Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: Hiding Spot

Greetings readers!  Last time we heard from Jahrra, she was having a hard time adjusting to her new school mates.  This week, we learn that Jahrra discovers a sanctuary of sorts during her breaks at school.
-J.E. Johnson

Hiding Spot

Dear Journal,

I tried to pretend to be sick, I even tried getting sick, but it was no use. Nida practically dragged me out to the end of the path leading to the main road this morning and lifted me into the mail cart. I think I frightened Gieaun and Scede, but when I told them I didn't want to go to school, they understood. Mr. Dharedth the mailman told us jokes the entire way (we didn't stop at Master Hroombra's today and I didn't even see him when we passed by the Castle Guard Ruin). Once we got to the schoolhouse though, I felt like my bones were melting. I could barely walk and I felt all shaky. But we got there before the mean boys and girls did, and we went and hid behind a big huge rock sitting in front of a giant oak tree. No one even noticed us until the teacher called us into class, and by then it was too late for the horrible girl and boy to do anything mean. I felt better when they ignored me and Gieaun and Scede at lunch time, and when Mr. Cohrbin dismissed us, Mr. Dharedth was already there with his mail cart. I was so relieved I almost fell out when we started moving. I'm not sure, but maybe school won't be so bad after all.


 * * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: I Hate School!

Today we learn that Jahrra hates school because of some fellow classmates who don't like dragons.  Fortunately, she also makes some new friends who will help her through the tough times.  Happy reading!
-J.E. Johnson

I Hate School!

Dear Journal,

Today was my first day of school and it was horrible! I never want to go back, but Nida and Pada say that I must. Oh, why can't I just learn things from Master Hroombra? He knows everything there is to know. Gieaun and Scede could even come (they are the only two children in the whole class that are nice to me, though Gieaun doesn't really like snakes and spiders too much, and Scede doesn't ever talk). Master Hroombra just left me there, and this one girl and her brother, oh, I'm going to start crying again just thinking about it! They were so horribly mean and they made fun of Master Hroombra! How I wish he'd breathed fire on them . . . Maybe I'll wake up sick tomorrow and I won't have to go back! I wonder if there are any sicknesses that last for days and days and days . . .


 * * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: A Visit to Town

Hello readers!  This week, Jahrra is writing about her Korli dragon mentor, Hroombramantu.  In The Finding, Hroombra plays a big role in Jahrra's life.  Jahrra also hints that she will be starting school soon. so life for the young girl will start to get a little more interesting ;).
-J.E. Johnson
A Visit to Town

Dear Journal,

I'm so glad I've found you! I've been looking for you for ages! Nida said you'd be under my bed, but I didn't believe her; that's where the monsters and creepy things live and I was sure if you had gone under there you would have been eaten. I'm glad you haven't been. Oh, so much has happened since I last wrote! Master Hroombra took me to town and we saw all kinds of things: people dressed up, fancy houses where you could get food or clothes or something Master Hroombra called "trinkets". Then we went to the ocean shore and caught hermit crabs and counted starfish. It was amazing! I wish Master Hroombra and I could go on more adventures, but he says tomorrow I start school. I'm excited and afraid. I've never been to school before, but Nida and Pada say I will meet other children and make friends. That will be good I suppose. I had better get to bed, I must get up early tomorrow if I'm to have a bright and productive day (that is what Pada says).


* * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: Something's Up

Last time, Jahrra learned about some of the constellations above Oescienne.  This week, while Jahrra is studying with Master Hroombra, she notices something is troubling him.
-J.E. Johnson
Something's Up

Dear Diary,

Yesterday I was too tired to write to you.  I stayed up so late with Master Hroombra!  The meteor shower was the best thing in the world though, but by the time I woke up the next morning it was almost lunch time!  Pada and Nida came and picked me up and we went through Nuun Esse on the way home.  I waved to the butcher as usual and a woman selling flowers threw one to me.  It was pale yellow with lots of petals and left golden dust on my nose.
But that was yesterday.  I went back to Master Hroombra's today to work on my writing.  He says my writing is one of my best attributes (whatever an attribute is) but it must be something good because he was smiling.  He left me to practice my G's (one of my favorite letters because the big one and small one are different shapes and it can make two different sounds, "guh" and "juh") and went to his big desk in the small room in the front of the Castle Guard Ruin to read his letters.  Master Hroombra is always getting letters.  From who I cannot tell.  When I looked up from my small g's he didn't look so happy anymore.  He no longer smiled but frowned, all his wrinkles curving downwards.  His eyes moved quickly over the words on the paper and he took a deep breath.
Although he didn't say anything, I knew something was wrong.  You know how sometimes you aren't told about bad news, or grown-ups hide it from you?  Well, do you know how sometimes you can just feel that something has gone wrong?  That is how I felt, sitting by the great, empty fireplace practicing my G's.  I hope that whatever it is it will get fixed soon.  I don't like to see Master Hroombra sad.


* * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day Interview with the Characters from Caelihn!

Hello Readers!  I have been insanely busy this past week getting ready for the launch of Caelihn - A Novel of the Otherworld!  It will soon be available in ebook format from most places where ebooks are sold, and you can now order the paperback edition from Amazon.com.  In order to celebrate the next chapter in the Otherworld Series, and since it is almost February 14th, I sat down with the characters from Caelihn and asked them some questions about what they would like to do with their significant other for Valentine's Day.  Here are the questions and their answers.  I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment and ask your own questions as well!
-J.E. Johnson

Special Valentine's Day Interview with the Characters from Caelihn - A Novel of the Otherworld

