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Thread: This thread for parallel stories not directly linked to "Disturbing News"

  1. #41

    Default Alton & Velda Part 30 by Dellani Oakes

    The women meet their captor, a gnome female named Marigold. Velda is sure that there is a man in the next cell. They can only hope it's Alton or Revanth.

    "A man," Velda said with confidence.

    "Don't be silly."

    "I can smell him. Is he handsome? He smells delicious."

    The gnome frowned. "How can you possibly smell him?" Frowning, she realized her mistake. The door slammed shut.

    "Can you really smell a man?" Astrid whispered.

    Velda chuckled softly. "Not unless he's in the room with me. But there is a sense of male-ness coming from the room. An energy, like something I've felt before. My spirit recognizes it, even if my other senses do not."

    "Is it Alton?"

    "No. But I think it might be Revanth."

    "The men yesterday said man, not horse?"

    "Yes."

    Astrid bounced excitedly. "Do you think so? Could it be?"

    "We'll see," Velda said, but didn't hold her breath. "We'll hope."


    The strange figure appeared again the following day. Revanth ignored it, but felt as if eyes crept up his spine, digging into his mind. He was careful not to think of Alton, or their quest, while this went on. He stared at the wall, looking for cracks, and finding none. The person came back several more times, but did not speak. The examination of his mind went on longer each time, the person probing deeper. On one such probe, Revanth felt it getting too close, so he flashed up a memory of his night with the three sisters. Making it as explicit as possible, he filled his mind with desire and carnal thoughts. The figure gasped and the door slammed shut.

    Not long after, the door swung open again. A tall, blue skinned woman with ebony hair stood framed in the doorway. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, stalking into the room.

    "Meaning of what?" He stared at the ceiling, not looking at her.

    "This!"

    Images of him with Dannae, Pilar and Oonah flashed into his mind, all of them mid-climax. Viewing the women from his perspective, he saw and heard them, and himself, moaning with pleasure.

    "Oh, that." He smirked, sitting up. "That was a bit of fun, in exchange for information. About you, I'm guessing."

    "My daughters would never—" She snapped her lips shut.

    "Would never tell your secrets? Betray you?" Revanth tilted his head to one side, then the other. "Unless they were lying, Rialtia. Is that why you hold one of them prisoner? Did she betray you?" He stood, advancing as far as his chains would allow. Tugging on them, he clanked them against the stone. Sparks flew.

    Rialtia flinched, stepping back. Revanth grinned, laughing nastily. "Let me loose, I'll love you, too."

    "Don't be silly. I've had enough daughters."

    "Who needs to mate just for procreation? Where's the fun in that? How long has it been since you lay with a man, Rialtia? You're still a beautiful woman. Any man would be lucky to make you scream, as you reach fulfillment. As I made three lovely naiads scream. It was a deal we struck, but I'd have done it regardless. Your daughters are quite lovely. But none are as beautiful as you."

    Layering his voice with lust and promises, he spun his lies. He might not have magic in the ways of Alton and Velda, but he cast a spell of his own with his words. He could sense her weakening, drawn to him by his magnetic voice. She took a step closer, then another. When she was within his reach, Revanth spread his arms, flexing them against the chains. His muscles stood out in sharp relief.

    "Come to me, my intoxicating Rialtia. Join me and I will make love to you until the end of our days. You're still youthful, sensuous. See how you make my body swell?"

    His pants clung to his muscular body, the dark contours in sharp contrast to the light stone behind him. There was no mistaking his dimensions. Rialtia's eyes dropped to examine his groin with longing. She took another step, easily within his reach.

    "Take me out," he whispered huskily. "See me. Feel me. Suck—me."

    With trembling hands, she opened his pants, lowering them from his taut abdomen, setting him free. Gasping with delight, her fingers dropped to his firmness. Absorbed in her examination of his dimensions, she failed to notice his actions. Keeping his thoughts on coupling, Revanth made his move. As Rialtia touched him, he wrapped the chains around her throat and torso, binding her arms to her sides. His mouth on hers saved him from her words of power as the iron chains bound her body.

    She struggled, trying to free herself, but iron was even more effective against fae than it was against humans. She grew weak, but Revanth didn't relax his grip on her. He didn't trust her for a moment.

    "You lied to me," she growled when he finally released her mouth. "Did you really mate with my daughters?"

    "Oh, yes. Delightful, all of them Especially Oonah, so young and fresh. To be her first...." He drew a hissing breath between his teeth. "Delicious. If I could have her all the time, I'd never look at a human woman again."

    "Men! Such bastards!"

    "Yet, you cannot have your precious daughters without us. And they have their uses—like abducting troublesome humans."

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  2. #42

    Default Alton & Velda Part 31 by Dellani Oakes

    Rialta comes in to see Revanth. He manages to lure her close, binding her with his chains.

    "Release me."

    "Oh, no. You're going to call your servant and then you'll release me. And, if you're very smart, you'll let the human woman, and the naiad go as well."

    "How did you know?" she gasped, realizing he had discovered her secret. "Why do you think they're here?"

    "I smell them," he purred next to her ear. Nipping her throat with strong, white teeth, he allowed himself a moment to enjoy the svelte, lithe body next to him.

    "There is no way a human has that sense of smell!"

    "I'm no mere human. Don't you recognize the man your daughter, Eleion, turned into a horse? After all, you were there, orchestrating the entire thing."

    "How—?"

    "My sweet Rialtia, you betray yourself at every turn. I'm no longer the foolish boy you tricked. I've learned a lot in the last few months, not the least of which is your scent. You've plotted this from the beginning, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why. If you wanted revenge against Alton, why go to all this trouble? If you wanted to capture Velda, it would have been easy to send the puka after her. Why this bizarre, and unnecessary, fiasco?"

    "To test him!"

    Revanth blinked hard, leaning forward to better hear her, though she was as close as his skin.

    "He stole her from me, deflowered her, then proceeded to break her heart time and again. How can a man do that to the woman he loves?"

    "It is the way of his people...."

    "Weave a different tale, you wily tongued serpent! Way of his people be damned! He's slept with more women than—!"

    "Than you have men? I doubt that. He's not nearly as old as you. Though, you are still a verdant peach of a woman, and a man would be fortunate to have you. Shall we?" He tipped his head toward the bed.

    "Leave off your silken lies. What will your princess think of you, a man who sold himself, while supposedly faithful to her."

    "I sold myself to help her. And it was worth every moment, just to give you this." He kissed her long, hard and deep. His hands worked quickly, manipulating the chains, releasing himself and trapping her. "Even a human may work a little magic," he said, twirling the metal pick between his fingers. "Now, if you'll excuse me...." He tucked himself back into his britches and walked to the door.

    Rialtia opened her mouth to say words of power to trap him. All that came out was a hoarse croak. Gasping, she clutched her throat.

    "That's the nettle juice I rubbed on my lips. Takes a little while to work, but it's quite effective, isn't it? Don't worry, I don't think it's enough to block your airway. Conjure up a little water. Oh, sorry.... There's not any of that about." He rushed from the room, slamming the door.

    Taking a few steps to the left, he searched for the outer door to Astrid and Velda's cell. He knew it had to be close to his, but somehow, the witch had camouflaged it to look like a blank wall. Instead of looking with his eyes, he closed them, listening with his mind. Hand against smooth stone, he felt along the wall until it dipped, and he felt wood. With his eyes open, it looked like a blank wall, but his hand could feel a metal bolt in brackets. Going by feel, he released it, and the door swung inward. There, seated on their bunks, were Astrid and Velda. Their eyes turned to the door, but showed no recognition. Revanth rushed to the shelf where Astrid sat, kneeling at her feet.

    "My love, is it really you? Have I found you at last?" Clasping her hands, he kissed them.

    Astrid stiffened, eyeing him dubiously.

    "Astrid? It's Revanth. Darling, I...."

    She snatched her hands away, drawing herself up angrily. "Excuse me, good sir. What is this name you call me? Who is Astrid? Do you know this man?" she appealed to Velda.

    "I never saw him before. Go away." She made sweeping motions at him.

    "But, my love! Astrid! What madness is this?"

    "Guards!" Astrid screamed. "Help! Marigold! Help!"

    Seconds later, the gnome appeared with two burly guards.

    "My lady, what troubles you?"

    Astrid pointed at Revanth. Marigold's topaz eyes raked him from head to foot. A slow smile spread across her features.

    "You've trapped her, then?"

    "I'm sorry?"

    "Rialtia? She's chained up?"

    "Yes—but...."

    "Good. Take him," she told the guards. "In your cell?" she directed at Revanth as he was muscled down the hall.

    "Yes...."

    With a tilt of her chin, Marigold gave a command. "I suppose I should thank you. I've been that woman's slave for the past fifty years. Take him below. Find him somewhere—cozy."

    "Yes, mistress."

    "Now," Marigold said. "You pay, you filthy hag!"

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  3. #43

    Default Alton & Velda Part 32 by Dellani Oakes

    Revanth manages to imprison Rialta. However, when he finds the women, they are under a spell and don't recognize him. Marigold has him captured and goes to see to Rialta.

    Slinging the door to Revanth's cell open, Marigold confronted the helpless Rialtia. Hissing a curse, she pointed at the naiad, who clutched her throat, eyes rolling up in her head, as she collapsed on the bench. Convulsing, she twitched and shook. With a nasty smile, Marigold watched for several minutes until the seizure eased. A snap of her fingers, and the tremors began once more.

    "How does it feel to be helpless, you vile harpy? To have your body do things you don't want? Because someone has power over you. Evil. Vicious. Cruel. My children are grown, my home gone, my husband married to another. Because of you. May you rot!"

    The door slammed shut and she stormed down the stairs looking for Revanth.


    Alton was at an impasse. He'd lost the scent of Revanth, but caught enough of a hint on the wind, to know the general direction. The trouble was, the fair lands had ended and a desert sprawled before him. The harsh sun on the bright sand nearly blinded him. A child of cool woods, this sand and heat were almost too much for him. However, sand was dirt, wasn't it? After reaching that conclusion, he stopped by the edge of the desert, running his fingers through the sand. Sending out questions, he waited for answers. If Revanth had been carried across, the creatures and plants of the sand would know. Constructing a hut of sand, he waited.
    His thirst grew and a line of small insects showed him where to find water. Moving the sand aside, he created a well and lifted it until he could drink from the cool water below. Leveling out the sand, he made an oasis, leaving it as a gift for the inhabitants of the deserted land.

