Archive for the Short Stories Category

Progress at Last!

Posted in My Self, Original Fiction, Short Stories on May 28, 2009 by teamjalice1863

Okay, guess what? I went from 6,699 words last night to 4,886. NOT BAD at all. Still need to get rid of a few more words though. *SIGH* I’m glad what I’m cutting out is making the story better though, more succinct. I put the original version in my binder already.

I can’t wait to see how my baby looks completely edited. I’m SO excited to see what it’s going to become.

Oh crap. What if they want me to cut stuff out of my novel?! (They being future publishers). I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that alone. And I’ll be blasted if I’m going to print out an original version of that. This novel has been everything to me.

and I KNOW it’s likely to happen. So. I’m just preparing myself. I’ll write it, and then let them decide. I’ll do what it takes to get my vampies on the shelves.

It’s WEEK 2 of my Workshop. This week, we’re focusing on World Building. Oh Joy. LOL. No, really, this is the panel I missed at ConBust due to overbooking. But now I have it. So I’ll be taking it slowly, and trying to get it all ingrained into my head. LOL.

I have a 500-word assignment due by next Thursday. Won’t wait that long, since he has all these other assignments.

Advertisements

Weekly Writing: May 24, 2009

Posted in Books, Fanfiction, My Self, Original Fiction, Random Entries, Short Stories on May 24, 2009 by teamjalice1863

I got this idea from Holly Black. While I’m not publish yet, these are things that I am hoping to get published in some shape or form!

Original work:

Sent off my possible submission to a friend for reviewing. I’m new to the Urban fantasy genre, as far as writing it full on, so I’m hoping it wasn’t a really bad try. *nervous nelly here* The story is title, “The IntraCity Double Dutch Dare”. I am considering writing another story set in that realm, because I loved writing for Trixie, Sol and Lottie Beth so much.

I am also working on a story about a demon hunter who has been charged with killing a pair of siblings. One an exiled demon who’s using his magic without realizing, and the other is demon hybrid fourteen-year-old that has been adopted to scientists humans, and their genius son, who spends his time trying to keep her secret. There is no title for this story yet. (and I don’t know if I should classify it as Fantasy or Science Fiction either. Fail)

Still working, slowly, on Ch. 8 of Protected One. I can’t discuss it much because it’s unpublished.

Fanfiction work:

Okay, brace yourself. There’s a lot!

The third Amy fic is coming along slowly. I have some epic stuff planned. I need a title for it.

“Matters of the Heart” Ch. 6 is finished, and it should be up in the near future.

I have begun to plot out the sequel to that fic, and the sequel to Lost and Found. Though I do not have a planned release for either, due to the fact I want to get my own fics worked on.

My final Twilight fic (theoretically) is for Embry, and I am hoping to be able to post that one very soon.

Ahem. Thanks to Cassandra Clare, I am now considering working on a Mortal Instruments fanfic. How cool that she’s come full circle. She started out as a Fanfic writer, and now people are writing fanfics about HER work. This fic deals with Simon, and it would definitely be AU! because of the content. I’ll give you a hint. Simon’s babysitting job turns into a race to save his charge from Valentine recruiting her, before the Shadowhunters can properly train her.

The frustration of a writer who wants to be taken seriously as a writer

Posted in Fanfiction, Original Fiction, Rants, Short Stories, Strauss Vampire Novel on May 19, 2009 by teamjalice1863

I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t be taken seriously as a writer until I pull myself away from fanfiction, and start listening to all the characters that are in my head for my original fiction. That makes me sad. I wonder if Cassandra Clare, Stephenie Meyer or Holly Black would understand how this feels. I’m fairly certain Cassandra would, because, like me, She started out as a fan fiction writer. I do take my fan fiction very seriously, as well as my novel writing.

What makes me even question my seriousness is the fact that yesterday, I got NOTHING written on my short story for the submission. This is not a fan fiction this submission. This submission could open a lot of doors for me! Yet, I’ve done nothing on it for several days now. *shakes head*I’m going to have to really buckle down tomorrow. I say tomorrow because today’s Gene’s b-day, and unless I take my laptop, I won’t really get the chance to work on anything. Then again… since it’s NOT fan fiction, I’m pretty sure people wound understand if I did.

So, until I can pull myself away completely from fan fiction or get published, I won’t be able to take myself seriously. What this means, is I really need to take some time out for my own writing, and get away from the fan fiction. Maybe update one fan fic a week. But spend more time with my own characters. I think that might be the issue here. I think my original muses are angry with me.

The Time has Come!

Posted in Original Fiction, Short Stories on May 15, 2009 by teamjalice1863

(I am very excited to bring you, my readers, my very first vampire short story! This story was written for annual Writer’s Digest competition. I don’t post those types of submissions until the deadline, so that’s why I waited so long. This story has been done for a while now.