1.       What is your opinion on the Valentine’s Day holiday?
-     Meghan – It’s okay.  I really never was a big fan of Valentine’s Day, but it’s a little bit different when you have someone to celebrate it with.
-       Cade – I don’t know much about this holiday since it is a mortal world invention.  Meghan will have to fill me in. 
-       Robyn – I think it’s just another way to get people to buy stuff.  I mean, it was fun and all when I was a kid and we got to exchange cards in school, but not anymore.  If you’ve got someone to celebrate a relationship with, you don’t need one day out of the year to do it.  You can show your appreciation for your significant other in little ways throughout the year.
-      Devlin – I’m with Cade.  I don’t know much about it, only that it’s a day set aside to do something special with the person you love.
2.       If you were to take one of your readers on a Valentine’s Day date, where would you go and why?
-          Meghan – In the mortal world, I would treat them to a night out in the old Arroyo Grande Village.  There is a lot to do there and it’s nice just walking around and hanging out in the small park by the swinging bridge.
-          Cade – If it was possible to take them to the Otherworld, I would take them to Luathara Castle.  We would enjoy a candlelit dinner on the terrace (if it wasn’t raining) and then a walk through the gardens or through the woods nearby.
-       Robyn – I’d probably ask them where they’d like to go first, then decide from there.  Skydiving might be pretty awesome. 
-          Devlin – If we were in Eile, I would take them out in a small boat on Lake Ohll.  We’d paddle out to one of the islands and have dinner by a campfire and watch the stars come out.
3.       What do you look for in a partner?
-          Meghan – someone with a kind soul who appreciates the little things in life.  He would also have to be compassionate and fight for what he believes in.
-      Cade – Integrity, loyalty to loved ones, strength of spirit and mind, compassion and probably the most important: an open mind about many things.
-          Robyn – I look for a guy with an adventurous spirit and a passionate soul.  I’ve been told I can be somewhat prickly at times (though I don’t know why anyone would think such a thing), so someone who can look past my sarcasm and tough-girl attitude and see the real Robyn is a winner in my book.  Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if he was hot.
-          Devlin – I look for a fierce heart and a passionate mind in my mate.  I admire people who continue to persevere even in the face of adversity.
4.       In your opinion, what is the best way to show someone you love them?
-     Meghan – With your actions.  People aren’t always honest with their words, and sometimes it’s hard to find the right thing to say, but if you pay attention, you can usually tell if someone loves you by how they treat you and act around you.
-       Cade – Do what you need to do to make them happy and safe.  Sometimes that means sacrifice on your part, but that’s what loving someone is about: being selfless for that one person you care for the most.
-          Robyn – Be there for them when it’s tough, even if that means something as easy as being a shoulder to cry on or knowing when to give them space to work things out on their own.
-       Devlin – Sometimes it’s the little things you do to let them know they are appreciated.  Leaving small gifts or laughing at their jokes (even if they aren’t all that funny).
5.       What would you like to do with your significant other this Valentine’s Day?
-          Meghan – I would just love to spend time with Cade without being interrupted by some crazy evil thing wreaking havoc in Luathara or anywhere else in Eile.  One day of not having to deal with the Morrigan’s aftermath.
-          Cade – I’m with Meghan on this one.  Maybe even take a day trip into the mortal world and do some normal, mortal world thing humans do on Valentine’s Day.  Go out to dinner in a restaurant or go see a movie or walk on the beach.  Some peace and quiet with the one I love would be much appreciated.
-         Robyn – I like Cade’s idea of going back to the mortal world for the day.  Devlin and I could go for a hike in the hills surrounding San Luis Obispo and then maybe get something to eat at one of my favorite restaurants or visit the Green Tea Leaf and see how everyone is doing.  Then, we could go see another movie (maybe I’ll let Devlin pick this time).
-          Devlin – I don’t care, as long as I get to spend time with Robyn.
6.       Stay in or go out?
-          Meghan – I’m a stay in kind of girl.
-          Cade – This all depends on what we’d be doing, but I’m leaning towards staying in.
-          Robyn – I think a double date with Meghan and Cade back in the mortal world would be a blast.
-          Devlin – Maybe go camp out in one of the hidden corners of the Weald for the night. 
7.       Flowers or chocolate?
-          Meghan – I would appreciate either.
-       Cade – You mean what I would get for Meghan?  Probably both, and maybe something else from Kellston, like some artwork for her small study in Luathara Castle.
-          Robyn – Both!  Duh!
-          Devlin – Would it be unmanly of me to admit I wouldn’t mind getting some flowers from Robyn?  And maybe some chocolate for the two of us to share after dinner.
8.       Finally, if you could get anything for your Valentine, what would it be?
-         Meghan – Cade has already given me so much, I couldn’t possibly think of what I could give him that would make up for everything.  Well, there is ONE thing, but it’s going to take more than just me to make that happen …
-         Cade – I would like to find Meghan’s father, if he is still alive in Fomor.  I know that she regrets not knowing him, even though she doesn’t speak about it.  Of course, this would mean convincing Danua to tell me more about him, but I feel it is a sore subject with her as well.
-       Robyn – If it was in my power, I would talk Danua into giving Devlin Diarnan Castle.  Since I don’t think that will be happening, I’d like to find some bitterberry bushes to plant in our garden in the Weald since they are his favorite.
-         Devlin – I would find Robyn’s family in Eile and do everything in my power to make sure they do not shun her the way her family in the mortal world did.  I would also like to find the Daramorr and his sister and make it so they can never hurt Robyn again. 
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this interview!  You can still pre-order the ebook edition of Caelihn - A Novel of the Otherworld from Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.comiTunes.com and Smashwords.com.  It will be released on February 14th, 2015.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: A Lesson by Starlight

Greetings readers!  Time for a new journal entry.  Last time, Jahrra's dragon mentor Hroombramantu showed her a field guide of plants and animals of Oescienne.  In the book, she got to see what a boarlaque really looks like.  This week, Jahrra writes about a lesson under the stars of Oescienne.

