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Jyoti Q Dahiya
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"Space, the final front ear!"
"Space, the final front ear!"

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For those who like tech and toons and know we live in a bonkers world, +Manu Cornet​ is awesome. Wish him a happy birthday!
Happy Birthday, +Manu Cornet​. One of the best cartoonists around -- sophisticated, thoughtful, thoight provoking, grin inducing -- and it's not even his day job....

http://bonkersworld.net/apparent-complexity
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Happy Birthday, +Manu Cornet​. One of the best cartoonists around -- sophisticated, thoughtful, thoight provoking, grin inducing -- and it's not even his day job....

http://bonkersworld.net/apparent-complexity
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Happy Birthday, +philippe roux​!
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Happy Birthday, +Bliss Morgan​! May your birthday be bright, full of cheer and delight, and nary a sign of nightmare fuel.
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Space | Voyager 1 gets a tune-up

Voyager 1 has thrusters that were not used for 37 years, but when switched on , they worked perfectly. The team is delighted; this means the life of the mission just went up by another 2-3 years.

Awesome technology!

#Space #Voyager1
the trajectory correction maneuver thrusters are working after sitting dormant since Saturn 37 years ago
With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called "attitude control thrusters," have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy. At 13 billion miles from Earth, there's no mechanic shop nearby to get a tune-up.
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Stories | Books on sale | +Louis Doggett

If you liked the Louis Doggett stories I shared recently, consider buying some of his books. As an added incentive, they are on sale.

#Sale #books #StoriesOnGooglePlus #LouisDoggett #Steampunk #Fantasy
Blog post to show that my E-books are on sale for Christmas

Action, suspense, adventure and fun reads
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Stories | Books on sale | +Royland Boykin

+Louis Doggett recommends Royland Boykin's book sale.

Enjoy!

#Stories #books #Sale #RoylandBoykin
Some days I just can't win against this computer. I give up trying to insert the pictures of my covers onto this little flyer.
Starting tomorrow, for five days, my short stories are free, and the books are half off. If you decide to check one out, please leave a review and let me know what you liked or didn't like about it. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!
Link is to my author's page.
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Roland+Boykin&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Roland+Boykin&sort=relevancerank
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Stories | Fantasy | +Louis Doggett

This is the second of Louis Doggett's stories inspired by this picture from +Charlie Hoover's GeekScape of the Day. He has decided to write in different genres for this, but I still classify this one as fantasy, though with a 'Western' feel to it. It has a character that Louis Doggett has written about before, but it's a standalone story by itself as well.

If you like it, check out his collection as well, and maybe buy some of his books.

#StoriesOnGooglePlus #ShortStory #Fantasy #LouisDoggett #GSOTD






Time for story two from the dark castle pic. This one needs some explaining. It is the second story with Johnny that MC. The first tale explains that he did forget his ability after his father disappeared on a trip. His mother thought he had been killed. And that story goes into more detail about Le'Rith and his people. I think I will be doing one more story 750 words to 2,000 and place all three into a book. It will be somewhere around 22,000 words. When I get to it.

One thing the next story will probably by what I called a spiritual horror story what it really is is a spiritual allegory maybe with horror elements.
And I decided to do a flash Romance and a general fiction too. So six to eight stories all based on this pic.

This story is long for me here on G+ I usually split up these longer stories, but I don't want to with this one so it is 4,165 words long.

Enjoy the Dusty Castle:


