An Introduction to My Latest Novel (the nanowrimo 2017 edition)

So I wrote a new novel last month. I’m pretty jazzed about it (it’s a major mess right now, but I’m ignoring the First Draft Disaster and basking in the satisfaction of it being well on its way to Wonderful).

Today I’m going to introduce you to it as much as I’m able. I’m going to be using some of the questions from the Beautiful Books link up put on by Cait and Sky.  Let’s get to it.

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~ What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea? ~

I don’t know even know what inspired the original bits for this novel. Over two years ago, I somehow (I have no remembrance how) ended up thinking about wolves and a medieval mage with a strong sense of justice who traveled between worlds.

And then a little over a year ago in my imagination wanderings, I came across a sassy creature who was worshiped as a god and in dire need of a humbling experience.

And then a few months ago, lightning struck my brain…

~ Describe what your novel is about! ~

I think this is the part where I’m supposed to give some sort of blurb.

Lol, that’s not gonna happen.

I cannot currently write an understandable blurb about this novel (I know, we’re all so despairing), but here’s the general gist: I plucked my world-tromping mage out of her travels, dropped her in the sassy so-called god’s world, and pitted them against each other. Thus, this novel was born.

~ Introduce us to each of your characters. ~

Adele is my mage. She’s… so amazing. The natives call her the Moon One for her pale skin, moon tattoos, and the crescent moon on the hilt of her sword (between you and me, the sword’s pretty amazing too). She travels to various worlds to set captives free and make truth known (aka: JUSTICE) in the name of her Lord. And sometimes she’s a wolf.

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adele 

Asha is my sassy creature who thinks he’s the god of fire and ardor (among other things). He’s the eldest of fourteen siblings, each with unique power which they refer to as their “birthrights”. Asha’s birthright is fire (hint: his power with fire is not limited to the everyday candle variety), and he’s been worshiped by the humans of his world as a god in the pantheon since he was born thirteen hundred years ago. Worship and bad parenting have made him quite the something-something who thinks quite a lot of himself.

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asha

~ List three things about your novel’s setting. ~

1. The myrtle tree. There are many myrtle trees, but I’m talking about the myrtle tree have fun figuring out what that means. Lots of things go down at the ol’ myrtle tree. Most of the book occurs in a landscape similar to the near to mid-east of our world, hence myrtle trees among other pieces of beautiful near and mid-east landscapes. But this myrtle tree is a special one.

 2. A river that was bent to flow in a circle by one of Asha’s younger sisters (Gomti, the water goddess). (And, no, the river does not have a name; I’ll figure something out in the next draft.)

 3. The temple of Chanderkala. Chanderkala is the ruler of Asha’s family of gods (he also happens to be Asha’s father, but they have issues–father/son/firstborn problems), and his glittering temple sits in the heart of Chena, the holy city of the humans where they worship Asha and his various fellow so-called gods. Just like the myrtle tree, Chanderkala’s lavish temple is also the setting for many pivotal scenes.

~ What’s your character’s goal, and who (or what) stands in the way? ~

Asha’s goal is to become the ruler of the gods. His father (Chanderkala <—–that name though; it’s so over the top, just like Chanderkala himself) and Adele stand in Asha’s way.

More than anything, Adele wants to hear the voice of her Lord one more time, but she doesn’t know what’s in the way (spoiler alert: it’s herself, and later on, Asha).

~ What are your book’s themes? ~

– Spiritual dry season. Dealing with loneliness and silence. Remembering the truth you knew in the beginning. You are not meant to be alone, and you are not alone. –

– Owning weakness. Living alive. You are not the end all be all. Lose your life for His sake and save your soul.  –

Perhaps that’s too many themes, but those are the things that kept cropping up as I went through the characters and story. I guess we’ll see what it looks like after a few rounds of edits. You can read some of the verses at the heart of this story here, here, here, here, and here.

~ And is there a title? ~

Um, that would be a no. Back when they were two separate stories, Adele’s was called Howl and Asha’s was False Gods. Now that it’s become one story, neither title seems to fit, and I can’t come up with another one to save my life. For now, I refer to it as False Gods in all my notes and such, but that title is likely to change as soon as I can come up with a better one.

And that’s about all I’ve got.

What about you?? Did you write a novel for NaNoWriMo? What’s it about? For my non-writer friends, did you have any big projects you tackled in November??? Also, any title ideas for me?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – if you want to check out a really amazing novel that was written for NaNo this year, stop over by Katie Grace’s blog to see the info about her superhero novel (that is, if you haven’t seen it yet).

P.P.S. – have any of us really gotten over the cover for Fawkes? (No, no we have not.)

P.P.P.S. – tomorrow I start in on edits for Beasts. Send help.

P.P.P.P.S. – so this whole “p.s.” thing is getting a bit excessive, but I just want to publicly acknowledge that I used way too many parentheses in this post. Wait, actually, that’s impossible (mwahahahaha!).

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11 Things I’ve Done to Avoid Working on My Novel

Procrastination is a thing, kids.

It’s a real issue.

You likely struggle with it (or have struggled with it at some point in your life). I struggle with it. It’s amazing—all the things we do when we procrastinate.

No, I’m not saying it’s okay or cool to procrastinate (even though we sometimes do cool thing when we procrastinate); in fact, I very much advise against it. But, I don’t typically take my own advice.

So I’ve fallen into another procrastination rut, and today I was thinking about all the things I’ve done to avoid working on my WIP. The list is fairly varied—from things everybody does (like mindless hours on social media) to a few slightly more… unique ways to NOT be working on my novel. No, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

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  1. Doing dishes.

This is lame on a few different levels. First, I’m supposed to be doing dishes anyway, so this shouldn’t be a phenomenon. Second, dishes? Instead of writing, dishes? Instead of plotting rebellions and battling dragons, dishes? Something is very wrong with this picture.

  1. Sleep.

Everyone probably does this, but I got it bad. Napping, guys, so alluring on a day off or a Sunday afternoon. Should I be writing? That would be a yes. Am I going to take a nap instead? Probably.

  1. Marathoning Limitless.

I can justify this a few different ways. Relaxation. Creativity recharge. Unique storytelling. It feeds my mad genius. Blah, blah, blah. (p.s. – you should probably watch Limitless the TV show. It only lasted one season, but that one season was en pointe.)