    After a time, the wind brought him answers. His friend had gone to the northwest, steadily, directly. He was trapped at a castle built from living stone. Impervious to moisture, it graced the air, but sealed out sand. All life avoided it, choosing to take the chance of skirting death, rather than a sure end in the castle. Removing the horses' saddles and tack, he took what belongings he could from the saddle bags, and let them go. With trepidation, he set out at dusk, seeking—something.

    Night fell, and with it a deep cold. Glad he'd taken the bedrolls, Alton wrapped one around himself as he trudged along. Wishing for the companionship of the horses, he cast about with his mind. Finding a pack of jackals on the hunt, he dropped back into his own mind. Casting out once more, he touched something, but what? It might have been Revanth, but he wasn't sure. Seeking more deeply, he thought he touched Velda. Recoiling, he realized he'd touched her mother's mind instead. Filled with lust and longing, as well as the murderous, insane images of herself with—a horse? No. A black haired man—Revanth.

    "Ew!" he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

    The idea of Revanth with Rialtia filled him with disgust. However, he realized it was a part his brother was playing. Rather than interfere, he joined his energy with Revanth's, doing his best to help his friend seduce Velda's mother. There had to be something seriously wrong with that reasoning, but he knew he had to help keep Revanth safe.

    The sun rose and the heat began almost immediately. To shade himself, Alton raised a shell of sand. It took a little while to perfect, but he firmed it beneath his feet and scooted himself along. Strangely, the magic didn't make him tired. He felt revived and rejuvenated.

    "There must be a source of power nearby," he murmured as he skimmed the sand. "A very strong one."

    Tapping into it further, he used it to guide him to the castle where his friend was captured. Did he dare hope that there lady loves were also here? It made sense. If this was Rialtia's stronghold, why have them anywhere else?

    Finally at the door, he shook the sand from himself, thanked his various companions, and eyed the edifice. Power unlike he'd ever felt, thrummed inside. Its energy seductive, sensual, exciting, he gave himself over to pure pleasure for a moment, raising his hand to knock. Before knuckles touched wood, the portcullis rose, and the heavy door swung open.

    "What took you so long?" Revanth said, motioning his stunned friend inside.

    "Um...." Alton stopped at the door, toes on the line between inside and out. "Took me so long? I've walked the fekking desert! Two days travel in this heat, not to mention a day or two before that."

    He wasn't entirely sure of the passage of time, but it had been more than two days, and less than a week—or so his inner self told him.

    "Are the girls here? Have you saved them? What's going on? Where's Rialtia?"

    Revanth opened the door wider. "Come inside and see for yourself. It's a tale worth telling."

    Struck by the peculiarity of it all, Alton paused. "Were you captured?"

    "Yes, I woke to find myself in chains."

    "But now you're free."

    "Some quick thinking and good luck...." He struck a pose. "Here I am."

    "And the girls? Are they free too?"

    Revanth's face clouded. "Yes. But—you need to come inside."

    "Why? If the girls are here, let's go. I've found a way to cross...."

    "Just come inside!" Revanth lunged forward, grabbing at Alton.

    The wood sprite jumped back and Revanth's hand seemed to sizzle in the dessert sun. Gasping and cursing, he stuck his hand in his mouth.

    "Blast you, wood sprite! Come inside!"

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  4. #44

    Default Alton & Velda Part 33 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton finally arrives at the prison in the high desert. Revanth greets him at the door, urging him to come inside. Is it really his friend, or something else?


    "Where's Revanth? For you are not he. Firstly, he'd have told me immediately about the girls, not insisted I come inside. Nor would he have complained about my tardiness. He'd have been glad to see me, regardless of how long it took. And not the least, he can stand full sun without being burned. So—whoever you are, you have explaining to do."

    Alton grabbed the Revanth look alike, tugging so that the man's hand hissed and sizzled in the sun. He watched as the skin blistered and smoked.

    "I can stand here all day," he explained conversationally. "The sun doesn't hurt me. In fact, my nut brown skin likes the sun. So, unless you want to lose a hand, speak."

    "All right!" The man shook Alton's hand off his. Putting the blistered skin in his mouth, he licked it. His eyes caught the light, the color oddly muted, the pupils strange.

    "You're the puka!" Alton snarled, cursing loudly. "Where are my friends? What have you done with them?"

    "Enough, wood sprite!" an imperious voice rang out from inside the courtyard. "Come inside and see for yourself."

    "I'll stay out here, thanks. Who might you be?"

    "You can call me Marigold. I am mistress here, now. Rialtia is—indisposed."

    "And my friends?"

    "Cared for." The diminutive gnome carried herself with a swagger—as much as a three foot gnome can do that. "Come in."

    "No. Thanks anyway, I'd rather not. Seems that folks go in there, and don't come out. I'll take my chances out here."

    "Meanwhile, your friends remain inside."

    "Yep. But soon, I'll figure out a few things. Then we'll see if that doesn't change."

    "You fool, I have more magic in my little finger...!"

    His chuckle made Marigold shudder. It was a terrible, mirthless sound. Alton smiled, but the mirth of it didn't reach his eyes.

    "Dear Lady, no one likes a braggart."

    "I speak the truth."

    Alton shrugged. "No one likes smugness either. Is it your power I feel around here? Delicious. Sort of spicy, with an aftertaste of loam. Earthy...." He smiled wickedly. "I like earth."

    As he spoke, the sand crept up her legs, pinning her in place. The fake Revanth also tried to move, but couldn't.

    "You evil wood sprite! Why, I'll—mpht!" A glob of sand filled her mouth, muffling her words. Her hands were pinned to her sides as the sand rose from her feet to enclose her in an earthen cocoon.

    "Do you intend to give me problems?" Alton directed at the puka.

    It stepped aside, hands raised. Alton trapped it, too, but left its mouth free.

    "But if you try anything, I'll fill your lungs with sand. Do you understand?"

    The puka nodded. "She's strong." He tipped his head at Marigold, who was going red in the face. "And if she gets free, she won't hesitate to kill you."

    "Then she'd better not get free."

    "Do you know how to find a gnome's weakness?"

    "Her secret name."

    It was the puka's turn for a mirthless laugh. "If you release me, I'll tell you hers, as I leave."

    Alton paused. To know the gnome's name would give him power over her. However, if the puka was wrong, he might have signed his own death decree. Easing the sand down, he allowed movement of the hands. From the knees down, the puka was trapped.

    "The name first, then I free you."

    "How can I trust you?"

    "I'm not the one who captured you, forced you to work, or mistreated you. But I'm holding more cards than you." He tiled his head. "Well?"

    "Topaz," the puka said.

    Marigold's eyes widened, and she screamed. It was a horrible sound, muffled by the sand over her mouth.

    "Excellent. Topaz, when I release you, you will do my bidding. Do you understand?"

    She nodded, glaring at them both.

    "Good. You can go," he said to the puka. "But if you come back, the end will be ugly. Hey. Why'd you tell me?"

    "As big a wench as Rialtia was to work for, this one is worse. Don't release her until you must. And don't trust her, because she's a bigger liar than the naiad. Your friend is in the dungeon," he puka said, taking his own aspect once more. Built like an albino horse, he tossed his head. "And the ladies are held upstairs in the north tower. But they won't know you. Rialtia took their memories when Revanth imprisoned her. I think, however, if you ask very nicely, Topaz will help you in any way she can. Won't you, Topaz you iron hearted cow?" With those words, he disappeared in a puff of fetid smoke.

    "So, Topaz," Alton said, walking a little nearer, but not so close that they touched. "Your magic is very tasty indeed. I imagine that's why Rialtia held you for so long, and how she became so powerful. Probably, it's how she found you to begin with. That much raw energy is asking for someone to siphon it. Now, that someone is me." Smiling nastily, he leaned a little closer. "Don't worry. I won't make you do anything worse than she did. In fact...." He winked and leered at her. "You might even enjoy it."

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  5. #45

    Default Alton & Velda Part 34 by Dellani Oakes

    Aided by the puka, Alton discovers Marigold's true name is Topaz. He also discovers where his friends are being held, and that the women won't know him.

    Topaz shrieked, her eyes blazing at him. Laughing, Alton went inside. The few servants he met, scurried out of his way.

    He stopped one of them with a gentle hand on her arm. "Mistress Rialtia is a prisoner. Mistress Topaz is wrapped up, at the moment, so I'm in charge. I'm Alton, and I need help with a few things. Do you think you and the others could assist me? When I'm done, you can go."

    "Go? Where?"

    "Home. That's if you want to. I can't imagine a forest nymph like you enjoys being in the desert."

    "Not at all. You'll release us?"

    "Yes. But first, I need to get my friends free."

    "The black haired one is in the dungeon. This way."

    Alton followed her, wary for attack. Not everyone was going to like the new regime. He expected resistance, and wasn't surprised when he got it. It didn't come from the nymph. She was, as Alton suspected, ready to leave and wanted to get her part done as soon as possible. However, Topaz must have friends among the guards, because he was attacked before he got across the courtyard. Already, two men were trying to free the gnome from her binding, only to get trapped themselves.

    The men who attacked him, had more sense than to touch him, but that made them no less dangerous. One had a crossbow, another a pike. He'd crossed the courtyard, and entered the great hall, when a bolt smacked into the door beside him. More annoyed than anything, Alton merely slammed the door shut behind him. That's when the pikeman struck, coming at him from behind a tapestry. He got tangled in it, but slashed his way through, rushing Alton.

    The nymph screeched and ran in the opposite direction. Alton had no choice but to draw his sword and dagger. Against a pike, it was minimal protection, but his fast thinking saved him from a worse fate. His dagger in his right hand, sword in his left, he caught the pike, crossing the blades to prevent an upswing. For a few precious seconds, he had the man trapped. It was all he needed to kick sharply, connecting with the pikeman's knee. A satisfying crack, followed by a yowl of pain, and the pikeman fell to the floor. Alton snatched up the pike, throwing it across the room, burying the tip in the door. A yelp from outside told him the tip had gone through, surprising someone on the other side.

    "Anyone else want a go at me? Or would you rather go home? I'm here to end this, you fugging lumpties!" he bellowed as he searched for the dungeon steps.

    After much trial and error, he finally found what he was after. The spiral stair was long and dark at the bottom. Taking a torch from up top, he carried it in his right hand. Sword in his dominant left, he trotted down the stairs. Listening carefully as he neared the bottom, he heard the usual moans and groans one anticipated in a dungeon. There was also the crack of a whip, followed by muffled curses.

    "Revanth! Is that you, my friend?"

    "Alton! Make this idiot quit hitting me, would you?"

