Friday, December 16, 2011

Chapter 3

This has been our strongest start of a month of sales yet. We are lowering the cost of the ebook version to $0.99 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as Smashwords. We may choose to keep the prices there if interest is high enough. For those of you who havn't bought a copy yet, we are here, today to let you read chapter 3, and you can read the other chapter 1  and chapter 2 on our blog as well. So without any further delay, here is chapter 3.

Chapter 3
Rude Awakening
This is not what I expected,  Osric thought to himself as he lay motionless, his head pounding in rhythm with his heart beat.  He could hear voices, but they sounded muffled and far away.  This feels more like waking up than dying.  He was certainly in enough pain to be dying.  He had always imagined that death was a release from pain and suffering, but every muscle in his body ached as he strained to breathe.  Breathe?  Do the dead breathe?  Osric reached up to rub his temples in an attempt to ease his headache and grazed his knuckles on stone.  His eyes jerked open but in the dark he could not perceive anything to determine his surroundings.  Dust, I smell dust!  He tried to call out, but his throat was dry from the cloying dust and he managed very little sound.  I survived?  I can’t believe I survived!
What could have happened?  Osric was mystified.  As he moved his hands along the ground beside him, he felt debris scattered on the smooth marble floor he lay upon.  How could he have lived through the explosion.  He had no wand.  He was so close to the source; he knew there was no way he could have survived such a blast.  Yet there he was, still on Archana, or at least he thought he was.
He thought through the events leading up to the explosion, and the two pulls of his gift had him baffled.  He had never experienced his Portentist gift triggering for two simultaneous events.  Thoughts continued to cycle through his head as he tried to unravel what had caused it, but he had no information except for the crowd looking behind him with excitement.  Whatever they had seen, they did not seem to fear it.  He had felt, with his gift, that what was happening behind him was momentous, but it had not felt threatening.  Perhaps he could learn more later; right then he needed to focus on where he was and how to get out.  
He seemed to have a fair bit of room on each side of him.  Above was another story.  When he tried to reach up, his hands encountered stone within a hand’s length above his waist.  He pressed against it with as much strength as his could at the awkward angle, but it did not budge.  His sword was still at his side, secured in its scabbard.  He could hear movement near his feet but he couldn't see anything.  Without his wand, he could not move the stone that trapped him on his own.  Hopefully, what he was hearing was an attempt to find survivors and they would be able to free him.  If not, it could be days before he died of dehydration.  As the worst parts of that death started to cycle their way through his mind, he felt a sharp pinch at his calf.
“Ow!”  Osric yelled, as he instinctively kicked his leg.  He felt his leg connect with something just below his knee and assumed it was the creature that had bitten him.  Getting eaten alive by rats had not even crossed his mind; he was sure that would be worse than dehydration.  He tried to pull out his short sword, but the hem of his tunic got caught on the guard and he tugged it halfway up his chest trying to get the blade free.  However, there was no room to swing it if he needed to, so it would be useless against rats in the enclosed space.
“Thats was rude!”  A young voice cried out, “I am’s just checkin’ for survivors.  What’d you’s kick me for’s?”
“Well, you could have asked if I was alive.  You did not have to bite me!”  Osric was not in the mood to apologize to his assailant.
“Well, you's did not move when I came's in here, so's I thought you's were dead.”  Osric did feel a little bad for kicking a child, the voice could not belong to anyone over the age of six.  “Was bitin’ you's so's I could wake you's if you's was just sleepin'.”
“I can't see in here.  I thought you were a rat!”  Osric slid the half drawn sword back into the scabbard.  The guard was cold on his skin but there was not enough room to pull his tunic down.
“You’s shoulda lit your wand.”
“I lost my wand before the explosion.”  Osric was growing tired of explaining himself.   “Look, are you going to help me, or question me all night?”
“Night?”  He giggled.  “It's is mid’day already.  This is my second time through's the bottoms of the piles.”
“And am I going to be rescued or what?!”  Osric was tired of the word play.  He needed to get out and start an investigation into who had caused the explosion, but to do that, first he needed a wand.
“Oh, yes, I hope’s so.  I gotsta wait for the go go so's I know nobody will be smooshed when I lifts this wall off of you's.  It could makes another guy go smoosh if I do's it now.”  He said, as he lit the tip of his very short wand.
Finally, seeing he was talking to a prairie dog pup,  he stopped thinking about being eaten alive.  Osric guessed him to be about seven inches tall, and very plump.  His fur was mostly dark brown, but it lightened to tan on his belly and paws.
