Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part XII

“What took you so long?”

Sami shrieked and tried to jump into my arms.

“Be still.” I turned to Silas who was perched on an outcropping of rock beside us. “Where do we stand?”

“Physically or metaphysically?”

I didn’t reply, but gave my best annoyed cat expression back.

“Not bad physically. They’ll have to cross that flat and there is no way to hide.” He flicked his ears forward. “They are still a few minutes out. The darkening horizon.”

I nodded. “As good as can we can hope for.”

“Inversion on this side will be in ten minutes, give or take.”

“Nothing is ever easy.”

He said nothing, but stretched and dragged his claws across the rock so tiny sparks leapt and sputtered. Good we were not in a forest. The last thing I needed was a fire to contend with, too.

“That’s not Silas.” Sami held her sword fully extended in front of her, her elbows locked. That stance would get her killed faster than trying Silas’s patience.

“Fix your guard, unless you want to die before the battle even begins.” I knocked my palm against her inner elbows. She dropped her guard with a flush spreading across her face.

“Of course, I am Silas.” He dropped down with the grace of all cats. In fairness to Sami, he was ten times his normal size. “And you, mousling, better learn fast to get us out of this mess. I do not look well inside out.”


I glared at Silas. It is one thing to try to prepare someone for the Other Side. It is quite another to talk about inversion to someone who is an apprentice and on the fine edge of panic.

“Do not worry about that now. That is our future problem. First we must survive the goblin horde.”


“You don’t think they are coming for tea, do you?” Silas growled and it shook the ground, causing Sami to stumble.

“Get your guard up and stay near me. Do not let them surround you. Do not give up the high ground.”

I did not know if she attended to me or not. I had my own preparations to see to as the horde came close enough to begin to count individual goblins, each holding a pick or axe or sword, and snarling curses that thankfully Sami could not yet understand. A small blessing, perhaps, of my apprentice’s less than enthusiastic study. I laughed and Silas twitched his ears.

“There’s always a silver lining even to laziness, you just have to come to the Other Side.” Then I drew my sword and yelled.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part XI

“No!” she grabbed my sleeve as I opened the kitchen door. “The threshold—“

“Will not save us.” I pointed to the smudge of darkness that looked like the lazy heatlines above a road under the summer sun. “It will grow and devour until it finds you. Blood always wins.”

“But I didn’t mean to!”

I grabbed her shoulders and shook her once so she attended to me. “Your intentions do not matter! Only your actions and their consequences. Now move!”

And I pulled her out of the house with me. She stumbled, but didn’t fall. That was good. Her dying by falling on her sword before we even made it to the Other Side would have been an ignoble way to go, even for a failing apprentice.

When we reached the splinters of the gate, the darkness had grown large enough to swallow a horse.

“Where does it go?”

“To the Other Side.”


I shook my head. “Nothing that nice.” I turned and looked in Sami’s still clear eyes. There was too much to say and too little time. Wasn’t there always? “Trust me, trust yourself, trust Silas, trust no one else. They whisper lies. Do not accept anything and remember your lessons. Then we might get out alive.”

She said nothing, but blanched in return.

“Good.” Fear, not panic, was healthy and could be worked with. “Time to go.”

I have been to the Other Side twice to bring back something that was lost. Once I succeeded and once I failed. I placed no bets on the outcome this time. Only amateurs and fools did that.

I took one last breath of the country air, filling my lungs with its freedom, then stepped through the portal dragging Sami beside me.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part X

“Listen well and quickly.” I paused, feeling a lump in my apron pocket. I pulled out a teaspoon and frowned, then the house shook again, it fell from my hand back into my pocket and I turned my attention to more important things.

“The man you met has your blood, he will try to command you. He is very powerful, but the Mountain and the River have held him back for years, perhaps even centuries. We forget what true evil is when it is out of sight.”

“That makes no sense.”

“More quickly,” Silas said. “Your gate is next.”

