THE LIGHTNING THESAURUS.

Here are the first ten pages, coming soon to ebook and paperback.

THE LIGHTNING THESAURUS.

1.

Zephyrus ran through the night, calling the lightning until his head pounded with the effort of speaking it.

The thumping hooves of their horses and the joyous, terrified cries of men going to war. He had fled the grounds of Holme, the palatial estate where he rejected becoming  a corpse buried in its soil

Zephyrus Barak spoke and in the same breath, prayed for Ansel Mercer’s men to give up their pursuit.

A sixty feet column of brilliant white and blue light sliced through the trees in a serpentine arc.

They knew this estate,  eighty miles of good soil and spilled blood on the outskirts of Alsace, an agricultural ally to The Vivarian Empire, the ruling power for over sixty years . Holme was the castle of Ansel Mercer, a rich noble who had expressed a desire to meet with a scholar seeking alms. Zephyrus scarred it with the last of his power. Now, the lightning was silent, no matter how often he called. 

He had shared his circumstances of birth with Mercer over dinner that same evening.  Hatched from a divine egg; stolen from a dragon goddess, tricked into surrender by his father. Mercer had sputtered on his wine and sat back aghast. Zephyrus had expected the Principles of the Empire applied here.

Zephyrus remembered the statues of the major saints in the hallway.

The shard of diamond around his neck hung on a length of cord, a symbol of the Lord and her rebirth. He believed they were affectations,  not beliefs held without shame. A faith, persistent and influential, but one which was being lost as Vivaria progressed and broadened after the ascension of Emperor Ignus.

Zephyrus put his hands up, spluttered something about being house trained. Such questions were common, more so seeing as he was six feet of blue-skinned half dragon, vestigial wings strapped and tail tucked away. He relied on his erudition and the papers of introduction from his instructors in Aldmera, which he carried with him.

Humour, he discovered, was another skill he lacked experience in. Mercer’s face turned pale, then scarlet with an unspoken horror.

Mercer slashed at him with a dinner knife, screaming the word, abomination,  Zephyrus realised he had been too honest about his circumstances.  Taking a wound to his forearm had distracted him from the concentration he used to speak, so instead he had run, relying on surprise to make it out of the chamber, and then the courtyard before Mercer could act on his outrage.

Zephyrus remembered the papers he had left behind. A request that Mercer consider funding a modest expedition. He had planned to appeal to Mercers noblesse oblige, but then he had plans for many things.

Blood soaked through the sleeve of his robe and each step made it sing with pain. The wavering edges of his vision spoke to a blood loss which would overcome him faster than the men at his heels.

Ahead, the forest was growing thicker, and he continued his frenzied retreat as he heard arrows fly ahead.

Zephyrus prayed the assertions of a greater destiny were not his moment of ironic demise. An arrow slammed into his left shoulder. He fought the overwhelming urge to pass out as he tried to breathe through the pain.

Each breath was a furnace in his chest, and The li

THE LIGHTNING THESAURUS.

A RON BRANDYWOOD CAPER.

1.

Zephyrus ran through the night, calling the lightning until his head pounded with the effort of speaking it.

The thumping hooves of their horses and the joyous, terrified cries of men going to war. He had fled the grounds of Holme, the palatial estate where he rejected becoming  a corpse buried in its soil

Zephyrus Barak spoke and in the same breath, prayed for Ansel Mercer’s men to give up their pursuit.

A sixty feet column of brilliant white and blue light sliced through the trees in a serpentine arc.

They knew this estate,  eighty miles of good soil and spilled blood on the outskirts of Alsace, an agricultural ally to The Vivarian Empire, the ruling power for over sixty years . Holme was the castle of Ansel Mercer, a rich noble who had expressed a desire to meet with a scholar seeking alms. Zephyrus scarred it with the last of his power. Now, the lightning was silent, no matter how often he called. 

He had shared his circumstances of birth with Mercer over dinner that same evening.  Hatched from a divine egg; stolen from a dragon goddess, tricked into surrender by his father. Mercer had sputtered on his wine and sat back aghast. Zephyrus had expected the Principles of the Empire applied here.

Zephyrus remembered the statues of the major saints in the hallway.

