Roots · Story Series

Roots: Part Four

Click for Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 if you missed them.

The coffee was a mistake. They didn’t have half-caf, but I felt like I should at least get some credit for having asked. Nevertheless, I was fully wired and in no way able to cope with what I found when I finally arrived in Innswale. At first I thought I had gone the wrong way, that it was some kind of mistake.

A metal gate stretched across the road, bearing the sign “no motorized vehicles beyond this point.” Clearly, I had wandered onto the access road for a park, or private property. But no, another sign stood to the side of the road, next to the metal gate. A squat obelisk built of stones proudly bore a large copper sign that said “Welcome to Innswale.”

I stared from one sign to the other. They couldn’t both be correct, could they? It didn’t seem possible, and yet they had both clearly been there for a long time, and couldn’t have been placed by accident.

A dirt road broke off to the right, and I wondered if maybe there was some way around this odd edict. But no, as my car crawled closer, I saw an array of parked cars through the thick tree canopy and underbrush. Some, judging by the quantity of dirt and forest debris collected on them, had evidently been there for a long time.

I was stuck. On the one hand, I had driven many miles to be here, and there were people expecting me. On the other, parking my car and continuing on foot was too bizarre to be the correct response. The sound of a horse-drawn buggy clip-clopping down the road interrupted my musing, though the quandary wasn’t resolved until I saw Echart lean out of the buggy’s cab and waved at me.

I waved back, and went to park my car, trying to normalize the situation in my mind. Innswale is not an Amish or Mennonite town, or anything like that. But I had heard that quite a few people there preferred a low-tech lifestyle. Had this segment of the population managed to make bylaws enforcing their preferences?

Echart hadn’t mentioned anything, but then I didn’t hear from him that often. Though one would think he’d have mentioned it after I said I would come visit.

After I parked, I lugged my suitcases towards the metal gate separating Innswale from the rest of the world. Echart greeted me warmly and threw my bags in the back of the buggy. He was a tall beanpole of a man with a wizened face, and a strength that belied his years. The sparse mop of grey on his head was always slightly disheveled, and the white stubble on his chin made it look like he’d dipped the lower half of his face in sugar.

“Is this a new bylaw? This no cars thing,” I said.

“Oh no,” he said. “We do this every year. Sort of a tradition.”

“How long does it last?”

“It’ll last the month.”

“Is there something special about this month?”

“Yes.” A conspiratorial grin crossed his face. “Oh yes. But we’ll get to that later.”

We exchanged small talked as the buggy rattled into town. He asked how the drive had been. Long, but not bad. I asked what the horse’s name was. Bitterberry. Which I thought was odd, but didn’t say so. Aren’t bitter berries usually poisonous?

We drew to a stop at maybe the second drive way we’d come to. I wondered if we’d arrived already.

“Hold on,” Echart said. “I won’t be a minute.”

As he walked up the drive I noticed a rabbit in a small cage, just beside the mailbox. Echart retreived the cage, and put it in the back of the buggy on top of my bags.

“What’s that about?” I asked.

“Some of the townspeople like to keep up the old ways,” he said.

I waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t.

We picked up three more rabbits before the end.

“So, what happens to the rabbits?” I asked.

“The same thing that happens to all of us,” he said cheerfully.

“Right.”

Now unsettled on many levels, I held my hands in my lap and fiddled with my wedding ring. The coffee was most definitely a mistake. I had to pee so bad. I hoped indoor plumbing wasn’t verboten this month as well as cars.

Roots · Story Series

Roots: Part Three

Click for Part One or Part Two if you missed them

The town where Echart lived was tiny, and ridiculously out of the way. Just finding it was a challenge. After the turn off from the highway, I had to rely on the map he’d emailed to me. Inniswale literally was not on any map I could find, and even Google Earth apparently had never heard of it. In this day, and age, I found it hard to understand how that could happen, unless it was intentional.

