At Long Last

I have become brave and posted SoD on the web. It has been HUGELY edited since that chapter I posted forever ago. I suppose I must let you read it, on the terms that you leave feedback, either in the comments here, or as a review on Writer’s Cafe, where it’s posted.

Mhm. That is all.

Oh, and my little “About” page, titled “Sword of Demetri info” has been changed again. I suggest you take a look, once you’ve read the novel.

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Hands Off

Y’all remember Demetri, right? Sorry that you won’t get to read the whole story until I publish it. Which I will. (If I don’t ever, then I’ll post it here.) This short little splurp of a story, entitled “Hands Off,” is mostly between Demetri and a character you haven’t met yet, a girl named Alla. It does contain some things which are spoilers if you haven’t read the whole thing of SoD, but since you haven’t, none of them will make sense anyway and it won’t matter.

Hands Off

A short story of Demetri attempt to get Alla’s attention and failing.

“Hey, Alla,” Demetri called hesitantly. Big chance, bozo, the happy half of his mind said. Don’t blow it again.

Alla wandered over, a bored expression on her face to mask her suspicion. “Yes?”

“Do you believe in angels?” he blurted, smiling mischievously. “Because I think I just saw one.” He hoped he looked and sounded as suave as he felt. It had taken him a month to come up with that line.

Alla’s expression changed almost indiscernibly to her you’re-a-psycho-why-do-I-even-talk-to-you face. “Say what?” Obviously not suave enough.

Demetri felt grateful for the darkness and the firelight as his face flushed red. “Um, forget it,” he mumbled. He scooched over on his log bench. “Come sit?”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “Talk.”

“Why?” Alla could be impossible sometimes.

“Well… we haven’t really talked in a while. And they’re talking.” Demetri gestured at Paul and the three elves on the other side of the fire, laughing and sharing stories.

Alla glanced over at the others, then began nodding. “Okay,” she complied, sitting on the bench, but being sure to leave twelve inches of space between them. “Let’s talk.”

Demetri found himself at a loss here. He’d only planned the one line, nothing after it. So he spit out the first thing that came to mind, which probably wasn’t the smartest move. “So… do you think of Jink often?”

To his credit, he immediately regretted his words. From the way her face hardened, he could tell he’d reopened that wound most unfeelingly. “Yes,” she replied shortly. “Every day. Every minute.” She paused and sighed. “I know it wasn’t my fault, but every day I have this new wave of guilt when I think of every little thing we could have done differently that night, or that I could have done, in the past.” She began talking faster and more frantically. “What if I’d tried to change his mind those four years ago? What if I’d forgiven him earlier? What if I had woken sooner and stopped Arran? What if-”

Demetri cut the distance between them in half and put a hand on her shoulder. “Stop,” he told her. “It is how it is. No matter how much you tell yourself that you could have changed things, you couldn’t have. None of us could. I’m sorry.” This is good, he told himself.

Alla buried her face in her hands. “No, it’s all right. I needed to get that off my chest.” For the first time since they’d begun their talk, she turned to look at him. “Every once in a while I have to vent. I don’t realize I need to until someone says something like you just did. It kind of… opens a door.”

“Or a floodgate,” Demetri added. Alla half smiled and huffed a passable laugh.

“Thanks for opening the floodgate,” she said.

“You can vent to me any time you feel like it,” Demetri told her. He remembered what had happened the first time he’d let her off on a tangeant about Jink. This time seemed to be going the same direction.

Alla rested her chin in her hand and gazed intently into the fire. The flames danced a little lower than before, but they had a whole stack of ruined wood from the shelter project to last them as far into the night as they wanted.

His hand still rested on her shoulder. Thinking of the first moment he’d been close to Alla, Demetri made up his mind. As subtly as he could, he shaved inches off the distance between them from six to five, then to four, then three, two, one… none. He and Alla now sat side by side, just as close as they’d been that night long ago, back in Dreemon.

He waited for a moment to see how she’d react, but she made move to show she’d even noticed. He glanced over at Paul and the elves to see if they noticed anything, but Darr had just finished an account of a prank he’d played on Lianeot years ago, and the four laughed raucously. Paul launched abruptly into the tale of when Demetri had caught his pants on a pot hook while jumping out the inn window in Mahzi.

