Novel Monday: Facing the Storm – Chapter 26

Description:

When the Tourmaline Seas docked in Atalya, Raelin expected a normal port of call: trade, exploration, loading cargo.

What she got was a stunning offer, threats from the Delbhana and an unexpected need to step into her elder’s shoes.

The rest of the trip home to Aingeal raised the stakes for Raelin and her beloved ship as the lives of everyone on board rested in Raelin’s unprepared hands.

Facing the Storm

By Meyari McFarland

26. Sailing South

Raelin rocked with the Tourmaline Seas as they sailed south from Azar towards their next port of call in Minotapa. Six days on antibiotic pills from home had worked wonders for Raelin’s infected shoulder. For her whole body, really. She didn’t feel faint or sick or even weak anymore. The exhaustion that had dragged at her ever since the fight with Fallon was fading. In its place, Raelin’s normal energy was slowly returning.

It felt good.

Everything felt good this morning. The skies weren’t clear. They had high overcast with banks of clouds flitting by overhead, scudded across the sky by the strong winds that made the Tourmaline dance across the surface of the ocean. Well, not ‘surface’ exactly. They charged up one wave and then dashed down the next, always moving, always shifting with the power of the sea herself.

She stood outside her cabin’s door, back faintly brushing against the polished wood. The smell of the spray, the feeling of dampness across her cheeks, even the pull of constant movement to adjust for the deck’s pitch and roll felt so very right after spending so long off balance.

The visit to Gulbahar had been boring in its normalcy. Not one Delbhana sailor caused problems, even after Cessair tried to pick a fight with her rival from the Golden Wind. Even Captain Geileis had only nodded politely to Raelin when they’d passed each other on the way into, and out of for Captain Geileis, the one import office on the entire island of Gulbahar.

“You’re smiling,” Captain Vevina commented as she strolled up to Raelin’s side. When Raelin glanced at the wheel, Theneva stood with her hands on it, watching the sea and the sails for the need to shift direction.

“I feel better,” Raelin said.
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Free Fiction Friday: Dancing on the Edge of the Waterfall

Every Friday I post a short story here for free. It stays up for one week and then I replace it with another one. Enjoy this one while it lasts!

POD Dancing on the Edge of the Waterfall Ebook Cover 03

Description:

The air was thick with moisture, cold and dark as a shadowy tomb. The cargo hold echoed with the whisper of claws against metal grates.

Devyn heard the drips. Alone in the dark with alien monsters hunting her Devyn feared death.

In the dark, with no one to help and monsters after her, Devyn was trapped.

Droplets of water ghosted over her skin, an icy mist in the cold air.

Dancing on the Edge of the Waterfall

By Meyari McFarland

Devyn shut her eyes, held her breath. The air was thick with moisture, like standing outside of the shower as the water pounded down and steam rose to fill the bathroom. It was a cold moisture, though, not warm and welcoming. She could have sworn that there were droplets running along her arms but when she rubbed one hand over her wrist her palm came away dry.

The hold was dark, lights on dim to conserve energy. They’d all agreed that there was no need for bright lights in rooms that weren’t currently used so everywhere, not just the hold, dimmed the lights after they left the area. That made the hold a shadowy tomb full of nightmare fodder when she opened her eyes again. The little girl who’d been terrified of the dark screamed inside of Devyn for her to turn the lights on so that the monsters wouldn’t get her.

Pointless.

Lights wouldn’t protect her from monsters. The ‘monsters’ they’d picked up were sightless, claw-bedecked beaked monstrosities that enjoyed gnawing on plastic and skittering through the ducts. Even if Arlana thought they were no different than rats, Devyn had private intentions of wiping every single one of the little monsters out before they made planet again. Stupid things didn’t breed fast, didn’t seem to breed at all, so it shouldn’t be hard.

Somewhere, deep inside the echoing cavern of a hold, a water drop pinged against metal. A leak. Three seconds later another ping echoed, as loud as a shout in a silent room and three times as hard to trace given the way the sound bounced off the walls, the crates, the curve of Devyn’s ears.

Great.

“I have a leak,” Devyn announced over the comm.

“Fuck, where?” Isleen demanded.

“I don’t know,” Devyn said as she pulled out her scanner. “Three second interval, somewhere in the hold. That’s all I’ve got so far. It’s damp as hell down here, though. It’s been going for a while.”

She went silent as a double ping echoed through the hold. Devyn cursed under her breath as she set out down the main aisle of the hold, scanning for any pooling of water. Unlikely given the grates under their goods but you never knew. There were places where the floor was solid. Not many, mind you, but a few that had been designed as spots to hold high priced goods that Isleen had never managed to book. Nya had taken to storing crates of dehydrated food there strictly because it was easier on her weak leg to walk on solid plates than open grates.

“How much water are we talking?” Riley asked. Even over the comms her voice came out gruff and so deep that you’d suspect vocal cord damage.

“Too much,” Devyn snapped as her sensor pad came back with entirely too much water under her feet. “It feels like I’m in the middle of a waterfall in here. I think it’s all pooled in the pit under the grates. Not sure yet how much but even with the spin of the hull we’re talking enough to nearly fill the pit.”

That set off a wave of cursing from the others, Isleen loudest and longest of them all. As the captain she’d cursed at them all for wasting water over the last few months. Their supplies always seemed to evaporate without a trace and now Devyn knew why. They really needed to invest in upgrades to the water control system. The money hadn’t seemed justified when all it took was hooking up to a floating asteroid and draining water off it, filtering the supply, but this much water was more than a mere drip.

Somewhere a pipe had broken. Had to have. Which meant that they had a huge mess that they had to vent out of the hold somehow.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be as easy as just opening the hold doors and dropping the force field for a few minutes. Most of the cargo at the moment was perishable, prone to spoilage if the temperature got too high. Or the humidity.