The further I got from the highway, the more narrow and winding the road became, making my journey considerably longer than I anticipated. In this day of cars and airplanes whizzing around at hyperspeed, it’s hard to grasp the scale of places. But here it seemed, distance had begun to reassert itself, and I had the sensation of going back in time. Back to a time when the only relevant things that existed were me and the expanse of rolling hills and sagebrush around me, because whatever else existed couldn’t come save me if I needed it.

I was on my own in this strange knobby place, and if I couldn’t make it out here it would swallow me up without even really noticing I’d ever been there at all. So as the gas meter on my car began to run a bit low, I was rather relieved to start seeing signs of civilization. Including, eventually, a gas station.

It was a nowhere place, on the way to nowhere else, and so didn’t bother making the amenities accessible to anyone except the locals who already knew where everything was. I had to poke around a bit to find the gas station, and eventually came across it near what looked a like a hiking trailhead. In this case the convenience store seemed poorly named, and I decided against going in.

It looked like the kind of place you would find pine needles on the floor, and strange insects buzzing around the windows. Anyway, more coffee would only add to my nerves.

At least it seemed there was a cell tower around somewhere, as my phone finally showed a few bars. So I was able to call Chris and confirm that I hadn’t managed to accidentally drive off the face of the earth yet.

“Traffic wasn’t bad at all. I’m just filling up, I think I should get there in about two hours or so,” I said.

“Okay, call me when you get there. I’ve got to go before the twins start a reenactment of the Lord of the Flies.” Chris’s voice came to me muffled and staticky through the lousy connection.

I laughed. “Alright, talk to you soon.”

I turned to walk back to my car and saw that a small elderly lady in a paisley cardigan had snuck up behind me. I nearly jumped out of my skin but managed a “hello” that didn’t quite sound like I’d swallowed my tongue.

“Are you lost, dear?” she said.

“No, just passing through.”

Her brow furrowed. “Oh? Where you headed?”

I gave her the name of the town and her eyebrows nearly reached her receding hairline.

“Oh. I see.” She turned and began to shuffle away.

“This is the right way to go for Innswale, right?”

She glanced at me over her shoulder. “Yes, if Innswale is where you’re trying to get to.” She turned away, and mumbled the next words to herself. “Whether that’s the right way to go is another matter entirely.”

I decided I would go in to the convenience store and get a coffee. It would be my third that day, but I felt a little more fortification was necessary.

Roots · Story Series

Roots: Part Two

Click here for Part One if you missed it.

“Well I’m not going,” I said. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

My husband, Chris, handed me a plate to dry. It was part of a set we’d been given as a wedding present, an ugly grey print with some sort of animal on it. Rabbits or squirrels, I couldn’t tell. I’d hoped by now we would have broken enough of them to justify buying new plates, but they had proven annoyingly resilient.

“I mean, I can’t take an extra month off work,” I said.

“True,” said Chris. “Unless we didn’t go camping this year.”

“Then there’s the kids. Lily has track meets, and twins have their archery tournament. I can’t miss those.”

“Yup, we’re pretty busy. Except for the last weeks of June, and the first weeks of July.”

I threw my towel at him. “Do you want me to go?”

“No, of course not.” He planted a kiss on my forehead. “Unless that’s what you want.”

“It’s not.”

“Well then.”

He handed me my towel back and we got on with the dishes. It wasn’t a prestigious task, but it did give us a chance to talk without the kids clamoring for our attention, since they all scattered after dinner lest they be roped into dish washing duty. We’d done dishes by hand by necessity after our dishwasher broke, and it had done so much for our communication we decided not to replace it.

“Do you think I should go?” I said.

“At this time, we can neither confirm nor deny…”

“Very funny.”

“I think if you really didn’t want to go we wouldn’t still be talking about it,” said Chris.

I sighed. What did it mean to want something?

I didn’t think I’d like visiting Echart and the others much. I remembered visiting with my parents as a child. It was awkward, the food was questionable, and their house smelled strange. It would be different as an adult, sure, but that didn’t mean it would be worth passing up our yearly camping trips.

And yet…

I had always been something of a historian. Not in any kind of official or professional way, academia didn’t offer the kind of job security I was looking for back when I was making those sorts of decisions. But the origins of things fascinated me. Especially with the rise of reality TV shows about people’s ancestors.

