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The House Guest is the first of the Frewyn Fables:
When winter comes early to Frewyn and the first snowfall of the year traps a young mouse in her home, fate brings an old mole to her door, but is the young mouse prepared for all the challenges that catering to a fussy house guest can bring?
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Being from Frewyn, Rannig learned at a young age to befriend wild animals, always with the object of taking them home. Bartleby, being from Marridon, grew up with exactly the opposite inclination: all animals in the wild should be left in the wild-- unless they should be captured in the interest of science.
The old man blew the tassel of his hat out of his face and searched about the table for a stray …Thank you” from the old man, but before Bartleby could take up his fork and shovel his potatoes onto it, he looked down to discover a white ghost crab scuttling across his side of the table, its legs working busily as it scampered toward his plate.slice of bread or a cracker to commit his newly made pile to good use. Something by way of a lonely wedge was soon found; the captain sacrificed a slice from his own sandwich for the price of a sepulchral “
“No!” he cried, taking up his plate and holding it away from the crab. “Go away, you vile decapod, or I shall feed you to the gulls, which are no doubt circling in search of you.”
“It does not listen to you, Bartleby,” said Danaco, the corners of his mouth curling with an arch smile. “This must be one of your Marridonian crabs, and therefore cannot understand Common at such a voluptuary level as the one you speak. It must have been taught at the Academy.”
The captain shared a sagacious grin with Rannig and sipped his tea, while Damson watched Bartleby fend off the approaching crab with a raised foot.
“You horrid, horrid predator!” the old man cried, pushing the crab away with his heel. “My plate is not your scavenging ground. Go toward the sea—that way—where there is plenty of kelp and cockles washed ashore for you to fossick. And crabs, I would remind you, while being omnivores, do not eat potatoes—ah!” The crab suddenly stopped at Bartleby’s foot and rasied a claw. “Put that claw down at once! How dare you playact threatening to pinch my foot. I have never seen such vulgar behavior at a tea table in all my life—just as bad as that lickpenny that came comassing in Sesterna who tried to cabobble me out of my change.”
“He should not have disturbed you if you had allowed me to be the designated walleteer,” said the captain, his straight brows bending in spite of themselves.
“There was a toffeeman about, and I knew you should waste our earnings by giving the giant a few coins for candy.”
“Ye sure don’t say anythin’ about spendin’ money when there’s an ice cream cart around,” said Rannig, smiling into his cup.
This was not to be acknowledged, though it was certainly true, for while the ancient librarian would make his case for ice cream being worth all the trouble of empty wallets, there was a crab threatening him, and he could think of nothing beyond salvaging the last of his potatoes. Rannig, however, soon acted in his interest: he lay down his cup and saucer, placed one hand in front of the crab, and encouraged it onto his palm with the other.
“Hullo, ghost crab,” said the giant, raising the crab to eye-level.
The crab stared at Rannig and raised its claw.
“Please don’t pinch my nose, ghost crab. I need it to breathe and all since Bartleby doesn’t like when I breathe through my mouth. He says if I keep it open, it’ll start collectin’ all the salt in the sea air.”
The crab put its claw down and danced in a circle.
“There is our meal’s entertainment,” Danaco proclaimed, gesturing toward the saltating crab. “We must give it something for its performance.”
Rannig dismantled his sandwich, plucked a cucumber slice form the middle, and gave it to their meandering visitor.
“I must say, sir,” said Damson, his teacup lingering against his bottom lip, too in awe of the crab to bother with his tea, “I have never seen a ghost crab before. I have seen the fiddler crab and the common Marridonian red crab, but as this is my first time on a beach, I have never a spices like this.”
“Never been on a beach?” Danaco exclaimed, laying down his cup. “My dear Damson, how can this be? Here is some mistake. You mean to tell me that you have never been on this beach surely. You cannot have never been on any beach at all.”