A little bit of background on this story: “Saving Susan” is really an extension of a chapter of one of my favorite fan fics that I wrote, called “Lost and Found”. The story itself, however, takes a very different turn. )

He remembered first and foremost that it had been raining the night he found her. Howard would never forget that for as long as he lived. Years later, that would be the most prominent detail he’d remember. The brunette haired young man was wandering the slums of New York City, looking for a place to rest. He didn’t really have enough money to stay in a hotel, so the streets would have to serve for his shelter. Cardboard boxes, broken down cars, even a phone booth would have suited him well, but unfortunately for him, in the slums all of those makeshift homes were taken. He finally came across an alleyway. It, too, was crowded, but he couldn’t find it in him to care anymore. The hour was late, and he had traveled many miles that day.

As he began to pick his way through the mob of meshed together homeless folk, he noticed something. There was a familiar stench. There was another, like him, who walked among these unfortunate people. He caught sight of her, and he growled, when he figured out what she was after. She had tracked a child here. A child! That is low, even for our kind. He he rushed to catch up to the woman, but he didn’t get too close. She could sense him too, without a doubt. Howard finally saw the other’s prey when she had to pause to side step a mother and her two sets of twins. The child didn’t look too old, maybe she was about ten or eleven in age. Her eyes were a bright green, her hair as gold as the sun. Howard found that he suddenly wanted her for himself. He let loose with a low growl now, as he approached the woman’s back.

The woman turned, and glared at Howard. Her eyes were a deep onyx shade. She was beyond starving. “What is your quarrel with me, stranger?” She asked now. Her words came out sounding majestic, and nothing like the patches of speech that surrounded the pair. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Oh, but you most certainly have. That child there is mine.” Howard replied, his voice stern, as if he was back to ordering people about on the slave line from his native state years ago. “I’ve merely been following her at a distance to keep from intimidating her.”

“I’ve been following her all day, and never saw you anywhere near her.” The woman challenged. Clearly, she was not used to being talked to in such a rough matter. Her thin lower lip stuck out in a pout meant to persuade Howard to give in to her.

Howard blinked. He, of course, was used to being given his way, and having his orders followed. He could not fathom why anyone would dare to challenge him. He took a step closer to her. “I said leave.” He spoke through clenched teeth, using all the restraint he had to keep from ripping into her right there. That would definitely draw attention to them, and they couldn’t afford that. “Just go.” His voice was rough, callous, as he shoved her to the side.

The woman, who now stepped away from the child, growled low. She did not like to be beaten at all. “You’ll be sorry for this, Sir.” She spat the last part, and then spit on his shoe, as she left. Her exit did attract some attention for she was walking with the air of someone who thought the slums were no place for her now that she had lost that which she had driven there.

***

Howard watched her until she turned the corner, and was out of his line of sight, before he turned his attention to the child that was cowering in the far corner, her small form nearly hidden behind the massive dumpsters. He walked over to her easily, and knelt to her level. “Are you alright, little one?” Now that he was close enough to her actually study her, he saw that she was very pale, almost as pale as him. The child was sick.

“I’m alright. Thank you.” She spoke softly, brushing a wayward strand of hair out of her face, as she moved further into the shadows. Something about this man frightened her, though she could not fathom what. He had just rescued her from the weird woman that had been following her like a bloodhound followed it’s hunted. He wasn’t going away though. He was watching her intently. “Really, I’m alright. You can go now.”

“Surely you can’t stay alone by yourself. How old are you, child?” Howard replied, ignoring her unease. He layered his voice was reassurance. He could get her to go with him. It wasn’t that hard. He held out a hand to her.

“I’m going to be eleven in two weeks.” She told him, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “I took care of myself, and my two sisters and a sick mother for almost a year. I think I can take care of myself now.” She coughed a little bit, and her balance on her knees waned. She felt the man catch her shoulders, and she tried to pull away.

“Oh, I think you should see a doctor,Child.” Howard told her. “What’s your name?” He carefully pulled her to her feet, and took her into his arms tenderly. He felt the urge to take her right then and there, and make it so that she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. He had the feeling that the poor girl had been suffering with her ailment for a long while without knowledge of it.

“Susan.” The girl didn’t fight with Howard when he picked her up. Instead, she found his caring, protective nature warmed her heart. Not one of the citizens in the city outside of these slums had even given her a second look. They considered her one of the homeless population. In truth, Susan had a home. It was just a little smaller than a lot of the others.

“Well, Susan. Let’s get you out of the rain. That would be the first thing to do.” Howard swallowed his thirst, and laid her head on his shoulder. She wasn’t going to fight him anymore. He had dissolved all of her mental barriers. He wondered how a child of her age had learned to put up barriers like that. He felt the child wrap her arms around him trustingly, and he almost felt guilty. Almost, but not quite. He had not found a meal yet that he regretted partaking in yet, and Susan was not going to be where he started. “Where is your home, Susan?”