My father’s side of the family were steadfastly uninterested in that sort of thing, so I’d never gotten far in my attempts at intergenerational sleuthing.

“Well, all right then. I’m going,” I said. “Now come here and kiss me properly.”

Part Three

Roots · Story Series

Roots – Part One

“What do you mean, she’s different now?” asked Emily.

I sighed, this wasn’t how I wanted our coffee date to go. It was supposed to be a light catch-up, so we could talk about our jobs and our kids and just about anything but this.

But she’d asked me if I was planning on traveling anywhere, and it just came out.

“It’s hard to say. A lot of little things that maybe don’t add up to much,” I said, fiddling with the swizzle stick in my macchiato.

“Like what?”

“She had a group of friends that would go to the movies every week, she barely goes now. She came to the family get-together two weeks ago, but she only stayed for about half an hour. She’s gotten into gardening and clean eating.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t sound like much.”

“I know, but she acts different, too. More reserved. I don’t know.”

An errant lock of hair had somehow escaped my messy bun, and the wind blew it into my face. I brushed it aside and tucked it behind my ear. Emily and I both felt more comfortable in the coffee shop’s outdoor area.

“Do you think you’ll go?” Emily took a sip of her chai latte.

“My branch of the family tree pretty much never does. My cousin was the first in a while. But Echart really wants me to come visit.”

“And Echart is your…dad’s cousin, right?”

“Second cousin, I think.”

“Well I’d say go if you want to,” Emily said. “The Interior is beautiful this time of year. I’d be worried if it seemed like your cousin joined a cult, but otherwise…”

I shook my head. “No, it’s nothing like that.”

“Have you asked your cousin what happened when she went to visit?”

“She just said if I wanted to know, I had to go there myself.”

“Huh. Weird.”


Part Two

Short Stories

A Hole in the Sky – Short Story

Image by Simon from Pixabay

“What do you mean, a hole?” Thon stumbled but caught himself, struggling to keep up with his longer-legged sibling on the steep grassy slope.

Dahlia slowed to a trot and then stopped to look back. “A hole. Or a window, or something.”

Thon caught up to her and stomped his front hoof. “You’re not making sense. The sky is empty. You can’t have a hole in something that isn’t there.”

Dahlia twitched her whiskers imperiously. “You’ll see when we get there.”

Thon’s ears flattened in annoyance. Everyone thought he couldn’t understand things because he was too young, but how could he when nobody would explain anything?

“I’m not going all the way up the hill if you won’t say what you mean.”

Dahlia continued up the slope, tossing her next words over her shoulder at him. “Well go back then, if you’re going to be such a kitten.”

Thon scrambled up the slope, grumbling to himself. He was not a kitten. He was almost ten years old, which she knew perfectly well. It wasn’t his fault his legs were so short.

Angrily crashing through a clump of poufy-flowered grasses, Thon was rewarded with a spray of pink pollen in his face. Thon sneezed and shook himself. He frowned and looked around in time to see Dahlia disappearing behind a stand of aspen trees.

With a mischievous grin, Thon bent down to grab the base of one of the grasses in his mouth, and yanked it out of the ground. He continued up towards the grove, holding his head high to keep his prize from dragging on the ground. The fluffy flower would lose some of its pollen on the way, but there should be enough left to make pelting Dahlia with it worthwhile.

When Thon passed the grove, he found Dahlia standing on a rock at the top of the hill. She stared quizzically at the sky.

“See?” she said.

Thon didn’t see. It looked perfectly normal. Except for one patch where the sky was a slightly different shade of blue, and the clouds didn’t match up. It was like looking at a wall painted to look like the sky, but there was a window you could see the actual sky through. Only they were both the real sky.

“That’s weird,” Thon said. Or at any rate, that’s what he would have said if his mouth wasn’t full of plant material.

Dahlia turned to look at him, to make sense of his garbled statement. Thon was about to pounce and attack her with the flower when a roar split the sky. It was the loudest sound either of them had ever heard.