“How many survived?”  Osric asked, looking around in the poor light.  He could barely make out a pair of legs to his right, the rest of the man was doubtless pinned beneath tons of stone wall and ceiling.  Osric looked away, not wanting to see what could have been his fate.  It was a gruesome sight.  He tried to focus on the conversation instead.
“So's far, just you's.”
“How old are you?”  Osric asked, letting the annoyed tone in his voice die.  After all, if he had to wait until help actually could come, he could at least be polite company.  The young prairie dog jumped down to flat ground behind Osric’s head, and linked wands to communicate with someone outside the palace.  Light emanated from the diaphanous image hovering over his small wand, but Osric could not see from his pinned position on the floor who he was conversing with.
“I found a live one Pa, I’ll wait for you's to tell me it’s a'right, I'm's puttin' up a marker so's you know where I am.”   Then he sent a bright blue light with his wand through the stone above them after the image had disappeared.  He answered as he turned back to face Osric, “I's four, but my Pa says if I keeps practicing, I can be making wands better'n Eni in a couple years!”
Osric held in his laugh.  He had owned an Eni wand.  There were very few Wand-Makers that could boast to be able to make one better.
“And what’s your name?”  Osric asked, to keep the conversation going.
“Pebble,” He said, slightly ashamed, “but when you's have two hundred pups, you's run out of names to think up!”
“Well, I guess you would.”  Osric thought it strange that a prairie dog could live long enough to have that many children.  He had hunted prairie dogs, and they were not difficult prey.  “Who is your Pa?”
“You’s don't knows my Pa?”  Pebble spoke in astonishment, his small mouth dropping open and eyes going wide.
“Well, I only just met you, so I am not sure how I would.”  Osric thought it was cute that the pup thought the whole world would know his father.  He hoped one day to have a child that thought that much of him.
“Yeah, but, but everyone knows my Pa.”  Pebble sounded a bit more serious.
Osric could only think of one famous prairie dog in Stanton, “Is your father,” he was doubtful, but he asked anyway, “Gus?”
“So you's do know's him!”  Pebble jumped up and down, thrilled to have his faith in his father restored.  “I knew you's did. You's a silly fooler!”  Pebble laughed, and the lit tip of his wand flickered with the sound of his giggle.
“Well, I have never actually met him,” Osric stated with a smile.  He could not help thinking that if he could meet Gus, perhaps he could replace his missing wand.  Here he was, sharing a confined space with the son of the world’s greatest Wand-Maker, he wished for just a moment that the rescue scenario was the other way around, “but I do know of him, that’s for sure.”
“Well, duh!”  Pebble giggled again, Osric laughing with him.
“Yes, I know, and I would love to be able to buy one of his wands someday, just like everyone else.”  Pebble gasped and scampered back into the rubble near Osric’s feet.
“I's sorry.”  He was making his way back, dragging something behind him over the broken pieces of stone  “Pa said if someone's can't find their’s wand, I’s supposed to give’s ‘em one.” He pulled a wand, longer than himself, over the debris to reach Osric’s hand.
“Really?”  Osric could not believe his luck as he tried to get his arm in a position to take the wand.  He wanted to jump for joy, but there was no room.  Everyone wanted a Gus wand, and anybody who had one had paid dearly for it.  They were the finest wands ever made.  An inexpensive Gus wand would have cost him a year of his pay, and it was just being handed to him.  
“I’s supposed to say that they’s is not pretty yet ‘cause Pa made 'em on his way here,”  Osric ran his fingers over the length of his new wand, “but it work's really good!  Pa had me checks 'em first!”  He said with pride, and puffed his chest out.
“Thank you.”  Osric was genuinely grateful, and his excitement was clear in his voice.  He was still caressing the wand, though it was nothing special to look at; just a stick the length of his forearm, probably broken from a tree in a recent storm.  The bark was rough under his fingers, and he was afraid the wood would splinter where a knot ran through it if he wasn’t careful.  He would have to seal it when he got out of there, or maybe Gus would finish it for him if he got the chance to thank him. It didn’t even have Gus’ lightning bolt signature carved in it, but if Gus had made it then it was surely a great wand.  
The first spell with a new wand was a learning experience.  It needed to be something simple, as you and the wand had to be introduced.  It had to feel your power, and you feel its resistance.  It was called a power lock, because you could not disengage yourself from it.  It was usually brief, but the more powerful the wand, the longer it lasted.  Lighting the tip with the Eni wand had taken almost ten breaths, compared to the two breaths or so it had taken with his first wand.  It was pleasurable if done correctly, but could be painful if done wrong.  Focus wasn't possible during a power lock, and Osric was hesitant to engage with the wand for the first time in the restricted space.
“Well?”  Pebble said impatiently, rolling his eyes playfully at Osric, “If you's gonna help me wit' the wall, you's gotsta lit the tip now.”  His childish sarcasm at the oversight of the common power lock spell made Osric grin.
