Falling in Love with Tiernan: A Guest Post by Melissa Cuevas

Please welcome my friend Melissa to the blog, to talk about her character, Tiernan.

~*~

The Book of My World was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, started in 2014.  Unlike most of the character driven things I write, this one began as a heavily concept driven project.  I created Tiernan Hartwell as my main character for this novel, and to uphold that concept, I dictated pretty much everything about him.  He would be attractive, bold, brash, confident, the best at what he did and well aware of that.  Every description my brain came up with for him could simply be called ‘over the top’.   I told myself that this fit the concept, that I was on the right track, and I started the project on the first day of November.

Everything about this all important concept meant that Tiernan would have to carry this novel.  It was from his point of view, seen through the lens of his grasp of reality, and he was going to have to be a character that I loved enough to stay with him for the duration.

It sounded good, it really did.   There was just one very big problem…not only did I not love the Tiernan that I had created, I didn’t even particularly like him.   Everything about what I thought that he had to be rubbed me the wrong way, and I couldn’t see him being the sort of young man that the female main character would tolerate, much less trust and love. Disheartened, I gave up on the project and let the idea of completing NaNo that year slip away while I returned to other things.

But no, that was not the end of Tiernan, it was only the beginning.  After awhile, let out of the stress of being perfect for my concept and the artificial time constraint of NaNo, Tiernan began to talk to me.  He was not the brash, confident, over the top Tiernan that I so disliked, but an entirely different character… filled with hopes, dreams, fears and doubts.   While still ‘over the top’, he was not the empty facade that I thought would fit my concept.  He was fussy, often overly cautious and suspicious, filled with his fair share of concerns.  He was hardly the massively confident young man I’d envisioned, terrified but filled with resolve when it came to the struggle he faced.  At first, I was dubious, but after awhile I realized I liked him like this.   I restarted the novel, listening to his version of my concept, testing to see if this Tiernan could carry this novel to  completion.   By halfway through, I realized he could indeed be the focus character for this story.  And then, I realized I didn’t just like him the way he was, but that I loved him.   And more importantly, I realized that this was the man that made the story fit him, and he was the man that was good enough, real enough, for his Deirdre to trust and love.

~*~

Get Melissa’s new release, The Book of My World.

An Interview with Dante da Silva: A Guest Post by Stephanie Barr

Please welcome my new friend Stephanie Barr to the blog today. She’s here to tell you about her character, Dante!

~*~

INTERVIEWER: Hello, and welcome to Morning in Corrinn with your host, Danal the Bard. This morning, we have with us something of a celebrity, the ex-military genius, Dante da Silva. How about a round of applause for him, folks?
(Clapping)

DANTE: Thank you for having me.

I: Well, let’s get right to it, Dante. You don’t mind if I call you Dante, do you?

D: Sure, as long as you don’t use it more than twenty times. Then, I’m contractually obligated to devour your soul. You have been keeping track, haven’t you?

I: (swallows hard) So, Mr. da Silva, why in the world did you leave the army? My understanding is that you were quite successful and had a bright future there.

D: That’s your understanding, working under the inept leadership of the dishonored traitor Isen gave me a bright future? I’m not sure your understanding and mine jibe. Let’s just say I was tired of keeping his idiotic battle plans from failing as they would if I did as he intended.

I: You refused to follow orders?

D: More like I made sure he never gave me any so, when I saved his ass, he had no way of repudiating me without looking stupid.

I: Why did you save him?

D: I wasn’t so much saving him as the men who’d done nothing wrong. Can we move on? The entire topic bores me?

I: Of course, Da—Mr. da Silva. I was taken aback by how handsome you are in person, but sorry, ladies, I hear he’s already married. Is that true?

D: Is what true?

I: That you’re already married.

D: I have indeed been bound, heart and soul, to a lovely lady.

I: Can you tell us a little about her?

D: (Flashing his teeth in a menacing smile) No.

I: According to reports she’s the Tar—

D: No one. Talks. About. My. Wife.

I: Ahem. Those are some stunning tattoos you’re sporting. Really striking. They’re red but they almost seem to glow on your skin. Do they represent something significant?

D: Yes, they’re a demonic venereal disease.

I: (faintly) How interesting. Do you know where you got it?

D: (smiling) This time? From my wife.

I: Moving on. (shuffling papers) How old is your cat?

D: I have no cat. I eschew pets.

I: (blinks) Isn’t that a cat sitting next to your chair?

D: Yes.

I: Wasn’t it backstage with you?

