Child of the Kaites: Chapter 25

I’m excited to share this chapter with you, and have even been doing some painting! Here’s my take on part of Rai and co’s journey through the desert (probably when they were running away from Yrin’s city in Chapter 20)

Find previous chapter links here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 25 | Beth Wangler

“If that is your plan, why did you not use your swords against us?”

Onili reclines on a rock perch as high as my head would be, were I standing.  She squints down at us through the evening gloom.  The rest of the bandits stand in a circle around us, while we kneel on the ground.

A rock digs into my shin.  I shift, trying to dislodge it.  “Our swords aren’t ordinary.  They were made by the kaites–do you know about the kaites?”

The bandit chief rolls her eyes.  “Of course.  We all know each other’s beliefs.”  She gestures to her followers.

“Well, the kaites who made them…somehow put their lives into them.”  Nhardah explained it much better than me.  “And now, these are the only two weapons on Orrock that can wound an aivenkaite.  That’s their purpose.  I didn’t⎼” I glance at Savi⎼ “we didn’t think it was right to use them against humans.”

“How noble,” Vant drolls. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 24

Find links to previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 24 | Beth Wangler

“That was easier than I expected,” the Maraian boy says in the Common Tongue.  A rope tied to Nihae’s wrists dangles from his hands.

One of the Rhilissi, whose braids form an arrow pattern on his head, claps the boy on his shoulder.  “Well, Liwin, sometimes you gotta take your good fortune when it come.”

Their good fortune includes Savi’s bleeding nose, Forziel’s black eye, dozens of bruises and scrapes between the four of us, and a dreadful pain in my left shoulder, along with our swords in their hands.  I’m sprawled awkwardly on the ground with my wrists bound behind my back, trying to keep pressure off of my shoulder.

Feet wrapped in leather scuff the dirt in front of my face.  Onili towers over me, twisting Luemikaroeth back and forth.  The blade catches the light of the moons and sends it dancing.  It reflects the indree up into Onili’s face as her lips stretch.  “Oh, I like this.  It’s not often I see an actual sword, and I’ve never seen one quite like this one.  This was really good fortune.” Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 23

Find the table of contents here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 24 | Beth Wangler

The closer we get to the cry, the thicker the reeds grow.

“Don’t step on the shore,” Forziel cautions.  “If we leave footprints or scent, it’ll undo all the extra work of leaving a decoy trail.”

Then a reed catches my sandal underwater.  I wiggle free, only to stumble face-first into another stalk.  I shove the reed aside and push forward.

The baby’s cry sputters.  We surge upstream with renewed vigor.  It’s anyone’s guess how long the infant has been out here.  We need to find it.

By now, the sun has sunk without fanfare.  The sky dims with every step we take.  Shadows lengthen and deepen among the reeds.

The baby’s cries quiet. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 22

Were you feeling tired after Chapter 21?  Because our characters and I all were, that’s for sure.  Let’s see what happens now that they’re rested.

(previous chapters here)


Child of the Kaites Chapter 22 | Beth Wangler

Someone is moaning, long and slow.  It stops for an instant, only to start right back up.

Who is moaning?  Why?

I wrench my eyes open.  They’re dry and scratchy and at first only see shadowy dirt.  Rolling onto my side sets all my muscles complaining.  I wince.

A tall earthen wall greets my eyes now.  Another rises close behind me.  Savi sprawls prostrate and motionless at my feet, and over him are Nhardah and Forziel’s silhouettes, hunched together in the cave entrance.

In the other direction, Nihae clutches her knees and rocks.  She moans again.

Elesekk.

I curl in like I was punched in the stomach.  Unholy screams.  Fighting in a tight place.  Sword arcing through the air.

Crack.  Thud.

I just manage to scramble to my knees, then I’m heaving up bile.

“She’s awake,” Forziel unnecessarily says.

A hand swipes the loose hairs from my face.  Another rubs my back.  “Relax, Raiballeon,” Nhardah hums.  “You’re all right.”

I spit and wipe my lips.  Inside me feels just as tumultuous as it did when I was gagging.  “How can you say that?” I choke.  “You of all people know that’s not true.”

He sighs.  “No.  But you’re alive, and so are Nihae and Saviayr.  The rest will ease with time.”

I swat Nhardah’s hand away and glare at him.  “Enough of your stupid wisdom.  Where were you when we needed you?  Why couldn’t you have come just one moment sooner?”

I roll my neck and test my ankle.  It’s sore, but I don’t think it’s too much worse.  At any rate, the rest of me isn’t much better off.  That decided, I rise with a groan and join Nihae.  Her green eyes stare at the cave floor.  She doesn’t blink at my approach or stop moaning.

I crouch in front of her.  Close up, I see hints of moisture gathered in the corner of Nihae’s eyes, along with both new and dry tear tracks.  My breath catches.  My stomach knots again.  How long has she been like this?