Thon ducked his head down between his front legs to block his ears, but that didn’t do much good. It just kept going on and on, like an angry waterfall.

The two creatures ran for cover in the trees. They didn’t notice the small, bird-like object crossing the odd-looking patch of sky. If they had, they couldn’t have imagined the chaos going on above.

In the cockpit of the Boeing 787, the pilots were struggling to understand why they had made landfall several hours ahead of schedule, and why the coastline looked nothing like they had come to expect after several years of flying the route from Houston to Sydney. What was worse, they had completely lost all GPS navigation, and could not raise anyone on radio.

To the great relief of everyone involved, after about five minutes the 787 found itself flying over the Pacific Ocean once again, and the sky above the hill where Thon and Dahlia hid amongst the trees was once again quiet.

Want more? Check out:

Bridge: Part One

Green: Part One

Roots: Part One

Short Stories

Green: Part 4 – April WordPrompt

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

I thought it was over after I threw out the strange orchid. It wasn’t.

For the rest of the day I kept to the guest bedroom, trying to pretend the whole thing hadn’t happened. I was psyched about the job opening in my old classmate’s firm, and so I cyber-stalked him and his colleagues and their competition. Just to get a good sense of what I was getting into.

I also kept putting resume’s out other places, just in case. It wouldn’t hurt to have more than one offer on the table.

When I eventually had to come back downstairs for food that evening, I found my sister staring at one of her houseplants. It looked like there was an odd sprout in it, but I wasn’t really familiar enough with the flora in this house to know whether or not it was unusual.

She wasn’t petting it, which was good enough for me.

The carpets seemed to have acquired a greenish tint in places. Maybe from the dust the orchid puffed out when I took it too the garage. I vacuumed, and that helped a bit.

It didn’t get better. It was never got as bad as it was that first day, but the house was steadily getting greener and fuzzier. I told myself it really wasn’t that much different than it had been before. Maybe the furniture had always been growing mossy stuff.

I vacuumed twice a day to keep the worst of it out of the carpets at least, and got rid of anything particularly orchid-like growing in the other houseplants. None of this seemed to bother my sister, either the growing things or my interference with them.

She didn’t leave the house, or answer the phone. I had to remind her to change clothing and feed herself, but she would if I told her to.

It was all beyond ridiculous, but it was temporary. The meetings with my former classmate and his colleagues went fantastic, and before I knew it, I had an official job offer and a start date. I was getting my life back.

It seemed like an eternity but finally the morning came. I carefully lint-rolled every bit of plant material off my work clothes, and reorganized my favorite briefcase.

I hustled downstairs, aiming for the front door. Fluff and dust kicked up in my wake. I would have to re-lint roll myself in the car. No matter. I opened the door to leave.

“Are you going?” said my sister.

I stopped.

My sister stood by a tall potted tree fern that was now dripping with something like spanish moss. She hadn’t said a word to me unless I spoke to her first in days.

I scratched at my arm. “Yes. My new job starts today. I told you that.”

“Are you going to leave me?”

A queasy knot settled in the pit of my stomach. I could leave. In fact, I had already perused a few apartment listings, and contacting landlords to arrange viewings was on my to-do list for next week.

But what about her? She wouldn’t leave, I knew that. Or if she did, she would take it with her. Her clothes already had fuzzy greenish patches, and her complexion was pale and sallow.

“No,” I said. “I’m going to stay here with you.”

I closed the door, and we walked over to the couch. A big potted hibscus tree sat in the middle of the room. It’s flowers were huge. They’d once been white, but now they were light green and dramatically splattered with dark red spots.

Dust hung in the air, visible in the rays from the window, and almost seemed to shimmer.

My phone rang from my purse by the front door.

The dust looked like krill drifting in the ocean currents. I sat on the couch with my sister and thought about whales swimming through the living room and sifting pollen out of the air.

