Two and a half before midnight, Keo opened the door to a small windowless room; his candle shed weak light on an empty bed to the right. As quietly as he could, he slipped into the room, not wanting to disturb the boy already sleeping in the bed opposite. He set the candle on a small table beside the head of the bed, wide enough to fill the small space between the two. An extinguished candle on the far edge sat next to a tinderbox and striker. The sleeping boy faced the wall. Covered to his neck by a blanket Keo saw only the ghostly glow of white blonde hair, cut short and standing straight up like the down of a dandy lion.
Keo slipped off his boots, tunic and hose and climbed into bed.
"You better not snore," the other boy said. Read More
Three men already occupied the way-hut. In the light of a single lantern sitting on the stone oven, one of the men was clearly dead. Blood oozed from a slice across his neck and his sightless eyes stared up at shadows dancing on the ceiling as the other two dug through his pockets.
Keo had entered the hut first and consequently stood between the murderer and his knife. Moorden crowding into the room behind, pushed him toward the two men. Fortunately, the thieves were as surprised as were the two boys. Read More
Keo watched from the corner of his eye. Moordan seemed unaffected by his jab and only scowled at his bowl, wiping it with the hem of his sleeve.
Fierra introduced the two new boys who took to Keo quickly when they could see he was cut closer to their own weave of material than to Moordan's. Soon all at the table but Moordan were laughing as they each shared antics or adventures from their homes.
Ardle, the taller of the two new boys, said to Keo, "Moordan said you think you're going to be a creature handler."
There was challenge in the boy's voice, though there was also an edge of wistfulness that said, he wished he would, too. Read More
The Southern Highway brought Keo no new challenges in the first few days of his journey. Paved with square, kiln-fired bricks, the road undulated slowly downhill toward the Capital more than two-hundred miles to the west. The only traffic sharing the road were the occasional coal wagons rumbling to the east. From short conversations with the drivers he learned they headed to the Southern Draw, hoping to find it free of snow, trying to be first to collect coal mined during the snowbound month’s winter. Read More