    "Gladly. Where are you?"

    "Ahead and to your right."

    The sounds had stopped, but Revanth's curses hadn't. Seconds later, Alton burst into the room, torch and sword in hand. A gnarled gnome held a whip which was hardly big enough to qualify. He was short, scrawny, wizened and probably the oldest living creature Alton had ever seen, next to Old John. He brandished the whip at Revanth, then at Alton. Revanth was suspended by chains from the ceiling. His shirt was removed, his boots gone. His back was covered with welts and he looked mad as a wet hornet.

    With the tip of his sword, Alton forced him closer to Revanth. When the gnome was in range, the warrior prince wrapped his legs around the gnome's neck and squeezed until the gnarled old coot fell on the ground.

    "Is he dead?" Revanth asked as Alton undid the cuffs which held him.

    "No."

    "More's the pity. I hoped I'd cracked the pissing bugger's neck."

    Alton examined his friend. The wounds were scattered around about halfway up his torso both front and back. "This doesn't look too bad."

    "He's short, isn't he," Revanth said in a matter of fact tone. "Doesn't even come up to my hip."

    Shrugging, Alton helped his friend stand. "So?"

    "So—he's got no reach much above the knees. Think, man!" He bent over, hissing.

    "Oh, the dear gods. He didn't—" Alton hissed as well, covering his balls with one hand.

    "No, but that doesn't mean the little prick didn't try!" He kicked the gnome in the head and was delighted to see him bleed profusely. "The girls are upstairs, but they don't know me. They called on Marigold to lock me up!"

    "Her real name is Topaz. Might come in handy, knowing that."

    Revanth nodded his thanks.

    They limped up the stairs. When they were near the top, Alton left Revanth, doing a quick check for trouble. He didn't find any. The castle had a deserted air, for which he was grateful.

    "I suppose I should go back and free the other prisoners," he remarked casually as he helped Revanth sit.

    "Might be nice of you."

    "You'll be all right here?"

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  6. #46

    Default Alton & Velda Part 35 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton frees Revanth from the dungeon. After helping him upstairs, he decides to go free the other prisoners.

    Revanth shrugged, shaking his head. "Why not? Where's Topaz?"

    "In the courtyard, finding earth magic not to her liking."

    Chuckling, Revanth eased his sore body into a more comfortable position. "I don't suppose you've got any healing magic?"

    "Not much." He muttered a few power words and touched Revanth's shoulder. A cascade of golden sparkles jumped from his hand. "Well, never did that before! It must be the magic here. It's strong."

    "Go. Help the others. Then we'll free the girls. For the moment, they should be all right."

    Alton nodded, dashing back down the stairs. Searching the cells, he found a few other prisoners, in much worse shape than Revanth. He gave each a healing touch, leaving their cell doors open. As he headed to the stairs, he saw the stronger helping the weaker.

    "Why are you prisoners?" he asked one of the men.

    "The blue wench liked a bevy of men. When we failed to please, we ended up here. Are you here to kill her?"

    "Only if she makes it necessary. She's my lover's mother."

    "Hope she's nicer than her dame," the man replied.

    "Much. The female gnome is upstairs in the courtyard. Touch her at your peril." With that, he scampered back up the steps.

    He found Revanth still seated where he'd left him, looking the worse for his ordeal.

    "Where are the girls?"

    "I'll show you." He stood, gasping as he clutched his groin. "Gods, it hurts worse than before."

    "Nothing to take your mind off it. And the magic heals quickly, but it isn't always gentle. I'm sorry."

    "Up the stairs, to your right, then right again, and take the staircase to the spire."

    "I'll be back as soon as may be."

    Revanth nodded, easing into his chair. Alton ran up the steps, following his friend's directions. He found the spire, but was greeted by blank walls. Puzzled, he turned in a slow circle.

    "There's nothing here!" he sent mentally to Revanth.

    "Magic. Close your eyes and follow your nose."

    Doing so, Alton found Revanth's room first. He discovered Rialtia huddled on the bed, wrapped in iron chains. The time had not been kind to her. Iron acts like poison on fae, and she had been chained up for nearly two days. Alton couldn't help but strut in, cocky and self-assured. He knew it was foolish, but he hated her with a passion unequaled. Seeing her thus brought down was pleasing to him.

    "Met your match, did you? Stupid cow. You shouldn't under estimate your opponent."
    "Neither should you," she croaked, making a magical gesture with one hand. She mumbled words of power and Alton felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. Her hand twisted and it felt as if someone had stabbed him with hot metal on the inner thigh. "You came for her," she whispered. "But it's too late. She doesn't remember you."

    Alton flung his dagger at her, hitting her square in the chest. The pain in his head and leg ceased as Rialtia slid to the floor.

    "Then I will win her heart again," he declared. "I will always come for her, no matter how far. She is my life. And you, twisted, evil witch that you are—you're dead."

    Rialtia's death rattle shook her body as she slumped against the bed. The iron chains rattled, tangling around her. It was then he heard he screaming and felt the tremors of the building beneath him. Of course, the castle was her magical creation. With Rialtia dead, how could it stand?

    "Velda!" he bellowed. "Where are you? My love!"

    "Alton? We're here! We're chained."

    Following her voice, Alton rushed to their cell. The hidden door was visible now, since the magic was collapsing. Throwing the bolt, he ran into the room. Velda stood a few feet away, chained with bronze instead of iron. Astrid was bound by iron. Neither woman looked her best, but they hadn't suffered like Rialtia.

    "Do you truly know me?" he said, stopping a foot out of range.

    "I know you. You are my Alton, the man whose perfect form enticed me away from home."

    "And you are my beautiful Velda, the love of my life." He took her hands, kissing her.

    "Not to interrupt this touching reunion," Astrid complained. "But wouldn't you like to leave before the place collapses around us?"

    "Of course." He grinned. "Stretch the chain across the stone there and pull," he told the women.

    They did as he told them. With several strikes of his sword, he severed the chains. It didn't do his sword much good, but their freedom was more important. There would be other swords, there was only one Velda.

    "My mother?" Velda asked as they ran past her cell.

    "Dead. I'm sorry."

    She hesitated. The castle shuddered and their room fell away.

    "Time for grieving later!" Astrid screamed, grabbing them by the hands.

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  7. #47

    Default Alton & Velda Part 36 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton confronts Rialta, killing her. Once she is dead, the castle begins to collapse. Fortunately, her death canceled the magic which held the memories of the women, in check.

    The ran down the stairs, losing their balance and running into one another. The were all glad the stair was enclosed on both sides, so no one was in danger of falling to the ground floor.

    Revanth struggled to his feet as Astrid ran to him. "My love!" they chorused.

    "Let's get out of here!" Alton yelled as the ceiling on the far side of the room fell.

    Once out the door, they found the courtyard empty.

    "Where's Topaz? Who freed her?"

    "I didn't see her leave. I don't know."

    "I feel her nearby," Alton said. "She hasn't left. Come out, you mystic witch!" he growled. "Let's have this out, so I don't have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder."

    The tiny gnome stepped into the archway, blocking them from the outside. "Sure of yourself, wood sprite."

    Alton cocked his head to one side. "Always. Shall we dance?" He gave her a half bow.

    "As you wish."

    "Dance? Are you mad?" Revanth said.

    "Take the women and run," Alton said. "Get as far away as you can. They go free," he told Topaz. "This is between us."

    She moved from the doorway, allowing the other three to leave, but took her place once more between Alton and freedom.

    "That was slick, trapping me in earth. You forget, a gnome is an earthbound creature. My magic freed me."

    "Took long, though. I guess you aren't as tough as you think."

    She sent a runnel of stone his way. The ripple it caused in the cobbled yard nearly knocked him off his feet, but he righted himself. Chuckling, he retaliated, picking up every pebble in a ten yard radius, he pummeled her with them.

    "Bastard!" She summoned water from the dry air.

    Alton couldn't imagine how she'd done it. To him, there wasn't enough water in the air for even a teardrop. He countered every spell she cast, fighting blow for blow with sand and stone. As the castle rumbled to dust around them, he found bigger pieces to hurl at her. Equally matched, they fought for several minutes. Alton knew he had to do something definitive, something she couldn't, in order to win.

    "When I kill you," Topaz snarled. "I'll kill your woman. And your friend, and his woman, too! And if you have any living family, I'll snap their necks like twigs!"

    "I freed you, Topaz. I was willing to help you."

    "Fool! No one helps without a motive, a reason!"

    "I do," he said, relaxing his stance. "Because it's the right thing." He reached slowly and casually into his vest for his flint and steel. His other hand crept slowly into the pouch at his belt, searching for the bag of dust.

    "No one does that!" she screeched, enraged by his calm demeanor. "It's a weakness, wood sprite. It will get you and your entire family killed!"

    As they fought, Alton had slowly worked his way around until the arch was behind him. Most of the castle had fallen down, miraculously not on top of their heads, but the outer wall held. Once he was in position, Alton took a handful of the dust. Flint and steel in his left hand, the dust in his right, he brought them quickly up. With a snap of his fingers, he lit a spark. The dust ignited. Creating a gust of wind, Alton blew it at Topaz.

    The gnome's clothing and hair caught fire wherever the dust touched her. Writhing with pain, she tried to summon water to put out the flames. Air simply fanned the flames higher. With a scream of rage and suffering, she fell to the ground. Soon, she didn't make a sound. Alton knew she was dead. He turned to leave, but felt himself in a mighty grip, as if a giant hand held his legs. With a roar, a furious wind buffeted against him, wailing and growling through the open doorway. He was lifted in the air, spun around wildly like a top, and was let down like a downy feather. Puffing loudly, he crouched in the courtyard.

    "Alton!"

    He heard a voice from a distance.

    "Alton?"

    Someone knelt beside him. Someone with soft hands and a warm embrace.

    "My love? Alton!"

    "You smell like flowers," he whispered, touching her cheek.

    "And you smell like something ran you over in a swamp," Revanth said as he approached. "He's fine, Velda. Let the man breathe." He helped his friend stand. "Let's get out of here before it topples on our heads."

    Walking out of the courtyard, Alton stopped. Instead of a barren desert, as it had been earlier, it was a green and verdant land. A trickle of water ran from the arched door, flowing into the shallow valley.

    "What has happened?" Alton asked, gazing at their surroundings.

    "It must have been ensorcelled," Velda replied. "My mother...." she shivered when she remembered Rialtia.

    "More likely Topaz," Revanth replied. "For it turned after she died, not after your mother did."

    "She gave me no choice," Alton said. "I didn't want to, Velda."