D: It was backstage, yes, but not with me. Cats are independent beasties.

I: (turning to stage hand) Get that hideous thing off the stage.

D: (rising to his feet) What do you think you’re doing?

(Stagehands immediately back away. Cat lifts leg and licks its knotted butt)

I: Well, if it isn’t yours, it’s obviously a stray. And it’s an eyesore so I thought… Ahem, so, you’re a demon?

D: (sitting back down and smiling sweetly) What makes you say that?

I: Well…I…your tattoos! You said—

D: Ah, yes, well, it’s more like a slight malady than anything useful. I’ll be rid of it soon enough.

I: You know the cure for demon possession?

D: I know the cure for this one.

I: Does it come with special powers like fire or ice? Or perhaps divination?

D: No, it just makes me sexy, doesn’t it?

I: Yes, it does rather. So, no other boons?

D: No it’s more of a hassle than anything useful, though my wife does look stunning in red runes.

I: I’m sure she does.

D: Why are you talking about my wife? What do you know about how she looks in runes? Are you spying on her?

I: No, really, I’ve never met the woman. It was just a pleasantry.

D: I did not find it pleasant.

I: So, I have it on the King’s authority that you saved the kingdom. Is that so?

D: No, my wife did.

I: (licking his lips) Perhaps the King sees it differently. Didn’t he specifically request you do this interview?

D: Yes. The Priest’s Guild have been putting pressure on him about me and my wife. I think he thought this might help to humanize me. (Looks at nails) He might be a trifle senile.

I: And what do you say to the priest’s guild who contend that your demon nature makes you unfit to be a hero?

D: I am unfit to be a hero, but that has nothing to do with my demon nature.

I: They have been petitioning the King for your execution and have, besides, put a rather large bounty on your head. Are you afraid?

D: Not in the least. I’m a bit challenging to kill.

(Cat growls, matted hair bristling. Off stage, there is some high-pitched yipping)

D: Wait, did you advertise this show ahead of time so that people knew I would be here?

I: Of course.

D: People like assassins?

I: Oh, dear. Is that a problem?

D: (Dante stands up, and bursts into red and orange flame) Gus, attack!

(Cat leaps into pack of men approaching with wicked-looking swords while Dante starts throwing fireballs)

I: I thought you didn’t have fire magic with your demon infestation.

D: Not with that infestation. What makes you think that’s the only way I’m a demon? Lucky, go for the balls!

(Tiny dog leaps into the group of assassins, who are screaming. Some are on fire. Some have strips torn from faces and hands by the cat. Now some are having their nether regions attacked. Fire is starting to catch on the curtains and a torch falls over.)

I: (Rising and walking backward out off stage) Well, that’s all we have time for. This is Danal the Bard. Do tune in next week assuming we still have a studio.

~*~

Stephanie Barr is a part time novelist, full time rocket scientist, mother of three children and slave to many cats. Anything else even vaguely interesting about her can be found in her writing since she puts a little bit of herself in everything she writes…just not the same piece.

Find out more, and meet up with Stephanie online:

Amazon Author page

Dragon Faerie Creative Enterprises (FB Author Page)

FB Snarky character page

Smashwords Tarot Queen Page

Blogs:

Rockets and Dragons (writing)
Rocket Scientist (‘most everything else)
Unlikely Otaku (manga/anime obsession)

An Interview with Flynn Cole: A Guest Post by Mirren Hogan

Below is a character interview with Flynn Cole, from Nightmares Rise, book 1 of the Dark Shores trilogy, by Mirren Hogan and Erin Yoshikawa. I’m excited to welcome Mirren today (she did the interviewing!), and I hope you enjoy Flynn!

~*~

Today I sat down with my good friend and character Flynn Cole.

Me: Hi Flynn.

Flynn: Hello.

Me: Nice Australian accent you have there.

Flynn: Thanks, I like yours.

Me: You do sound a bit like me.

Flynn: So, you had questions?

Me: Yes. I understand you went to Hawaii on holiday?

Flynn: Not so much a holiday. It was more a working holiday.

Me: So– a holiday?

Flynn: (laughs). The point was to take some photos and then sell them. I a photographer. Okay, budding photographer.

Me: Why Hawaii?

Flynn: It’s about as far from my family as I could get. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but a guy needs a break from being asked when he’s getting a real job.

Me: So when are you?

Flynn:

Me: Okay, okay. So tell me about Makani,

Flynn: (grins like an idiot). She’s amazing. She’s strong, independent, funny, sexy, smart, and likes Angry Birds and Dr Who.

