Category: Grayssen Chronicles


“Any plans after we reach our destination?” Sen asked Vanni softly as he stood at the bow of the airship watching the scenery.

“I’m not sure,” he replied, after a moment. “I figured… I thought that I’d explore. I’d like to… see the world.”

“The world’s a big place,” Sen pointed out. “The road gets mighty lonely. Might you want some company?”

“Maybe,” Vanni replied. He looked out over the bow of the airship and smiled. His father had always warned him about trusting strangers. The woman might have an ulterior motive for her offer; but she might just want company on the road.

“Where are we going?” Oliver asked, joining them.

Vanni spun to face them and waved a hand toward the horizon. “That way,” he declared. “After that… who knows.”

Longer Ways to Go

Vanni bounded up the gangplank of the airship with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. He carried a violin that he’d purchased with the money he’d earned at the little inn. On his back was a pack full of the provisions that he’d forgotten in his haste to leave home. He wore more serviceable clothes now, instead of the finery he’d worn when he reached the inn.

“Vanni Galiano?” the steward said as he reached the deck. “You’re one of three musicians on the ship. I’ll take you to your room as soon as the others arrive. For now, feel free to explore but try not to get underfoot.”

“Yes, sir,” Vanni said. He stepped over to the side, out of the way of a passing airman. Then he looked out over the bow of the ship. Before him lay the great wide blue of the sky. The world seemed to stretch out before him, beckoning him forward. He felt the freedom of the open road and chuckled, as he had to shake his hair out of his face.

“Might want to cut that,” an androgynous voice said wryly from behind him.

Vanni spun to find a buxom woman of dark complexion standing behind him. He pushed his hair away again and nodded. “Might be a plan,” he agreed. “Vanni Galiano,” he added. “I play violin and piano and sing tenor.”

“Sentina Cole. My friends call me Sen. I play harp and guitar and sing alto. Classically trained or self-taught?” she asked, not taking his hand.

“Classically trained,” Vanni returned, tucking his hands behind his back. “And you?”

“I have formal training,” she replied, offering her hand now. Vanni frowned but shook it as she added, “Sorry, a lot of folks set themselves out as bards when they really don’t have a claim to the title. Being able to pick out a few folksy songs, does not a bard make.”

Vanni grinned and looked away, sharply reminded of his music teacher. The maestro had thought only those educated in music should pursue it as a career. He’d only learned music to please his father and, later, because it was fun. It had never even occurred to him that he could find a career in music until the barkeeper had asked him about his skills. The juxtaposition of the two ideas was intriguing.

“Are you saying that those who learned in a more traditional manner have no business being bards?” another voice said.

Vanni looked up to find a fair man who appeared a few years older than he was. “If so I fear I must disagree. After all, going back to our roots music was largely a structureless endeavor. It’s a more recent addition, actually.”

“The only musicians I know are largely untrained and they’re… fun to listen to. They have a sound that’s all their own,” Vanni pointed out. “I suppose because they don’t know how music is ‘supposed’ to sound.” He turned his gaze toward the horizon. “Like when I first started, I figured that I should only play the few folksongs I knew. It wasn’t until later that I began using my more classical music with a less classical audience. I was pleasantly surprised when they liked it.”

“Just because something is different doesn’t make it bad. It can make it all the more interesting. Variety adds spice to life,” the young man agreed. He held out a hand and said, “Oliver Montgomery, pleasure to meet you.”

“Vanni Galiano.” He took the offered hand and smiled broadly. “Are you the third musician that they were waiting for?”

“I am,” Oliver replied. “I play flute and harp. I sing baritone… trending toward the lower end of the register.”

Vanni nodded and added his own vital information. As Sen made her introductions and the ship set out, he gazed out at the horizon. He had a long way to go before he went home again but he thought he would enjoy the journey.

Setting out from home was always a scary proposition for Vanni. His father had made a lot of enemies and he’d been raised to be wary and cautious. However, he also felt like everyone around him was controlling him. His life wasn’t his own any more.

Thus he found himself on the road, heading out of town. He realized as he walked that he hadn’t planned things very well. He had no food, no provisions and his clothes and shoes were not made to be traveled in, but to be seen in. He was dressed too finely to be walking along the dusty highway.

He paused. He hadn’t gone far. He could turn back. He could go home and let everyone else decide what was best for him. Then the Galiano pride kicked in again. There was no way he was quitting. He turned his back on the town that he’d grown up in and walked.

Eventually, feet aching, legs tired, he came to a small inn. He slumped into a chair and frowned at his purse. Again, a lack of forethought hit him jarringly. He had about enough money on his person for a night’s stay. Moaning and running his hands through his long blond hair, Vanni slumped back in the chair.

“Problem?” the barkeep said.

“Not really,” Vanni replied. “Just realizing how sheltered I’ve always been. I’m… short on funds,” he admitted.