“The Sisterhood is here not only to teach things to grow, but to prevent the Inversion. Do not believe his lies. Remember your lessons. Stay close to me. Do as I say. Do not touch anything on the Other Side.”

“What?” Sami’s question was more of a strangled cry. “What is the Other Side?”

Silas jumped from the window ledge to the counter nearest Sami. Eye-to-eye he stared at her and her trembling stilled. “She’ll try to keep you alive, but you are blood bound. Don’t be a simpering kitten. Fight, if you want to survive.”


“And don’t be a parrot. They’re nasty birds.” He jumped down. “I will see you—“

“—on the Other Side,” I finished.

He flicked his tail and walked into the Other Side, though it appeared he’d simply disappeared.

“Where’d he go? He vanished!”

“No, he is waiting for us.”

The house shook again as the gate exploded. “Well, clearly I was had.”


I laughed, picturing Sami as a parrot. Panic and terror rendered most next to useless, at least for a while. Sami would recover or not, but that was not our current problem.

“I paid for Elder ash. Clearly that was counterfeit.” I took a deep breath, my panic and terror could be saved for later. “Come, let us face him together.”

Happy 2020!

Happy New Year! Yes, I’m well aware we are already more than a week into 2020 so I’m a bit late to the well-wishing game. But, really, can you have too many good wishes for a good year? I think not.

It’s been quiet around this blog for a bit, for which I’m both sorry and not at all apologetic for because life happens. And when we say life happens, we usually mean all shit hits the fan and blogging is the last thing on our minds. Which is true, so very true.

It’s been a bad cold season here with everyone getting sick, except the cat. She’s fine, thank you very much, and has enjoyed people wanting to only sit on the couch and sip tea while napping. Though she has been very much annoyed by a cough I had that lasted over 5 weeks.

Then the end of the year rush came, much of it lovely and fun, but still tiring and little writing happened between the end of NaNo (which I hope treated everyone well) and the beginning of the year.

But now things have settled, as much as they ever do, and I’m back to writing my way through things and especially through the ending of my story, Close Enough. So expect new parts to it coming as Saturday Shorts and it wrapping up soon. How soon? I don’t know. I was asked by a dear friend and writing buddy if I knew the stories’ endings I serialize on this blog before I started writing them and the answer is no. I have only a vague shape when I begin writing them and they evolve their own ways. I find it exciting and if I already knew the ending, there’d be no point in writing it down, at least for me.

So we shall find out together how the story ends and where the next story leads.

I wish you all the best in 2020. Thank you for reading and I wish you inspiration, fortitude, and luck in the year ahead. May your creative works be a force for good and may you always have a cup of tea, a good book, and a friend nearby when you need them.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part IX

“What are you talking about?” Sami hurried to follow me into the kitchen.

I ignored her as I pulled the canisters of flour and sugar from the cupboard and felt for the knothole behind the papered wall. I pushed it and the back of the cupboard swung in.

“What…” her question trailed off as the house shook again causing us all to catch our balance.

“The mountain has surrendered,” Silas said as if reporting the weather.

“Yes, thank you.” I pulled out the bundle I’d stashed behind the cupboard. I’d hoped not to need again. Not after my last apprentice. “Do you know how to use one?”

“One what?”

I pulled out one of the weapons from the bundle and snapped it open with a flick of my wrist, the blade glowed with the flash of lightening from the storm. It was a very old sword, one that the craftsmen no longer knew how to forge. The sheath of the blade was its handle, as long as my forearm. It made it easier to carry, easier to conceal than today’s swords.

“We don’t have to learn to fight. We’re responsible for making things grow!”

“That is not what I asked.” I pulled the second sword from the bundle and palmed it, holding it out to her. “Do you know how to use one?”

“Yes,” she said in a whisper. “I do.”

“Then for Mother’s sake take the blade.”  I thrust it in her hand.

She shook her head and tried to shove it back to me. “No. I don’t want to.”