I'm going to like this pup, he thought to himself.  He had spent a little too much time admiring the amazing gift.  Most would have initiated the power lock immediately.
“Thanks, Pebble.  It has been a rough day so far.”  Osric’s Portentist gift ignited with a singular intensity, peaceful but nonetheless important.  He drew a breath, closed his eyes, and attempted to  relax.  Holding the wand in both hands on his chest, he lit the tip.
The intensity of the pleasure he felt at the lighting of the wand was incredible.  It was, by far, above and beyond anything he had ever experienced before.  Pebble’s giggling seemed to transcend into the sound of water trickling along the smooth stones of a brook, the cold floor against his skin was like the caress of the water after diving into a mountain lake.  The smell of the dust in the air intensified and became the sweet cloying scent of lilacs in full bloom.  The feel of his tongue in his mouth, his teeth, his hands on his chest, the way that the guard of his short sword felt against his side, every single part of his body was in ecstasy.  He shook with the power of it.  The wand had so much more resistance than it should, and it was taking a lot longer than normal for his power to sync with it.
Colors of reds, blues, and greens intertwined with each other, flashing before his eyes in a spectacular display.  Breathing became difficult as the feeling built.  He could not hear, see or feel anymore, and he lost sensation in his entire body.  As time went on, his head jerked back and forth.  Sweat rolled off of his body, and every nerve suddenly came alive, making him want to cry out with rapture.  He could not take a breath, or withdraw his power.  He was certain that the strength of the power lock would kill him if his own power did not conquer the wand soon, but he felt no fear.
Just when he thought his heart would beat out of his chest, the power lock stopped, and Osric lay panting on the cold marble floor.
        “Wow!”  Pebble shouted, amazed, as Osric focused on breathing.  “That’s was awesome!”  He was dancing around in circles with excitement.  “It didn’t do's that for me. Try this one! Do's it again,”  offering him a second wand.
“No.”  Osric wheezed, struggling to catch his breath.  “As much as I would love to experience that again someday, now is not the time.”  His whole body throbbed.  Muscles that only moments before had reveled in pleasure, were screaming in objection to the tiniest movement.  His head ached worse than ever, from his gift or from the power lock, he did not know.  The frequency with which his Portentist gift was activating troubled him.  He could not recall ever feeling it trigger twice in a week, and now he was losing track of the number of events which had set it off over the course of two days.
He wondered if that intense of a power lock was what everyone experienced with a Gus wand.  There were still remnants of colored light dancing before his closed eyes.
“Are you alright, sir?”
The voice came from above him.  His ears were still ringing, but it seemed the stone which trapped him was speaking.  He cracked one eye open, too tired to focus, to reassure himself that someone had, indeed, called out to him.  Sunlight greeted him as he looked up, glaringly bright after the darkness of his entombment.  He saw the silhouettes of several men standing at the top of the slanted slab of stone that was once the ceiling of the throne room.  Finally!  Someone had come to get him out of there.
“Thank Archana!”  He exclaimed out loud.
Pebble bounded over to his side and looked up.
“He's a'right.  I told him to's lit the tip, not burn's a hole in the roofs.  It's not my fault!”  Then he looked at Osric.  “Got so's bright in here you's sword look’d bright too!”
This makes no sense.  I burned this hole? Osric's thoughts raced as the bright light made his head pound even harder.
“You did this, didn’t you?”  Osric asked the men standing above him.
“No, sir.”  Osric recognized the voice of the recruit, Dru.  “We came rushing as fast as we could when we saw the bright light shoot into the sky.  The section of stone that is gone from here is just dust, scattered all over out there now.”  He said, motioning behind his head.  “We thought you must be dying, and so you did this to get help in a panic.”
Osric’s mind reeled as he tried to process all that had happened.  Too many unexplained magical events had taken place lately.  He sat up slowly, feeling each muscle protest in agony.
“Did Kenneth survive?”  Osric suddenly had a terrifying vision of his best friend being crushed by the walls of the palace.  “Was he thrown far enough away to avoid falling debris?”
“Thrown free, sir?” Dru sounded as confused as Osric felt.
“Of the explosion!”  He shouted.  “What do you think caused this?”  He indicated the rubble surrounding himself and Pebble.
“We don't know, sir.”  He stated in apologetic defensiveness.  “Kenneth said nothing about an explosion, sir.  Neither did James.  They said they were just standing there,” parting his hands in explanation, “when four unicorn's came running up.  Three stopped at the door and the other one ran inside.”  He hesitated before continuing.  “Then, moments later, the entire palace just collapsed in on itself.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

