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Now that I’ve had a chance to edit it, it’s ready to be shared. My biggest edit was removing redundancies. I hope I didn’t form a new bad habit during NaNoWriMo. I really tried hard to write normally and not get rid of contractions or add in extra words.
I’m going to have to rewrite it into third person, because too many characters keep wanting their stories told. I wrote it in first person initially because I’d planned to flash back to the two main character’s pasts, without revealing which was which. I decided not to go for the gimmick though.
Instead of leaving everyone hanging like I did after the first chapter of Woven Magic, this first chapter is a short story by itself. I’m hoping people will want to keep reading to learn more about my characters.
Please let me know what you think. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read my story.
Aliens, Sorcery, and Secrets (For a lack of something better to call this.) Just realized I’m going to have to rearrange that, it abbreviates badly…
Whoever said it all balances out, I’d like to buy him a drink and punch him. All we seem to have is bad luck and worse luck. After our last bounty, not only weren’t we paid, but we’re also out the money the job cost us.
“How much to transport our bikes back to Vista?” I asked.
“Eight.” The large gray-skinned man gestured with one massive limb.
“Five.” I said.
“You don’t even have that much.” He said looking me over.
“I will before the end of the week.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” He made the Wurl laughing noise, a sort of gurgle.
“If I can pay before the end of the week, five.” I figured it was worth a shot.
“Six and we have a deal.”
I ran back to the storage shed with a skip in my step. The walls were crooked and it had been painted white sometime in the last decade. I was glad we weren’t renting it for the building.
“Well?” Sharna asked. The petite blond was sitting on her bike fingering her discharged blaster.
“Six.” I held up a finger. “If I get it by the end of the week, if not eight.”
“Charge or transport?” Sharna muttered after a while.
I raised an eyebrow. “Not that much of a choice is it? And we have to pay to store the bikes.”
She frowned. “Pay too much.”
I shrugged. “Not much choice there either. The engines are clogged with sand.”
Sharna kicked a rock. “Stupid Havaro Desert. Why are there metal fragments in the sand?”
“Legend says when our ancestors first came to this planet it was a paradise. They had advanced technological cities spanning the globe. Then something happened, what no one remembers, but the planet was left a desert. Only the five jewel cities were spared.”
“That was a rhetorical question…” She said. “Did you make that up?”
“No, I heard it in my childhood.” She frowned, because we don’t normally discuss the past. I went on. “It explains why anyone would choose to live on such a sorry excuse for a planet. I thought everything outside the five cities was desert.”
“Now you know the difference between dry unfertile ground and desert. You can survive in one, you enter the other, and you die.” She sighed. “Guess we’d better get a bounty to pay to lug our bikes back to civilization.”
I wiped sweat off my forehead and Sharna smirked.
She ran her hands over my dark hair. “Your curls have gone nuts.”
“It’s all the static in this dry climate.”
“If only we could turn it into energy.” She sighed and I hid a grin. As tempting as it was I couldn’t risk tapping off a weapon now.
“See any good bounties?” I asked.
“One Human old lady worth sixteen.”
I whistled. “What’d she do?”
I frowned, not enough for her to be a murderer, but too much for a typical bounty.
“Sounds easy.” She raised an eyebrow giving me a significant look.
I sighed, “We need the money.”
“I already took it, we just need transportation.”
I smirk, “I think I’ve got that covered.”
Jadan led me to an old unpainted wooden barn smelling of moldy hay.
“I thought you said transport.” He didn’t expect us to ride one of these beasts?
“This is all we can afford, take your pick. There are a few camels, even a horse, some novaks, and a pair of tims.”
I glared at him. “Is there something that will carry both of us?” Maybe I can afford a little charge…
“Not over the distance we have to go.” He said and I frowned.
I walked up the stalls, scrutinizing each animal.
“This one.” I nodded towards a stall.
Jadan walked up and burst out laughing. “A tim?”
I glared at him. “Choose what you want.”
“What do you know about tims?” He asked.