  1. Planting tomatoes under a blazing, blistering sun.

Yes, those tomato plants did need to get in the garden and all that jazz, but it came down to tomatoes or novel, and I picked tomatoes (and did I mention that that sun was blazing and blistering?).

Also, since planting said tomatoes, I’ve been able to opt out of more than one quick writing session to go water the tomatoes because apparently you can’t just stick them in the ground and expect great things (something about care and horticulture or something or other), and so that has resulted in several occurrences of “Oh, I should go write, but it’s a real bummer *wink wink* that those tomatoes need water to survive”.

  1. Reading various blogs about editing and revisions.

In case you’re new to Penprints, you should probably know that I’m in the editing stage of my WIP. Most of the heavy lifting is done when it comes to big revisions, but there are still a few things that need to change to redirect the story in a better direction. This is where the wonderful internet comes in.

The Story of How I End Up Reading Blog After Blog About Editing:

Me: “I’ve got half an hour of free time! I should go write!”

Also Me: “But do you really know what you’re doing? You should probably do some more research on this whole editing thing before you, you know, actually do editing.”

Me: “But I’ve read a couple books on editing and lots of blogs already! I just have to muscle through this and do it!”

Also Me: “Shhhhhhhhhhh. Just go find some more blog posts that talk about the ten thousand things you have to keep in mind while editing. It won’t overwhelm you at all.”

Me: “Good idea. Overthinking this is definitely the way to go.”

  1. Cleaning my room and study.

In case you didn’t read that right, I’ll say it again: cleaning my room and study. Wut? I thought about working on my novel, and the idea was so frightening to me that I decided to tear apart my room and then put it back together (that was three evenings down the drain this time) so that I wouldn’t have time to go through revisions. Something is very wrong with me.

  1. Starbucks trips with my friend, Amanda.

Now, this may not sound like a bad thing, and it isn’t (it’s that whole iron sharpening iron jazz). However, when Amanda and I get Starbucks, it’s not like an hour of chatting it up and talking about all the things. It’s like three solid hours of greatness. (Full disclosure, I actually see no down-side to this one because relationships trump writing every time, but I felt like I had to mention it because our latest hang out may or may not have resulted in neither of us finishing our to-do’s for last week. #oops #sorrynotsorry) (ALSO, Amanda is the gardening guru who gave me those tomato plants I told you about a minute ago, so there’s that too.)

  1. Lying around on the couch thinking about editing.

This is when I’m “trying to get motivated” because apparently a rapidly approaching deadline is not motivating enough. I sprawl on the couch and think wistfully of how I wish my novel would edit itself, and, please, for the love of all that is good, actually turn out to be the stunning, amazing, earth-shattering novel it is in my head. Too much time is passed in wistful reflection on the couch. Far too much.

  1. Marathoning season 3 of The Flash.

Yeah, this also has happened. I’ll tell my sister, “Arielle, I don’t have time to watch a movie tonight because I have to work on my novel. All I’ve got time for is an episode of The Flash.” But then, five episodes later, no editing has occurred.

  1. Rereading the earliest versions of Beauty and the Beast.

I convince myself this is a good thing because it’s “research”. Lol, it’s not.

  1. Writing this blog post.

First, I spent half an hour trying to come up with something to blog about this week. Guys, I can edit almost a whole chapter in half an hour sometimes. Then, of course, I chuckled manically while reflecting on all the things I’ve done instead of writing and spent the rest of the night (aka: Prime Editing Time) writing up this post on all the things I’ve been doing instead of working on my novel instead of working on my novel (see what I did there?).


So now I’m going to actually go work on my novel and stop procrastinating. Or not. We’ll see.

What about you? What sorts of things have you done in the name of Procrastination? What are some projects you’ve been avoiding? How do you not procrastinate (and you can’t say you “just do it” because that is cruel and unhelpful for those of us ailed with procrastination tendencies)?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – don’t forget to enter to win a print copy of The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson (this giveaway is open only to you, my dear followers).

P.P.S. – I find this whole post depressingly amusing and ridiculous, just so you know.

Finishing Draft Three {somehow an excuse to post baby animal pictures}

Peeps, I did it.

I finished Draft Three (aka: The Draft That Wants to Kill Me) of Beasts. And I did it without dying, so I feel like I should get extra points for that.

And I’ve recovered ALL of my files from my dearly departed laptop due to the tireless efforts from some of my amazing church family members (needless to say, there was much relief and thanking God). Also, I kind of owe a life-debt to the people involved with the finding and preserving of said files.

Instead of telling you about Beasts itself (because that would make sense), I’m going to tell you how the last week of my life was like trying to finish this beast (oh, see what I did there?).

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To put it frankly, this draft was really hard.

Here’s a bit of backstory: Draft One was written back in 2015, and let me tell you, it was awful (is “plotless” one word or two?). A marginally better Draft Two came out in 2016, but I don’t like to speak of that draft.

Draft Three is where all the heavy lifting happened. I took about 5,000 words from Draft One, maybe 8,000 words from Draft Two, and then I scrapped the rest (yeah, that was tough). Work on Draft Three lasted six months, and all that work boiled down to this past week when I faced a hard deadline.

The Story of How I Got a Hard Deadline:

Me to me: You can’t watch Beauty and the Beast until you finish Draft Three.

Me: What? You wouldn’t?

Me to me: Wanna bet?

Then I came up against The Face of Great Distraction.

The Face of Great Distraction:

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“Hi! I’m a week old, and I have a sister and five brothers, and we’re all really adorable and make such adorable sounds, and you should love on us instead of work on your novel.” — actual words this puppy said to me.

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“Hey, I’m very needy. You need to pet me and pay attention to me and give me treats and talk to me or else I’ll be forced to jump on you to make sure you know I exist.” — Bear every single time I try to be productive.

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“I’m Boots, just an adorable goat kid with four kid cousins, and you must come see me and let me chew on your clothes and climb in your lap and dance around in goat kid happiness.” — Boots the goat kid every. single. day.

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And let’s not forget My Precious.

I knew I was avoiding my novel when Graham said to me: “Rosalie, I’ve been stalking this mouse hole for three days now. You should help me hunt this tasty morsel.”

But instead of saying: “Graham, you don’t speak English, and I have to finish this draft,” like a normal person would, I said: “Oh, great idea, Precious! I’ll bring coffee and my BB gun, and it’ll be just like old times when you were a kitten!”

