Saturday, September 24, 2011

You can now connect to the Romany Epistles on Facebook. Talk to the writers (some of them) and see what they have been doing over the years. You can encourage those who are still finishing their stories. Also, you can discuss your favorite characters or fun bits from different siblings' stories. Come, stop by, and join in.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Chapter Five

Dear Wren,

The time has come again for me to be on my way. I’ve lingered long enough on these shores, and I fear I may become too attached.

Arnan set down the pen and tried to rub away the pain of his throbbing temples. He felt as if all the forces in the universe were intent on crushing him. The headaches had appeared not long after he had first set foot on the shores of Clio, but it had been a long time since one had so completely overtaken his mind. It was nearing morning, and Arnan was still struggling over what was necessary to inform his sister of. Each draft of the letter was steeped in sarcasm and grief, and he was not about to let his younger sister take a mind to read between the lines.

Arnan stared silently at the two children sleeping in the corner of Little Mother’s cottage as he worked up the courage to finish the letter. Each child was bound to him for their existence, and each had in some way placed their trust in him. He was thankful that Pepper was finally sleeping soundly. The boy had woken screaming nearly every hour, since he first fell into his comatose state. It was unlikely that Pepper would have any voice for the next few days. Arnan winced as another wracking pain took his head. He would have almost preferred Pepper’s nightmares to the continual throbbing.

Tomorrow I leave with my ward for the Island of An Toan. It seems ironic that my travels would lead me there, an irony that perhaps you will appreciate. An Toan suffers from the same deeply religious ailment that our parents had when we were young. Your wayward brother may for once try his hand at honest labor, as the inhabitants aren’t likely to need my current skills. Who knows, maybe Deus will show himself powerful in providing for my pour and wretched soul.

The sarcasm was beginning to show itself once again. He had to warn Wren of where he would be, and yet he couldn’t seem to do it without harkening back to the flame of hatred for Wren’s religion that had sparked in his heart. She might think it was strange that he was referring to Pepper as “his ward” but Arnan had already determined that he would not tell her about Meridel. It was likely that the girl would abandon them, and he was not ready to face the questions that would arise at the thought of a young woman traveling along.

Do not worry for me; we are going to a safe place. Give my regards to the others.

He bit back the word, family. They weren’t exactly a family anymore. They were no longer a family because of what he done, or not done. He had disgraced them, destroyed them. Yet, he loved them. Arnan sighed and pushed the piece of parchment away. The words were enough, and he couldn’t stand to think about his siblings any longer. Wren would be satisfied, although worried. He could now block memories of Braedoch out of his mind for another few months before he was faced with another piece of parchment covered with his own bitter words. Arnan slowly folded his letter and gathered up the stack of notes from Wren. The pile kept growing, and only a few of them had been opened. Each piece of parchment contained the concerns of his sister. He had quickly learned that they were too painful to read. It was far easier to simply push any thought of his family away and focus on the job at hand. Every so often he worked up the courage to read one of the letters, and whenever he did Arnan found himself launched into a deadly serious of headaches and nightmares. He knew he was worrying her, but he couldn’t bare the raw pain the letters evoked in his heart.

“What is it that weighs on your brow so heavily, little warrior?” Arnan smiled in spite of himself at the sound of Little Mother’s words. He had never seen himself as a warrior. He fought against the establishment, against rules, against his past, against himself. Aiden and Daelia had referred to him as rebellious, never a warrior. Arnan watched her weathered hands move across the familiar surface of her roughly hewn rocking chair. The firelight flickering across Little Mother’s face seemed to soften the wrinkles of old age, sitting there she almost reminded him of his mother, Lydia. Arnan swallowed hard and tried to think of a response that would satisfy the loving old woman.

“Perhaps it worries me that I have left so many things undone.” The statement drew a chuckle from the fireplace and Arnan once again found he was smiling. “In all honesty I don’t know why I offered protection to the girl. Hiding a Princess from prying eyes is less then simple work.” Especially when she hates you. Another chuckle came from Little Mother.

“You know well enough why you are protecting her, and you know that her royalty will not be the greatest challenge you will face.”

“My life will be in greater danger then it has ever been before, I am aware of that.” He knew that was not what she meant, but he could not force himself to speak the words.

“Arnan.” Her tone was commanding, even disapproving. He ducked his head at the scold in a long forgotten habit. “She has lost her heart, all she knows is grief and rage.” The old woman paused and looked at Arnan with her unseeing eyes. “You must be a father to her, learn to love her as her father loved her.”

“I don’t know how.” His words were a barely audible whisper.

“Deus will show you.” Deus. Arnan bit back the flow of bitter words that echoed through his mind at the sound of the name. He couldn’t see how a being that seemed to be bent on destruction could teach him to be a father. Arnan scraped his chair along the wooden floor and angrily walked over to the window. He didn’t know why he was staring out into the inky blackness, but somehow it reminded him of his heart. He didn’t know how to help Meridel; he didn’t even know how to help Pepper. Every time he tried he seemed to fail. It had been the same with his younger siblings. He had done more damage then good. Arnan knew what he had taught them was inconsistency. He had told them to obey, and then done the very thing they had been forbidden from. Arnan hung his head at the weight of failure that he felt. He was afraid, afraid because he knew that he would simply fail Meridel and Pepper the way that he had failed his family.