A Lesson by Starlight

Dear Journal, 

It is hard to stay awake, I'm so tired!  But Master Hroombra is teaching me about the stars tonight.  Oh, I'm so excited!  Right now I'm sitting by the fire in the Castle Guard Ruin (and can you believe it, Nida and Pada are letting me stay here for the night!), but soon we'll go outside to watch a meteor shower.  He says that it's like watching magic sparks streak through the air, and that sometimes the sparks are blue and red and yellow.  I want to go outside right now, but Master Hroombra says we must wait.  I hate waiting!  The sky is all dark, like the ink in my pen clouding up water, and the crickets are chirping in the wood, it should be time to go!  But no, we must wait.  Adults always want to wait.  Until then I'll write in my journal and watch the stars come out through the doorway.

There's one right now.  Master Hroombra says it is called Rhian and it is part of a constellation called Echainn and Echnia.  They are the Horses he says, and that the other star I see, just to the left and above Rhian, is Epohra.  He was about to tell me the story of Echainn and Echnia but a meteor just streaked across the sky.  Oh! It is fiery yellow, just like he said.  I'll have to ask him about the stars later, because he's grabbing the old quilt and we're going to watch the fire fall from the sky!

- Jahrra

* * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from Amazon.com

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Shorts: The Legend of Oescienne Part One - Extra Credit Opportunity

Hello Readers!  Last month I brought you a series of scenes told from Aiden Elam's (The Otherworld Series) point of view.  This month I'm switching things up and working my way back into the world of Ethoes with a series of scenes told from The Legend of Oescienne - The Awakening.  These scenes are 'extras' - activities Jahrra and her friends take part in during the timeline of the story, but not mentioned in the book.  Once again, this has not been professionally edited, so you might stumble upon the occasional typo.  Thanks for understanding and happy reading!
-J.E. Johnson

Part One: Extra Credit Opportunity

The young warrior climbed down from his horse and approached the cavern with caution. He had tracked the boarlaque this far and he could feel his skin prickle with anticipation. Dropping the reins to let the horse flee if trouble arose, he drew his sword from its scabbard and took slow, careful steps toward the cave entrance.

This monster he hunted wasn't any normal boarlaque.  The beasts were terrifying enough as it was, what with their curved, sharp claws strong enough to rip open the trunk of a fallen tree and teeth that could crush bone.  Their shoulders stood above six feet and they attacked without mercy.  The boarlaque young Allion sought, however, was far worse.  Tainted with cursed, evil magic, the monster had killed all those who hunted it.  But Allion was determined to succeed.  Taking in one last breath of the icy mountain air, he stepped into the cave and became plunged into darkness.
"Alright class," Professor Anthar's voice called out over the silent students.  "If you haven't turned in your exam, please do so now."

Jahrra fought the urge to groan and reluctantly closed her book, running her hand fondly over the intricately worked leather cover.  She had finished her test twenty minutes ago and after a swift last check to make sure she had answered all the questions correctly, she'd brought the parchment up to  Dathian, Anthar's assistant.  The studious elf had barely noticed her as he took the paper blindly, tucking it behind the other early finishers he had started perusing through.

Jahrra hadn't been offended by her friend's obliviousness to her presence.  She had been eager to return to her desk and pull out the latest volume she'd found stowed in the large book shelf back home.  Well, it wasn't really her home but her guardian, Jaax's, estate above the city.  She had stumbled upon the display of books one day when she had needed to speak with her dragon warden about something.  It was one of the few times she had entered his private study, and when the Tanaan dragon had caught her staring at the case of manuscripts, he had given one of his rare cheerful smiles and told her she could help herself to any of the books she found there.  She had wasted no time taking him up on his offer, finding one volume after the other, unable to put any of them down.  The books held tales of danger, mystery, adventure and even some light romance, which Jahrra found herself enjoying but couldn't understand why Jaax would own them.  Perhaps they had come as part of a set at some point in time.  Regardless, she had read them with a voracious appetite, always ready to start a new book a week or less after finishing the one before it.

The novel she was reading now, The Hero's Quest, was about a young man around her age who had taken it upon himself to hunt down a cursed beast in order to protect the people in his village.  She immediately liked the story because like her, Allion was an orphan with humble beginnings.  Jahrra was only a few chapters in, and already the hero was about to encounter the beast.  Something told her, some voice in the back of her mind, that there was more to the curse than the author was willing to tell at this point.  Jahrra felt her nerves tingle with curiosity and her fingers itched to crack the book open once again, but all the tests were almost turned in and Professor Anthar was strict about reading whenever a lesson was underway or when he or Dathian was addressing the class about something.

As her teacher waited for the last of the parchments to trickle in, Jahrra distracted herself by casting her eyes around the room.  She was only one of two other students who had bothered to bring a book with them.

Most of her classmates had returned to their desks after handing in their exams to stare out the window or to lean back and shut their eyes for a moment.  Senton, one of Jahrra's friends from her first days attending the University in Lidien, sat just behind her.  His head was thrown back and his arms were crossed loosely over his chest.  He was also fast asleep with his mouth hanging open, his breath starting to catch just enough in the beginning stages of a snoring session.  She fought against the smile tugging at her lips and cast her attention onto her other friend, Torrell.  The Resai girl sat next to her, her eyes, which had been glazed over in abject boredom, now glared with impatience at the two students in the front row who were furiously trying to scribble in some final words on their exams.

Jahrra only shook her head and waved the small novel in front of Torrell's face.  The dark-haired girl sneered at her in slight irritation.

"You wouldn't be so bored if you brought a book with you," Jahrra said smugly.

"Reading is boring," Torrell quipped.

Jahrra only shook her head in disbelief.  "I don't know how anyone can think that.  Maybe you're reading the wrong books."

Torrell only sniffed, holding out one hand to examine her fingernails.  She sighed, clearly not wanting to discuss literature any further.  "Our sparring practice is destroying my skin."