“A few blocks away.” Susan replied. She felt drowsy, and quite ready to give in to whatever strange things this man wanted to do. He didn’t particularly scare her. He just made her a little bit nervous.

“I think it might be better to find a small place to rent for the night. It could be closer.” Howard replied, though he spoke mostly to himself, as he ran a hand through the sick girl’s hair. There were many emotions going through him that he was not accustomed to. One being protectiveness. It went beyond the protection of one’s prey. No, this was different all together. He felt her flinch in fear as thunder began to roll across their path towards the rental house. “Aw, don’t worry, Susie. It’s just a bit of thunder. We’ll be out of the rain here in a bit.” He hugged her closer to him as he spoke close to her ear. As they finally got past the last fire barrel that served as a heater for a group of vagabonds, he realized that no one had even paid him, or the child any mind. No one there had cared whether or not she was legally supposed to be with them. Just like humanity not to give a damn about anyone but themselves. Even when it’s a child. He was disgusted, but only momentarily. He had to set his mind to the task at hand: keep Susan close.

***
The room he rented for them a little over an hour later left a lot to be desired. He would have argued a bigger space, and he could have put his authority to the test, but he was more concerned for his young companion. Susan was becoming more weak as time went on, and that fact lent itself to Howard’s belief that the girl had been sick for more than just a day or two. She had been fighting with this ailment for weeks or more. He laid her down on the bed as soon as they were safely in the room. He locked the door, even though he was fairly certain the girl would not want to leave him now. “How long have you been sick this way, Susan?”

“I… don’t know. I lost track of the days after Mama and Betty died.” Susan strained to sit up, but she could not do it. She studied Howard as he came to sit by the bed next to her. “I don’t want to die. Is there a doctor nearby that can help?”

“Not nearby enough to be able to get to you before it’s too late.” He was tormented by thoughts of what he’d planned for her, and what he now felt he wanted to do. He tentatively ran a hand through her hair. “Just rest now. You’re safe here.” He wondered how long she’d been on the run. He had the sense that the woman he’d encountered had probably been tracking her for days. Susan looked like she had not had a good sleep in a few nights. He tucked her in just as a father might tuck in his child. He watched as her heavy eyelids reluctantly shut.

When he was sure she was asleep, he laid a hand on her forehead. He felt her flinch at the chill of his touch, but he didn’t move to stop what he must do. He removed all of her bad memories by sheer will. He was amazed at the amount that this young girl had. She hadn’t had a great early childhood. She was the middle child of the family, and therefore had to be both an older sister, and a younger sister. Her family hadn’t made much money, so having extra things like toys and book had been out of the question. Instead, she and her siblings had made do with paper dolls, and their own imaginations. That was before severe illness struck the family. He wiped one memory after another, trying very hard not to see every single struggle or torture she’d gone through in the last few months. She would not need these in her next life. He paused briefly, when he heard her whimper.

“I’m sorry, Mama. I’m so sorry.” She began to struggle, and Howard pulled his hand away, taking her into his arms.

“Hush now, Susie… it’s alright….. It’s just a dream, little one.” He pet her hair and rubbed her back. He was amazed at how natural this seemed to him. He had no memory of ever having been around children before. He felt her wrap her arms around him trustingly. That is your doing. You’ve made yourself accessible to her for comfort. If you want to be kind to her, it might be easier to just kill her, and satisfy that burning you’ve got going on in your stomach. But he didn’t want that. He found that he was torn between what he really wanted, and what he knew was the best thing for the girl. He stroked her hair some more. She was starting to drift into a feverish sleep again. He laid her down, tucking her back in. He opted to leave her memories alone. If and when he decided to take her, he would finish the job. What he did, however, was plant a memory of him being somehow related to her, an uncle, perhaps, but with no real clarity. Either way, he would make sure that he had relative control over her from here on in. It wouldn’t be the same control he’d kept over the slaves of the past. That kind of control was not required for such a child.

Howard sat back in the bedside chair, resting his head against the headrest. He closed his eyes, and took in a steadying breath. Her scent was tantalizing. He knew she was his to take now, if and when he was ready, but Howard wasn’t even sure what that meant anymore. Take her for food? Or take her as his daughter? He wasn’t positive what that meant. He blinked suddenly, when he heard his mobile phone ringing. The device had not rung in close to two weeks. He picked it up. “Hello?” He spoke softly, so as not to wake the girl that slept fitfully in the bed.

“Howie, when are you coming home? I get you’re not going to kill humans. That’s perfectly fine, but you can’t really survive in that world alone. Come home.” It was Vanessa. Howard refrained from rolling his eyes. Vanessa, along with his old colleague Jensen had met up with him some years ago, and found him not to be their anything like them. An argument only months later found Howard on the streets, and that’s where had been ever since. “Please?”