Me: Danger seems to follow her around. Are you okay with that?

Flynn: Well – to be honest I could do with less of that. I mean, it’s nice to have a bit of excitement, but to be followed around by vampires – sorry, manangaal – and other monsters get tiring after a while.

Me: What’s the difference between a vampire and a manangaal?

Flynn: Have you seen those guys? They don’t sparkle, and they’re not civilised. They’re more like flying gut-sucking dogs.

Me: Woah, they sound like fun. Not.

Flynn: I know, right? But we hold our own against them. Mostly. Kind of…

Me: (laughs sadistically) And then some of your family tracks you down.

Flynn: I told you not to ask about that. (turns in chair). Where’s my manager?

Me: I’m your manager. Now answer the question.

Flynn: (sighs) Fine. Yes they did, my sister, her husband and their kids.

Me: Did they get eaten by monsters?

Flynn: I wish. I mean, you’ll have to read and find out.

Me: I heard there was no Vegemite in this book. Why should I read it?

Flynn: There’s pizza. There’s also beer and bacon. And sandwiches. everyone loves those, right?

Me: I like a good sandwich. I hear Makani likes them too?

Flynn: Oh yes, she loves a sandwich.

Me: What else do we need to know about this book?

Flynn: It’s funny, and urban, and sometimes a little gross, but in all the right ways.

Me: Well there you are folks: funny, urban, has monsters and sandwiches. I guess you better read it for yourself.

~*~

Find out more, or hang out with Mirren, at these links:

Website: Mirrenhogan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MirrenHoganAuthor/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter: @MirrenHogan

Blog: https://mirrenhoganblog.wordpress.com

Mailing list: http://eepurl.com/cA1PCb

One Last Quest, Part Six

The conclusion!

~*~

Lachlan’s stomach clamped over his pickled-herring sandwich and four cups of coffee. He nearly wished it were empty, except that then it would probably feel worse. He swallowed, and again, as the carriage moved toward Adeon’s address. He didn’t want to look out the window. The boy’s reaction—why had he never considered it?

It was entirely possible Adeon was simply finished with him. His stomach clenched tighter, but he supposed he would sooner that than the alternative: that Adeon had been somehow incapacitated, or worse, killed.

No. He couldn’t bear it. If Adeon didn’t want his company anymore, well, he could bear that, though not with good grace. And what of the boy’s mother? She might see him as nothing but some filthy Revanar predator come to harm her son. His worry climbed the scale, pitching high until he shook, and in the absence of his chair arms to grasp, resorted to clenching his fingers over his stumps, the tips digging cruelly into pinned-trouser ends. There were so many things he hadn’t thought of in his haste to get to Dreamport. His mind spun wild scenarios, and wilder ones, until he could hardly breathe for panic.

The ride felt endless. What would he do? What would he say when he saw Adeon? The whole thing was a fool’s errand, and all his thought for better was a fool’s dream. The cab stopped again and again, and each time his heart leapt into his mouth. After a minute or two it would roll on—they must be stopping at crossroads—and sometimes take a turn, but Lachlan’s pulse never settled all the way, and his chest never quite unknotted.

“Are you well?” Cathal asked, concerned.

Lachlan didn’t dare look up; didn’t want to see the pity on his valet’s face. He shook his head slightly, denial and dismissal at once. Cathal laid an awkward hand on his shoulder, squeezed lightly, and drew back again. They didn’t speak.

At last, the carriage came to a stop for good. Lachlan forced himself to get out, to drop himself off the seat into his chair, stiff with anxiety. Too close to turn back now, too close even to think of such a thing. It would be unfair to Cathal. If he got nothing else from the trip, at least there was Cathal. He breathed slowly, collecting himself, as the cab rattled away.

He blinked in the late-morning light. The street was so poor. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but not this, the cobbles beginning to crack, the tenements sagging on the soft ground. He could smell the wharves, the fishers’ wharves, even see them among the buildings. It stank. Old fish insulted what remained of his nose. Adeon came from this place? The light of Lachlan’s tired life? So wrong—it was all wrong—it couldn’t be.

“This one,” said Cathal from behind him. “Right here. Fourteen, you said.”

“Yes.” It came out small and shocked, quivery, unsure. He glanced a question over his shoulder.

“It’s the right place.”

“It’s… so…”

“There’s no money here,” Cathal said. He pointed out a pack of human children playing in and out of the street. “No shoes. That boy, Adeon, he never had shoes on either.”