Arnan started out of his thoughts as an aged hand began caressing his cheek. He had been so lost in his confusion that he had not even heard Little Mother rise from her chair. She was smiling, and there were tears glistening in her eyes. Arnan covered her small hand with his own and smiled down at her.

“Do not be afraid my little warrior, you will teach her to laugh again.” Little Mother paused and Arnan could sense that she was looking at something with her sightless eyes. A small grin worked its way across her face as she watched a scene unfold in her mind. “You will teach her to laugh again. But I think… I think there will be another Princess who will teach you to cry.”

It was an unsettling statement, and the last thing that Arnan wanted to deal with was more royalty. His curiosity was building, but he could see from the look on Little Mother’s face that she would tell him no more.

“ You leave for An Toan?” Arnan nodded in response, knowing that her question was one she already knew the answer to. She smiled again and brought her hand down to trace the small pendant that hung around his neck. “ It is this greater weight hanging over you for which I worry.”

Arnan bit back tears at her words. The pendant was a gift from his sisters. Wren had convinced Daelia to craft it for his sixteenth birthday. All of the girls had chipped into gathering the necessary silver, and Daelia had painstakingly etched each of their names into the rim of the circle. Wren. Ilara. Aquila. Zoe. Daelia. He knew the shape of their names by heart.

“In An Toan, you will find the answers your heart seeks.” With those final words Little Mother stepped away and disappeared into the shadows, leaving Arnan to watch the Sun’s slow ascent into the morning sky.


Arnan looked over his shoulder back at the little cottage one last time and caught a glimpse of a familiar falcon sitting on the roof beam. Shea had nearly impeccable timing. Little Mother would know what to do.


They had been riding for nearly ten hours and the shadows of the trees were just starting to lengthen. Arnan could see that Meridel was beginning to fade. He silently berated himself for not stopping to take a noon meal. Pepper was still nearly comatose, and he had forgotten that the Princess would be less resilient then he was. Arnan’s thoughts turned back to Pepper as the boy’s head began to bounce against his back. Pepper’s eyes were open, but he responded to nothing and had not said a word all day. Little Mother had warned him that he might have to coax the little boy to speak again. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Meridel urge her jet-black mare forward until she was riding abreast with him.

“Why An Toan?” Her question was subdued and tentative, and Arnan hated the sound of it. She was afraid of him.

“The boy has family there.” He knew his gruff answer did not help, but he had little else to say. Arnan wasn’t even certain if Pepper really had family left there, he only knew what small bits Little Mother had told him about Pepper’s parents moving from An Toan to serve the people of Clio. “And the people of those shores will not let your Prime Minister search within their borders. They look on their land as a safe haven for any who seek help from Deus.”

“And we seek help from him?” Arnan ignored the question and lapsed into silence as they rode. Meridel was not satisfied with his answer. He could see her annoyance manifesting itself in her posture. She hid behind formality, a fact that did not surprise him in the least. She suddenly relaxed and Arnan wondered for a moment what was going through the young girl’s mind.

“Is he going to be alright?” Meridel cocked her head towards Pepper as she spoke.

“I don’t know.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chapter Four

A rush of adrenaline flowed through Arnan’s veins; his mind quickly assessing the situation with deadly precision. It only took a few testing movements of his neck to realize that the weapon was no small trinket, and whoever held it was pressing the blade point slowly into his neck with calm and determined rage. Arnan wasn’t sure how long he could wait to make a move without risking his own demise. A tree creaked, and a shadow tilted. It was all that he needed. Arnan turned just enough to swipe his attackers feet off the floor and tackle them to the ground. There was swirl of maroon and he found himself staring into cold blue eyes. Numb shock filled his mind as he realized his opponent was the woman from the streets of Cree. It was impossible, and yet there she was pinned helplessly to the rotting floor. He tried to qualm the rising terror in his mind, endless questions rippled through his brain. Who was she? Arnan flinched as the woman spit into his eye. It was already too late when he realized his mistake. Only a moment passed before the tables were turned once more and Arnan found his throat threatened by her sword point. He did not like what he saw in her eyes, there was a rage so cold and deadly that he was uncertain he’d ever come across any like it. She was young, younger then he had first guessed, and bitterly determined to kill him.

“Death is too good for you, jackal.” The words were spoken with a deadly precision, and Arnan absently noted that her voice would have had a soft, lilting quality to it had it not been so infused with venom. He knew better then to speak, she was already pressing the blade harshly against his throat and he could feel the first trickle of blood run from the sword. Anytime now, Deus, anytime. The thought surprised him. Arnan wasn’t one to place his hope in a distant, hateful, being. He slowly studied his opponent’s eyes in a hope to find some sign of weakness, but all he saw was concentrated hatred. Why? It was a question even more perplexing then how she had tracked him. He stared for a few more moments before deliberately blinking his eyes. As his eyelids closed a terrible image rose before his mind’s eye and a sickening horror filled him. He knew her.

“Meridel?” His question was tentative. A flicker of hate ran through her eyes at his recognition. Methodically she began to bind his hands and feet with a single hand, while keeping the sword to his throat.

He had only seen her once, once she had unsuspectingly locked eyes with him like she would have any other common stranger. Arnan could clearly picture the day; it had been cold, cold and grey.