After two hours of our stakeout, I had to face the reality that it was all in my head and that I needed to get back to finishing Draft Three. That’s when My Precious gave me this look:

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Um, this face. :O

Okay, I did not spend two hours on a stakeout with Graham, but let me tell you I THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

But, guys, in The Face of Great Distraction, I prevailed.

It was making coffee at 9:30 pm some nights to fuel me for a night of writing. It was getting up at 4:00 am (aka: Stupid Early) to write before work some mornings. It was coming up against all kinds of fear and hate for my story and writing anyway.

It was reviewing my outline and throwing out what no longer seemed to work. It was word wars with lovely writing friends (a shout out to Brittany, Katie, and Nadine). It was taking a break to write a flash fiction and then coming back to my novel after a week with fresh drive.

It was my sister asking “Are you going to write?”. It was sharing my wordcounts with my dad and him cheering me on. It was my mom telling me some nights that I needed to sleep instead of write because I really needed the rest and my writing would be better for it.

It was praying for God’s hand in this story more every day. It was realizing that since He’s given me the green light, I need to go, no more indecision, no more fear.

It was hard, and my novel still needs a lot more work.

There are still several more drafts to come, but it’s finally starting to look like a story. When I read it next week, it’ll probably be awful, but it’s so much better than it was.

The Draft That Wants to Kill Me is finished.

It came to just over 93,000 words (a number I hope will shrink with more editing), 33 chapters, and an epilogue.

And for those of you who have made it to the end of this babbling post, here’s an aesthetic board and then the premise of Beasts (so I guess I’m telling you a little about Beasts after all…).

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I own none of these pictures.

Premise: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast told in the words of the witch who cursed the Beast.

Let’s chat, peeps. What are your struggles with your WIP? What part of the writing process are you in right now? What are the faces of your distractions?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – seriously though, guys, Graham’s face in that last picture causes me some concern.

Flickering Lights 9: Whatever It Takes

We are so, so close to the end of Flickering Lights.

If you have fallen behind, you can go get caught up here.

Here is Flickering Lights 9: Whatever It Takes.


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The last Antigone Bay beacon slipped into the already cramped pod.

There were eleven of them, their light soft and steady, filling the pod in a comforting way. It had taken almost four hours for them to gather because they had to be sneaky when they met, something about sepios and curfews. The blinds were tightly drawn, trapping their light inside. Their genius plan was to pray, and Marcus was antsy, shifting around a couple times a minute.

But Hermes said he would be praying, and that meant something. At least, it meant something if he was still alive. Until he could think of something better, Marcus would let them pray.

While they had waited for everyone to arrive, Cara, the beacon whose light he had first seen, had shown him a map of Antigone Bay. It was built more like a small city than a compound, and the pod they had gathered in was only a few small blocks away from the sepios headquarters.

“All right, all right.” This came from Terry, the leader of the tiny Antigone Bay highlight.  “I know that it’s dangerous for us to meet like this, but this is an emergency. This is Marcus.” Terry pulled Marcus over to stand beside him. “He’s on his way to Pollux with two beacons, a Hermes and a Penelope. They’ve been arrested and are carrying an important message to Pollux. I’ve called you all here so that we can pray for them, for El Roi to intervene and get them out of sepio custody and back on their way to Pollux. Once they’re out of the sepios’ hands, I’ll get them onto my boat, and we’ll head up to Pollux.”

“Oh.” Marcus ran a hand over his head. “The sepios broke one of Penelope’s legs, too.”

A wave of “oh’s” rippled through the group, and Terry folded his hands. “Let’s gather up and pray.” Before Marcus had a chance to extricate himself, the beacons were pressing together, putting their arms around each other’s shoulders until they formed a tight circle. As in, no personal space. At all. Marcus found himself wedged between Terry and Cara. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes, but Marcus glanced around

“El Roi.” Terry’s voice was quiet. “I thank You that everyone made it here safely and that You gave us this opportunity to gather together.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. This opportunity? This is an opportunity? What?

“Our brother and sister, Hermes and Penelope, need You to show Yourself. The message that Hermes carries is Yours, and You can see it through to Pollux. Please protect them, and please get them out somehow.”

And so it went around and around and around for over an hour. The beacons took turns praying, each a similar prayer, but with different specifics. One beacon prayed for Penelope and her leg. Another prayed for Marcus. Another prayed that the letter to the highlight at Pollux would be undamaged. Another prayed that Hermes and Penelope would use this opportunity to shine light to the sepios.

The earnestness in their prayers, the excitement of just talking to El Roi, the way they thought, it all made Marcus curious. If this was what it was to be a beacon, if this is what it was supposed to be like, the communion and peace and intense love… why not? He shifted, his legs threatening to cramp from standing in the same position.

He saw the fire before he heard the boom.

Orange-red light flared through the blinds, and then a blast shook the ground. There was a split second of stillness before the beacons burst into confusion. Marcus snatched up Winston and shoved his way to the door. Terry’s voice knifed through the chaos. “Everyone, calm down! We don’t know what’s happened, but we’re going to find out and help where we can. Cara, get your med kit. Leila, go get as many blankets as you can. Marcus and Lenard, you go with her.”

Marcus shook his head, his hand on the door handle. “No. That explosion is in the direction of the sepios headquarters. I’m going there.”

Terry hesitated before nodding. “All right. Rob and Lenard, you go with Leila then. Everyone else, come with me.”

Marcus shouldered his pack and stepped out of the pod. Heat hit his face.

Fire.

Horrible, oxygen devouring fire.

The beacons split up, and Marcus followed the group heading for the fire. He jogged to catch up with the leader of the highlight. “Do you have any idea why someone would blow up something in Antigone Bay?”

A frown twisted Terry’s face. “It’s probably the same terrorists who blew up the communications station. They’ve been getting bolder, worse since we lost communication with the three cities. The sepios have kept up some communication via hovers, but it’s still not enough. They’ve gotten very strict recently, the sepios here.”

They rounded a corner and stopped. Flames caressed the sky, and there was a hole in the side of the expansive sepios headquarters. Some sepios staggered around, others dumped water on the fire, and others were dead. Terry barked out some orders, and the beacons dragged the wounded away from the fire. Cara unpacked her med kit and started treating those she could. Weird beacons, helping the sepios.