    "Rialtia was never an easy person to love," she replied. "Had she not been my mother, I might have ended her myself."

    "How are we going to get home?" Astrid asked.

    "First, we're going to find somewhere to rest for the night," Velda said, with a glance at the sky. "But not here, if you please. Where is the nearest town?"

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  8. #48

    Default Re: Alton & Velda Part 36 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton & Velda Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton confronts Topaz, besting her in battle. After her death, the desert becomes a verdant plain once more.

    "Not for two days' travel," Alton said. "But we can find a place to camp. We may not have much, but with the magic between us, we'll fare well enough. And I've got my food pouch."

    They walked as far as they could, but the men were in a lot of pain. They stopped by a newly formed pool. All of them disrobed and lowered themselves into the water. It was warm, swirling around their aching, dirty bodies. The women drank their fill from upstream, as the men bathed and swam. Then the women cleaned up, washing their clothing as well as their bodies. The men dunked their dirty clothes, and laid them out to dry on the ground. Walking around naked, they built a fire, setting out a meal.

    The women, dressed in damp shifts, joined them. After they ate, Alton fashioned shelters with his magic, making two comfortable huts from earth and grass. He and Velda took one, and soon were happily enjoying one another's company.

    Though he would have liked to be engaged the same way, Revanth had to clear his conscience. He sat by the fire with Astrid, holding her hands.

    "What's troubling you, my love?"

    The words spilled out, the entire sordid tale of how he'd bedded three naiads in order to get information to save her.

    "I broke my promise to you, Astrid. I lay with not one woman, but three! I accept any punishment you wish to give me, but please, I beg you, forgive me."

    "Was there any other way to get the information?" Astrid asked in a calm, practical tone.

    "No, none. We had nothing else to bargain with."

    "Could you have saved us without their help?"

    "No...."

    Astrid took his hands, pulling him to sit beside her. "Then I forgive you. I love you, and though this doesn't make me happy, you did it to save us. It was a noble thing to do, even if it was ignoble at the same time," she teased. "I love you, Revanth. And I forgive you." She held him close, stroking his thick, raven locks. "There is something you've forgotten, my love."

    "What's that?"

    "Where were we when this debacle began?" She smoothed this beard, caressing his lips with her thumb. "You were in my bed...."

    "So, I was. And we had made a promise to one another."

    "Yes, we had."

    "Do you wish to collect on that promise, my beautiful Astrid?"

    "I do. Although we aren't married...."

    "Does it matter? We will be, just as soon as we can find a priest."

    He carried her into their hut. As he kissed her, he remembered Oonah, and how he had been her first lover. With her, there would be many more. With Astrid, he would be the one and only. That thought excited him more than any other. Softly, gently, he made love to her, bringing them both to climax with a cry of pleasure. Long into the night, the voices of them, and their friends, echoed in the wilderness.

    By morning, they had finally fallen asleep. It wasn't until midday that they all emerged from their huts, hand in hand. A quick meal and they were on their way once more. The traveling didn't take as long now that the land was green and wooded, instead of desert. They made it back to town in less than a day and a half.

    After taking rooms at the inn, they went to find out if there was a priest in town who could marry them. Stopping by Nils' stable, they asked him. Surprised to see them, he gladly took them to the village church. The priest was happy to perform the wedding of the two couples, and did so forthwith. He married Revanth and Astrid first, with Alton and Velda standing up for them as witnesses. While they were entered into the registry, the other couple waited.

    "Are you sure this is what you want?" Velda asked for the third time.

    "I'm positive."

    "You won't stray?"

    "Not for a second. Though it's in our nature, we can control ourselves when it's important. There is nothing and no one more important to me than you. And in time, our children."

    Velda burst into tears. "But that can't be, Alton. I've told you. No one has ever heard of a naiad and sprite having children."

    "Believe it, love. I will father children on you, though they may not be naiads. I promise."

    "How can you be sure?"

    "I feel it. Trust me."

    She didn't commit to that trust, but didn't argue either. The priest married them next, pronouncing them wed by the laws of god and man. Afterward, they celebrated at the tavern, where most of the town joined them. They stayed up long into the night, drinking and dancing with their new friends—many of whom were Velda's half brothers. The naiads, disturbed by the noise, came to see what was going on, and joined in the celebration.

    They stayed two more days in town, before taking to the road once more. The horses Alton and Revanth had purchased, had returned when he let them go, so Nils gave them back. Riding with the women behind them, they set off for Astrid's home, which was the closest. It took nearly three weeks of steady travel to get to her home.

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  9. #49

    Default Alton & Velda Part 38 by Dellani Oakes

    The companions have married, and head to Astrid's home, which is closer than Revanth's.

    As they rode, they saw signs of fighting. The woods were burned in places, fields churned up. Homesteads were gutted and damaged, livestock killed, crops destroyed. A day later, they found a battlefield. Standards of her father's army, and Revanth's, littered the ground. Mounds of corpses had been piled up and loosely covered with dirt and stones. No one had tried to give them a proper burial.

    Disgusted by this treatment, Revanth asked Alton to raise earth and cover the bodies before they were all torn apart by scavengers. Alton didn't hesitate. He and Velda, who used her air magic, covered the bodies, while Revanth carved markers from stone.

    Another day of travel brought them to the outskirts of the castle land. It was obvious that a vast army had passed by recently. Fresh manure and trampled ground, gave evidence to a large force. Soon, they heard the sounds of siege engines slinging stones and battering the walls of the castle. A group of dwarfs, laden in chains, were digging at the base of the wall. An overseer with a wicked looking whip, was in charge. If a dwarf faltered, down it came on the hapless back.

    "Who commands your army?" Astrid asked Revanth.

    "My father's brother. I don't see his standard, but that means little. Often when he travels with the army, he doesn't fly his standard, for reasons of safety. Nor did my father. If he's here, his tent will be centered and surrounded."

    "You and I will go look," Alton announced. "Velda, please take Astrid to the grove of trees, find a stream. Ask the dryads and naiads to protect you. Whatever you do, don't look for us. Is that clear? Send forest animals, or ask the trees and grasses. Promise."

    "How can I, my husband? My love?"

    He took her hands, kissing them. "Because I am your husband, I ask this of you. I want you to stay in safety. Please."

    Reluctantly, she agreed. Arming themselves, Alton and Revanth headed to the battleground.

    "You go first," Alton said. "I'm your squire. Play the Prince to the hilt, and they will not doubt you, though you look like a beggar," he chuckled.

    "And you look so much better, I suppose?"

    "Not at all. But I'm not supposed to look as good. Sword on hip, hand on pommel and don't forget to swagger."

    Revanth swung his buttocks like an ample hipped woman, making his friend laugh. As they approached the outskirts of the battle, a sentry stopped them.

    "Who goes there?"

    "I am Revanth, son of Queen Melisande. Nephew to Prince Olster and heir to my father's throne. Is my uncle here?"

    The sentry blocked Revanth when he tried to advance. "How do I know you are who you say?"

    "Take me to Prince Olster. If I'm not, you have the satisfaction of killing me. If I am, and harm comes to me—I would not wish to be you." His smile was disturbing.

    The sentry motioned to someone else to take his spot. "Come with me." He led them into the camp at a quick pace.

    They passed a medical tent where men lay dying—some screaming, others still. One young man lay with his guts hanging out. He was completely unattended. Flies crawled on his entrails as he whimpered. Alton stopped, holding up a hand to Revanth.

    "You can't heal him, surely?"

    Alton shook his head, face solemn. "Can you watch him die by inches?"

    "Do it," Revanth said softly.

    Alton went up to the boy. "I'm going to take your pain away."

    "Am I dying?"

    "Yes. I can't stop that, but I can make it not hurt. May I?"

    The boy nodded, gritting his teeth. Alton laid a hand on his head, another on the open gut wound. The sparkles that cascaded from his hands were not gold, but a cold, icy blue. The boy relaxed, his breathing slowed, and he died. Closing his eyes, Alton made a sign of blessing over the mangled body. The surgeon thanked him with a silent nod, which was returned.

    "Can you heal others?" the surgeon asked as Alton turned away.

    "Sometimes."

    "Can you heal any of them?"

    Alton glanced at his friend, who nodded, inviting him to enter the tent.

    "I'll try." He passed from bed to bed, touching and whispering. "Be prepared," he told the surgeon. "It is not easy, nor is it clean."

    "But if it works, saves lives...."

    Alton went out quickly. The pain and grief resonated strong in the tent, hammering at his calm exterior. He followed the sentry in a daze. Revanth helped him with a hand at Alton's elbow. The royal tent was not as elaborately decorated as Alton had thought it would be. Slightly bigger than the others, it was the same muted rust and green of the others. The standard out front was small and low to the ground. No flags or banners flew, heralding Prince Olster's presence. Alton thought under the circumstances, that was wise.

    "I beg your pardon, Highness. A man claiming to be your nephew, waits without."

    "Show him in," was the gruff reply. "And if it's not Revanth, cut his head off."

    "As you wish, your highness." He gestured to the two friends. "In you go." His hand on his sword, he stood between them and the exit.

    Prince Olster reclined on a bunk padded with cushions and furs. He did not rise when Revanth entered, but his eyes widened.

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  10. #50

    Default Alton & Velda Part 39 by Dellani Oakes

    Alton and Revanth enter the camp where Revanth's uncle is laying siege to Astrid's castle. They meet his uncle Olster, who appears to be wounded.

    "Revanth!" He tried to stand, but pain shot through him. Falling back onto the cushions, he gasped for breath. "Leave us!" he told the sentry. "Send word to his mother."

    "Yes, sire." The man bowed and left.

    Alton knelt by his uncle's side. "You've had a bad time of it, My Lord."

    The prince's glance would have withered the ears of a lesser fae. "Do you think so, boy? Who is this, Revanth?"

    "My friend, Alton. He's hardly a boy, Uncle. He's older than both of us together." He knelt by the bed. "And he's a good healer, despite what he says to the contrary."

    "May I, Highness?" Alton asked, holding up his hands.

    "Why not? I'm dying in any case."

    "I beg to differ. Even without my help, you are not. But I imagine you wish you were, just to make the pain stop."

    The prince snorted, but it hurt him. Gasping, he held his side. "Do what you must."

    "Give me some wine," he ordered Revanth.

    "You really think that's wise? Won't it hamper your powers?"

    "It's for your uncle. Drink it all, sire. Then get him something to bite down on. This is not gentle, but it's quick."

    When the wine was gone, Revanth got a strip of leather for his uncle to bite on.