“I didn’t think he was so poor. I thought he didn’t want to wear them.”

“Might have some for fancy dress. He wouldn’t want to mess them. Come on, Lord. We’re so close now.”

“All right,” Lachlan said, and Cathal helped him turn the chair about. The listing tenement might as well have been the entrance to Yehoram’s cavern lair. His stomach bounded and his nerves stung, just as they had then, with Rex and Mariella beside him and Kep perched on Rex’s broad shoulder. His valet was no doughty warrior, but perhaps that wasn’t what he needed just now. “Thank you,” he said.

“Oh,” said Cathal, “it’s been hardly anything at all, especially when you match it up with what I’m getting out of it. Look, there’s a bell.” He pushed Lachlan forward. Lachlan reached up and touched the faded enamel bell rune. It still worked; from within he heard a single chime echoing.

They waited forever then, or so it felt. Lachlan itched and twitched, and at last he lifted his hand to ring again.

The door jiggled. It seemed to be stuck, but then it lifted slightly and creaked wide, revealing a small Movanar woman in a plain brown dress. That was the only plain thing about her. She had Adeon’s nose, and hair the color of honey, and blue eyes that took their fill of his face—

And she smiled. “You’re Lachlan,” she said.

“Yes,” he said, strangled, searching for words. “Adeon. Where?” It was all he could force out of his closing throat.

“I’m sorry,” she said, sounding it. “He’s gone away. Just this Longday past.”

Where?

The Movanar woman took a breath. “Lord, he’s gone to be a Knight of the Air. I had a letter this last week; he’s on a ship bound for Hayed.”

“Oh,” Lachlan said. Again it was all that would come to his lips. There was a weight on his chest. It was so much better than he’d thought, and at once so much worse.

“I’m going to post this to him right now,” she said, pulling a cheap bit of paper out of her dress pocket. “I know you swore you’d never write him, and made him swear not to write you. He was so upset over it. ‘I’m supposed to see Lachlan, what’s he going to do?’ But an oath is an oath.” She moved off down the street, motioning for Lachlan to follow. “If you liked, you might write a postscript on my letter,” she offered. “Then he’d know it was all right to write you—ah—if it is all right.”

“There’s nothing I’d like more.”

She led him down around the corner, and Cathal followed, hands ready to assist if Lachlan hit a rough patch, but for the most part he managed well enough on his own.

“My name is Elain,” she said.

Lachlan blurted, “I can see why King Muirrach took an interest,” and his face burned with unaccustomed embarrassment. What would possess him to say such a thing?

Mariella would have slapped him sideways, but Elain only laughed. “I was prettier then.”

He said nothing, but truly, he found it hard to credit, she was so very pretty now. At least the post office was close by to spare him further humiliation. It was small and shabby, with sun pouring through grubby windows. They waited on line for some time, but while they waited, Elain gave Lachlan her letter, the sort of fussy, chatty, loving thing Lachlan had received from his own mother when he was on the road. He was careful not to read it entire, only scan it looking for the bottom.

Cathal handed him a pen. There was little space left, but between “Love, Mother” and the edge of the page, he managed to squeeze: “Write me or not, at your pleasure. Be sure to direct any hypothetical letters to me personally, and they will find me wherever I am.” He hesitated over the closing before writing simply, “Your friend, Lachlan Vistridir.”

He insisted on paying for the letter to be sent in the most expensive way, folded like a paper bird and wrapped in a bubble of force. All three of them watched the letter disappear into the distance, rapidly swallowed by the Redwood’s crown.

“Thank you,” Elain said. “For everything. You were good to my son when you had every reason not to be.” She wiped at her eyes, beaming. “Maybe another time, yes? Only I’ve got to get to work, I’m already late. Good-bye, Lachlan.”

He lifted a hand in stunned farewell as she hurried away, and watched her turn the corner. Adeon’s mother.

After a long time, he turned to Cathal. “Tomorrow I’ll take you sightseeing. Only help me get back to the inn for today, and you’ll be free to do whatever you like.”

“Yes, Lord,” Cathal said, and they rode another cab back to the inn. This time Lachlan opened the curtains on his side, but he stared out unseeing and numbly exhausted. When they reached the inn, Cathal carried the chair, but Lachlan would not allow himself to be carried, instead pulling himself up the steps. He wasn’t used to doing it, and the hardwood hurt his knuckles, but his arms were strong and he won the landing without too much trouble, there to heave his body back into the chair.

Cathal didn’t remark on it, only smiled.