Want more? Check out:

Bridge: Part One

A Hole in the Sky

Roots: Part One

Short Stories

Green: Part 3 – April WordPrompt

Click on the links for Part 1 or Part 2 if you missed them

The job search went better than I expected that morning. I didn’t quite manage to land a job offer on the first day, but I did have a good lead. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I put out a message on LinkedIn, just letting everyone know I was in the market for a new opportunity.

As it happened, a few friends of mine from college had put together a business venture two years ago. Their endeavor had been much more successful than mine, and they were looking add someone with my skill set to the team. It was better than I could have hoped for. What better way to get back up on the horse? And this time with some backup. I had a lunch date set up with their team in two days.

By the time I’d hammered out the details, I was starting to get more than peckish. I glanced over at the clock. 11 am already?

No great surprise, time does march on. But I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything from downstairs. My sister must be up by now, and yet there had been no exclamations of surprise, or excited phone calls to other botanically-inclined friends. Had she left for work, or errands, without noticing somehow?

That hardly seemed likely, given how excited she was about it yesterday, even before it doubled in size. I didn’t know what to expect when I came downstairs, but if I’d made a list, what I saw would have been at the bottom of it.

My sister sat at the table staring at the orchid with a vacant, sleepy smile. She was petting one of the orchid’s large, fuzzy leaves. As I came closer, I realized to my horror that the hairs on the leaves were embedding themselves in her skin, giving her palm its own fuzzy green-brown coat.

“What are you doing? Stop that.” I grabbed her hand and pushed the orchid away.

She looked startled for a moment, but her face soon reverted to a wide-eyed calm. “It’s really soft. Feel it.”

I’d known my sister to do some kooky things, but this was bizarre. She almost seemed high.

“Um, no thanks. You just say here for a second,” I said. “And I’ll get rid of this.”

I carefully picked up the orchid by the bottom of the cracked mug, careful not to let the leaves touch me, and then hustled out of the room. My sister watched me remove the orchid passively, which was somehow more disturbing than if she’d fought to keep it. The orchid shed dust like pollen or spores all over the place as I carried it through the house. I tried not to jostle it.

What was I going to do? Duct tape, I thought.

They use duct tape like a waxing strip to remove soft hair-like cactus spines. That would probably work. I chucked the orchid, mug and all, into the garbage can in the garage. In one corner of the garage my sister had a disorganized table with a bunch of tools and home-repair type items on it, and I poked around there until I found the duct tape.

My arm was itchy.

I looked at the duct tape and I remembered how for most of my formative years I thought it was called duck tape and didn’t this duct tape actually have yellow ducks on it or was it actually spots? I should probably actually call this duct tape duck tape only it actually didn’t have anything yellow on the tape no spots or ducks or geese or anything. I used to be afraid of geese but they’re actually far too small to back up their threats so I really should have been afraid of swans, because they’re just as aggressive but they’re huge and I think they could kill a person. They’re so beautiful too they would get away with it because no one would believe it a swan could get away with murder so easily plus how would you arrest a swan they don’t have wrists to put handcuffs on?

I blinked.

The orchid was in my hand again. Or maybe I had never dumped it at all?

I threw it away, again or perhaps for the first time, making sure it didn’t touch me. Only it already had. An itchy patch on my arm the size of a silver dollar was studded with those fine hairs. My stomach growled and my feet hurt from standing. How long had I been here?

I laid a strip of duct tape over the patch of hairs, and pulled it away quickly. The irritating, and possibly worse, hairs came with it, bar none. Excellent.

When I went back into the kitchen I found my sister where I’d left her. I used the duct tape to remove the stinging hairs on her hand.

“Does this hurt?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said.

“Why were you doing that?”

“I don’t know. It was soft.”

“Don’t do that again, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good. I’ll make us brunch.”

She still seemed very out of it, but I was fairly sure that would wear off with time. And that, I hoped, was the end of it.

Click here for the conclusion!

Short Stories

Green: Part 1 – April WordPrompt

I tried to hide my annoyance as my sister and I made frequent pilgrimages to and from the moving van. It was nice of her, really, to take me in after my bold, but carefully calculated, choice to dive in and start my own business ended in failure. Perhaps it wasn’t so carefully calculated after all.