The shard of diamond around his neck hung on a length of cord, a symbol of the Lord and her rebirth. He believed they were affectations,  not beliefs held without shame. A faith, persistent and influential, but one which was being lost as Vivaria progressed and broadened after the ascension of Emperor Ignus.

Zephyrus put his hands up, spluttered something about being house trained. Such questions were common, more so seeing as he was six feet of blue-skinned half dragon, vestigial wings strapped and tail tucked away. He relied on his erudition and the papers of introduction from his instructors in Aldmera, which he carried with him.

Humour, he discovered, was another skill he lacked experience in. Mercer’s face turned pale, then scarlet with an unspoken horror.

Mercer slashed at him with a dinner knife, screaming the word, abomination,  Zephyrus realised he had been too honest about his circumstances.  Taking a wound to his forearm had distracted him from the concentration he used to speak, so instead he had run, relying on surprise to make it out of the chamber, and then the courtyard before Mercer could act on his outrage.

Zephyrus remembered the papers he had left behind. A request that Mercer consider funding a modest expedition. He had planned to appeal to Mercers noblesse oblige, but then he had plans for many things.

Blood soaked through the sleeve of his robe and each step made it sing with pain. The wavering edges of his vision spoke to a blood loss which would overcome him faster than the men at his heels.

Ahead, the forest was growing thicker, and he continued his frenzied retreat as he heard arrows fly ahead.

Zephyrus prayed the assertions of a greater destiny were not his moment of ironic demise. An arrow slammed into his left shoulder. He fought the overwhelming urge to pass out as he tried to breathe through the pain.

Each breath was a furnace in his chest, and The lightning slipped from his acuity.

Zephyrus tried to keep up his pace but his wounds stung with exhaustion and he fought against the growing lethargy.

2.

Moira was gathering mushrooms when she saw the inexplicable flash of lightning, sudden enough to make her cry out with surprise. The sky turned an icy blue overhead, harsh enough to make her drop her basket and turn her head away.

She picked it up, plucking the few which had spilled and putting them into the basket. Her heart thumped in her chest as she wondered what had caused such a release of energies and why it was so close to her.

She heard his ragged breathing before she saw him. His appearance was enough to shock her from her considerations. Dragon born by the reptilian jaw and blue, scaled skin but dressed in simple grey robes, stained and torn by circumstance. She saw the bleeding wound on his forearm and clutched her basket to her chest.

‘Please,’ he said.

A plaintive yet restrained request offered upon sight of someone who was not trying to kill him.  Such beings had always known pursuit and ostracism, and Moira was kind and nurturing to those who walked their own paths. Her own, for example, set her apart from most people because of her connection to the natural world. Such a distance, she believed, was useful to protect her people from harm wielded by the uncommon and unexpected. She had been a Midwife, but had left the order, whilst carrying their lessons through into the rest of her life. 

His accent was unusual, but the emotions were sincere. Moira helped him. Mercer was no friend to her people, and he held the command of the largest army in the country.

‘Come with me,’ Moira said.

The sounds of pursuit, raised voices and the thump of hooves grew louder.

Moira reached out towards the being and offered her hand. He glanced at it, unsure of what to do, until she took his hand and looked into his eyes, dull with pain.

‘Close your eyes,’ she said.

His eyelids fluttered before he closed them.

Moira breathed in the world. The connections between all living things from the soil to the sky. Serene plant thoughts clashed with animal appetites as she reached into the web and tugged on the nearest connection. Zephyrus fought an unsettling change of pressure in his inner ear before he collapsed onto his knees, still holding the woman’s hand.

The world wrapped itself around them.

It blossomed somewhere else.

When Zephyrus opened his eyes, they were outside a small, well-maintained cottage. Chickens pecked and scratched at the surrounding dirt, and for the first time, he could not hear the sounds of Mercer’s men. He smiled, threads of blue electricity danced over and between his sharp teeth. It was a tremendous effort to do so, but he knew manners were important.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

Moira replied but Zephyrus fell forwards into the dirt with an exhausted enthusiasm, sent beyond her words by his injuries.

3.

A warm, damp cloth grazed across his shoulder and the astringent smell of a fresh poultice reached his senses, rousing them by slight degrees.

Pain arose to push these fragile signs aside, and he cried out as she clipped the shaft and told him to remain still.

‘What are you doing?’ Zephyrus said.