I rode Spiritchaser through the hot desert. I knew the way and there were springs here and there along the way to provide water and to let me know which way to go. There was much sand here with few bushes, and cacti. Even though there is a very large Saguaro with a base loner than two horses and taller than the church’s steeple. Back home there areas like this but they still have small bushes, a tree here and there yet still plenty of dust when the wind blows.
Water tickled my throat as I drank it to wash the sand dust out of my mouth. Our horses’ hoofs impacted the sand with a solid noise, and I could hear snakes slither on their journeys. Most of the land was flat but I could make out a few hillocks here and there in the distance.
In a unique event Le’Rith rode with me. This was strange for him to be this far away from his Forest and his people. But he had come to me and said, “Jonny, I need to go with you the next trip you take.”
Even surprised I nodded for I knew he didn’t make statements like that lightly. However, I am not sure if he expected the desert sand we now rode along. If some stranger saw us; they would know he wasn’t American or even Indian. Tall, even in a saddle, thin, with long hair that somehow just seemed different, tall ears with points on the tops. His clothes looked more like robes than the denim pants and cotton long sleeve short that I wore. Of course my sleeves were rolled up almost to my shoulder. His looked different even from the buckskins that Indians generally wore.
I sniffed, the sand smelled of dryness and of course sand. That had a different scent than mud, or plain dirt or just turned soil. The water I just drank had an odor too. Metal and warm. Le’Rith didn’t seem that bad off from the dry air even though his people lived where there was more wetness about. His people did sweat but not nearly as much as we did. He carried three canteens but said one was for me. I had three also, plus one large one on Spiritchaser for him. He also seemed to have less need for it though. Of course he had come from a special stock that Le’Rith’s people raised.
I had come this way before a few times, it led to a much faster way to get to Kettleman City, A nice sized town with around three thousand people in it but still it had railroad stations, cow pens, three fairly large general stories, where you can get items that the store in my town couldn’t carry. Two telegraph offices.
The funny thing was that even with the farms and ranches most in Kettleman City didn’t know they were close to a Zwerge home. They had moved into some old mines that had been around long before the first building had been built in the city. The short rock people make sure every one thought they were played out and very dangerous. Some of the town’s youngsters, especially boys but a few girls, liked to explore it or to dare each other in acts of bravery and stupidity but most of them only go in so far. Old cave ins, parts of skeletons sticking out from under piles of rock and ghostly noises are enough to make sure no one went very far. Or so the stories went. Someone said they had seen how the Zwerge, or rock people, had increased the size of the mine shafts and had built domes and their chambers. They are call rock people because they loved to live in underground caves and mines. I have talked to one of the four pastors of the town, an old women who I knew to be much older than she looked, and two others in the town. The sheriff knew some of what went on. He kept a supply of silver bullets and sliver nitrite he got from the local photographer on hand. Not for robbers and bandits but for other critters. Plus he had some water blessed by all four pastors.
We continued on even though a wind came up. I covered my mouth and nose. In this case so did my friend. I figured he didn’t like grit in his mouth either. I had been through here before in wind and with my horse’s help found the way. I figured this time would be the same.
At one point I looked up to see a huge smudge in the distance. I had seen it on earlier trips with these same type of winds but always avoided whatever it was. This time though somehow we drew near it. I thought Spiritchaser had headed away from it but when I lifted my face to look forward I saw it was closer. And I could make out that it was some type of building. A large one.
A bit further and it looked like a cross between a mansion and a fortress, it looked black or dark gray. And what was it doing all the way out here? I tried to move Spiritchaser away from it but he wanted to go that direction.
Le’Rith must have noticed my struggle, “Perhaps he is living up to his name.”
I turned and looked at him. Spirit Chaser? He had never chased any. Not any I knew of, but there were those two times—maybe.
I shook my head. I knew he was special but that would go beyond special.
We rode on. Half an hour later I knew I had been wrong about the house. It was castle or keep, for it had a wall around the base of the hill it sat on. Buildings decorated the space between the wall and the castle. A couple were outside the wall too. Everything looked dark. Not really black but lacking light. No lights anywhere there. No cooking fires, lookout torches, not even garbage burning fires.