I rest a hand on the arm wrapped around her knees.  “Mama?”

Nihae doesn’t react.

So I just sit, holding her arm while she rocks and moans.  When my legs cramp, I mimic her pose.

My nose tickles.  I wipe it and brush my cheek.  I’m not surprised to find that it’s wet, too, though I hadn’t realized I was crying.

Forziel mutters something about checking our trail, probably an excuse for respite from our grief.  He scurries out of the cavern, waking Savi in his passing.  Savi sits bolt upright and blinks around him.

Then his eyes land on Nihae and me.  His shoulders tense.  The bump of his throat bobs.  He blinks repeatedly and clenches his jaw.

I swallow around the lump in my throat.  “Savi?”  My own tears slur my voice.

He swallows again, shaking his head at my outstretched hand.  “Where’s Forziel?” he asks, voice strained.  “We need to keep moving.”  Savi pushes up and heads toward the entrance.

Nhardah stays motionless, head bowed.  I hiss at him, “At least help with Nihae.  It’s the least you can do.”  Without waiting for a response–I don’t want to hear anything from him right now–I join Saviayr.  He leans an elbow against the cavern wall, chest heaving.

I rub my hand over the warm material of his tunic, stiffened by the river water that dried while Savi still wore it.  “It’s okay to grieve,” I whisper.  “You can cry.  Elesekk…”

Savi’s breath shudders.  The muscles under my hand tense further.  “No.”  He takes a deep breath and pushes off the wall.  “I have to move on.  We’ve got a mission to accomplish.  My dad doesn’t matter⎼” his breath hitches⎼ “when all Maraian is counting on us.”

A sob slips out before I can catch it.  “But Savi⎼”

“No.  This is my decision.”  He keeps his face turned away from me.  “I’m gonna go find Forziel.”

Savi dips around the corner and disappears into the darkening world outside.  I turn back into the cave with a sigh.  Back in the shadows, Nhardah sits next to Nihae.  His dark hand rubs her back while she keeps rocking.

“We’re leaving soon,” I tell both of them, not expecting or receiving a response.

A thread tickles my knee.  That’s right–the aivenkaite grabbing my skirt, cutting off the fabric to free myself.  I try to pull the gaping edges together.  The result is a skirt too tight for easy motion.

I scan the cave for the sack with my clothes and writings.  It’s nowhere to be found.  My stomach sinks lower.  I didn’t have the bag last night during the fight.  I didn’t carry it across the dunes or through the tunnel.  In the aftermath of speaking with the Voice of a Multitude, I left the bag on the floor of the royal Yrin’s main hall.

Just like that, three years of work are lost.

I dissolve into tears as Savi and Forziel reappear.

“I thought you said things were calmer,” Forziel exclaims.  He backsteps.

Savi shuffles closer.  “Rai?”

“It’s Elesekk, and the aivenkaites–and what are we doing? The sultan’s gonna–and–and my histories, that I spent all that time writing–and I don’t have any clothes!”  A hiccough interrupts the last word.

There’s silence but for my gasps and Nihae’s moans.

“You…clothes?” Savi asks.

I wave at the side of my skirt.  “Yes.  I can’t go wandering through Izyphor half-naked!”

Again, silence.

Forziel starts edging deeper into the cave, watching me all the while.  Savi shifts his weight between his feet.

I try to slow my breaths.  This isn’t their fault.  I shouldn’t be freaking out.

“I have some spare pants you could wear?” Forziel offers.

I rake fingers into my hair.  Half of it isn’t held by the tie anymore.  That must be fixed.  I undo the tie with shaking fingers.  “Okay.  Yeah.”  My voice shakes, too, so much the words might not be distinguishable.  I have to calm down.  I should follow Savi’s example, focus on our mission right now.

Forziel dives into his pack and pulls out patched brown pants.  These he tosses over to me before poking around in the bag.  He holds aloft a package.  “Aha!  I brought some food, too.  We should eat before we go.”

While Forziel distributes the food, I slip into the pants.  Common slave wear, they’re designed loose to make them fit as long as possible.  These are too loose on me, though.  I gather the waistband in one hand and ponder.  My eyes fall on Luemikaroeth, abandoned on the ground.  A belt–it can hold up my pants and carry my sword.

I clench my jaw and rip the hopelessly ruined fabric of the dress in which I married Saviayr.

With a new belt in place, I accept Forziel’s offer of food and grind the salted meat between my teeth.  The earthy flavor of rabbit fills my mouth.  On Ira, our meat mostly came from the island’s sheep flock.  Rabbit is the meat of slavery, and its taste calls up hot nights in tiny huts, living shoulder to shoulder with other families, sunburns, and laughter with my sister and Savi.

“What do I do with it?” Nihae asks.  A chunk of rabbit jerky dangles from her fingers.  Her eyebrows pinch together.

“What do you mean?” Savi asks.  “You eat it.”