99 for 9!

We are happy to announce that Osric’s Wand: The Wand-Maker’s Debate is officially available in paperback, as well as the e-book format.  We reviewed the proof this afternoon, and Ashley had the honor of clicking the ‘approve’ button!  What a great feeling!
We appreciate everyone’s patience and encouragement as we learned how the process of publishing a novel really works.  Whew!  It has been quite a journey.  We are excited to celebrate each new success, and it is such a thrill to know that people are reading the words we have written.  It is every author’s goal to reach new readers, and that has inspired us to make the following announcement…
Through the rest of September, the e-book version is on sale!  That’s right, for the next nine days, you can purchase the book for only $.99!  This is a celebration and an experiment.  If you like e-books at lower prices, spread the word.  If we see that sales are climbing, we may just have to extend the sale!  So fantasy readers, tweet, facebook, +1, stumbleupon, and paste the announcement on every social network.  This is where you can get your copy: Smashwords , Amazon , Barnes & Noble for $.99 each, or just $8.99 for the paperback at Createspace  At this price, you can get a few for your friends too!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Now Available!

Osric's Wand: The Wand-Maker's Debate, the first novel in the Osric's Wand series by collaborating authors Jack D. Albrecht Jr. and Ashley Delay, is now available!

Welcome to the world of Archana… full of enchantment and wonder, where magic is a way of life but has only begun to be explored.  Join Osric and his companions as they attempt to prevent a world war.  Travel with them to distant lands, unravel the mysteries of new magical abilities, and meet the unique characters along the way.  Be the first to discover the secrets behind the prophecy, the intrigue and Osric's wand.