I grabbed her by the collar of her dress, an affront that could get me expelled from the Sisterhood or worse, but there was no time. “I do not care what you want. I do not care what happened to you in the past. What you did or did not do, does not concern us. What I care about is surviving until tomorrow. So take the damn blade and try not to run any of us through with it. And if we survive, we can talk about your wants tomorrow.”

Her eyes narrowed as I spoke until the panic turned to anger. That I could work with. That might keep her safe or at least safer.

“The River is boiling.”

I ran to the window, not that I doubted Silas, but I needed to see for myself. The mists rose where the River should be and though I knew the mists would be as hot as teakettle steam, my heart felt like a shard of ice had lodged in it. I was afraid.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part VIII

“She’s too stupid to know what she’s done,” Silas continued. “But how did he get his hands on her. He hasn’t been in this area for years. The River has seen to that.”

There were many ways to infect an impressionable mind, especially a young one. Ways that didn’t require one to be physically present. The old saying might be that words couldn’t hurt you, but I always found that laughable at best and incoherent at worst. How could words not hurt yet knowledge was power?

It was bad to look to trite sayings for wisdom, worse to look to them to save you. Most of the time words got you hurt, at least in my experience with the young.

But Silas was right. There was no way to get that type of control without being present. He’d need a lock, a touch, something with her on it. Not even Mother was powerful enough to replace a mind without that connection. It made all of this unbelievable, impossible.

I grabbed on to the kitchen counter as another shockwave caused the house to shudder. The wooden frame groaned, but held. I would never complain about the Carpenter’s fees again.

“Well?” Silas was more impatient than usual in his fright.

“I do not…”

I spun around and ran to Sami’s room. I threw open her door without knocking. Her head snapped up, her eyes registered surprise then anger at my invasion.

“You can’t—“

“Did you go to your parents a fortnight ago?”


“Were you at your parents or not?”

“I haven’t seen my parents since last winter.” Her honest answer tumbled out of her mouth before her brain caught up. I saw the look of panic on her face as she realized her mistake.

“Where did you go?”

“I missp—“

I grabbed her shoulders, our faces inches apart. “We do not have time. Where did you go?”

“To Deeping Market. There was a festival…”

“Ah.” Silas sat in the doorway. “A masquerade no doubt.”

Sami nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “I…I went with some of the other apprentices…”

I sank back on my haunches and rubbed my left temple that had begun throbbing in time with the rolling thunder. “And had your fortune told.”

“How did…”

“By a man whose eye color you cannot describe, but cannot forget. And voice that made you remember and forget. And you had an unexplained cut on the side of your finger that you noticed in the morning.”

“Yes, I…” Tears spilled as she jumped at the next shake of the house.

“Not good.” Silas cocked his head to the side, hearing something we did not yet. “Not good at all.”

“No, not at all.”

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part VII

“Die?!” Sami slammed the greenhouse door as raced to catch up to me. She grabbed my arm; I didn’t want to stop, but did. “All I did…I don’t know what I did.”

“I know and that’s the problem.” I took two more steps toward the house before turning back around. “And, yes, you could very well die.”

I looked around the yard and didn’t see what I needed. “Silas!” I yelled. “You are called!”

“The cat? What could he—“ Sami was wise enough to stop talking as I settled my glare on her.

“In the house, now. Stay in your room. Don’t go by the window and do nothing until I come and get you.”

To her credit, she didn’t argue. She did flounce into the house, but that was neither here nor there.

Rain began falling as I secured the gate at the end of the walkway to the house. Thank the Sisterhood I’d repaired the crossbeams on the fence after the last of the snowmelt earlier in the year. It was not a lovely looking barrier, not with the roses in need of deadheading, but it was sturdy. I would take steadiness over beauty any day, but especially today.

Thunder rolled across the sky as I ran for cover on the porch, wiping the rain from my forehead. Still no sign of Silas. If he was much later, it would call for more desperate measures.