Jahrra leaned over to see what she was talking about but could find no evidence of damage.  She suspected the girl just needed something to complain about, since Jahrra had put her in a bad mood by bringing up reading as a hobby one might enjoy in their free time.

Before she could comment on Torrell's lack of broken nails or unsightly calluses, their teacher spoke up again.

“Before you all leave today, I wanted to make a quick announcement.  At the back of the classroom I have posted many extra credit opportunities for those of you in dire need,” Anthar proclaimed with a glint to his eye and a wave of his hand toward the corner of the room where he posted general information about the class.

Several students turned in their seats to view the wall he indicated, Jahrra included.  Half a dozen or so new pieces of parchment hung with the diagrams and charts that had been there the week before.

“Torrell!” Jahrra hissed, kicking one of the legs of the other girl’s chair.  Torrell, who was showing no interest in what their instructor had been saying, shot Jahrra a vicious look.

“Let’s see what Professor Anthar has posted on the way out today.”

Torrell rolled her eyes and tucked a few stray curls behind her ear.  “Jahrra, you hardly need extra credit.  You probably have the highest grade in the class.”

“Maybe,” Jahrra whispered back, “you on the other hand …”

She let her voice trail off and Torrell made a face at her.  Jahrra turned in her chair.  “How about you, Senton?”

The blond boy jerked awake from his nap and blinked bleary eyes at Jahrra.  "What?" he asked.

Jahrra sighed.  "Anthar has posted extra credit opportunities.  Want to go check it out?"
He shrugged, his sandy hair falling into his eyes.  “Sure.  It doesn’t hurt to look.”

Torrell snorted and smirked.  “You two do realize that any extra credit assignment would have to be done outside of class time, don't you?”

Jahrra smiled.  “Yes, Torrell, I’m very much aware of that.”

As their teacher gave a few last words and wrapped up class, Jahrra tried to catch the eye of the elf sitting at the large desk in the front of the room.  She stood and looped the strap of her bag over one shoulder and waved.  Only then did Dathian notice she was trying to get his attention.

Dathian blinked behind his glasses and nodded once.  He was busy scratching something onto a piece of parchment.  He quickly finished and rolled the paper up, tying it with a string before passing it off to Professor Anthar.  The centaur nodded his thanks and promptly placed the scroll into one of the saddle bags draped over his back.

Jahrra didn’t find it odd that she had a centaur for a professor.  She was in Lidien, after all, one of the most diverse cities in all of Ethoes.  At least, that is what Jaax had told her.  She may have been skeptical at first, but after living in this city for several weeks, she was now inclined to believe it.  What she found comical, however, was the fact that Anthar used saddlebags.

His students had asked him about it once and he had merely smiled and shrugged.  “Why shouldn’t I use them?”

The student who had brought up the question, a tall, dark-haired Resai elf, had replied, “I don’t know.  You see them on horses and people usually fill them with all kinds of things.  Basically, the horse is made to carry around their master’s junk.”

The class as a whole had nodded in agreement on that one, but Professor Anthar had only shaken his head and said, “But if it is my own stuff I’m carrying around, I’m not being forced to do anything, am I?”

And that response opened up a long-winded discussion about the history of centaur rights in Ethoes.  Jahrra learned that day in class that centaurs were once considered a lesser species than the different factions of elves, dragons, dwarves and other intelligent beings in Ethoes.  Before the rise of the Crimson King, the tyrant monarch who resided in the east and the very person Jahrra would one day have to face, centaurs had just overcome a great hurdle keeping them from breaking free of old prejudices.  Unfortunately, the tyrant's rise to power stalled their social progress and in many places, centaurs were still considered lesser beings.  But not, to Jahrra's relief, in Lidien.

Jahrra shook her head and returned to the present.  Dathian was finishing up whatever he needed to discuss with Anthar and Torrell and Senton were standing patiently waiting for Jahrra.

“Come on,” she said, pushing through the small crowd that had lined up for the door.  “Let’s see what the extra credit is.”

Senton followed her without questions, but Torrell was another story.  She dragged her feet and huffed her slight irritation.  Jahrra knew it was mostly for show.  When she had first met Torrell, she had thought the other girl hated her.  Turned out, she was just very blunt and straight forward with her feelings.  When Torrell had spotted Jahrra sparring in the park, she had challenged her to a fight.  As soon as she learned that Jahrra was no pushover, she had immediately extended her friendship.  The two of them had been good friends ever since.

“There are at least ten different options up here!” Senton proclaimed, waving his hand to indicate the many pieces of parchment tacked to the wall.

Unlike Torrell, Senton was much less brusque in his manner.  He had befriended Jahrra the moment he saw her.  He had stuck by her like an annoying, forlorn puppy.  At first, she was uncomfortable with his immediate determination to be her companion, that is, until she realized that was just Senton’s personality.  He was a very outgoing person and Jahrra happened to be the first person he thought had a friendly demeanor about her.

“Really?  Ten choices for extra credit?” Jahrra piped, still trying to move past her straggling classmates as she stepped closer to Senton.

By the time she made it through, Dathian had joined them.  The elf was taller than all of them and had long dark hair he kept tied back.  Jahrra could remember back to the first day of class with Anthar, when their centaur teacher had been running late and Dathian, his assistant, had had to make excuses for him.  He had been standoffish at first, keeping the students at a distance in order to execute his role as a teacher’s aide properly.  It wasn’t until one of the Coalition meetings that Jahrra discovered Dathian’s true identity.

The Coalition of Ethoes kept its headquarters in Lidien.  Jahrra’s guardian was its leader, and Jahrra, being the human girl the Oracles had prophesied to come and end the reign of the dreaded Crimson King in the east, had to attend many of the boring meetings.  It was during one of those meetings that she found out that not only was Dathian a pure-blooded elf from Dhonoara Valley, but that he was also one of the king’s sons.

