Just this morning I wrote The End at the end of the first draft of the Love's Landscapes story. For those of you who've read last year's story, Human Frailties, or Human Frailties, Human Strengths, the novel-length expansion of that story, you'll recognize the world this story takes place in... and you might even recognize a couple of the characters. Maybe. Anyway, here's another teaser to keep you going:
Jaedin fingered the bundle of dried stems and leaves hanging from the rafters of his workshop. The blackseed plants were dry enough to crumble between his fingers and the small seedpods cracked open, spilling their precious burden into his open hand. He nodded with satisfaction, removing the bundle from its hook on the ceiling and carrying it carefully to the worktable that stood in front of the window. The seeds needed to be separated from the stems and the leaves before they could be brewed into the pain-numbing salve the healer had requested.
The afternoon sun shone in the window, flooding the worktable with warm, golden light. He glanced up and found himself captivated once again by the sheets of coruscating orange light that gave the mountain range called the Fireskye its name. The curtain of light hung over the peaks, rippling and shimmering in all the colors of fire: oranges, pinks, and golds. In the bright sunlight it was a sight to behold, but at night it was breathtaking.
Five years, he’d lived in this little cottage at the end of the dirt track that was the main road through Rosefire, and he was still struck by the sheer beauty of the view right outside his workshop window. Talon would have loved that view. He could almost hear his lover’s voice. Poetry in the sky, Talon would have called it—
Jaedin froze, a lump forming in his throat.
This place was not supposed to make him think of Talon every time he turned around. That had been his reasoning for settling so far from the land of his birth. The oaks of the Skarwood looked nothing like the pine forests of the northlands, and the Fireskye had softer, gentler lines than the sharp, jagged peaks of the Iceshards.
He and Talon had served nearly ten years in the mercenary army of Rhane the Red. Rhane’s Raiders, they’d been called, and he’d been happy to count himself one of them, up until the night their camp had been attacked by Vakarran regulars and Talon had taken an arrow through the heart.
Jaedin squeezed his eyes shut and willed his mind along a different path, but this particular track was so familiar he was helpless to do anything but follow as that last night replayed itself over and over in his head.
The shouts and the screams. The flickering shadows cast by the fires, the acrid scent of smoke on the wind… Talon shuddering in his arms, struggling to breathe… Talon staring up at him, unable to speak… those blue eyes that had once looked upon him with love and passion going dull and dead as Talon fell into the final, long sleep…