On Saturday I will proudly release my latest work, Tears of the Joyous Mare, on Aethereal Engines. It’s a short story from my medieval-ish world of Burus, where I set many of my fantasy yarns.
Opening with a little mystery after a long day’s ride, I’m going to keep my preface for the story brief for fear of spoiling anything… Instead, I’ll just let the first two pages of the piece introduce themselves. :-)
The stars had begun to take their places above the riders, and they approached the weathered sign of the Joyous Mare as it swayed in the twilight. The raucous noise from the tavern within drifted into the growing blanket of night, greeting the pair as they slowed their horses to a walk.
Atop a grey spotted gelding, a thin man regarded the sign and muffled revelry beyond it with a weary smile. “Well, this is it. Are you ready for the introductions, Izraeya?”
The stronger strut of his companion’s bay-colored stallion brought her alongside him, and Izraeya gave an eager nod. “I’m nervous and ready, Dirgten.”
Dirgten returned her nod before they stopped at the hitching posts. Dismounting, he looked to the warm light within the building of wattle and daub. His eyes surveyed its two stories of timbered framework before scrutinizing the old man sitting by the door, confirming him as well out of earshot.
“You needn’t be worried, I’m sure everything will go fine. Hamin won’t turn away a sword-arm sent by Darro in his stead.”
The riding heels of the woman’s boots hit the ground. “I’m more concerned about Lisst… She’s not always the trusting sort.”
Securing his horse, the thin man scratched his short scruffy beard. “If she’s suspicious, follow my lead, nod often, and say little.”
She tied her charger to the post. “You have my word, wizard.”
Dirgten yanked off the green, brimless cap he wore by its limp point… then used it to beat the layers of late summer road-dust off his cloak. Izraeya left him to his task, returning to her horse’s side as Dirgten coughed amid loosed particulates.
Unpinning her riding hood, Izraeya removed and folded it into a saddlebag. She then turned her chestnut face back to find far paler Dirgten emerging from a small cloud of dust. Beaten clean, this cloak now matched the green color of his hat.
Shaking the cap free of dust, he donned it. “Come, I’m thirsty for a pint… and to see old friends.”
The dark skinned Zacian smiled, brushing off her black trousers. “I can’t remember the last time I had a Mare’s Ale…”
Dirgten shook his head. “There’s nothing to remember, because you never have, Izraeya.”
She straightened herself with eyes downcast, then nodded at the wizard.
They stepped upon the creaky planks of the Joyous Mare’s outer veranda and greeted the old man sitting outside the door. With a gap-toothed grin he recognized Dirgten. Standing, he shook the wizard’s hand and nodded to the comely woman that accompanied him. While the elderly doorman eagerly accepted the pair of copper pennies Dirgten placed in his palm, Izraeya opened the tavern door disinterested in their chatter about watching and tending the horses.
The room was full and lively. Smiling and confident, she strode past laughing drunks and crowded tables of gamblers before a beefy red-bearded man rose up from his seat. His broad back loomed like a tower as Izraeya came to a halt behind him. Oblivious to her and waving an empty tankard, he hurled an inebriated ramble towards the table of drinkers as he left.
A purposeful cough from the Zacian turned his gaze to the woman behind him, and he met Izraeya’s annoyed glare from where she looked up at the level of his breastbone.
The big man nodded, sprouting a snaggle-toothed grin as he regarded the muscular hourglass of her figure. Retaining her smile, Izraeya responded with a cocked head and folded bare arms across her jerkin. She watched him step aside with eyes falling to the floor.
His calloused hand drifted close to her backside as she passed him, but he stopped his thick fingers short of pinching it. Having thought the better of his action, he let out a surprised yelp when an iron grip squeezed his own posterior.
Izraeya let go and kept walking. Looking back over her shoulder with a grin, the red-bearded man laughed off his shock before raising an empty tankard in salute.
“Good to see you too, Dohl,” she said under her breath and turning away from him.
Tears of the Joyous Mare will be released in full and for free on Aethereal Engines on Saturday, July 16th.
Copyright © 2016 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.