    "Hold him down," he ordered his friend.

    Doing as he was told, Revanth held onto his uncle. He was stronger than he'd been a few months ago, partly from being a horse, and partly from living rough. When he had his uncle pinned, Alton put one hand on the wound, the other on the man's head. Forcing the healing energy from him, he felt it flow into the prince.

    Back arched, Prince Olster screamed, writhing in his nephew's grip. Guards came in, but stood watching as red and gold flames danced over their leader's body, flickering over his wounds as they healed. When it was over, Alton fell to the floor, landing in a heap. The guards helped him lie down on a nearby cot and got food and water. Revanth knelt by his uncle's side, amazed to see the wounds almost completely healed. Prince Olster and Alton slept a long time.

    When he woke, Olster talked extensively with his nephew. Alton continued to sleep unimpeded. Revanth checked on him from time to time, but he was in a deep slumber.

    Revanth told his uncle of his adventures, glossing over Alton's powers. He wanted his uncle to believe that the wood sprite's skills lay in healing, not in destroying. For some reason, that was very important to him. Though he loved his uncle, he was not above using Alton, if he thought it would help him win.

    "I think that Astrid and I should approach the castle tomorrow...."

    "No. They'd kill you on sight," Olster warned.

    "Then you should retreat."

    "No."

    "Uncle, there is no need for this war. Astrid and I are married. Whatever argument there is between you, it can end. We won't be marrying anyone else. I love her more than my own life."

    "You're a spoiled princeling," his uncle grumbled. "You're hardly old enough to make up your own mind."

    "I'm twenty years old. I've been a man, by every standard, for five years now. I have loved women, killed men, probably sired a son or two." He didn't mention that this last was probably with naiads. "I'm fully capable of deciding who I want to marry, and I have done so. Tomorrow, you need to decamp and head home. This war is over nothing."

    "We have been insulted!"

    "Is our honor worth so many lives? We saw a soldier, hardly more than a boy, in the medical tent, his guts dangling from his body. Alton couldn't save him, so he gave him a peaceful death. Is honor worth that boy's life? He could not have been more than fifteen."

    Olster puffed out his cheeks, pouting and frowning. "Give the order," he muttered.

    "Thank you."

    Revanth ducked through the door to give the order, but saw a glimmer of light from the castle wall. Raised on a motte, it was easy to see. The glimmer grew brighter, ducked and disappeared.

    "Did you see that?" he asked a guard.

    "See what, Your Highness?"

    "That! By the gods!"

    The flicker grew even bigger, rising rapidly as it shot in to the air.

    "Take cover!" He ran back into the tent, yanking his uncle onto the floor. He pulled Alton down with them. "Wake him!" he commanded.

    Olster did what he could to wake the sleeping wood sprite. As Revanth got up, Olster was slapping Alton in the face, bellowing his name.

    Dashing out into the camp, Revanth saw the missile hit near the latrines. Exploding when it landed, it sent men and tents flying. Not long after, another thudded nearby, scaring the horses. Those who could wrench free, did so, screaming as they ran away. Desperate and worried, Revanth watched as yet another flaming missile came their way. This one stopped at the height of its arc and went out, falling harmlessly to the ground. It bounced and lay still. A flurry of activity at the castle, showed that this had been noticed. The next burning missile met the same fate.

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  11. #51

    Default Alton & Velda Part 40 by Dellani Oakes

    Revanth asks his uncle to end the war and retreat. Just as Olster agrees, a burning missile is launched from the castle. Several more hit, but suddenly one goes out, then another, before they hit.

    Looking around for Alton, he spotted a pale, terrified face at the edge of the camp. "Astrid! My love!" Running over to her, he tried to hold her, but she shook free. "Astrid!"

    "Here comes another," she whispered. "No!" she commanded, pointing at the fiery ball. This went out, falling with the others.

    Haggard and weak, she stumbled. Revanth rushed to her side, catching her as she fell.

    "My love! Stop. You'll kill yourself."

    "I must. I can't have you hurt," she whispered.

    Another fireball flew straight toward them. It stopped in midair, spinning wildly until it went out. It crashed to ground like the rest. Alton stood outside the tent, leaning on the standard pole. Teeth gritted, he pushed himself upright.

    "Fugging stop!" he bellowed at the night, pointing both hands at the castle. The flaming orb was in the catapult, ready to fly, but it went out and the catapult didn't release. "That's it, Astrid. You and I are going there now, to see if we can put a stop to this nonsense."

    "Not at night," Velda said, emerging from the trees. "They'll kill you at night."

    "She has a point," Revanth agreed.

    "Then, I suppose, it must be light enough for them to see us." Alton twitched a hand at the pile of pitch covered orbs. They burst into white flames, but were not consumed. The night grew bright as noon. "Horses!" Alton bellowed.

    "Four of them," Revanth commanded a nearby sentry.

    "Only two. You aren't going and Velda will stay here to make sure you stay put. I won't put you in harm's way by taking you to the enemy camp. Stay here, watch after your uncle."

    "But Astrid!"

    "Will be fine. I'll protect her."

    "Alton—!"

    His friend pointed to the blazing balls of pitch. "Do you have any doubt I can do as I say?"

    Instead of speaking, Revanth kissed his wife, hugging her close. Velda did the same. She could feel the energy thrumming through Alton's body.

    "Be careful, my love. Such power can consume...."

    "I know, my sweet. Don't worry. For the first time in my life, I feel as I'm supposed to feel." He kissed her deeply, and went to meet the man with the horses. Helping Astrid mount, he saluted Revanth and followed her up the hill to the castle.

    They were met at the gate by a worried captain of the guard. "Princess! We saw you coming from the enemy camp. Are you all right? Have you been held hostage?"

    It took some explaining, and repeating, because no one wanted to listen to the entire explanation. Everyone wanted to ask questions. After Astrid repeated herself three times, Alton had had enough. Fingers to lips, he whistled sharply.

    "Be still!"

    Amazingly, they were. Adopting an imperious demeanor, Alton ordered the men about.

    "Take us to King Hels and his lady wife. The Princess owes you no explanation."

    "Of course, my Lord. Begging your pardon, Sir," the captain bowed and scraped.

    Leading them personally to the king's quarters, the captain took up a post outside. Alton suspected he intended to listen. That was fine, as long as he was quiet about it. The king and queen were in their dressing gowns, having been woken from a deep sleep when the first of the missiles went out.

    Racing forward, Queen Sarai hugged and kissed her daughter. The king's reaction was far less overt, but he was just as glad to see her.

    "You are well, child? He didn't—harm you?" her mother asked, ducking her head.

    "No, Mama! I love Revanth. We're married. So, you see, all this fighting is unnecessary. We can go back to the way it was—only with us together, not apart."

    "You're what?" The Queen wasn't happy. "To that rapscallion? How has this happened?"

    "Mama, Papa, I love Revanth more than my own life. He has saved me from harm more times than I can count. He and Alton came to save me and Velda when we were prisoners...."

    This took more explaining. Alton grew weary of all the talk. He wanted the matter settled, over, done. There had been too much killing and he'd had his fill. Not only humans were suffering through this. The animals, as well as the magical folk, were being harmed. When they army cut down trees to build their siege engines, they killed the dryads who were a part of them. The land and water ran red with blood, saturating it for years to come. After, perhaps, twenty minutes of talk, he cleared his throat.

    "Astrid?"

    She understood what he wanted and nodded. "The war is over, Papa. Declare it to your men. Release any prisoners. Let Prince Olster go home with his injured, and call it a draw. No loser, no winner. Revanth and I have gone through so much to prevent this war—yet here it is anyway. For me, Papa. Stop it for me."

    King Hels sighed heavily. "For you, my daughter. I should have stopped it before it began."

    "It's my fault," her mother sobbed. "I pushed and goaded. Queen Melisande and I should have allowed you to wed whomever you like. I suppose it's too late now to hope that you're still pure."

    Astrid laughed, kissing her mother's cheek. "Not for many weeks. I am happier than I have ever been, Mama. I love Revanth, and he loves me. And, unless I am very mistaken, he and I will welcome a tiny prince or princess in a few moons' time."

    "Already?" Sarai smiled, taking her daughter in her arms. "What are you waiting for, Hels? Send a messenger to Olster. Now! And invite my son-in-law to visit. A baby!" Clasping her hands, she started babbling about plans for nursery, leading Astrid toward a chair.

    "What a night," Hels said.

    "Indeed. This is a good thing, Sire. A fine thing."

    Alton rode out with the messenger, only to meet Revanth with one of his own. The leaders were sent for. By dawn, king and prince were seated in a field near the burning mound of pitch balls. The queen had sent out breakfast to them and their generals, who gathered there.

    "Will those ever go out?" Revanth asked Alton.

    "Any time I like," his friend replied. "But they give a festive air. Besides, it's cold and I don't have a cloak."

    After many hours, an agreement was drawn up and Prince Olster's army broke camp. Revanth stayed with Astrid at her father's castle, but his mother and uncle would return in a month's time to celebrate their marriage. A huge party was planned. The queen would have liked another wedding, but settled for a formal blessing by their priest.

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  12. #52

    Default Alton & Velda Part 41 by Dellani Oakes

    The war is now over, thanks to the companions. Revanth and Astrid stay in her father's castle, though his uncle takes his army home.

    "I promised you something," Astrid said later that night after dinner. She and her friends had gathered in the solarium to talk.

    "What's that?" Alton asked.

    "I made Velda a promise that once we returned, I would help you find a place to call home. Papa has agreed that anywhere which meets your needs, will be yours. So, tomorrow, we will ride about the kingdom, and see what we can find; a place of water and trees, where you can live."

    "I would like that," Alton said. "We have wandered far too long. This is most gracious of your father."

    "You have saved us all more times than can be easily counted," Astrid said. "You gave me back Revanth and saved my parents and our home.... You are a hero, Alton, and will be treated as such."

    "To both our peoples," Revanth added. "Not to mention, that fire trick is pretty handy. How did you manage all that? I didn't think you had that much power."

    Alton sighed, bowing his head. "I must confess, I didn't, until I killed Topaz. Somehow, her energy didn't dissipate with her death, it filled me instead. I now channel her power within me."

    "Aren't you afraid that you'll become a target for someone like Rialtia?" Astrid gasped.

    Alton shrugged, shaking his head. "You saw what I can do. And you still worry?" He smiled, leaning forward. "And what of you? Dropping fireballs with just a word. That, my lass, is impressive."

    "But at what cost? It might have killed me if I'd continued."