Both of them had been shocked to see each other there.  Later, Jahrra found out from the elf himself that he always feared people outside the Coalition would learn about his royal family.  He preferred the anonymity of being a simple scholar.  Jahrra understood completely, vowing not to give away his secret to anyone and happy to include him among her close-knit group of new friends.

"Looks like they all have to do with going on walks and observing the local wildlife," Senton said rather blandly, pressing a finger to his chin.

"Let me see," Jahrra insisted, pushing her way closer to the wall.

Senton stepped out of the way with a perturbed look.  He, too, thought Jahrra was a little too excited about the prospect of extra credit.

"Oh!  This looks like fun!"  She jabbed her finger at one of the papers tacked over an older announcement about term papers that were due several weeks ago.

Torrell narrowed her eyes and began reading out loud.  "Extra Credit Opportunity Number Four," she said, "Go on a hike with some friends along one of the trails outside of Lidien and observe the wildlife you find there.  You must record observations about at least three plants or animals unfamiliar to you, and write a page about your findings."

She groaned upon finishing.  "A page!?  Not only are you trying to encourage me to waste one of my days off by traipsing down some muddy trail, but I'm going to have to write about it later?"

Dathian smiled, his eyes glinting behind his spectacles.  "It is only a page, Torrell.  And it's worth twenty-five points.  Trust me, you could use the credit."

Torrell crossed her arms and snorted, but Jahrra could have sworn the color rose a little on her cheeks.  Trying not to laugh at her friend's expense, she took a breath and said, "Please, Torrell!  We can hike on one of the trails to the north west, right along the coast and still close to the city.  I bet there are some great cafes or taverns over there and I haven't really had a chance to see that side of the city.  Tell you what, lunch will be on me if you guys go with me."

Senton's pale eyes brightened and he perked up.  Lifting a hand, he said with a smile, "I'm in!"

Dathian gave Jahrra a perturbed look and grumbled, "I guess I'm in, too."

Jahrra winced a little.  She knew Jaax had asked Dathian to keep an eye on her for him, something that oftentimes annoyed her to no end.  Fortunately for her guardian, and the elf as well, she enjoyed Dathian's company.

"It's got to be better than the alternative," she muttered, and he nodded his agreement.  This would give him an excuse to get out of any Coalition meetings that might be taking place that day.

That only left one person.  Jahrra turned to eye her other friend.  She got the impression Torrell was trying very hard to be invisible.

"You don't have to do the extra credit if you don't want to," Jahrra pointed out.  "You can just come along for fun."

"Right!" Torrell breathed, "Wandering around in the woods is so much fun!"

"Oh, come on Torrell!  Jahrra's buying us lunch!"

Torrell turned her dark eyes on Senton.  "Is food the only thing you ever think about?"

Senton turned pink and lost a little bit of his bluster.  "Not always," he grumbled.

Torrell held up her hands.  "Alright, alright, I'll go.  I don't want to know what else Senton thinks about in his free time."

Dathian laughed out loud and Senton gave him a poisonous look.

"Great!" Jahrra chirped, ignoring them all.  "Is tomorrow good for everyone?  And where should we meet?"

"How about below the clock tower at nine in the morning?" Dathian offered.  "It's easy enough to find and it's closer to the northwest end of campus."

"Perfect."  Jahrra waited for everyone else to agree.

By the time the four of them had finished making their plans, the classroom was empty save for Anthar.  He was finishing up at his desk, gathering the last of his belongings and storing them away in his saddle bags.

"What are you four still doing here?" he asked on his way out of the small cabin.

"Jahrra was perusing the extra credit board," Dathian stated.

"Ah, very good!  Have you decided on anything?"

The centaur walked them out to the point where the path met up with the main part of campus.  As they walked, Jahrra told him which activity they planned on undertaking and where they were going.

"An excellent choice," he said with a smile.  "This is the perfect time of year to see lots of wildlife."

The group bid their farewells in front of Essyel Hall.  Dathian continued into the building with Anthar to attend a late Coalition meeting and Torrell and Senton had to go straight home that afternoon.  Feeling a bit forlorn, Jahrra made her way to the campus stables where she found her semequin, Phrym, waiting eagerly for her.  She fed him an apple from her bag and saddled him up.  On her way home, she imagined herself as the young Allion, riding off into the mountains, seeking adventure.

Only, I hope we don't encounter anything hazardous on our mission tomorrow, she thought.  Jahrra knew of the dangers that awaited her outside of Lidien, but wouldn't let that fear keep her from enjoying her time in the City of Light.  Thinking of venturing beyond the city walls made her think of Jaax.  Her paranoid guardian would definitely not like the idea of her stepping foot beyond the boundaries of Lidien, but there really was nowhere else Jahrra could go to see real wildlife.

We won't go far, she told herself, no more than a mile or two beyond the city.  I just won't tell him everything, that's all.

With that final thought, Jahrra encouraged Phrym to pick up the pace.  She needed to go home and get a pack ready for her big adventure.  Along the way, she tried not to think too much about her decision to keep information from Jaax, and she convinced herself that the little knot of unease in her stomach was simply due to the fact that she was excited for this trip and not because she was feeling guilty about being secretive with her dragon guardian.
Thank you for reading the first installment of this Legend of Oescienne Short Story!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Legend of Oescienne with the first book in the series, The Finding.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Aiden Elam Part Five - Super Powers

Hello Readers!  Here is the final installment of January's Saturday Shorts and the scenes told from Aiden's Point of View.  I may or may not be moving on to a different character, possibly from a different book series, next month.  Thank you so much for reading and once again, beware of typos :).  Also, you can read the rest of Aiden's tales on my Saturday Shorts Archive page.  Happy Reading!
-J.E. Johnson

P.S. Feel free to comment and let me know if there are any characters you'd like to hear from.  You never know, they might need your help to get my attention! ;)

PART 5: Super Powers

I woke up, screaming at the top of my lungs.  Only, there wasn't a sound escaping my throat.  The screams existed only in my nightmare, and in the real world, I only lie with my eyes wide open, gasping for air.