Damson glanced at the crab, which was waving angrily about for another cucumber slice, and felt somewhat ashamed. “I am sorry, sir,” said he quietly, admiring the rumbling waves beyond, “I suppose it is natural that many who have left their parents’ homes have been to see Marridon’s shores at least once, but I never have. I had always been used to think that Marridon had no beaches, as the country is relatively elevated from sea level—or, that is, no beaches visitable by land, sir. I have been fortunate to witness many of Marridon’s beauties, sir—indeed, the Bannantyne Vale where my father’s estate is situated is one of the wonders of the kingdom, being dotted over with lavender and narcissus in the spring—but I have seen been to no beaches beyond this one, sir. ”
The Lucentian canted his head and spied the knight with wonderment. “By Myrellenos, you truly must have been cloistered away to never have stood once at the sanded seaside. Being from a country which boasts of its shores, with the Sahadin to the south and the white shores to the north, all Lucentians are practically born with sand between our toes.”
“I do hope my inexperience does not make me appear ignorant, sir. I should not wish you to think me unappreciative of the shoreline’s wonders. Indeed, I marvel at all of it, now that I have had time to properly recollect and realize my never having been to a beach before.”
“And your innocence and your amazement at what many take for granted is to be lauded, sir knight, but you need not fear, for as we are gratulating your coming to us by this repose, we need only add your first visit to the beach—and subsequently your first ghost crab-- and propinate in your honour.” He raised his cup to the knight and fleered at his drink. “It is undignified to propinate with teacups, but as we have not done a wrong thing in clinking them together and possibly chipping the varnish, Bartleby will not discipline us and I can be easy. Do tell me, sir knight, that this is not your first time seeing the sea.”
“I have been to the docks in the capital, sir, when I came to the arena at the castle for the first time, and I have seen the sea-- before my being thrown nearly into it, sir. I must own, sir, that this does feel a most strange first, sir, as I am not properly dressed to honour it, though I am in fine cloth, but it is a most extraordinary first notwithstanding. My first sitting down to tea,” smiling at his cup, “my first dreadful wounds,” marking his broken body, “my first beach, and my first ghost crab.” He observed the small crab alternately lifting its front legs and narrowed his gaze. “They really are astonishing creatures, sir. They are so oddly coloured—they appear nearly transparent. Is this type of crab usually so friendly, sir?”
“It is when there is a giant pandering to its whims, sir knight,” the old man snuffed. “Absolutely nonsensical to feed a crab anything—a mockery of nature! It has pincers with which it might hunt for itself. You, my boy, are ruining its instincts by giving it a ready source of rations.”
“Do be quick, Rannig, and take Bartleby’s plate from him,” said Danaco. “We shall see how his instincts lead him to do an ungracious thing by forcing him to eat a sandwich from his fork.”
The old man sniffed at the Lucentian and held his plate away from the giant. “I cannot understand how he freely coddles a crab when he runs away from all other arthropods. Crustaceans are merely insects of the sea, and yet he invites them to dinner and asks for a dance.”
“They don’t look like bugs, Bartleby,” said Rannig, watching the crab stab at another cucumber slice.
“Merely because they do not look like arthropods…” but the old man left his remonstrance there feeling himself being lured into a heated debate. He inhaled, smoothed his hair around his ears, and said, with forced calmness, “What you consider them to be is irrelevant. Their families are marked out for them regardless of—no, don’t give it another cucumber slice. You have given it enough already. You will make a pet of it. I see the mechanical workings of your feeble mind already scheming to put it in your pocket.”
Rannig moved his hand away from his pocket and looked ashamed. “I can’t keep any animals on the ship, Bartleby, but we’re not on the ship,” said he, in a doleful tone. “And I don’t wanna have him as a pet. I just wanna carry him around for a while so the gulls don’t hurt him. I’ll put him down once we’re in a safe place.”
“My boy, there is no safe place in nature—that is the very meaning of nature, for a thing that is meant to happen to happen without anybody’s interfering. Nature is at times atrocious and unforgiving, and if the crab is to be eaten, that is how it must be as part of ecology. It is a wild creature and must be left to itself to do wild things. No one has any business domesticating a crab—And stop calling it a him. You do not know whether it is male. You haven’t turned it over to examine it’s abdomen—it is a female, see the wide lines? A male would have made a triangular shape-- And besides, if you make a pet of it, you will kill it somehow accidentally. You will sit on it or you will smother it or both.”