“I’m going to check the order,” Devyn said. “Humidity might already have ruined the load.”

“It wasn’t that bad when we loaded it last week,” Arlana complained. “Seriously, it can’t be that much water in there.”

“Come check for yourself,” Devyn replied as she strode up the aisle, turned onto one of Nya’s solid bits of deck. “Nya, the bird-rats have been at your food in AB-12. I see bits of food strewn across the deck.”

The floor was covered with a sticky purple and yellow paste made Devyn’s boots cling to the deck. Thousands of little footprints, three toed with long claw scrapes, filled the paste. One corner of the crate was gone, gnawed away so that the bird-rats could get in at the dehydrated food. Devyn wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it but the bird-rats had plenty of water to rehydrate the food so obviously they’d ferreted out everything they could eat.

“Damn those things,” Nya complained. The words held little heat. “How much did they get?”

“I’d write off the whole crate, honestly,” Devyn replied and then grinned as Nya cursed a blue streak over the comms. “There’s too much on the floor for them not to have gone all the way through.”

“There’s only a handful of them,” Arlana protested. “Maybe ten or so. They couldn’t eat that much, Devyn.”

The hold echoed with thump-hiss-thump as Arlana opened the door and then strode in to find Devyn. Her footsteps on the grates echoed far more than Devyn’s did, legacy of her size. Where Devyn was small, barely five foot and thin boned as suited a born and bred spacer, Arlana came from one of the heavier planets. She stood twice Devyn’s height and looked like she was made of solid rock. Hard glossy onyx, Devyn mused as Arlana turned the corner and spotted her by the crate of no-longer edible food.

Her eyes narrowed. She’d pinned her long curly hair up into a tight bun today, covered that with a net so that it wouldn’t drift when she worked in the weightless section of the ship. Devyn pursed her lips against saying something about that choice. She preferred Arlana’s hair down but practicality did have to come first, even if Devyn liked to be able to run her fingers through Arlana’s hair, to touch and caress her neck.

“This is too many footprints, Devyn,” Arlana whispered. Her cheeks went brown as she paled, the blood draining from her cheeks. “They’re too small.”

Devyn opened her mouth to ask why she was whispering but something skittered under the grates. Then something else. And a third, a fourth, then a rushing wave of tiny bodies that made the hair stand up on Devyn’s arms.

She stared at Arlana who slowly stood, face nearly gray now she’d gone so pale. As Arlana began to back towards the door Devyn followed her. Devyn tried to walk lightly, softly, quietly so that the bird-rat babies, if they were babies, they had to be babies, wouldn’t hear but the sticky paste made every step suck and slop so loudly that there was no hiding her movement.

“Go!” Arlana shouted.

Devyn ran for the door before she consciously registered the rising chitter of thousands of voices coming at her. Beaks, beaks, those tiny beaks, they could chew through hardened plastic easily. They’d bit through skin and bone without any problem. And the claws, those would tear and shred both Devyn and Arlana until there was a new sticky patch, blood red with scattered bits of bone sticking out white from the mess.

“What’s wrong?” Isleen asked over the comms.

“Hundreds!” Devyn gasped. “They’re breeding in the water. We have to get out of here!”

“No!” Arlana shouted. “We can’t let them out! Seal the damned doors!”

Devyn screamed at her but the chittering rush of hundreds of tiny hungry monsters behind them overwhelmed everything but the need to run. The hold was huge, hundreds of yards wide by nearly a thousand yards long. They had half a mile of space to run but no idea how many of the pits under the grates were full of water, full of monster babies.

The hold echoed as the locks sealed all up and down the walls. The overhead door, used for lowering bigger loads in by crane, creaked and then thunk-thunk-thunk locked tight. At the same time the constant hiss of air, so steady that it became invisible, stopped. In the silence left behind by Isleen sealing them in, the sound of Devyn’s whimpers was as loud as a shout.

So were the rising cries of the monsters.

Too many, far too many, hundreds, thousands easily. Devyn risked a glance over her shoulder and screamed. A mass of tiny snapping beaks and flashing claws was rolling towards them. The mass of babies mixed into a roiling mass that leaped and surged over one another as if they were a tidal wave instead of individuals.

“We’re going to die!” Devyn screamed at Arlana.

“Run!”

She didn’t look back, didn’t stop, didn’t pause. Arlana’s long legs carried her so much faster than Devyn’s shorter legs that Devyn sobbed. Behind her the monster babies chitter turned into a crooning howl filled with snapping beaks and the scrape of claws against the grates.

It was too far and not far enough. Why run? The hold was huge but it was still only half a mile long and Arlana was pulling further and further ahead with every step. Tears blurred Devyn’s eyes until one of the babies appeared out of the gap between rows of crates. It leaped straight at Devyn, beak gaped open and toe-claws curled back to slash her open.

“Get away from me!” Devyn shouted at it.

She swung her pad and hit the baby so hard that it ricocheted off the big crate of fine wood from Earth. It bounced and then fell, still, little beak open and neck bent at an impossible angle.

They could be killed. It could be done. Devyn bit her lip and then snarled as she scrambled up on top of the nearest crate. Overhead was the crane they used inside the hold, hanging loose and free. As Devyn ran for it, throwing her pad at the wave of too-close, too-close baby monsters, she counted her steps, lifting her knees and running for all she was worth.

Devyn leaped across space and caught the hook of the crane in the chest.

Gears screamed as she swung and then spun, flying down the track towards the far end of the hold. Beneath her the monster babies screamed and crooned and scrambled up onto the crates only sniff and then surge back down to the grates.

