IMAGINE THIS: Feyland

Chronicle Worlds: FeylandI’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled tribute to Dani Erickson to celebrate the release of the print version of Chronicle Worlds: Feyland!

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to stop by this week as we’re having a huge party! I’ll be there on Saturday, 7/16, giving away print copies of Faery Unexpected and Thunderbird, so be sure to join the fun!

And now, the opening to my Feyland story, On Guard

Wallace padded softly across the wooden floor, following his boy. He faltered slightly as they passed a puddle of golden sunlight streaming through a low window onto the flagstone entryway. His old bones creaked and he longed to rest in that sunny patch, allowing the warmth to soak into stiff muscles. But he followed the boy, mindful of his duty.

In his prime, Wallace had been a mighty hunter. The terror of small rodents. Field mice and rabbits still avoided his domain, though he was far from his kitten days. Old age stalked him as once he had stalked prey in the greenbelt behind his humans’ dwelling.

But despite his advancing age and loss of fluid grace, he held to his duty. The female of his pair of bonded humans had given Wallace charge of the boy when he had been nothing more than a squirming bundle wrapped in blankets.

“Watch over him, Wallace,” his female had said. “Guard him, always.”

And Wallace had. No harm had ever befallen the boy while Wallace was on guard. He would not shirk his duty now for the physical relief of sun-warmed stone.

The boy continued downstairs, as Wallace had known he would, to the windowless cave the humans referred to as The Game Room. Wallace glanced toward the ceiling, thinking of that glorious pool of sunlight. Perhaps later, when the boy tired of sitting in that chair. Perhaps there would still be warm sun to bask in then.

He glanced around the room looking for the most comfortable spot to maintain his guard. In the center of the room two tiered rows of dark blue cushioned chairs faced a blank white screen. Off to one side sat a low stool surrounded by sparkly red metallic cylinders. The male of Wallace’s bonded pair liked to sit on that stool and beat on those cylinders. Wallace could appreciate his human’s need to express aggression, but just the thought of that noise made his head ache.

On the other side of the room was the object of the boy’s attention. A massive black leather chair surrounded by boxes full of mechanical whirrs and whistles. The boy sat on the edge of the chair pulling on skin-tight gloves that sparkled in the room’s low light. He touched one of the boxes and high frequency noise assaulted Wallace’s sensitive ears. The boy pulled a sleek black helmet over his head, covering his eyes with a darkened visor and completely occluding his ears.

Wallace closed his eyes in a slow blink. Why would any intelligent creature choose to blind himself in the middle of the day? The boy spent hours in that chair, completely oblivious to the world around him. He saw nothing, heard nothing. Wallace knew. He’d tested the boy, cavorting around the room leaping lightly onto surfaces where he had no right to be, even sitting at the boy’s feet and yowling until the female had raced down the stairs to see what was wrong. All for nothing. The boy had not emerged from his helmeted stupor.

With resignation, Wallace leapt onto the padded chair closest to his boy, circled three times and sat, tail curled around his paws. He watched the boy’s hands twitch on the arms of the big black chair. Sometimes he spoke, nonsense words and phrases that had no bearing on reality. Quest and Feyland and Thank you, kind sir were uttered with some regularity, but Wallace had long since learned to ignore anything his boy said while wearing the helmet and gloves.

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