Available for Kindle on, all other E-readers on, and soon to be in paperback from all major retailers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Conclusion

I love the feel of a new book.  I am not referring to the book in and of itself, but rather the way you feel when you first enter a new world and meet new characters.  When you pick up a book and you cannot stand to put it down until you have absorbed every last word.  How you go through your day wondering what will happen next to the intriguing new people you have met in its pages.  When the struggles they face in their adventures mean something to you on a personal level, and you see part of yourself in each character.

Last night, at 12:38 AM, we wrote the final three words of our first novel!  It was an emotional moment for me, as I identify with several of the characters we wrote about (not the ones you might think, either).  The end of the book was a complete surprise to us.  I know it may sound strange for an author to be surprised by how their own book ends, but it was as though the words wrote themselves.  We had a plan; we brainstormed, we argued, and when we finally agreed and put it down on paper, it was nothing like we had said it would be.  We both stared at those last words for several moments, and we reached the same conclusion; we could not end it any other way.  It was perfect; the plan be damned.  

When we completed the novel, I was so proud of the characters.  I connect with them all on an extremely personal level.  That is no small task, since it is a collaboration between two authors, and we are such very different people.  

Eighty Thousand words; born of boredom and impatience from a lack of reading material.  80k moments of joy and frustration; beginning with a sleepless night writing the first few chapters, and culminating in a late night finale of dialogue and discovery.  We have been truly blessed by this journey.  We are thankful for all of the relationships that we have built with our beta readers, as well as the strangers who have stopped by to offer encouragement and advice.  I love waking up to an inbox full of comments and questions regarding the book, and we thrive on the criticism as well as the praise.  We have certainly come a long way, and we are proud of our accomplishment, to say the least. 

So, the good news is that we are finally done.  Don’t get me wrong, our work is far from over.  Our next task is to make sure that you will enjoy the time you spend reading it, as much as we have enjoyed the time spent writing it.  Thank you all for your words of encouragement, as well as your instruction and guidance.  We will do our best to make you proud.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Osric's Wand: Chapter 2

Today is Ashley's birthday, and as we released chapter one for my birthday, today we are releasing chapter two. Please wish Ashley a great day, and leave a comment below as well. Don't forget that chapter 1 is also found here, just look at the may postings if you want to read that first.

