Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli & Books, I’ve Read A Few (and Shameless Promo) by Sarah

Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is:


Books, I’ve Read A Few (and Shameless Promo) by Sarah

Right then.  Hopefully not dull, but we’ll get the predictable out of the way.  Buy my book, okay?  It’s lighter than air and sillier than a rat in a tuxedo, but it won’t disappoint you.  (Hopefully.)  As for rats in tuxedos, just read the sample.  (Bats eyelashes.)


The cover, by the magnificent Jack Wilder, is a link to the book.  Which reminds me I need to pay Jack, since I intend to have him do the cover for the next one, A Well Inlaid Death coming sometime towards the end of May.  (Hopefully.  Unless something untoward happens to my health again.  Don’t let something untoward happen, okay?)  That is the book in which Dyce finally gets married, acquires a dog, and makes a grisly discovery in her newly-acquired basement.

Now, since we don’t have a promo post (I think the Oyster didn’t get any books to promo!  Come on, you slackers, write up) I thought I’d list some books I’ve enjoyed recently.  Keep in mind they’re all mysteries and range from the extremely interesting to “popcorn.”  Most are, in fact, popcorn, but since I’ve been running 6 books a day give or take (no, not WHILE writing, goofy people.  While eating, cleaning the kitchen and such things where one can’t actually write.  At least not till one gets better at dictating. Right now, as is to be expected of a libertarian, I suck as a dictator) and these are the ones I remember from the last couple of months, well, they can’t be all bad, right?

The first one is a book I’ve been waiting for for about a year, because I fell in love with this series while I was recovering from surgery two years ago.  If you haven’t tried them start at the beginning.  If you loved Terry Pratchett’s Mac Nac Feegle, you’ll love the Scottish Border in the time of good queen Bess.  I like them so much I’ve been avoiding the author’s political posts like poison.  (To be fair, I think she’s avoiding mine too.)  No, she’s not one of us, but Good Heavens, can she write.
I feel a little uncomfortable when she writes about Elizabethan London, because it’s so different from mine, but I’ll be honest, my Porto is different from everyone else’s too (and now largely gone since I have a gravitational field towards low dives) and my Denver is very different from any sane person’s.  So that’s all right.  It’s still a lot of fun.


It’s late August, 1592.

Sir Robert Carey, cousin to Queen Elizabeth from the wrong side of Henry VIII’s blanket, remains at his post on the Borders at Carlisle. He has at last been confirmed by his monarch as Deputy Warden, is still deeply in love with Lady Elizabeth Widdrington while despising her elderly, abusive husband (will the man never die?). And he remains estranged from his dour but lethal henchman, Henry Dodd, Land-Sergeant of Gilsland, who is currently serving as one of the sergeants of the Carlisle Castle guard. Dodd can’t forgive Carey for taking the high road at the conclusion of the incident at Dick of Dryhope’s tower, when Sir Robert called out the Carlisle garrison, but “honourably and skillfully avoided the bloody-pitched battle” that seemed inevitable. Dodd is old-school and would have preferred to exterminate as many under Wee Colin Elliott, and also Grahams, as he could. Not for him, but for peace to the Debatable Land.

Sir Robert Cecil, Privy Councillor to the Queen, warns of a new challenge: the King of Spain’s “intentions in Scotland.” Will Cecil be sending a pursuivant to the Borders to suss out, and possibly interrupt, whatever plots are in progress against England?

Now it’s Autumn. We meet Marguerite, an over-sexed and unhappy wife. Father Crichton, a Jesuit, formerly of Spain. A man who says his name is Jonathan Hepburn but, curiously, thinks in Deutsch. Marguerite’s elderly husband Sir David, a Groom of King James’ VI’s Bedchamber, a jealous man. Various disloyal Scottish Earls. Janet Dodd, wife to Henry, who learns an interesting thing from Mrs. Hogg, the midwife. Hughie Tyndale, a would-be-assassin. Mr. John Napier, a philosopher and mathematician with a revolutionary theory of how the solar system works. Mr. Simon Anricks, a toothdrawer (and philosopher, too) bearing a secret letter from England, who becomes delighted with Mr. Napier. Queen Anne (of Denmark), not yet a mother. And King James, not your usual monarch, plus his court, sycophants, and (former) lover Lord Spynie, who is still plotting revenge. So many spheres of influence or disruption in play.