“I won’t smother it, Bartleby.”
“Of course he would not harm it, Bartleby,” said the captain. “I trust Rannig to water it and polish it every day. He does nearly as much by you while you are gown dessicated and fusty when you are not enough out of doors.”
“Ha, ha!” the old man rasped. “Let the boy have a coconut crab as a pet, and then he will learn why crabs should not be domesticated. I should love to see him waking up from a gentle doze to discover the crab endeavouring to gnaw his head off.”
Friday, April 11, 2014
Poor Lochan still making his case for his new friend. He sees a life-long companion, and Martje sees a pie filler.
Lochan held the goose away from his sister. “You gotta have pity on her, Martje,” he pleaded. “How would you feel if you lost your family and had to stay with a stranger till your flock came back?”
“I wouldn’t feel nothin’ ‘cause I’d be baked in a pie,” Martje humphed.
Rautu grumbled something about how Martje should liked being wrapped up in a buteraceous crust, and Alasdair hemmed and pretended not to have heard though the small smile wreathing his lips betrayed his acknowledgement and amusement.
“You don’t want to take that bird out, then it’s goin’ in the oven.”
A pout, a fierce look, and Lochan refused to relinquish his friend, tucking her into the bend of his arm and covering her head with his hand. “I don’t gotta do anythin’ the king doesn’t say.”
“I’m not getting in the middle of this,” Alasdair insisted, hiding behind his wife. “Lochan, don’t mention me. I’m not foolish enough to pass judgement on a cook’s dominion. She reigns over this kitchen, and I’m a mere guest in it.”
“You just don’t want to be involved in a sibling rivalry, sire,” Carrigh laughed.
“And if I don’t, it is very well done of me. I would rather do anything than get between a fighting brother and sister, especially when one is holding a goose and the other something to fustigate me with.”
“Majesty,” said Martje, turning and looking for Alasdair in the crowd, “you’ll pardon me and all, but if you don’t tell Lochan to take that bird outta my kitchen, I’ll kill him right along with it.”
There was a dreadful pause, Alasdair crouching behind his wife, afraid and unwilling to refute either of the Donnegals, and everyone else exchanging chary looks.
“Shise shin,” said Martje presently. “I’m gettin’ the cleaver.”
There was an exsibilation at this, the shuffle of feet and fremescence of voices, no body wanting the goose to be harmed but no one eager to defend Lochan while Martje had a cleaver in her hand.
“Ma!” Lochan called out, looking to Calleen, who was just emerging from the crowd. “Tell Martje she can’t have Jannidhe.”
“Ma,” Martje huffed, “if you don’t tell Lochan to take the bird outta my kitchen, your gonna have one less son.”
Calleen, the quiet good old lady, with her kindly aspect and upright figure, came forward and quieted her children with a consoling gesture. “All right now,” said she, all maternal solicitude that her good nature could warrant, “Let’s settle ourselves down. Martje, there’ll be no cleavers against Lochan’s goose.”
Martje gasped and looked offended, and Lochan gave a firm and defiant nod as she turned away, folded her arms, and makde an audible humph.
“Loch, darlin’,” Calleen continued, nearing her son as closely as the goose would admit. “You know the rule in the family: no animals at the table or in the kitchen. I know you’re keepin’ that ol’ gal safe and clean, but we still don’t know where she came from and it ain’t sanitary to keep an animal what’s been outside near our plates.”
“But where am I gonna put her, Ma?” said Lochan, breaking off a piece of Beryn’s scone, crumbling it in his hand, and giving it to the goose. “She don’t like anyone else, and she won’t go no where without me.”
“Why don’t we ask Roriegh and Deias to keep her in the stables for the evening? They sure got plenty o’ space now that most o’ the stables are cleared out for the holiday.”
“They got an empty slot next to Moraig,” said Beryn. “Sure your goose’d like that, Loch. You can stay with her there, playin’ with her in the hay, and she can bother Moraig all she wants.”
“Aye, and that’s Ma’s word on it,” Martje declared. “Put that bird in the stables, Loch, before I make a soup outta it.”
The goose gave a strident honk and nibbled Lochan’s chin.