“I… I’m kind of in the middle of something….” He didn’t want to admit that he had not been strong enough to resist his natural instincts. “I’ll be home in a day or two.” He had made his decision, and he would need some time to get her focused on how he wanted to raise her. But first, he needed to make sure he was properly prepared. “See you then.” He hung up before Vanessa could reply to him. He turned to his charge, frowning. Howard frowned, looking outside. It was still pouring. No animals would be about in the rain. He would simply have to wait out the night to get anything for her. Now, me on the other hand? I can’t wait that long, or I’ll ruin my own plan. Howard slipped out of the room, making sure to lock it from the outside, in case she woke up. He doubted she would. He went to hunt down a meal that he was sure no one would miss.

***
When she woke up, Susan looked around the room. She was disoriented at first. She was sure that finding the kindly man in the final alleyway of the slums had been a dream induced by delirium. However, when she turned her head, she saw him there. He appeared to be resting in the chair next to her bed. Susan wondered if he had been there all night. She started to speak, but found that her throat wasn’t going to allow it. She had gotten worse overnight.

“You’re awake….” The soothing voice startled her in the silence of the room.

Susan nodded, her eyes wet with tears. Her throat hurt her badly. She gestured with her finger towards the water bowl that sat on a nearby stand. She wanted to make herself look a little fresher for when they’d leave later in the day. She watched as he carefully brought it to her without much of a word. She carefully washed her face, and neck. The chilly water felt good on her still feverish skin.

Howard realized what had happened over night. The illness was in her throat now. She couldn’t speak. This would have been an opportune time to put his plan into action, but he was a little skeptical of that, after the feasting he’d done during the night. He came over, and put a hand on her shoulder. “I can make all of this pain go away.” He looked her directly in eyes now. When she tried to look away from him, he cupped her chin in his hand carefully. He softened his voice. “But I will give you a choice.”

Susan attempted to clear her throat, before she let out a soft gasp. She had just noticed how deep red Howard’s eyes were. “Are you a demon?” She asked now, pulling away from him. She ignored the pain that came when she’d spoken.

Howard blinked. That was not a question he’d been prepared to answer. “No. I’m not a demon….” He took the water from her, and smiled kindly. “I’m a vampire.” He decided to take a more straight forward approach. He grabbed her hand, firmly, but not forcefully. “The woman that was tailing you in the alley yesterday was a vampire too. She was probably looking for an easy meal.”

Susan swallowed hard, trembling. The child was no longer sure if it was from her illness, or the fear that was mounting at his every revelation. She felt foolish, for having trusted him so much. Her mother warned her about strangers, and in her moment of weakness, she’d decided to ignore all warnings. Try as she might, she could not make herself look away from his deep red eyes. Susan was sure he had put her under a spell or a trance of some kind. Yet, she found him oddly comforting when he pulled her into his lap to hold her close.

“You’re very sick, Susan. And there is a good chance you won’t recover. I can put you out of your misery, if you’ll let me.” Howard could smell her fear. It was making her that much more appetizing. He tightened his grip reflexively, ignoring her whimper of pain only momentarily. He needed to re-center himself, until he was ready.

“You… want to kill me?” Susan tried very hard to get away from Howard now. He was scaring her badly, with his casual way of speaking, his kindness. No vampire she’d ever heard of were really that merciful. They had a bad habit of killing those that were close to her, like her friend Jenny. That was the rumor she’d heard anyway.

“Contrary to your beliefs, vampires don’t kill everyone. Many of us, like myself, have been struggling to keep to a mostly animal blood diet. Those that still feed on humans are those that stay in sparce areas.” He was holding on to her, working hard to keep her calm. “To answer your question, Susie, no. I don’t want to kill you. I want to give you a new life.”

“I don’t want it….” Susan began to protest. She didn’t get too far, as a terrible coughing spell. She felt Howard tighten his grip on her, cuddling her close to him in a soothing gesture. She was too weak to move by the time the coughing subsided. She leaned against him weakly. “Mm….”

It pained Howard to see this poor girl suffering as she was. It made him angry too, knowing that not one person in the alley had seemed to care that she was so ill. Humanity really ticked him off. He lowered the girl back down into the bed, and went to sit in the chair again. She was watching his every move now. “Susie, please….”

She shook her head. Susan didn’t want to have to depend on blood to survive. It would mean killing other innocents. “Please….”

Howard stood up now, pacing at the foot of his charge’s bed. He could imagine Vanessa and Jensen’s reactions if he returned with a child. Jensen would be furious, and insist that she be immediately destroyed, and Vanessa would want to keep her as her own. It was a difficult decision, and he wasn’t sure, no matter which he chose, was the right one.