Though somewhat irritated that Paul had decided to make that particular incident known to the elves, Demetri did his best to ignore them. Slowly and carefully, he eased his arm around Alla’s shoulders without actually touching her. She still made no move. Demetri got the sneaking suspicion that she was listening to Paul’s story. Throwing all caution to the wind, he dropped his arm across her shoulders in a one armed hug.

Alla tensed under his hand. All he thought was, Uh-oh.

Her right hand slapped on top of his, pinning him to her shoulder. Then her left elbow slammed into his gut like a ballistic missile. As he struggled for breath, her fist crashed into his thigh with the force of a hammer. As a finale, her elbow immediately jumped up to his face, bashing him on the chin. She released his hand at the same moment, and he tumbled backward off the log. As he lay on his back and gasped for breath in the cold darkness out of the firelight, the point of a sword materialized in front of his face. He followed the sword up with his eyes until he looked Alla in the face. He gave her his best please-don’t-impale-me look.

“You forgot, Demetri,” she smiled at him, “that I can beat you. Do. Not. Touch. Me.” She shoved her short sword back into its scabbard and returned to her original seat on the log beside Paul and the elves in time to hear the end of the Demetri’s Pants story, where Demetri fell from the pot hook to get a mouthful of dirt. The whole party, minus Demetri, exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

Demetri just sulked behind the log. Another time, he told himself. An idea struck him, and he immediately started planning how many times he could bring up Jink in the next week. After all, he reasoned. I get closer every time.

Sword of Demetri ch. 1 bit 4

It soon became clear that the dragons were in a killing frenzy, sot Paul and Demetri left as fast as they could.

it took a  full four hours to reach Tammycus. There were barracks there, empty ones. No soldiers were in the city, probably because it was attacked by dragons every now and then. The people of Tammycus had shelters in which to hide when dragons flew over. No soldiers were watching for the sparkling hilt of the magic sword among the drab.

But Tammycus had two sections. The first out ring was where ordinary people lived, peasants, people just visiting. The inner, and considerably smaller, ring was the original part of the town. It had started as a single mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens. More rich people built homes around it, then not-rich-people did, too. Voila, a town.

The inns in the inner circle were wonderful, and very expensive. Neither Paul nor Demetri had any money, so they went looking in the outer circle. Here, everything was free. Mostly. The sky was gray and it looked like rain. Paul spotted a tiny inn along the street. A small sign swung from a stick protruding from the front, so dirty, it couldn’t be read.

Demetri stepped inside, and promptly ran into a tall, weatherbeaten man on his way out. “Watch it,” the man growled.

“Who is the owner?” Paul cut in before Demetri could make a scathing remark.

“Ain’t one. Someone builds the place out of scrap lumber, and folks come and go as they please.” He laughed to himself. “Mind you, no one has been too pleased with it, though.”

“Heh,” Demetri managed to say. This guy was getting on his nerves a bit. Why is he staring at me like that? Demetri wondered. Is he looking at the sword..? He and Paul hastened up a short ladder to what looked like a hay loft with an ancient mattress in it. The mattress was so full of lice and dirt one could actually see the things crawling in it. Every once in a while, a mouse would stick its head out.

Demetri decided to sleep on the floor. It was cleaner. Paul agreed.

It rained that night, and Demetri discovered that the roof was more empty space than wood.

“We might as well sleep outside,” he told Paul, who was wringing water out of his shirt. Paul nodded, and reached into his travel bag. A corner of canvas emerged; he had a tent.

So they left the inn and found a tree just outside of Tammycus. Demetri hung the canvas over a branch and weighed the corners down with rocks. When they crawled inside, they discovered that the canvas was waterproof.

“Beats sleeping at the inn,” Paul snickered. “No lice, no water,no rotting floorboards.”

The next day, they went back to Tammycus and got directions to Dykus. Demetri insisted on getting horses once he learned how far it was. So Paul insisted  they raid the Dragon Fountain in the center of the inner circle of town.

When they did get the horses, they both had quite a bit of silver crowns between them, so they got the fastest horses available, which also happened to be the glossiest, and the blackest in color.