“If Vinia’s pride costs me another…” I would not finish such thoughts outloud. Hatred was not, unlike the popular trope a useful catalyst for power. It was the corrosive rot. I was opening the door when lightening split the sky and a dark shadow launched itself over the gate as if hellhounds were after it.

“Inside! Get inside!”

I ducked on instinct as Silas bounded over me and slammed the door shut behind us, tumbling backwards onto the floor as the door shook in its frame.

“Too close,” I muttered.

“Yes. I don’t want to use up another life, especially not on your damnable apprentice.”

I nodded. I had no desire to use up any more of my life on her either, but life never much cared about my thoughts.

“How bad?”

Silas licked the back of his paw where the hairs were singed. “The mountain is moving. He’s coming. She’s spilled blood.”

Sunday Short: Close Enough, Part VI

If my life were a story, like the ones I used to sneak from Mother’s personal library and read when everyone else was snoring in bed, everything would have changed after Vinia’s visit. Sami would have become the model apprentice, quick to mend her ways, eager to learn everything she could, and a pleasure to have in one’s company. Alas, my life was not a story any more than Silas was a reliable companion.

The week after Vinia’s visit, Sami was better than she had been, but that was not saying much. A flock of pigeons would have been a better apprentice than she was through sheer chance. After a week, the threat of a teacher who wanted her to leave and the fear that I had hoped would make her wise had faded like water from the storm.

Her belligerence I could deal with, I held court with a talking cat so stubbornness did not trouble me as much as her lack of fear. That would get her killed.

I finished scouring the kitchen as Sami had left the counters still speckled with signs of cooking and the floors with tracks of now damp dust. At least she had the decency to be in a hurry to get to her lessons in the greenhouse. Perhaps today she would finally learn lesson three.

It was a beautiful day for working with living things. Plants always felt fresh in the morning, like people. Perhaps it would be a good day for talking, for listening, for learning.

I walked into the greenhouse and yelled before I was half-conscious of why I was yelling. Everything froze in place, even Sami. Blood rushed to my cheeks and through my ears, a roar like the ocean, and I smelled some acrid and rotting sweet. A breath of it, enough to panic.

But I would not let him win so easily.

I grabbed the candle, its flame unmoving yet burning, from Sami’s grasp. Her confusion behind her eyes did not match her languid motions, like a person in a dream. I paid her no more mind as I licked my fingers and snuffed out the flame. I pried the knife from her left hand and threw it so it stuck deep into the wooden beam by the door. Then I swept my arm across the bench and the drawings in chalk with their manic curling lines blurred like sand on the tideline.

I looked around my greenhouse for signs of taint, but saw none and whispered the words that let everything move and breathe again. The plants sighed and Sami fell forward at the bench, gulping for air.

If I were Mother, I could be gentle in my wrath and find the lesson in every moment. I am not Mother.

I swung around and grabbed Sami’s chin with one hand. “You have no idea what you have done!”

She slapped my hand away and pushed herself back from me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know.” I looked away towards the north and saw a dark line forming on the horizon. “And for that you may well die.”

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part V

“You want to get rid of me?” Sami slammed the hallway door shaking its frame.

“I see you’ve been listening.” I began wiping down the counter of useless, wetted flour and moved to the much smaller space by the stove to resume kneading the dough.

“What? I….”

The silence would not last. But it was nice for the moment as Sami puzzled her way through which subject was of most importance to her. I knew what would win, in the end, but focused on kneading until she did, too.

Down and back, pushing and pulling the lump of dough as the surface tightened and began to hold, pulling away from the counter to cling to itself. It never failed to amaze me how simple flour and water could turn into something so much more than the sum of its parts.

“That’s not important!”

Ah, the silence was over. And no sign of Silas. Sometimes, not infrequently, I envied that cat.

“And what is? Clearly not your studies.” I placed the ball of dough in the bowl and covered it with a towel before I turned to Sami who had an expression on her face I did not expect.

“You want to get rid of me?” she repeated in a hush.