The barkeep frowned and stepped over, eyeing him critically. “You could get a job. Got any skills?”

“Skills?” Vanni asked. “I can sing, play piano and violin and speak three languages. Math and literature… some magic, that’s more knowledge than skill though.”

“There are some bards in town, maybe you can hook up with them,” the man suggested. “Try it out. We don’t have a musician right now. Piano’s over there. Music brings in the custom.”

Vanni nodded and, weary though he was, he headed over to the piano. In moments he was going through his repertoire. He played the folk-songs he knew. The kind of things that got people tapping their feet. Stuffy chamber music was not on call in this venue.

He was surprised when a small blond man tapped him on the shoulder. The man was grinning and handed him a mug of cider. “Take a break,” he said. “I’m sure you could use a drink.”

When Vanni reached for his purse the man shook his head. “You’ve earned it,” was all he said. Vanni grinned as the man walked away, sipping the beverage. It was the first time he’d worked for something and it felt good.

Philippe sat up and listened to the soft music that had woken him for a few moments before standing.  He walked like someone who was in a trance.  He wasn’t quite entranced by the music, but if he let it the song would lull his senses.

 He followed the song to its source – the garden.  It was dark and most of the flowers were closed for the night.  There in the gazebo a beautiful red-haired woman stood.  It was she who sang so sweetly.  He could see that she wasn’t a vampire when she opened her mouth.

 “What are you doing here?” Philippe asked as the song drew to a close.

 “I came for you,” she replied.  She held out her hands and without a second thought, Philippe took them.

 “What do you wish of me?” he asked.  She set a hand on his eyes and he closed them.  Then he sank to the soft earth.

 “You are a vampire who chooses not to feed on humans or even the blood of animals, yes?” she asked.

 Her voice was musical.  When she spoke it was as if she sang.  Philippe felt compelled to answer truthfully.  “Yes,” he murmured.

 “Your brothers are not vampires, true?” she asked.

 “Yes,” he replied softly.  “Patrice by virtue of the treatments he underwent as a child and Vanni by birth.”

 “Would you like to be as they are?” she asked.  “Do you know what you would lose if you were human?”

 “My gifts over fire.  My gift of flight.  My strength.  My thirst for blood,” he murmured.  “But I would be able to be near them without worrying that I’d bite them in a moment of excitement.”

 “Is this a fair trade?” she asked.

 “Yes,” he replied.  Then he felt suddenly cold.  He couldn’t stop shivering.  Then he could but not from warmth.  It was as if all the heat was drawn from his body.  Then the sensation stopped as suddenly as it had started.  Philippe sat up and looked around in shock.  He was alone in the garden.

 Curious, he set a finger to his teeth.  They were all the same shape.  He had no more fangs.  He was as human as his brothers.  He shivered again – but not from the cold.

Vanni frowned and looked all around him.  It was dark.  There was no moon and the streetlights were too far off to light the cemetery.  He didn’t like it.  He felt like anyone could sneak up on him.

 As if the dark thoughts had summoned up trouble, Vanni was surprised by strong arms around his chest.  Another hand covered his mouth.  He was half-dragged, half-carried over to a ditch that the autumn rains had filled with water.

 Suddenly, he was pushed beneath the water.  He struggled to get away; to hold his breath in.  In the end, he could do neither.  Air escaped in fat bubbles, quickly replaced by murky water.  Vanni’s struggles eased as cold filled his chest.

 Then he relaxed.  Suddenly he was warm.  He sat up in shock and looked around frightfully.  “Giovanni,” a familiar voice greeted.  “It’s too early.  You have to go back.”

 “What?” Vanni looked around and found that he was still sitting in the ditch.  Not far off a man was running away as two other ran toward him.  He recognized them immediately as his father and godfather.  He looked for whoever had spoken and found a girl standing not far off.

 “Giovanni, you have to go back,” she said, pointing to where his father was kneeling on the ground over a lifeless form.

 Suddenly, Vanni recognized the girl.  “Lissa?” he said.  He stood and took her hands.  “Lissa, it’s you,” he said.  He leaned against her and smiled.  “I’ve missed you.”

 “I’ve always been there but you need to go back.  I’ve waited for you for a long time.  I can wait a little longer.  Your father needs you.  Go.  I’ll wait,” she promised.

 Vanni nodded and suddenly a force caught him up and he was cold again.  He was coughing, gagging and vomiting up the water that he’d swallowed and inhaled.  Strong hands rubbed his back and soon he relaxed.  “Dad?” he whispered hoarsely.

 “Thank Gaia,” the older man said.  “Are you hurt, son?”

 “I think I’m alright,” Vanni replied.  He rolled over so he could look at his father.  “I saw Lissa.  She said… she said she’d wait, that it wasn’t my time yet.  She said you needed me.”