I was confused, how did this exist out here and no one ever talked about it. The castle had been built on a wide hill. I could see it from miles away. The structure was narrow yet tall. I say at least four stories with a high center tower and some type of flag or ornament on the very top spire. It looked old, and dirty.
Twenty more minutes and I could see a gate. It hung open and ready to receive visitors. Now if the rest of the place looked as inviting. It looked bleak and abandoned. As I stated already no lights of any type, no sign of movements—not even bats, or lizards. Flags and posters hung down, dirty and frayed. It had been sand blasted by storms and what could be places where lightning had hit it.
We went through the gates, I was surprised neither horse seemed skittish. After just fifty feet I stopped us. The ground and street were covered to the horse’s flintlocks. But how could that much sand get in here? But when we moved even closer to it I could tell it wasn’t sand. Not the right color or texture. My hand moved toward my peacemaker even though I couldn’t say that I had ordered it to.
Le’Rith said, “That will not do anything here harm.”
I said, “I do have a couple of sliver bullets and iron ones.”
He looked at me for a moment—perhaps surprised.
I didn’t say it, but I also carried a flask and two small vials of holy water.
I moved into the substance. It looked lighter than sand or dirt when my horse stepped into it. His hoof went through it like nothing was there and it spread out like, well like dust; very deep dust.
“How long has this place been just sitting here?”
We moved on as Le’Rith said, “It may not be where you think it is.”
I blinked, what did that mean?
The dust flew everywhere kicked up by the horse’s legs. I breathed it in and coughed. My friend made a noise that might have been a cough. I drink more water.
Le’Rith said, “Someone called this dust here.”
“Can you feel the power behind it?”
“You should be able to.”
I closed my eyes and stretched my perception outward. Found a bit of dust and examined it. I nodded, I could sense the power there, but it seemed old. So this place was as old as it looked?
My eyes snapped open when Le’rith moved over, his horse’s muffled hoof steps had changed.
While he looked for something I glanced around. I saw a line over there, so something else had been here. It led to a house but not to the door. I followed the line up the wall. Something had torn part of the wall that extended higher than the roof.
Le’Rith had finished his search, said, “And whoever did this was not nice.”
 He reached down next to horse and draw out of the dust, a partial body. It looked mostly skeleton with bits of old dried flesh hanging on it. I thought something had eaten part of it at one point.
I studied the surrounding area with my living energy perception. I could see various bodies, all very old. I startled for I didn’t know I could do that, but it worked. I wondered what had killed them.
Le’Rith said, “If you want to know what killed them you could ask of them.”
Before I could ask how? He said, “You are not ready for that lesson though.”
I wanted to know more but would wait, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask dead people questions.
Five minutes later I straightened. Something had just watched me.
I quickly looked around,
It made a noise, very light like a butterfly’s wings.
I gathered power as we rode on.
Something moved on the balcony of the very tall castle. It wasn’t human but I couldn’t say what it was.
Le’Rith nodded as if he knew.
“Prepare yourself, it will come our way.”
“What is it?”
“An elemental.”
I blinked, I hadn’t studied them but I recalled some lessons from when I was a child. That memory had been closed off along with the others but it now came free.
An elemental is a creature made of living energy and some part of the elements: fire, water, air, earth, and others. Mages, and the few who study the energy of living beings, debate rather they are really alive or not. I have seen one fire and one water but only for a couple of minutes. I didn’t try to communicate with them even though my father seemed to be able to talk to the fire one. It was a very short and could follow a very simple conversation. On another day in another town he ignored the water elemental when it flowed on by. I didn’t know if I should be afraid or not, but it seemed to be on a mission.
Had this one caused these deaths? Had it somehow called the dust? From what I had seen didn’t think it was a fire elemental or water, even though I couldn’t be sure of the last. Evidently I would soon know though.
I wondered if we should stop and let it come to us. I voiced that to Le’Rith.
“We need to get into the city more. Elementals can only be called or formed by someone. This one could have been made by your dad.”
“What? Why would he create an elemental, they are very hard to control?”
“He was young once and learned things he didn’t need to know at that time.”
“But look at the age of this place.”
“Indeed, it is old but so was your dad. He was older than you know.”
“I am getting that idea, but this place is ancient.”
He shook his head once, “It is not as old as you think. But I reckon it could have been your dad’s dad.”