“You have made it clear you are not interested in what I have to teach you. You chafe against everything I have you do. Would you not be happier with another mentor?”

“I….” she trailed off as the first tears began rolling down her cheeks.

Tears, like rain, too often came without warning. Perhaps I was a fool.

“Sit down.” I motioned to seat that Vinia had vacated in a huff. Sami collapsed in it and stared at her hands. I poured her a fresh mug of tea and one for myself as I sat down beside her, already wishing it were time for bed.

“I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me.” She hadn’t touched her tea. She sniffled and wiped her face against her sleeve. I gave her my handkerchief, which she knotted in her hand.

“It appears you are stuck with me and I with you.”


“So declares the Sisterhood.” I sipped my tea and felt the burn against the roof of my mouth. “But tell me, why would you want to stay?”

“I have nowhere else to go. And…” She looked away, out the window at the rainclouds roiling by.


“And I’m afraid.”

“Ah. At last, we have something in common.”

And we finished our tea in silence as we waited for the sun.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part IV

Some people like surprises. They like the unexpected. They revel in the entropy of life.

I am not one of those people.

I went to the sink to wash the rest of the flour off of my hands and the dough that was sticking to the underside of my nails. There was nothing to be done in the time it would take a rider to reach my front door about flour in my hair or apron.

Silas had made himself scarce as had Sami. The one time the girl did not want to be first to the door. A peal of thunder shook the sky. I took a deep breath that turned into a sigh.

The rider pulled the reigns of her horse sharply and the horse skittered to a stop. Mud sprayed and caught the hem of the rider’s traveling cloak. Somehow, that was going to be my fault. Everything with Vinia was always my fault and had been since we were both apprentices.

She daintily hopped between the puddles forming on the path to the front door. Sami had complained it was not stone or brick, but merely packed dirt. It seemed, in this instance, she had a point. Another part of me hoped Vinia would fall and cover her enter backside with mud. That was a part of me that I did not voice.

I opened the door before she could knock. She almost rapped my nose instead and cut me off before I could speak.

“I suppose this is your doing.”

“You know as well as I that no one controls the weather.”

She huffed. “Are you going to make me catch cold on your doorstep as well?”

I gestured for her to come in and she flounced by me, not bothering to remove her shoes. I ground my teeth and held back a curse while lightening crashed over my neighbor’s field.

She had seated herself without asking, folding her hands carefully on the table. Her riding gloves in a pile, pooling water on the flour making it useless. Great Mother, why did you always send me such trials?

I pulled the kettle from the stove and poured to mugs of tea, waiting for her to start talking. Vinia hated being rushed and would only be longer if I showed any signs of impatience. So I waited, feeling Sami’s eyes on my back, as she thought I did not know about the knothole in the door to the back hallway.

”I had to come all this way, through this horrible storm, because you were complaining about your apprentice…again.” She tried to fluff her hem. “Why do you keep causing problems for me?”

I blew on my tea. “I simply believe she would be better served with a more compatible mentor. Do not we all want what is best for the Sisterhood?”

“Of course, but do you dare to think you know what’s best?”

“Only when it comes to mentoring apprentices.”

Her face clouded at my words. Of course she would find slight where none was meant.

“You will do what the Sisterhood asks of you and you will ensure your apprentice is ready by the next cycle of testing.” She stood up and grabbed her gloves, spraying droplets across the table and into my tea. “Do not bother Mother with your complaints again.”

In my younger years, I would have had a retort. Now, I was glad she would be going so soon.

Vinia stomped to the door and yanked it open. She turned and hissed at me, “Don’t think about trying to go around me. Focus on getting that apprentice ready or…”

“Or what?” I leaned closer. “What more could you possibly do or want from me?”

She glared and turned away without answering.

When she had mounted her horse, I called. “Vinia, what is my apprentice’s name?”

She opened her mouth, but if she spoke, it was lost to the wind and rain as she kicked her horse into a trot.

I smiled and when I closed the door, it stopped raining.