 Suddenly he was caugh in a bone-crushing embrace.  “I do need you, son,” his father murmured.  “I don’t say it often.  I don’t say it near enough.  I take you for granted but I can’t imagine what I would do if something happened to you.”

 “I love you too, Dad,” Vanni whispered.

The Dead are Gentle to Us

Vanni looked out over the cemetary with its rows of stones.  His brothers stood not far away.  His father stood further back.  “Well, we’re altogether,” he said softly.  “Just like you wanted.”

 “We’re finally a family again,” Philippe added.  He took each of his brother’s hands and smiled gently between them.  They were a most unusual family.  Vanni was a human mage.  He was a vampire and Patrice was somewhere in between the two.  Still, there was no doubt that they were related.  All had their mother’s coloring.

 “The question now is: what will Cris do?” Patrice said.

 “He’s had no problem raising you all these years,” Vanni pointed out.

 “He gave me treatments to subdue my vampire side, Vanni.  Those treatments won’t work for Philippe.  He’s too old now.”

 The youngest brother looked at their mother’s grave.  “She wanted us to be raised as brothers.  Father will respect that.  He may be anxious about Philippe being a vampire, but he’ll honor her wishes.  He will always love her.”

 “True,” Patrice agreed.  He reached over and took Vanni’s hand and smiled.  They’d be fine now.  They were a family.

A clumsy ersatz angel (9-1-09)

Ed sighed as he rubbed his aching side where Alphonse had fallen on him. It wasn’t Al’s fault really. It was difficult to move that great big armor body of his sometimes. Really, he was extremely graceful most of the time. It was just very easy, when he was in a hurry, to lose track of feet that disappeared under the breast plate or forget just how long his arms were. Then Al was the clumsiest person around.

Ed smiled as his younger brother paused at the side of the road to talk to a barn cat and her kittens. “Leave them, Al,” he said gently. Al was always the sweetest person around. Ed had been the one his mother looked to to watch Al more often than not. He’d been the one she asked to fetch firewood, though he usually made Al do it. He’d been his mother’s “little man.” Alphonse had been her “little dear.”

Ed had always been the troublemaker of the pair of them. Alphonse was always helpful and sweet. Granny had called him a “little brat;” Al was her “little lamb.” Ed smiled. In his travels, he’d learned about another being that was seen as sweet, gentle and kind. Al wasn’t an angel. Ed doubted that God would send a holy messenger to someone like him. He would do, though, as a stand in.

**
Icarus improved (9-2-09)

Ed frowned. He’d told Rose the story of Icarus. It was one he’d heard as a child. He barely remembered hearing it, which meant his father had told him about it. That wasn’t important though. In the story the boy, Icarus, had used the wings his father made from feathers and wax to fly higher and higher, against his father’s warnings. In the end, he’d fallen to his death instead of flying to escape the wicked king who had imprisoned himself and his father.

Ed had meant that Rose shouldn’t try to reach the sun. She would only end up hurt or killed in the attempt. Rose had turned the analogy back toward him and his brother. Had they, like Icarus, flown too high against all warnings and suffered for it? He supposed so. However, they were still alive and someday… someday they would have their bodies back to normal. They had also learned from their mistakes. Their mistakes had been out of the same ignorance and arrogance that the boy in the story had, but they were no longer so ignorant, nor so arrogant. Ed smiled over at his brother and rose to his feet, as he’d urged Rose to. “Let’s go, Al,” he said.

**
IT GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN, LIFE. (9-3-09)

Ed settled back on the pillows and sighed, sending a sharp pain across his chest. He was in the hospital, again. His chest hurt with each breath because, according to the doctors, he had a lung infection. There was a small part of him that wanted to let go; stop fighting. He’d been fighting for so long. Fighting to become a state alchemist. Fighting for acceptance. Fighting to get his brother’s body back. Fighting homunculi. He closed his eyes.

It would be so easy to just let the infection take him. It would almost be restful; an end to all the fighting. But then… he would die. Even now, in this strange world without his brother, alone since he’d left his father in Britain, he wanted to live. He wouldn’t let death take him. He wouldn’t give up without a fight. Even far from home and family, he had too much living to do to let himself die.

He still had to find his brother. He still had to get married and have a family of his own. He still had to make a life beyond just the existence that he’d been eking out since he came to this side of the gate. Ed sat up straighter and opened his eyes. He wouldn’t give up. Not yet, not ever.

**
The hidden secret button inside your head (9-4-09)

Orbsen moaned and tried to force himself to relax. His uncle was right. If he could relax his face, then the pain would ease. The problem was that the pain itself was causing his muscles to tighten up and causing more pain.

“According to research I’ve done everyone who has a mark has a mirror one opposite it,” his brother said softly. “That would be one he didn’t touch and irritate. If you could sleep, the irritation would fade.”

“There isn’t an opposite side of the middle of my forehead, Tarun,” Orbsen snapped. “That’s the nature of being in the center of things. There isn’t a second locus in a circle.”