Arlana, they were tracking Arlana now. Devyn cursed and swung and spun, looking desperately for Arlana. She had to be there but no, she was nowhere to be seen. Her heavy boots no longer rang against the deck plates and grates. There was only the roar of the babies and Devyn cursing at them all for being fools, for ignoring the water loss, for not getting rid of the damned monsters when they first infested the ship.

“Arlana!” Devyn screamed.

No one answered, not Arlana, not Isleen or Nya or even Riley who had to be working desperately in the engine room to find some way to save them and the goods in the hold. If any of it could be saved.

The crane slowed as Devyn’s momentum faded, faded, collapsed into nothingness. She dropped from the crane, rolled down onto the decks and started running for all she was worth for the far wall of the hold. There might be a chance there. Maybe, maybe, just maybe. If she could trigger the lock down protocols then the beautiful new stasis fields that Isleen had insisted they invest in would click on and they could freeze everything in the hold in place. It would save them, it would, it had to.

Behind her the monster babies screamed, tiny claws scraping against the grates as they reoriented on Devyn’s running. It had to the be the sound, the vibrations through the deck plates, that drew them. They hadn’t responded to Devyn’s light steps. It was only when Arlana had shown up with her heavy tread that they’d massed to hunt and to attack and to rend, to tear, to feed on them.

But Devyn couldn’t stop. She had to get there and if it was with the monster babies breathing down her neck so be it. They would get her but Devyn would make sure that those little bastards got it, too, one way or the other. If Devyn died, they’d die too.

The end of the hold crept closer, every running step jarring Devyn’s gritted teeth. It felt as though the monsters were right behind her, so close that she could swear that they were on her heels but she wouldn’t look, she couldn’t. Little horrors would make her trip and Devyn wouldn’t allow that.

She ran and ran and then the wall was right there. Devyn smacked into it, grunted with the pain of something in her wrist snapping, then she pushed off and ran towards the control panel on the right side of the hold door, eyes already locked on the big red Emergency switch.

“Take that, you freaks!” Devyn shouted as she slapped it as hard as she could.

Nothing happened.

Devyn screamed and slapped the button again, again, again. “Work, damn it!”

The monster babies screamed as they ran around the corner. A great dark wave of them slammed into the wall exactly like a wall of water pouring down a too-small pipe. Devyn whimpered. She pushed the stasis field one more time but nothing, nothing, damn it, nothing.

“Die!” Devyn shouted at them.

Her injured, broken, sprained, Devyn didn’t know, her bad wrist screamed as Devyn grabbed the lever to cause explosive decompression. Someone, Isleen? She didn’t know, didn’t care, not with a wave of hungry black-beaked baby monsters scrambling and chittering and running straight at her.

One hard shove up and the whole ship shuddered. Devyn wrapped her arms around the lever, pushing and pushing until the big double doors inches away from her flashed red and then snapped outwards six inches. The air around Devyn shuddered. So did the monster babies who skidded to a stop.

Their heads lifted, beaks open as they cheeped. Devyn clung to the lever, shut her eyes and prayed to the gods of her mother that she had never believed in, not as a child, not now, but someone, anyone, please they had to help. Arlana was out there in the hold, somewhere, maybe alive or maybe dead as the great doors slid back against the outer hull of the ship, exposing the vast emptiness of space.

Then the monster babies screamed as the air rushed around Devyn, tearing at her as badly as the babies’ claws would have. The force field, the one that kept the air in, it had fallen and now there was nothing to keep the babies and the crates of goods from flying outwards. Nothing to keep Devyn from being swept along with them into the dark and cold and endless iciness of open space.

The air was a hurricane around Devyn but she kept her eyes shut as her body twisted sideways in the rush of wind. Kept them shut as her arms screamed and her ears popped and the ship echoed and banged and even the roar of the wind wasn’t enough to drown out the screams of the monster babies as they were swept out of the door and into space.

She nearly opened her eyes to watch but no, no, the cold would freeze her eyeballs and then she’d be blind until they got back to base and could get Devyn’s eyes repaired. Her precious lungful of air would be gone as she screamed so Devyn kept her eyes shut and clung to the lever.

Water, that was water, the rush of water surging upwards and out, sucked by the vacuum of space pulling everything into it. Wet at first and then harder, colder, icier as the cold of outside invaded the hold. Devin’s clothes went damp, wet, then froze to her skin but there was no letting go, she wouldn’t, couldn’t, not until it was all over.

Her legs slumped back to the decks, boots clanging only there was no air to carry the sound of the impact. Devyn struggled, got her feet under her and then hauled down on the emergency lever. Let it be enough. Let the babies all be gone, along with their vile parents. Let the ship be safe and Arlana alive, clinging to something but no, she couldn’t have because the hurricane of evacuating air had to have swept her outside along with the babies.

The wall shuddered under Devyn’s arms as she hauled the emergency lever all the way down, locked, shut, emergency over. Her lungs heaved, burning, desperate for air that didn’t exist. Devyn pressed her lips together, counting the seconds as the great doors slowly rumbled shut again. She felt the impact where they met, felt them clamp back down, sealing the hull shut once more.

Air gushed over Devyn as voices erupted over the comm in her ear. She gasped, sagged and then collapsed to her knees next to the control panel.

“Arlana! Devyn! Report!” Isleen bellowed.

“Alive,” Devyn gasped. “I’m alive.”

She didn’t expect a response from Arlana. There couldn’t be one. The monster babies must have gotten her. They must. There hadn’t been a word, not a single word, so her beautiful Arlana had to be gone, eaten, torn to shreds and then abandoned as the babies hunted Devin.

A cough echoed.