I stared at him for a moment, at the word he used. He was speaking our way. But my grandfather? I knew next to nothing about him or my grandmother on my dad’s side. Le’Rith had a point though about my dad, or whoever, being a youth. We all do stupid things out of emotion. I knew that from personal experience.
As we waited I tried to form some defenses in my mind so I would not be unprepared. Of course with old dust flying up my nose it was hard to concentrate. It didn’t taste so good either, especially when I thought about what made up parts of the dust.
I didn’t know how long it took for an elemental to move. It would seem that fire or wind would be faster but earth slow. Water could move fast too. Hmm, would earth include lava or just dirt and/or rock?
I prepared my favorite and easiest last ditch defense. That wall goes up much faster now and is thicker and taller. I heard noises in the distance. Wolves? They would be up in the mountains not here on the desert. Or would they? As I thought about silver bullets. But why here?
Something brushed my leg, I jumped, turned and looked down. The dust moved. Something under it? No, just the wind…
But there was no wind.
I looked outward and saw that more of it start to roll. What rats under it? Not wolves or they would have to be very short. But I sensed nothing.
My horse then Le’Rith’s whinnied. I swung my head back to the front. Something came. It looked dark and sort of transparent. Of course the whole place was dark, I looked up, I saw stars. It’s later here.
Spiritchaser moved, at first I thought he was nervous but he moved closer with his attention toward the street up ahead.
A few moments later it showed itself better. It moved through the dust without disturbing it much. I could sense its power better now. It was not fire, wind, earth or water. It was?
“Dust.”
My head spun toward Le’Rith, “What?”
He looked at me like it was obvious, “It is a dust elemental.”
I blinked, there were such things?
“But how and who would create one?”
“The how is easy if you know how to call elementals. The why is unknown. Maybe the mage was drunk and wanted to show off. Maybe it was all he had to defend against his enemies. Maybe he wanted to impress the King or a woman or people in general. Maybe he wanted to be tricky in his vengeance.”
“So he made it to kill everyone in the city?”
“It is possible that he made it for show and it got away from him. Or he set it as a guard over someone or a room but later when he died it was able to escape. Or he through inexperence or lack of training he made it more powerful than he wanted it to be. He could have been its first victim.”
I said, “Whatever the case we need to make sure we are not its latest victims.”
“I concur .”
The thing looked vaguely human, with what could be arms, legs and a head. No face that I could make out though. The body was full of dust that swirled and pulsed.
“So that is why there is so much dust here?”
 “Yes, it called it here.”
With what sounded like a muffled yell of anger it charged. I barely had time to form a shield. The thing hit my shields. I felt it but no harm done.
It slugged my shield but no harm, I blew at it, my breath becoming a harsh, continuous wind. It worked, as even the dust in front of me blew away, some of it under Spiritchaser swirled upward, probably caught up in the wild wind I had created. Up to face level, I breathed in ad coughed, sneezed.
Its body blew apart almost at once. The many dust motes should be many yards away in three directions. However, no sooner did my wind stopped, but that it begun to reassemble. Of course it would not be that easy.
It came straight at me, but when it hit my shield it spread apart like it didn’t have much coherency. It backed off but then it condensed into a foot long, six inch wide dirty gray object. This impacted my shield faster than a wind could blow it.
I jerked, that had hurt. Enough of that and my shield would fail. I focused on something else. It seemed to be made of the same stuff as dust. So I rammed a trick deep into its chest and lit it on fire. The elemental looked down at itself. It seemed confused. The fire spread throughout its chest and into its arms. Then down to what it had for legs. I made sure the fire grew hotter. It smoked, yelled-maybe screamed. My horse backed off the dust pile around its feet. I saw black smoke form and build up. Some leaked out of what ever held it together. So did flames. The dust around became charred but didn’t catch. I was afraid it would, and had a way to put it out before it reached us, or the houses.
I sneezed. That scorching made the dust stink.
I glanced at Le’Rith. He just shook his head once. That meant I had chosen wrong, again.
Anger flared; I didn’t have enough experience, or teaching on dealing with things like this. I think even if I hadn’t willed myself to forget my ability for those years I would still be a novice at this. We don’t get many elementals in my town.
Should I add something to the fire? Get it to burn more intense? No, I had the feeling I was thinking along the wrong lines. But if I could not destroy it, what? Send it away? Freeze it? But that last would only last as long as it stayed frozen. That may not be long as long as the city was here.
The fire had burned out, ash drifted away. They vanished along with some of the dust. I thought I saw a swirl of light go by. But to where? I looked to both sides. If its purpose, rather by accident or on purpose, was to kill then maybe…
