff and somewhat cold lips. Before he could straighten, both young cats hopped on his lower back, crawled up to his shoulders. Fun! said Phyll.
We don’t cost much! Meserve’s whiskers tickled Holm’s right ear. Holm wondered how his Fam knew about gilt and expenses, where he’d learned of it.
Slowly, Holm straightened and his HeartMate continued to rub his back in a soothing manner. Easy to recall that she’d been estranged from her own FirstFamily GreatLord father, married a commoner and lived with that commoner husband outside the Family Residence while they both worked at HealingHalls.
And Lark had handled all the details of this little family’s move. The HealingHalls and the Heather Healing Family had paid for their transportation from Druida City to take up her new position as the Head of Gael City HealingHall.
So she’d help him get through this, teach him, if necessary.
He stiffened his spine, but kept his knees loose and ready to respond to any threat. Plucking Phyll from his left shoulder, he handed the Fam to Lark.
With a controlled pivot, he scanned the room. “This will do very well.” But he wondered how much it would take to shield the mirrors, and the costs of getting a business up and running. Another thing he had no notion about.
Lark nodded. “A good and simple space.” She patted Phyll and his purr filled the room, augmented by his Flair-magic. So Meserve purred too, in competition, bouncing the warm sound off the mirrors.
“Enough!” Lark laughed and put her cat down on the floor. Holm dropped Meserve, who landed lightly.
Holm’s HeartMate and their two kittens had worked together to ease his anxiety, and the very fact that they knew he was anxious, irritated him. Reminded him of the recent past.
He’d thought he’d gotten over having to be perfect as the golden boy of the Hollys, the HollyHeir, fulfilling all such expectations of that status.
Perhaps so, but he’d discovered a new and unwelcome negative emotion seeded inside him.
Feeling useless. Worthless. Like his father, in particular, had made him feel when he’d been disowned. His whole life and purpose ripped away.
Yes, he’d have to follow plans he’d made but hadn’t accepted at an emotional level.
He’d have to accept help just to survive, let alone flourish, and do that gracefully.
He’d have to grow and become Holm Apple.
Also accept he’d create his new life here, in Gael City.
Sucking in a deep breath, he cast a final glance around the main room. He’d check out the dressing rooms … and the plumbing! … later.
“Yes, I think this will do very well.” Holm forced a smile. “I’m sure The Green Knight Fencing and Fighting Salon started out small, too.” Though the beginnings of that generational Family enterprise was lost in history and legend.
“I’m sure,” Lark smiled at him, and he felt her supreme confidence in him. No doubt whatsoever. He swallowed.
Tag, you’re IT! shrieked Meserve and hit the door with enough acceleration to go through and his brother zoomed after him before it swung shut. The front door slammed open with Flair.
Lark shrieked, “The street!” and bolted after them.
May you enjoy all the worlds you visit, especially those I craft for the satisfaction of all of us. Grab your favorite beverage and take a look.
I hope you enjoy visiting with me!