Greetings and salutations, ladies and gentlemen, Joshua T. Calkins-Treworgy here. As I had said yesterday, I’m going to be multi-tasking with this blog now, and I’m going to begin today with an excerpt from the first Kathy Potts novel, ‘A Midwestern Yankee in King Ovin’s Court’. This is the entirety of the second chapter, and I hope it piques your interest. I might do one other excerpt to promote the book later on, so be on the lookout. Or, you know, head on over to Amazon to pick up a copy!
And now, on with the show!
Kathy groaned, her merciful reprieve from the sudden pain of what she thought must have been an electrical shock washing away. Stiffness in her neck, arms and legs, coupled with an achiness that ran through every muscle in her body left her wondering if she’d been mistaken, if the building had blown up or something.
Her eyes cracked open into little slits, letting the blur of her environment make its initial impression on her sense of sight. Scent already turned its report over to her brain- antisceptics and clean, institutional linens. The consistent beep of some device in sync with her heart added to her conclusion of where she was.
“Hospital,” she croaked. Blech, is that my voice, she thought. Like the Cryptkeeper with tits and a cold. Uncharitable thoughts about her own voice aside, she felt incredibly lucky to know she was at least alive still. She reached up to rub at her eyes to clear them, tugging on an IV line as she did. The room she was in had the look of a medium-to-long term patient to it, one she recognized. She’d been in rooms like this too many times, but always before as a visitor.
She pushed thoughts of such things aside. By slow degrees she came more awake, looking to the windows to her right. The curtains were open, but the night was dark, shedding almost no light whatsoever into the room. A look to the left revealed a small rolling tray with a water pitcher on it with a straw. Kathy put the straw in, and with an effort, brought the pitcher to herself so that she could drink.
Four measured, spaced sips, and she felt like a new woman. She was always struck by how little it took sometimes to make a person better. She now sat up, and despite her body’s protests, she swung herself down off of the bed. She wobbled, one hand on the bed, the other holding her IV feed stand. When she felt confident again, she moved with dreadful slowness to the little bathroom and relieved herself. When she got back to the bed, she removed the bedpan provided and set it under the bed.
She was still sore, but a strange noise from the hallway, like a dog’s claws on tile flooring, caught her attention. She shambled over to the door of her room, already open a crack, and peered out into the hall. What she saw instantly burned itself into her memory.
At the door to another room farther down the hall stood two giant cockroaches the size of Rottweilers. Their thread-like antennae twitched back and forth, and a sickly green light flowed in a gaseous stream from inside the room, into mouths she saw were great, gaping mandibles. She let out a girlish squeak of terror and revulsion. When the two creatures whipped their heads in her direction, she bolted back to the bed, her sore body fueled by fear.
Kathy tucked herself under the sheets on the hospital bed, curled up like a child hiding from the monster in the closet. She dared lift part of the sheet only enough to peer at her doorway through. The clack-clack chittering of insectile legs echoed through the hallway and her room, and moments later, one of the gigantic bugs poked its head in. Its antennae twitched and twirled, but it made no sound or other movement. Kathy remained perfectly still, her every instinct screaming at her to flee, to dive out the window.
Except, however, for a very small voice amid the clamouring inner shouts of alarm and terror. That tiny, barely perceptable voice said, such things always hunt the weak and hurt, the frightened. Be cool. Kathy did as this small voice bade, and after half a minute, the roach-thing slipped away, scuttling off with its partner, six pairs of legs clacking on the floor tiles.
When the bugs were out of earshot, Kathy felt suddenly fatigued, and she fell into a deep, natural sleep.
The knight prowled the darkened city streets of Minneapolis under a heavy blue cloak, the hood up, shadows magically held in a swirling pattern around his head. His talents with magic were few, but this much he could handle. It was necessary, for even the slightest sight of him by a human would result in fear and chaos ripping through their brains.