Honestly, nothing, but I didn’t say anything. I stared at the ugly animal, short and long with a slight hump in the middle, a round snout, and beady eyes. Something about the beast gave me a good feeling, and I’ve always been able to trust my feelings, they haven’t let me down yet.
He sighed overdramatically, “Well I can’t very well get anything else or the tim won’t be able to keep up. It’s not all bad, tims go forever and eat pretty much anything.”
“You sound knowledgeable.” I joked, surprised. He never mentioned knowing anything about animals.
“I’ve ridden before.” Was all he said, but more than I expected to get.
Most people would probably think it strange that we’ve known each other ten years and I don’t even know his real name. I just had a feeling, as I did with the animal, that I could trust him, which at times I have considered a bad choice. Jadan’s not one for the moral high ground.
Jadan saddled the beasts and we loaded up what we would need for the trip, leaving behind our weapons was the hardest part, but without a charge they would only serve as a club.
“At least she’s human since we don’t have a charge.” Jadan said.
“No bullets either.”
“Wasn’t it you who said you didn’t want to die with ammo left?” I reminded him.
He pretended to look embarrassed. We always carry blades, so it’s not as though we’re going unarmed, but I wish we could afford bullets.
We rode out of town, the tims large feet crunching over the hard ground. The metallic scent of the desert tickled my nose. My tim stopped, nosing the sparse greenery with his snout. It seemed to prove edible, for she munched down. I gently tapped her flank and she started moving her short legs again. Up one hill and down the next, they tromped on never tiring. Mine seemed to be easily distractible though.
“I feel like we’re back in the middle ages.” Jadan joked. “Riding pack animals and wielding swords.”
“You’d know what that was like.” I always tease him about being older than me, even though I don’t know how old he is. It doesn’t bother him, but nothing really does.
The ride was certainly slow, but I could fall asleep and she just kept plodding along in the last direction she was told. Jadan looked over at me and I woke up.
“Never understand how you sleep so light, I swear I think about you and you wake up.”
“Comes in handy.” I mumble getting out my water bottle.
He learned when we first met that I’m a light sleeper, when he tried to pick my pocket. It didn’t surprise me, because I’d already watched him relieve several owners of their belongings.
I nudged my tim to go faster on the dusty trail. Jadan rubbed at the metal band on his left wrist. I glanced over at him and he twitched his day shade over his arms. I’ve often wondered why he has metal welded around his wrists, but we don’t ask such questions.
“How much farther?” He whispered.
“We have a ways to go yet. She’s past the second town.”
He raised his voice. “Past the town? Who doesn’t live in a town?”
“Someone with a sixteen bounty on her head.” I grinned.
“A little old lady for sixteen…” He muttered again.
“It could go easy for once.” I said as he chuckled. We both knew how unlikely that would be.
My tim snorted, stopped, and began nibbling on a thorny bush.
“You don’t want to eat that. I’ll get you some nice hay when this is over.”
He reached over smacking the ugly animal on the rump, and she trotted up the trail.
“Stupid animals.” I grumbled.
“I rather like the tims.” He grinned, fixing his sword. Of course he did, I rolled my eyes.
Late in the day, we came to a smaller town, which had seen better days. The buildings were cobbled together from a hodge-podge of different items. The nicest house in the town had a crooked rusty metal roof. Everyone stared at us as we tromping through.
People call bounty hunters thieves, murderers, and other less savory names. Those who realized what we are pulled their children inside. I am not a thief and my partner is not a murderer, but they don’t know that.
“What?” I asked raising an eyebrow when I noticed Jadan staring at me.
“Nothing, just thinking how pretty you are.” He flashed me his winning smile.
I might be unique looking, but I know I’m not pretty. Other girls might fall for his charm, but not me. Though, I must admit that he is good looking tall, slim, and muscular. I shook my head, been away from a city for too long.
Others might assume we’re a couple, but I think I’m the only person, of any species or gender that my partner hasn’t slept with. The first thing he did when we met was proposition me. Well, the first thing after he regained consciousness. The day we met, he was on fire in the middle of the street. I always assumed it was over a woman. His armor was ruined, but he’d been lucky. I put him out and carried him back to my hotel room. I smiled at the memory.
