Galleries of Stone, Chapter 1: Alone Again

Author’s Note: Although I have a general plan, Galleries of Stone will undoubtedly be shaped from day to day by Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. Learn more about my impromptu tale here.

Word of the Day for January 1, 2012 – novation [noh-VEY-shuhn], the introduction of something new; innovation.

BOOK I: ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN

Chapter 1: Alone Again

As a rule, Freydolf kept to himself. The sculptor’s exile was only partially self-imposed; it also came with the territory. Mount Morven’s cliffs loomed well above the tiny villages tucked amidst its foothills, and the narrow trail that zigzagged up its precipitous face discouraged casual visitors.

Seated on the rim of the cistern at the edge of the outer courtyard, Freydolf tossed back a dipper of water, then cast another onto the tumble of herbs crowding haphazardly against its sides. They looked as thirsty as he was, which was a bad sign. “That didn’t take long. Has it even been a fortnight?”

None of the nearby statues had anything to offer, and a stony silence stretched… but not uncomfortably. By now, the man was used to one-sided conversations. “Poor lad. His knees never did stop knocking.” Despite the towering inconvenience, Freydolf couldn’t find it in himself to bear ill will towards his missing servant. After a thoughtful pause, he added, “I hope he made it home safely.”

As Morven’s keeper, Freydolf was afforded a modicum of respect, but the locals didn’t exactly welcome him. His heritage was too obvious. Tall and broad, his bushy brown hair was drawn back in a long tail that reached the belt of his dusty breeches. Heavy brows flared menacingly over wide-set dark eyes, and his swarthy complexion marked him further. Freydolf was every inch a Pred, and therefore suspect.

His countrymen were a bloodthirsty lot—warmongers, mercenaries, conquerors. No matter what he said or did, Freydolf couldn’t overcome the obstacle of his race’s fearsome reputation. A friendly Pred was too great a novation to be believed, despite living amicably among these gentle people for nearly two decades. So the sculptor had retreated into his galleries, leaving the Flox in peace. He’d been an outcast among his own people, as well, so all that had changed was the view.

“Now what?” he sighed, already knowing the answer. Without a servant to pester him to eat and sleep at regular intervals, he tended to do without. Judging by the pinch of hunger in his gut, Freydolf had already been alone for two or three days. If he didn’t want to work himself to death, he’d need to find a replacement, and that meant descending the mountain.

Hauling himself to his feet, he teetered lightheadedly and thrust out a hand to steady himself against a lichen-encrusted column. Claws scraped lightly against the weathered stone, and he gave the venerable support an apologetic pat before moving towards the gates. “I’ll be back before nightfall,” he casually informed the stone hounds that flanked them.

From the trailhead, Freydolf considered his options, dark brown eyes roving over the clusters of houses that dotted the slopes below. One village was as good—or as bad—as the next. “Hayward,” he decided aloud. It had been a few years since he’d hired somebody from their midst, and he was on decent terms with one of their elders. Maybe this time, things would be different. “Nay,” he admitted, allowing reality to check his natural optimism. With a wry smile that showed off a bit of fang, Freydolf muttered, “That would be too much to ask.”

NEXT CHAPTER >>

Galleries of Stone, Copyright © 2012 Christa Kinde, all rights reserved. Abscond Not! This story is mine to tell. If you want to receive email alerts whenever Galleries of Stone updates, consider subscribing to this blog! You can also watch for notifications on Twitter.

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