Events come to a head at the King’s court in Edinburgh where a great Disputation on the differences between the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems, and a demonstration of the planets will be staged, a clash of spheres mirroring the same at the human level.  buy


The next one is at a completely different level.  I have a gut feeling the author got her history from watching Downton Abbey, and got some things upside down and sideways.  For instance she seems to think being called by your last name meant you were a servant.  Despite the dents on my wall and desk, I read all six books though.  Popcorn, but interesting. (Probably the most annoying thing is that the author thinks using “jolly” is a neat trick to British-it-up.  Everyone uses it, and in the most unlikely circumstances, to the point I had to make up my mind to ignore it, or track the author down and drown her in a vat of ink.  But if you can ignore that, you’re okay.)


The first book in the Rose Simpson mysteries.
When Sir William and Lady Withers invite friends and family to a weekend house party at their country home, Ashgrove House, they are faced with the arrival of both invited and uninvited guests, the consequence of which is murder. Set in 1930, “Murder at Ashgrove House” is full of intrigue, clues and red herrings, with nearly everyone having a motive for wishing the victim dead. This is a classic country house murder mystery set during the golden age of crime and will appeal to fans of Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey.

The second book in the Rose Simpson Mysteries series, “Murder at Dareswick Hall”, is now available on Kindle and will shortly be available in paperback. buy


This is again more serious, and in fact, though I read it months ago, it remains with me.  I CARE about these characters.


Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William’s death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot. When their investigations begin to involve town, university, and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble – and puts his family in terrible danger. buy


Popcorn again, and you really must ignore some historical nonsense.  Not major, just enough to make you roll your eyes and sigh a bit. But maybe all historicals make people sigh a bit.  It just depends how much 😉


A mansion, a title and marriage to a wealthy Lord – Lady Eveline Cartwright has it all. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to prevent her being bludgeoned to death one night in the study of Merisham Lodge, the family’s country estate in Derbyshire.

Suspicion quickly falls on her ne’er-do-well son, Peter, but not everyone in the household is convinced of his guilt. Head kitchen maid Joan Hart and lady’s maid, Verity Hunter, know that when it comes to a crime, all is not always as it seems.

With suspicions and motives thick on the ground, Joan and Verity must use all the wit and courage they possess to expose a deadly murderer who will stop at nothing to achieve their aim…

Murder at Merisham Lodge is the first in a new series of historical mysteries, Miss Hart and Miss Hunter Investigate, set in the 1930s. The author, Celina Grace, is the creator of the bestselling The Kate Redman Mysteries and The Asharton Manor Mysteries, as well as several standalone thrillers. buy

This book should have annoyed heck out of me.  In many ways, its … tricks are the ones I despise in mysteries.  But this isn’t a mystery, it’s PULP.  Pulpy, pulp, glorious pulp.  Let your mind go back to childhood and the thrilling adventures against larger than life villains, and you too will enjoy this! Oh, the writer or whoever wrote the description is off his/her rocker. There is NO resemblance to Christie whatsoever. There is a resemblance to Patricia Wentworth’s Maud Simpson’s cycle, but it’s so over the top it’s not as tiresome as THAT got. (Also the author seems to believe there was prohibition in England. (rolls eyes.) Rocker, clean out of.


ike your mysteries cozy and set during the Golden Age of Crime? This is the first book in the Posie Parker mysteries, although this novel can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story in its own right. Set in London in 1921, ‘Murder Offstage’ is full of intrigue and red herrings. This is a classic murder mystery which will appeal to fans of Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey.