“Your head’s not a sphere, Orey,” Tarun said softly. He reached up, before Orbsen could stop him and suddenly the pain that had been in his head for the previous week eased and Orbsen felt his eyelids drooping.

“How are…” Orbsen trailed off as his eyes closed. “Don’ le’ me fall,” he managed before sleep took him.

“Research, little brother,” Tarun murmured as he gently lifted Orbsen into his arms. He’d feel much better after a long nap.

**
Burn the length and breadth of sky (9-5-09)

Darius looked out of the cave he’d taken shelter in. He watched in horror and facination at the devastation around him. He’d been told of this “burning time” by the locals. It was the reason for the towns being built so close to the caverns, even when fresh water was harder to come by.

“Don’t go out too far, Master Chonicler,” the elder said from behind him.

“I won’t,” Darius said without even turning around. “It’s so… horrific… like the sky is on fire.”

“But necessary or the fell plants would overwhelm us in short order. We have no other defense against them except to wait until the dry season and let nature take its course. If it’s the plants you’re worried about, they’ll return with the rains.”

“I’m sure they will,” Darius murmured. He sat down to sketch the scene before him; assured once more that people in the provinces needed to know what life was like in the wilds.

**
One puff of breath is never enough (9-6-09)

Ed stared in wonder at his newborn daughter for about a second, then the nurse whisked her away. It took him a moment longer than his wife to realize that she wasn’t breathing. Winry sobbed once, then Ed took her hand and squeezed it. “Breathe. Please, God, let her,” he prayed.

Then he heard it – a gargled gasp. Then his daughter was wailing as all newborns do. He smiled over at Winry and received a watery smile in return.

“Thank you,” Ed murmured, closing his eyes. He looked again at his wife and said, “She’ll be fine now, Win. She’s breathing now. She’s fine.”

The nurse returned with the baby. Already golden blonde hair covered her head. Ed took the baby in his arms and smiled at the bright golden eyes that stared blankly back as only newborns do. “Hi, Chloe,” he greeted. “Welcome home.”

**
How to be dead (9-8-09)

Melinda couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the boy staring at her. She’d seen plenty of ghosts but this was different. He didn’t seem to think he was still alive but he seemed to think he should interact with the living on some level. She nearly fell off her chair when he took a cookie off the passing food tray and began to nibble it. Ghosts didn’t eat and if they tried, people stared at the floating cookies they grabbed.

“Do you see a cookie over there?” she whispered to Eli.

He looked over and tilted his head. After a moment he said, “No.”

The boy caught her looking and, instead of simply appearing in front of her as most ghosts did, he walked over to stand before her. “He can’t see me,” the boy said, a slight accent coloring his voice.

“I can hear you though,” Eli said.

The boy’s eyebrow shifted and he gave Eli a strange look. “Clairaudience then, huh?” he said.

“You are a strange ghost,” Melinda said softly.

“I’m not a ghost; I’m not dead,” the boy said. “I’m a shinigami – a Soul Reaper. I’m on assignment. Are you Melinda Gordon?” Melinda nodded and Eli looked concerned. “I’m supposed to watch you send someone off and warn you about the restless spirits under the village. You know about them, of course, but you don’t know what they could become and that would be very dangerous for you – the pair of you. Is there someplace we can talk that you won’t get stared at?”

Melinda nodded and led the way out of the crowded reception. This boy was by far the strangest ghost she’d ever encountered.

**
You gotta dance. As long as the music plays. (9-9-09)

Al looked around at his class. They were going to play a game today that he hoped would go well. “Alright, boys and girls. When I turn the music off, remember to freeze.” He turned on the music and watched the little boys and girls as the danced and bounced all around. Then he paused the CD and most of the kids stopped. Those that didn’t had to sit until someone else made the same mistake.

As the game continued, Al thought about how similar it was to life. Most of the time, life was good and happy and he was active and bright. Occassionally, something interrupted and everything seemed to freeze but then life was able to go on. It may not be exactly the same, but life continued. Joy was found again and he returned to dancing.

**
Grow up and blow away (9-10-09)

Darius looked up at his father and tilted his head to the side. “Father, I don’t understand,” he said.

“You are no longer my son,” he said slowly and carefully. “You can no longer be my son because of what you are. You are being sent to… my brother-in-law’s house to be a servant. The hours will be long but you will learn your place in society.” He turned and walked away.

Strong hands caught Darius’s slim shoulders. He was dragged out of the room and into a small bathing room. Darius realized that this room marked the beginning of the slaves’ quarters. Technically, they weren’t slaves. They had never been bought. They would never be sold. They worked for room and board. They were called servants but they had no freedom. They remained in whatever household took them in for the remainder of their days.