Nihae frowns at the meat.  With great suspicion, she nibbles the very edge.

Savi keeps prompting her to eat, so I turn to Forziel.  I feel a little guilty for saying this after he just gave us food and clothing, but it can’t be helped.  “I think you should go back.”

His eyes widen.  “What?  But you said⎼”

I hold up a hand.  “I know, but I agreed you could be our guide.  We’re trying to get to the capital–due north of the royal Yrin’s land.  You led us east and southeast.  We can’t deal with someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.  We have to be there by the Feast of Wheat.  And I can’t have a naive boy’s death on my hands.”

“Raiballeon, that’s too harsh,” Nhardah rebukes.

“No, she’s right,” Savi says from Nihae’s side.  “It’s too dangerous, especially if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  We’ve got aivenkaites and Izyphorns on our trail.”

“But I do know.”  Forziel throws back his shoulders.  “Capital’s up the Havilim.  So’s a bunch of other cities and towns.  I led our trail away from major cities toward the coast.  That’s just what they’d expect runaways to do.

“Now, we’ll double back walking in the river.  It’s one of the Havilim’s tributaries, too small for boats and trade.  It’ll wash away our trail.  We can get out far upstream, where they won’t look for us, and cut across the desert at night to get safe to the capital.”

I bite another piece of jerky to put off answering.  When I swallow, I admit, “That actually makes sense.”

Nhardah shifts, but wisely decides not to say anything.

“So…I can stay?” Forziel bounces once on his toes.

His energy exhausts me.  But at least someone in our group is untouched by recent grief.  “Fine.”  Aia, please don’t let this be a mistake.

Savi tenderly drags Nihae to her feet.  I look around to make sure we have all of our belongings.  Then Forziel leads us out of the cave.

The cliffs on either side block the sun, and the long shadows cast by the western cliffs show that it is evening.  Forziel leads us down the short, steep beach and into the river.  I wait for Savi to lead Nihae down and follow behind them.

The tepid water is a soothing balm compared to the heat in the air.  I’m thankful for my sandals, and for the buoyancy the water provides as rocks shift and roll underfoot.

“Careful, Mama,” Savi murmurs, tightening his grip on her arm when she pitches forward.

Her tremulous response is lost in the wind.

Soon, I lose gratitude for the water when its resistance drags my sore ankle.  The cave is hardly out of sight when I start limping.

We walk without conversation.  Despite our rest, I am still tired, and I’m sure the others are, too.  Besides, if there are any Izyphorns nearby, we don’t want to alert them to our presence.  We’ve had enough battles for now.

The cliffs sink, and the banks relax.  On the left, we pass a place where the ground was churned by hurried feet.  That was where we entered the river yesterday.

Further along, a hand brushes my elbow.  I jump.

It’s only Nhardah.  I glare at the Firstborn.  “What?”

He sighs and rubs the stubble roughening his jaw.  “Raiballeon, I need to apologize to you.”

I scoff.  “Oh, like an apology will do anything.”

“It won’t change the past, no.  But that is not the point of an apology.”

My next step is more forceful, almost a kick.  I regret it when my sore ankle twinges.

“You were right, that I am in some part culpable for Elesekk’s death.  For long years, I’ve kept myself separate from the world’s affairs.  I told myself my time of effecting change was over.  Aia would continue his plan by using my descendants to redeem Orrock.  They would be my legacy.

“I only came to Ira and interacted with you at Mithrida’s prompting.  If not for my wife, for her kaite wisdom and greater knowledge of Aia’s actions, I would have left you alone entirely.  Becoming entangled with humans is something I have distanced myself from for centuries.

“I was wrong.”  Nhardah pauses, head tilted.  “You’ve helped me recognize that I still have a part to play.”  He fixes his deep orange eyes on me.  “I am responsible for helping set this world to rights again, too.  I deeply regret my complacency and the grief and loss it has caused.  I shall strive to do better.”

I blink against the prickling in my eyes.  My breath shakes.  “Okay,” I say.  “Good.”

Nhardah bows his head, then turns forward.

“But I’m still mad at you, okay?”

He opens his mouth, then quirks his head.  “Do you hear that?”

All I hear is the swish of us moving upriver.

Nhardah holds up his hands.  “Wait, everyone.”

The others pause and look back at us, curious.  “What’s wrong?” Savi asks.  His hand goes to his sword.

The river settles into its placid flow.  The reeds starting to grow along the bank swish.  Spotted crakes digging for supper along the bank sound their repetitive whip-crack calls.

In a small twilit hush, I catch what Nhardah heard: The weak resound of a baby’s cry.


Tune back in next Monday for Chapter 23 🙂 Let me know your thoughts on this one in the comments.

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 21

Sorry it’s a bit late today! Hopefully it is worth the wait.