I do think she’s pretty, not that she’d ever believe me. I watched as her long strange blonde hair streamed behind her tim. No matter how much danger she’s in, she never ties it back, but then it seems to have a mind of its own and knows to stay out of the way. I never ask, too afraid she’ll have a question of her own for me.
I’ve long suspected that Sharna might be a partial, part human and part one of the other eight species who consider this planet their home. Apparently, there were originally over twelve minor species, but they were either smart and left, or died out. She might not resemble one of the known races, but I know there are species the mainstream doesn’t know about.
I studied her profile, the differences are subtle, but I’ve been around her long enough to notice. I’ve caught a glimpse of thicker strands of pastel colors in her hair that I can never see when staring at her directly and occasionally her eyes flash from blue to violet when she’s angry. I don’t mind, something about her draws me in, I knew the first time I saw her. Not that I’d ever admit it, but I’d rather an interesting face with character and a brain behind it.
Everyone stared at us as we rode through the dinky town. I suppose we make a strange pair, but oddly enough, it works. People are always suspicious of bounty hunters. I can’t really deny the thief thing, but we don’t kill people, intentionally at least. Sharna stared straight ahead ignoring everyone, not much gets to her. I can’t help but smile and wave at the people we pass. I even get a couple of smiles back.
“Last town for a while.” Sharna said.
“You been this way?”
“What was that town the old lady was spotted at?”
“She wasn’t spotted, she lives there.”
I raise an eyebrow. If the IHO, military police, know where she lives, why haven’t they brought her in? Four days out of town doesn’t seem like much for fifteen.
She shrugged. “I don’t like it either, but what can we do?”
Once we were a ways out of town Sharna stopped and took food out of her pack.
“I can’t eat with the constant jiggling, enough to make anyone sick.”
“You picked the tims.”
“The best of the worst.”
I adjusted a knife that had been hitting my knee.
“Did you bring every blade you own?” She scoffed.
“I don’t like the sound of this one.”
“I could tell, you’ve got dents.” She pointed to her forehead.
I took a deep breath relaxing my face and took a piece of meat out of her can, mushy.
“How can you eat this?”
“It was on sale.” She scowled. “You find anything better?”
I pulled out a block of hard cheese and broke off a piece. It took a bit of sucking to soften it, but it wasn’t as bad as the meat. She took a hunk of the cheese making faces as she attempted to chew it.
“Yeah, so much better.” She said.
The ride was slower than we’re used to, but neither of us complained. By day four, the dry heat was getting to me, but we made good time sleeping on the tims.
I’d thought the last town was shabby, but compared to this one it was the five cities. There wasn’t a scrap of metal in sight and some of the wood was practically cardboard. We were surrounded by children the moment we entered town, but we both knew what that meant, thieves. I brushed my way through, careful to keep their hands away from anything valuable.
“Anything?” Sharna asked.
“Nah,” They didn’t have anything worth taking.
“I got a knife.” She pulled out something that looked like it belonged in a mental hospital kitchen.
“Where’d they get that?”
She shrugged, tossing it behind a wall.
I chuckled seeing several green splattered children running around.
“You really are childish.”
“You’d rather they stole our food?”
“They can have it.”
She knocked on a door, which wobbled on its hinges.
“Yes?” A woman peered around the crack.
“Looking for Anges.”
The woman’s eyes grew wide and she backed up sliding a cabinet in front of the door. I don’t know why she bothered, because a good wind and the house would fall over.
Sharna rolled her eyes trying the next house. We were cursed at and had doors slammed in our faces all over town.
“Nice getting out in the world, meeting new friendly faces.” She said.
“I’m getting a definite feeling about this Anges.”
“What gave you that idea?”
We asked a man running a shop selling what I seriously hoped was meat. He held out his hand expectantly.
I extracted a coin, showing it to him.
He pointed north of town. “Only house up there, on the hill, can’t miss it.”