Darius felt his mind bank as the guards began removing his fine tunic. He hardly moved as they washed and dried his body. One murmured an arcane phrase and a swirling reddish mark made itself on Darius’s chest. He smiled as he traced the mark and Darius felt his knees get weak. Then the men dressed him in a slave’s tunic, open at one shoulder so the swirling mark was revealed.

“Why is this happening to me?” he asked softly as he followed the men out of the room.

“Because you’re growing up,” the guard replied.

**
Tireless hunger in your eyes (9-11-09)

Ed smiled down at his daughter, as she looked at all the books in the children’s section of the library. Her eyes were wide and bright as she took in the shelves full of books of different colors, shapes and sizes. “I can look at all of them?” she asked excitedly.

“You absolutely can,” he said softly. “But one at a time, alright?”

She bounded over to the first shelf and looked over several books before choosing one. “Daddy, read this one,” she said thrusting it into his hands.

“What do you say?” he asked softly.

“Please?” she asked. “Thank you!” she added as he nodded and drew her into his lap. He was going to enjoy feeding his daughter’s hungry mind as much as he was sure his mother had enjoyed feeding he and Alphonse in their everlasting hunger.

**
I’ll tap into your strength (9-12-09)

Darius peeked into the room. The mage sat at a low desk, scowling at a diagram of the human body. “You sent for me, my lord?” he said softly.

“Yes, Darius,” he replied, waving the young hal-deiva inside. “How old are you now?”

“I’m one hundred fifty-eight, my lord,” Darius replied. He came in and loosed the pin at one shoulder of his tunic.

“Near enough,” the mage said softly. He stood and waved Darius over to a complex diagram sketched onto the floor. “Undress and lay down there,” he said.

Darius sighed and undressed slowly. “What do you mean to do, my lord?” he asked as he took his spot in the circle.

“A summoning,” the mage replied. He began chanting softly. Occasionally he would touch a symbol at the edge of the diagram. With each touch, a new symbol would begin glowing faintly and Darius would feel just a little more tired.

Finally all the symbols were glowing and Darius crumpled to the floor. He remained, hardly conscious as something else appeared with him in the circle. The mage spoke for a moment, then suddenly he was screaming and something wet splashed over Darius’s prone form. Then the symbols stopped glowing and the room became eerily silent.

A long time passed before Darius had the strength to move. He sat up and looked around the darkened library. Not far away a pale form lay. It took Darius a moment to realize that it was the mage. He was naked and bloody. He was also quite obviously dead. Darius gasped and stood slowly. He was also covered in blood.

“What would you have me do?” a soft voice asked.

Darius spun and saw a small furry fey-like being. “Can you… return from whence you came?” he asked softly. This creature had killed the mage, he was sure of it. He wanted to get away from it as quickly as possible.

“Yes. Thank you for releasing me,” the creature said before he disappeared entirely. Darius stared in shock and then sighed. What had the mage even been trying to do and what had gone wrong?

**
A Short History of Nearly Nothing (9-13-09)

Darius frowned as he looked over the notes he’d taken from the interview. To say that they were brief would be an understatement. There was almost nothing to them. He rubbed his aching head and sighed. “How can I compine a history from this?” he asked aloud.

“Can you?” his master said. “You have another way, if you let it happen,” the older hal-deiva continued. “Stop fighting your gifts, Dar.”

Darius nodded and closed his eyes. His headache eased as he allowed the vision to come. Soon he had more than enough information.

**
Live by disillusion glow (9-14-09)

Ed smirked as he listened to Mustang and the others talk. He had no interest in what they were saying, other than that they wouldn’t let him leave until they were done. He remembered when he was growing up and had actually cared about what adults were saying. He’d taken all of his teacher’s words to heart. He hadn’t necessarily followed all of the advise she gave, or he wouldn’t have joined the military, but he remembered it still.

Somewhere along the way what adults had to say had lost importance. Rules were fine if they kept you safe or kept others safe from you; but since he’d joined the military rules had become something that were just there. There was no reason for them. No one would be harmed if he wasn’t standing up perfectly straight or his boots were a little scuffed. No one was hurt by his wearing a red coat instead of a black one.

Somewhere along the way he realized that the rules had become less about protecting others and more about controlling them. If there was one thing that Edward Elric would not allow it was for someone else to control him. Was he a little disillusioned and cynical for a thirteen year old boy? Maybe he was; but he was living his life just fine.

**
Inevitable flooding of one’s soul (9-15-09)

Ed sighed and looked up at the bare cross that decorated the altar. Across the front of the altar three ornate letters were sprawled, HIS. He’d been told these stood for, “In his Service.” He’d asked the pastor what the people did in his service.

“It depends on what you feel called to do,” she replied. “As an organization we help to feed the poor through our work with the soup kitchen. We also work with the battered women’s shelter and the homeless shelter. We have individuals that teach english as a second language and adult literacy.”

“That’s a lot of stuff… good works, too,” Ed said softly. He looked down and frowned. “Can I be alone to think?” he asked after a moment.