Devyn gasped. She struggled to her feet, clothes crackling, eyelashes stuck together with rapidly melting ice. Heavy boot treads shuffled across the grates as Arlana slowly limped towards the end of the hold where Devyn stood, swaying, clutching her injured arm. The stasis field had worked. Their goods were still there, held in place by faintly glowing force fields that kept inanimate objects from moving. Not people, never people, so no, it wouldn’t have worked on the babies and wasn’t that a sign of how terrified Devyn had been that she’d forgotten in her fear for her life, for Arlana’s life.

Arlana’s hair was loose, torn free of the too-tight bun. There were scratches and cuts on Arlana’s cheeks, blood frozen, melting on her cheeks, her neck, her arms. Devyn sobbed, feet moving of their own accord as Devyn stumbled towards Arlana who laughed and cried and held out her arms for Devyn’s rush straight at her.

“Me too,” Arlana said, her voice as rough as Riley’s normally was. “Alive. Barely. Door opened just as the babies found me. Would have died if you hadn’t opened it.”

“Shut up, shut up,” Devyn cried as she clung to Arlana’s neck despite the blood, her wrist, the sound of Isleen cursing, Nya shouting that she was on the way. “Shut up.”

Salt stung in the frozen patches on Devyn’s cheeks. The hold was too cold, air too thin, but it didn’t matter, not anymore. The monsters were gone, purged, or at least cut down enough that Devyn knew they’d get rid of the rest of them. Shouts echoed from doors on either side of the hold, halfway up, maybe more. Devyn didn’t care.

Alive, they were alive and even if the pits still had babies, eggs, whatever those monsters were born from, they could survive it. They would. Arlana was alive and so was Devyn. That was what mattered, more than anything else.

She kissed Arlana’s bloody cheek, laughed as Arlana cursed gently over salt in her wounds. The lights slowly lit overhead, filling the hold with light. Safe. Yes, finally, with Isleen in the lead, battle armor covering every inch of her golden skin, Nya limping and cursing at the grates, and big burly Riley carrying her tool kit as well as Nya’s first aid kit.

“Did it,” Arlana whispered.

“No more monster bird-rats,” Devyn whispered back, laughing and crying and shaking with relief.

“No, no more monsters,” Arlana agreed with laughter and tears of her own.

They sat together on the grates, arms wrapped around one another as the others ran to their sides. Devyn shut her eyes and leaned into Arlana’s embrace. Safe.

The End

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Novel Monday: Facing the Storm – Chapter 25

Description:

When the Tourmaline Seas docked in Atalya, Raelin expected a normal port of call: trade, exploration, loading cargo.

What she got was a stunning offer, threats from the Delbhana and an unexpected need to step into her elder’s shoes.

The rest of the trip home to Aingeal raised the stakes for Raelin and her beloved ship as the lives of everyone on board rested in Raelin’s unprepared hands.

Facing the Storm

By Meyari McFarland

25. Aftermath

Radha Village seemed even smaller than before. It wasn’t, of course. The village had weathered the hurricane without any structural damage. A few of the roofs had blown off up in the hills. The beach was narrower than it had been as the waves had sucked a large amount of sand out to sea. But the villagers were fine.

Raelin walked up the short, not even a block long, street that led to the well. The houses really were quite sturdy. After the flimsy houses of Idoya, Azar’s heavy brick buildings felt as though they’d been carved from the bedrock.

“Thank you for letting us get more water,” Raelin said to the Harbor Master toddling along at her side. He moved about as fast as Raelin was willing to with the renewed infection in her shoulder. The chunk of wood that the storm drove into her shoulder had either been contaminated or her body just hadn’t been able to cope with another injury so soon. Either way, Raelin felt as though she was wrapped in chains and walking through ankle-deep mud. “We could probably make it without but better safe than sorry.”

He waved a hand at her, clucking his tongue affectionately. “It is not a problem. We have more than enough now. The storm replenished the well and the aquifer up in the hills.”

It would have been nice if they’d been the only ones at the well but of course Dana luck didn’t run that way. Sinead was there supervising the filling of her barrels and Captain Geileis, the captain of the Grand Cutlass, stood behind the well, glaring at Captain Vevina as if she had no right whatsoever to water.

The glare intensified as soon as Raelin and the Harbor Master arrived at the well. Of course. What else could the Delbhana do besides blame Raelin? She’d known that something was going to happen as soon as she’d told Captain Vevina to notify the Golden Wind and the Grand Cutlass. She’d expected it to happen back in Aingeal or Minoo, not here, honestly. Though given Raelin’s luck this trip they’d probably have issues here and in both Minoo and Aingeal.

“How long until the storm blows past fully?” Captain Geileis asked in Aingealese, eyes so narrow that she looked like she wanted to stab Raelin.
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Free Fiction Friday: Candy-Coated Courtship

Every Friday I post a short story for free. It stays up for one week and then I replace it with another short story. Enjoy this one while it lasts!

POD Candy-Coated Courtship Ebook Cover 05

Description:

Candy Courtship, Amirah’s favorite pastry shop, smelled of yeast and the acrid bright smell of fresh green tea.

It was all the more welcoming because of the proprietors sweet, beautiful Calliope and her twin sister Hayden.

Four months had won Amirah shy smiles, blushes across Calliope’s dark cheeks but no more.

Could true love bloom amid pastries, candy and green tea?

Candy-Coated Courtship

By Meyari McFarland

Amirah stopped just inside the door and shifted to the left so that other people could pass her by. She shut her eyes, breathed deep. Yeast, sugar, the acrid bright smell of fresh green tea, the sort that tasted like grass on your tongue and cloyed the back of your throat so badly that you took another drink in the vain hope that the tea would make you less thirsty instead of more. Under that was chocolate, thick and rich, and wax from the squeaking floors that made her heels slip and tremble every time she walked in.

Home.