When Posie Parker’s childhood friend is robbed of a priceless jewel and becomes a suspect in a cold-blooded murder case, budding detective Posie vows she will clear his name. Aided by her seriously gorgeous assistant Len, Posie soon realizes things are not quite as they seem, and the darkly-glamorous world of London’s theatre and glittering nightclubs prove far more dangerous than she ever could have imagined.

Just who exactly is the dangerous Lucky Lucy Gibson? And who is it she has killed in the lobby of the Ritz Hotel? And more importantly, what on earth has happened to Mr Minks, the much-loved office cat?  buy


This is a good bitter-sweet series which portrays with virtuosity growing up in a family touched by mental illness.


Her best friend is a smart-mouthed genius girl named Drew Levinson. But Drew is gone. Nowhere to be found. Everybody insists Drew ran away. But Raleigh suspects something worse.

Armed with one rock hammer, an encyclopedic knowledge of city criminal codes, and a stubborn streak wide as the Chesapeake Bay, Raleigh searches for clues.

  • Did Drew secretly meet somebody?
  • Did her loony parents finally push her over the edge?
  • Or is Raleigh’s hunch dead-on: Drew didn’t choose to leave….

The first book in the best-selling Raleigh Harmon mystery series, Stone and Spark introduces the girl who will grow up to become a forensic geologist and FBI agent—provided she survives her high school years. buy


So, Sarah, when will you recommend Science fiction and fantasy to us?
Ah, when I’m writing mystery.  Seems to be how it works.  For now, well, some of those almost FEEL like sf/f.  Chisholm’s for sure, since it’s a different world after all.

Now go have fun, I have a story to finish.



72 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli & Books, I’ve Read A Few (and Shameless Promo) by Sarah

  1. “What a dull evening” said Albert.

    “Yep,” Fred replied. “We need a little excitement”.

    Then the villain Flaming Giant burned his way into the Bar.

    “I hope those were famous last words” Albert said as the two super-heroes took action.

    1. Sorry that should be “those weren’t famous last words”. [Embarrassed Grin]

      1. “Not really,” said Albert as he hurled a stun bolt into Fred’s unprotected back.

        1. It looked bad for Fred until Cable crossed continuities and timelines AGAIN to save him at the last minute. The jaded crowd looked at the backshot Albert in boredom as the Flaming Giant hung up his feather boa and purse.

    2. Albert tightened his shields, flew direct at the Giant of Flames, and pushed him into the Bar’s parking lot.

      Fred then drowned out the flames with a summoned downpour of rain.

      Albert & Fred looked at the drenched super-villain and shared the same thought.

      Flaming Giant wouldn’t get his “death by super-hero” today.

  2. [Insert forty enthralling words of astonishing, exhilarating, rambunctious, hilarious, rousing, electrifying, thrilling, death defying, gripping, rip-roaring, joyous, sensational, hair-raising, blood-curdling, spine-tingling, amazing, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, wondrous, improbable, absorbing, provocative action, breathlessly described in first person singular narrative. Add a little sex.]

    And I had thought today was going to be dull.

  3. “What? A horde of zombie velociraptors? We just staked the vampire bunny of Barcelona, and now these?”

    “I know – something’s stirring up the supernatural realms.”

    “Well, we need to find what it is and stop it. This is getting tedious.”

    “You know the old saying: All work and no play.”

      1. I have considered that it might be fun to have a Bunnicula garden — growing such items as white vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and beets.

      2. Having read Bunnicula and at least one of its sequels, I suspect the thought had been implanted.

        As I have gotten older I have learned that it is prudent to not attempt overly hard to track down connections, especially those of whimsical nature. There are too many sub-sub-sub-basements in the cellars of my mind, and some of them are dark in thought and deed.

  4. “Dull is good, Meester Tycho.”