    "Only because I wasn't there to help you. I think if we work together, along with Velda, we will make a formidable team should anyone come hunting."

    "What of Revanth? Can he help us?" Astrid asked, taking her husband's hand.

    Alton made a disgusted face, trying not to laugh. "Certainly, if there's oats to eat. The magic in him is so weak, it's practically nonexistent. But since he's a good fellow, we'll let him join us."

    He winked at his friend. There was more to Revanth than the others knew, and he intended to keep that a secret as long as possible. Were it known that the Crown Prince and his wife could wield magic, there might be some who'd be tempted to come along and test it.

    The following day, they rode out early, making a breakfast on the crest of a sunny hill. Below, in a shallow valley, they found the perfect spot for Alton and Velda. There was a deep, clear pool with a rushing stream leading to and from it. It was surrounded by trees, who housed a group of wood sprites. These folk welcomed them happily, little caring that Velda was a naiad. The water nymphs were delighted to see her and made her feel right at home.

    "We'll build a home here," Velda decided. "It needn't be large, just for the two of us."

    "There will be more one day," Alton said with confidence. "I promised you children, my love. I shall give you children."

    She grew very quiet, not believing, but not wanting to lose hope, either. They made plans to come back in a few days, and start building their home. Already, Alton had plans, and he shared them with the wood sprites and naiads, but would not tell Velda anything.

    "It's a surprise."

    That night, there was a feast, and they all stayed up late, drinking, dancing and having a wonderful time. A messenger came from Olster that he was safely home, and confirming that he and his sister-in-law would visit soon.

    Gathered once more in the solarium, the women sat apart, making plans for the new home, and even talking about a place for Revanth and Astrid to live nearby. The men sat together, sipping wine and talking quietly.

    "How can you be so sure that you can give Velda the children she craves?" Revanth asked.

    "It's something little known about my people," Alton said. "And I swear you to the greatest silence here."

    Revanth nodded solemnly.

    "You know we gad about, my folk—especially the men. As much as we share our seed, we'd have saplings hither and yon. You wouldn't be able to piss without splashing one of us. So...." He leaned closer. "We men can make ourselves infertile by eating of a special herb. Until we make a commitment to a special woman, we don't allow ourselves to beget children."

    "But you could have done this at any time?"

    "Until she was ready to commit, to accept me as her husband, I didn't want to. How would you feel if you had to walk away from your child? What if she grew angry, pushed me away? How could I do that to my son or daughter?"

    "I take your meaning."

    "I quit taking the herb after taking Topaz's power. If she's not already with child, she will be soon. Speaking of which.... I hope you've got a room for a babe chosen."

    "A what? A—do you mean?"

    Alton touched the side of his nose and winked.

    "How do you know?"

    "Two heartbeats. These pointy ears are good for something other than tracking game."

    Revanth's family came as planned and both young couples renewed their vows before the family priest. The guests had brought gifts for all. Velda found herself in possession of more trinkets and gadgets than she'd ever dreamed of. Her favorite gift was from Astrid's parents. They'd had a necklace crafted from river crystals in shades of blue and green. In a collar shape, each piece dangled from a silver chain in irregular droplets like rain.

    That night, Alton was extra attentive, seeing to it his wife lacked nothing—not food nor drink. He danced with her, leading her around the dance floor as if his feet had wings. Later, in their room, he made quiet, gentle love to her, caressing her body with assiduous care. As they lay together later, he cradled her head on his chest and smiled, for he heard not just two heartbeats, but three. Laying his hand on her belly, he sent a gentle wave of golden magic to protect their children, and help them grow. Smiling to himself, he kissed Velda's brow.

    "I promised, my love. I promised."

    THE END

    © 2019 Dellani Oakes

  13. #53

    Default Introducing He Thought He Saw ~ A Modern Fantasy by Dellani Oakes

    Alas, Alton and Velda is over. I do hope you enjoyed it, as it's one of my favorite tales. I've been thinking of what I can share next, and finally decided to share a series of modern fantasies.

    He Thought He Saw is a step in a different direction for me. I've written Young Adult novels and I've written some with Fantasy, elements, but this is the first time I ever wrote a Young Adult Fantasy. I wrote this for my NaNoWriMo novel in 2012 – when the world was going to end in December. I got to thinking, What if it was really was going to end, but somehow someone stopped it? This story grew from there. It's set in my fictitious small town of Miracle, Mississippi, somewhere near Natchez.

    The title, He Thought He Saw comes from a poem by Lewis Carroll called The Mad Gardener's Song. Honestly, I had to look up the title, because I could only remember only this stanza and nothing more:

    He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
    That stood beside his bed:
    He looked again, and found it was
    A Bear without a Head.
    "Poor thing," he said, "poor silly thing!
    It's waiting to be fed!"


    The story has nothing to do with the poem, except that I borrowed a line from it. And there's a bear. But shush, no spoilers! He Thought He Saw begins with my next post. Until then, I hope you'll check out Skirnir's epic fantasy, Disturbing News, as well as my other stories in this thread. If you want even more to read, check out my books on Amazon!

    ©2020 Dellani Oakes

  14. #54

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 1

    Wind whispered in the trees and dried leaves clattered in its wake. An owl hooted. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. The full moon seemed to follow him as he walked down the road alone. The wind became voices. The leaves, the dry rattle of old bones. The sighing grew louder and Brian was able to pick out words. At least, he thought they were words, but in a language he couldn't understand.

    Increasing his pace, he glanced over his shoulder. Wispy figures gathered in the tree line around the swamp road, moving slowly and steadily toward him. Brian tried to convince himself it was only his imagination, but it felt far too real.

    One of the figures approached at a slow, loping run. Brian could hear the heavy, measured footfalls as it lumbered toward him. He completely lost his cool. Roaring loudly, he ran at the figure, dodging away when it grabbed at him. Chilling wind passed as the figure drifted away, dissipating as it headed to the woods on the other side of the road.

    Brian ran along the center of the road, frightened by his encounter with the wraith. More of them gathered in the swampy woodland, but no others were bold enough to approach him. Hearing a twig snap to his left, Brian put on a burst of speed. With a cry of fear, he felt a shove at his back and tripped over his own feet. As he fell, he saw the wraiths grow bolder. They moved in unison, swooping toward him. Terrified, Brian lay on his belly, unsure how to combat them.

    A solid form burst out of the bushes. A large dog stood over Brian, growling and barking. It took a moment for him to realize that the wraiths halted. Some tried to go a step or two further, but the dog renewed its attack. One by one the ghosts dispersed, melting into the fog once more.

    Brian let his breath out slowly. The animal stood over him, but moved aside as he sat up. It was the biggest dog Brian had ever seen, broad through the chest with powerful legs and a ridge of hair down its spine. It looked silver in the moonlight.

    Curious, Brian reached slowly toward it, hand out, palm up. The beast's tongue flicked out, licking his cheek. Her warm breath convinced the boy that the dog was alive and real. She slurped him again, butting his hand so he'd pet her. Laughing, he complied.

    "Where did you come from, girl?" Predictably, he got no reply. "Never mind, I'm just glad you're here."
    He got up, dusting himself off. Leaves stuck to his body, mud caked every inch of him. Twigs and more leaves adorned his closely cropped hair. Getting his bearings, he headed toward home once more. The dog walked with him, her head under his hand. Her tongue lolled and she looked as if she were laughing at his appearance.

    "You take a header into a mud puddle and see how good you look."

    The dog barked gleefully. She dashed ahead, sniffed and snorted, before trotting back to his side. She stayed with him until they reached his home. With a yip, she left him, drifting into the woods. The front door fell shut with a comforting bump behind him. Heaving a sigh of relief, Brian locked and bolted the door. He leaned against it, panting. His hands shook and he felt light headed. His heart thumped so hard in his chest, he could hear it in his ears.

    He slowly made his way upstairs, wishing his mother were home. Being home alone had never bothered him before, but he felt vulnerable, isolated. Brian hadn't realized quite how dirty he was until he saw himself in the bathroom mirror. He stripped off his filthy clothing and dropped it on the bottom of the shower. He hoped he could get some of the trash off it before putting it in the laundry.

    The water ran black as he washed himself and his clothing. He picked up twigs and leaves as he bathed. Afterward, he scooped up handfuls of debris, dropping it in the garbage. His clothing, he placed in the sink to drain as he dressed. As he lugged the basket of wet clothing downstairs to the basement, he saw what a mess he'd left when he'd come in. The white curtain over the front window was caked with dirt. A muddy trail led up his mother's clean, wooden steps.

    He descended to the basement quickly, and tried not to think about his experience in the woods. It still scared him, even though he was safe in his home. He'd never particularly liked the basement and his recent scare made it worse. He threw his clothing into the washer, added soap and took the stairs to the kitchen two at a time.

    Cleaning up his mess kept his mind off what had happened. Strange things had been happening to him for weeks, getting weirder and spookier by the minute. At first, he'd passed it off as stress. It was apparent that his stress level had very little to do with the events of the night. He'd been coming home from a friend's house after a Halloween party.

    Chase lived on the other side of the small, Mississippi town. The quickest way home was to cut through the woods that skirted the swamp. Brian had taken that route on foot or on his bike a million times with no problem. So why was tonight different? Because, tonight something had changed. He couldn't put a finger on it, would never have been able to explain it in words, but he knew it as surely as he knew his own name.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  15. #55

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 2

    On his way home from his friend's Halloween party, Brian has a strange and disturbing experience that leaves him shaken.

    The front door creaked and his mother's keys jiggled against the door frame as she shook them free of the lock. Brian realized he was standing halfway up the stairs, broom and dustpan in hand.

    "Brian?"

    "Right here, Mom." He went down the stairs to greet her.

    "What's wrong?"

    How could she always sense when he was afraid or upset? It was uncanny.

    "I got me a scare on the way home. Went through the swamp and got to jumping at shadows. Fell smack in a puddle. I'm just cleaning up after myself." He kissed her cheek.

    Maribelle Casey smiled at her son. Her blue eyes reflected the light strangely, telling everyone who met her, that she was blind. Her palm touched his cheek and she put her forehead against his.

    "It's all right, Bri-guy. I'm home. You finish that up and come on in the kitchen."

    "Yes, ma'am."

    His mother sat at the kitchen table, a pot of tea in front of her. Brian pulled up a chair and she poured him a cup. He added sugar before taking a sip. His mother made the best tea, her own blend of herbs and tea leaves. She'd add a pinch of this or that to the pot depending on her mood. This time, he smelled peppermint and sassafras.

    "Tell me what happened."

    "It's silly. Nothing but a scare because it's Halloween."