Or as close to home as Amirah was going to get while away at college. When her parents visited she would bring Mother here, would pull her to the left so that they could breathe together and remember Grandmother’s kitchen, the smell of mint tea and bread and thick spicy kahari. It was different from here, from Candy Courtship, but the smells were so thick that Amirah loved it. Mother would too.

Father would forge straight for the counter, tapping it with his blunt fingertips as he considered which pastry to buy. Then he’d get tea, black, not green, and sip it slowly while Mother and Amirah ate whatever pastries they chose. He wouldn’t smile, not in public around strangers that he wouldn’t ever know, but his eyes would be bright and warm over the top of his teacup as he watched them speculate about the recipes.

Another month and a half, that’s all she had to wait. Amirah opened her eyes and laughed to see Calliope staring at her with a concerned frown. Hayden, her twin sister, was busy extolling the virtues of the raspberry donuts to a pair of tourists in heavy coats, thick gloves clutched in their hands and noses red from the cold outside.

Not that Amirah thought it was that cold. Not like home where it snowed ten months of the year and roasted the remaining two. She checked for anyone else coming in before coming to the cash register where Calliope stood in her fairy-floss pink apron bedecked with delicate lace trim. The pink made Calliope stunningly beautiful, much as Calliope hated the color. It brought out the rose of her warm brown cheeks and made the spring of her lush dark curls seem even more pronounced.

“Why do you do that?” Calliope asked in a low enough voice that it wouldn’t upset the tourists or make Hayden start teasing the two of them.

“Stop?” Amirah asked. When Calliope nodded while automatically beginning to prepare a green tea for her, Amirah laughed. “It smells like home. Well, not like home but the smells remind me of home. So I stop. I savor. This is a good thing, yes?”

Calliope blinked at her and then ducked her head to blush and smile and lick her lips as if she was searching for just the right thing to say. Anything she said would be welcome in Amirah’s opinion but Calliope always seemed to want the exact word, the exact phrase to make Amirah laugh or smile.

Her beautiful eyes were more than enough for that in Amirah’s opinion.

“Did you want a pastry, too?” Calliope asked just as she always did.

“Of course,” Amirah said. “What’s especially tasty today?”

“Everything,” Calliope declared just a hair belligerently, as if someone had insulted their pastries before Amirah came in. “They’re all good today.”

“Then surprise me,” Amirah replied and laughed at the way Calliope ducked her head to attempt to hide her blush. “I trust you. Whatever you think I will enjoy will be a delight.”
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The Fantasy Storybundle is almost gone!

Three days left on the Fantasy Storybundle!

Or more accurately, 3 days 14 hours at the time I posted this. Time’s running out so if you’ve been thinking about getting the bundle and haven’t done it, this is the time to go click buy.

Seriously, you’re not going to find 13 better fantasy novels for such a great price again. And all of them are good. I mean, mine is great, of course, but they’re all amazing stories that you’ll enjoy reading over the summer.

Just $15 gets you all 13 novels, plus you can donate to the Challenger Center which gives students around the world the chance to learn about space, become astronauts and engineers. It’s a great charity and a terrific bundle so get it while you can because in just 3 days (14 hours) it’s gone!

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Novel Monday: Facing the Storm – Chapter 24

Description:

When the Tourmaline Seas docked in Atalya, Raelin expected a normal port of call: trade, exploration, loading cargo.

What she got was a stunning offer, threats from the Delbhana and an unexpected need to step into her elder’s shoes.

The rest of the trip home to Aingeal raised the stakes for Raelin and her beloved ship as the lives of everyone on board rested in Raelin’s unprepared hands.

Facing the Storm

By Meyari McFarland

24. Storm Front

“I have your lifeline!” Dallas called as she ran up the ladder from the main deck.

Dallas’ lifeline was already wrapped securely around her waist the rope trailing away to the sturdy belying pins around the main mast. Raelin nodded, took two steps her way and then screamed at Dallas while pointing ahead. At the same time Binne up at the top of the mainmast and Fidelma on the bow screamed ‘there!’ as well. Dallas instantly dove towards the rail, clinging to it though her mouth moved in something that looked like ‘Raelin’.

Raelin didn’t hear her words, her scream. All she heard was the sudden wail of wind sweeping towards them like a wall of death. She ran for the stairs, tearing her arm out of her sling no matter how much it hurt. With the wind was rain, falling straight cross. In the seconds as the rain and wind wall swept closer Raelin swore that she saw the raindrops hitting an invisible wall before being blown straight down.

Then the wind hit her.
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Free Fiction Friday: Tiny Futures

Every Friday I post a short story for everyone to read for free. It stays up for one week and then I take it down and replace it with something else. Enjoy this one while it lasts!

POD Tiny Futures Ebook Cover 04

Description:

The solution to Leisl’s construction problem came wrapped in an opportunity.

When Cassidy came over to help Leisl install a tub in her new tiny house on wheels, Leisl expected nothing other than a functioning tub.

But Cassidy was huge, strong and adorable, all the things that Leisl most liked. The temptation to ask for more than construction help led Leisl to take a chance on the future.

Tiny Futures

By Meyari McFarland

Leisl frowned as she stared at the stack of wood, metal and assorted plumbing parts. Her brand new Japanese soaking tub was supposed to be the one indulgence of her house, deep enough for the water to come up to her chin, made of finely sanded wood that smelled like heaven. It was just lying there.

In pieces.

That Leisl had no idea how to put it together. She ran her fingers over the sturdy boards, satiny smooth and just waiting for her to make them into something wonderful. Leisl gnawed her lip until a bit of chapped skin came free. A second bite and blood bloomed in her mouth.

This was supposed to be easy. Everything she’d seen said that putting it together would be simple, a piece of cake. But the instructions meant absolutely nothing to her, not the pictures or the descriptions and come on! The wood wasn’t even cut to length.