    “Quite good. Dull is lovely, a rare gift from Murtaldee, Master of Sea and Trade. Now, how much to replace the end cap?”

    The forge master studied the heavy, iron-butted staff, glanced at Tycho’s shoulders and arms, and nodded once. “Two vlaat. Or one vlaat and the story after I finish. For this is not mud stain, Meester.”

    “Deal struck.” Tycho set the thick silver coin on the much-scorched wooden table. “And I fear it shall be far less dull than any prefer.”

  5. He sat down, wearily. He felt like a sword that had been hammered against a wall repeatedly. He raised tired, blood shoot eyes wondering, “Am I getting dull?” The signal sounded, and again they stood and moved. Someone would break. He prayed that it wasn’t going to be him.

  6. The guard at the desk had a glazed look on his face. Seemingly starring off into space. Great. Just what I needed. Another dull, unimaginative trip wire into the office building. I moved further into the lobby expecting nothing when the guard raised his eyes and looked pointedly at me. No longer looking like the push over I had expected. Well, now this was going to get more interesting. I smiled outwardly friendly, hiding the predators mask.

  7. There was prohibition in England. In some of the timelines where America occupied England and Canada after WWI. Made The Troubles quite interesting.

    Otherwise the Second World War is rarely fought between America on one side, Germany on another, and South Africa, Australia, Japan and the Soviets on the third.

      1. I don’t see it, either, For starters, the British empire was troubled but still a going concern at the beginning of WW II, and the USSR and Japan had multiple reasons to be at odds.

      2. America allied with Germany in WWI. America took Canada and England, and added them to the Philippines as part of their colonial empire. ‘Germany’ occupied France. In scare quotes because sometimes it is a greater Austria-Hungry, and sometimes it is ruled by the king of Bavaria.

        The Soviets and the Japs are also dubious allies. The truth of the matter is that I’d forgotten about India, and thought South Africa and Australia needed backing to have a hope of retaking England. Also, I’d gotten it down to fifty, and didn’t think super-plausible was that important for WWII, considering what I’d done for WWI.

        1. Was there a British Mandate (Israel) in this time line? When was Canada absorbed by the US?

          1. Time lines. For enough total alternate timelines, you can find several that match a specified improbable event.

            It varies. The first stage of a US war with the commonwealth at that time is rolling over the Canadian border with a sufficiently large Army. That takes time, which might make it late in the war. It depends on the cleft point, which can be as recent as TR dying to assassin, not splitting the Republicans, and hence Wilson losing, and as early as Reconstruction. (Cleft points predating ACW tend to change late nineteenth century politics too much for Wet/Dry to be that important in any of the Americas which hold the British Isles.)

            The US has to hold Ireland, Scotland, and England, and enforce Prohibition on them. An America politically capable of that takes some divergence.

            So in some of them the British mandate exists, and in some it does not.

            There’s one where some Islamic State types from a timeline near ours travelled back, killed Attaturk, and were eventually able to participate in the European theater of WWII as a major power and belligerent. That’s one where the German empire is ruled by the north, and focused on consolidating their hold on France, Spain, and Italy. Shortest: the sides were American Empire, Soviets, Japs, IS, British India, and Germans.

  8. Oh, dull! I thought you said “Düül,” and was going to go on and on about Amon Düül, the German political art commune that became well known for its free-form musical improvisations. Although, now that I think about it, “dull” works there too. Comme ci comme ça.

  9. If only this were fiction:

    It was Sunday afternoon at the convention and he realized not a single panel had been of interest, the dealer’s room was tiny with no overflow into the hallways. Sure, he met some people he knew and there were some decent room parties, but overall it had been rather dull.

      1. Yeah. No ACME Delivery this year – why give the perpetually offended another thing to go on about? And it’s telling that everyone who asked about ACME understood that without argument. I don’t recall Jay putting on the Tron outfit at all this con either. I did take out ‘Legend’ (Unicorn. Nametag of “Hello, my name is Legend) but that’s a simple appear and wander – no shtick. Unless there’s a miracle of some sort, I do not expect to be at Penguicon next year.