I glanced at Le’Rith, he jerked his thumb behind us. I finished my turn in that direction to find it almost completely reformed, larger this time. It did seem to be taking more time this reforming so maybe I had hurt it. I swung Spiritchaser around. On the way he kicked out and hit where its shoulder would be. His hoof passed through with only a little disturbance in the dust field. But I saw that it slowed as it went in, as if it had encountered something solid. The elemental jerked to the opposite side.
Maybe we could take it out, to work together. But that could take all night. I squished the thought to look at the sky. That would take too long.
I coughed, sneezed and spat. More dust in my face especially around my nose and mouth. My horse shook his head back and forth and sneezed. Is that how it killed, by filling a person’s mouth and nose to suffocate them? That would cause panic and make it harder to think of a defense.
I quickly formed my wall, made it higher and thicker. Even though that gave us breathing room, literally I couldn’t see it. I had to figure out a way to allow me to see through the wall. Make it super hard glass? That would be foggy though.
With that thought though I saw something on top of my wall. So it could climb. Of course it had to be able to get up to the top rooms in that castle. I slanted my wall in the other direction, made sharp points at the top. It slid off but a few minutes later came up again. It did not mind cutting itself. It seemed to be in pain and some of what was inside came out but not enough to slow it. And it reformed where it had been cut.
Le’Rith said something, I turned to look at him.
He seemed to sigh, as if I should know the answer, “You are going to have to will it to dissipate.”
I blinked, that never entered my mind, boy had I been on the wrong train of thought. But how?
My confusion must have shown on my face for he said, “It was formed by one of your near ancestors by it father or grandsire. You can control it. Assert that control.”
My eyes narrowed when I looked back at it. Now would be a good time to get that control over it.
I sent my perception at it. Just saw large dust motes. I went deeper, looked it over. It was covered with that life energy I had relearned how to manipulate, but one spot had more and it was concentrated. I dove in there. I sensed anger and not hate but like it wanted to get rid of people. So it had been made for vengeance. But maybe not on purpose. I got a sense of bitterness and loss too. Did someone die, or was killed, or left with their child? So with all of the emotion they may have wanted to this for something else. A guard, a companion or messenger? But it got fed all of that dark emotion instead. I would have to ask around; did I have a half brother or had that lost child been my dad? But first…
After a moment I found its heart or center. I reached in with my will. It fought me, 
 “I don’t know you.” That was more a feeling from the energy than a voice.
“I am your creator, yes You Know Me!”
I willed it to obey. It moved closer, I demanded it back off. It did, but then moved forward I got mad, this was made by someone I was related to. It wanted to kill me, Spiritchaser and Le’Rith. I snarled at it. I sent in my perception to that core of energy. Opened myself to it. I felt, saw it startle. It recognized something in me. I breathed in, fought the urge to cough when I got its substance in my mouth. I would need a cow tub of water, maybe a bottle of whisky to clean my tongue. I did sneeze, there was decay in along with the dust smells. But I commanded it to back off.
I control you! I sent to it through a link just formed. You were created to do what I say.
It jerked, backed off.
Good. Now jump up and down.
It did.
Twirl.
It did.
Now so fast your borders go back where they came from.
It spun so fast that it became a blur. Faster than a dustdevil.
I saw its outline crack, what looked like lightning ran through the cracks. Before I knew it the whole outline disintegrated, just went to pieces. Dust motes flew everywhere. I sneezed loudly, so did Spiritchaser and to my surprise Le’Rith.
My horse shook its head, looked around, sniffed. Turned and looked with one eye at me. I thought I saw satisfaction in the look. He turned around as if to say “we can head out now”
Le’Rith gave a half smile, said, “Its gone, you did learn something tonight and you got rid of an evil your sire made. This is a good day.”
Hey, he complimented me. I smiled.
“We can go now before this place goes home?”
“It may not, there could be something for someone else to fix here or to learn here. Do not forget what you saw. The ones that change like this place. Maybe because of the elemental but they have been here. They have to be killed.”
“What after that fight?”
“Not us, if they still come here someone else will fight that battle.”
I wondered if it would be the sheriff of Kettleman City, or a townsman he trained.
We left the city, I looked back, saw a huge looking moon raise. It rested what appeared to be behind the castle. No wonder were-s liked this town.
It would be good to get to Kettleman City for dinner and a long drink. I may have learned something, grown as a mage, and got rid of an evil but my mouth still needed cleansing.