The woman sighed and patted him on his uninjured shoulder.

‘Helping. Return the favour by staying still and quiet,’ she said.

Zephyrus started to ask why she wasn’t using any Language but then she did something to the arrow in his shoulder and it forced every scrap of thought from his head. He told himself he didn’t scream.

She sighed and pressed a second poultice against the wound.

‘ One will staunch the bleeding and the other prevents disease,’ she said.

Zephyrus fought tears as he felt the dance of lightning between his teeth.

‘Have. You. No. Phrasing?’ he said.

She came around and squatted in front of him.

Her eyes were a bright emerald, luminous with concern and focus as she wiped tears from his eyes.

‘Some, but it’s not needed here,’ she said.

Zephyrus gritted his teeth together,  his forehead knitting with frustration and pain as the astringents did their work.

‘Says the human without an arrow through their shoulder,’ he said.

Moira got up and sighed with a polite magnanimity as she wiped her fingers clean on her tunic.

‘You’ll heal, but may I give a word of warning to you?’ she said.

He turned and looked over his shoulder at her.

‘And please don’t find me ungrateful, just…’ he said.

He lowered his head and closed his eyes.

Moira knew the signs of pursuit, how it wore a person down. Her faith had burdened her with such experience. Distrust of knowledge was as common as dirt underneath the fingernails in these parts, and she knew distrust turned into animosity all too often.

‘Who hunts you, sir?’

Zephyrus got to his feet,  his flat, thick tail stiffening to serve as leverage as he turned to face her.

‘Lord Mercer took offence to my existence,’ he said.

Moira nodded, but the confusion didn’t leave her delicate features.

‘He’s an adherent,  for sure, but you’re well dressed and eloquent, I don’t understand,’

Zephyrus Barak adjusted his robes.

‘ I asked for funding.  An expedition to recover a certain item which would be useful to the…erm,  common good,’ he said.

Moira went to the fireplace, picked up the tin kettle, hooked it by the handle over the flames and looked at him to continue.

‘Such as?’ she said.

He opened his hands and gestured towards her, imploring.

‘The lightning Thesaurus, once used to erm… cauterise the last infestation, around 50 years ago,’ he said.

Moira grimaced as she busied herself with picking herbs to make tea.

‘Such a thing would not offend an adherent, would it?’

Zephyrus, despite his distractions, caught her initial silence.

‘You know of the book?’ he said.

She shook her head.

‘The last infestation, and what it took to defeat it,’

He took a longer look at her, gauging her appearance and complexion.

Pardon me, madam, but you look too young to have borne witness to such,’ he said.

She gave a melancholic smile as she found a clay teapot and dropped in a few pinches of herbs.

‘I wish I were,  but my age is not subject to the ravages of time,’ she said.

He walked towards her. A tugging sensation in the knitting flesh of his shoulder made his gorge rise, but he fought it.

‘Then you know why such an item is best recovered over being left,’ he said.

She took the kettle and poured water into the teapot. Zephyrus caught the sweet, yet sharp tang of a good blended tea.

‘I do,  but you went to beg for patronage, yet he tries to kill you instead,’ she said.

She poured them a cup, each, made from the same clay as the teapot, and handed one to him. He thanked her as he took it, spilling some as his hands shook.

Moira gave him a sympathetic smile as she put her hands over his and looked into his eyes.

‘What is your name?’ she said.

‘Zephyrus Barak, I am the child of destiny, set forth to bring justice and light to the..’

Moira chuckled and shook her head.

‘Zephyrus is fine. And what do you want to do?’ she said.

Zephyrus looked at the cup in his hands, closing his eyes as he considered.

‘Not die. I mean,  finding the book would be of immense value, but not dying feels more important,’ he said.

Moira did not remove her hands from his. Her fingers glowed, callused at the fingertips and across her palm.

‘Good, because I may have an idea on that,’ she said.

He looked up at her with a tentative smile.

‘Please, I’m desperate,’ he said.

She grinned and patted the back of his hand, a gesture so maternal, Zephyrus fought the urge to sob.

‘I know a man,’ she said.

4.

The gathered crowd laughed at Ron Brandywood, as he stood there, sleeves of his rough spun shirt rolled to his elbows, and his bare feet, dusted with curled brown hair, tracing a line in the dirt outside the inn. Three feet tall, in proportion, and far smaller than the half-orc stood across from him. 