“Aye, all right, girl,” he sighed. “C’mon, then. Let’s go visit Moraig before Martje plucks you clean.”
“Can we come, Uncle Lochan?” ask Little Adaoire.
“Aye, we wanna feed the goose,” said Little Aiden.
“Sure, you can come.”
The children cheered, and Lochan stood from the table, scowling at Martje and holding the goose away from her. He moved toward the hallway, the children following in his train, when Jaicobh returned with his grandson, the former all subrisive affability, and latter hiding his face in his grandfather’s shoulder.
“Oh, now, c’mon, cub,” said Jaicobh, patting the child’s back. “It wasn’t so bad.”
“What happened?” said Sheamas, with all the concern of an anxious father.
“He made me drink the gorse tonic!” Little Jaicobh wailed, frowning and wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Its tastes like I put my mouth in the bog!”
A fulmination of mirth broke out, and Little Jaicobh grimaced and made a long, “Blehhh.”
“Bog’s not so bad,” said Beryn, refilling his cup. “Coulda been worse. Coulda been forced to lick the frogs how the old tales go.”
“I think I woulda liked that better, Uncle Beryn.” Little Jaicobh slottered and frowned. “The bog taste won’t go away.”
“Go on with Lochan to the stables. Deias’ll give you a bit o’ scrumpy. He keeps some for the horses. That’ll take the taste from your mouth and put hair on your chest.”
“But I don’t want a hairy chest, Uncle Beryn.”
“It’s either the hairy chest or the bog-gob, cub.”
“Aye,” the child sighed. “I’ll take the hairy chest. At least I can’t taste that.”
He leapt down from his grandfather’s embrace and hastened out of the kitchen, to follow the children and his uncle to the stables, but in passing Rautu as he scrambled to the threshold, he suddenly stopped, lurched backward, and gave a great sneeze, the force of which cause him to tumble forward and spray his nasal expactoratant against the giant’s leg.
“Excuse me!” Little Jaicobh chimed, beaming up at the giant.
He hurried away, and Rautu was left to scowl at his leg in vehement disdain, caught between the desire to visit the warm baths in the Haanta quarter of the capital to burn away any lingering infection, or to save himself the trouble of leaving the keep and have Tomas solder off his leg entirely.
“The rapture of maintaining so many nephews, Iimon Ghaala,” Boudicca laughed. “Scolding them is as impossible as is being immune to their diseases. I daresay you will get a cold now.”
“I will not, woman,” the giant demanded. “His infection has already manifested. His disease is no longer contagious,” but a sudden itch began to plague him, the irritation attacking his senses, compelling him to wiggle his nose and sniff, and the giant turned away, determind to get the better of whatever it was that had decided to invade his hale and hardy form. A cat hair must have wandered in, or some of the flour dust whirling about Martje’s kitchen floor must have found its way into his nasal passages. However the discomfort might have got there, it was gone as quickly as it came, and a touch of the nose, an indiscernible sniff, and the giant was well again, turning back to his mate as though nothing at all had happened.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Lochan has a new friend, and while everyone is disposed to be enchanted by the animals he rears, Martje is always somewhat at odds with a pet that could be placed in the pot.
A Goose for a Gander
A few strange ululations emanated from the servants’ hall, and when the party entered the kitchen, they were met with the sight of Beryn and Lochan sitting at the kitchen table, Beryn smirking to himself over his tea and wheaten scones, Lochan holding to the goose nestling against him, and Martje looming over her brother with a most displeased expression, her sleeves rolled high, her rasied hand over her head and furnished with a large rolling pin.
“Don’t stand over her, Martje,” said Lochan, in a plaintive tone. “You’re scarin’ her, wavin’ your pin around.”
“Loch,” said Martje, in a heated tone, her eyes ablaze with furious anger, “you’re my family and I love you and all, but if you don’t get that bird outta my kitchen, I’m gonna clobber it and cook it.”
Lochan held the goose against his chest and away from his sister. “That’s not nice, Martje. Don’t say things like that in front of her. You’re bein’ unfeelin’. She just lost her flock.”