Her tiny house echoed with the emptiness, even with the spray foam in and the tongue-and-groove up on the outer walls. Her kitchen and tiny living room were almost done, other than flooring, trim, getting the counter on and appliances in. The bathroom, though, that was a different problem. Leisl hadn’t even finished the stud walls there because she hadn’t gotten the tub in and now she couldn’t get the tub done.

Another thing that she’d thought she could handle but apparently couldn’t. Her tiny house on wheels had been the perfect solution to no money, school loans and no place to live. Get a trailer, build a tiny house, live in it instead of wasting what little money her day job brought in on rent.

Thankfully, Mom and Dad had helped her get one that was half done. She had a brand new trailer, just twenty feet long, eight feet wide. There was framing of an adorable little house, covered in cedar board and batten. The roof was metal and so solid that she’d never have to worry about leaks.

It was the inside that was the problem. Sure, Dad had helped her wire everything. He’d even gotten the plumbing roughed out. But putting in the rest was Leisl’s problem. Dad had work and Mom had never touched a power tool in her life. She could hear Mom banging around in the back yard, muttering as she pulled weeds and pruned the now-spent blueberry bushes so that they wouldn’t take over the world next year.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Leisl whispered.

She shook her head and pulled out her cell phone. Iris. Iris always had the best ideas. No matter what happened, Iris never slowed down, never stopped, rarely even stopped to look around to ask if whatever project she’d flung herself into was a good idea. Iris would know what to do or she’d know someone who could help Leisl figure it out.

“Hey baby!” Iris shouted. “What up?”

Booming music pushed the phone away from Leisl’s ear. She grinned and shook her head as she switched to speaker because no way was she trying to talk to Iris when she was blasting music in the background.

“Hey Iris,” Leisl said. “I need help. I got my tub but I can’t figure out how to put it together. You know anyone who could give me a hand?”

“Oh sure,” Iris said. The music suddenly cut out, leaving her voice to echo in Leisl’s bare little tiny house. “I’ll call Cassidy and have her come over. She’s awesome with all sorts of construction work. You’ll have to promise to feed her but I swear, she doesn’t eat like me. All the health food, all the time, that’s Cassidy. She runs marathons, can you believe it?”

“Wow,” Leisl said because agreeing with Iris was always the best way to get her to do something. “Do you think she can come over today?”

“Probably,” Iris said. “Hang on, I’ll ask.”

Leisl stared at her phone, blinking. Ask? Like Cassidy was right there or something? Iris usually didn’t let people stay with her. She was way too protective of her private space and her private time. But yeah, Leisl could hear Iris’ heels clicking on the floor there. A door opened, closed and then Iris bellowed ‘Cass!’ so loudly that Leisl nearly dropped her phone.

“What?” a voice shouted back.

“My friend Leisl needs help putting a Japanese soaking tub together,” Iris bellowed. “You wanna help out?”

“Fine,” Cassidy replied. “Where at?”

Leisl blinked and then giggled as Iris started rambling directions from her place to Leisl’s parents’ house. She started with the address and then started describing the fast food places along the way, the mall that was between there and here, and then huffed when Cassidy cut her off.

“You there?” Cassidy asked. Her voice was deep for a woman but confident, a little annoyed.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Leisl said, laughing. “It’s not hard to find. Go up Fourth past the mall and then turn on Archer. Look for the white house with a tiny house on wheels in the front yard, red roof. On the tiny, that is. My parents’ house has a green roof.”

“Okay, that should be easy to find,” Cassidy said. Her voice was higher this time, amused. “I’ll bring my tools. See you in a few minutes.”

She hung up rather than give the phone back to Iris so Leisl shrugged and pushed her phone back into her pocket again. A quick warning to Mom that they were about to have a guest and then Leisl set to work bringing in the flooring that she’d planned on for the main part of the tiny. She might not be able to fix the bathtub yet but she could definitely do the flooring.

It was really easy, just lay a line of glue and then snap the pieces of not-really-wood flooring into place. Dad had taught her how to do that already and Leisl liked to think that she could learn anything if given a chance. She’d helped Dad use this exact flooring to re-do Mom’s craft room floor and that’d been three times the size of the tiny.

There was a rhythm to it. Glue, snap, press, shift position. Leisl hummed as she worked, more than happy to be building her future even if it was a really, really small future. It was a start, at least.

“Anyone home?”

Leisl jumped and nearly messed up placing the next piece of wood. She snapped it into place, pressed it down and then stepped to the door. Seriously, cleaning this place was going to be a snap. It was only two paces wide by about six paces long.

“Thanks for coming so quickly,” Leisl said as she opened the door.

“No problem,” Cassidy replied with a ready grin that made Leisl’s heart clench. “I was about done fixing Iris’ porch anyway. Good to have another project to work on, you know?”

Where Leisl was short, barely five foot tall, and so slender that people always asked her if she was eating enough, Cassidy was easily five ten with wide hips, barrel thighs and arms that looked like she lifted weights all the time. Their hair was another direct contrast, Leisl’s long and brown, Cassidy’s so short that it looked like fuzz on her head instead of actual hair. Her skin was dark, about the color of the tiny elm desk that Leisl had found for her house, but scattered with coppery freckles that dusted her cheeks, nose and then covered the curve of her bust where it peeked out of her tank top’s scoop neck.

“Hello?” Cassidy said, peering up at Leisl and grinning at the way Leisl blushed. “Okay, there you are. Disappeared on me for a second. Not used to striking people dumb.”

“I’m surprised you don’t get it all the time,” Leisl said and then groaned. “Oh God, forget I said that.”

Cassidy grinned wider as her cheeks went red enough to hide the freckles. “Nope, can’t do that. I can work on that tub for you. Iris said you’re actually planning on living in this thing?”