The crowd was clothed in black and deep blues. Arnan had never before seen a funeral procession and was almost afraid to move through the heavy cloud of sorrow that surrounded him. There was a soft hum coming from the crowd as they began to sing the funeral dirge for their Queen. It almost seemed like a dream, the carriages carrying the royal family moved in slow procession. Arnan lowered his head as the Queen’s byre went by, he couldn’t bear to look. There were many mourners following the procession but his eyes were riveted on only one. She was young girl, dressed in flowing white. The girl seemed to be an angel descended into a cloud of thick darkness. That was when their eyes met, her eyes were filled with broken sorrow. Sorrow Arnan knew he had caused. She had only looked at him for a second, as if looking for some form of comfort and moving on when it was not found. The crowd began whispering and muttering at the sight of this little ray of light in their midst. He listened to the talk, hoping for some clue as to what would happen to the girl. All he ever heard was her name, Meridel. Arnan locked eyes with the Prime Minister. The man had gotten away with his act and smoothly directed the people’s rage toward Arnan. With a final glance toward Meridel, he ran.

“You killed her.” The words were a cold accusation. A true accusation. A wave of despair swept over his body. Perhaps this was justice; perhaps this was Deus finally moving his hand.

He deserved to die. He had been responsible. His life wasn’t worth anything anymore. No one wanted him. He had failed, failed in just about everything. He alone was responsible for what Duard had done to his family. He was responsible for Meridel’s pain; he was responsible for how Gical was using her. He was responsible for destroying Pepper’s life. He was the one who had murdered innocent souls, and stolen away so much happiness. Arnan let the weight of the past years overwhelm him. It wasn’t worth fighting anymore; it wasn’t worth living only for lies. He wouldn’t fight. He refused to. Meridel would slaughter him, and justly so. Pepper would be safe with Little Mother, and Arnan no longer had any family to live for. Even if he did they wouldn’t want him back. Slowly he met the girl’s eyes and choked out the words.

“I was responsible.”

Arnan closed his eyes and let his emotions wander as he waited for the blow. The only thing he did not want to think about was Wren. It seemed like an eternity and the cold blade still remained at his throat, steady and unmoving. He felt it pull away from his throat and heard it clatter against the floor. Arnan opened his eyes just in time to see the girl flee from the room. He didn’t know why but somehow he understood. He was the first person who had been honest with Meridel since her parent’s death. It had caught her off guard; it had caught him off guard. Arnan could not ignore the growing conviction in his mind; she had to know. He moved as quickly as he could, grabbed a stack of papers and sprinted out the door to catch her. The girl was halfway across the clearing when he made it out the door.

“Meridel, wait!” She stopped but did not turn. He could tell by her stance that there were tears streaming down her face. Arnan slowed his pace as he reached the place where she was standing. “You deserve to know what is really happening.” Meridel took the papers without meeting his eyes and began to walk away. Arnan turned around and began to head back to the house to gather his things.

“Thank you.” The words were so faint that he was almost uncertain that he had ever heard them.

“I am going to An Toan. If you travel with me I will protect you. You will be safe from Gical there.” Arnan shook his head and turned away. The words had been impulsive, yet somehow he knew he needed to say them.


Arnan paced back and forth across the charred room, letting a torrent of thoughts flow through his mind. Meridel had grown, she was no longer a girl but a woman. Gical had trained her well in the evil trade they both were now slaves of. She had been a small and frail child when he first saw her, only having seen twelve summers. He knew she could now be no more then fourteen or fifteen years of age, yet she had been taught to carry herself as a grown woman. He had seen the transformation in his own siblings as they came of age, even still he could not seem to wrap his mind around this strange young woman to whom he owed so much. He grasped his head and tried to calm down the flow of thoughts. They were incessant, and they were devastating. He paused for a moment to pick up a piece of paper that had fallen to the floor in Meridel's flight. He recognized it immeaditely, and knew the words by heart. They had been haunting him ever since the proclamation had been made nearly three years before.

A Royal Proclamation of the Kingdom of Shanglal.

Grave circumstances have threatened our lands. A fortnight ago our Queen, most beloved of Shanglal, was kidnapped and violently murdered by the assassin, sometime known as Arnan Romany. In this very week the people again with stood a terrifying blow with the murder of their faithful king, again at the hand of Arnan Romany. The Royal Family, and the Officials of the court offer twenty pounds of gold to any man or woman who apprehends this man and returns him to Shanglal for execution. Deus’ grace to your lands, and may he speed whosoever may bring an end to the tyranny of this man.

Prime Minister Gical

Disgust and guilt flowed through Arnan’s veins. He smirked at the crude drawing contained in the picture. The evil looking likeness portrayed barely even resembled him. Arnan spit and threw the paper to the ground, the pain of was still raw… a fact which greatly surprised him.

Arnan wasn’t even sure why he was waiting for her. It was an inconceivable notion. No girl with her senses would choose to place herself under the protection of the very man who was responsible for her mother’s death. Princess. He knew what she was, but he didn’t want to think about the implications. Most of all Arnan did not want to think about what Gical had done to her. It was a choice between two evils. A man responsible for her parents deaths, or a man who sought to kill her as soon as her could. Arnan let out a curse. Why was he waiting? It was likely she would simply come back to finish the job she began. Because he knew he was responsible. Responsible. It was a strange word to comprehend. Arnan had spent his life avoiding being responsible for anyone but himself since the day Illara was born. His footsteps echoed with a furried thud back and forth across the unsteady beams of the home. Something inside him had snapped when he saw her flee. He would protect her, somehow. He had too.