        The most exciting thing this year was Jay being asked about a possible appearance at another con… which could potentially interfere with LibertyCon in a couple years. Yeah, the biggest thing here was about being elsewhere, elsewhen.

        And I had to cut a line to get down to 50 words before, but usually there were a couple book sellers here. This year? NONE. The only books were individual organization things, or on the freebie exchange table. Helluva thing for a(n alleged) computer geek & SF convention.

  10. Thinas had seen blades like this before. He fingered the sharp edge. “Copper’s good for maces, not blades. Won’t keep an edge.”

    “It isn’t copper. It’s bronze,” Haarwoch said.

    Thinas looked up. “What the difference?”

    “Bronze is harder. Holds an edge better. And with it you can rule the world.”

  11. After the shower he put on the carefully chosen clothes: boxers, jeans, an Epica tee shirt, white socks, and sneakers. They were perfect for their purpose of being clothes to empty the hotel room into the car and drive home from the con.

    They were also a complete contrast to what he’d worn every day at the con. They were utilitarian instead of fabulous. They had a neutral expression instead of being a brilliant display of his inner life.

    In an instant he finally understood the expression en drab.

  12. Usually my mind is sharp as a tack, but tonight it’s dull, dull, dull. Must have drunk one (or more) too many Irish Candy Canes

    Something I came up with on a lonesome Christmas Eve in a British pub: One shot Irish, one of Irish Cream, and one Peppermint Schnapps.

  13. Turn off the motor. Drop anchor. Drop the baited hook into the water and let the line spin out until the weight hits bottom. Tighten the line and set the drag. Wait quietly. Perfect weather for catching halibut – dull grey with a slight drizzle – and I am hungry.

    1. Some who would argue that there is nothing better than a day on the water spent fishing. The peace and quiet to think one’s own thoughts largely uninterrupted is a precious commodity in their overloaded electronic world. But it is hard to think when your senses are dull with hunger.

      1. I’ll argue that a day spend on the water catching fish beats the hell out of a dull day on the water drowning worms. Peace and quiet to think my own thoughts? You can keep it. My mind is filled with too many thoughts; biting each other with flat teeth.

      2. Some say fishing is dull; depends on the fishing. Open ocean trolling is never dull. Always looking for bird piles. Constantly adjusting speed to account for wind direction and wave angle to keep the lures just popping. Rooster tail as a mahi makes a hit. Marlin tailwalk. Flying fish. Porpoises.

      3. I hear distinct patterns of guttural, clicking vocalizations from the distant shore, and recognize raven’s greeting. I begin to imagine a recording of those sounds played back at half-speed, but the dull rattle of my rod snaps me back. I set the hook and pull my dinner to the surface.

        CACS, Michael Houst, Tcbobg… Thank you for your wonderful and entertaining writing!

        1. And thank you for providing a wonderful them for us to bounce a round. Fishing beats the heck out of religion and politics!

  14. The sky was a flat gray. The speaker droned on in the way he always had, and probably always would. The crowd didn’t care. Since his switch to the climate cause they had followed him through thick and thin. Even Al Gore’s smile was dull, but still they loved him.

  15. The old spacer was lecturing again.

    “The planetbound public believes enterprising spacers trek boldly to the stars.”

    “That fiction. Truth is spacers are timid, calculating, dull and boring. Excitement in space means someone’s next of kin needs to be notified.”

    “Adventures in space?” he spat “Spacers hate that.”

  16. “Don’t you go thinking that your life’s too dull for the likes of you, young Master Tom,” said Jill, with spite dripping from every word. “Get your comeuppance that way. Get your comeuppance but good. She knows you’re no match for the like of her, you’re just one of us.”