“Oh, yes, I am,” Leisl said. She stepped aside and let Cassidy in. “It’s a lot cheaper than paying for an apartment, you know?”

“I hear that,” Cassidy sighed. “Swear I’ll never get a place of my own the way things are going.”

She stared around the inside, taking in the stud wall that would divide Leisl’s bathroom from the kitchen, the many windows that made her tiny house seem larger, the loft over the kitchen and bathroom that would hold Leisl’s bed. After a moment she smiled and nodded as if she liked what she saw.

“Show me what you got?” Cassidy asked and hooked one thumb through the tool belt that Leisl was suddenly desperately jealous of. It easily held all her tools, hammer, screwdriver, all sorts of pouches.

“Right this way,” Leisl said. “It’s supposed to be simple to put together but I’m having a horrible time figuring out the instructions.”

Cassidy picked up the instructions, flipped through them, and then nodded so confidently that Leisl automatically relaxed. “Yeah, not a problem. This is super simple. You do much construction work before?”

Leisl sighed and then stared as Cassidy started sorting through the parts and assortment of wood as if she knew just from that flip through exactly what to do. “No, actually I’ve never done anything like this. I mean, I’ve helped Dad on a few things but that’s it. I want to, though. I mean, why not? At least this way I won’t have to depend on anyone else.”

She blushed as Cassidy stared at her admiringly. Leisl flapped a hand and then went back to putting down the flooring. Better not to get in Cassidy’s way and it was important to use the full tube of glue right way. It’d just go hard if she didn’t and that was a waste of money that Leisl really couldn’t afford.

It was strangely comfortable having Cassidy there, on the other side of her tiny, both of them working in silence. When she’d worked with Dad there’d always been the sense that the space was crowded with two people in it. Or maybe that was because Dad had had comments about everything Leisl did, even if she was doing it perfectly.

Cassidy didn’t do that. She barely even seemed aware of Leisl at all as she carefully measured, screwed slats onto support struts and then fitted the now-complete sides together to see if they’d work in the space over the drain.

“Will it fit?” Leisl asked.

“Pretty much perfect,” Cassidy said. “Gonna need your help to get everything fitted properly. Not a one person job.”

“Okay, give me a second to finish this last foot or two of flooring.”

It took about three minutes to get the last of the flooring in place. The surprising thing for Leisl was how finished it made the place look. A little bit of quarter round trim on the bottom of the walls and covers on the plugs and it’d be complete. Well, other than the kitchen which still had a ways to go and the bathroom, of course.

“You’re good at this,” Cassidy murmured as Leisl carefully edged into the bathroom, placing her feet so that she wouldn’t mess anything up.

“Being tiny?” Leisl said. She took one of the sides of the tub and helped position it above the base that Cassidy had already put in place over the drain.

“No, building things,” Cassidy said. She snorted when Leisl jerked in shock. “Seriously, the floor looks great. The walls look like a pro did them. Don’t care if you got help on the plumbing, it still looks great. I am envious of your hot water heater.”

“Well, endless hot water is a nice thing,” Leisl agreed as solemnly as she could when her cheeks were burning. The desire to giggle like she was twelve and had her first crush was overwhelming. “That’s definitely something to envy. Though I think I envy those arms.”

That made Cassidy duck her head and laugh quietly. She didn’t answer but her cheeks were red and she smiled as they quickly, so amazingly quickly given how confused Leisl had been by the instructions, put the bathtub together. In less than an hour the tub was solid as a rock and they’d fitted the fiberglass liner into it. Cassidy grinned as Leisl checked the drain and then nodded approval.

“I can’t believe it was that simple,” Leisl said. “I should be able to finish the walls in here and put in the sink tomorrow. That’s awesome. Thank you so much!”

“No problem,” Cassidy said.

She licked her lips and then rubbed the back of her neck. The callouses of her hand made little scritching sounds against the scruff of her hair. Leisl clenched her hands rather than reach out and rub too the way she wanted to.

“I ah, wouldn’t mind helping finish things off in here?” Cassidy suggested. “I mean, if you want a hand.”

“I’d rather take you out to dinner and then to bed,” Leisl said because if that wasn’t expressing interest then she didn’t know what flirting was. “I mean, yes, I’d love the help. Dad’s busy at work and Mom flat out said that she couldn’t tell one end of a screwdriver from another. It’s just… you’re gorgeous and I think I have a crush on you and why not ask, you know?”

Cassidy stared and stared as Leisl talked. By the end of it she laughed and put both of her hands over her face as if she wasn’t ever going to lower them again. It was so cute that Leisl giggled in delight. She tugged at Cassidy’s wrists, laughing in earnest at the way Cassidy whined.

“You’re so cute,” Leisl said.

“You are the cute one,” Cassidy replied, embarrassed and blushing and eyes shining with joy when Leisl finally managed to get her to drop her hands. “Seriously, Iris warned me about you, said you’re one of those fast women I should look out for.”

“As if Iris is one to talk,” Leisl huffed. “Seriously, she has a new girlfriend every week.”

“I know, right?” Cassidy groaned. She bit her lip and then very carefully, very gently, caught Leisl’s hand. “I’d, um, like that. Dinner at least. We can talk about bed, too.”

Leisl grinned as she stood on her tiptoes to press a feather quick kiss against Cassidy’s lips. They were just as rough as Leisl’s but tasted of bubblegum lip gloss. Cassidy’s blush widened to her ears, crept down her neck to her breasts.

“I know just the place,” Leisl said. “There’s this great Thai place up the street with the best food and private little booths. We can talk. And eat. And yeah. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be potential for more.”