“You do realize that if you let me travel under your protection, your life will be forfeit?” Meridel’s voice came from the door.

Arnan brought his deep green eyes to meet her blue ones as he answered, “Then my life is forfeit.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chapter Three

“Arnan Taddeo Romany! When I catch you I’ll skin your hide off!” Daelia’s voice rang through the forest. Arnan cringed at the pure rage that he heard in her tone. After all it had only been one loaf of bread, and she was always interested in learning new recipes. He wasn’t sure if “grasshopper bread” was in any of their mother’s cookbooks, but Aiden had been teaching him how to survive in the woods and he felt it was his little brotherly duty to inform Daelia that her bread needed a little more “meat.” If nothing else the sheer pleasure of watching his elder sister’s face as she returned to find her latest loaf, cooked with little beady heads and spindly legs sticking out of it in every which way, was worth whatever punishment she could dish out. Arnan stifled as a giggle as she stood beneath the tree he was perched in. He could almost hear the threats she was murmuring under her breath. It was likely going to be several weeks before she allowed him to eat any bread. Daelia stopped her foot and headed back towards the house with angry tears threatening to stream down her cheeks. As far as Arnan was concerned Daelia was far too fussy for her tender age of ten and needed a little bit of fun to lighten her day.

Little specs starting falling on Arnan’s head and as he looked up to see what was disturbing the tree he found himself staring into Wren’s large hazel eyes. She was precariously squatting on the branch above his head and slowly crushing early autumn leaves in her fist above his head. Arnan wasn’t terribly surprised to find his little sister above him, but how she managed to climb the tree without him seeing he would never know. The seven year old girl regarded him seriously, but not without a hint of humor sparkling green in her eyes.

“What did you do this time?”

Arnan smiled impishly as an image of the insect-loaded loaf arose in his mind. “I was just trying to experiment in the kitchen a little.”

“You know Daelia doesn’t like bugs.”

Arnan started backwards at his little sister’s statement, at times he seriously wondered if she could read his mind.

“You might as well get the punishment over with.”

“She’s madder then Aiden on a bad day right now!”

Wren smirked at him, “And if you let her stay that way she’ll try to convince Aiden to spank you.”

“Aiden will think it was funny!” Or so Arnan hoped, he didn’t really want to face his eldest brother if Aiden had a mind to punish him. He watched as Wren’s eyes quickly shifted to a rich brown.

“Aiden might, but Duard won’t.” The little girl turned her face away and nimbly descended down the tree leaving Arnan to agonize over the whether to try and seek grace from Daelia or wait for a higher authority to deal him punishment. Somewhere behind him Arnan heard someone calling him he wasn’t sure who but he distinctly heard a voice calling “uncle”

Arnan bolted awake and met Pepper’s concerned gaze. Memories of the dream still lingered in Arnan’s tired mind and he had a hard time determining what was only a memory and what was real. He could almost feel the belt lashes on his rear that the Duard had delt him after word of what took place reached the guardian’s ears. Arnan shook his head to try and clear the cobwebs and realized with certain horror that they were in the middle of the forest with no trail in site. The mare he was seated on was happily making a feast off of the wild grasses growing on the forest floor. Arnan groaned, he wasn’t sure how long he had slept but it would likely take hours to find the path again. He offered his arm down to help Pepper back up onto the horse, but was met with a skeptical eye.

“You’re not going to fall asleep again, are you?”

“No Pepper, and the sooner you get up the sooner we find the path.”


They had been traveling east for nearly five hours and there was still no sign of the path. Arnan at least knew he was traveling in the right direction as the landscape slowly changed. The mare’s hooves we’re sinking more deeply into the softening mud and no one could deny the suffocating stench that was starting to form. They had already passed the borders and entered the swamps of Negesh.


Arnan started at the sound of Pepper’s voice, he had thought the little boy was asleep.


“Where are we going?”

Arnan sighed and felt as if someone had thrown a dagger into his heart.

“Somewhere I would rather not take you.” A part of him said he shouldn’t bring Pepper back into the swamps, but at this point he had no choice. Both of the weary travelers lapsed into silence and watched as the old trees began to be over taken by sickly green vines that seemed to want to keep out the sun. Arnan heard Pepper gasp and felt the little boy’s grip on his cloak tighten. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the familiar marker. An old tree, that was roughly the size of a small cottage in diameter, stood chared and broken. Pictures and words were carved into the sides of the massive cypress. This was the place he had found Pepper nearly two years ago. Arnan didn’t want to read the words, yet somehow he had to.

“Here lieth the grave of two persons in the service of the evil one who saw fit to bring a plague down on the God-fearing and beloved of Deus. In holy war they met their end in the fire of hell.”