The Meadow

Gus was not much for celebrating in his old age.  There was no need for him to go to the ratification ceremony, so he would leave it to the young to socialize and celebrate.  He felt that a better use of his day would be searching for wand materials.
He preferred to spend his time pondering wand theory as he walked in the meadow, his favorite wand at his left side in a leather pouch that Lady Carrion had made for him.  He wasn't carrying anything except for a sack for the sticks he collected.  Gus was serious about his work; best to carry light and lengthen the time of productivity.
He had a large family to provide for, after all.  His species was known for having many offspring, and he was no exception.  Gus had lived a very long life, especially for a prairie dog.  He had survived three wives, the succession of two Turgents, and a brief yet terrifying excursion in an elven prison cell.  Years of gathering raw wand materials had left him slightly kyphotic, and he moved a little slower than he used to, but even hunchbacked he stood taller than any other in his colony.  His coat had lightened over the years, and was mostly gray, except for a few dark patches on his shoulders and legs.  He stretched his aching back as he placed a perfect stick in the satchel at his side.
It was getting late and his bag was full.  The meadow was not far from his colony, but there was one more stop to make before he went home.  It was only a short detour, and his empty stomach would thank him for it.  He hoped that he could catch Lady Carrion at her evening meal.  He did love her food, so much that he made it a regular habit to arrive around meal times.  Like all prairie dogs, his typical menu consisted of a variety of plants and insects.  However, over time he had developed a taste for other foods.  He was frequently invited to dine with his customers, but he had yet to find a chef that could top Lady Carrion's chicken stew.  His youngest son, Pebble, shared his love for a variety of fares, and he often brought him home remnants of his dinner.
He had grown quite fond of Lady Carrion since she had arrived in the meadow, and thus, for her he had made an exception to one of his foremost rules.  For the first time in his life, he had made a wand out of a spatula.  She had wanted one so badly, and he had taken advantage of her generosity many times.  She could not afford an Eni spatula wand, so he had fashioned one for her.  It was a fine wand, but it drove him to fits to see her carrying it in her belt for all to see, with his bolt on the handle.  There was no end to the amount of pestering he had to endure because of that one moment of benevolence.  "No, no, no!"  He thought out loud.  That was the one and only spatula wand he would ever make.
Sticks were the only material to use to create a wand.  All that other fancy stuff seemed pointless to him.  Why you would want to make a wand out of something that already had a purpose was beyond him.  Sure, he made exceptions on special occasions; a high paying request, a ceremonial sword, or things of that nature, but those were really just novelties in his eyes.  Sticks however, had no purpose, and he thrived on giving them new life.  The throngs of admirers that begged him to make a wand out of a hammer or a quill were merely looking for something to show off.  They could patronize his competitor, Eni, for all he cared.
Creating a wand from a stick was easy.  Interlacing the magical strands to make the constricted shaft for the power to be propelled through was the difficult part.  Of course, you had to use sticks that were sturdy and had an appealing shape, then clean and polish them before creating the magical structure within, but that was all just pointless aesthetics to please the buyer.  The raw structure of a stick could easily contain the magical strands that those gifted with the ability of wand making manipulated.  Wand-Makers were the only ones able to see the magical strands, and they could draw them from Archana, mold them, and bind them to create a wand.
Gus and Pebble where the only ones in his colony who could see into that realm.  He had devised a game to train his son in the art of wand-making.  He would locate an item or a creature with a specific pattern of magical strands, and Pebble would have to guess what it was he had chosen based on clues.  Pebble was young, however, and he often tried to play the game with his siblings who could not see what he saw.  Gus had to remind him often that it wasn't fair to make them guess something they couldn't see.
He was heading south, parallel to the tree line, in the direction of Lady Carrion's cottage.  He thought perhaps she would be preparing a potato soup, as the young tubers were most succulent that time of year.  Suddenly, a noise from the woods caught his attention, and he turned his head to the left and stood upright in fear; just in time to see an arrow released from a bow.  Gripped with anxiety, he was rooted in place by his terror.  This is going to hurt, he thought.  The arrow struck his leg on the back side of his thigh, nearly severing the muscle.  He screamed out in pain and then fell to the ground, swearing at the hunter.
"You imbecile, have you ever shot a bow before today!?"  He shouted, as he reached for his wand and began to heal his wound.