I kicked at my bed sheets, almost descending into panic when I couldn't break free.  The blankets had become twisted around me like a straight jacket.  Somehow, I managed to free myself and roll over in bed, curling up into a ball.  I was shaking and cold sweat coated my skin.  My eyes darted around the room, seeking out the dark corners made darker by the eerie light cast by Jack and Joey’s fish tank.  I expected ghoulies to come leaping out of the closet or from behind the dresser or from under my bed.  Gradually, my breathing slowed along with my heart rate and the acrid fear of the dream fizzled out with it.  The grey light of dawn was just beginning to peek through the blinds and I could hear Logan and Bradley, speaking in what they thought were whispers, arguing from their room.

Glad of the distraction, I crawled out of bed and snuck down the hallway, pushing their door open without even bothering to knock.

They both stopped their discussion and turned to look at me, Bradley scowling as usual.

"Haven't you ever heard of knocking?" Logan hissed.

Apparently, his brotherly concern from yesterday was all gone.  I shrugged and said, "Loud."

Bradley turned his nasty look onto our other brother.  "I told you you were making too much noise!"

"Me?!" Logan replied in exasperation.

And then they started arguing again.  Figuring I was safe for the moment, I scuttled over to get a closer look at what they had piled up in the middle of their room.  A few small cans of what might have been spray paint, some random Halloween decorations, lots of candy and a large, hand-made card.  That's when it dawned upon me.  Today was Halloween and Meghan's birthday.  They were getting ready to surprise her.  If anything good ever came out of Halloween, it was that Meggy was born on this day.  Smiling and deciding I was going to help, I knelt onto the ground and pulled the card toward me.  My brothers had snatched it away earlier that week before I could finish the picture I was drawing.

"Aiden!" Logan complained.

"Let him finish!  We need to wrap the candy anyway.  Meghan will be up soon."

For the next several minutes, we worked in relative silence, only the occasional disagreement rising up between my brothers every now and again.  At some point in time the door cracked open and Mom poked her head in.

"Oh, there you are!  I've started the breakfast, so be ready to go get your sister in fifteen minutes or so."

We worked for ten more minutes, Bradley and Logan doing a passable job of wrapping up the candy they'd picked out and me cleaning up the crayons and markers.  When we finally spilled out into the hallway, we were greeted with the delightful smell of French toast.  I breathed in deeply and smiled.  The nightmare from before was already a dim memory and I couldn't wait to wish my sister a happy birthday.

Dad was busy getting the twins fastened into their high chairs and Mom had started depositing freshly cooked slices of French toast onto a waiting plate.  Strings of black plastic cut-out bats and orange jack-o-lanterns hung between the cabinets, and Mom had to duck so she wouldn't become entangled in them.  Ghosts made of white tissue paper wrapped around lollipops dangled from the chandelier above the dining room table, one of them missing a googly eye.

"Logan, go yell downstairs for your sister," Mom said as she slid one final piece of toast onto the others.

Logan darted across the living room and Bradley started shaking the can he held in his hand.  Silly string, I realized, not spray paint.  When Logan was done yelling at Meghan, he replaced the trap door that marked the entrance to her basement room and then nodded in Bradley's direction.  Bradley took that as a sign and quickly made his way to the other side of Meghan's door, tossing a can of silly string to Logan on the way.

Before Meggy even reached the top of the stairs, Bradley and Logan pulled the trap door open and she emerged, blinking in surprise at all the decorations.  Two seconds later, she was ambushed by my brothers, silly string flying everywhere.

"Logan!" Meghan complained, "You totally set me up for that!"

She didn't seem too annoyed, however, because she was smiling even as she picked the sticky mess of black and orange from her hair and clothes.  I managed to weave my way through the chaos, walking up to Meggy and throwing my arms around her legs.  She was so tall I could never give her a real hug, not unless she was sitting on the couch with me.  She placed her hand on the back of my head and for a few seconds I let the comforting presence of my sister flood over me.  Tonight we would go trick-or-treating, and I would have given anything to have Meggy go with us, but she was going to a school dance with her friends.  I would just have to be brave.

After breakfast, Dad left for work and Mom got the rest of us ready for school.  She dropped the twins off at the daycare down the street before taking Bradley and Logan to school.  As we pulled into the drop off area of their school, I pressed my face up against the cold glass and gazed out across the parking lot.  Kids dressed as zombies, fairies, witches and superheroes made their way into class.  I was wearing my costume as well, but it wasn't nearly as fancy as some of the ones I was studying at the moment.

"See you after school!" Mom called out to my brothers before pulling out onto the main road.

After that, she brought me to my school, kissing me goodbye and telling me she'd be back later to pick me up.  I entered the classroom to find my schoolmates in the Halloween spirit as well.  Mrs. Warren and Miss Rodriguez were dressed up as a cat and mouse.  Maddie and Bella were wearing princess costumes, and Mira looked like an over-sized teddy bear.  Jake and Russell were dressed as the same superhero, one from a popular cartoon and not featured in the comic books I read.  We didn't do much that day besides play games, watch a movie and have a small party before our moms and dads picked us up.

I was ready to go home, even though going home meant trick-or-treating later.  Everyone was always trying to make Halloween fun for kids, as if the holiday didn't really hide creepy things in the shadows.  I knew better.  There were no friendly ghosts or sad monsters who just wanted to be your friend.  The ghoulies were real and they would hurt you if they got the chance.