Arnan bit back tears and rage as the horror filled memories assailed his senses. There was fire everywhere, he could almost see it licking it’s way across the chared forest floor. The shouts of the townsfolk still echoed in terrible clarity. All he could see was the little five year old redhead, held back by stone-faced townsmen as the boy’s home went up in flame. Tears spilled over Arnan cheeks as he heard the little boy’s screams, he could not stop the wrenching feeling in his gut as the scene played once more in his mind. Arnan suddenly realized that Pepper had jumped off the mare and was sprinting towards the remains of the burnt home. The screams were not only in his imagination, once again the boy’s cries filled the clearing.

“Momma, Papa, Momma!”

“Pepper come back!” Arnan couldn't disguise the panic in his out voice.

He jumped off the horse and ran as fast as he could to grab the little boy. He was halfway across the burnt clearing before he could wrestle Pepper to the ground. The boy was hysterically fighting and trying to get into the house.

“I have to save them! I have to save them! Momma!”

Arnan grabbed Pepper’s face and forced him to look into his eyes. Pepper’s eyes were wild with panic and he was still trying to push Arnan away.

“It’s too late, Pepper.” Arnan whispered in the hope that it would soften the blow. At the sound of the words Pepper crumpled and began to sob. Arnan picked the little boy up and let Pepper bury his face into the dark green traveling cloak. It was hard to bear the shaking sobs that wracked the seven year old’s body. Arnan took long strides across the clearing in the direction of the only safe haven he knew of. If Little Mother was still alive, she would know what to do.


The little old blind woman was kneeling in her garden taking care of herbs when Arnan strode through her gate. Pepper, it seemed, was nearly unconscious, and now was only weeping. Little Mother turned and regarded Arnan with her unseeing eyes.

“I was hoping Deus would bring me my little Pepper back.” The woman flashed a toothless grin at him and Arnan found himself speechless. “The ground itself still groans with the cries of this little boy, Arnan Romany, he has seen such horror that no matter how many rains fall the earth will not be cleansed of his sorrow. Go, I will do what I can.”

Arnan watched silently as Little Mother came and took the numb boy from his arms and carried him into her cottage. He turned and slowly made his way back to the terrible clearing. Bitter words silently assailed his mind as he went. He was an idiot for bringing the boy back. Mauria was right, he would likely be responsible for Pepper’s death. Whether it be from the life he had been teaching the boy to live, or grief. Arnan flicked away angry tears as the house came into sight. He remembered clearly meeting Little Mother at the very spot he stood. She had been watching from the shadows with tears streaming down her dark weathered face. He remembered so very well the words she had whispered over and over again.

“All they wanted was to tell you about Christus”

Her words where not heard by the townspeople that night. Arnan wasn’t even sure it would have mattered if they had. He didn’t care what his siblings believed, or even Little Mother. If Deus or Christus really existed they would have never let anything so terrifying happen to Pepper or his parents. Martyrs; the word left a bitter taste in his mouth. No, Deus didn’t exist, and if he did he didn’t care. Arnan pushed open the burnt door and watched as little rats scurried away from him and into the dark corners of the one room home. It had once been Pepper’s home, but it seemed that “home” had rejected both of them. Arnan slowly knelt and began lifting up broken boards hoping to retrieve what he had buried in the house that haunted both of their pasts. He let out a sigh of relief as he saw the sack right where he had left it, completely undisturbed. Just as he began to reach for the bag Arnan froze at the unmistakable feeling of a cold knife point pressing against the back of his skull.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chapter Two:

Arnan and Pepper sat in one of the many booths lining the back wall of Simon’s Pub. The place was overflowing with more characters then Arnan could keep track of; travelers and city folk all drowning their woes in ale and stew. He smiled at one particular sailor who seemed to have drunk one too many mugs of Mauria’s home brew.

“That ‘un will have an aching head tomorrow,” Pepper dryly observed of the weeping shipmate.

“And how would you know, Pepper?” The redhead imp smiled wryly and handed Arnan’s mug of untouched ale to him. Arnan shook his head as he realized that the cup he held was empty. He almost admired Pepper’s impertinence in drinking it out from underneath his nose. The boy was already sitting on his hands as punishment for attempting to pick a patron’s pocket, only a few minutes after entering the room. Arnan sighed inwardly as he realized he was teaching Pepper he would only be punished if he got caught, not for the deed itself. It was something his parents and siblings would have hated, but something that Arnan had no control over. They had to survive, and Pepper had quickly learned that morals were for people whose pockets were bulging with gold. Arnan swatted the little boy across the back of his head.

“Go on, git. If you can’t keep your hands to yourself in here then go outside and wait for me. I have business to talk with Simon. And no stealing!” The boy ran along happily and barely responded as Arnan yelled after him. Arnan heard a deep-throated chuckle behind him and turned to find Simon placing a fresh mug of ale in front of him.

“You know, boy, you might as well tell a bird not to fly,” Simon eyes were brightly shining with humor.

Arnan smiled as he realized the absurdity of it all, “ I guess there is still a part of me that wants Pepper to have a proper upbringing like I did.”

Simon stared at him for a moment and then let out a sudden roar of laughter, “Lot of good it did you, Romany!”

Arnan smirked and took a swig of the ale before he realized what he was doing. The terrible taste suddenly overwhelmed his senses and he remembered why it was that he never drank. Suddenly he realized that Simon was watching him. Doing his best to swallow, Arnan pasted a smile back onto his face and tried to squeak out a couple words.

