The Alarna Affair – Chapter Fifteen – A Few Words in Parting

Kara stayed for dinner and resisted the temptation to pocket any more of the interesting trinkets that passed before her.  She refrained from commenting that the food was too bland, and she didn’t stare at the scar-faced man’s scars or at the winged freak’s lack of wings.  She even remembered to use the wooden tableware instead of her fingers.  Being polite was much more difficult than she’d anticipated. After dinner it was quite late, and Kara was determined not to lose any more time, in case the lady realized just how much silver was in the bag of coins she’d handed over. (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Fourteen – Concerning Gifts and Legacies

“I’m confused,” Tam said, staring about him.  Jon gripped his brother’s hand in his unmarked one and stared at the mess around them. Hellin Blackfeather leapt down into the corridor, where Doctor Blackfeather caught her with practiced ease and set her down.  She left his arms to gather Ellea and Djaren close to her in a hug.  Jon was caught up next, along with Tam, and then the still shaky seeming Professor.  “I’m sorry, dears, he was never meant to come here,” Hellin said, breathless.  “He won’t bother us again.” (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Thirteen – Against a Terrible Foe

“I said we need you to move, Jon,” Tam was saying, standing beside Jon.  Jon obeyed uncertainly, still staring at the mark on his hand.  Tam and Djaren pulled as hard as they could on the lid of the coffin.  It slid slowly.  Inside the stone coffin was a painted clay sarcophagus.  Djaren and Tam hauled the stone lid across the floor, and with Kara and Anna’s help began to wedge it against the door. Jon flexed his hand.  It felt normal, except for a slight tingle in his palm and in his fingertips.  “Tam,” he said uncertainly.  “I touched something.  I think I shouldn’t have.” “Father will understand if we break some things,” Djaren said, trying to lift the heavy slab to lean on the door. (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Twelve – What Was Found on the Warrior’s Grave

Jon heard Kara’s voice echo down the passageway as dust settled around them.  A rock had fallen and rolled not far from Tam’s feet.  Jon shivered and looked at the others. “She’s alive.”  Djaren smiled.  “That’s good.” Ellea was still frowning.  The remaining robed men stood around them, looking with dismay at the fallen rubble, and their comrades under it. (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Eleven – Into the Tomb

Kara sat in the dirtiest, darkest tavern in the village of Alarna, surrounded by unhappy thieves. “This is not good,” Negal said, laying a nearly empty purse down on the table they shared.  “These strangers are not good men.” “Good men do not hire people to do their thieving,” old gap-toothed Himar said, pushing a cup of weak tea toward Kara.  “Drink, little one.  When you are bigger you can have something stronger.”  Himar was having something stronger. “They took the stone, but what of us?  They promised us payment, and we have received nothing.”  Negal slammed an empty cup on the table. “You were promised,” a terrible hissing voice said, from behind them, “a due reward when your work was done.” Kara tried to duck under the table, but a robed man’s hand clamped down on her collar, hauling her up out of her chair.  The dark-robed men stood at all the exits, keeping Negal’s band of thieves trapped within.  The tall rotting man advanced on Negal, part of his face visible in the dim light, partially desiccated, but oozing. “Your work for me is not done,” he said.  “You have assembled the specialists I asked for, have you not?  We will need them.  I wish to open a door.” (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Ten – A Marvelous Secret Revealed

Jon was having trouble sleeping again.  There was a lantern lit in the sitting room, where Hellin’s shadow was visible as she sat waiting up for Doctor Blackfeather to return.  Jon could see her silhouette clearly though his tent wall as she picked up a book, set it down again, poured a cup of tea and then let it sit, ignored.  She was worried.  That worried Jon, too. The children had spent all afternoon getting into Anna’s way as she tried to get the dark room set up and the photographs developed.  The pictures were drying now in a little line, carefully left alone to work their magic now that Anna had done with them.  The children had spent another part of the evening in a fruitless search for the missing pick pocket girl.  When the Professor had come back in the late afternoon they had all told him breathlessly about their day.  And then Doctor Blackfeather had not returned, and continued not to return.  Hellin had insisted they all get some sleep, and now she waited alone in the sitting room, sometimes sitting, sometimes pacing.  Jon watched her, sleepless.  The whinny of a horse came from outside, and Jon saw Hellin’s face turn to the tent’s entrance.  She put a hand to her lips as a strangely shaped shadow lurched into view.  The shadowy mass unfolded into several more unrecognizable silhouettes before falling into her outstretched arms, in more recognizable dimensions.  Jon held his breath.  He could just barely hear their whispers. Silhouttes by Ruth Lampi (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Nine – A Rooftop Chase and a Grim Revelation

Kara dashed around one corner and another, mentally cursing her terrible luck.  The boy behind her was not losing ground.  His nice clothes were quite dust covered and his hair was coming loose, but he was not giving up.  Kara was beginning to suspect he knew these alleyways.  She didn’t, not yet.  This place was still new.  But no bespectacled little pretty-boy was going to catch or find her when she wanted to disappear.  She found a set of uneven steps around another corner, and dashed up them to the roof tops.  The boy followed.  Kara ran along above the narrow streets, upsetting birds, and hopping up and down levels as they changed.  The boy stayed right behind her.Kara Rooftop by Ruth Lampi (more…)

The Alarna Affair – Chapter Eight – What Amazing Events Can Transpire in Half an Hour

The next day nearly all the children had excuses for why they wanted to go into town.  Hellin regarded them at breakfast with an amused but cynical eye.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were all plotting something.” Jon reddened, and looked down at his plate. (more…)