It wasn’t very long before Paul sighted Dykus in the distance.

“We should get there by midday,” he shouted to Demetri over the thudding of hooves on earth and the rush of air currents. His prediction came true.

Once they were actually in town, the temple wasn’t hard to find. It was the largest building in town, and was the one that looked like the most work had been put into it.

Strangely, the streets were deserted. In most towns, midday was the busiest time, yet here, it seemed, people remained inside at noon. Demetri saw barracks behind his goal and shuddered. Ugh. Soldiers. He hoped they were indoors, too.

Nearing the temple, Demetri felt excited. Could this be the end of his not-so-long and not-so-terrible quest? The horses’ hooves clattered eerily loud in the empty streets.

When they reached the stone steps leading up to the great, carved oak doors beneath the archway, Demetri leapt off his horse and dashed up to the ornate double doors. Paul hesitated.

“It’s so quiet,” Paul muttered. “Too quiet. It could be a trap.”

“Oh, sure,” Demetri scoffed. “How could anyone in the world know we’re here?”

Paul slid off his horse and traipsed up the steps to join his friend by the entrance. “Maybe they have spies,” he pointed out.

“I doubt it” was the positive reply, and he pulled open the doors.

He stood face to face with Captain Reecus, who was standing at the head of an entire platoon of soldiers. Reecus had ordered all the townspeople to remain inside, and had been lying in wait for Demetri. He had heard their every word.

“Indeed we do,” he said with a nasty grin. “Spies everywhere.” The soldier on his left put on an equally nasty grin. Demetri suddenly recognized him as the man he had run into in Tammycus.

The temple was completely packed with soldiers. Paul spun around, only to find that more soldiers had filed around from behind the building and captured their horses. Demetri drew the sword.

“Fight, and we kill you,” Reecus snarled. “Hand it over peacefully, and we’ll let you live.”

Demetri pretended to think it over, then held out the sword to the captain, hilt first. Reecus reached for it with a greedy gleam in his eye. Demetri waited until the last second, then spun the sword around and ran the captain through. Reecus adopted a thoroughly surprise look, and fell without a sound.

Demetri yanked the sword from the captain’s corpse and readied himself to fight the onslaught of soldiers.

Although both Paul and Demetri fought madly, they were horribly outnumbered, ten billion to one. (Only kidding. Not really that much.)

Someone poleaxed Demetri in the back of the head with a poleaxe, and jerked the sword from his grasp.

That was the last thing he was aware of.

Sword of Demetri ch. 1 bit 3

The small sailboat was being tossed about on the stormy waters. A splintered stump was all that remained of the mast. What had been the sails were lashed around the boat, and under the sails, protected from the elements but very seasick, were Demetri and Paul.

When the wind subsided and the storm blew itself out, the boat was still mostly intact, but the first thing Demetri did once he emerged from under the sails was throw up.

“This boat isn’t a sailboat anymore,” he told Paul, eying the mast stump.

“It isn’t even a rowboat,” Paul replied sullenly. “But we can’t just sit out here in the middle of the ocean and wait for our deaths. We must think of something.”

“You’re the one with all the brains, always coming up with plans,” Demetri yawned. “You think of something.”

Most of the morning was spent deep in thought, at least in Paul’s case. Demetri seemed to be spending his time deep asleep. Occasionally, he changed sleeping position, but aside from that, neither sound nor movement did he make. But Paul’s cry of alarm quickly roused the catatonic one.

“Whah?” he asked sleepily

“LOOK.” Paul pointed to some dark shapes slicing through the waves towards the immobile boat. The creatures surfaced for air a few times, giving Demetri a view that made him think of the things as dragon-headed dolphin seals. But once they go closer, the “dragon-headed dolphin seals” popped their heads out of the water to stare quizzically at the battered boat.

“What are they?” Demetri asked Paul. Paul, of course, was the one with all the brains, and he promptly answered, “Some people think they are miniature larucas, but they are better known as sea dragons. They are pretty intelligent, as far as animals go.”

Before Demetri could find out if they liked to be petted or not, the pair of sea dragons seized the severed rope on the front of the boat, and began swimming at high speed towards land. “Very intelligent,” Demetri noted.