As Susan went into another fit of coughing and wheezing; this one more violent than the previous, he made a decision. He walked over to her, and held her down as gently as he could. He leaned close to her ear. “I promise I’ll make it all okay for you again.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, pulling the girl out from under the covers, and into his lap. He tried to sooth the pain she was feeling by putting one of his cold hands against her burning throat. Just as she began to relax in his grip, he leaned down, and bit into her heated flesh. He felt her tense, and heard her cry out in pain, but he held her still. Howard was careful not to drink too deeply. He knew how much the sucking motion hurt the child. He pulled away as she went limp in his arms. She was gasping for breath, still trying to live. Howard bit into his own flesh then, and forced it to her mouth.

“Mm… no.” Susan tried to turn away from the bleeding wrist offered to her. She heard Howard’s voice, but she couldn’t make out the words that he said. She was just barely conscious. The girl felt drops of the vampire’s blood touch her lips, and without knowing why, she licked it off. Doing that was probably the mistake she made. She grabbed the offered wrist, and began to drink deeply; each gulp tasting better than the last, before it was abruptly taken from her.

“No more, my little one.” Howard said now, as he laid her back down. Her pain, the pain that signaled the end of her human life, but the beginning of her immortal one, would begin momentarily. He knew he would not be able to hold her as he was holding her now. He held her hand gently though, stroking it lovingly. He was proud of himself. He had not gone too far, as he had with another girl Howard had tried to turn the year before. As Susan succumbed to the pain of her human life ending, Howard’s mobile phone rang again. He cursed silently, choosing to ignore it.

An hour later Susan was resting peacefully. She would wake up immortal in a day or two, and then he would begin the business of breeding her to feed as he had always wanted to. He sat silently, and closed his eyes. He was not looking forward to the work ahead, but he was sure he could handle it. The life of his new baby depended on it.

***
Jensen blinked. Howard was on his doorstep, holding the hand of a pale-skinned child, who eyes were the color of honey. It was clear this was the child he had made. He was speechless. He stepped to the side of the doorway, inviting them in silently. He watched as Howard carefully led the girl in. “What’s her name?”

“Susie.” Howard replied. He helped her out of her coat and hat, and laid them on the old familiar bench. It felt weird for him to be back home again. The only real reason he’d come home was to give Susan a chance at a real home life. He had wanted to show her that life could be about more than just plain survival. He turned the girl to face Jensen then. “This is Jensen. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. you are to respect him, no matter what.”

“Okay.” Susan, who now went by Susie readily held out a hand to Jensen. “It’s nice to meet you.” Susan replied softly. She looked up at Howard then. “Is this our new home?”

“Yes, Susie. This is our home now. Should you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask.” He followed Jensen into their old office, and he sat down, sighing. “I would have told you, but it never felt like the right time. I didn’t think you’d understand.”

“I don’t. However, there is a strict moral code that I follow. I will not hurt any vampire that is made by my family. Your child is safe.”

Howard nodded. That’s all I wanted.

A Short Story

Posted in Original Fiction, Short Stories on February 5, 2009 by teamjalice1863

(Hey guys. This is the contest piece I was working on last weekend for the His Dark Materials writing competition. I hope you guys enjoy it!!)

“Twice Taken”

It was dark, when the girl first awakened. She had no way of knowing how late, or how early it truly was. Her eyes adjusted to the very thin light that came streaming in from some other location. She stirred, and found that she was warm. She put a hand out of the overheating blankets, and immediately tucked it away again. It was bitter cold, wherever she was. She racked her brain, trying to find some trace of memory that would tell her how she had come to be there. She could not find any. There was a rustling from her other side. She quickly turned her head, not wanting to caught off guard, should she be attacked.

“Don’t be ‘fraid, little one.” A kindly female voice said in the dark. “I mean you no harm.” The dim light grew into a flood now, as sunshine entered where the girl had been sleeping. “We found you, my brother and I. You were half dead in the snow outside.” She set a bowl of something steaming in front of her. “It’s not much, but it will warm your insides.” She laid a spoon in the bowl. “I’ll be just outside.” She turned and left. The child noted her long braid that went down her back.

The girl, who’s name was Anna, poked the food within the bowl with the spoon silently for only a second, before she found herself devouring it, as she ignored the fact that it burned her mouth from it’s heat. She was finished in a matter of seconds. She pushed the remaining blankets off of herself, and stood up. Her body was met with the bitter cold that wafted in from the outside. She didn’t seem to notice. For the first time, she noticed that she was wearing clothing that didn’t appear to her own. She looked around quickly, trying to find out where her own were. She felt funny, being in clothes that did not belong to her personally. She was just about to go rooting through a nearby trunk when the woman with the long braid came back to check on her.