end



#fantasy #amwriting #freestuff #shortstories #cowboys #elves #elementals #freebies #wizards #weirdwesterns #indie #horses #castles #adventure #deserts #goodreads #geekscapes









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Stories | Fantasy | +Louis Doggett

Louis Doggett is a frequent story contributor on +Charlie Hoover's GeekScape of the Day, but this time he has taken it to a whole new level. He has five (count them, five) stories based on this single image.

This is the first of them, and is fantasy. The other genres, he says, will all be different.

We have a gentle group, out on a Quest. What will they meet?

#StoriesOnGooglePlus #LouisDoggett #ShortStory #Fantasy #GSOTD
When I first saw this Geekscape put out by Charlie Hoover I knew I could do more than one story inspired by it. I have done two stories for a couple of his Geekscapes but this one demanded more. So maybe five plus. Each one in a different genre. I have worked on them since-along with other writing stuff. This is the first one I am posting. It is Fantasy next might be weird western then Urban Fantasy and what I am calling Spiritual horror but there is probably a better name for that genre. I may do a general fiction too.
2,723 words

So Empty Castle



JruRok the dwarf, looked around. Sand lay everywhere, and some drifted in the warm wind. He blew it back out from his thick mustache, before it got into his mouth again. Maybe it came his way like that because if his short stature. The others didn’t seem concerned.
He looked at his companions: Jack and Jill the human twins, each drank water from a canteen, Groolla, a Troll, and the six warriors that came as guards. They had lost two already and Kile their officer was wounded. Not bad, but it could hinder him.
The dwarf, hoped that the twins would be able to find water soon. That was one thing they all, no matter of size, shared: a need for water. Of course dwarves were used to the cooler air of underground, even though they could stand hot water or to be near lava if the need arose. This wasn’t so bad. Groolla should handle it better than any of the others, but he complained more too. JruRok shook his head.
JruRok looked about, blew out his mustache again. Maybe Groolla ate what sand came his way. He could eat stones after all. Only certain types though according to him. JruRok wasn’t sure if he believed the Troll though.
They were suppose to meet Tommunkun and Bltha, two elves, at a small city along the old road they traveled on. Sand covered half of it though. Twice they had to brush it away to make sure they still headed in the correct direction. It was said that the Romans built this road but then that was said of most ancient roads. He knew his people had built a couple, better than the one the Romans really had built.
Kile raised his voice, he was in front while three other warriors followed, for he had seen something. As they walked on the shimmer he had seen grew. It turned brown, much later he could tell it was manmade. Or dwarf, or elf made. He doubted trolls would have built it. But when he could see it better he added, they might have helped. The place had thick walls around the base of hill. The castle itself looked narrow and tall. Five levels maybe seven, it was a hard to tell for sure from his angle. Houses and other buildings filled in some of the space between the walls at the beginning of the castle itself. There were even a few outside of the walls. Something seemed strange about it though.
They walked toward for another half an hour. Sand dust rose, kicked up by the feet. He could smell the heat and sand. As sand went it was a nice quality. At one time it probably had been part of a mountain they would have used as a home. When he looked at the castle again he realized why he thought it strange. No one moved inside the walls; or outside for that matter.
They needed a place to stay for the evening and they had provisions so he agreed with the others, to stop there for the night even if it was early for that. The Troll wanted to go one, but they liked night so that wasn’t a surprise. He finally decided to stay here.
They went through the open gates. Sand had blown in a few feet but the buildings didn’t look that bad. The feel though no one had lived here for years. Shadows were darker and some of the houses had sagging roofs while others had shutters falling off. It smelled of age too.
JruRok was surprised when it became cooler inside, maybe the shade from the castle or the lack of sand further down the main street that obviously led to the castle.
Jack said, “There is water here, we can replenish our canteens.”
Kila said, “But would it be good after all this time?”
Jill said, “It is good water from the ground.”
JruRok said, “Where is it?”
Both pointed at the castle.
“Well, we were going there anyway.”
As they climbed up the cobblestone street, JruRok studied the houses and buildings. One looked fire damaged but the vast majority looked okay except for dirt or rain stains. He saw no bodies nor any damage that might have been caused by a battle they lost here. Shadows ruled all over the town. Most of the buildings were houses or one story stores. There were two story Inns, a church steeple and smaller buildings with two levels he took to be businesses were the owners lived in the same building as their business.