The pastor nodded and left him. He sighed as his mind returned to the present. He knelt down and looked up at the cross again. “I’m not very good at this,” he said softly. “For a very long time I thought you hated me. Pastor says that you don’t. That you love me. I made a lot of mistakes growing up. I figured that you were punishing me for them but I guess… that it doesn’t work that way. Teacher said that equivalent exchange didn’t work for… life. That you don’t… get things for what you’ve given up. I guess that… it doesn’t work the other way either. You don’t get punished for doing bad things… things happen. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad.”

He sighed deeply. “So… what do you say? I… repent of… Oh, hell… I’m sorry. It was hubris. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m also sorry for assuming that everything that happened was your fault, especially when a lot of it was probably me. I made a lot of bad choices and then… well, things turned out badly. Thanks for keeping Al and I safe all those years when we were being stupid.” He stood quickly. A thought occurred to him and he added, “Amen.”

Then he spun on his heel and strode down the aisle. Al was waiting for him in the car. He’d waited long enough. “Thanks,” Ed called as he waved at the pastor on his way by.

**
Miss you quite terribly (9-16-09)

Ed settled back against the wall and stared out the window. His father was just downstairs, getting breakfast ready. It seemed strange to have the old man taking care of him after all these years. He’d hated his father for leaving them. He’d blamed the old man for his mother’s death.

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, though it was far past time to get up. He had no motivation lately. He’d never been seperated from his brother since Al was born. They’d always been together. Now… he wasn’t even sure if his brother was alive. They were worlds apart if he was. He might never see Alphonse again. Though he rarely cried, Ed could feel hot tears working their way down his cheeks. Even after their mother died he didn’t feel so bereft. “Al,” he murmured softly. “I miss you so much.”

**
Splintering the Night (9-17-09)

The child looked down out of the branches and watched the beings walk on the path the trees had made for them. They were being led, he knew. He looked down the path toward where it would end. The trees would consume them at the trail’s end.

“Prithee,” he called down. Four sets of eyes looked up at him and he froze, almost afraid of the sudden attention. “An… thou goest by that way, thou wilt die.” The words came out in a rush and he swallowed anxiously.

“Do you know the way out of the forest?” one asked gently. The child looked at the one who’d spoken. It had long dark hair and wide grey eyes. “We shouldn’t follow the path. Should we backtrack.”

“In truth, ‘twould be nigh impossible for thee,” the child said softly. “I shall… lead thee hence, an Mother will allow it. Mother, may I?” He looked down at his mother’s nestling branches. She rustled a compliance. He scrambled down and led the four beings down a secret path.

In a surprisingly short time they reached the edge of the forest. The child turned back toward the forest but found his way blocked. He blinked in shock. His mother had allowed him to leave and then told the other trees to block his return. He felt her speaking to him as she always did. She was dying. Her leaves would not return in the spring. Another tree would take him; force him to pollonate it. The humans would take care of him. They would not harm him.

He turned to the being with the wide gray eyes. “Mother says that I may’nt return. She says that… that she will die in the winter and with the spring I will be forced to pollonate other trees. She does not wish that for me. She says that… I must go with thee.”

“Of course, child,” the being said. “My name is Mara. What is your name?”

“I have no name. I am child,” he said softly. Mara wrapped soft leaves around him and nestled him close in her branches.

“Kelsay it is, then,” she said in a voice that was just as soft. She turned to one of the others and said, “Ian?”

“Of course. Come Kelsay.” He lifted the child… Kelsay into his branches and they moved down the path. Mara and Ian rustled at him as he cried. Kelsay did not know where he was going but he knew that his life was going to change drastically. It frightened him.

**
Destiny is Funny Stuff (9-18-09)

“You say that a lot,” Almace murmured.

“What?” Orbsen said, as he wiped his eyes.

“Fates. What does fate have to do with anything? Keep moving and we’ll be fine.”

“A lot of deiva invoke the… not the beings “the Fates.” We know they’re just like us… deiva. We invoke the… belief in fate, I guess. Everyone has something – more than one something by most people’s idea of things – that they’re meant to do. When bad stuff is happening, we… remind ourselves that we have… Fates.”

“Good things too,” Janis murmured.

“That’s just a carry over,” Orbsen said, waving the thought away. “It started out for bad things.”

“You have a destiny, huh?” Almace said. He glanced over at the prince and shook his head. He was little more than a child. At the moment, a scared one. “What is it?” he asked.

“That’s the funny thing about destiny, Almace. You don’t know until afterwords,” Orbsen said as he continued to slog down the trail.

**
What if the Storm Ends (9-19-09)

To say they argued would have been an understatement. Their relationship was by no means quiet, but it was fun. He at least thought it was fun. His wife didn’t seem to think so. She felt that the arguments meant they weren’t right for each other.

