The First 750 Words

The First 750 Blog Carnival

Troublesome Neighbors

Troublesome Neighbors by M. K. Theodoratus


Fiction – High Fantasy

Lady Renna’s powerful magic helped win the Half-Elven Rebellion. Now she’s caught between the two factions fighting for control of the Marches — Lord Gorsfeld’s who would be king and Renna’s partner or Linden’s who was chosen ruler by vote of the Half-Elven. Most people dismiss her because they don’t see beyond her small stature and crippled gait. But Renna’s lands lie at the confluence of two important mountain rivers that border on Lord Gorsfeld’s lands. Renna ignores the plotting because she cares more for weaving than fighting over political control of the Marches.

After Renna rejects Lord Gorsfeld’s suit because she find his lack of elven skills repulsive, his men start vandalizing her villages. Renna is expected to protect her people, but she dithers, using her weaving projects as an excuse. Her steward, Krisran, is irritated with Renna. Her friend, Mariah, tries to pull her into the wider conflict to stop Gorsfeld’s ambitions to become king. Instead, Renna searches for a way to strike back at Gorsfeld on her own terms.

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Troublesome Neighbors

The Lady Renna, holder of Ren Creek, gathered oak galls to dye another batch of yarn. The bright fall sun cast deep shadows in the woods surrounding her. Two half-filled baskets swung from her yoke, her uneven gait sending them brushing against the willows growing along the stream. Renna swung her short-handled hoe in time to the bird song soaring from the trees.

The woods went silent. The brush under the trees rustled, a slight sound only one with elf powers could have heard. Turning to face the noise, Renna tightened her grip on the hoe. Black Tail, her pet sow, emerged from the trees with her nose coursing the ground. Renna giggled.

“You silly beast, you scared the life half out of me. You had me thinking you were a Feldsman up to no good.” Renna tapped the hoe against her leg. “Why aren’t you grazing with the herd? Where did your piggies go? Ditch them again?”

Black Tail looked up at her, grunted, and went back to her rooting. Renna felt silly for teasing the pig as if the animal understood. She knew she should send a mindspeak to the swineherds, but she didn’t have the heart. Her pet looked so happy rooting through the mast. As if reminded food was waiting, the huge sow disappeared into the woods with her tail wobbling in the air.

Silly pig.

Renna discovered a patch of lichen she could use for violet dye growing on some rocks protruding into the streambed. She laid the yoke on the bank and stepped into the shallow water, soaking the legs of her trews. She scraped the scale off the rocks into her hand and transferred it onto a cloth she laid on another rock. The sun beat down on her. Sweat grew on Renna’s upper lip and temples in spite of her cold feet.

Pig squeals and baying hounds interrupted her work. Frantic dog howls rose above the din. Gripping the hoe, Renna ran through the trees towards the commotion, her soft-soled shoes skimming above the forest litter without a sound.

Renna located Black Tail in a clearing, backed against a huge oak. The sow bared her fangs at the four brindled dogs facing her in a semi-circle. Blood dripped from where a dog had torn into shoulder. A dead hound lay on the ground before her. The hounds howled and snapped at her but moved no closer.  Black Tail’s hooves dug into the earth and her snorts sounded like growls to Renna’s ears.

Before she could scatter the hounds with her hoe, two Feldsmen dropped into the meadow, using elf power. Static from the transfer pulsed and dissipated. Renna froze. Feldsmen weren’t known for their elf magic.

Both men wore their hair peasant short, though one wore the jerkin of a Felds guardsman. Long fighting staves rested on their shoulders. Renna’s eyes narrowed in anger. She had told Gorsfeld to keep his men off her lands. She felt like snarling as loud as her pet but bit her lips closed, suddenly cautious.

Knowing she remained well within her boundaries, Renna used her elf powers to shadow so the invaders wouldn’t notice her. I’ll give them a chance to call the dogs off. If I upset Gorsfeld again, Krisran will lecture me as if I had the brain of a scatter wit.

“Finally, your dogs led us to a sow. I thought we’d never find an unguarded one.”

“Where are the piglets?” asked the short one, dressed in drab peasant’s clothing.  “Lord Gorsfeld told us to only seize unmarked piglets.”

The taller guard, touching the dragon patch on his jerkin, raised his voice. “Don’t think we’ll find any piglets.”

“You think they ran away from the dogs?”

“Don’t be stupider than you are. Pigs stay close to their dam until they’re weaned.”

“Still, could’ve run away from the dogs.”

“Her dugs have shrunk.” The taller, dark-haired guard grinned. “But, this one’s by herself with no swineherd in sight.”

The peasant glanced around the meadow and twitched. “Don’t see no one. You need help doing something?”

“Seems a shame to leave a lone pig to the tender mercies of the forest.” The guardsman wiped his hand over his mouth. “Don’t guess you control an ounce of elf power though?”

The peasant shook his head. “You think we could capture her without no spears to prod her?”

Renna clenched her fists until her nails dug into her palms. The slithering slimes.

“Mayhap, we could drive her across the boundary with our staves?” asked the guard. “Your dogs know how to herd pigs?”

“Can’t you transfer her to the boundary with elf magic? You’re supposed to be ranger trained.” The peasant tugged at his ear. “If we could slaughter her on the sly, our families’d eat mighty fine this winter.”

“Can’t move nothing that big any distance. Why do you think I asked you if you had any elf powers?”

A hound ventured closer to Black Tail. She rushed him, and he twisted away. The pig grabbed his tail and, whirling on her hind legs, whacked him against the tree. Renna clutched the hoe harder. The remaining dogs stayed in position, but growled instead of baying.

“Blast,” said the peasant. “That’s one fighter.”

Renna unshadowed and stepped into the clearing. The hoe, with its metal blade, hung ready at her side. “Mayhap, you might return to where you came from before my pig kills your dogs.”

“What’s a little thing like you going to do against two grown men, girlie?”

With a heft of the hoe, Renna asked, “You want to find out?”

She stared and pulled her single warrior’s braid over her shoulder, wishing she had the habit of wearing the veteran’s belt she’d earned in the Rebellion. In spite of her brave words, her knees quivered.

He’s right. I am alone.

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Snarly elves are my specialty. My scattered reviews consider my take on elves —  different, even though conflict over magic-users vs normal humans is a cornerstone of my story lines. Other people think my Half-Elven stories are fast-paced, exciting, and have engaging characters.

Fantasy has intrigued me since I read the comics, the Oz and Tarzan books as a kid. As a teen, I discovered A. Merritt, Leigh Brackett, and Fritz Leiber among other fantasy writers in the paperbacks at a hardware/junk store. British children’s fantasy writers like Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and Molly Hunter reinforced my interest. It’s no wonder I write fantasy.

Writing became a habit with me when my sixth grade teacher had us write a story for English. First I hated it, grumping all the way, but  then, decided I liked creating worlds. I have been writing ever since though most of my scribbles are lost in the detritus of time.

I started writing in the world of the Far Isle Half-Elven in the early 2000s when I became intrigued about the effects of population genetics on an elf/human population. The stories were complicated because the elvish characters endured for over 400 years while generations of humans died. Some think Mariah is the character I identify with … but it’s Renna who succumbs to human aging who interests me more.


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