Once at the castle they found the main door. It was closed but opened easily when Groolla pushed on it. They walked inside. They waited until they lit torches, they found ten or more by the door, and continued on. The Twins led them downstairs once they found the right door that led to stairs toward the rear of the castle, past a level that looked, as far as they could see with just the torches, as a torture room, full of dust and spiders. Cells lined half that level. They went down further, to a room that looked like it had caskets in the walls, and smelled of human decay too. A metal door with pictures cut into it opened easily. They continued but slower.
At the bottom of the stairs they moved out into half underground half manmade room. By the smell JruRok had known there was water down there before they made it to the bottom. The main floor had been very warm but as the climbed down the stairs it became cooler, and the air wetter when he breathed it in. At the bottom is seemed almost cold in comparison with the top. They stopped short however when they saw that the floor had started to reflect the light.
“A pool of water,” JruRok said.
Groolla and the Twins agreed. The men stood still while they tried to stare into the darkness, beyond the torch lights. Nothing seemed to be there, but one never knew when something could come out of darkness.
Both Jack and Jill stepped up to the water and placed both feet in it,
“It does come from underground, a river ends here.”
“This pool has rocks and a deeper level not far from here.”
JruRok wasn’t sure which one had spoken when.
Footsteps sounded, All turned toward it, except for three guards. They kept watch toward the dark and the water. The dwarf half drew his long knife, better for fighting in here then his axe. A man with long unkempt hair came down the stairs. Once in the light JruRok saw that he wore half cleaned clothes. Some stains and rips and his tunic seemed over big but still he was clean even though his bread came down to his chest.
He breathed hard, but said, “Visitors.”
The man sucked in air, “It has been months since anyone came here.”
“We are just passing through.”
“That is okay, all of the visitors do. A night or three would be great.”
They all introduced themselves without saying what quest they were on. The man said his name was Ringo.
“If we talk down here, there are chairs over there and better torches. Evidently the last king of this town liked it down here.”
They found what he said they would. After more light, while the guards took turns filling the canteens, he said, “The people that built this town, lived here a couple of generations but the city lacked one thing they needed to survive so they all left,”
“What did they need? They had water.”
“Food. The soil here is bad, so most crops die. They had gardens with dirt they had shipped in and had some food sent in by wagon. But the good gardens were too small and the food was half bad by the time it got here. So they left.”
Jill said, “I can understand that.”
“I came here six months later. I found the water, and the gardens, and pumps they used to get the water up to the surface. That is why it doesn’t flood in here. I grow enough vegetables for me and some visitors like you. I used what is left of the plants and the vegetables I cannot use as mulch to make the soil better. There are worms in some of the gardens too. They must have come with the dirt. I catch a snake or lizard, sometimes a bird but I miss meat. I even paid a merchant for a horse a while back. I persuaded them to take gold coins as payment. I find some sometimes as I search through the houses, it’s as if some coins were forgotten or somehow dropped when every left. I paid the merchant and killed the horse. But horse meat does not taste good. I threw half of it away, over the back wall. At least some birds came to feed on it as well as lizards so I had some meat.”
“Why do you stay here?”
“I had twin who lived here, and wanted me to come. But he died before I could get here and the others left. I found his grave in a church on the other side of the castle. I felt so bad that I was late and I missed him so much I stayed. I think I see him at times when the moon is full. It will be tonight.”
“That does not surprise me,” JruRok said.
After he finished they shared some of their adventures, still without explaining why they traveled together with warrior guards. When they were done they went back up stairs. He led them to a house nearby where he slept. The water pipes fed three tanks and three cisterns located there. He explained that it all had kept working so far. He had heard that one year the water level was so low they had to go down to the pool and haul water back up, while three other years it came up one step. He was glad that he didn’t have go get water then because it would have been hard to dip his water pots into the water there.