“I see you got on with that well enough.” She smiled at her young charge. “I’m Amelia Stock.” She held out a hand. She pulled it back when the girl did not take it for shaking. “Still tongue tied, I see. It’s alright. You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want. Paulie and I don’t mind. Hell, Paul don’t talk much to begin with.” Her chatter was pleasant and non-threatening. Anna found that she didn’t mind her at all. She smiled a little, reminded of Marcia, her nanny. Nanny! Where was she? And how had Anna come to be alone with out her?

“If you please… Amelia …where am I?” She said now. She spoke prettily, and she knew she didn’t have the same language pattern as her new caregiver. The woman’s expression was one of surprise at the sound of her soft voice.

“We’re in the Arctic, somewhere.” Amelia replied. Her eyes were vague. “Paulie and I have been here for many years, unable to find our way home. So we’ve made this our home.”

Anna’s eyes widened at the aspect of never seeing her home again. “Where’s Mama, and Nanny Marcia?”

“I don’t know, child…” Amelia’s voice was sympathetic. “Paul was hunting when he found you. There was a smashed up sled about five yards from where he found you in the snow.” She came and wrapped a wool shawl around the girl’s shoulders. “Paul’s out hunting again, as we speak. He’ll be glad to see that you’re up, and about. We’ve both been so worried that he was too late in finding you.”

Anna nodded a bit. “I’m sorry, if I’ve caused you trouble….” She began to gather the dishes that had been laying around her pallet for, she guessed, days.

“Don’t bother yourself with things like that, dear one.” Amelia took her by the hand, and led her over to the cook fire, where she would be warmer. “Sit yourself down here, and keep warm. You’re lucky you didn’t catch you death out there. It’s been a lot colder than usual.” She began to pull a brush through Anna’s matted brown locks. “Dear me. It seems like it must’ve been ages since you’ve had a proper grooming. What is the last thing you remember?”

Anna closed her eyes, and tried to think. She could just see a line of horses. Each set of two was pulling a sled. She remembered the sleds now. They were traveling across the arctic snow at a pace that she’d been assured by the one in charge, her father, perhaps, was safe. She found that she didn’t remember, even, what he looked like. Had she hit her head or something? No. She didn’t remember doing that. The sled had skidded, the horses going with it. Genevieve, the horse mistress lost control of the sled, and then…. She opened her eyes. “There was a crash in my party. Dear Genevieve lost control of the horses, when the sled began to swerve. I was thrown, but that’s all I remember….”

“How peculiar. There doesn’t appear to be any sign of other sleds anywhere around there.” A male’s voice spoke now. He was a tall man, and he was balding at the top of his head. He unwrapped the tattered scarf from his neck, and hung it on a branch nearby. He left his coat where it was, on his person. “It’s good to see you’ve finally woken up, little one. I’m Paul.”

“I’m Anna.” She didn’t offer her last name. She yelped slightly, as the brush got caught in a knot.

“I’m sorry.” Amelia said in response, tenderly pulling the brush free. “Doesn’t she just remind you of little Ellie?” Amelia said to her brother. “That poor girl…” Her voice caught slightly.

“Yes, in a lot of ways, it’s as if Ellie’s come back to us….” Paul nodded in agreement, as he stamped the snow off of his boots.

“Who…is Ellie?” Anna dared to ask now. She was beginning to have an odd feeling about these two. Though she didn’t voice it. They hadn’t hurt her, and gathered they had no plans to.

“She was our baby sister. She was taken from us when she was just a toddler. A band of thieves, as it were. They kidnapped her from her bed.” Paul spoke somberly. “Mellie and I moved out here, where it happened, in hopes that we would be able to get her back.” He turned from her.

“But you never found her….” Anna breathed, sad for them. “I’m sorry….” She stood up, as she felt Amelia pull away from her. “I wish I was her. Then I could stay here with you both.” She spoke calmly. She understood their intentions now. They wanted to keep her from finding her way back, as if she would replace their sister.

“You misunderstand….” Paul said now, kneeling to her level. “We … want you to stay here. With us. It’s going to be too cold out there for one so small. There is no road that can take you back to where you were. Come, I will show you.” He took the child by the hand, and led her outside. What met her outside was blinding white ice and snow. She couldn’t see six inches ahead of her. Paul had to pick her up, in order for her to get anywhere. “You see? There is nowhere for you to go here.” He held her carefully, nervous that he would hurt her. “How old are you, Anna?”

“I’ll be ten … in a day or two, or maybe I’m ten now. How long was I out, Paul?” She asked now, her voice soft. She had resigned herself to the fact that she was probably never going to be leaving the brother and sister, and therefore, should probably get used to being around them.

“It’s been about two or three days, actually.” Paul said now. He took her back inside the little house. “So, ten, huh?”

“Yeah….” She was let down on the floor again. Amelia immediately wrapped her in a quilt. “It’s so big out there….” She shivered, but it wasn’t from cold. She was afraid. “What if … they’re looking for me? What if, right now, they’re out, and looking for me?”