“Good ale…” Simon slapped him across the back and Arnan had all he could do to keep his stomach where it belonged.

“Mauria’s newest brew, you like?” Arnan gulped down the ale that was rising up the back of his throat and slowly nodded. Simon smiled and sat down across the table from him.

“I was followed today.”

“You are followed many day, my friend. Most men who have as sizable a bounty over their heads are stalked by hunters.”

“Aye. But I was followed, and I was found.” Arnan watched calmly as fear started rising in Simon’s eyes. “They knew where I lived, it seems I’ve been too careless”

“That’s impossible, you’re the most invisible man I’ve ever met.”

“And yet they found me. This place is no longer safe.”

“Where will you go?” Simon’s eyes were defeated. They both knew the danger of being found. This meant that whoever was looking for him was no small time bounty hunter looking for hard cash. Whoever was looking him meant serious business. Usually this meant the criminals head, not necessarily connected to his body.

“To the Swamps of Negesh to take care of business…”

A woman’s voice broke into their conversation with barely concealed panic, “You’re not taking the boy back there!”

Arnan looked up to find Mauria staring down at him with tight-lipped determination. He knew his face matched hers but inwardly he smiled. Mauria had an indefinable protective quality about her that very much reminded him of his elder sister Daelia. He had often seen the same determination cross Daelia’s face over his latest dangerous exploit when they were children. Arnan pulled himself back to the situation and sighed.

“Pepper will go with me to Negesh and then we will make refuge in An Toan.” Arnan met Simon’s shocked stare at the mention of the deeply religious island, out of the corner of his eye he also saw Mauria’s shoulders drop in defeat. The silence between them was chilling, yet he knew that neither of the couple would try and talk him out of it. This was a matter of survival. Finally, Mauria slammed the mug she had carried over down on the table and spat out a few words.

“You’ll be the death of that little boy, Arnan Romany.” She twirled on her heel with a swish of her skirts and headed back towards the kitchen. Arnan turned his attention back to Simon ‘s piercing gaze only to find his dear friend also standing.

“I guess that’s it then,” said Simon quietly. Arnan caught the larger man’s arm as he began to turn away and placed a linen envelope into his hand.

“You and Mauria have been the only family I have known over the past three years and I can’t take everything I own were we are going.” Arnan paused as he searched for the right words, “ I know the swamps of Negesh are an unpleasant place for even the average man to wander into, but should you ever be in need that envelope will tell you where to find help.”

Simon nodded his thanks and grabbed Arnan in a bear hug before turning to take care of the needy customers lining the booths of the pub. Arnan looked around the familiar pub once more before shouldering his pack, in an attempt to burn the image into his mind. It was heartbreaking to leave the only home he had known since leaving his siblings, but the last thing he would have ever done is let himself bring danger to the beautiful couple he loved so well. Pepper would be outside, likely attempting to pickpocket a poor soul, and it was time to collect him. Arnan looked back over his shoulder as he stepped over the threshold of the back door, just in time to see Simon toss an overly inebriated patron out of the pub. He squared his shoulders and, with a prayer that Mauria would forgive him, he walked away knowing he would never again return.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crossing Paths
Chapter One

A dark chill moved in with the cloud of smoke that surrounded Arnan as he sat in the back corner of the room. He hated the stench that inhabited the Cree Port Inn, but this was where he had been told to wait. Arnan cringed backwards as another stream of smoke hit him. In a way it reminded him of a vipers tongue reaching out to consume whoever sought to cross it’s path. Something was wrong. He had been waiting in the common room of the Inn for several hours. None of his employers had ever been this late before. Arnan could not ignore the cold tingle that ran up the back of his spine, it was an all too familiar sign that someone was watching him. Looking around, with a studied calm that would not betray the panic welling up inside of him, Arnan identified each of the patrons of the disreputable inn. All the men he saw were regulars; fishermen, sailors, the odd workman. All these men seeking to drown their woes in strong drink and pipes. He knew each by their habits and customs, he had after all been studying them for a year. Each was engrossed in their own personal vice, none of them paid any attention to the unremarkable man who always sat in the back corner of their pub. His green cloak and hidden face was an all too familiar sight to them. Arnan knew this, and yet he could not shake the feeling of impending doom. Someone was new, and someone was fixated on him and his actions. The fact that Arnan could not see the intruder only made him more uncomfortable. An assassin? A spy? He didn’t know, and he had everything he could do to remain in his seat. It had been too long. His new employer must have met his fate by the hand of some angry debtor. Regardless of the circumstance it was time that he left. Turning with a lazy manner, Arnan adorned a grin and signaled one of the barmaids to collect the few coins he owed to the establishment. That was when he spotted her. There was a woman wearing a dark maroon cloak with wisps of blonde hair that would have softened her face if it were not for the cold lethalness of her blue eyes. Arnan relaxed a bit when he identified her. She was not an assassin, and as spies went she was an immature one. Another poor wounded girl pulled into the service of some crazed mad man who wanted revenge. Arnan purposely ignored his thoughts, knowing that the questions of who sent her would only lead him down a devastating path of panic. He needed to focus on nonchalantly leaving and loosing her in the crowded streets of Port Cree. He had learned that even an immature spy could easily sense fear, if he made one wrong move Arnan would immediately loose his upper hand. It was thirteen paces to the door, and they were quickly covered with a firm step and the swoosh of his deep evergreen, traveling cloak. In a few moments Arnan heard the telltale sound of a soft treading woman’s footsteps behind him, she was more immature then he had thought. Quick calculations ran through his mind as he created a virtual route through the city to loose this unwanted follower. He wasn’t sure if her lack of tact would be a liability or an asset as he maneuvered his way home. Loose cannons were dangerous things to behold in the politics of the day. Still, he had never been successfully followed through the ever running circus in Port Cree. It was a blaze of color: red, green, blue, bright fuschias, and deep purples. Arnan moved through the crowds of people and animals calmly, yet smoothly. Stopping to toss a coin at a grateful dancing girl, He slipped between the rows of colorful silk clothing for purchase and on to pass through the many stands boasting bright jewels and gold chains. The object was to be calm, and appear a model citizen who was unintentionally getting swept away in the crowd, and the object never failed. Arnan breathed a sigh of relief as he realized that the woman was nowhere in sight. A sudden spell of happiness came over his heart and he nonchalantly rolled a coin across his arm and down into the hands of a carnival street boy who offered Arnan an apple in return. Yes, It was a good day to be alive. The momentary danger, after all, only added a feeling of euphoric triumph. It was unlikely that he would ever see the woman again, Arnan was ripe and ready to hold to the thieves’ motto that “Once is only a warning from the gods to pay your dues, actual danger lurks in twos.” He would keep a wary eye out, yet how could an amateur really track him? Taking a bite from his apple, he began to skip and dance with the carnival people as he made his way home. It was a good day.