Find previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 21 | Beth Wangler

Deep buzzing builds slowly.  At first, it’s like a hundred hornets far off.  I hear it between footfalls, since the thud of my feet as I run drowns it out with each step.

But it keeps getting louder.

“Don’t look back,” Forziel yells.  “It’ll slow you down.”

Savi, paces ahead of me, shouts encouragement to Nihae.  She bobs in the corner of my eye, head down, bent forward.

The deep buzz grows.

It’s moments until the aivenkaites will reach us.  How many must it take to set the whole desert rolling?  Dozens–maybe even a hundred.  In the tight tunnel under the palace, Savi and I were hard pressed to fight six off–and they were constrained by the bodies they possessed.

And Elesekk…

A wave of panic blinds me.  We’re all going to die.  I careen forward without sight.

A few paces.  My ears start ringing.  I squeeze my eyes shut.

Then a calm washes over me.  My eyes fly open.  My straining lungs drag in a gulp of air.  I’m deaf now to fear.

I don’t have time to ponder why.  The rising sun burns pure white ahead, just to the left.  It sparks of Saviayr’s sword.

“Faster,” Forziel calls.

“Mama, get in front of me,” Savi barks, voice strained.

“Aia-ni, ouni-hae,” Nhardah shouts at the sky.  “My Aia, save them.”

The buzz is as loud as the crack of waves against Ira’s cliffs in a storm.

Each thud of my heart echoes through my body.

The desert underfoot hardens.  Wind has swept the sand from the bedrock here and carved sculptures into the rock jutting out of the ground.  I fly past a towering amber monolith.

The sound is no longer a buzz but a roar.

My fingers tighten around Luemikaroeth.  My mouth goes dry.

The pillar of limestone beside me moves.

I swing the sword, following it with a shout and my whole body.  Metal bites into moving rock.  The spire explodes.  Gravel rains around me.

The ground lurches.  I stab between my feet, and the dirt cracks with a scream.

More screams.  The aivenkaites are everywhere.  Flying sand and pebbles blind me.  I swing, slash, stab, hack.

A rock hand claws my skirt and pulls.  I fall.  My elbows smack the ground first, and the air is gone from my lungs, but I can’t linger.  By Aia’s grace alone Luemikaroeth remains in my hand.

I kick, twist to my back, and slash the sword across my skirt.  The fabric flies away from the aivenkaite’s hand.

My neck jerks back as something yanks my head.  Savi shouts my name over the aivenkaites’ cacophony.  Before I can react, the being is gone, an unholy shriek deafening my ears.

Savi is there, chest heaving, coated in dust turned to mud by the sweat running down his face.  Our eyes meet.

A bolt of sand hurtles toward his back.  “Duck!” I cry.

Savi drops.

Luemikaroeth cuts through the aivenkaite.

For two heartbeats, there is no attack.  We lurch toward Nhardah, Nihae, and Forziel’s retreating backs.  “Keep moving,” Nhardah orders.  He runs on the heels of the other two, a barrier between them and the aivenkaites.

Then three more aivenkaites reach us.  All else but the instinct to fight disappears.

No matter how many we cut, more keep coming.  My arm is burning.  My eyes sting.  I feel my attacks starting to weaken.  With the next swing at a falling pillar of stone, I barely raise Luemikaroeth in time.

This can’t go on much longer.

Savi cries out.  I drive my sword through a rock ten times my height.  He’s in trouble.  I have to get to him.

“Aia-hae,” I scream in the storm of dust and rock and evil spirits.

I’m dimly aware of Savi inching back beside me.  I try to follow, best as I can.

For a second, the dust clears.  Savi’s holding one arm close to his chest.  Blood trails down his cheek.

“Run,” Nhardah’s voice comes from a long way off.

I grab Savi and turn after Nhardah’s voice.  Have to run.  Have to keep going.

But the air has turned to sludge.  Air drags against my limbs, like riptides trying to pull me under.  With all my strength, I drag Luemikaroeth in front of me.  It’s like trying to stir wet adobe with a straw.  The blade meets no resistance, but my arm can hardly move.

Nhardah’s voice spurs us forward.  I struggle a couple steps more.

Then the air lets go, followed by a hurricane of damp wind.  I’m soaked.  Escaped hairs are plastered to my face, and what remains of my skirt drips.

What?

I glance over my shoulder.  A cloud of dust and rock rises anew.  It launches itself at us.  But more dirt lurches in its way.  The cloud bends back and writhes.

I hear a familiar language chanted by the wind.

“The kaites,” I tell Savi.  He’s already dragging me away.

Debris litters the uneven ground.  My sandal catches on a stone.  I pitch forward.  Savi’s grip on my arm tightens, so only my knees hit the ground.  I’m up and running again before I feel the sting of scraped skin.

We dodge rock towers–these ones stationary.  Nihae, Forziel, and Nhardah have disappeared.  Savi stumbles but keeps going.