My sister was thrilled that we’d be living together, or at least she pretended to be. No, she probably was thrilled. There wasn’t any real reason for her not to be. We’d always gotten along well.

But as we aged out of adolescence and became firmly entrenched in our adult years, I felt like I’d grown up. Whereas she…hadn’t.

I mean, her house was proof enough of that. Full to the brim with silly pseudoscience knick-knacks. The essential oil diffusers, the himalayan salt lamp. Enough potted herbs to season an entire banquet. And all the furniture was made of this dark distressed wood that always gave the impression of being sticky.

I knew I was mainly upset about the way my life had gone off the rails, and was projecting those emotions on everything annoying around me, but knowing that didn’t change how I felt. At least my sister had stopped talking about how wonderful this was going to be, and had moved on to blathering about some a-MAZE-ing orchid she’d just bought. It takes much more than some little flower to amaze me, I can promise you. But at least this topic didn’t require much input from me.

Finally all of my stuff was at least moved into the house, if not put away. Most of it was going to have to stay in boxes in the basement for the time being. There just wasn’t anywhere else to put it.

I ducked under an overgrown spider plant hanging in the entryway, heading into the kitchen in search of promised lemonade. A small plant bearing a few lackluster buds, and covered in brownish fuzz sat on the kitchen table. My sister rotated the broken mug it was planted in, examining the plant from every angle.

“That’s not it, is it?” I pointed at the plant, which only served to remind me that I was at least a month overdue for a manicure. Fat chance of that.

She nodded enthusiastically. “Wait until it blooms. They say the fragrance is something else.”

Oh good, now the house would smell like a perfume shop as well as a health food store.

I sipped my lemonade, watching my sister as she stared at the orchid. I didn’t like that plant. Why, I couldn’t have said. But something was wrong with it.

Click here for Part Two

Black Dog of the Sea · Characters

Black Dog of the Sea: Antagonists

(Plus one bonus contagonist and a few other people.)

Today I’ll be discussing the two main antagonists in Black Dog of the Sea, Captain Shadrake and Morrighan, as well as their son, Shadrake Jr. the contagonist. I considered writing about them separately as I’ve done with my protagonists, but since the power struggle between the two antagonists cause the majority of┬áthe obstacles my protagonists face, it makes more sense to discuss them as a group. For the benefit of those of you who haven’t read the novel yet, I’ll be referring to Captain Shadrake and Morrighan’s son as Shadrake Jr, because spoilers.

Captain Shadrake, like most of the mer-folk left in Caladavan, is a mixed blood, roughly 75% percent human. He retains some mer features, such as silvery-greenish skin, and translucent needle-like teeth, but cannot change form into what we would know as a merman.

As with many others of his kind, his ancestry has barred him from participating in Caladavan’s social and economic structure, and over the years most merfolk either turned to illicit means of survival or have left. The strange goings-on in Caladvan’s gulf have both proved to be an attractant for the more sinister members of the merfolk, and helped to deter humans from attempting to annex their territories in the gulf.

Captain Shadrake’s power-hungry personality, and privileged social position allowed him to consolidate power in the gulf over his career, which by the novel’s beginning spanned nearly two centuries. He owns, directly or indirectly, dozens of ships and employs hundreds of other pirates who prey on the shipping lanes running between North and South Caladavan. Many of the strategically located ports in the Gulf of Caladavan are under his control.

Some hundred years prior to the beginning of the novel, when he was in the midst of seizing power in the gulf, he married Morrighan, a full-blooded boggle, or Black Dog.

Morrighan is the daughter of the most prominent boggle clan’s matriarch. Boggles are powerful in the gulf, mainly for their unique shape-shifting and ability to control the perceptions of others. They tend to prefer mates who are full-blooded Black Dog’s, or nearly, and so have kept their abilities and blood lines from being diluted the way most other fae people groups have.