He sat, quiet for once, as she spoke. “I just… I just think that… maybe we should take a break,” she said softly as she wound down.

“Maybe… couple’s counciling?” he murmured.

“Would you be willing?” she asked, almost eagerly. He nodded silently. She nodded also. He closed his eyes in relief. The storm might end in their relationship but their relationship might survive it’s end. At least he hoped it would.

**
Appealing to Emotions I Simply do not have (9-20-09)

Edward looked up and over at the general where he paced along the line of soldiers. He sighed softly. His leg ached with the cold. His shoulder was numb with it. He was exhausted from walking. He caught the older man’s eye but then the man turned away.

“Can’t we get this over with?” he whispered to Mustang.

“We’re officers. He’ll inspect us last,” the colonel said in a voice that hardly carried. “Have some patience.”

“My stumps are killing me,” Ed complained. He sighed again. As they waited, he adjusted his stance several times. When the general reached them, Ed gazed at him pleadingly.

“Stand up straight, Elric,” the man snapped. Ed stood as straight as he could and sighed again. The remaining inspections seemed to take even longer. Ed sighed several more times. The general shot Edward glares almost coninually.

**
Antebellum Innocence (9-21-09)

Toshiro settled back, ready to get to work on the paperwork he’d left while he was in the human world. He didn’t like the idea that the head captain had descided that Orehime was a traitor. However, they’d been ordered to return to the Seireitei. Two other captains had been sent to make sure they followed orders.

So, as unhappy as he was about leaving Orehime to Aizen’s mercies, Toshiro followed orders and disbanded his special unit. He sighed heavily and looked up as the door to his office opened. “Hello, Captain Ukitake.”

“Hello, Toshiro,” the older captain greeted. “So… you came back.”

“The head captain’s – ,” he began hotly.

“… the head captain,” Ukitake finished for him. “I know you aren’t happy, Toshiro. We know that Orehime isn’t a traitor. That’s why I told Byakuya to send them after Ichigo.”

Toshiro’s head shot up and he felt his cheeks redden. “You had Captain Kuchiki send them after Ichigo? But we… we were ordered to return.”

“He didn’t say what you had to do after you returned,” Ukitake pointed out. Toshiro moaned and set his head on his desk. “What’s wrong?”

“Rangiku’s here and I sent Ikakku and Yumichika back with Zaraki. The only ones that went back to help were Rukia and Renji,” he finished softly. He couldn’t believe that he’d missed such an obvious loop-hole.

“They’ll just have to be enough,” Ukitake said softly. Toshiro sighed and nodded ruefully.

**
Private Star Systems (9-22-09)

“You are my sun and moon,” he’d often heard of people telling their lovers. “My world revolves around you,” was another line. He sighed and sipped his soda. Did Liam’s world revolve around Sam? Did hers revolve around him? Was he foolish to even think that he should be included, even as a distant constellation?

He’d been living with Liam for over a year and they’d never been more than friends. Liam had absolutely no thoughts of any man, let alone his young room-mate. Even knowing these facts, Gino felt just a little saddened as he watched people pairing off around him. Uncle Edmund’s on-again-off-again relationship with Vanessa was on again. Liam and Sam were in a budding relationship; one unlike any the player had ever encountered.

Gino sighed and looked past the blonde towards where his classmates were sitting and chatting. Henri and Dermot were in an animated conversation about something. Matthew was teasing one of the girls good-naturedly. Lazare, Henri’s older brother, stood a little apart from the others. Gino blushed as he realized the older man was watching him. He had even less chance with Lazare than he’d had with Sasha.

“Hello, Gino,” a husky voice said from over his shoulder.

Gino looked up and saw the very person he’d been thinking of. “You move fast,” he murmured. Blushing he said, “Um… sorry, hi.”

“What’re you thinking about so solemnly?” Lazare asked.

“Nothing… Sam and Liam make a nice couple, don’t you think?” Gino replied. He wanted to look away but some kind of energy kept his eyes on the fair-haired man. Was this what all those poetical words meant? Was love like gravity that drew you into orbit around each other?

**
The Ultimate Reality (9-23-09)

“See now, they should have the silly contestants on those reality shows do this,” Ed said as he leaned back to watch his brother working.

“What? Rangle three-year-olds?” Al said as he scooped up a little boy. “Who would want to do this on a game show?”

“Three-year-old rangling would be quite something to see,” Ed quipped. “Especially a bunch of people who didn’t know what they were doing.”

“I’d like to see them put ten three-year-olds down for naptime,” Al said. “They’d be the ones crying.”

“Total Drama Daycare,” Ed said, waving his hands like he was showing a banner. “Totally unscripted because three year olds can’t read scripts. Totally candid because there’s no way you can pretend to like kids and not come off as fake. The ultimate reality.”

**
Monster Hospital (9-24-09)

Chloe sat up and looked around the darkened hospital room. She’d woken early, she knew. It was too dark for it to be morning. “Mommy? Daddy?” she said softly. She continued to look around the unfamiliar room.