  17. Never a dull moment, thought Cal, and surged to his feet to run past the woman. Even if that drug still confused him, keeping in motion would make it harder to capture him.
    A few steps brought him to a long corridor, all white, with doors set in unvarying intervals.

  18. “You’re an odd one,” said Rosie. “All the grand ladies would say that life was dull, dull, dull.”
    “Bet you they say that about baking cakes, too,” said Halley. “And cleaning rooms.”
    Rosie’s mouth pursed.
    “Besides, I like dull. Dull is good. I could use more dull in my life.”

    1. Reminds me of the sentiment I espoused while working as a security guard.
      “Isn’t that job boring?”
      “Don’t you wish it was more exciting?”
      “Exciting means paperwork because bad stuff happened. I hate paperwork.”

      1. Chuckle Chuckle

        In the second “Wearing The Cape” book, the main character talks about Super-Hero vs Super-Villain fights.

        Often they stop & finish with one saying to the other “you know who I am and how tough I am. Do you still want to try it?”

        Even when the fight starts, normally neither one is out to kill the other. The Villain knows if he kills the Hero, he becomes “Number One Target” for various other Heroes. The Hero knows that if he kills the Villain, he’ll have to face a Review Board and Tons Of Paperwork. Nobody likes to fill out paperwork. 👿

      1. Now it should not be surprising anyone that I should be askin’ meself what kind o’ cake a chocolate treat would be baking. After no small consideration I think I need a right dose of me lord’s finest potcheen afore I tackle such a question with a proper clear mind.

  19. The shriek of the blade echoed through the chamber.
    Panting, he attacked the wall again, seeking a weakness in the honeycomb of stone.
    “You’ll never get out that way,” the old man observed from his corner nest.
    Stopping for breath, he had to admit that he was losing his edge.

    50 on the dot!

  20. The two men eyed each other over their swords.
    “You could concede.” Said the dark haired one.
    “Never!” replied his flame headed opponent; who immediately lunged straight at the other’s face.
    Dark parried furiously. Suddenly, he stopped, riposted right into Red’s belly.
    “Good thing epee’s have dull points.” mourned Red.

  21. Wendell lay on the river bank, enjoying the lethargic day. The sheriff’s posse had lost his trail, and he finally could relax. Slowly, he lit his cigar and took a nip from his tarnished silver flask. His sluggish brain only had time to register the gunshot before it was obliterated.

  22. Not up to composing a vignette… Am I? Well.

    “To his mother’s delighted surprise, little Joey somehow maintained an interested expression all through Great-Uncle Ogdred’s excruciatingly dull account of his latest futile eel-fishing trip. He never once let anyone realize how much more he would enjoy sparring with sensei Millicent, or even mucking out the llama stalls.”

    No, there is absolutely no point to this – just 50 words of

    On historical fiction and regionalized mysteries.

    1) Google Ngrams is your friend. It will tell you whether a phrase is anachronistic. (Or not. I cringed when I heard the phrase “learning curve” on Downton Abbey, but Ngrams shows the phrase coming into significant use between 1900 and 1920 – about 1/6 as common as now.)

    2) Readers can be remarkably forgiving. There is an American writer of crime novels set in contemporary Britain. She commits lots of small howlers that annoy Brits, but Americans don’t catch them, so she sells. (Here, but not there.) Dean Koontz set a thriller in Tokyo. He got fan letters from Japan hailing him for his authentic sense of Tokyo – where he’d never been.

  23. If women were beautiful birds, their pilot seemed determined to be the drabbest sparrow of the bunch. What the coveralls didn’t hide, the beat-up hat and baggy long-sleeved shirts hid, along with the heavy boots and worn-out gloves. He’d caught a glimpse of snow-pale skin at her wrists, exotic in this dusty wasteland as pure water or good whiskey.

    When she walked around the corner of the building, he was waiting to be walked into. The sudden collision knocked off her hat, and she looked up with wide green eyes beneath a heavy mass of carefully braided and pinned copper curls. “My apologies, sir!”