They ate the dinner he gave them. Mostly vegetables but some bird and lizard. Groolla ate the largest cucumber-one three times bigger than any Jack or Jill had seen before, then he ate Ringo’s two largest lizards and one bird. They learned that Troll can eat vegetables but usually do not want to. They can eat grass, bark and even branches if there is no other food around. And as JruRok knew already they cook meat just a little before eating it.
Ringo talked of merchants, a lost carven, a wizard that had come by. One man who was none of the above.
“I was glad when he left early the next morning. He seemed unsavory, a ne’er-do-well who smelled of sweat and alcohol. I searched around to make sure he really left but found only footprints leading away. He took one of my best canteens too.”
The moon started up early that evening. JruRok was not the only one to notice. It came up large and round right behind the castle. They did not say anything but he could tell that this spooked the guards. The Twins were not all the comfortable with it either.
JruRok just shrugged, he had seen many strange things after he left the mine city where he was born, and to be honest some things before he left. Groolla didn’t care one way or another. Ringo was used to it.
They talked among themselves, the elves should be here the next morning and that meant they still needed a wizard and a human with destiny. Probably a boy but maybe a girl. Not the Twins they had already been checked for that. Eventually they would head off to a certain High King to work for him. Groolla had just joined them, so far he had proven his worth and no doubt would again.
The guards sang some and practiced their skills, sharpen weapons.
As they were all thinking of sleep, except the troll who liked it at night, Ringo said, “He’s here!”
JruRok heard two “who”s before the speakers remembered. He looked around, saw no one, felt no shades. Ringo stared down the street. Something in the shadows done there? He may not feel anything from that distance if it was weak.
Ringo looked scared, sorry, and still. He didn’t move but guilt ruled his heart, or so JruRok thought.
“I don’t know what to say. What do you want from me?”
He stood and started to walk toward what only he knew to be his brother.
“Ringo?”
He didn’t answer the Dwarf.
“Hey, man! Answer!”
Ringo didn’t though.
Groolla said, ”Ringo! Stay”
That loud voice got through to him. He looked at the others in confusion.
“Have you tried to talk to him?” Kila said.
“Yes, but he won’t respond, then I run and hide.”
A pause, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say what is in your heart. He is not here to kill you or ruin your life. He just wants an explanation. A knowledge that you are sorry.”
Ringo turned back walked down the street some, said, “I am sorry, I couldn’t be here for you. I might have helped, I would have made it better for you at least. I tried to come when I heard what they wanted, but my king held me back. Until I escaped Too Late…”
He went further down the road and continued to talk.
JruRok turned back and went to the fire. Ringo would probably want his privacy and the dwarf wasn’t interested in listening to a human full of guilt anyway. He found his blanket-one good thing humans invented-and walked into the house to sleep.
The next day he got up early. The troll and all but two of the guards were up already. Soon Ringo was up and so was the Twins. They helped Ringo get something for breakfast. Old bread and cheese plus newly caught rats, snakes and a large lizard. Groolla ate most of the rats and a cucumber that was left. He didn’t want any bread or cheese.
The others ate, and later about when they would have a half day meal, the elves showed up. After introductions everyone decided to start out early the next morning, than in early afternoon, they would not get very far with the sunlight that was left. JruRok agreed and said so. The next morning as they packed and filled the elves’ canteens Ringo said he had decided, he would leave with them. At least to the next town. He had money to pay his way if they wanted that, and he had some to get to another town where he had another relative. He got his pack ready, filled his canteens.
On the way out of the castle JruRok said to Kila. “You knew what to say to Ringo.”
“Aye, I did. I knew he suffered from guilt and that was what kept him here. I know people.”
“You think the shade was his brother?”
 Kila shrugged, “I don’t know. He, and probably his twin was, low grade wizards. With a talent to find things. So he may have created the shade out of guilt. Or his brother did out of anger and puzzlement while he was dying.”
JruRok nodded.
Jack joined them, “We may have another member of the quest. He is a bit older then we expected but he could have a destiny. And he has need of training. Our wizard wants an apprentice.”
Kila said, “Yes. We get set in one way of thinking about certain things, like what fulfills the description of a quest. It does not say the age of the child or person who has something we need and a destiny. We assume they would be young because that is the way it happened in the great quests of old.”
JruRok said, “Hmm, I agree. We all think our thinking is the right way, but it isn’t always.”
They continued on.

end

#fantasy #freestory #adventure #shades #desert #castles #shortstories #dwarves #trolls #moon


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