Lachlan retired. He was asleep before he heard Cathal leave, and he slept dreamless and deep, and woke rested as sundown crept through the window. Cathal sat in a chair next to the bed.

“Did you like it?” Lachlan asked.

The valet didn’t speak, but there was light in his eyes.

***

Lachlan sat in his study, reading Giant Fleas Abroad—a fine sequel, all things considered. The room was rather larger than his study at the Palace of Green Glaciers, and rather shabbier, but he preferred it by far. An old, comfortable armchair cradled his body, and his wheeled chair stood out of the way in the corner.

The snow had come to Dreamport, and even now fat flakes drifted by the window, collecting on the sill outside—but it was warm in here, with the fire and the heat-box together, and not so damned drafty as the Palace. Cathal sat in the other armchair, mending an overcoat with tiny stitches.

In the great city, Lachlan’s disfigured face was just another in the crowd. It was far more common here; certainly not an everyday sight, but there were plenty of humans who carried scars, and they stared at him, if they stared at all, with fear rather than disgust and dismissal. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, nor—he supposed—much better, but it was different. Everything else more than made up for it.

Elain was definitely the source of Adeon’s light. She came often to Lachlan’s rooms, bringing good food and sunshine and laughter along with her. Shattered in body he might be, but the White Worm hadn’t killed his heart, and he loved her. From afar was enough for now. There was Cathal, too, always Cathal, wandering through the city on his itchy feet, with Lachlan or without him, and bringing home interesting trinkets.

Lachlan looked up from his book at the sound of tapping from the window. A little paper bird fluttered against the glass, seeking entry.

“I’ll get it,” Cathal said, laying the coat aside. A blast of cold came through when he opened the window, bearing the letter forward. It turned a lazy circle around Lachlan before settling in his lap. “Who’s it from?” Cathal asked, and shut the window.

“I don’t know yet,” Lachlan said, “but I’m about to find out.” He unfolded the paper bird and smoothed it over his thigh. His eyes flew wide.

“Come on, who’s it from?”

He grinned. “Guess.”

 

One Last Quest, Part Five

He woke as the train shivered into the station at Dreamport, the pilot fighting the magic of the rail. Outside the windows, it was gray-drizzle morning, and fine droplets frosted the panes. Cathal stretched. Lachlan levered himself into his chair, aching more than usual. It must be the wet.

The faint rain dampened his hair and stuck in beads to Cathal’s, glittering against the valet’s darker blond. There wasn’t enough to soak, only enough to make clothes cling and chafe, to wet the ground, and slow small puddles collected where the cobbles were uneven. All the greens of the city blazed in the wet: pines everywhere, dark or muted; oaks and ashes with brighter leaves. The City Redwood stood straight and proud with drizzle-slick, bright bark and rosemary needles. Moisture streaked the basalt of the great basin, and of the cliffs all around. Away to the north, across the crater, the bay lay calm, with only the occasional whitecap breaking the rippling blue-gray surface. Here and there, earthy peat smoke, traditional for Dreamport, curled up in rich tails from the forest of chimneys below and around them. The streets bustled, coursing between buildings like veins.

Above everything floated the sound of the falls, tumbling hundreds of feet from the Ennis to the crater floor, there to land in a white torrent. Cathal couldn’t decide where to look first, and seeing his wide eyes shine, Lachlan felt a pinch of regret. Perhaps he should have brought Cathal here before; there were dozens of places the young valet must have longed to see that Lachlan could have shown him.

Lachlan had wasted decades on moldering with his furniture. Of course it wasn’t reasonable to expect anything more from a wreck, but his interest in being one waned by the moment. He was afraid—being out-of-doors, out of his rooms like this, how could it fail to spike his pulse?—but whenever he felt the urge to return to seclusion, he thought of Adeon, and he looked at Cathal, and he thought his fear would pass. When had he let it stop him before he was hurt? Why should he let it stop him now? Why had he ever? So many years.

They went inside, though Cathal had to put the bags down to open the door. “So where are we bound?” he asked.

“Fourteen Emmerick Road, number six.”

“How do we get there?”

“I don’t know,” Lachlan confessed. He stopped short in the middle of the station. When he looked down at the polished granite floor, it reflected his face and body back at him, mocking his resolve. He set his jaw and looked away. “We’ll hail a cab. They’re supposed to know how to get everywhere.” It seemed wrong to get in a carriage so close to their goal. He remembered walking all over with his friends, driving ever nearer to their destinations, opposed by more and still more vicious enemies, but to get in a cab? It wasn’t a proper quest by half.