Arnan started from a fitful slumber at the sound of a door slamming and little feet pattering up the white washed stairs. He groaned, and rolled over, knowing that it was only Pepper who came running home. Most likely carrying some little treasure that would be his world for a few days. Of course it would have no real value, but Arnan had quickly learned that to a seven year old boy even a grain of sand could be worth more then gold if it came with a story. Arnan opened a single eye and watched as the boy worked excitedly at something he had placed on the table. Almost on cue, Pepper picked up what appeared to be a cloth picture and brought it over for inspection, and stood impatiently bouncing from one foot to another as he waited for a response. A smile from Arnan was all that was necessary.

“The woman from the circus, the one who gives me milk sometimes?”

“Mother Avia” Arnan patiently supplied the name of the woman they had met just a few days before in a disturbance Pepper had caused among the stands.

“Yeah, Avia, with the funny accent? She had a friend today. He was a man with an even funnier accent then Mother… uh… Abia, and he came with all sorts of pictures like this. He said this belonged to a prince who fought a lot of wars and ruled for a very long time. He said that it was a prince who looked just like me. And, and, he said that maybe I’ll fight in wars one day. Wouldn’t that be fun? Then we’d get to fight the bad guys for real!”

Pepper stopped with a breathless grin and Arnan could see that there was a glorified battle taking place within the boy’s imagination. He couldn’t help but chuckle as he began to think of all the trouble Pepper would get into as the years went by and his imagination went even more wild then it already was.

“Do you like it?”

There was something in the way that Pepper asked that showed a deep abiding need for approval. Arnan grabbed the boy and tousled his hair.

“Very much, now go get some supper and let a poor old man get some sleep.”

Pepper, now satisfied that his new treasure was well liked and hungry as always, ran to the cupboards and began digging around triumphantly coming up with bread and cheese.

“Oh, Uncle? There’s a woman outside who says she has a letter for you from your sister.” This message delivered he anxiously returned to the task shoving food into his mouth.

Unbidden images of Wren flooded Arnan’s mind, and a soft feeling of comfort over took his senses. It lasted only a moment until he realized the absurdity of it all. Wren always sent her letters by way of the falcons, she would have never entrusted any of her letters to a human being, it would be too risky. The letters could be lost, and however small the chance would be news could still be carried back to Duard through human carriers. No, she would have never given it to a woman. A sneaking suspicion dawned at the back of Arnan’s mind that threatend their very exsistence. It forced him to rise from the soft blankets and slowly walk towards the windows. Sure enough, waiting in the street below their dwelling was a woman with blonde hair wearing a maroon cloak. Arnan muttered an oath under his breath and began gathering a few items hurriedly from around the room.

“Pepper, we have to go. Now.

The little boy stared up at him with unmasked concern and the edges of panic, just enough to show Arnan he had been too hasty. The boy could not panic; above all else, if Pepper suddenly panicked their escape through the rear door would fail. Arnan tried to smile down at the boy in the most reassuring way he could conjure.

“Don’t look so worried Pepper,” Arnan lifted the boys chin and looked deeply into the questioning eyes, “We’re just going to go visit Simon and Mauria, that’s all.”

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Prologue--

It was evening. The sun was beginning to sink behind the trees of Braedoch Forest, throwing its leafy depths into shadow. It was early spring and the forest was still newborn; winter's chill could yet be felt in the air at night.