Marcus rubbed his forehead and popped his nocturnals. He could help the beacons help the sepios. Or he could run into the burning headquarters and try to find Hermes and Penelope. He swung his pack to the ground and pulled out the oxygen tank. He popped the respirator in his mouth and shoved Winston into his pack. He glanced up at the flaming hole in the wall of the headquarters. Don’t think about it, Marcus. Just go.

He glanced at the beacons. They worked hard with the sepios. He pushed his pack over by the wall. Whatever it takes, Marcus. Go.

He burst out at a run. Heat scorched his legs as he leapt into the building. He hit the ground in a roll, almost dropping the oxygen tank as he somersaulted through a patch of flames.

Smoke coiled through the air, but his nocturnals protected his eyes. Fire slapped him, but then he was staggering out of the blaze.

He jogged further into the headquarters, putting some distance between himself and the flames. Once he could no longer see the orange light, he doubled over, sucking in oxygen desperately. The world dipped, and he leaned against the wall. After a few moments, his head cleared as he inhaled more oxygen.

Find them. Go. He pushed off from the wall and staggered forward. The sounds of fire faded as he lurched further into the sepios headquarters.

In the end, he was never certain how he managed to stumble through the right hallways, but just as he heard gunfire, he saw a glimmer of light. He took a breath of oxygen and surged forward. Shouts followed the staccato of gunshots, and he rounded a corner to find light streaming through small windows on two doors.

Marcus fell against the first door, peering through the window. Penelope was prone on a small cot, unmoving, and her left leg jutted out at an unnatural angle. Furious fire flashed through Marcus, and he punched the door.

His breath came in angry gasps as he moved to the next door. Hermes was sitting on the floor, legs sprawled out, back against the wall, still in the clothes he had been wearing when the sepios arrested him, alive. He was alive. The relief was almost painful as Marcus smacked the glass with his palm. Hermes looked up, and after a moment, a smile crept across his features. He shoved off the ground and wobbled over to the window.

Marcus swallowed.

Blood matted Hermes’s hair, and bruises colored his face. One greenish eye was swollen shut. Hermes pressed his face against the window, as if he was having a hard time standing on his own. He was trying to say something, but the glass was too thick.

Marcus shook his head and pointed to his ears. The window fogged when Hermes sighed. The pops and bangs from guns rang out like bursts of anger. Hermes tapped the glass and held up three fingers, then seven.

Marcus shook his head again. “I don’t understand.”

Hermes sighed again and pointed down. Marcus followed his finger. There was a number pad on Hermes’s cell door. Hermes held up three fingers again. Marcus lurched forward and pressed the three on the pad. Hermes held up seven fingers. Marcus punched the seven. Hermes gave a five. Five. Two. One. One. Three again. Hermes nodded, and Marcus hit enter. The lock clicked and Marcus yanked the door open. Hermes almost fell, but Marcus caught him and lowered him to the floor against the wall.

“Hermes!” Marcus squeezed his shoulder. “Hermes!”

Hermes’s eyes opened, but only a little.

“Here.” Marcus pushed the oxygen respirator between Hermes’s lips. It took less than a minute for Hermes to sit up on his own, his strength coming back with every breath of pure oxygen until he stood. “We have to help Penelope.”

Marcus scrambled after him. “How did you know the code to your cell?”

Hermes smiled and grimaced and then groaned. “It hurts to smile right now. Anyway, I was mostly conscious when we got here, and so I watched them put it in.” Hermes pressed a few buttons on Penelope’s pad. “I don’t know what Penelope’s is, but I’ve cracked more secure pads than this one.”

Ah, right. Hermes used to break into all sorts of things. There were more shouts, and Marcus jerked.

Hermes glanced up for a moment. “There was some sort of bomb. When it blew up, the security system went all wacky. Most of the prisoners that weren’t killed by the explosion are now out and about.” The pad gave an unhappy beep. “I think some sepios are trapped in that part of the cell block, and so that’s why there’s shooting.” The door unlocked and Hermes pulled it open.

They were beside Penelope in an instant. Marcus slid to the floor, a sudden trembling inside. Hermes pressed his fingers against her throat, and her eyelids shivered open. She moaned and tried to move, but Hermes pressed down on her shoulders, firm but tender. “Shhh, don’t move.”

More gunfire. Hermes looked up. “I have to go help the sepios.”

Marcus blinked at him. “No, you don’t! You have to help Penelope!”

“The prisoners will kill the sepios after they run out of ammunition.” Hermes tried to run his hand through his hair, but it got caught on the dried blood.

Marcus pointed to Penelope. “Sepios did this to Penelope!”

“It’s what I have to do as a beacon.” Hermes started to stand, but Marcus jerked him back down.

“No, helping Penelope is what you have to do.”

Hermes shook his head. “Marcus, it’s the right thing to do. And if you’re only thinking of Penelope right now, you have to realize that you and I can’t move her by ourselves without causing further damage. We need help.”

Marcus ground his teeth. Hermes was right. Of course. “I’ll go with you.”

Hermes brushed some hair out of Penelope’s face, and bit his lip. “We’ll be back. Try not to move.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow but decided to keep his thoughts to himself. He put the respirator in Penelope’s mouth. After a moment of indecision, he patted her shoulder and followed Hermes out to the hall.

They rounded the corner, and sure enough, through the strip of glass in the door, he could see seven sepios huddled behind an overturned desk, exchanging fire with a group of prisoners down the hall who used an upturned table for cover. Hermes went straight for the pad, and Marcus knocked on the door. It took several knocks before one of the sepios turned around and saw them.

“Get us out!” The sepio shouted loud enough for the sound to carry only slightly muted through the glass.

Marcus pointed at Hermes. “We’re working on it.”

Hermes was talking quietly under his breath while his fingers flew across the pad. “We’re Your witness here, El Roi. Please help me get this door open in time so that I can shine Your light onto these sepios.” The pad squawked, and Hermes dragged his fingers through his filthy hair. He paused and leaned his head against the wall. “Help me to focus. My head’s hurting so bad right now, El Roi.”

A few of the sepios pounded desperately on the door, and a vein popped out on Hermes’s forehead.

His fingers danced across the pad until it gave a squall and a chirp and the door unlocked.

The sepios practically fell through the door.