He grinned at Ron through a pair of yellowing, blunted tusks, his body swollen with muscle and tattooed with old scars. Filed down, Ron observed,  which meant a degree of vanity uncommon to his kind.

Ron had his hands up, palms facing outward.

‘Sir, offence is taken, not given, so why don’t we come to something of an accord?’ He said.

The man across from him grunted and spat a bolt of yellow phlegm at his feet.  Ron looked at the globule in the dirt and sighed, before he raised his eyes to fix the man with a dismayed expression.

To those onlookers paying attention, it resembled an expression, though incongruous.

Pity.

‘Now, sir, in my part of the world, such a gesture is an insult,’ he said.

The man gave a rough chuckle. A ragged mix of cheerful laughter and indistinct murmurs of concern rose in the air. He clenched his hands into enormous fists,  the knuckles protruding enough to turn the skin pale where they strained through.

‘Sir, I did not get your name?’ Ron said.

The man chuckled.

‘Kadd Shield-Breaker, I’ll carve it into your dwarf chest after,’ he said.

Ron failed to keep the resigned amusement from his face.

‘Mr Breaker, I’m not a dwarf.  Simple mistake to make, but I’m a proud halfling, and such matters are important, are they not?’ he said.

Kadd frowned.

‘I’m still going to beat the blood out of you,’ he said.

Ron nodded, as though Kadd offered some insight worth debating.

‘Well, sir, it’s like this,’ he said.

Kadd went to speak, but before his words emerged, something in Ron’s smile gave him pause.

A pause which came all too late.

The echoing impact of flesh in brutal collision,  a brief paradiddle of multiple blows and the crack of breaking bone before they watched Kadd Shield-Breaker collapse and fall into the dirt. Ron stood there,  shaking out his hands as though he had handled something hot. The crowd did not see the halfling move. A blur, perhaps, but nothing more.

Kadd rolled onto his back, expectorating a fine red mist as he coughed and one of his tusks hung by a thread of tissue, dangling from a jaw which had moved two inches to the left, sickening those onlookers paying attention to the incident. Kadd breathed in wheezing, grating gasps as he stared up at the sky.

Ron stepped with care and looked down at him, shaking his head.

‘The difference,  sir, and pardon the pun,  but it’s a small one, is I’m faster than any dwarf you’ll meet,’ he said.

Ron reached into the small pouch sewn into his canvas belt and took out a copper piece.

‘Something towards your injuries, or a drink. There’s no apology necessary, Mr Shield-Breaker, should I incline you to offer such a thing,’ he said.

Ron looked at the crowd. They stepped back, all the mockery scoured from their expressions, and parted to allow him to amble back inside.

He saw a face he recognised and gave a nod of surprised delight.

‘Ma’am, it is a genuine delight to see you,’ he said.

Moira grinned and knelt to plant a chaste kiss on his stubbled cheek.

‘Why is it when I see you, you’re fighting in some fashion,  Mr Brandywood?’ she said.

Ron shrugged and took her hand, kissed it and gazed at her with warmth.

‘Ma’am, that man requested to settle our differences in a time honoured tradition. I obliged him, ‘ he said.

Moira sighed and rolled her eyes.

‘What differences?’ she said.

‘Why, the outcome of a fair game of cards, but Master Shield-Breaker sought to cheat us of said fairness,’ he said.

Moira watched as people tried to move the injured man, who resisted their efforts, crying with pain at the simplest touch. She went to move towards him, but stopped herself. She was not there for the cheat, but her instincts overrode her sense of the world.

‘Are you working?’ Moira said.

Ron shook his head as a curious light made his hazel eyes gleam.

‘No, but I gather you might be about to change that,’ he said.

Moira gestured to the inn.

‘I might, Ron, I just might,’ she said.

ghtning slipped from his acuity.

Zephyrus tried to keep up his pace but his wounds stung with exhaustion and he fought against the growing lethargy.

2 thoughts on “THE LIGHTNING THESAURUS.

  1. That’s a great hook, but I don’t know about the first ten pages. It looks more like the first chapter: 2 and a bit pages. Did you intend to post more but it’s failed for some reason? Either way, it’s a brilliant and captivating start.

    Liked by 1 person

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