Then we crest a short hill.  The ground slopes down to a vast, blue river.  The other three wave at us from the bank.  We half-run, half-slide down in a cascade of loose rock and dust.

“Can you swim?” Forziel asks.

I nod, but Nihae and Savi shake their heads.

Nhardah pushes them into the river anyways.  “Then you’re about to learn.  Hold onto the rest of us and don’t struggle.”

The aivenkaites scream loud behind us, their cries shaking the ground.  My hairs stand on end.  Without another thought, I plunge into the slow-moving river.

The water stings my scraped knees, but soothes the rest of my skin.  Nhardah’s arm is around Savi’s chest.  He easily tows my husband toward the far bank.  I reach for Nihae.  “Keep an arm over my shoulder,” I tell her.

She does, with a little too much force.

“Not quite so tight,” I gasp.

Nihae relaxes enough that I can breathe easily.  I lean into the water and kick us forward.  I haven’t swum in years, though, not since the kaites sent me home.  It’s easy to remember, but I’m not strong enough to support us both.  “Forziel?” I gulp.  “A little help?”

Nihae tenses, which only makes it harder.  “What’s wrong?”  Her voice shakes.

I struggle for air and to keep us afloat.  

Forziel’s head pops up on the other side of Nihae.  “Gotcha,” he says, far too cheerful for someone just attacked by aivenkaites after running through the desert for hours.

“Rai?” Nihae asks.

“We’re going to be fine,” I tell her, though I don’t fully believe it.  “I just needed some help swimming.  It’s been a while.”

I can’t begrudge Forziel his energy.  With his help, we manage to kick to the far shore.  Nhardah and Savi wait there, clutching their knees and dripping.

I drag the hand holding Luemikaroeth over my brow.  Thank Aia that fordue metal doesn’t rust.  I have nothing to dry the sword.

Forziel stamps his feet, sending water splashing out of his sandals.  “C’mon,” he says.  “This way.”

I have no idea where he’s leading us.  He heads downstream, along the riverbank.  We’re trying to get to the capital in the north, so the direction doesn’t make sense.  I’m far too tired to care, though.  Nhardah’s following Forziel, so it must be okay.  I squeeze Nihae’s arm and nod, too drained to smile at her.  Her eyes are blank, her cheeks dragged down by exhaustion and grief.  Savi steers Nihae forward with a hand on her back.

I trudge after Forziel.  “Aivenkaites don’t like rivers,” he explains, though no one asked.  “Running water’s too clean, and there’s ‘most always kaites there looking for Maraian babies.  If they want to do real damage, they’ll avoid the rivers, so we’re safest here as we would be anywhere.”

Forziel continues prattling on, but I’m too tired to follow his train of thought.  His voice becomes a background hum as the bank rises and we have to walk one at a time between river and cliff.  When the sun is high enough that the cliffs no longer shelter us from its unrelenting heat, Forziel points out a dark recess in the cliffside.  “We can rest in there.”

We squeeze through a narrow gap into a thick, damp shadow that is blessedly cooler than the air outside.  My knees buckle.  Luemikaroeth clatters to the ground a heartbeat before I follow.

In an instant, I’m asleep.

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Moon Keeper

Inspiration can come when you least expect it.  Today, I bring you a poem inspired by Ashley Hansen’s Twitter post:

Follow this link for the original post.  While you’re at it, follow her (and me!) on Twitter.

It’s a pretty fun idea, right?  I couldn’t get it out of my head, and to keep my sanity, those kinds of persistent story ideas usually come out in poems.  (That way I can use them and continue novel-ing.)

Moon Keeper | Beth Wangler

Remember when your favorite show
Warned, “Beware of the beast below?”
In our family, little dove,
We warn of the Beast above.

Consume it would, without our fight,
The force that guards our very life.
Then why not slay it? Well you ask:
Without its hunger we’d not last.

Hanging high in lonely night,
‘Tis Moon’s unstated appetite
For gravity that pulls the waves,
And thus it is our lives he saves.

No man within the moon is there.
The Beast alone has fixéd stare,
Ever drinking, lapping up
The force that keeps us grounded, stuck.

For endless does the Earth produce
The gravity Beast must reduce–
Yet, lest you think this Beast a saint,
Know what is our family’s fate:

The Beast, it seems, grows never full
Of eating Earth’s gravitational pull.
Did we not bind him, drive him back,
How soon the earth would be in lack!

With no force left to tether feet,
We’d all float up above the street
And rise up still, through stratosphere,
Till dead from lack of atmosphere.

And why not, then, just slay the Beast?
That would not save us in the least.
Without his endless appetite,
Gravity’s force would not be light.

Up and up the pressure would build
Till we are all smashed flat and killed.
You see, my dove, there is no cure:
The Beast is there and must be, sure.

Precisely there our family comes in
With duty passed down in our kin:
Each month we must put up a fight
When Moon is forged, swollen with light.