“Um.” Marcus pointed down the hall. The prisoners were charging towards the door. “Close the door.” His heart thudded in his head. “Close the door!” Marcus hauled a squirming sepio to his feet and threw his shoulder into the door.

The prisoners collided with the door, sending Marcus back a couple steps, but the sepios were there, shoving the door shut again. More prisoners began ramming into the door. Marcus slammed into the door beside one of the sepios. “Lock the door!”

The prisoners picked up the desk and used it as a battering ram. Marcus and the sepios fell back a step. “Hermes! In the name of the darkwater deeps, lock the door!”

“I’m trying! The system is on the fritz.” Hermes ran another hand through his filthy hair while the other ran across the pad.

When the desk busted the door open, Marcus was thrown back a few steps, falling hard. The prisoners pounced. Shots rang out, and a couple fell as the sepios fought back. Marcus lunged for one reaching for Hermes, knocking him to the ground. Another leapt at the beacon. “Hermes!”

In a flash, faster than Marcus’s eyes could follow, Hermes turned from the pad and jabbed the prisoner’s throat. Hermes jerked the prisoner around and wrenched his arm until it broke. He shoved the prisoner back on the other side of the door before turning back to the pad without so much as grunting.

Ah, right. Hermes used to kill people.

The sepios pushed the last prisoner back, and Marcus caught the door and slammed it. The sepios piled around him, sweating and grunting.

“Hermes!”

“I can’t do this alone, El Roi.”

The prisoners pressed hard against the door, and every one of Marcus’s muscles cried out. “HERMES!”

The pad beeped, and the door locked. Marcus sagged against the door, panting. A hand gripped his shoulder, and he heard Hermes’s nervous laugh. “Thank you, El Roi.”

Marcus leaned against the wall. “Penelope.”

“I know.” Hermes picked up a discarded rifle and held it up. “This’ll have to do for a splint.”

“A gun, Hermes, a gun?”

The sepios were beginning to regroup, and they regarded Hermes warily. He flashed them a reassuring smile. “It’s the best I’ve got on hand, Marcus. And it’s not like I’m gonna strap it to her leg fully loaded or anything.” Hermes popped a couple things out of the gun. Bullets hit the floor. He yanked on another part of the gun, and a few more pieces fell to the ground. In a matter of seconds, the gun was merely a skeleton of its old self. “This’ll work.”

Hermes picked a knife off the ground and motioned to the sepios. “We have to get someone, and then we’ll all be heading out.” He turned, swayed slightly, and marched away.

Marcus glanced at the sepios. “You’ll have to help us carry her out. Think of the best way out of this place.” He followed Hermes back to Penelope’s cell. She lay still, taking deep breaths of pure oxygen. Hermes cut the left side of her pants open and ran a hand up and down her leg.

Marcus sank down beside her. She was trembling, staring up at him with wide, frightened eyes. He tried to give her a smile, but it felt like a grimace.

“The break is in her calf, and it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be—it’s not a compound fracture. Still, we need to set her leg and splint it before we move her.” Hermes looked sick.

Marcus sighed. “Can you do that?”

Hermes nodded.

Marcus flinched and rubbed his forehead. “From Chimo?”

Hermes nodded again.

Marcus swallowed. “Okay. What do you need me to do?”

“Hold her hand.” Hermes leaned over Penelope. “Penelope, this is going to be… excruciating, but I have to do it.” He dropped his jacket and tore his shirt off. He shrugged back into his jacket and ripped his shirt into strips. “You can scream or pass out if you want, and this’ll keep you from biting your tongue.” He held out a balled up scrap of his shirt.

Penelope nodded and let Hermes take the respirator and tuck the fabric into her mouth. Marcus took both of her hands and looked into her eyes. They were wide and wild and so afraid. She trembled so hard. Marcus wrapped an arm around her shoulder and held her tight against his chest.

Seconds stretched by, and suddenly, Hermes made a quick motion that Marcus couldn’t see, and Penelope arched her back. The fabric did little to muffle her scream, and Marcus flinched. Her fingernails broke through his skin, and then she went limp. Hermes was sniffing as he pressed what was left of the gun against her leg and carefully wrapped her leg in the strips of his shirt. His hand settled on her good knee as he wiped his forehead. “Let’s get out of this place.”

The sepios were wordless as they carried Penelope’s cot. Hermes lagged behind, stumbling. Marcus paused. “What’s wrong?”

Hermes grimaced. “My head’s just… not working well right now, and I’m pretty tired. I have the letter though!” He patted his jacket. “Safe and sound in a secret pocket. I forgot I put it there.”

Marcus pulled Hermes’s arm over his shoulder. “We have to keep moving. I’ll help you.”

Hermes smiled, a bit deliriously, perhaps. “Thanks, Marcus. You’re always helping me get out of this sort of thing, aren’t you?”

Marcus grunted. “Well, this would be about the second time I’ve had to come rescue you from some mess.”

Hermes tripped but Marcus caught him and kept on after the sepios. Penelope’s steady light lit the way. Marcus popped his nocturnals and struggled on. “Will Penelope be all right?”

“I don’t know…” Hermes’s words slurred slightly, and Marcus swallowed. Head wounds could be very tricky.

“So why did they hit you?”

“Oh, this?” Hermes grinned and then grimaced again.  “Penelope was causing a ruckus, and I moved to try to calm her down. It freaked them out, and so I got a rifle stock to the head… and then several punches and few kicks for good measure.”

Hermes started to lag again, but Marcus pulled him along. “This is not the time for you to finally decide you’re going to pass out after all that pad cracking, criminal fighting, and leg setting.”

Hermes laughed softly. “El Roi does amazing things with adrenaline.” His words slurred more. “But it’s really quite incredible. With El Roi, I’m not afraid, you know? Because He’s with me, I don’t have to be afraid because I’m never alone…” Hermes jerked up a bit. “Ever.”

Finally, they came to an exit, on the far side of the compound, along the wall. The sepios shuffled through the door with Penelope while Marcus practically dragged Hermes through. One of the sepios took off at a run, probably to get help. Marcus lowered Hermes to the ground beside Penelope’s pallet and sat down hard next to them. Penelope’s chest rose and fell steadily, her blue-gray eyes closed, her face expressionless in her sleep. Hermes was pale, and his face was set in a grimace. The beacons’ light lapped against each other, Hermes’s sharp and bright, Penelope’s soft and steady. Marcus took one of Penelope’s hands and one of Hermes’s and hugged them to his chest.