"I am sorry, sir!"  He yelled, as he ran up to Gus.  "I beg your forgiveness.  I am so hungry that my arms are shaking at the tension of the bow."
"Well, that will happen if you are stupid enough to hunt this meadow!"  He frowned up at a very apologetic man.  "May Archana place many obstacles in your path as you hunt."  He continued to work on his wounded leg.  "How long have you been hunting this meadow anyway?"
"'Bout three days now, sir.  I fell asleep, and I awoke just moments ago and saw you."
"And you had to bloody miss, didn't you?!"  Gus interrupted.
"Well, sir, you don't present a very large target."
"I am a full eighteen inches, as you can easily see.  I didn't even move!"
"Yes, sir, but you only weigh about three pounds."
"I was eighteen inches!"  Gus interrupted again.  "Now I'll be seventeen and three quarters and lean to the left, thanks to you!"  He had stopped the bleeding and was working with his wand to end the pain.  He mumbled under his breath as he worked.  "They will have to change my name to Eileen.  I've never seen a worse hunter in my life.  I could have fed a starving man, my pups would have been proud; but no, this idiot had to miss a perfectly easy shot."
He did fear dying, as anyone in the sights of a hunter would; though he feared aging to decrepitude more.  In all of the stories told, very few had made it to that sort of an end.  The tales of those who had lived to old age all spoke of the pain they experienced.  Some of them lost their mental capacity, or control of their bodily functions.  There were terrible tales of disease, and the sadness of seeing all of their children die before them, loss of eye sight and being dependent on their family and friends to survive.  Gus wanted to die nobly, to nourish an honorable hunter, but he feared it would not happen.
 Gus was aware, due to an encounter with a See-er in his younger years, that he was destined never to be hunted.  He was determined not to die a sad, lonely death of age and incapacity, and although it was an honorable goal, when a See-er showed a person their death they rarely escaped it.
When a hunt had been botched, there was nothing left for the hunter; honor would not allow him another shot, at least not at the same target.  So, all that one could do was hope that his attempted prey would point him in the direction of a food source.
"My apologies sir, I assure you I would have honored you if I had bested you in the hunt.  If you were incapacitated, I would have."  He tried to appeal to Gus.
"Yes, you proved that by not killing me after your display of incompetence!"  Gus yelled back.
"Once again, I beg your forgiveness, sir.  I will leave you to heal and be on my way."  He roused himself to leave.
Gus watched as he gathered his belongings, still healing his leg with his wand.  Healing a severed muscle took time, even with a great wand like his.  His anger had finally begun to subside as the man headed back into the trees.  Honor got the best of him, and he hated himself for giving in to it.
"Wait, hunter!"  He watched as the man came striding back.
"Sir?"  He halted about half way back, afraid he would be verbally assaulted again.
"You are the world's worst hunter!"  Gus barked at him.  The man looked thoroughly annoyed, and Gus knew he should be happy to have survived their encounter.  After a long moment, each staring hatefully at the other, Gus began again with less anger in his voice.  "But you showed honor in your hunt."  He paused again.  "If you travel in that direction you will go another three days without food."
"I will be in your debt, indeed, if you tell me which direction to travel."  The hunter approached, and knelt in front of Gus.
Gus took a deep breath, angry at himself for giving up the information.  The hunter did not deserve it after the terrible way he had performed with his bow, and yet he felt pity for the young lad.
"A short walk to the northeast," he shook his head, not believing he would help the fool that had put him in such a foul mood, "there is a meadow, slightly larger than this one."  He got up, testing his weight on his leg and wincing.  "There are about four hundred prairie dogs living there."
The man stood, looking in the direction he had indicated, eager to leave yet aware that Gus had not finished.
"Listen up, boy!"  Gus was angered by his inattention.
"But the light is almost gone!"
"Yes, and sight is only one of your issues.  That lousy aim of yours is another.  So listen to me!"  Gus paused and pointed at the ground for him to kneel again.  The hunter shot him an irritated look, but he did as he was told.  "Twenty minutes in that same direction you will find a raspberry bush.  Stop-there-and-eat!"  He gritted his teeth with very pronounced pauses between the words.  Then Gus walked close to the man and kicked him in the knee with his newly healed leg.  "Then rest!  You will hunt much better if you can handle the tension of the bow, you fool!"
"Yes, you are right, thank you, sir.  You honor me."  He bowed to show respect.  "May I have your name?"
Gus looked at the man, weighing in his mind if he should tell him.  Deciding it would be more torturous if he did, he quickly replied, "Gus."
The man's face went white, and he asked, "The..."
Quickly Gus replied, interrupting the man again, "Yes, that is me," as he shook his head, "and no, I'm not going to be making you a wand today!  You have gotten quite enough out of me already, haven't you?"