Still, there were challenges. First they discovered none of the drivers would take them into Old Town—the address, they said, was in Old Town. They weren’t allowed, they explained, to take anyone down into the crater. Cathal looked down at the walkways to the bottom, juggling the bags, forlorn.

“Let’s find lodgings,” Lachlan said. “We need to anyhow. We haven’t come all this way just to turn around and go home as soon as I speak to Adeon.” He hadn’t realized he’d been thinking that way until the words came out, but damned if he would waste the opportunity.

Cathal dropped the bags. It was an accident, Lachlan thought; his valet’s face glowed, so excited that words to describe it didn’t exist. “What will we do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Sightseeing, perhaps. There’s a square with all sorts of fountains, I think. Perhaps the University, and the Royal Palace. Temple Row is something to see. The humans have a dozen gods and goddesses at least, did you know that?”

“I have an idea about it,” Cathal said, picking up the bags, “but you know how it is, don’t you? You think you know something, and then you see for yourself, and you were wrong.”

“That’s so.” He’d thought he knew something about humans until he’d met Mariella, here in Dreamport, and fallen in love with her, and she wouldn’t have him for the longest time—what felt like the longest time. He’d learned just how long five years could feel. “Well, we’ll go and see it. The temples are spectacular, as good as the one at Shirith. I don’t suppose you’ve seen that either.”

“I haven’t.”

He took the chest again and laid it in his lap. “I’d say we’ll go, but I’m sick to death of the People.”

“Can’t blame you.” At last, Cathal got the bags balanced. They stood in wordless communion for two heartbeats, three, and then set out to find lodgings. If there was a moment when Lachlan decided he would not return home, it was this one, but for now it went unmarked, lost in a frustrated blur. They couldn’t find lodgings on the ground floor, no matter how many places they went to inquire—and right near the train station, inns proliferated so abundantly that Cathal joked someone must have scattered a handful of inn seeds.

At last they settled on the one with the widest staircase, a place called the Hunted Hart, and managed to acquire a single room on the first floor. Lachlan ordered breakfast in the common room while Cathal stowed the bags upstairs.

While they ate pickled herring and onions on rich black bread and drank strong coffee, they discussed how best to reach Old Town, whether on one of the footpaths or on the lift. The lift seemed best, in the end; Lachlan wanted to reach Adeon now, today, as soon as they could do it, and any of the paths would be terribly hard work for the both of them.

The falls weren’t far. They could be heard from the Hunted Hart, and as Lachlan and Cathal approached they grew louder and still louder, roaring enough to make talk nearly impossible. In the roped-off waiting area the two tulon forbore speech, but Lachlan saw all he needed in Cathal’s youthful face, in the posture of his body: mouth open at the massive, gleaming gears and pulleys, his fingers trailing the maroon velvet rope at his side. When they boarded, there was more. Cathal all but pressed his nose against the glass window of the pedestrian car as it progressed smoothly down the side of the falls. They passed the other car on its way up, all steel and brass filigree hanging from titanic chains. The lifts moved like the counterweights of a clock, both the passengers’ side and, across the falls, the overwhelmingly huge freight lifts, laden with wagons covered tight against the spray. And all around there was Dreamport: Dreamport the beautiful, Dreamport the great.

As they slid below the level of the Redwood’s needles, the roofs of Old Town spread before them, hundreds of slate peaks in black and gray and red and green. “So many people!” Cathal exclaimed, seeing them all move on the streets below, in the markets and the squares, like salmon in a stream. He was silent again after that, silent with wonder except for his little gasps, which grew louder as they drew nearer the ground.

They debarked, Cathal gazing all about him, flabbergasted. Lachlan remembered feeling the same way for over a week when he’d first come here, and if the humans stared at him, he hardly noticed, enchanted as he was by his valet’s amazement. All the way to the cab stand, Cathal’s mouth worked, but when at last his bottom struck the wooden bench under the stand’s roof, he turned to Lachlan. “Lord,” he said, so hushed Lachlan could hardly hear him through the falls’ roar, “Lord, I never knew.”

It brought tears to Lachlan’s eyes, but he blinked them away and said, “Now you do.”

They sat silent until a carriage rolled up. It wasn’t long. When Lachlan and his chair were safely stowed, and Cathal climbed onto the red-leather seat beside him, it rolled away again, clattering over the cobbles. Immediately, Cathal parted the curtains on his side to keep looking out, but Lachlan stared at the curtains themselves, red in the warped square of sunlight from Cathal’s side.