Finally, his heart could stop racing. They were here with him, somewhat safe. He sagged against Penelope’s pallet and pulled off his nocturnals. He let out a deep breath and stared at the sky. The blank, black canvas stared back. El Roi. He had seen them. He had seen them back in the murklands. He had seen them tonight. He had seen Marcus. The thought sent fear prickling down his spine and longing quickening in his spirit.

Marcus looked down at the unconscious beacons. Both with souls that were fractured and whole all at once, beautiful and broken. A lump settled in Marcus’s throat. It’s an incredible thing, how quickly people become precious.

He cocked his head. So this is what El Roi does to people.

New light rounded the corner as the sepio returned with more sepios and a handful of beacons.

The beacons crowded around Marcus, Hermes, and Penelope, pressing close, praying, and whispering amongst themselves. Marcus shoved himself to his feet and pushed past the beacons to the sepios, keeping Penelope and Hermes in the corner of his eye. He wasn’t leaving them. They couldn’t make him. He folded his arms and planted his feet in front of the sepio who seemed to be in charge. “So. What are your plans?”

The sepio pushed his nocturnals back and looked up at Marcus. “Well, the beacons are out after curfew, and that’s strictly prohibited. Those two beacons–” he pointed to Hermes and Penelope “–should be taken back into custody now that the explosion is under control.”

Hm, well then. Marcus shifted on his feet and threw a glance at the other sepios who were chatting in groups. He sniffed and rubbed his nose. He let out a breath, muscles coiling tight.

He grabbed the sepio by the front of the jacket and yanked him forward, until they were nose to nose. The sepios erupted, levelling guns on him, but he didn’t lose eye contact with the now wide-eyed sepio. “Here’s how I see it: if it weren’t for the beacons, that fire would still be burning down that building and eating up oxygen. More of your men would be dead.”

He swung the sepio around to see Hermes and Penelope. “If it weren’t for those two beacons, seven more of your men would be dead right now.” Marcus’s voice was low and fast. “Now, you’re going to let all of the beacons go without so much as a doodle on their records, and you’re going to let those two beacons board a ship bound for Pollux. Am I clear?”

The sepio’s eyes darted around the group—the startled beacons, the sepios ready to shoot, and then back to Marcus. “And what if I don’t?”

Marcus blinked. “You see the pretty little beacon with the splinted leg? Yeah, her. Your men broke her leg, and so if you don’t do the decent thing and let all of us go, I’ll break both of your legs right here and now. And I don’t really give darkwater if you shoot me in the head for it.”

The sepio swallowed.

The Antigone Bay beacons moved them to a small ship. Marcus’s body revolted at the sight, but he kept moving, watching over Hermes and Penelope. The sepios had returned Hermes and Penelope’s packs, and Marcus carried them. The beacons had restocked all three packs for them. The boat dipped beneath his boots, and he sighed as the beacons strapped Penelope and her cot down. He could tell they didn’t approve of his methods with the sepios, but he wasn’t a beacon yet, and so they couldn’t pester him about it.

He settled in between his two beacons, and locked Winston into an aqua-lantern holder. The ship started to move as the engines came alive. Marcus’s stomach turned, and the sweat began. He groaned. One week of seasickness to look forward to.

Sometime in the morning, Hermes stirred. “Marcus. Are you there?”

“Yep.” Marcus opened one eye.

Hermes rubbed his head.  “Where are we?”

“On a ship from Antigone Bay to Pollux.”

“To Pollux at last?” Hermes sounded almost like he didn’t believe it.

Marcus chuckled. “Yes. The sepios let us go because we helped them. Now we’re bound for Pollux.”

Hermes tested the bruises on his face. “I’m a bit concerned that you aren’t telling me everything, Marcus—about why the sepios let us go.”

A smile twitched across Marcus’s face. “Don’t worry yourself too much.”


You can read Flickering Lights 10: El Roi here.

So! Was it worth the wait?

Did you think that Hermes was dead? (I considered killing him off here, but it did nothing for the story at this point, so…)

Have we seen the last of the sepios?

Whoa, and Marcus can be pretty intense sometimes. O.o

Flickering Lights 6: Kindle

After a two week hiatus, Flickering Lights has returned!!!

If you’ve missed any installments, hop over to the Flickering Lights page to get caught up. Otherwise, here is Flickering Lights 6: Kindle.


Kindle title image 1

Marcus shook his head. “I’m not going to a highlight.”

Penelope snorted. “Yeah, Hermes. When was the last time you were in a highlight?”

Marcus and Penelope sat opposite of Hermes in a booth on the second rail bound for Kindle.

“Keaton and I went to a couple highlights back in Chryseis.” Hermes’s eyes were unusually bright as he lounged with a smile.

Penelope raised an eyebrow. “And have you heard about what happens in Kindle?”

“I’ve heard it’s a dark place.”

Penelope snorted again. “Yeah. That’s because it is. It’s the darkest of the three cities.”

“All the more reason to go to at least one of the highlights in Kindle.” Hermes smiled.

flickering lights map

Map of Murk. (Click to enlarge.)

Marcus glanced from Hermes to Penelope who was drooping in her seat. Her light faded as one hand curled into a fist and the other ran through her hair.

“Didn’t you say you have relatives in Kindle, Penelope?” Hermes sipped his water, watching Penelope over the rim of his cup.

“Yep.” Penelope pulled her nocturnals off and rubbed her eyes. “Unfortunately, I did.”

“Perfect! We’ll go to their highlight.”

Penelope let out a huff and collapsed on the table. “Someone shoot me now.”

Marcus cocked his head at her. “Do you not like your relatives?”

“It’s not that I don’t like them as much as it is a… mutual distaste sort of thing.”

“Are they beacons?” Hermes toyed with his cup.

Penelope groaned. “Can we not talk about this right now?” She peered out from under her hair at them, over the edge of her nocturnals, and her eyes looked tired.

Hermes set his empty cup on the table and shrugged. “What would you like to talk about?”

“I don’t know.”

“Marcus.” Hermes turned his sights from Penelope to Marcus. “You should come with us to Penelope’s highlight.”

“It is so not my highlight,” Penelope growled from her arms.