The man backed up, nodding his head in agreement.  "Yes, sir!"
"Now, be off with you."  The man began to walk north east.  "You might be able to curry some favor by ridding me of another mouth to feed, mighty hunter!"  He called, with a snort of bitterness as he resumed his walk south toward Lady Carrion and her wonderful food.
He hoped that he would catch her making dinner for herself, although she would gladly make him dinner if he asked, it did not feel the same as showing up just as she pulled a minced meat pie out of the oven.  She was a talented cook, and he knew she loved to be appreciated for it, so they both benefited from the arrangement.  Besides, the minced meat pie was well worth the gas it gave him.  After the incident with the pathetic hunter, he could use a warm, home cooked meal.  It was shortly after eight, by his reckoning, and that was about the right time.  His evening might still have a high point left.
Time passed quickly as he complained to himself while walking toward her home.  As he approached, he could smell fresh baked bread and beef stew, and could see the smoke coming from the brick chimney as he made his way to the cobblestone path that led to her door.  His mouth watered in anticipation of the meal.
A bright flash in the western sky, in the direction of Stanton, stopped his progress.  That's odd,  he thought, he did not see any clouds, perhaps they are setting off some more fireworks.  As he approached the steps, he felt a strong gust of wind that set in the chill from an already cold day.  He could not wait to step inside and feel the warmth of the fire, and eat some of the delicious food he could smell.  At last, he came to the door and pulled on the rope she had dropped down for when he visited, and he heard a bell chime within the house.
"Come in, Gus."  Announced a delighted voice from inside.  Gus walked in through the small door she had hinged especially for him.  "You are just in time, I was pouring a bowl of stew.  Would you like some?"  She asked knowingly, as she ladled soup into a second bowl.  Her light blue dress and white apron swirled around her ankles as she gathered dishes and bread to accompany the stew.  Her long brown hair was tied back in a tail to keep it out of her way while cooking.
Not wanting to give his intentions away, and acting his role in their mutual arrangement, Gus spoke with an affectionate flare.
"Why, Miss Carrion, I was just in this area and wanted to see if I might borrow your sink to wash my sticks before I brought them home."  He swept one paw out before him and bent his small body in an exaggerated bow as she turned toward him.  "However, I would be a fool to turn down such a delightful smelling meal from a beautiful lady such as yourself!"
"Oh, Gus, you are such a flatterer."  She said with a genuine smile, as she moved to make sure her spatula wand could be seen in her belt ."My days of being a Miss are long since over, as you well know," shaking her finger playfully at him, "but I am delighted to have your company, as always."  She turned back to cut bread for them both.  Gus set his satchel of sticks on the ground in front of her sink and climbed up to the table while she finished preparing their meal.
He heard a commotion outside, and stood erect on his hind legs to allow him to see past Lady Carrion out the window.  There were several men running through the meadow.  One man stopped, catching his breath, and spoke to her nearest neighbor out for an evening stroll.  His arms waving wildly, and pointing in the direction of Stanton, he appeared to be in a panic.  Lady Carrion cast a confused look at Gus as they watched a second man run up to her house, his breathing labored from the distance he had covered, and knock frantically at the door.
"Come in."  She said timidly, not knowing what to expect.  Gus remained standing to better see him as he entered.
The man opened the door only enough to stick his head in, and reported, "Something occurred at the palace during the ratification ceremony.  The palace collapsed in on itself.  We are asking all able to lend aid to report immediately.  The situation is dire."  Then, just as quickly as he had arrived, he fled, running toward the tree line to continue spreading the news.  The door slammed shut where his head had been.  Lady Carrion looked baffled, but Gus patted her hand and then jumped down to the floor.
"Do you still have the wands I left here for safe keeping?"  Gus asked, thinking quickly.
"Yes, of course."
"Give me a lift to the sink.  I'll rinse these sticks while you grab the wands and your bag."  She lifted him gently, and went to find the wands he spoke of.  When she returned, he had a pile of clean sticks sitting on the edge of the counter.  "Put the wands in at the bottom, and make sure they are covered; I don't want to mix these up."  She did as he said and held her bag at the edge of the counter so he could push in the sticks and jump in himself.  "You will pardon me for hitching a ride?  My left leg isn't what it used to be and I would just slow you down."  He kept speaking as she grabbed her cloak and the bag and headed out the door.  "I'll have these made into wands by the time we arrive in Stanton."
"Why so many?"
"Because today, I am giving them away."