Paul and Amelia were silent, as they gazed at each other for a long moment. It was Paul that spoke first. “I’m afraid, that’s quite impossible, Anna.” He crouched beside her. “There have been no sleds, or dogs around here for many days.” He glanced up as Amelia pulled the girl close to her side. “Amelia and I wouldn’t be here, if that were the case.”

Anna felt her suspicion rising again, but she shrugged it off. They were the good guys. Bad people didn’t rescue half-frozen little girls from the snow. That’s how she’d always understood it. Unless they have ulterior motives. Her conscience spoke unbidden. She swallowed hard, studying the two discretely. Amelia and Paul were gazing at her in a way that made her wary. She had seen that look that Amelia held now before. She was sure of it. That’s the look Mama had once, when I caught her smoking a cigarette in the back yard, and she told me it was a fake one. She looked away from them, to the floor. The floor, she noted, was marginally carpeted. She couldn’t place the material used. It felt like some kind of animal fur.

****************************************************************************************************
That night, Anna was fed deer meat for the first time in her life. Of course, Amelia and Paul didn’t tell her that’s what it was. They didn’t want to upset her appetite. They waited until after they were sure she couldn’t vomit it back up. For dessert there was more of what she’d had for her morning meal. Anna didn’t mind. She liked the sweet taste of the cereal-like substance.

As the sun was going down, she glanced out at the vast tundra, with it’s bare ice landscaping. She thought about her poor nanny, and her mother. Would they have escaped, or had they suffered a worse fate than herself? Amelia came, and brought her a dark liquid in a mug. She sipped at it, wrinkling her nose. It was bitter, but it had a sweet taste at the end of it that she quite liked. It wasn’t long after that when Anna began to feel extremely tired. She curled up on the carpet by the fire and was sleep soon after. She didn’t feel Paul move her back to her pallet in the corner of the cabin.

She woke up in the middle of the night to quiet whispers. She strained to hear what was said. It sounded important.

“… when do you think we should tell her the truth, Mellie? She doesn’t trust us that well.” Paul was saying. His voice sounded sad, as if it hurt realizing their charge did not trust them yet.

“We just can’t. She’s already so upset over the loss of her family. You didn’t have to go about it that way, you know.” Amelia sounded displeased with her brother. “She could’ve been hurt.” She paused briefly, then Anna heard her sigh. “It might just be easier to continue the charade a little longer. Until she gets used to the idea of not seeing them anymore.”

“I don’t like it. Surely the others in her party will be looking for her, and those that had been traveling with her. What then?” Paul sounded edgy now. “I should’ve finished them all while I had the chance.”

“Will you stop being so blood thirsty? She’s ten-years-old. She doesn’t even remember us.” Amelia’s voice was full of sobs. “We did what we promised Mother we’d do, so let’s just keep it at that. No one else need die.”

Anna was frozen in her pallet, terrified. The two who had claimed to rescue her had done nothing more than set up an abduction. They hadn’t rescued at her at all. They’d caused the wreck! Paul had shot at her mother and nanny, causing the sled to lose control. She swallowed hard, burying her face in the comforting pillows, so that they wouldn’t hear her sobs of fear, and distress. At length, though she wasn’t sure how long it took, she fell asleep again, tears on her face.

******************************************************************************************************
Flint wasn’t looking very enthusiastic, as he presented the pieces of the broken sled to his master, James. The servant’s hair was tousled every which way, his green eyes looked wild in fear. He knew James wasn’t going to be thrilled with their only find in the search for his wife and child. “This is all that we were able to find. There has been no sign of Lady Herra or Princess Anna. I’m sorry.” He knelt, bowing his head in condolence.

“This can’t be all there is. People don’t just disappear without a trace…” James eyed his servant coldly. He was finding it hard to believe that there had been no sign of either wife or child. “Maybe you didn’t look hard enough. They could’ve been buried in the snow….” He doubted it, from the expression Flint was giving him.

“With all due respect, Sir, there are a great many wild animals out there. Errickson and I found wolves, and foxes. Perhaps…” He was unable to finish his statement, finding it too gruesome to think of little Anna being marred to death. “At any rate, this is all that we were able to find.”

“Very well.” James dismissed them with a wave of his hand, and sank back into his chair, sighing heavily. He felt grief over taking him. His poor wife Herra, and his beautiful daughter Anna were all that he’d ever had. Being a thief, even if he did have royalty now, he had never had much. He had worked very hard to get where he was now. All that work was for nothing now, as he no longer had anyone to share it with. He buried is face in his hands, and wept for his lost family. At length, he turned down the lights in the hall, and went to his bedroom. It felt strange, not saying good night to his little princess, or his wife. He supposed he would have to get used to it. They more than likely were not coming back.