Hermes raised his eyebrows but otherwise ignored her.

“I’m not going.” Marcus rubbed his head around the still tender bruising on his skull.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t like highlights.”

Hermes blinked. “Why don’t you like highlights?”

“What are you? Three?” Penelope rested her chin on the table. “Everything is the why behind the why behind the why with you.”

“So I wasn’t the only one feeling like that?” Marcus asked.

“Nope.”

“I’m just curious.” Hermes wasn’t even a little sheepish.

Marcus glanced at Penelope and decided he liked it when she was on his side. Poor Hermes. He was just trying to help in his own beacon way. Marcus sighed. “Well, I went to a highlight once, and it was completely underwhelming. Everyone was cold and rude. The guy who did most of the talking was the dimmest one in the place.”

Hermes stroked his chin for a moment and looked out their window.  “Why don’t you want to go to a highlight, Penelope?”

She let out a sigh that dragged on for almost half a minute before pushing herself up from the table. “Same reason as Marcus. Most highlights do more damage than they do good. And Kindle is a pit. Like a pit.”

“Hm, really.”

“You’ll see what I mean when we get there, Hermes.” She shoved some of her hair out of her face.

The rest of the trip passed with a growing sense of dread emanating from Penelope and growing peace radiating from Hermes. When a voice called over the coms to prepare to disembark, they gathered their things. Penelope pulled the hat low over her ears and motioned for them to go first.

“Aren’t you going to lead the way?” Marcus asked. “You know the most about Kindle anyway.”

“Nope. I don’t want to go first into a teeming mass of the darkest people on Murk.”

“Penelope. It isn’t us versus them. It can never be us versus them. We have to love them despite their darkness, the same way El Roi loves us.” Hermes had an odd way of sounding like he was scolding and encouraging Penelope at the same time. She didn’t respond but hooked her thumbs in the straps of her backpack.

“I’ll go first.” Marcus held Winston up and followed the people shuffling towards the nearest exit.

Hermes was whispering something to Penelope, but Marcus couldn’t hear what he was saying. When they came to the doors, Marcus paused. It was darker than Chryseis. Sure, darkfish illuminated Kindle as much as darkfish can, but something was missing. The light seemed hollower than normal.

“Keep it moving, Marcus,” Penelope muttered, suddenly right behind him. “We don’t want to get trampled by the masses.”

“I don’t even know where to go, Penelope.”

“Yeah.” She came up beside him.  “That would be a problem. I’ll take the lead, and we’ll go to a hotel. At least it’ll make the guiding light happy.”

She made a face before putting her nocturnals on and stepping out of the car. He followed her down, and the icy air of Kindle snaked its way down the back of his jacket. Penelope wound her way through the crowd, stepping lightly between groups of people until suddenly she was gone.

Marcus stopped short, and Hermes collided with him. “I can’t see her.” Marcus’s heart rate sped up. “I lost her.”  He stood on his tiptoes, craning his neck.

Hermes scooted around Marcus and shoved his hood back. White light spilled out. “Do you think she did this on purpose?”

Marcus shook his head. “No.” Not when she finds the “guiding light” so appealing. “She wouldn’t leave us.”

“Who left who, snails?” Penelope was back, elbowing her way between them. “You two need to keep up.”

“Where did you go?” Marcus relaxed.

Penelope cocked her head and lines appeared in the corners of her nocturnals, as if her eyes were narrowed. “I was heading to a hotel, and you two twerps fell way behind.”

Twerps. Twerps?

Hermes shrugged.  “We’ll keep up this time.”

The lines by Penelope’s eyes deepened. “Hold on to the back of my jacket, Marcus.  Hermes, hold on to the Marcus’s jacket.” Marcus gripped the hem of her jacket, and Hermes shrugged again before taking hold of Marcus’s jacket. Penelope glanced back at them before starting off again. “It’s like we’re children,” she muttered.

She dragged them through the streets of Kindle. It looked like Chryseis. The jagged skyline cutting through the air, the streets full of people jostling to get somewhere. But here the people huddled in groups, chatting about the latest news. Unlike Chryseis, Kindle was a social place. Ah, people. Marcus’s nose wrinkled. He tightened his grip on Winston’s aqua-lantern as Penelope pulled them through another knot of people and into a hustle street.

Hermes stiffened.

In the buildings that lined the hustle street, men and women posed provocatively for the people passing by. Some people went into the buildings, rolling up the sleeves of their coats to expose their wrists, ready to pay. Others stared and made crude remarks.

Hermes cleared his throat. Marcus looked back at him, and the first time, he saw the beacon’s light dull. Hermes’s eyes darted around, flitting from window to window, as panic overtook his features.

Marcus jerked Penelope. “Penelope!”

“What?” Penelope glanced back and paled.

“I have to get out of here.” Hermes stared at Marcus. “Penelope, take us another way to the hotel.”

“What’s going on?” Marcus looked from one beacon to the other.

“We’ll explain later!” Penelope adjusted her nocturnals. “I can’t go another way, Hermes!”

Hermes blinked. “Chryseis has only a few hustle streets. We can, we need, to go another way.”

“Hermes. This is Kindle. These streets are everywhere, believe me, I know.” Penelope shifted on her feet.

Hermes’s eyes narrowed, and his gaze moved from Marcus’s face to Penelope’s.

“Oh, darkwater, no!” She threw up her hands. “Not that I’ve bought or sold anything on a hustle street! I can practically see the little concerned gears turning in your head, Hermes! I know because my dad went to hustle streets all the time, and it was my job to go find him when he went missing for hours on end.” Her hands fisted.

Oh. Marcus shuffled back a step in case she went violent.

“I’m sorry, Penelope.” Hermes stared at his boots.

Then she sagged and rubbed her face. “Me too. Um. I don’t know what to do.”

“I need to get away from here.” Hermes’s voice was ragged.

“Right.” Penelope ripped the hat off her head and yanked it onto Hermes’s. She pulled it so low that it covered his eyes. “Hopefully, that helps.” She glanced around again and took Hermes’s hand. “I’ll lead you out, okay?”

“All right.”

Penelope turned to Marcus. “Keep close, Marcus.” She started leading Hermes by the hand.