Her daddy said he’d be here when she woke. But he’d expected her to wake in the morning, not the middle of the night. He’d also said that she wouldn’t be alone. There were always nurses around. She looked around the room and watched the shadows move. Whimpering she hid under the blankets.

Under the blankets was too hot so she came back out. The shadows had moved closer now. “Mommy. Daddy,” she whispered. Tears slipped down her cheeks. Suddenly the shadows flew away and a man with long white hair entered through the window.

“Hello, little girl,” he greeted. “Were those shadows scaring you?” Chloe nodded. “Well, how about I sit here and watch to make sure they don’t come back again, ne?”

Chloe sat up and nodded. “I’m Chloe. What’s your name? What were those shadows?”

“My name is Jyuushiro. Those shadows… well, they’re hard to explain. They were hungry and looking for something to eat. That’s why I’m here to watch out for them. Alright?” He smiled reassuringly at Chloe and she laid back down.

“Are you going to be here until Daddy comes?” she asked.

“I will be here even afterwards, Chloe. You have nothing to be afraid of. Sleep well, child.” Chloe smiled and closed her eyes as he settled in the chair.

**
Falling in Love is Searching for Missing Pieces of Ourselves. (9-25-09)

He knew it when she cried for him. Not because of him or out of worry for him, but in his place. He could not cry so she cried for him. Her release of emotions helped restore him as much as it did her.

He knew it when he saw her again and she immediately knew he needed her help. She’d known he was coming and what he would need. She’d planned for it. She took care of him.

He knew it when she found him again. After losing Noa. After finding his son. After losing his home for good. She found him. She knew what he needed, even though he didn’t know it himself. She brought him healing.

He knew it when they made a baby together. Each day as she grew larger… as their child grew within her. He knew it. She was hardly showing when he asked her to be his wife. They both knew it was right. They both knew it was time. They both cried and smiled together as she said yes.

He knew it as she walked down the aisle of the church. The wedding was hastily planned but it didn’t matter to either of them. Their friends and family were there to see them wed. Granny Pinako gave her to him. The Hughes Family gave him to her. They were a family now.

He knew it as he watched her sleeping; pregnant with his child again. “I love you,” he whispered. She smiled in her sleep. She knew it too.

**
She Smiles Like the Knife (9-26-09)

Vanni frowned and looked up at his aunt. It was clear to him she hated him and his father. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked at her false smile. It was brittle and cold; forced. She wanted them out of this house. She especially wanted Pat out. If she could have killed him, she would have. Even as she smiled, she contemplated his death.

“Welcome to Greyssen Manor,” she said, biting off the words.

“Thank you,” Father said, not even acknowledging the hatred in the woman’s eyes. “So sorry to hear about your father.”

“Thank you,” Vanni’s other aunt replied. She was as different as night and day from her twin. Her smiled was genuine and warm. “Hello, Vanni. Hello, Patrice.”

“Good to see you again,” Pat said, giving her a brief hug. “Sorry about the circumstanses.”

“Hello,” Vanni said softly. “We… I was told that… Grandfather had special… orders about me.”

“Yes,” the elder twin said. She turned the cold smile toward him. “You’re his heir, apparently. You’re the next Count von Greyssen.”

Vanni blinked a couple times in shock then turned toward his other aunt. She looked, if anything, anxious. His father and brother looked as confused as he felt. “Me?” he asked softly.

**
Ode to Divorce (9-27-09)

Al sighed. In Amestris when two people were married the bond was meant to be forever. The bride’s family didn’t give her into the groom’s. Both families gave the young people to each other. Al’s brother had stood to give him to Amy, even as her parents gave her away.

They had been in love. So Al had thought. The first months had been wonderful and sweet. Then Amy had started worrying and complaining.

Al was going after his master’s degree at the time. Amy fretted about money. Debt was mounting. Money was tight. They could get by. Food and necessities were well within their means. However, she couldn’t get the things and clothes she liked.

Al was involved in the church, in school, in work and in his brother’s family. Amy began to feel like he wasn’t paying enough attention to her. He listened to her and skipped church meetings or declined invitations to lunch or dinner. Then he spent many days and evenings alone when Amy went out with her friends or family.

Al wasn’t organized in the traditional sense. He wasn’t good about putting things away. Amy felt he didn’t keep their house clean enough, or help her enough with the chores. Al didn’t bathe daily. Amy was disgusted by that idea. He tried to follow her habits.

It had not been enough. About a year and a half into their marriage, Amy had asked for a divorce. She couldn’t “do it” any more, she said. Now, three months later, Al stood looking at the finalized papers. The divorce was official, two days before what would have been their second aniversary. Al sighed, and slipped the ring off his finger.

As his brother often said, move forward. He would do that now. He would be alright. It was time to let go.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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