The night was long for James, and he knew instinctively that it would be like this for a while. He was reminded of how it had been many years ago, when his father had died suddenly, leaving him in charge of everything, including the newcomers, which had been Herra and her family. Herra had been terrified of the life she had been brought into. He knew from gossip that Herra had been stolen from her bed as a toddler. She had been the quietest girl he’d ever met. James, who had only been thirteen at the time, fell instantly in love with then ten-year-old Herra. He took care of her ever since. His every waking thought after that had been on her, wanting to make a good life for himself, Herra, and any children they might have. He closed his eyes now in the present, and forced himself to sleep.

******************************************************************************************************
Amelia woke Anna up, and had her dressed in an old dress with a soft wool lining before she was even awake. She was brushing her hair out for her, as she ate breakfast. “We’re leaving today.” She told the child in a tone that held finality. “Paul got in contact with someone south of here, who can get us home.”

“What did Paul do to my family?” Anna asked now. She winced, as Amelia suddenly yanked the brush a little too hard in her shock. The woman gasped from behind her.

“Paul rescued you from those that took you away from us, to begin with.” Amelia said now. Her voice was resigned, as if it was something she really hadn’t wanted to share with Anna yet. She came around, and sat in front of Anna. Her blue eyes were full of tears. “Please, don’t think badly of Paul. He wanted to fulfill mother’s dying wish. Mother wanted you back so badly, Ellie….”

“My name’s not Ellie. It’s Anna.” Anna’s voice, which up to that point had been quiet, and submissive, rose an octave, as she got more panicked. “I don’t know where your Ellie is, but I’m not her. My father is James Swornenson.”

“It’s no wonder you call yourself such. They’ve had you since you were a baby.” Amelia replied. Her voice remained calm. “Now, we’re leaving in less than an hour. I don’t want to hear anymore of this.”

“You can’t just keep me!” Anna insisted, tears in her voice and eyes. “My family….”

“Has been waiting for you too long.” Paul said now. His voice was gentle, but firm. “Now, please. Don’t be difficult. It will be much easier for you to understand once you’re home again.” He took some things outside, and Anna was suprised to hear a motor.

“The man from the South.” Amelia offered an explanation. “He’ll be taking you and I first, then coming back for Paul.” He wrapped Anna up in a bundle then, and picked her up. “Now, keep your mouth closed. The cold air won’t help your throat at all.” It was more a warning to keep what was going on to herself, but it was also good advice for the cold weather that met them outside. Amelia helped Anna into the vehicle, and then sat behind her, holding her in her lap. “We just need a ride to the station, is all.” She said to the owner of the snow vehicle.

“That’s about as far as this baby will take you anyway.” He chuckled, and they drove off.

Anna, who was still astounded by the revelations she’d gotten from Amelia, sat silently. The ride to the station didn’t take nearly as long as Amelia had made it out to seem. Anna was asleep shortly after train took off, carrying her to her new home.

******************************************************************************************************
“She’s slept since right after we got on the train.” Amelia was saying. Anna moaned, tossing about. She knew instinctively she was in a real bed now. She didn’t want to wake up. She didn’t want to deal with the nightmare that had become her new life. At length, Amelia’s voice was closer to her. “Ellie…wake up, honey. We’re home.”

“Name’s not Ellie…” Anna mumbled into her pillow. She heard Amelia sigh, and then she spoke to someone else that was evidently in the room.

“They changed her name to Anna.” There was a long pause. The other person in the room spoke so low that Anna hear nothing of what was said to Amelia, then the woman spoke again, acidly. “I most certainly will not! If I allow her to keep that name-!”

“Maybe it’s best to do just to do just that, Mel…” Paul’s voice said now. “Besides, we’ve put the poor child through enough.”

Anna would never admit it, but that was the very moment she chose to forgive Paul for everything. She allowed herself to open her eyes, and she looked up at Paul’s kind face. “I…I might adjust eventually, maybe…” She could see that Amelia and Paul both truly believed that she was their Ellie, though she did not, and would not believe it for as long as she lived. They didn’t have the proof. Or so she thought. As she sat up, Paul sat down on the edge of the luxuriously made bed. He had an album in his hands. “What’s that…?”

“It’s … our proof.” He could see her wheels turning. “Here.” He opened the book, and let her take her time looking through it. His dark brown eyes studied the expressions as they changed rapidly from page to page. The contents of the book were painful for himself and Amelia to look at. “It chronicles every piece of information we ever got from the time you were kidnapped.”

By the time Anna was finished looking at the book, she was in tears. She was angry with her father, if she could call him that now, for what he had done to these kind people. It was going to much harder to adjust to being here, since she was so used to being with her family. It might take her longer, but she knew that Amelia and Paul would help her. They were her real family. Before crawling out of bed she unfastened a small silver chain that held the initial “A” on it, and tossed it to the side table. “If you and Paul want to call me Ellie I won’t mind.” And she didn’t.