I started to hand him the coin and then pulled back. “Why does no one want to talk to us?”
“Everybody’s scared of old Anges.”
“And you aren’t.”
“I’m more afraid of starving to death.” He held out his hand again and I gave him the coin.
As we walked away, I frowned. “You’d think with all that he’d have more money.” I counted out the coins from his pouch.
Sharna rolled her eyes at me.
“Not even two.” I stuffed them into my pockets. “What? Like we aren’t poor?”
The shack north of town was little better than the rest. It could barely be considered a house. A chill went up my spine as we approached.
“I don’t like it.” I whispered. Sharna nodded gesturing with her head for me to take the back.
I tied the tim to the only thing available, an old bit of metal that was at one time might have been a car. What’s a car doing all the way out here?
I heard Sharna knock on the door. Why does she always feel the need to knock?
The air changed, feeling tighter and I heard a crackling. Oh, no! No metal, no metal at all in the town! I picked the lock on the back door and had it open the next minute.
“Shar-” Before I finished, the pent up power released, sizzling and crackling in the air. Dan, she had to be a Sorcerer. I unsheathed my sword and crept forward on tiptoe. The front of the shack was a gaping hole with the woman’s belongings strewn everywhere. The woman herself was a walking cliché, all skin and bones with frizzled hair. She spun the moment I got close, releasing a spell. I fell to the floor feeling her magic prickle at my skin as it rushed over me.
The shadows came alive with a cackling, dancing and beckoning. They stretched and twisted taking on inhuman shapes closing in on me.
“It’s not real. It’s an illusion, only an illusion.” I whispered to myself trying to break out of the spell.
I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry. My brain knew they weren’t real, but my instincts screamed at me to run or lash out. I managed to get my eyes closed and when I opened them, the shadows were gone as was the woman.
Where’s Sharna? She has to be all right. The force of the blast must have missed her. I tried to convince myself as I rushed to the front of the house. She has to be okay. She should have heard my warning, or maybe she figured it out before I did. She’s smart.
As searched the rubble that had been the front of the house, I heard a moan and dropped my sword digging with my bare hands, moving pieces out of the way. I saw blond hair sticking out and I knew I was almost there. Carefully I removed the last sheet of metal. She’d taken a beating and had several bruises and cuts, but she was okay.
“Good timing.” She mumbled.
I flashed a smile. “Better than after the fact.”
My feet lifted off the ground and I sent flying into the side of the shack, sliding down until I lay on the ground, starbursts flashing in my vision.
I got to my feet unsteadily, weaving back and forth. She released another spell, and as the multicolored short, ugly creatures swarmed over me, I realized these weren’t just another illusion, but a summoning.
I pulled my other sword and a dagger and began to hack at the small hideous things that attempted to swamp me. One climbed on my head and I smacked it against the wall, kicking out to dislodge another from my leg. I swung my weapons like a madman, counting on striking one of them. I swung out again only to realize there weren’t any left.
I panted, my sword hanging in my limp hand. Where’s Sharna?
“Should be worrying about me Dearie.” The old woman in her ragged dress slowly walked closer to me.
She extended a hand smacking me against a wall again and I fell onto the floor. Is this it? I heard a crunching and looked past the woman. Sharna!
I tried to call out knowing the woman had another trick planned. She turned to look into Sharna’s crystalline eyes and froze. With all the things I’d seen coming out of her mind tonight, I wouldn’t have thought a little blond could scare her so much. I pulled out a rope and slipped it around her wrists. She gazed at me with bulging eyes, and then slumped, all the fight going out of her.
“A sorcerer, sixteen is not enough.” Sharna said.
“And you said I would never have a need for anything magic proof.” I grinned.
She examined the rope. “Sometimes fools do get lucky, you actually bought a real binding.” Her eyebrows were raised and I puffed out my chest.
“She expected us.” Sharna said her eyebrows almost meeting in the middle. “Those spells took preparation.”
“Feel better about my taking his money now?” I led the old woman out of the destruction of her home.