With my last breath, to you I say:
Guard Earth for another day.
This title I now give you, love:
Keeper of the Beast Above.

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 20

And we’re back!! Or, more accurately, I’m back.  School is over for the summer, so we’re going back to a chapter a week!

If you need a refresher on previous chapters, or if you’re just joining us, you can find the table of contents here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 20 | Beth Wangler

Elesekk is dead.

It doesn’t make sense.

A moment ago, he was walking behind me, and his breath was noisy, and his heart was beating.

Then the world turned upside down, and now he’s just…

Dead.

It must be some mistake.

“No,” Savi breathes.  He stands frozen.

Nihae cradles his head.  “Please,” she begs.  “Elesekk.  Dornih.  Daevah.  My precious one.  Beloved–say something!”

My lungs squeeze.  I press a hand over my gaping mouth and stare.

“Elesekk, please.”

Elesekk’s chest doesn’t rise.  His eyes don’t open.  His lips don’t quirk.  

Savi melts to his knees.  He scoops Elesekk’s graying hand from the pool of aivenkaite blood.  “Dad.”  His voice scratches, broken.

A touch to my back–I jump to my feet.  Everything narrows to a point, instantly.  My hand clenches around empty air.  The sword–it’s still where I dropped it.  I need it in order to slay the aivenkaite touching me.

Familiar orange eyes make it through my battle-ready haze.  It’s just Nhardah.

“We can’t stay,” he says into my ear, and nods at Nihae and Saviayr.  “We need to get them up.”

I balk at his cruelty.  “But they just…” I point at Elesekk, unable to name what happened.

Nhardah follows my finger.  The torchlight shows how deeply wrinkles are etched into his dark skin.  “Rai, we have to think of the royal and his soldiers.”

What he means takes a moment to make sense.  Then I drag a hand over my face.  It’s not fair.  It’s not fair, but he’s right.  “Savi,” I touch my husband’s shoulder, “we have to go.”

The eyes Savi lifts are impossibly lost.  My heart breaks even more.

“Rai?” he croaks.

I squeeze his shoulder.  “Here.  I’ll help you lift…”  I bite my lip and shake my head, then kneel next to Elesekk.  He still feels warm.  He could be asleep, except for the tilt of his head.

My hands are under Elesekk’s ankles when Nhardah says, “No.  Leave him.”

“But Nhardah, it’s Elesekk.  We have to bury him.”  A wave of panic burns the back of my throat.

“We can’t spare the time.”

“Please,” I beg.  Tears start to sting my eyes.  I blink furiously.  If I start crying now, I won’t be able to stop.  “Lev.”

Nhardah’s shoulders droop.  “I am sorry.”  He sighs.  “He’ll slow us down.  We should expect pursuit at any moment.  And I have a feeling more aivenkaites will be after us soon, for injuring their brethren.” Continue reading

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Prologue to Something

As the school year is winding to a close, I am so thankful for your patience with me, particularly with posting Child of the Kaites.  My long-term subbing job for the past couple months has been deeply challenging.  I have definitely needed the extra time to devote to teaching instead of to editing/posting.

Today is not a day on which you’re expecting a new CotK chapter.  I am aware, however, that I might need to take a rain check on next Monday (grades are due, it’ll be the last week of school, etc.).  So this is my way of breaking that news to you, and warning you in advance.

If you think it’s hard for you waiting, know that it’s hard for me not writing–so hard, in fact, that I tend to write in my sleep when I have to go too long without writing while awake.  Recently, this manifested in the most vivid story-dream I’ve ever had.  I woke up with the details still perfectly clear, and instantly knew it would be the prologue to something I’ll eventually write.  To soothe your agony in waiting to find out what happens after that last CotK chapter, here is the manuscript of that dream.

I hope you enjoy it and can forgive me for making you wait.


Prologue to Something | Beth Wangler

It started as an innocent day out with Dad.

Mom was on a business trip–Angela couldn’t remember where–and that always meant Daddy took Angela and Patty on adventures.  That particular day, their adventure led them to a festival at a local park.

Angela, at twelve, was decidedly too mature for the slides and cotton candy, but Patty loved them and Daddy loved when his girls played together, so she played along.  It just meant she hhad to keep a keen eye out for anyone from school.  They couldn’t see her having fun like a little kid.

That was how she noticed the Woman who sat down beside Dad.  She looked too young and pretty to be the mom of any of the other frolicking children.  Then she laughed and touched Dad’s arm.

Angela’s eyes narrowed.  Suddenly, the park wasn’t so fun.  Angela had just tasted her first doubt about her father’s fidelity.

The Woman laughed again, and Dad called the girls over to him.  “Girls,” he said, “this is Meena.  Meena’s going to join us today.”

For the rest of her life, Angela would try and fail to forget Meena’s name and the way the woman smiled at her.  She knew what Angela was thinking, Angela could feel it, but the Woman’s smile was still so genuine and unashamed.