They arrived on the coast at high noon, thirty miles from Tammycus. But, of course, they didn’t know that. Demetri turned to look at the sea dragons again, but they vanished into the sea, clicking in a rapid succession, and making growling noises. Just as they disappeared, a huge shadow passed overhead. A real dragon, a hungry dragon, was hunting.

“Run!” Demetri yelled. The huge green dragon swooped, dipping its claws into the ocean in hopes of snagging a sea dragon for lunch. It missed, and that just made it angrier. So it went after Paul and Demetri instead. Dragons can fly faster than anyone can run, but most of the land consisted of trees and forests, where the dragon could not reach them.

Eventually, they came to a valley, and as they began to travel around it, the dragon seemed reluctant to keep up the chase. It had the choice between getting lunch, then fighting the dominant dragon of the valley, or avoiding a fight and leave hungry. It decided to get lunch, and face the music. Rather angry roars, actually.

The dragon had been flying no longer than a minute, when a gray-brown dragon with yellow stripes on her wings attacked out of nowhere, raking her claws down the side of his head. Demetri and Paul sat down, breathing hard, to rest, while watching the violent scene above them.

Sword of Demetri ch. 1 bit 2

Thanks a lot world, for letting my baby dragons die.

Paul had drawn his own sword and was trying to fend off the soldiers. Demetri pulled out rhe magic one and slew one solders. A few of the others around him fell down dead.

Just then, some wulves decided to sho up at a bad time. Their scrawny, gray bodies slunk around a throng of people towards the fight on the docks.

“Uh-oh,” Demetri said. But as he prepared to fight the new enemy, he say a group of men arguing over something.

“Straks said not to.”

“But he’ll die if we don’t!”

“But Straks-”

“Straks’ll be grateful to us if we save his skin.”

They came to an agreement, drew their swords, and came to the rescue. Demetri almost forgot to pay attention to the danger all around him.

“Who are you?” Demetri asked one of them.

“Friends. Now don’t ask questions.”

Demetri obeyed, but after a while, he found himself backed to the edge of the pier, and the soldiers kept coming. There wasn’t any use trying to fight his way back to the strangers and Paul, so he jumped into the salty water. A soldier threw his spear, which jsut missed Demetri’s foot.

He plunged into the chilly water, swimming (hopefully) upward.

Crack!

Ouch. There was a small boat directly above him. He reached up and grabbed the side of the small boat and pulled himself iin, almost tipping it over. Paul splashed into the water after him, severing the taut rope that held Demetri’s craft in the harbor.

Soon, both of the were sailing away in the small vessel, while the mysterious swordsmen continued to fight the soldiers.

The soldiers allowed the remaining strangers to escape, and instead focused their attention on the sailboat, which was nearly out of sight.

“Should we pursue them, sir?” a pike man asked his captain.

“No, they have no provisions, and there is a huge storm only a day away,” the captain replied with a sly smile. “It won’t be hard to find their wreck and retrieve the sword.”

***

King Arran was in an extremely foul mood.

“Haven’t you caught that nightmare of a tormentor yet?” he roared at the Captain of the Guard. By this, he meant a certain being called Terraxis.

“No, Sire,” the Captain replied carefully. “Terraxis isn’t quite human, making him hard to capture.”

“You’ve seen him?! You’ve seen him, yet you still failed to capture him and bring him to me?” Arran raged. “You’re demoted down to Captain of the Janitors now! Get out of here!” The king turned to sulk and brood on his bad luck, while Captain Straks of the Janitors exited the room quickly.

Reecus became the Captain of the Guard. Reecus was a lot meaner than Straks.

The next day, Straks was scrubbing a bloodstain off the roof when a large, black, winged wolf descended. The wolf was wearing a simple tunic, and carried an empty scabbard at his side.

The wolf folded his wings and asked, “Where are they now?”

“They were last seen by my spies, who say they are now sailing into a huge storm, in the direction of Tammycus.”

Terraxis, for that’s who it was, groaned. “No! Dragons live around Tammycus shores, feeding of the smaller sea dragons who dwell there. If they survive the storm, they will get into a scrape with some large dragon.”