Once Mom had made all the stops to pick up my brothers, we headed home.  We had an early dinner and then waited for Dad to get home.  Bradley and Logan couldn't keep still and they started chasing each other around the living room.  They looked a little ridiculous, especially Logan who had a hard time getting away from Bradley in his bulky cheeseburger costume.  Dad showed up ten minutes later, begging us to give him a half an hour of peace before he took us out trick-or-treating.  I felt my stomach tense up.  Thirty short minutes from now, I would be going out into the dark world where the ghoulies waited for me, and maybe even those really big scary ones I'd seen in my dream.

"Zap!" Bradley screeched, jumping out from behind the couch, his over-sized alien eyes looking demonic.  He had a fake laser gun pointed at me, the light on the end flashing red.

When my heartbeat returned to normal, I took a step back, holding up my hands.  Best to play along.

"I'll save you, Aiden!" Logan bellowed, jumping from the back of the couch and crashing into Bradley.

My brothers collapsed in a pile of sesame seed bun and shiny green alien skin.  In the next second Dad was yelling at them to stop rough housing and I took the opportunity to make my escape.  I glanced across the living room only to see Meghan heading toward the door.  She was dressed like a butterfly and wore a black dress for the dance.  Part of me wanted to rush toward her and beg her to change her mind; to convince her to go trick-or-treating with us, but she was already closing the door behind her.  I would have to make it on my own.

"Alright, that's it!" Dad proclaimed.  "I'm going to go change and then we'll get going."

Ten minutes later, Dad came striding down the hallway dressed as the Grim Reaper.

"Ready boys?" he asked in a fake, spooky voice.

"Yeah!" everyone but me exclaimed.

Mom helped Dad with the twins.  They were a pair of sock monkeys and their tails were long enough for Dad to keep wrapped around his hand.  I thought it was pretty funny.  So did Bradley and Logan.  But since Mom insisted on staying home, Dad insisted on these little tricks to keep an eye on all us boys, especially on Halloween night.  If that meant treating my rowdy twin brothers like a pair of hyper puppies on leashes, then so be it.

Finally, everyone was gathered with their bags for collecting treats and Mom was shooing us along.  She didn't like us to be out too late, so the sooner we left the sooner we could come home.  I was happy with that.

By the time we were all outside and making our way down the street, the sun had just set and twilight was staining the sky indigo and ink-blue.  Bradley and Logan ran ahead of us, continuing their mock battle from inside, and although Jack and Joey tried to join them, Dad's tight hold on their tails kept them always within reach.

"I don't think so, you two," he said through the black screen taking up the front of his hood.

I opted to stick as close to Dad as possible, gripping a section of his black cloak in my fist.  As we made our way down the block, I watched the shrubs along the side of the road and the bushes clogging people's yards.  For a while, nothing out of the ordinary stirred in the dark.

Each house on our street had a long driveway and the homeowners had done a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere by stringing fake spider webs everywhere or wedging foam headstones into their lawns.  Spooky music floated from cracked windows and jack-o-lanterns stood guard on front porches, the yellow candle flames in their throats flickering and making them look as if they were laughing silently at us kids as we scuttled past in slight fear.

If I didn't know the truth behind Halloween, that it was the one day of the year the ghoulies came out in hordes, I would have loved it all.  Despite that fact, however, I had yet to see a single ghoulie.  Just as we rounded the corner of our street and headed out onto the wider road toward the next block, I noticed something odd.  In the distance I could see the tops of the trees that clogged the swamp behind our house.  I had to blink several times to clear my vision, thinking maybe I was seeing things.  But I wasn't.  A strange red haze was rising up from the depths of the swamp, like the weird glow I'd seen surrounding the ghoulies.  Immediately my skin began to prickle.

"Bradley, Logan!  Let's go.  We still have three more streets to hit before turning back," Dad called out to my brothers, snapping me back to reality.

Shivering, I moved closer to him and the twins.  Something wasn't right about that strange mist.  Five houses later and we had moved closer to the swamp once again.   Bradley and Logan ran down the pathway of the next  house, Jack and Joey close behind.  I stayed right where I was.  There was a gap between this house and the next one, and I could almost see down into the bog through the space.

"Don't you want anymore candy?" Dad asked me.

I shook my head.  My bag was half full, and that would last me long enough.

"Alright, you can wait with me here then," Dad replied, putting his arm around me and pulling me close.

For a few moments I enjoyed the comfort of being nestled up next to Dad.  But when he released me, I inched closer to the edge of the road so I could see down into the swamp.  What I noticed next made my stomach turn.  The red mist had grown thicker and rose higher, almost as tall as me now, and I could see things churning along the edge of it: ghoulies.

"Dude!  That lady gave us whole candy bars!"

Logan's voice made me jump and I hurried back next to Dad.

Before long we were moving once again, visiting two more houses before finishing up with the cul-de-sac.  We were halfway done with our night.  I could do this.  I could make it through without letting the ghoulies get the better of me.

I spotted the first monster on our way down the next street.  It was as big as a house cat with long, batwing ears that looked half-rotted and long, yellow teeth that did not fit in its mouth.  Its dark skin hung from a bony body and it limped as it walked.  I grabbed Dad's hand and held on tight, reaching for a long eucalyptus branch protruding from a pile of yard clippings on the dirt shoulder of the road.

"Are you okay, Aiden?" Dad asked, turning to look at me.

I nodded and proceeded to use the branch as a walking stick.  After that, the streets practically crawled with the horrible little monsters.  Some resembled squirrels, others small dogs and raccoons.  They darted back and forth between the thicker landscaping of the yards, crossing the street like rats chased out into the open.  They mostly avoided the other kids in costume and their parents, and I felt myself cringing every time one came close to getting stepped on, or moved in to sniff at the hem of someone's costume.  I had never seen so many ghoulies before, even during past Halloweens.

As the night dragged on, more and more of the nasty things came out of the shadows like spiders hatching from an egg sac.  The soft glow of the street lamps cast them in tones of peach and orange and I could hear their low growls as they fought with one another under the cover of darkness.