    He bent to pick up her hat, and carefully brushed a lock from her face, tucking it back in. “Careful, madame.” The hat was too big for the thin neck and small head, but fit well on her hair. He wondered, as he touched his own hat and sauntered off, just how long it was if he were to let it down, flowing through his hands and across her body like red gold.

    Let the others scoff; he knew beneath the dun covering, she was a bird of paradise. Now to tame her, one crumb of kindness at a time…

      1. Actually, first time we met in person, I was trying (and failing) to outrun a volcanic ash cloud in a beat-up dodge neon with an intermittently working speedometer, on roads that were at best three inches of solid ice. We almost made it!

        …but that’s another story for a different day.

  24. I sighed. Customers never understand. “Again, I don’t predict the future, I modify it. I analyze the time-space probabilities and make the smallest adjustment consistent with your desired future.”

    He reached for his wallet, “Whatever. Just give me what 50k creds buys.”

    Good enough. “May you live in dull times.”

  25. Carnage,a dragon so tired of slaughter it was exhausted and didn’t notice it was lying on my right leg, empty magazine but 14 inches of cold steel, but… I really should have sharpened this bayonet…

  26. The surgery went fine the doc said. I was alive and breathing, even if I didn’t deserve to be, even if each breath brought a fresh new hell of searing pain.

    Then there was the button. The shiny candy-like button. The one the nurse had explained would allow me to dose my own painkiller meds… with, of course, a time-out between doses. That harlot of a whore of a wonderful… evil button.

    I deserved this. I deserved all the pain and anguish. So I didn’t push the button… until I did.

    The pain wasn’t gone, it was just… dull.

    1. I remember that button. It didn’t indicate when you had pushed it, only when you hadn’t, so you had to push twice to be sure you got it. AND — it didn’t have a timer. You had to remember the time on the cloak (meaning you had to NOTICE the time on the clock) and then wait out the time, and the angle meant that it was hard to be sure, so you got the beep when you thought you had waited long enough.

  27. The wolf’s coat was a dull gray with greenish patches, as if it was actually part of the woods where it prowled. It was nearly invisible until it appeared snarling before the young woman, ready to pounce. She flung her bag over the beast’s head, distracting it just barely enough.

  28. She sighed and waded out of the creek. Unconsciously checking her sword, she scanned the area. Trees lined the creek, almost hiding the fields and huts in the distance, but no immediate threat reached her senses. Pushing down the longing for the quiet life of their home world, she turned to check on her partner.

  29. “Milady? If you’re ready, we can — ” Ryan stopped in the doorway; his mouth dropped open. “Saints preserve us, is that what you’re going to wear?”

    Arakyn flushed, the colour painfully hot and blotchy in her pale cheeks. She suspected it looked even worse over her plain white robe. “It’s the proper garb of a novice Knight, Ryan. And . . . it’s the best I have.”

    “Ari, you’re being honoured by the bloody King in full formal court. You can’t show up in something that looks like an old bedsheet — fine, a well-trimmed bedsheet,” he amended, holding up his hands at her glare. “Didn’t it occur to you to ask the valet for the loan of a formal gown?”

    Arakyn rallied defensively. “When did you become such a fop, Ryan? I seem to recall someone boasting about how no arcanist worth the name wore anything but brown and grey homespun.”

    “Yes, in the rutting lab. You’ll note even I dressed up for bloody Court.” Ryan took a deep breath, walked over to her and took her hands; she was startled enough to let him. “Arakyn, something that dull will be taken with utter sincerity as a conscious insult. I know you have no time to spare for politics, but politics is going to have more than enough time to spare for you, now. You’ve saved my life at least three times. Let me do something that will help save yours.”

    Unable to answer, and painfully aware that the heat in her face was now something other than embarrassment, Arakyn only nodded.

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