The knight wore a heavy chain shirt and leggings beneath his cloak, the shirt covered by durable half-plate armor, padded with patches of leather to muffle his movements. The leggings were similarly muted by a thin pair of black trousers, worn over hardened leather boots. A long sword was sheathed at each hip, drawstrings looped through holes in the hilts to avoid the weapons sliding out during moments when they might normally slip free.
The knight ducked down yet another alley, coming to a halt. He threw back his hood when he was sure no humans were in sght, revealing the head of a German Shepherd upon his humanoid body. His nose twitched as he picked up a familiar scent, one he hadn’t smelled in years.
“Gailuf,” he said, his voice rumbly yet regal. He drew the hood up once again and started away. His mission, personally given him by king Ovin,was to go to the damaged twinning, check on the damage, and go from there to the home of the human who’s essence had been struck by the twinning’s tainted aura. The dog-headed knight, a member of the kennin race, dog-man faerie, had picked up the human’s faint trace of essence, and now had to go to where she lived.
He could also detect the residue left behind by the wyldfire that had swept through the region. A ritual had been used, had to have been, for the energy to still linger like it did. He conjured shadows once more around himself and moved on, thinking about the implications of what he’d observed thus far.
The sage who had been in control of the twinning, a hobby shop in its Mortal Plane incarnation, had been an elderly man known to the knight as Garlin Trayen, a friend of Ovin’s court for many years. He’d come outside into the lot when the knight approached, hands raised in welcome. The knight had grinned and greeted him happily.
“Garlin,” the kennin knight said, embracing the old human.
“Sir Daggeuro,” the human sage replied, clapping the knight on the back. Daggeuro asked about the human woman, and Garlin confirmed that he’d sensed her and her predicament even in the back storeroom of the shop. “I called 911, and gave them a line about how hot it had been out, she must have been dehydrated.”
“A smart move, my friend,” Daggeuro replied. He had taken his leave of the sage, and five minutes later caught Gailuf’s odor. He wondered what the centaur would have to say about recent events.
That would have to take a back seat for the moment, though. His king had been very clear in his instructions, and a man like Daggeuro, for whom duty and honor came above all other things, could not ignore them. So he stalked down the alley, the trace of the human woman’s essence pulling at his senses.
It had been long and long, as the faerie put it, since he had crossed over to the Mortal Plane for longer than a few minutes. Daggeuro didn’t care much for the world humans dominated. To start with, the air was filthy, especially in larger cities. In the Ether Plane, even in the capital of the Amermidst Kingdom, Celia, he could stand atop a tall building and see clear beyond the outer city walls for dozens of miles.
The second thing he disliked about the Mortal Plane was the technology. The world of faerie, the Ether, was rich with magic, so technology was very nearly a forgotten pursuit there. Humans, few of whom had access to arcane powers, made up for their lack of magic with the advancements of science. This included his two most reviled forms of technology, guns and automobiles. The former turned anyone into a potential threat, regardless of skill or even intent. The latter, he felt, made people lazy and drove them apart.
Daggeuro ran along sidewalks and down alleys, climbed the sides of buildings and leaped from rooftop to rooftop, trying at all times to avoid being spotted. At one point he found himself in a residential neighborhood, passing through a park, when the sound of approaching voices forced him to press himself against a tree, drawing the shadows around the tree to himself.
There were, he realized, three sets of feet nearby, approaching a position only ten feet away. From the east came a single scruffy looking young man, pale and sickeningly narrow, a dark blue hooded sweatshirt worn over torn jean shorts and black lowtop sneakers. He trembled as he walked, his mouth slack, revealing pitted gums and jagged teeth.
From the west came two burly men dressed like the kind of street thugs one could see in a police procedural show like Law and Order. Daggeuro had to give the humans that much; he enjoyed their forms of entertainment. The thugs each carried an automatic pistol tucked into their waistbands, and the shorter of the two, his forearms and neck festooned with tattoos, carried a brown paper sack in his left hand.
Daggeuro slowly moved his hands to the hilts of his weapons, undoing the tie-downs silently. He didn’t want to draw blades against humans, but he would if necessary. The three men stopped a few feet away from one another. The younger man shuffled nervously, looking around conspicuously, biting his fingernails.