“Why?” Angela asked, but no answer came.

Meena’s smile stole Angela’s enjoyment of the rest of the day.  Lunch, the movie, even ice cream after had no appeal.

Little Patty seemed blissfully unaware.  Angela had to suffer through the day in silence.

Then, as evening fell, Angela inexplicably found that they were at the front door of a rather shabby house on a street of rather shabby houses.  Her father acted like this was nothing unusual.  Maybe he had known where they were going, though Angela was hopelessly turned around from their day in the city.

“My friend lives here,” Meena said in an even, too-innocent voice.  Angela’s misgivings grew.  Everything about Meena seemed too pure, too honest.  “She’ll be so glad to see us.  You’re a doctor, right?”

Here, Dad nodded.  The Woman opened the door.

Inside was stale and crusty.  The hard sofa stank of cigarette smoke.  Ants crawled through the orange carpet as soft as cement.  Angela hugged her arms to herself and hissed at Patty not to touch anything.

Daddy and the Woman disappeared down the hall.  There was hushed voices, silence, and then groans.

That was the worst of all.

It took so long.  Patty kept asking why they were there.  Angela kept shushing her.

When Angela plucked an ant off her arm–her whole skin felt like it was crawling–she decided to take action.  “Stay here,” she whispered to Patty.

For once, her little sister listened.

Angela crept up the hall, terrified of being caught.  She peeped through a tiny crack in an open door.

Daddy and the Woman huddled together.  They were too close.  Angela felt sick and burning with anger all at once.

There was another moan.  Daddy shifted.

Angela couldn’t quite tell what she saw, not at first.  It wasn’t until a tiny cry entered the room that she understood:

The Woman had just caught a baby.  Someone had given birth.

That was not at all what Angela had expected.

At that moment, the Woman glanced over her shoulder.  Meena’s eyes locked with Angela.

Then Meena looked away.

“She’s precious,” Meena murmured to the mother, who Angela couldn’t see.  “I love her already.”

A voice slurred words.  Meena answered, “Of course.  We’ll give our lives to keep her safe.”

Then Daddy was heading toward the door.  Angela scrambled for the front room.  She tried not to look out of breath when Dad appeared, followed by Meena carrying a tiny, squirming bundle.

Angela had never trusted babies.  She trusted this one less than usual.

The Woman whispered to Dad and disappeared into another room.  Water ran somewhere in the house.  Dad said, “I know it’s late, but we have one more place we need to go.”  His voice was cheerful, but couldn’t hide the strain underneath.  “Just as soon as Meena finishes cleaning the baby.”

“But Mom⎼” Angela began.  If she could remind Dad about Mom, maybe he would forget this whole business and just take them home.  Maybe she’d never have to see Meena again.

Dad hushed her.

The one more stop ended up being the new building at the university.  Patty took it in with wide eyes, but Angela felt worse and worse.  She kept looking between the baby in Meena’s arms–asleep–and the trickle of people steadily climbing the stairs and leaving through the doors below them.

“There.  We’re alone now,” Meena declared.

Angela looked at the people below, confused.

“Oh,” her father said.  “Is this building a train station, too?  I had no idea.”

That might explain where all those people were coming from, Angela thought.  Even if it seemed strange.

“Of course not.  Don’t be ridiculous,” Meena said, in that same smooth, happy voice.

“But where are all the people coming from?” Dad asked.

Meena spun around.  “I have to check on something.”

And she abandoned them.

Moments later, there were sounds of shouting and thumps and other noises Angela didn’t understand.  “I’m going to go find out what’s happening,” Daddy said.

And he left them alone.

Angela’s unease grew too strong to stay still.  “Stay here,” she told Patty again, and followed after the Woman, not her father.

Angela found herself in a deserted hall that opened to room after identical, immaculate room.  Angela had never seen a scary movie, but she’d heard about them at school.  This hall felt just like she imagined a scary movie would feel.  At any moment, some invisible thing might grab her.

Yet, when she peeked into a room and saw Meena cradling the baby there, shrouded in shadow, she was not afraid.  Meena’s eyes were trained on the baby.  She bounced the sleeping infant cocooned in a tight wrap.  But when Meena spoke, it was not to the baby.

“I’m so glad you came.”

Angela glanced behind herself.  The hall was still empty.  She took one tiny step into the room.

“Where are we?” Angela asked.

“We,” Meena swayed her arms and the baby in them, “are somewhere They hopefully will pass through quickly.”

“They?”

Meena just clucked her tongue.  She shifted, so the baby’s head was higher.  Angela caught a glimpse of its round cheeks and tiny eyelids.  Meena whispered conspiratorially, “Do you want to see how easy it is to fall in love with someone?”

Angela bit her lip.  “I’m too young,” she wanted to say, but didn’t.  She couldn’t figure Meena out.  Still, something drew her closer.  She wanted a better look at the baby.