On the eastern edge of the forest, the eight children of Isaak Romany were gathering together. Their home was a small house of stone, composed of three circular chambers. In the central chamber a fire burned slowly, varying light dancing on the face of a tall man in a dark cloak. He waited for the eight to gather. His face seemed set in granite, as always; no hint of emotion, no whisper of affection for the children he had raised. He, Maeron Duard, was their guardian, nothing more. They did not care for him either. Though they had grown up in the house, they often chose to stay apart from it: they wandered the forest, worked in the woodshop, climbed the small mountains that overlooked their home in the north. They were not like others. Their life had been one of isolation. They knew weaponry and woodcraft, but little of humanity. They cared for each other and yet spent much of their time in solitude.

Their guardian was afraid of them. Once the clan of Romany had been strong and numerous. Duard's ancestors, druids and powerful, vengeful men, had cursed the clan nearly a century ago. In the succeeding generations, hardship, famine, and war had plagued them--helped along by the druids. At last only Isaak Romany and his wife were left. They took their children to Braedoch and tried to live with them there. But Isaak was a powerful man of great personal force, and the few remaining druids feared that he would father a new beginning for the clan. They sent Duard to kill him. And he did. He killed Isaak and his wife, but could see nothing to fear in the children... behind his face of stone there was perhaps a heart, for he kept them alive, and raised them. But he feared them now. Alone, he thought, they could be no threat. But as long as they stayed together, the clan Romany might again arise.


Arnan Romany stood in the shadows with his back against the wall. He was doing his best to hide from the questioning gaze of each sibling as they entered the room. Illara. Sam. Daelia. Taerith. Aiden. Wren. Arnan stepped further back into the shadows as she entered and took her place. He knew that he could not let her see his face. She knew how to read him and could always tell his secrets. He knew. He knew why Duard had called them there. He barely even noticed Aquilla's entrance as he mused through his thoughts. Arnan wasn't sure who would be angrier with him: Aiden, for not warning the siblings; or Duard, for breaking into the master’s papers. Arnan didn't regret it, even though he did not understand what he had seen. Something was driving Duard into utter fear, and Arnan couldn’t comprehend what it was. He may not have comprehended but he knew what the man was doing and he was prepared, but he didn't know how to tell the others. They would be heart broken, and he had fallen short again, by not even telling Aiden. Aiden would have known what to do; Aiden always seemed to know what to do. Out of the corner of his eye Arnan noticed Wren watching him. He was sure she was just as perplexed about him as Duard's summons. Arnan flinched as he felt a cold gaze fall on him. The master was watching him, and they were watching Duard. He shifted trying to relieve the tension of the room, but with no avail. Duard was watching him, Duard knew that someone had been in his chambers and as always Arnan was the likely suspect. Zoe finally entered and Arnan breathed a sigh of relief as the attention was shifted off of him. Still, he knew that Wren continued to watch him.

It was time. The siblings would finally know the meaning of the summons, and Wren would perhaps forget the way he hid.

"You wonder why I have sent for you," Duard said. "I will not keep you waiting. The time has come for you to go. Braedoch is no longer home to you, nor are you any longer a family. You will each depart alone. You will have nothing more to do with each other from this day forward. You are not to communicate, and absolutely not to see each other. If you do, terrible consequences will follow--I am warning you now."

Arnan watched as the words smashed against his family with a greater force then anything that had ever shaken their circle of protection. That protection was going to disappear in a matter of days, everything they held dear was going to be gone. He wasn't sure how they were going to survive, but they had too... didn't they?

"Make whatever preparations are necessary. You leave in three days." Duard's voice broke into the deathly silence. Arnan lowered his head and waited for one of the more volatile siblings to protest in shock at Duard for the harshness of this punishment. To Arnan's surprise the first voice he heard was Taerith's.

"You are banishing us?"

"Do you question me?"

Duard was firm and Arnan knew it was finished. Taerith would give way to the stronger will. The elder boy's "No" spoke a quiet, yet incomplete, submission. They had their orders and they must comply.

Arnan was the first to leave the room. He was already packed, and he knew he could not face his siblings. Guilt far too easily displayed itself on his face. Throwing his pack over his shoulder Arnan walked out the door of the home. Somehow he knew Wren was standing in the door watching him go but he didn't dare look back. This was a chance to see the world, a chance to live a good life not restricted by his over-protective older brothers. He had to make his own legacy now. He knew Wren was waiting for him in that doorway, he knew if he turned back now there would be no leaving. Arnan shifted the weight of his pack in an attempt to ignore the tears streaming down his face and lighten the load on his heart. A part of him had died as he stepped out the door. He kept walking.
True to his name, Arnan Romany is a quick fellow with a knack for being unremarkable. He is the third son of the Romany family, and the fourth born. He stands at about 5'10 and has dark auburn hair. His stunning green eyes are often hid beneath affected lazy lids that achieve Arnan the assumption of being "slow" or "drunk." Arnan has been known as the troublemaker in the family since the day he was born. Being the third born son, and not being interested in anything in particular gave him plenty of time to plot and scheme with very little responsibility. With a knack for creating little devices he was a mastermind at planning practical jokes.

Arnan was twenty-two at the time of the dismissal and quickly decided to make the best of the situation by reaching for success. In his naiveness and curiousty he instead found himself becoming the black sheep of the family and lost all contact with any of his angry siblings, with the exception of his beloved sister Wren.

A couple years later, Arnan finds himself at the age of twenty four with more of a dark past then he would care to admit. He is now in the service of several influential men and being pulled further and further into a black hole of life.