“And if that bird stays another second in my kitchen, she’s gonna lose her head. Out,” stabbing her rolling pin at the window, “or that bird’s the centerpiece for the evenin’s celebration. Next time you see that goose, it’ll be stuffed and roasted with rosemary and orange.”
“Careful, Loch,” said Beryn, all mirthful complacence. “We got a butcher in the room,” eyeing Sheamas, who was standing in the doorway, “and roasted goose with orange might sound right well to such a big hungry party of folks.”
“Uncle Beryn!” cried the children, spilling over the threshold and attacking his legs with ardent embraces.
“Afternoon, boys,” said Beryn, putting down his teacup and assailing their stomachs with tickling fingers. “Careful around the chairs and table, boys. The Beryn monster doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“You’re the one doin’ the ticklin’, Uncle Beryn!” Little Adaoire cried, giggling as he crumbled to the ground under the ascendance of Beryn’s flurrying fingers.
“Aye, I’m ticklin’, but that’s what monsters and uncles are supposed to do.” Beryn relented and allowed the children to breathe while taking up his cup once more. “Heard you had a bit o’ craic outside with a pyre.”
“We burned a banner,” said Soledhan, panting and still under the influence of oppressive mirth.
“Burned a banner? That ain’t Alineighdaeth tradition I ever heard of—hold a minute.” Beryn’s eyes narrowed. “We don’t got the whole brood here. Where’s the little and big?”
“Little and Grandfather Jaicobh went to see Bilar,” said Dorrin.
“Aye, I see how it was. You boys try to roast your cousin in that pyre?”
“No, Uncle Beryn,” the children sang.
“Just a bit of a cold,” said Shayne, coming forward to shake Beryn’s hand. “Nothin’ more than a sniffle.”
“Sniffles are dangerous when there are so many Mas around.”
“Aye, Uncle Beryn,” the children moped.
“Ma used to make me eat the coneflowers that grew on the hedge when I had a cold. Wasn’t too terrible.” Beryn shrugged and smiled. “At least I didn’t get the bogbean.”
The twins wrenched, Dobhin grimaced, and Alasdair still maintained that he should rather take bogbean than endure all the agonizing horrors of gorse tonic.
“Oh, Aye,” Beryn eagerly nodded. “Gorse tonic’ll strip the paint off a fence. Just the scent of it sent me runnin’ to my room. Ma brewed it the once and never again. I got a whiff—“ he shook his head. “Made all the hair in my nose melt off. Dannig’s got no hair in his nose ‘cause o’ how much gorse tonic he’s had. A man’ll lose his eyebrows over that.”
“Will cousin Jaicobh lose his eyebrows, Uncle Beryn?” said Little Aiden.
“We’ll see, boys. Might come back lookin’ like a Karnwyl seal, all hairless and polished.”
The children laughed and turned toward Lochan, who was turning away from Martje and holding his friend close to him, looking about for Khaasta and hoping she could provide a distraction for the dissatisfied cook.
“Who’s your new friend, Uncle Lochan?” said Soledhan.
“This here is Jannidhe,” Lochan announced, stroking the gallineasian’s neck. “She lost her way when she was flyin’ north and the storm hit. Don’t tell her,” whispering behind a raised hand,”but she thinks I’m her gander. Jannidhe don’t know I don’t got feathers and wings and a beak and all.”
“Don’t be namin’ it, Loch,” Martje insisted. “When you name somethin’, it stays, and this here goose is leavin’ this kitchen and it’s goin’ right now.”
Martje raised her rolling pin over her head, but before Lochan could disclaim or anyone could interfere, the goose let out a formidable honk and thrashed its beak at Martje’s apron.“No bird what enters this kitchen and snaps at me lives more than a minute after,” Martje seethed, her eyes flaring. “That’s that, Loch. That bird’s goin’ into the pot--” but the goose squawked and gnashed as Martje drew near, and the cook tapped her pin against her palm in a threatening and slow cadence. The goose would have to go, but how to get it outor even how to get it away from her brother was a matter of growing concern. Animals alive and uncured had never been her greatest friends, and while she could tolerate a rather immense cat, she could not abide something that might otherwise provide an excellent meal for her family waddling about uncooked and unseasoned.