When Angela was right next to her, Meena tipped her arms and slid the baby to Angela.  Instinct kicked in the second the tiny human touched Angela.  Her arms moved of their own accord, tucking the baby close, nestling its head in the crook of Angela’s elbow.

And with instinct awoke wonder.  Wonder filled every inch of Angela, and then all her fear and misgivings vanished.  Strength took root in her.  Strange though she thought it, Angela realized she would do anything to protect this baby.

“See?” Meena said.  “Don’t you love her already?”

Angela nodded.

Then Meena’s voice changed.  She no longer sounded like an angel with a convincing voice.  Now, she was human, very human, and afraid.

“Then, Angela, get down by that wall.  We’re almost out of time.”

Angela obeyed.  She wedged herself between a table and a shelf against the wall by the door, and ducked so her head was lower than the window.

“Down!” Meena insisted.  When Angela crouched an inch lower, Meena came and added pressure to her shoulder.  She didn’t let up until Angela’s feet were under the table, shoulder pressed to the wall, and head ducked over the baby.  Through this all, the baby slept soundly.  Angela’s body now formed a protective cave around the infant.

“Good,” Meena said.  “Angela, you must stay very still.  No matter what, you must not move or make any sound.”  Then she dumped a hamper of laundry, which Angela hadn’t noticed until then, over Angela and the baby.

Angela thought that was very silly.  The rooms, when she thought about it, looked like offices.  Anyone looking for something amiss would surely notice a pile of laundry in this room, so different from the other tidy offices.

But she didn’t say a word.  Meena paused, whispered, “I’m so sorry,” and left Angela alone.

When the noises came, Angela didn’t dare look.  She made her breath as shallow as possible.  She bit her tongue.  Unknown Things swept through the halls with noises that would haunt Angela for the rest of her life.

Even when the noises were long gone and all Angela could hear were her heartbeats, the baby’s breaths, and a clock ticking a few rooms away, she didn’t move.  She didn’t move when the light grew, making it easier to see the baby’s squishy cheeks and pink nose.  SHe didn’t move when many heavy footsteps climbed the stairs and methodically progressed up the hall.  Radios crackled, and voices said, “Clear.”

Someone said, “God, what could do this?”

The footsteps reached Angela’s room.  She held her breath.

“Wait, boss, look at this.”

Something poked Angela’s side.

All at once, Angela let out her breath and turned her head.  A sock fell off.

Someone swore.

Four policemen and women stared slack-jawed at Angela.  One of the policewomen was first to move.  She clicked her radio.  “We got a survivor.”

Police were good.  Police were safe.  Angela slowly unfolded herself.  Police would help them.

Only then did the baby stir.

“Well, I’ll be…” the policewoman gaped.

One of the men radioed, “Make that two survivors.  Dan, it’s a kid and a baby.”

The woman reached for Angela.  Angela thought she meant to take the baby away.  Angela clutched the infant closer, and she started to shake.

“Sh, you’re okay,” the policewoman crooned.  “You’re gonna be just fine.  I’ve got you.”

Angela’s eyes filled with tears.  “I want my Mama.”


And that’s it, folks!  I have some ideas of where this is going, but you’ll just have to wait to find out (*muahahaha*).  What do you think is up with Meena and the Things?  Share your theories with me in the comments 🙂

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Hey all!  Yesterday, I mentioned that E.B. Dawson had interviewed me for her blog.  Well, today is the day that interview came out!  Visit her site to read all about it through this link.  Then let both of us know what you thought!!!

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 19

A few months ago, I made the daunting decision to join the world of Twitter.  I thought this would be a painful chore that I had to do if I wanted to “build an author platform” (aka ever get more than my mom to read my stories).  Full of trepidation, I dipped my toe into the Twitter waters–and I have been completely surprised and overjoyed by the hugely supportive community of writers I’ve found there!

One of those incredible members of the Twitter community that I’ve met is E.B. Dawson.  Not only is she pretty cool, immensely supportive, and a fellow Narnia/Lord of the Rings fan, but she also thought I was worth interviewing!  So, friends, I am overjoyed to announce that my first ever author interview, with the delightful E.B. Dawson, will be posted tomorrow. You can find her website here, or follow her on Twitter @ebdawsonwriting.  I’ll post the link to the interview tomorrow, or as soon as I get the chance.

And now, I present to you this week’s chapter.  (Find previous chapters here.)


Child of the Kaites Chapter 19 | Beth Wangler

The way is dark.  I lead, scuffing forward one foot at a time.  My hand runs along the walls, searching for forks and the impossible decisions they might force on us.  So far, I have found none, only two walls close enough that I can’t straighten either arm fully.  Their stones steal heat from my hands even as their rough surface nicks my palms.

“Can you go any faster?” Savi whispers from the back of the group.

I bite my lip.  “This isn’t exactly easy.” Continue reading

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