Drug deal, Daggeuro thought. The younger man nodded at the dealers and said, “That mine?”
“Could be it is,” said the one holding the baggie. “You have the necessary funds?” The buyer produced a tight roll of twenty-dollar bills and tossed it at the dealer’s feet.
“Whoops, dropped my money,” the buyer said with a dopey smile. The dealer held the baggie out before him at arm’s length and released it.
“Wouldja lookit that, I dropped my bag. Hope nobody grabs it,” he said theatrically, crouching down to snatch up the money. He turned his head suddenly towards the tree against which Daggeuro stood, eyes narrowed.
“What’s up, Gus,” the other dealer asked in a squeaky voice. Daggeuro gripped his sword handles, breathing deeply, centering himself. The dealer named Gus slowly stood up, eyes still locked on the shadow-concealed kennin knight.
“Nothin’,” the man finally said, looking to the buyer. “Go on, get,” he barked, and the junkie darted away. Gus and his partner started to walk off, and Daggeuro could hear him say, “For a minute there, it felt like the devil was watching me from inside that fucking tree, man.”
No devil, I, but watched you were indeed, fellow, Daggeuro thought. He refastened the tie-downs on his weapons and resumed his trek north. King Ovin knew the human was a woman, and that she needed to be appraised of her situation. More than that, she needed to be told of what exactly happened to her, so that she didn’t run mad. Such things happened often after newly Awakened humans were put through such trauma. A member of the faerie kingdom the afflicted human resided beside almost always was sent to help them cope with their newfound reality.
Seldom was the faerie sent as high in rank and status as Sir Daggeuro, High Knight of Ovin’s court and the Amermidst Kingdom. The kennin knew that something seriously foul was going on within the kingdom, something most likely involving Luga, a shade who routinely caused chaos within Ovin’s realms. But Ovin had explained little else to Daggeuro, and what he did tell the High Knight, Daggeuro could not decipher the significance of.
Another series of alleys and emptied sidestreets passed around the concealed faerie as he followed the trail. The scent of the city itself was an affront to his nostrils, the stench of exhaust fumes and cigarettes and chemicals heavy around him. He couldn’t understand how the humans put up with it, much less local dogs.
After another twenty minutes, Daggeuro stood in a mostly empty parking lot, an apartment complex before him. It was of the sort that was shaped like a horseshoe, with iron steps at the end of each floor’s walkway leading up and down. Four stories high, he could see that each apartment except the ones on the ends of each level were one-bedroom affairs.
The trail of the human woman’s essence led him up to an apartment on the second floor on the western side of the horseshoe. He grasped the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it stuck. “Locked,” he muttered aloud. Quickly he checked to see if he was being observed, then wrenched on the knob, snapping its inner lock and latch mechanism. He slipped inside without a word.
Eyes upon him, the moment he entered. Daggeuro brought up his hands into a pugilist’s stance, then spotted the turtleshell cat staring at him from the couch in the living room the apartment door opened upon. The cat meowed at him, then set its head back on its paws, ignoring him. He sighed, shook his head.
It was a simple apartment, of a kind he’d seen many humans living in. Hell, he’d seen plenty of faerie live in them too. The human-like elves, only physically different by way of their pointy ears, slightly shorter stature and double-jointed arms and legs, tended to prefer very similar dwellings. A piece of paper had been left on the counter in the woman’s smal kitchen. It read: ‘Kathy, I took care of Tigger while you were in HCMC. Love, Mom.’
A quick sweep of her apartment turned up plenty of signs that Kathy was already at least subliminally aware of the Ether. Many humans like her were drawn to what the humans called ‘fantasy’ literature and games. She could well have seen something of the faerie at some point in her life.
Now that he had found her home, Daggeuro willed open a rift between worlds and slipped into the in-between to await her return to her home. The return would be short-lived, but he didn’t want to terrify her by just being there when she came home. Sir Daggeuro was, if nothing else, a gentleman after all.