Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Secret Gift

I am still grieving my mothers death, from nine days ago, when my father returned from his latest round of adventuring. He even came with two lovely spoils from a slain green dragon as gifts for us. He was so happy that mother was not home. He did not even ask where she was. He just wanted to show me the lovely brooch he had gotten for my mother. He had taken it directly from the dragons hoard. It was in the shape of a frog, her favorite animal, with little gemstones set into its back. “I got them all appraised. The dwarf who appraised them said they were all real and some are even valuable. Some sapphires and rubies. Mostly amethyst, aquamarine, garnet, rose quartz, spinels of pink, green, blue, and red, as well as various shades of topaz. The dwarf said that the metal of the brooch was gold, not pure but still high quality.”

“We need to have a conversation…”

“I had a special present made for you.” He continued as if I had not even tried to tell him. “It is a small bag you can wear about your neck. The container portion of the necklace is chainmail and covered in the hide of the green dragon we slew. There are also parts, such as the neck of the container for example, that are made up solely of dragonhide. Sinews from the dragons’ claws are used to hang the container from your neck. It is little bigger than your hand in diameter and height.”

“Father, I need to tell you something important.” I said as he pulled the shiny, green-scaled bottle-looking thing out of his beltpouch.

“The eye in the wood that seals the dragonhide of the neck of the container is one of the actual eyes from the green dragon we killed.” He continued, showing off his gift to me and not paying attention to what I was trying to have him understand.

“Mother is not coming home.” I said softly.

“What do you mean?” He asked looking around the front room that used to be my bedroom. I had already moved her bed out of my mother bedroom and mine into it. The local tavern was willing to take the bed for a good bit of coin. I had also moved my clothing and other incidentals, along with the hope chest they had been in, into the bedroom. Now the front room looked like a proper sitting room. “Where is your mother?”

“As I have been trying to tell you since you walked through the door.” I said finally losing my temper. “Mother died nine days ago.”

“Well I knew I was going to outlive her but I did not think she would be going this soon.” He said sitting in one of the highbacked, fabric-covered chairs I had purchased with the money I made selling mothers bed. He looked up at me. “Who is going to take care of you now?”

“I can take care of myself.” I answered affronted.

“You are barely twenty years old.” He scoffed.

“I am only half an elf. I am half-human like my mother too. If I were fully human, I would be married by now.”

“If you were fully an elf you would just be starting lessons in the arcane arts.” He snapped back. “You are neither.”

“Thank you so much for the reminder.”

He sighed. “You are right, Ouida. You are no longer a child. Come with me on my next adventure.”

That gave me pause. “I am not sure where you are going to sleep since I have taken over the bedroom.” I said not offering it to him.

“I can roll out my bedroll in here.” He said smiling and gesturing between my chairs.

“That works.” I agreed.

“Here is your present my darling.” He said handing me the chainmail and dragonhide bag. I took it and he slipped the brooch into my hand as well. “You would have inherited it anyway.” He said with a sad smile.

“I think it is time we settled in.” I began walking towards my bedroom in the back of the cottage. “I have already eaten dinner. There are some fruits I was saving for breakfast in the morning on the kitchen table if you want.” I had no need to change the kitchen. It was simple kitchen. A table against the left wall with three chairs around it. A counter for cooking along the other wall. A stove built into the outside wall. That was it beyond baskets for storage.

“I will go to the tavern.” My father said, placing his pack against one of the chairs and leaving without another word.

I took the gifts to my bedroom, then closed and barred the door. I had heard horror stories about drunken, widowed fathers. I placed the brooch in the chest of items I kept that had belonged to Mother at the foot of my bed. I had moved my belongings from it to her chest of drawers. Then I examined the bag. It was pliable but had a metallic crunch when I squeezed it.

Then the eye blinked. The eye of the dragon that was supposed to be dead. Inside my head, I heard. “I can teach you magic child. Magic thy elven father will never be able to access.”

“What do you want in return?” I asked suspicious.

“Nothing. I like this form. No pain. I can hold a hoard for us within the chainmail inside my scales. My mental faculties are intact, or at least they seem to be so far. I was a great wyrm in constant pain from former battle wounds, dying of old age of all things. You can be my magic, casting spells for the two of us. I will teach you every spell, spell-like ability, and magical trick I know. It might take decades but half-elves live that long right?”

“I will.” I said grinning. “Can we start the magic lessons now?”

“Of course my apprentice.”

Saturday, 3 June 2017

This Isn't Horror

Origionally this was supposed to be for a horror anthology. Once I finished it and was editing and trying to come up with a title I understood the horrible truth. This is not horror. So I am putting it here.


Growing up my father taught me what to do if attacked by a dog. He said, “If a dog you don’t know approaches you. Put your left arm across your belly. Put your right arm across your neck. When they bite, push back into their mouth breaking their jaw or choking them. Don’t pull away, their teeth are meant to hold and tear. When they shake their heads, use the momentum to continue the motion to snap the dog’s neck.”

My father got me a puppy when I graduated college. A lab mastiff mix. He was my blond baby. I named him Yin.

We did a lot of training. First Yin was house broken. Then obedience school. Then training as a service dog, as my health was lacking.

Yin and I walked twice daily; in the morning after breakfast and at night, after dinner. Yin was so well trained sometimes I neglected to use the leash. It was one such night that a man came up to me with a knife.

“Give me your money.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“Give me your jewelry then.”

I fumbled with the clasp of my necklace. The man stepped forward and wrenched it from my neck. I cried out in pain. He turned to leave. My big dog, Yin, leapt from the side, snarling, knocking the man down. Using my cellphone, I dialed 911 as I took the knife away from the panicked man. That night, cuddled in bed with Yin, I understood why my father had gotten me a puppy that would become such a big dog.

 A few years later I had a massive stroke. I had been out by myself shopping. When I came to in the hospital, all I cared about was “Yin.” They had no idea what I meant by my dog’s name. Then my father arrived, with Yin wearing his service dog vest from when he had graduated as a half-grown pup. After a long hassle, it was proven that Yin was a certified service dog who had just outgrown his vest. Yin was allowed to stay with me in the hospital. He even slept on the gurney with me.

After my first stroke Yin was allowed everywhere with me. He got a new, properly fitted, vest with a little pack for his paperwork. I am slower now while Yin is still a big dog in his prime. Sometimes I would sit on a park bench and let Yin off the leash to run and play. One day he came back limping, his vest torn, the pack missing. I took him to the vet and called the police. The police wrote it off as a robbery with a knife. The vet was hesitant and told me to watch Yin for any changes.

The changes may have been there but I didn’t see them. Not until the last night we were lying in bed together. Yin was staring at me instead of cuddling like usual. Then he lunged. My father taught me what to do if ever attacked by a dog. Yin was just too close. He had gone for my throat. I got my right hand in his mouth but his breath still touched my neck. I pushed. Yin choked. I pushed harder as tears blurred my vision. Yin pulled his head to my right. I pushed further and there was a crunching sound. Yin fell limp.


My author bio is as follows:
Shana Horn has two bullmastiff labrador mixes, eleven years old now, who inspired this story. One is blond and male while the female has the traditional black fur. The technique in the first paragraph was indeed taught to her by her late father. More of Mrs. Horns short stories can be read on her blog at