He began pacing. “Any ideas?” he asked Straks. The janitor shook his head.

The Sword of Demetri ch.1 bit 1

Since this story is soooo stinkin’  long, it is broken down into bits of chapters. And it is “Demetri” Ki, not “Demitri.” And also, Ki, if you will remember when we were quizzing each other on the names of our story characters, and there was no one in your story named Demetri or Paul.

“C’mon, Demetri, we have to go! NOW!”

Demetri groaned in protest and rolled over. However, Paul had other things in mind; he tried to drag Demetri off the lice-infested mattress while threatening, “Don’t make me slap you!”

Paul’s threat was enough to make Demetri roll into a sitting position, and from there, to half stand on the floor. “All, right, what did you haul me out of bed for?”

“Look for yourself,” Paul answered, pointing out the small window. Demetri peered out.

“Dang, how’d they know we were here?” An angry mob was clustered on the doorstep of the filthy inn, becoming angrier by the minute as the door refused to open.

“The innkeeper told them,” Paul grumbled. “Dirty, lying cheat. The wulves are coming, and following the wulves are soldiers. We should get a move on.”

Demetri sighed. He was still tired, but if the door was jammed, the wulves would make sure it wasn’t. Pausing only to make sure his long, ornate-hilted sword was still in its sheath, he and Paul left the room rather quickly.

“How do you plan to get out, seeing as the door is out of the question?”

“The window in the kitchen.” Demetri wondered if this would work, since the window in the kitchen was only slightly bigger than the one in their room. But Paul’s plans usually worked. Demetri stopped in front of the kitchen window and studied it for a minute, then drew the sword and stabbed it. Instead of shattering, the glass vanished, leaving a not-so-perfect escape route.

A crash sounding from the front door informed the two friends that the wulves had arrived and were howling and clawing the door down. Demetri vaulted through the window, but got stuck halfway.

“Go, Demetri, they’re coming!”

“My butt is stuck, help!”

“I here voices! It must be them. Over this way!”

Out of desperation, Paul kicked Demetri in the rear as hard as he could. Demetri flew out the window and face-planted in the dirt, while Paul scrambled out after him. They ducked around the corner to see if anyone had noticed. Someone stuck their head out the window, and unfortunately, a beam of sunlight glinted off Demetri’s sword hilt, which flashed brilliantly in the dim light.

“AHA!” the man yelled. “Send the wulves!” Demetri and Paul ran away at these words. The man retreated inside and grabbed a young boy who had joined the mob because it was a cool thing to do and ordered, “Run to the barracks and tell those soldiers to hurry up.” The boy, looking very frightened, nodded and ran, too.

Three wulves skidded around the corner, but when they saw that Demetri and Paul were too far away to howl at, they gave chase, but their sense of smell is not as good as a wolf’s, and they soon lost their quarry in the crowded streets of Mahzi.

“So how do you plan to get out of town now that everyone knows we’re here and is looking for us?” Demetri asked.

“Get down to the docks and take a sailboat.”

“I don’t like stealing.”

“Well, what’s your idea? We can’t just walk out, ’cause they’re watching the gates, and even if we had the money, we couldn’t buy horses, ’cause they’re watching the stables.”

“And, chances are, they are watching the docks, too.”

The “they” Demetri and Paul were referring to were King Arran’s soldiers. They were after him because the king wanted the sword, but Demetri had been told not to not let him have it. He had been awoken in the middle of the night, two weeks ago, when something flying had knocked a hole in his ceiling and dropped the sword through it. Demetri had pulled the sword out of his floorboards and read a small piece of parchment attached to it: Take this sword to the Temple of Dykus, but if the King gets it, you’ll be sorry.

So Demetri had taken the sword to Paul’s house, and they both set out to find this Temple Dykus. Along the road, Demetri had spotted a sign that had originally read “To Tammykus” but it was so old and peeling that it did look a bit like “To Temple Dykus.” So Paul and Demetri went this way, on the wrong track completely.

“Aauugghh!” Paul yelled. They had arrived at the docks, which were swarming with soldier who had just noticed the pair. One of the soldiers had just tried to behead Paul, who had barely enough time to parry with his own sword.