"Last street boys!" Dad called out, tugging on the tails of my brothers and rounding Bradley and Logan up with his scythe.

"Oh, come on Dad!" Bradley groaned.  "Can't we stay out a little later tonight?"

"Nope.  We've been out long enough, and something's got your little brother spooked."

I blinked up at Dad in surprise.  I couldn't see his expression, but I could tell he was trying to study me through his mesh mask.  He couldn't see the ghoulies.  No one could but me.  Yet, he knew something was bothering me.  Feeling relieved, I scooted closer to him and wrapped my arms around his leg, burying my face in his cloak.

Logan and Bradley groaned again and shot me acidic looks, but I didn't care.  No one could see the ghoulies, and so far they hadn't hurt anyone, but that didn't mean they wouldn't.  The sooner we got home and were safe inside our house, the better.

We were lucky for most of the next street, but as we turned the corner to start making our way back up our own road, the old dog that lived across the street from Tully's house started barking wildly.  I glanced up as Dad moved us across the street and blanched.  The dog was surrounded by a pack of ghoulies, their ugly teeth bared and their skinny tails snapping back and forth.  I remembered the dog's owner calling him Bruno once, and I knew he was blind in one eye.

"Come on, boys.  He'll stop barking once we get past him," Dad reassured us.

I knew better.  He wasn't just barking, but whining as well.  The ghoulies were moving in closer and a few of them darted in to bite him on the heels.  He yelped and flattened his ears to his head.  My heart tightened and I stopped walking, staring across the dark street at the old dog.  Although the front yard wasn't fenced, Bruno always stayed in the yard.  Right now, I wished there was a fence.  A fence might have kept the ghoulies out.

One of the small monsters shrunk down on its haunches and then launched itself at the dog, landing on his back and sinking its teeth into his fur.  Bruno yelped again, his tail tucked between his legs.

Without even thinking, I moved, running across the street as fast as my feet would take me.  I wasn't able to move as quickly or as gracefully as I had in my dream, but before I knew it I was on the lawn.  What I planned to do I had no idea.  All I knew was that a rage had begun boiling inside me.  I still had the eucalyptus branch, so I lifted it up, hoping to use it to hit the ghoulies.  When I had it raised above my head I noticed something strange.  The blue glow covering my skin had grown brighter and was crawling up the stick, bright sparks shooting out like magic from a wand.

A loud snarl snapped my attention away from the stick.  Some of the ghoulies had noticed me and now had their black-pit eyes pointed in my direction.  Swallowing back my fear, I swung the stick, hitting the first one upside the head.  It screamed in pain as that strange blue stuff jumped from the stick and onto the ghoulie, sizzling over its skin and making it collapse to the ground into a fit of spasms before turning it to ash.  Shocked, I blinked at the stick for a few moments, watching the blue sparks dance some more.  Whatever this stuff was, it killed the ghoulies.

Setting my jaw, I went after the others, now backing the poor dog into a corner.  I swung my stick like a sword, smacking one after the other, sending them to the ground, screaming and twitching in agony before disintegrating.  Eventually, I got to all of them and Bruno was free.  He looked terrified and had a few bite marks on him but other than that, he seemed okay.  I dropped the arm holding the stick, my breath coming in sharp gasps.  The dog looked at me with his good eye, his ears still flat in fear but his tail wagging slowly.

"Good dog," I managed in a shaky voice, holding up my other hand.  The blue glow was gone and my hand shook a little.  Suddenly, I was very tired.

Bruno licked my fingers and I smiled.

"Aiden!  Aiden, get over here before that dog bites you!"

I shook my head, Dad's voice cutting through the ringing in my ears.  Funny, I hadn't noticed the buzzing sound until now.  I turned and looked at my dad.  He was standing on the edge of the yard, his hood thrown back and his face looking serious.  He still held onto my twin brothers by their tails, and Logan and Bradley were standing next to him, gawking at me as if I had grown my own tail.  And then I stiffened.  Had they seen what happened?  Did they see the strange blue glow on my skin?
With no other options, I shuffled over to them.

"Let's get home," was all Dad said, turning us all in the right direction.

"Dude, Aiden," Logan murmured as we headed up the street.  "What were you doing?"

"I can't believe you did that.  You know Mom and Dad always tell us not to tease dogs, especially ones that are barking at us!" Bradley put in, taking a hold of my stick and tossing it aside.

"Were you trying to get him to play fetch or something?" Logan asked.

So, they hadn't seen after all.  I shrugged, feeling that was the safest answer for the time being.

Ten minutes later we were all piling into the living room.  Mom greeted us all in her witch costume, asking us if we saw any ghosts or goblins on our nightly adventure.  Bradley and Logan got busy telling her everything, which gave me time to gather my thoughts.  Despite how terrified I was at seeing the strange red mist and then the armies of ghoulies, I was very proud of myself for helping Bruno.

"Okay, okay, you can tell me the rest in the morning.  You guys stayed out later than usual and it's time for bed."

My brothers groaned again but didn't argue with Mom.  Personally, I was more than happy to comply.  Fifteen minutes later my teeth were brushed, my pajamas were on, and I was tucked safe and sound in my bed.  As I lay there, waiting for sleep to come to me, I thought about that strange blue glow to my skin that had traveled along the stick I'd used to hit the ghoulies.  Below the sheets, I lifted my hand and splayed the fingers in front of my face.  The blue glow had returned, and small tendrils of brighter turquoise crackled along my fingertips.  I didn't know what this strange stuff was, but I knew that from now on, I wouldn't be so afraid of the ghoulies anymore.  With a self-satisfied smile, I let out a long sigh and closed my eyes, content in knowing my dreams would not be haunted again for a long while.

Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  The audio book edition is also available from AudibleAmazon, and iTunes.