The alliance of social powers proved satisfactory for both parties. Captain Shadrake loved Morrighan for her guile, and Morrighan was attracted to his ruthless nature. This didn’t prevent him from finding enjoyment in tormenting her. For instance, antagonizing her jealous side by fathering a child with a sea-elf (mermaid/elf hybrid) sorceress, who prior to this had been a close friend of Morrighan. The discord this action sowed was great and persisted for a long time, but Captain Shadrake kept it from getting out of hand by his obvious favoritism of Morrighan’s son, Shadrake Jr.

Shadrake Jr, being a human/mer/boggle hybrid, is what some might call a sea-dog. Proportionally less human than his father, he is able to shape-shift into a fae form, something between a black wolf and a sea otter, if you want a mental picture. Otherwise, he resembles his father in most respects, inheriting his silvery skin. But he inherited cat-like verticle pupils, a classic boggle trait.

For a long time the family went on this way. Captain Shadrake groomed Shadrake Jr for leadership within his growing empire, while occasionally tormenting Morrighan with the elf-child’s existence. Morrighan, in turn tormented Shadrake’s mistress and her child, but was otherwise mollified by Captain Shadrake’s growing empire. Meanwhile the half-brothers managed to scrape out an uneasy tolerance and even affection for each other, which they hardly dared show in front of anybody lest someone’s mother find out.

Everything went on in great dysfunction but relative peace, until Captain Shadrake’s lust for power eventually led him into necromancy, and the Inner Circle, much to the chagrin of the rest of his family. Both Morrighan and Shadrake’s mistress objected to the Inner Circle on principle, because it involved alliances with humans and because of the Inner Circle’s intention to harness the strange energies at work in the Gulf. Most disturbingly, one of the Inner Circle’s chief aims was a great enlightenment which could only take place by sacrificing the children of prominent Inner Circle members. Moreover, as Captain Shadrake became consumed with this new pursuit of arcane power, he became increasingly impossible to live with.

Eventually Shadrake Jr became fed up, relinquished his claim on the Shadrake family name and the power that came with it, and set off to make his fortune on the high seas on his own. This upset Captain Shadrake, but as Shadrake Jr was growing in influence in the family business, Captain Shadrake was beginning to feel he might be a future threat to the Captain’s dominion, so it wasn’t as troubling as it otherwise might have been. Morrighan, on the other hand, was devastated. She spent several years pleading, threatening, and arguing failed to convince Captain Shadrake to give up necromancy so Shadrake Jr might come home. After this failed, Morrighan killed Shadrake’s mistress in a fit of jealous rage, and “adopted” her son.

Thus Captain Shadrake was able to concentrate on his work again, the sea-elf’s life became a living hell, and Morrighan, even if she wasn’t actually happy, at least didn’t have to put up with a rival anymore.

Meanwhile, Shadrake Jr. quickly worked his way up to the rank of captain on an independent pirate ship, and within a few dozen years had a small empire of his own. Miniscule compared to his father, but it was his.

Shadrake Jr’s hijinks included taking a human lover and fathering his own child, which sowed the seeds for change within the Shadrake family, and everyone else within their sphere of influence.

Sensing an opportunity to manipulate Shadrake Jr into coming home, Morrighan changed her tune, and joined the Inner Circle. Lending her influence to the pursuit of the enlightenment eventually changed the overall sentiment in the Inner Circle about the sacrificial ritual, and allowed plans for the ritual to slowly go forward.

Captain Shadrake was thrilled about this development, but at the same time, he resented her ability to shift sentiments in the Inner Circle, when he hadn’t been able to, especially as he suspected she still thought it was all nonsense. As the time for the ritual draws closer, our protagonists are caught in the the power struggle between Morrighan and Captain Shadrake, and so the Black Dog of the Sea begins.

*Here’s some terminology for anyone who may be confused.

Protagonist: the good guy, often the veiwpoint character

Antagonist: the bad guy, directly and intentionally makes life difficult for the protagonist and causes most of the conflict in the story, or makes it worse.

Contagonist: has a complicated agenda that flip-flops between helping and hindering the protagonist. Example: Loki in most Marvel movies.

There are actually two contagonists in Black Dog of the Seas. The other one, Jabal, will likely get his own blog post later.