    "What about the nightmares?"

    The chair squeaked when Brian shrugged, shaking his head. His mother patted his hand.

    "Can't see a shrug, son."

    He chuckled. "Nope, but apparently you can hear it. Nightmares are the same."

    Maribelle continued to pat his hand. He could tell his mother was deep in thought. She had something she wanted to say, but wasn't sure how he'd take it. Or rather, she was sure he'd take it badly.

    "I talked to Father Ramsey this evening. I told him about the dreams and the strange things you've been seeing."

    "Mom!" He started to get up.

    Maribelle's grip tightened. "He wants to talk to you."

    "The last thing I need to do is talk to the priest. He's just gonna feed me some line of bull, and quote scriptures."

    "You'll show some respect, young man! I told him you'd stop by on your way home from school tomorrow."

    Brian knew there was no arguing with her. He could protest all he wanted and she would still have her way. If he dared to come home without reporting to the parish priest, she'd simply drag him down there once he got home. He finished his tea in silence. When he got up to leave, his mother took his hand.

    "I'm worried, son. The test results haven't shown up anything, for which I'm grateful. But something isn't right."

    Brian hugged his mother, feeling her bones under her baggy clothing. She seemed so small and frail. Her health hadn't been good since his father left, but her recent worry over her son seemed to have taken even more out of her.

    "Don't be. I'm okay, Mom." Maybe if he said it often enough, he'd believe it too. "Good night." He kissed her cheek.

    "Sleep well." She made the sign of the cross on his forehead before kissing his brow.

    As he turned out the lamp by the bed, he glanced out the window. A silvery form flitted through the shadows. His eyes took a moment to adjust and by that time, the figure was gone. He wasn't sure, but he thought it was the dog he'd seen earlier. Somehow, the thought that she was out there made him feel better. Snuggling under the covers, he soon fell asleep.

    Brian woke in a panic. Something was terribly wrong. His skin crawled and the hairs on his neck stood at attention. The old house creaked and settled at night, but something else had woken him—a not so normal sound. Shivering in the night chill, he got out of bed. He felt vulnerable in his boxers, so he slipped on a T-shirt and pajama pants. That would keep knife wielding lunatics at bay. His Sponge Bob pants were sure to put the fear of god into them.

    An avid fan of horror movies, he armed himself with a bo staff. He'd studied Aikido since he was little. It might not seem like much, but he could put the hurt on someone. Provided that someone was a living, breathing person and not a ghost.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  16. #56

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 3

    Finally able to sleep, Brian is woken during the night and goes to investigate – all the while thinking about crazed serial killers, sure that his Sponge Bob pajama pants will put the fear of god into them.

    The darkened hallway seemed endless. It was only a few feet to the top of the stairs, but it took forever to cover the distance. Trying to control his breathing, Brian held the staff in front of him like a sword. Six feet of tapered, hardwood filled him with confidence and he moved silently down the stairs, avoiding the squeaky seventh step.

    Moonlight filtered through the drapes in the living room, casting ghostly shadows in the big, open room. He did a quick inspection before continuing to the back of the house. The sound he'd heard was almost directly under his room and he was right over the kitchen – and the stairway to the basement.

    Brian shuddered. He hated the basement and had since he was a child. All the horrifying fears came back to him in an overwhelming flood. He stopped moving, his feet refusing to go another step. Deep breaths helped a little, but it took several minutes before his heart quit racing enough for him to continue.

    The kitchen door creaked as he pushed it open. The sound seemed loud in the silent house. Brian stopped, waiting. When no chainsaw wielding psychopath appeared, he decided it was safe to keep going.

    There were sheers over the six kitchen windows, so it was much brighter than the living room. Moonlight illuminated every nook and cranny of the large, airy room. He could move quickly, doing a careful recon. As he made his circuit, he noticed the basement door was open. That door was always locked at night. His mother checked all the doors and windows before going to bed. There was no way that came open on its own.

    Suddenly terrified, Brian had the urge to run. He knew the logical thing was to call the police, but he was afraid of looking like a fool when they came and didn't find Freddy Kruger in his basement.

    Indecision made him stop once more. He could easily get to a phone on the kitchen counter and make the call. His fingers tingled and he imagined himself typing in 9-1-1. Another sound, this time in the basement, convinced him. He slammed the door shut, throwing the bolt, and reached for the phone. His hand dialed automatically. It rang twice before a comforting, female voice answered.

    "Nine One One. What's the nature of your emergency?"

    "I think someone's broken into my house," he whispered huskily.

    "Can you speak up?"

    Brian backed out of the kitchen, eyes on the basement door. "I think someone is in our house," he said a little louder.

    "What's your name and address? I'll dispatch someone."

    Brian told her. She told him to stay on the line and he heard her make the call to a police officer.
    "Are you in a safe place?"

    "No."

    "I want you to get to safety, Brian. Is anyone else there?"

    "My mom. She's blind."

    "Go to your mother's room and lock yourself in. Stay there, you hear me?" The command in her voice made him obey. "I'll tell you when my officer arrives. Is there a back way into your basement?"

    "There's a door on the north side of the house. It's at the bottom of some steps. It's never used. We keep it locked."

    "Okay. My officer is there. Are you in a safe spot?"

    "Almost."

    There was a crash and thud. Yelling, followed by loud cursing, reached his ears.

    "Brian!" His mother called from her room.

    Brian made it up the last couple of steps and sprinted down the hall.

    "It's okay, Mom. I'm here."

    "What's that racket?"

    More yelling and cursing could be heard at a distance.

    "I think someone tried to break in. The police are here. Don't worry."

    The phone rang, startling them both.

    "Brian?" It was the dispatcher.

    "Yes?"

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  17. #57

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 4

    Terrified by finding the door to the basement open, Brian, wisely, calls 911 and asks for them to send someone over to investigate. Unfortunately, the noise wakes his mother.

    "My officer is there. He's run them off."

    "Did he see who it was?"

    "He'll tell you himself. Is your mother with you?"

    "I'm up in her room like you said."

    "It should be safe to go to the door and let the officer in. He's walking onto your porch and should ring the bell any second."

    The doorbell chimed. Brian took his staff and ran down the stairs to the door. A uniformed officer stood there, talking into his radio.

    "Can you see his badge number?"

    "Yes, ma'am."

    "Read it to me."

    Brian read off the number and the man's name. The dispatcher told him it was safe to open the door and hung up.

    "You the kid who called in?" The police officer stood on the front porch. He looked upset and disheveled.

    "Yes, sir."

    His mother spoke behind him as she came down the stairs. "Did you see who it was, officer?"

    "Sure as hell did. Somehow a black bear got in through the outside door. He charged me as I came down the steps."

    "My son said that the inside door from the kitchen was open. We keep that door bolted."

    "I don't know about that, ma'am. All I saw was five hundred pounds of teeth and fur headed my way."

    "Are you all right?"

    "Yes, Mrs. Casey. I'm fine. Shaken up some. If it's okay, I'll come in and check the house just to be sure."

    "Certainly. I'll make some tea. I don't think I'm going back to sleep anytime soon."

    The officer made a complete search of the house, including the attic, and most especially the basement. Except for a broken door, nothing was damaged. The animal must have wandered in looking for somewhere to sleep. The old stone stairway would be an inviting shelter from the chilly night.

    The police officer didn't stay, but he accepted a Styrofoam travel mug of tea from Brian's mother. She and Brian sat down at the table after he left.

    "That settles it. I'm having a carpenter come in tomorrow and put a cover over that stair. We'll make sure it's got a trapdoor for safety, but I won't have another creature interrupt my night's sleep!"

    "Officer Mercer and I boarded it up, but a cover is a good idea. It looked like that bear had already been there a couple days. We might have had ourselves a winter guest if he hadn't broken in that back door."

    Mrs. Casey shuddered. "I can't abide bears. For some folks, it's snakes...."

    Brian chuckled. His mother had voiced that dislike many times. Living on the edge of the woods, the few bears that still lived in the state, all seemed to congregate near them. She'd had to drive them off many times, sometimes with only a broom and a loud voice.

    "They're more scared of you than you are of them, Mom."

    "Maybe, but I don't weigh upwards of five hundred pounds, do I?"

    Brian raised an eyebrow at his slender, almost frail mother. "Is that a trick question?"

    "Smarty." She swatted at him.

    Laughing, Brian managed to evade her fluttering hand. When they were done with their tea, he helped her up to bed. He could tell the scare had really taken it out of her. As he shut her door, she spoke to him.
    "It's late, son. If you don't make it to school in the morning, I'll understand."

    "Thanks, Mom." He was glad she'd given him permission. He hadn't intended to go and leave her alone to cope with the carpenter. "Good night."

    "Night, sweetheart."

    Brian lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. He knew he should sleep, but he couldn't relax. Every noise made him think again of the figures in the swamp and the bear downstairs. That image made him laugh. He could picture the police officer running away from the huge black bear.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  18. #58

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 5

    After the bear breaks into the basement, and is run off by the police, Brian finds sleeping again hard. Eventually, he's able to rest.

    Finally, around dawn, he closed his eyes and dozed off. He woke when his mother tapped on his door.

    "I had a feeling you'd be home. I called you in already. You feeling alright?"

    "A little tired, but okay. Did you call the carpenter yet?"

    "He'll be here soon. I thought you might like some breakfast before he arrives. He might need your help. His assistant didn't come in."

    "Gotcha." He got up and dressed.

    Breakfast was pancakes and sausage with scrambled eggs fixed the way he loved them, with cheese and bacon bits. Mr. Hampton arrived right as he finished eating. Brian took him to the basement to show him the devastation.

    "Wow, you don't see that every day. Say it was a bear?"

    "Yes, sir. Scared the crap outta me and the cop."

    "I'll bet. Okay, let's get started." He went up the back steps and pulled his truck around. He unloaded tools and lumber with Brian's help. "This won't take long. Slap a cover on and some hinges, badabing!"

    He was right, it didn't take long with both of them working on it. Brian loved carpentry and working with his hands. He'd learned well from his father and took shop in school.

    "Any time you want a part time job, you let me know, Brian. You work well. Tell you what. I can't pay you much outright, but I'll cut some off your mom's bill for helping me."

    "That would be great, Mr. Hamilton. Call when you need me. I love this kind of work."

    They made further arrangements and Mr. Hamilton not only presented Maribelle with a reduced bill, he handed Brian $40.00 for his time. Brian knew it was less than he'd have paid an employee, but it was a fortune to him.