Cassidy nodded, grinning as she squeezed Leisl’s fingers. “I hope there is. Lead the way, pretty girl. Lead the way.”

The End

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Novel Monday: Facing the Storm – Chapter 23

Description:

When the Tourmaline Seas docked in Atalya, Raelin expected a normal port of call: trade, exploration, loading cargo.

What she got was a stunning offer, threats from the Delbhana and an unexpected need to step into her elder’s shoes.

The rest of the trip home to Aingeal raised the stakes for Raelin and her beloved ship as the lives of everyone on board rested in Raelin’s unprepared hands.

Facing the Storm

By Meyari McFarland

23. Followed

A light breeze ruffled Raelin’s hair as she stood on the stern, staring behind them. Two ships danced along the waves, the Golden Wind and the Grand Cutlass. Captain Vevina stood at the wheel, staring ahead as if they didn’t have enemies haunting their heels. It felt like sailing around the Simin Point in Minoo when the seal pups were first learning to hunt in the sea. The Golden Wind wasn’t a rainbow shark but the Grand Cutlass did a lovely job of pretending to be one. Raelin was just glad that the Grand Cutlass didn’t have a way to attack them from a distance other than bows and arrows. Projectile weapons like the old legends of the Morrigan’s Hells would make sailing the seas much more dangerous.

“Stop staring, Dana,” Captain Vevina said.

“Why can’t they just let us go?” Raelin complained.

“This is the Tourmaline Seas,” Captain Vevina said so philosophically that Raelin did finally turn around to glare at her. “The Delbhana have resented her survival ever since their ship sank and they failed to steal the ship legally.”

“Well, they have me to blame for that,” Raelin complained.

“Yes,” Captain Vevina said with an arch look that made Raelin blush and keep her face forward. “They do.”

She did have a point, as much as Raelin didn’t want to admit it. As Raelin rubbed her aching arm, she had to admit that having Raelin on the Tourmaline Seas made both the ship and Raelin into a lightning rod for the Delbhana’s resentment. Raelin had blocked them on one of their biggest plots. She, personally, had repaired a ship that they felt should have sunk or at the very least have ended up in their hands as reparations for their lost vessel.

Truthfully, the Tourmaline Seas should have sunk that day six years ago. She’d had so many cracks and holes in her hull that it was a miracle that she’d made it to the port without sinking. Raelin still thought it was the Ladies who’d gotten the ship to port, though as she got older it was harder to explain why one of the Ladies would make that effort.
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Free Fiction Friday: Specialist Class Three

Every Friday I post a short story for free. It stays up for one week and then I take it down so that I can post another. Enjoy this one while it lasts!

POD Specialist Class Three Ebook Cover 02

Description:

Naya found certain aspects of her job… difficult. The excessively controlled environment, the fussy clothes, the endless paperwork. But dealing with the passengers on the space cruiser during their three month journeys was not.

There was joy to be found in the process of making passengers comfortable. At least until glorious, judgmental, messy Raya strode into Naya’s life. Then Naya finally had the chance to share her personal pleasures with someone else.

Specialist Class Three is a SF romance where opposites clash and then combine that will be sure to delight you.

Specialist Class Three

By Meyari McFarland

Naya paused just outside the lift to catch her breath and smooth her dove grey pencil skirt over the charcoal grey leggings her uniform required. The jacket was at least comfortable, more dove grey knit pieced together with black side panels separated by a thin piping line of burgundy that slinked down her narrow torso in an attempt to fool eyes into seeing curves Naya would never possess. Her little pillbox hat, dove and charcoal and more burgundy piping topped by little brass insignia giving her rank as Specialist Class Three for Martine-Hasagawa Cruiser lines, sat perfectly perched on top of her head, the back end of it secured to her tugged tight puff of hair that should have been a ponytail but wasn’t.

The view down the hallway was bland, unremarkable. Grey walls with a white ceiling overhead punctuated by recessed lights that illuminated pools of dark brown carpet. Every few yards there was a view screen set to show a slowly rotating assortment of Old Earth art, silent video clips and, once for every hallway on the ship, a feed from the sensors outside.

It was all so tastefully crafted to give a sense of normalcy to something that could never be truly normal.

Even the air was adjusted and tweaked so that it wouldn’t remind the passengers too strongly of the fact that they were in space. Teo had told her when she joined him on the ship that there was a whole department of people responsible for creating artificial wind in the ship. They had scent canisters that they would release in fractional counts into the air supply so the observation deck always smelled faintly of dust and cold, dry air but the cafeteria, grand roomy thing with its dim lights and bolted down tables and chairs, was warm with the smell of baked apples and cinnamon.

So very strange that they would have to sculpt the air and light to keep people from the thing they had paid so much for. Naya shook her head before heading up the corridor. That was irrelevant at the moment.

Riya Brinley had not emerged from her cabin for four days. She had allowed the cleaning staff in, talked graciously with the actual human staff, a huge luxury that the line advertised widely, as they changed sheets, replaced towels, and vacuumed the floor of the crumbs from Riya’s dinners.
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Don’t Forget!


The Fantasy Storybundle is still going! You can get 13 totally awesome fantasy novels (including my book Running From The Immortals) for as little as $15 AND you can donate to charity at the same time.

Mine is epic fantasy with queer POC. I talked about Crystal Doors previously. Want something funny?

You can get Mythology 101 in this bundle! Which, seriously, O.M.G! Guys. Guys! I know tons of you are students. I’m officially An Old but I’m still giggling my ass off on this one.

Elves living in the library, tutoring students? Saving not just the elves from modernization but the library, too?

Yes, so much yes in this one.

Honestly, all of the books are a strong yes for me and I’m super honored to be part of the Storybundle.

So yeah, go check it out. The deal only lasts 2 more weeks and then it’s gone.

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