Founded 2015 by students of “How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writer’s,” created by writer and teacher Holly Lisle.
It is so cool to be part of the Blog Hop tour. I’m working away on the book edits for Life and Other Strangers this week and enjoying the summer sunshine. And we finally have a working dryer, so life is good. I hope you enjoy my story. Don’t forget to check out all the other stories. They are fun!
He stood with the ocean before him, with the village behind him, and he did not look back and he knew he would never stand on that shore again.
It was time to leave. One flash of the lantern. Two. Then he quickly closed it and set it aside. The sunrise swelled in the distance, red against the black sky of night. The sharp tang of salt and water slapped his face in the brisk wind as he waited for that sound, the sound of oars against the waves, the quiet clink of the boat coasting along the shore. A dip of paddle, a rustle of metal on wood. Against his leg, the stones clinked in their soft wrapping, stones he would never admit to having. Not to his compatriots, not to the villagers, not to the woman he had left behind sleeping, a widow who shared a room and a bed and a few nights of pleasure. She was only another soft port, a place to rest for a few nights with soft sheets and quiet words. There had been many such soft ports in his past.
The bulky manuscript rustled in its waxed cloth and leather wrapping under his tunic. He had no interest in it. It was simply an item he had been commissioned to find by a dark voice behind a cloak in a tavern. He preferred jewels and gold, quick to take and ever more quick to pass along to others, just in case the mages had laced the gold with tracking spells. Tracking spells were followed by great dogs and even greater thunders of horses and the specter of the hanging rope trailed behind them. Better to have quick fingers and quick trades in unknown places.
A flash of smiling blue eyes called to him as he waited, the sharp tang of the sea filling his nostrils. He ruthlessly pushed the memory away. He didn’t care to stay in this place. It would be too easy to be noticed, to belong, to become settled. Passage by the sea with loyalty assured by coin and drink was always the best way out. He would return to the drafty estate where small minded people looked up to him and waited for him to tell them how to live their tiny boring lives, try to settle into the routine of the every day, try to find contentment in the bucolic boredom.
The clink came just as the sun’s sharp rays began to touch the edge of the horizon with a lone gold finger of accusation. The boat scurried under the edge of the shadows. He climbed in quickly and did not look back, unaware of the sharp blue eyes watching him from the rocks. He would never admit his relief they had come any more than he would raise his voice when he was annoyed.
“Well?” the querulous voice of the Priest who had woken her from a dreamless sleep demanded from the dark corner beside the widow’s warm fireplace.
“I did not see a book.” Her voice was sweet and calm, a tool like her beauty and her welcoming home. She knew it would betray nothing of her feelings. She felt his searching eyes and turned away, keeping her tight fists hidden behind her skirts. Fists that betrayed her fury that she had been used, that she was being used to betray, that she was easy to walk away from, only a moment of frivolous laughter.
Eventually satisfied, the Priest left.
The hens began to cackle in the distance.
Once more alone, once more facing the empty bed and the long shoreline, she pulled the ruby ring out of her pocket and held it up to the light. It was a the token she had taken to remember a few nights of pleasure in a long series of evenings of endless silence, a reminder of soft firm hands, easily spoken commands, and demanding laughter. The signet that surrounded the ruby gleamed. She wondered what it said. Then she sighed and slipped it onto the heavy chain she wore around her neck with the others from her collection and turned to face her day.