    After Mr. Hamilton left, Brian went to the basement to clean up the debris from the bear. His mother had cleared a lot of it away, but had wisely left the glass for Brian. It didn't take long to finish the job.

    When he was done, his mother asked him to go to the store for her. Storm clouds were gathering, but he figured he could make it there and back on his bike before the weather broke. With the list in his pocket, he hopped on his ten speed and rode to the nearby market. He was collecting his groceries when two big, mean looking men walked in. Mr. Wilkes, the shop owner, greeted them with a smile.

    "What can I get for you gentlemen?"

    They said nothing, merely walked around the small store. The two men passed Brian. He glanced up at them, but didn't speak. One was blond, the other dark haired. The blond man glared at Brian, his face momentarily contorting into something unspeakable. Brian had seen pictures depicting demons in a book in Father Ramsey's study. To him, that's what the man's face resembled.

    Brian stepped away, backing into a shelf. A few cans clattered as he walked away. He'd never experienced anything like that before. He headed to the cash register with his purchases, hands trembling.

    The men followed him to the register. The blond one pulled out a handgun, aiming it at the old man. "All the money in your drawer. You too, kid. I want whatever cash you got."

    "Now see here," Mr. Wilkes complained. "I'll give you all the money. I don't want anyone hurt. But you leave that boy alone. He lives with his blind mama. Ain't no concern of yours what he's got in his pockets."

    Brian backed away from the angry glare the man gave to Mr. Wilkes.

    "You're arguing with me, old man?" He raised his hand, weapon at a determined angle.

    Brian didn't hesitate. He swung his grocery basket at the man, knocking the gun out of his hand. The dark haired fellow reached for a weapon. Brian grabbed his hand, twisting the gun from the big man's grip. He kicked the blond behind the knee, bringing him to the ground. Leveling the gun on both men, he told Mr. Wilkes to call the police.

    The officer arrived a few minutes later. She was stunned that Brian had taken down two armed men by himself. "That was either the bravest thing ever, or the dumbest," she said with a smile. "Not sure which. That was very dangerous, young man."

    "Yes, ma'am, but he looked like he was gonna hurt Mr. Wilkes. I couldn't let him do that, not when Mr. Wilkes was just trying to help me."

    "By their description, we're pretty sure these two are a pair we've been looking for about two weeks now. You're a hero, kid."

    Brian smiled. "Does that come with a reward?"

    The police officer grinned. "I'll check into that. Meanwhile, you go on home. You need a ride?"
    "No, I've got my bike."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  19. #59

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 6

    While shopping, Brian foils two thieves intent upon robbing the store.

    Mr. Wilkes gave him back the money he'd paid for the groceries. "You saved me a hell of a lot more than that. You're my hero, son."

    Brian got on his bike and headed home. He was nearly there when the storm broke. Freezing rain fell in big, fat drops. They slashed in his eyes and trickled down the back of his neck. No matter how he wiped and blinked, it made no difference. He could barely see. Unfortunately there was no really good place to stop. Ditches on both sides of the road were deep and wide. Water ran high and fast in them both. The trees sat far back from the pavement, hunkering in the mud of the swamp.

    As he passed, Brian remembered his experience the night before. He thought he saw more of the wraiths forming in the fog, but convinced himself it was his imagination, until the fog started moving toward him. He'd seen fog move before. That was nothing new. But it moved in a column, condensed and with a purpose.

    Pedaling faster, he prayed he'd get home soon. Splashing through puddles, hitting bumps and sliding in mud, he continued. The column of fog was closer. He imagined he could see faces in the gray cloud, writhing with pain and fury. He sped up only to hit a giant pothole.

    He flew over the handlebars of his bike, landing on the ground in a heap. He didn't have time to prepare for his fall and hit hard, taking the impact on his forearms. Gravel dug into his flesh and he lay in the mud, screaming in pain and fear. The column moved more quickly closing on his position. Brian curled in a ball, calling for help.

    From out of the woods, a pale body ran. Thinking it was another wraith, Brian cried out when it came at him. At the last minute, he realized it was the dog from the night before. She stood near him, bravely facing down the column. Brian picked up a downed live oak branch from beside the road and held it in front of him like a staff. The column hesitated.

    The dog growled low in her chest. It was like thunder rumbling. The hair on her back stood straight up and she lowered her head preparing to spring. With a loud growl, she launched herself at the column, jaws wide. Brian was sure she'd pass through the cloud, but she didn't.

    The cloud staggered back, the weight of the dog forcing it away. She ripped and tore with her teeth, tearing pieces from it. They drifted away like smoke, but the faces screamed as if they were wounded. The dog didn't stop.

    Brian joined her, whacking at the cloud with his stick. To his surprise, it met with resistance. He could see where he'd wounded the hazy substance. Large, black rents appeared and the column of fog continued to dwindle.

    With a roar, Brian hammered at the cloud. The dog beside him continued, relentless. With a hissing bang, is disappeared, leaving a foul stench of swamp gas behind. Panting and gasping, Brian patted the dog on the head. She licked his palm, smiling up at him.

    "Thank you again, girl. I couldn't have done it without you." He picked up his groceries, thankful that nothing was breakable. The plastic bags were muddy and wet, but he could manage.

    His bike, on the other hand, was destroyed. The front wheel was bent and broken, the handlebars rested at an angle the manufacturer never intended. The chain was off and the seat askew. Knowing he'd never ride it again, he left it by the road and picked up the groceries.

    The rain had dissipated slightly, but still the chill water wriggled down his neck and trickled into the top of his boxers. Squelching with each step, he made his slow way home. Going in through the back, he left his muddy shoes by the door. He couldn't do anything about his jeans except roll them up and pray he didn't make another mess on his mother's floor.

    She must be lying down. She wasn't in the kitchen when he dripped his way to the laundry. Stripping off his clothing, he put them in the wash and got clean things out of the dryer. Dressed once more, he headed upstairs to the sanctity of his room.

    Finally, settled with his laptop, he sat on his bed and started looking up things that he'd seen. He started with the dog and found that she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a line originally bred in South Africa to fight lions. From what he could determine, the female he'd seen was not only taller than the average Ridgeback, her color was out of the norm. She was a creamy white, while the majority of the breed were shades of brown.

    Next, he searched for some of the strange phenomena he'd been experiencing. The fog column didn't get any hits, but the wraiths emerging from the woods, did. He read page after page of blogs done by a girl in Washington state. He read more from a young man who lived in Louisiana.

    "It was like the bayou came alive. Not only did I have fog creeping up on me, but these creatures of muddy water emerged from the swamp and followed me home. If it hadn't been for this big dog, I think they would have got me."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  20. #60

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 7

    On his way home from the market, Brian is attacked once more by the swamp creatures and he wrecks his bike. The big, white dog appears again and helps him get away. Curious if anyone else has reported such strange happenings, he finds blog posts from all over the country, from young people who describe adventures just like his own.

    Brian's skin crawled when he read that. It was so similar to his own experience, he couldn't disavow it. There was an e-mail address at the bottom of the page. Brian clicked it and started writing.

    "I think maybe you understand what I'm going through," he wrote. He described his experiences with the fog column and the fact that the dog had rescued him twice. He even talked about the bear, though he was unsure that the incidents were related.

    He got a message a few minutes later. "Call me." And a phone number followed.

    Brian hesitated. He wasn't sure whether it would go against his mother's no calls to strangers policy or not. He finally decided that he didn't care. He was afraid and needed someone else to assure him that he wasn't crazy. He picked up his cellphone and dialed.

    "Hiya," the other boy answered. "My name is Andre and I seen stuff that'd turn you white."

    Brian chuckled. "Yeah, me too."

    "I live about an hour away," Andre said. "You got a car?"

    "No. I can't drive yet."

    "Then I'm coming to you. I got a few folks to pick up on the way. Where can we meet?"

    Brian thought a moment. "Meet me at the library in town."

    "Where do you live?"

    "I'm over in Mississippi—in Miracle. It's not far from Natchez."

    "Gotcha. Meet us there in about two hours. I'll call when we're close to town."

    "Okay. It's about a ten minute walk for me. My bike's in the ditch, remember?"

    "Right. Don't worry, we'll give you plenty of time. Look forward to meeting you." He hung up.

    Brian hoped he hadn't just done something really foolish. He knew his mother always told him not to give out personal information, but he sensed that Andre wasn't going to hurt him. He felt confident talking to the older boy about his experiences. And now, he wasn't alone.

    Brian left his mother a note written in Braille, on the refrigerator, as they'd always done. She knew to look there if he wasn't at home. He headed to the library when he got Andre's call a couple hours later. A battered blue Ford pickup with Louisiana plates sat in front of the squat, brick building. Several teenagers sat in the bed, drinking sodas.

    A tall, lean African American teenager stood up and hopped out of the truck. He smiled at Brian, his hand extended.

    "You're Brian. Hi. I'm Andre. That's Sweet." He pointed to a short, skinny blond boy who looked like a skater. "That's Louisa." He pointed to a lovely Latina who wore jeans and a sweater. "And that's Ginnifer." The last was an attractive blonde who dressed like something out of a Twilight novel. Her hair was done up in a lacy, black scarf and her clothing virtually yelled teen angst.

    "Hi. I'm Brian. Come on in."

    They hopped out of the truck and followed him into the library. He led them to the desk and asked if they could use one of the meeting rooms.

    "Sure, Brian. Nothing's going on today until five. You'll have to clear out by then."

    "No problem, Mrs. Tompkins. We'll be done."

    They went to the small conference room down the hall from the lobby. Brian shut the door, not wanting the entire library to know their business. They found chairs and pulled them into a circle. The others looked at him expectantly. Brian gazed steadily at Andre.

    "You start," Ginnifer said. Her voice was a husky alto.

    Brian nodded. He told them about his experiences. The four of them listened closely, nodding silently. When Brian had finished, Sweet exhaled slowly.

    "All that on your own? Wow!" He ran fingers through his spiky blond hair. "At least when I had that much happen, I had Andre with me. And the girls were together when they got chased."

    "I wasn't entirely alone. I had the dog."

    "She yours?" Andre asked.

    "No. I don't know where she came from. She doesn't live in town. Place this size, we all know each other an the animals we own. I'm lucky she came along when she did."

    Louisa pursed her lips, shaking her head. "No. she was sent to protect you. We've all seen the dog—a dog. I don't think it's the same one."

    "The one Lou and I saw was a male" Ginnifer said. "But the guys had a female dog."

    "Well, we can guess she's not crossing state lines to protect us. Question is, where do they come from?" Andre asked what they were all thinking.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

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