Sharna scowled. “He must have had some sort of deal with her.”
I shrugged not knowing a thing about spells and magic. I hadn’t known Sharna did.
I gaped at the devastation of the front of the house. Everything was rubble and dust. “You sure were lucky to survive that.” I shook my head.
Sharna scowled at me, I’d come dangerously close to asking a personal question.
I handed her the rope and went to find my tim. The stupid thing was trying to eat the rusted heap I’d tied him to.
“Don’t eat that.” I scolded untying him. “Good thing I didn’t tie you to a bush.”
Sharna whistled. “Tim.”
“She got buried in the debris, or…”
“She’s over here,” I called. Down over the hill by the tree she’d been tied to, there was the tim, laying on her side.
“Dan, now how are we going to get back?”
“We can ride double.” I smirked.
I had my doubts about riding the time in front of Jadan, but he was a perfect gentleman, for once.
The sorcerer complained about walking, but there wasn’t room for three on the tim and she smelled.
“You’d make an old woman walk.” She whined.
I scowled at her and she wisely shut up. She could walk just fine, when forced. I doubt she’s half as old as she looks, must have sacrificed her vitality in a spell gone wrong.
I don’t know how I survived being hit by the full force of her spell, and worse, Jadan noticed as much. At least he didn’t see her second spell hit me. It was obviously meant to kill me. The shock on her face when she saw I was still alive froze her in her tracks. I was surprised by Jadan’s rope, who’d have thought he’d get lucky for once.
My hand began to cramp and I handed the rope to Jadan. She fought twisting in the rope and trying to escape.
“Move it Witch.” He snapped at her.
“How dare you!” She stared at him in surprise.
“If the shoe fits.” Him and his ancient sayings. After that, he of course took to calling her witch.
She continued to fight him, so I was forced to take the rope back. It seems she’s only afraid of me.
We should get a good charge out of the money she’d bring, buy another tim, and drag our bikes back to Vista to get fixed. I mentally scolded myself for spending money we didn’t have.
It took us six days to return, practically dragging the woman along. I was glad once we delivered her to the IHO.
Jadan continued to argue with the man about the bounty. “The poster said sixteen.”
“All we can do here is fifteen. You’ll have to take her to a city for sixteen.” The man rubbed his mustache nervously.
“Can’t you write us a chit?”
“You’d accept a chit?”
“For the extra only.”
“Chit for it all or fifteen.” He debated for a while, and eventually managed to get fifteen and a charge on his weapons, though not mine.
“I feel naked.” Why couldn’t he have charged one of his and one of mine?
He raised an eyebrow and I realized what I’d said.
“You know what I mean.”
He handed me one of his weapons and I hefted it experimentally, heavier than it looked. It was better than nothing, but I’d prefer my own.
The long handle of the weapon was wrapped in leather. The top dispenses different kinds of poisons, mostly of the nonlethal sort. His other weapon, the charger, resembles a gun, and can send out three different kinds of energy pulses. Each species brought their own weapons with them when they came to this world and ironically enough, their own weapons only work on their own kind. Our chargers are a combination of a few species’ weapons.
A simple gun will work for most of the population, humans, which is good since our cobbled together weapons are useless on them, resilient race that they are. We generally carry guns of their sort, which are cheap enough to find, but of course, right now we’re out of ammo.
“Gods, how strong are you? This thing weighs a ton.” I pretended.
He flicked a switch and a blade swung out. When did he have that done?
“Nice.” I grinned testing it out.
He was pleased to pay the man six to drag our bikes back. The large gray man was all arms. I hadn’t seen a Wurl since leaving the cities. They didn’t have any more tims, so we decided to ride double back to Vista.
We camped out a mile from the road. I threw a foil on some scrub I’d managed to gather and it crackled creating a small fire. I stuck some jerky in a pot with some water trying to get it chewable while Jadan set up the tent.
“Going to be a cold night.” He came out wearing a blanket.
I fell asleep hoping for a big bounty in Vista, a big easy bounty though I should know better than to wish for such a thing.