Marcus sighed and followed. He had stumbled into a Chryseis hustle street by accident once, and while he wasn’t one to pay for the favors that hustle streets offered, he hadn’t freaked out like Hermes had. “Beacons can be so weird,” he whispered to Winston as he followed Penelope.

“Watch your step, Hermes.” Penelope skirted a puddle.

Hermes stumbled after her. She moved fast, and Marcus was out of breath as he tried to keep up with her. The minutes slogged by until they came to the end of the street and rounded a corner. Penelope gave one last backward glance before dropping Hermes’s hand. “You’re good now. I think that’s the only one we’ll have to go through to get to the hotel.”

Hermes peeled the hat off and handed it back to Penelope. He still stared at the ground.

“Hey.” Penelope shoved her hands in her pockets. “You okay?”

“Yep!” Hermes looked up, rocking back on his feet. “I’m fine.”

Penelope raised an eyebrow. “Well, let’s go. We’re almost there.”

Marcus rasped and he held up a hand. “Just a sec. I have to get some oxygen. Anybody else want some?”

Hermes nodded, and Penelope shrugged.

Marcus pulled the oxygen tank out of his pack and took three breaths before handing it to Hermes. After Hermes gulped down some oxygen, he held the tank out to Penelope. She took it and eyed them. “You guys don’t have any kinds of diseases, do you?”

“What?” Marcus blinked. “Even if we did, that didn’t bother you back in the murklands.”

“Yeah, well. I was suffering from hysteria.” She sniffed and popped the respirator into her mouth. She inhaled once and handed the tank back to Marcus. “Okay, let’s go.”

A few more city blocks, and they arrived at the hotel. It was several stories tall with darkfish lighting the ground floor. Marcus followed Hermes who seemed to know what to do at a hotel.

“Two adjoining rooms, please,” Hermes told the receptionist. “And please set the atmospheric levels of both rooms to 12% oxygen.” Marcus raised an eyebrow and glanced at Penelope who shrugged. 12% oxygen was pretty high. Marcus usually kept his pod at about 6%.

Hermes swiped his wrist across a pad and then led the way to their rooms. There was no spring in his step. There was no chatter. There was no teasing as they took the lift up a few levels. It was as if his life and joy had been consumed the way a flame devours oxygen.

Finally, they arrived at their rooms. Hermes and Marcus shared a pod while Penelope had one all to herself. Hermes paused in the hall outside their room. “I’m heading to bed now.”

Marcus nodded. “Okay, I’ll be there in a bit.”

Hermes gave a tired smile and slipped into their room. Marcus turned to find Penelope creeping away to her room. “Hey!” He grabbed her arm. “What in the deeps was that?”

She sighed. “It’s complicated, Marcus.”

“Then make it simple so that I understand because I won’t let you rest until you tell me what in the deeps happened back on that hustle street.”

She sighed again. “When a beacon does something that El Roi has said is wrong, their light dims.”

“But Hermes didn’t do anything!”

Penelope jerked her arm out of his grasp. “It’s more complicated than that. So, uh, why do you think a beacon’s light dims?”

“You just told me why a beacon’s light dims!”

“Yeah!” Penelope ran a hand through her hair. “But give me specifics.”

“I don’t know. I guess when beacons are rude. Or maybe when they cheat on reports. Or maybe when they lie—I don’t know!”

“You’re on the right track. El Roi, well, He’s laid out ground rules, He’s given commands to us beacons. Our light dims when we’re rude because He’s commanded us to be kind. Our light dims when we cheat on something or lie because He has said that we’re to be honest and that truth is precious.”

She let out a whoosh of air and pulled her nocturnals off. “See, we’re supposed to reflect Him. When we disobey His commands, we not only give the world the wrong impression of Him, but we also betray Him.”

“You’re not making much sense.”

She let out a squeal of frustration. “I’m really a terrible person to be explaining this to you! I’ve got my own slew of issues!” She closed her eyes and took a breath. “Okay, so that hustle street back there. El Roi has certain parameters for… that–what they sell there.” It was hard to tell, but it looked like she blushed. “Anything besides what He has commanded about that is lust, and from what I understand, lust is wanting something that El Roi has forbidden.”

Marcus squinted and pulled his own nocturnals off. “I still don’t get it.”

She drooped. “Okay. So, um, let me think for a sec.”

Marcus waited. She ran her fingers through her hair again and started mangling the hat. After several seconds of silence, she started up again. “Part of what makes being a bright beacon so hard is that what’s inside our heads and our hearts influences our light. It’s not just the things we do. It’s the things that we think and feel. Does that make sense?”

Marcus thought for a minute. “Kind of…?”

“You don’t seem convinced.”

“It just doesn’t seem all that solid to me. Like how is your light supposed to know if you’re following El Roi’s orders?”

“No, no. The light is El Roi. The more we’re like Him, the more our light shines. The less we’re like Him, the dimmer our light is. And El Roi sees everything. Everything. He’s sees not only what you do but why you do it. He sees your heart. He sees your pain.” Penelope leaned against the wall. “He sees the darkest parts of me that even I don’t like. He sees what makes me happy. He sees what tears me down. He sees and understands me on such an intimate level that it is like nothing I have ever experienced.”

She smiled and then sighed. “Being a beacon is a pain. You have to be really serious about it, about El Roi, to be anywhere close to as bright as Hermes is… Please tell me that you understand what I mean.”

Marcus shifted on his feet. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Just talk to Hermes about it.” She seemed tired. “He can probably explain it better than I can. Now, I just want to go to bed.” She patted his shoulder before disappearing into her room. Marcus slipped into the room he shared with Hermes. He hung Winston on a peg and closed the blinds on the aqua-lantern. “At least you’re not difficult to understand, Winston.” He kept his boots on as he laid down.

El Roi. Things didn’t sit right about Him. He could not possibly be everything Hermes, and now Penelope, made Him out to be. Marcus’s questions roiled within him like lightning getting ready to strike. Where to even begin?

One thing he knew for certain: Hermes was not going to drag him to a highlight.


You can read the next installment, Flickering Lights 7: A Stone and a Hurricane, here.

What do you think of Kindle? Personally, I prefer Chryseis….

And who’s your favorite character at this point? — Marcus, Penelope, Hermes, or Winston?

Which character is most intriguing to you? Mysterious Hermes? Biting-but-kind-of-endearing Penelope? Marcus with his suicidal siblings? Typical Winston?